Arctic off trail – why I love to run (438K to go):

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Why I love to run

It really is that simple, the picture above really spells out why I love to run and why off trail running in Greenland is an experience everybody trail (or road) runner should allow themselves at least once.

But I am getting a head of myself here, first run after my vacation in the Netherlands was actually a gorgeous 12K single trail on the gypsy trails just outside Copenhagen, arranged by a local runner and a great introduction to a very nice trail area hidden in plain sight 🙂

It was also the first test run of the Merrell trail glove 2, but I will get back to the shoe towards the end of this post.

Trail? what trail?

Trail? what trail?

The 18K off trail:

Pretty much the minute  I arrived back home in Nuuk snow started poring down and that in the city it self. Why on this Saturday in mid September we woke up to a landscape covered in bright white snow, and with more falling from the thick dark clouds.

I checked the weather and it promised better conditions around noon, a quick text exchange with another local off trail runner sealed a deal about a run to the lowest of the local peaks at 12.

Going up - serpentine  style

Going up – serpentine style

We set out on the first relatively flat and not too technical 5K to where the mountain really start to rise. conditions are normally easy off trail, but when everything is covered in anywhere from 10-20 cm of snow it is a whole different ballgame. you only see snow and have no clue whether it is pebbles, bigger rocks, a hole or a rock face that can be plain contoured or sloping below, Even better it is often a combination of it all.

From here we started uphill and the off trail grew from not too technical to 5K rather technical and quite strenuous uphill off trail.

Running straight lines were out of the question thus we laid a serpentine route creating a grade where we could keep a running like pace.

Mr J and dog leading the way

Mr J and dog leading the way

 

As we continued up the snow got deeper, but also more varied in depth as we ran into regular snow covered boulder fields. Requiring our full attention not to twist an ankle or a knee.

As we continued up, snow continued to get deeper in general, but also more varied in depth from one step to the next. one step might be knee deep, but the next only 10 cm or force you in to the hip. challenging and interest and we were both very grateful to reach the top and an energy gel break.

From here followed a VERY interesting 3K downhill run. plenty of slides and a great deal of care to be taken as we made our way down steep sections with loose rock covered in snow of unknown depth.

we were not moving our fastest here,  but it was quite taxing on both breath and thighs.

From here followed the 5K of relatively easy technical off trail home and it was great to be able to remove the trail gaiters and untie the shoes.

Overall it had been around 2,5 hours (breaks included) of the kind of running that is precisely why I love Greenland, rough, desolate, remote and challenging like hell, but above all fun 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Utrecht, Vacation, running and Kayaking (468,5K to go)

One of the good things about a week worth of vacation is plenty of time to focus on just kicking back and relaxing.

Paddling in Utrecht

Paddling in Utrecht

My kicking back on this vacation has been a good 60K of Kayaking, nothing like paddling  the slow rivers of the Netherlands especially in settings as absolutely gorgeous as Utrecht. it is a marvel of a town on so many levels.

But being vacation also means enjoying running in settings different from my usual ones and I managed to pack in a good 38,5K while there, but not in go obviously 🙂

Barefoot in Utrecht city centre

Barefoot in Utrecht city centre

The Barefoot 10K:

Already upon arrival I had the feeling that Utrecht had the potential to be an amazing barefoot city, lots of small old streets all with rugged and uneven cobble stones or with a variety of small flagstones, and generally I had to spotted few  paved sections of road.

I was so wrong though as I found out on my run, not that the 10K was not amazing in General, but more the fact that Utrecht is nearly covered in broken glass and not harmless security glass shrapnel, no we talk that nasty broken bottle with jagged sharp edges shrapnel.

I have never had to be this careful running before and it is a shame because it really is an absolutely amazingly beautiful place to run for barefooters.

As soon as I got out of central Utrecht it got better and I could stretch my legs a little more. It was just a joy to feel the early autumn warmth and the sensory input from my bare soles as they traced over cobbled streets, flagstones, gravel and paved roads

what 10K does to your bare soles

what 10K does to your bare soles

Pace and cadence was generally relaxed, even the dodging glass moves seemed to be frequent enough to become part of the pattern.

