The “missing” 1000K update

Aeroe - a piece of Danish paradise

Aeroe – a piece of Danish paradise

If it has not been readily apparent from my previous post, travel is about the one constant in my life, travel and exercise that is. Where the constant form of exercise has 3 main components , heavy weight gym sessions, barefoot style running and climbing, add snowboarding in winter and the picture is complete.

The running though is where I empty my mind, it is something I mostly do alone, it is the easiest way for me to reach a meditative state of mind.

Copenhagen Spring

Copenhagen Spring

The now +2 year transition into barefoot running (or minimally shod when below freezing or trails are too rough) has not been entirely without challenges and as you will figure out reading back through my updates, I have probably been flirting a little with the TMTS syndrome on more than one occasion, but no transition is ever perfect and mine at least have been injury free, or almost, there has been the occasional blister or sore and bruised feet from hitting a stone.

One thing is for sure, a running coach is mandatory for a safe transition from big foam floats to bare feet and I am not talking a coach telling you how much to run or how often, but one able to work with the technical aspects of your running style. I meet mine at least twice a year and while my form is getting there, there is just no way to get there on your own. Well there is, but a coach will help you ease through the transition much quicker and avoid injuries getting there.

very easy dirt trail

very easy dirt trail

There is more to it though and by now the first carefully run kilometres along the harbour in Copenhagen seems a distant memory.

In the past i would hate chip seal and rough pavement, where as now I cherish the varity in surface structure one can run, I now run almost any pavement or chip seal and I am slowly taken my barefoot running to the trails.

Our local mountains are still difficult and while I certainly can run parts of the routes, I still rely on shoes when in the mountains, but single track dirt roads has become manageable as well. Now how many different surfaces one can run should never get a competition. I hear many new runners dreaming of negotiating tough gravel roads, but my question is why. Staying within your the comfort zone of your feet, is the key to an uninjured transition.

But do enjoy and experiment with where you run, it is definitely part of the barefoot experience ๐Ÿ™‚

My feet has changed a lot, they are thicker and stronger than ever. I do not remember having ever had an arc under my foot, over the last two years and the last year in particular arches have developed under my feet.

My feet are also wider than before and finding shoes is an ongoing nightmare, Vibram and Vivobarefoot has been saving me for my daily needs and I have now come to a point where wearing shoes hurt and is unpleasant, I have a hard time imagining ever getting back into a pair of Nike or the like again ๐Ÿ™‚

Barefoot in Beijing

Barefoot in Beijing

My frequent travels has mean exposure to a variety of running conditions and barefoot running in more than 14 countries from arctic Greenland to Singapore. Barefoot running has been a source of bewilderment, inspiration, amusement, hate and conversation no matter where I have gone. I have connected and talked to people I woud probably otherwise never speak to. I have been hated by a few too, mostly for barefoot and faster than them ๐Ÿ™‚

Favourite on the journey of barefoot running has probably been china though, there was just something special about the culture and how they reacted to my running that seemed amazing.

There was a unique feel to run barefoot along the forbidden city and through the streets of Shanghai and I am looking forward to going back later in the year.

Where my barefoot journey will take me from here is hard to know, hopefully into the mountains and to more destinations around out wonderful world and when time permits I am indeed looking very much forward to sharing thoughts on things related to barefoot running, my wonderful Greenlandic home and the world ๐Ÿ™‚

About loosing count and the 1000K update that disappeared

Day break, during Singapore approach

Day break, during Singapore approach

It has been ages since my last update, so long in fact that most have probably come to the point where you have been wondering whether there would ever be another update.

The truth is that real life, winter, traveling like never before, running and a whole host of other things trapped me made me loose count and really think hard about my blogging in general.

Powder heaven @ Isola 2000, France

Powder heaven @ Isola 2000, France

But such a massive amount of travel also have meant a massive amount of opportunities to connect to new countries and cultures with my bare soles.

Not long after my return to Copenhagen from the USA, I found myself doing first a quick day trip to the Swedish Capital Stockholm, then a quick morning run in Copenhagen, before I had to pack up the big bags and head for France and first a couple of days of work around Nice, including a couple of rather brisk morning barefoot sessions, before initiating what turned out to be a very long and very slippery drive from Nice to Isola 2000 and 3 days of amazing powder heaven on my snowboard. Not quite the high arctic powder we get in Greenland, but the sheer amount of snow easily made up for it. It was great to have 3 full days of solitude, just me and the board.

Christianshavn, Denmark

Christianshavn, Denmark

Following France was a short lay over in Copenhagen and a gorgeous run through the cobbled streets of Christianshavn, cobble stones really do make for a very unique barefoot experience or minimalistic experience even.