The running style itself still seems very locked down.

A lot of work can still be done on how I tend to increase speed, but I think I have found a good balance between pull and upping the cadence.

The 180 SPM really do seem a bit slow especially barefoot.

My Soles seems rugged and well adapted to running completely barefoot and finding a way to maintain the ruggedness over the coming winter will be a challenge.

A forest highway :)

A forest highway 🙂

The long run:

Having paddled 25K in a kayak the day before, I decided that wednesday was time for a run along one of the small rivers I discovered had a nicelooking trail and revealed by the map a nice forest area a few kilometres out.

Knowing it would be nearly all trail and being put slightly off by my experiences during my first run, I opted for my seeyas on this run.

the first 2K got me to the beginning of the trail and the following six were anon technical trial, with a silent river flowing either right next to me or just a tree or two away.

the next 7,5K was a gorgeous mix of trails from pretty dicey single trail (perhaps no trail at all) due to the very uneven terrain and the extremely slippery roots. It was extremely fun until I slipped and fell halfway in. A slippery root made me loose my balance, but I managed to land hands and not face first earning me a really nice set of superficial wounds in the palm of my hand.

The 8K home I upped the pace a bit testing my legs and just enjoyed the mental state of bliss from a longer run again, not to mention the gorgeous vies along the river into Utrecht.

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Merrell Mix Master Glide and VFF Seeya 🙂

A wind down 5K:

In spite of the 23,5K the day before and even though my feet were a touch sore in the morning, I could do nothing but ay yes when my Girlfriend wanted to go for a run and a test of her brand new Merrell Mix Master Glide.

We all know how difficult it is to have new gear sitting unused on the shelf, thus in the evening we strapped into the running shoes and went for a short run. being in the evening and given the massive amount of glass everywhere I had no choice but to jump into my seeyas.

It turned out to be a wonderful evening with a 5K circle run around the inner rivers of Utrecht. Utrecht is a stunningly beautiful town.

Two competitive sprints were added and I have to admit that in spite of being a young runner, she has  a great potential to soon outsprint me.

I am not sure how much her new shoes added to her sudden speed boost, but she really was quite satisfied with both the fit and trade off between cushioning and ground feel.

That is it. The conclusion on the running part of my one week vacation andI will conclude this post with the very obligatory vacation duck, or ducks to be exact,

Vacation Ducks

Vacation Ducks

 

Sisimiut, Greenland and first snow (519K to go):

That I travel a lot is no surprise to anyone and that Greenland always will hold a very special place in my heart is not really a surprise either.

A chance to return to Sisimiut for a few days seemed like a dream come true, as Sisimiut have some of the most amazing running terrain Greenland has to offer, steep mountains and smooth rolling hills in a good mix, some single trails, but in general plenty of off trail terrain.

Arrival was quite a surprise though. Now summer in Greenland this year has been cold and Sisimiut seemed surprisingly chilly on the monday afternoon of my arrival. Low hanging rain clouds and evidence of rain having fallen just minutes before we touched down completed the picture.

Wet mountains

Wet mountains

The conditions for my first morning run were as on the day of our arrival; wet, damp and cloudy, upside was that the cloud cover was significantly higher, revealing the gorgeous mountains surrounding Sisimiut.

Seeyas on the trail

Seeyas on the trail

First run:

I started out barefoot on the damp street, but half a kilometre into the run I slipped into the seeyas as I hit wet and slippery trails.

From here I enjoyed a gorgeous 5 kilometre of trail and terrain running.

Wet, slippery and quite steep at times made for quite a few hazardous down runs, definitely the spyridons would have been a way better shoe for the run, but the seeyas took were not bad, I had a fwe slides that became a little more interesting than necessary and I needed to tip toe a somewhat more on the rockier sections, but that aside I just had fun.

There is no telling how amazing it is to run the greenlandic Mountains feeling your quads and calves burn as they are pushed  on the steep sections, it is just pure life.