I have come to really enjoy running all kinds of surfaces over the last year, it really is quite amazing how much shod runners miss out on, I think. they in turn probably think i have missed that boat called shoes, making everything alright ๐Ÿ™‚

Coming home to Greenland and to running the familiar trials and heavily snow and ice covered roads were pure bliss. I took up running again while living here and there is just such a deep connection between running and Greenland for me. i enjoy running all over the world, but Greenland is where running feels natural and amazing.

I did not have long though before the next journey would come up, I would be exchanging my wonderful desolate arctic winter home with something completely different.

Singapore skyline

Singapore skyline

The difference upon arrival in Singapore was mind bogglingย  12 hours time difference and -15C was exchanged with 31C and the air went from crisp and dry arctic winter to humid tropical spring.

Some would likely have found the drastic change unbearable, but I really do have a big heart for both and the nearly daily morning barefoot runs around the Marina by the bay area before sunrise was absolutely amazing, not long runs, only 5-6K, but the hot climate made it a true pleasure to go from full winter clothes to bare feet, shorts and a light tech tee. These morning runs will be with me for a long time ๐Ÿ™‚

Singapore also meant a hello to massive food courts, top flight Asian food and that excellent service south east Asia is famous for. Sure enough we did put in long work hours, but the half an hour before sunrise spend running, the excellent food and the genuinely amazing service made for a wonderful stay.

Hotel Lichtburg, Berlin

Hotel Lichtburg, Berlin

From Singapore we pretty much continued straight on to the German Capital Berlin.

And what a drastic change, the morning runs in perfect conditions, were trade for something a touch on the dull side of 10C and misty, semi rainy weather. and the that letter perfect accommodation turned into what can barely have been a 2 star hotel, with sloppy cleaning and poor location.

Berlin though was still a gorgeous experience and it remain an amazing city in my book, but from a running point of view, Singapore remain the clear favourite of the two though:)

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Barefoot sled dogs – Ilulissat, Greenland

From Berlin I traveled more or less straight to Ilulissat and in addition to some very chilly morning runs with temperatures just below -20C. I had the great pleasure to be back dog-sledding again too.

Nothing short of amazing it was to work with these, loyal, tough and hardworking animals and their drivers.

Ilulissat is another one of those destinations in Greenland that are able to turn arctic winter into an absolute paradise.My Copenhagen back yard

My Copenhagen back yard

A happy finisher :)

A happy finisher ๐Ÿ™‚

From Greenland my journey took me to my favourite Danish back yard, making the final preparations for the IAAF Half marathon World championships in Copenhagen. my first official half Marathon distance completely barefooted and as part of the biggest run ever organised in Copenhagen.

Preparations were great and my last run showed good progress in terms of running intensity. I have not been doing race preparations for this one and since it is still very early in the season, my feet are still a little winter soft, so it would in many ways be a bit of a challenge.

Weather on the race day was perfect and I arrived a bit early and just enjoyed tumbling around the start area, relaxing and topping up my hydration, while enjoying the varied and different pre race routines at display.

Finisher feet :)

Finisher feet ๐Ÿ™‚

To my surprise I saw no other barefooters in the lineup, managed to spot a few minimalists, but I was really surprised to find myself and a Norwegian barefooter from BRS being the two only barefooters attending.

I followed my normal training game plan for the run, which means a very steady 5:25ish for the first 18K and then open up to 4:40-4:30 the last stretch home.

I was a bit worried how my feet would handle the home stretch, but it turned out to be a perfect running day in all aspects, my own performance too.

I crossed the line in 1:54, far from my shod PR, but it was definitely a new BR for 2013/2014 so far, Simply a perfect running day and the joy of sharing it with 30.000 other people from all over the world definitely added a lot to the BR experience.

Save for some really black feet and somewhat tender soles the next day there has been absolutely no problems, not even the tiniest indication of a blister.

I am now back in my own amazing backyard – my Greenlandic running paradise and first run was a gorgeous 10K run taking in the pristine spring snow conditions Greenland is so famous for in Spring.

Do stay tuned for that elusive 1000K running form update ๐Ÿ™‚

Spring in Nuuk, Greenland

Spring in Nuuk, Greenland

Arctic Winter Running โ€“ a magic experience (259K to go):

sunset over Ilulissat Icefiord, Greenland

Sunset run along the Ilulissat Icefiord, Greenland

Words sometimes fail to describe just home magic winter running in Greenland can be.

The last weeks has been a brutal and very beautiful reminder of winter having arrived in full and with that the time to do a write up on what winter running means when living in the arctic. Where many turn their focus to the indoor arena with treadmills and the like, othersย dress up and embrace the wonderful experience winter running can be (an experience we share in silence with the Nordic skiers).

99K have passed since my last update and 75K has been real winter running, with temperatures ranging from -6C to -22,5C, with chill factors down well below -30C.