I soon came back to the roads and slipped off my seeyas for the last half a K to my hotel, temperature must have dropped a little because, the wet roads felt almost icy under my feet.

Snowy peaks

Snowy peaks

Second run:

Waking up the next morning was nothing short of amazing, clouds were high, but more importantly we had a prime time view to the now snowcapped mountains around us.

Sisimiut Outdoor Gym

Sisimiut Outdoor Gym

First snow had arrived and in August even, which even by Greenlandic standards is a little early and what before was green had over night changed to a shade of brown. a totally amazing transformation of the landscape and I new right then that what was an optional run had grown mandatory 🙂

I ran a very different route than the day before, but had a few similar touch points, much of my thinking on the run was focused on how well suited the running style adopted by most barefoot runners seems to be to trail running. the smooth high cadence run with a focus on running under your centre of gravity makes moving over uneven terrain a breeze.

As I came out of the mountains and decided to add a small paved loop, I came across a relatively new outdoor gym. A perfect opportunity to sneak in 50 pull ups and 50 dips on the way home.

Sisimiut turned out to include two amazing runs for me, one can be nothing but thankful 🙂 I really hope to be able to come back and run here next summer.

Next up on my schedule is Utrecht in the Netherlands – I wonder how barefoot friendly it will be.

A 6,5K and more shoe musings (531,5K to go):

Well following a very nice 10K, I had the opportunity to go running with my girlfriend.

It was a nice, casual 6,5K in the area around Ørestad.

Not being quite sure what to expect running on I snug into my seeyas before heading out and enjoyed a run where the focus was on being out running together. We even threw in quite a few sprint competitions along the way, soo good fun.

It does not make much sense to keep commenting on running style a lot. I feel my running style really have found a rhythm more than anything. From a “pure” pose point of view, I am slightly sloppy pulling my heels and with an average cadence of 190 a little to quick in my strides, but it is what works for me barefoot, in my seeyas I can go down to a slow 180 average, but it feels a little more clunky.

That said I really enjoy having found a solid shape and style, not to mention having build up the sole of my feet to run above 10K without problems at all, save for the occasional blister.

Something worth taking up with my coach when I see him in late September or at least getting his opinion on.

The Vivobarefoot Stealth

The Vivobarefoot Stealth

The Vivobarefoot Stealth:

I have earlier mention how dissatisfied I were with the vivobarefoot “one” both from a fit and durability point of view.

Well I took them back to fotkultur.se in Malmö to complain and I got a long explanation on how they had had heaps of complaints on the durability and that he would exchange my shoes for a pair of “Stealth” according to the sales guy a “fixed” version of the vivobarefoot one.

I went with a very nice yellow/greenish colour and just slipping my feet into the shoe told be all I needed to know.

A marked difference to the “one”, while the upper has more apparent structure it is way softer than before.

The toebox now seems wide enough to accommodate my fee and previous mentioned pressure points are gone.

The sole seems classic vivobarefoot, which means a reasonable ground feel, it is not a seeyas or el-x, but it is miles ahead of most shoes  and still quite a flexible sole. It has more than enough padding to make it a good everyday shoe.

I have worn the Stealth extensively as an everyday shoe, full days of travel and city walking, biking, etc. and while it still has a  bit of a durability issue, then it is a much more finished shoe and a pleasure to wear as a casual shoe.

I am not much into running in closed shoes, I can bear wearing my seeyas or spyridons, but prefer bare feet. however I am sure that the fit and ground feel will make it a very attractive minimalist running shoe.

Injury and back running again (538K to go):

Injury is never fun, especially not after having had your most optimistic run ever, none the less it is what happened 😦

I ran a relaxed 6K totally barefoot and at around 4K I stepped on a very pointy rock hidden in the gravel, providing a sharp hit directly to the inner joint of the 2nd metatarsal in my left foot. It did not stop me at first, but in the evening I could barely walk.