Conditions have been a mix of paved roads covered in hard packed snow or ice, to off trail run on raw rock sections, with a varying ice cover and a snow from hard packed to soft and powdery, the latter can be a very tricky if combined with ice ๐Ÿ™‚

My normal winter running will include hard packed snow, soft snow, ice, Nordic skiing trails and in the early season rock sections and the occasional path of paved road.

Gorgeous and amazing if you are prepared โ€“ tough, cold and unforgiving if you are not.

The approach to running during winter is important, especially if you live in regions where you get cold weather.

The perhaps most important thing to remember when running in arctic winter conditions is to ease into them, run through summer and autumn into winter. It makes the transition a lot more pleasant. Jumping head first into winter running in -20C with a 10K race pace run is a recipe for disaster.

Run duration generally varies from 30 minutes to 3 hours or so, starting out with shorter runs and then working my way into the long ones as my body readjust to the conditions

As temperatures get very low you need to start considering to minimise speed work and focus on a more relaxed pace. Especially as temperatures dip into the -20C range, I do not have the links to the studies at hand, but as temperature goes below -16C or so, the risk of doing permanent โ€œfrostbiteโ€ damage to your lungs increase, thus it makes sense to not tax your body too hard, it already working overtime heating up the cold air you breathe

I tend to do a mix good mix of distances during winter, both shorter and longer runs, but with a focus on shorter runs early in the season and then build up mileage as my body readjust to the changed conditions.

I like to mix in a variety of surfaces too, Nordic ski trails are great to break up the monotony of the hard packed snow or ice on the streets and venturing off trail will put in a healthy dose of quad killing in the soft and deeper snow.

Make your winter about fun and exploration and less about speed and a whole new chapter of running will be before you.

The next two posts will be on footwear and clothing respectively, so stay tuned ๐Ÿ™‚

Speedworks and a snap… (358K to go):

Frozen - Kingittorsuaq Mountain - Nuuk, Greenland

Frozen – Kingittorsuaq Mountain – Nuuk, Greenland

Speedwork is something I have nearly avoided doing while conditioning my leg, feet and soles to running either completely barefoot or with a barefoot style in ultra minimal shoes.

However being in Copenhagen with no hills and flat trails I needed something to do while running and it all started out one late evening after arriving in Copenhagen.

I had a massive time difference to cope with and at midnight my body felt like anything but sleeping.

Thus I strapped on my running clothes a pair of seeyas and set out into the night and the rain.

I had nothing particular in mind, but as I ran the pace was just going up and up and before I knew of it, I was back at a 4:30 average.

Six kilometres later I arrived home and realised that maybe I was ready to run at sub 5 minute averages again.

The run felt amazing and with a great flow and a running style that seemed to have been compact and solid. Just great ๐Ÿ™‚

A few days later weather was a bit iffy again, but I really needed a run and felt like testing my style at speed again. I decided on a 10K and settled on a 4:30 average pace, pretty close to my old half marathon PR pace. It just turned out to be one of those perfect runs, even though I quickly realised that I was not half marathon ready yet, at least not in that pace. But the 10K went very smoothly. I had to work it all the way not only maintaining acceptable form, but also to maintain a constant pace.

What it made me realise though, was that running barefoot has advantages at speed too and it felt great just to run hard for more than just a single kilometre or two here and there.

A few days later in the Netherlands, I decided to spend a rainy evening running along the canals. In retrospect I probably should have stayed at home though.

Admittedly I skipped the usual warm up exercises and the first two kilometres was amazing. I ran effortless at a very fast pace, heart rate was surprisingly calm and the running style under tight control.

A gentle slope came up and I open up a little more and… SNAP!

A sharp pain shot through my calf as I could feel the muscle being pulled… The 3 K home was a hobble and very sorry looking excuse for running:(

So I relearned an old lesson; do you warm up before running, otherwise you may end up injured. A pulled calf is no fun and it cost me two weeks without running.

Almost there - Kingittorsuaq Mountain - Nuuk, Greenland

Almost there – Kingittorsuaq Mountain – Nuuk, Greenland

The two weeks were not a total loss though, as they did include a gorgeous hike to the peak of Deer Prong Mountain outside Nuuk.

A gorgeous hike that is well worth it for anyone, but also one of the last chances to go there before winter and darkness sets in.

I completed the hike in an old pair of vivo neo trail, that even survived having cramp on mounted, but let it be said that for cramp on work real boots are probably the way to go.

And I will bring big boot for those sections in the future.

It was amazing to be back in the mountains under alpine conditions though, while not suited for minimalism, it will always have a place in my heart.

An 8K test run at a very leisurely pace has been run too and I can now slowly ease into easy runs again so it is not all bad ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ร˜restad.

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 Malmรถ 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 ย 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 ย 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

NSumP13_wall_061

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Perhaps the most rewarding run I have ever had.

Temp_03

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Temp2

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ย 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.

W999

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.