3 weeks without running followed – plenty of travel to make up for it though 🙂

Best part after 3 weeks without running, was on a moist and cloudy afternoon in Nuuk, to strap back into my running clothes ready for for a barefoot test run.

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Barefoot rock running

A gorgeous relaxed 6K, primarily on paved roads, but I managed to sneak in half a kilometre of very nice rock running.

Running completely barefoot in Greenland, a first for me and triggering quite a few odd glances. Minimalism is in its infantry here and only one person in Nuuk is running barefoot (me).

Best part was that I did not feel one bit of pain from my left foot where I was injured 🙂

Perhaps the most rewarding run I have ever had.

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Barefoot decisions

A day later I was back on an Aircraft heading for Copenhagen and a gorgeous 10K.

The first 7K was an amazing stretch of paved paths. Flat as they were they made for some excellent running style practise (or focus I should say).

I really feel my running style is getting really dialled in and that I can run effortless and relaxed to an extend where all I feel as I add distance is that my muscles gets tired, but the style seems to be going through the same smooth cycle.

Forest road

Forest road

I met another minimalist runner on this trip, clearly still working on his form and with some work to do.

I think many runners will agree that we strive towards a nearly flatfoot stride, or barefoot stride, running too far up on your toes is only going to be a fast way towards injury.

Anyway, we chatted a bit and he gave some great advise on running routes in the area (I am not that well know in the area where I was running), before we parted ways and I broke left onto the last 3K of gravel roads and trail.

Wonderful light

Wonderful light

I quickly brushed off my feet and stepped into the seeyas and continued running.

For the first time I really felt the seeyas not being sturdy enough for the terrain, the gravel roads had so many stones just big enough to be borderline hurting my feet when running (even wearing the seeyas), strewn all over the place. I managed to fall into a rhythm none the less, but next time I am hitting the gravel roads here, it will be wearing the Spyridons in stead 🙂

The single trail bit was way better, here the seeyas were more than enough and it was a joy to run some forest single trail in Denmark. Thoroughly enjoyable to run with grass, trees and birds as the only thing surrounding me 🙂

More travels and more kilometres (560K to go):

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Eastbourne in the mix

Lots has happened since writing up my shoe post, well actually even before, but just gone unmentioned in that post.

I started out by catching a bacterial infection on my lower leg that went in my blod, now anyone having tried that will confirm it to be some scary sh*t and not something you want to experience more than once. A few visits to the hospital, a really heavy doze of penicilin and week worth of high fever later I was more or less good to go, my leg more or less normal colour and back to normal size even 🙂

I hammered the EL-X five fingers quite hard for a number of things when doing my barefoot shoe write up, but heading off to London I decided to give them one more shot as my travel and London city walking shoe.

I wore them for 12 hours of walking in London (a good 30K) with a 12 kilo pack in some healthy warm weather, my hope is that they will loosen up and break in some, because as mentioned I adore the ground feel of the sole.

Being back in London was amazing for a day by the way. UK and London in particular feels like a second home to me and getting reacquainted with London on a hot summer day was amazing 🙂

In the late afternoon I met up with my girlfriend and we jumped the train to Eastbourne for the weekend.

Most people I guess come her to hit the beach, so did we. Though we hit it walking. Once you get past the tourist nightmare and onto the shore beneath the massive chalk cliffs (at low tide I might add) there is an excellent and quite long walking route on some wonderful terraing of water polished rocks, chalk stone and some other goodies.

And hiking this very uneven terrain in the Spyridons was a pleasure (I have to admit though that I spend a lot of time barefoot when the terrain allowed for it). As the tide came in we hiked up and along the upped edge of the cliff for a long stretch.  Before heading back to Eastbourne for a pub dinner and a pint.

Sunday was pretty much a repeat story, before catching an evening train back to the Airport and a flight to Copenhagen.

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from a 10K barefooter

The Running:

Copenhagen has provided me with two excellent runs this week.

First a 7K speed test, it has been a while since I really have been putting things to a test, thus I strapped into the seeyas and set up to see how solid my running style would be when upping the pace and when it would start to come apart.

Pace was set to 4:30 average, a pace that normally would be my fast half marathon pace.

And the run felt good, really good. Now I could definitely feel my feet getting tired towards the end and the fact that I ran in my seeyas that provides no support really made a lot of difference to at least how long I was able to sustain this in the past normal fast pace.

It felt good to be running faster again though and to verify that my technique and strength are improving also at a faster pace.

Second run was a 10K barefoot run around the lakes in central Copenhagen.

One of my longer completely barefooted runs and intentionally run on a track that is fairly leisurely and easy on the feet.

The lakes are a mix of fine gravel paths and paved paths, add in the flagstones and cobblestones part of my run to and from the lakes and you have an excellent mix of varied surfaces.

I had my doubts about how the gravel sections would feel, but they were entirely OK, only a couple of times did I encounter stones big enough to notice underfoot.

I normally see quite a few barefooters or minimalists on this route, but on this day I was the only one.

Pace and style was a generally good experience. I am still a little “lazy” in my heel pulls for the lack of a better word and I could feel myself getting tired towards the end, but not significantly and my feet and soles in particular were strong enough for a sprint the last kilometre home.

Definitely my best barefoot run so far.

Travels, running, travels, running and more travels (589K to go):

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chilling at Fossar de les Moreres

It has indeed been a while and while you may not have seen me posting or updating my blog with new content, then I have indeed been running and travelling a fair bit, adding another couple of European cities to my barefoot experience. Barcelona and Madrid to be specific, two amazing places.

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The burden of weekend break aways

I have of course been doing a load of other stuff too, stuff you normally do when you are travelling (for business and for pleasure) or just busy and forced to leave your online life behind for a bit. I am however getting ahead of myself 🙂

Madrid was all business and those of you familiar with business travel know how little of the often perceived glamour associated with it holds true in real life.

I did manage to break away on 3 short runs of around 5-6K while there and the part of Madrid I ran seemed very barefoot friendly, some of the smaller parks had a few nasty section with some sharp rocks in the gravel, but no glass or other foot dangerous litter in the streets I saw.The only thing to look out for is the temperature of the running surface, some of the pavement was boiling in the afternoon. These runs aside, I did not see much more than conference rooms and dinner meetings, save for a long and relaxed walk in central Madrid the last evening. I was wonderful to revisit parts of the city, even if only for a couple of hours 🙂

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Barcelona Beach

From here I went by train to Barcelona and let it be said, the spanish train service rock! I do not think I would even want to fly between Madrid and Barcelona again, it was that much more hassle free and relaxed.

After check in I had the time for an absolutely Gorgeous 8K fully barefoot run in El Born, via La Barceloneta, through Barri Gotic and back.

Great mix of a wide variety of surfaces, from smooth polished flagstone, over multiple pavement varieties, cobblestones, wooden walkways and I saw only one piece of tiny glass on the entire run – simply Amazing 🙂

Later in the week I did a 14K  barefoot style run from Plaza Europa, up to the Montjuïc Castle and home via Plaza Drassanes and Plaza Espana.

The part up to the castle and back down were the fun part really and doing a lap up there if you are running in barcelona is well worth it I think 🙂

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Barefoot sightseeing

Third Run was a quick 6K moning barefooter from plaza Europa to Plaza Espana and back.

The liberation of running barefoot was amazing, I did get more than an average amount of weird looks as I zoomed through the morning traffic of people and the guy in the Lobby seemed unsure if he wanted to allow this barefooted weirdo access. but my roomkey solved that quickly enough 🙂

In addition to the running I did a lot of the general sightseeing and weekend break wiht my girlfriend barefooted and Barcelona really is a safe place to do so, at least I saw little to no glass or other hazards anywhere.

So overall some very pleasurable days . the running was from a technically point of view uneventful.

Style seems to be coming very well together and the last session with my running coach seems to confirm that I am doing fairly well (at least when he is around :))

 

Run sightseeing is a concept I am really warming up to again and the barefoot aspect really adds to the getting “connected” with where you are feeling for me.

So Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading 🙂