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 🙂

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 🙂

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Arctic trial run – round 2 (403K to go):

A long journey from previous post and the generous 20°C and sun of the White Mountains were exchanged to 3°C and heavy rain, I was back in Nuuk, the gorgeous snow from mid september washed completely away again, save for the more distant peaks.

Frozen puddles

Frozen puddles

First chance at dry weather I had an appointment with Mr. J and his dog about doing another round on the trails.

Weather was moist and windy, 3°C and clouds just high enough for the lowest and closest peak to be visible. Weather looked like we would easily make it up and back without running into rain or fog low hanging clouds.

The run itself was amazing, wet feet from the very beginning and all the way up and down.

Mr. J and his dog

Mr. J and his dog

A brisk pace on the trip until we hit the first real ascent, sweating like pigs and running steep and technical, but run-able off trial all up,  what an amazing time.

There is just something about running exposed rocks that I love. The need to read an plan the ascent making switchbacks to keep it run-able and constantly reading the terrain ahead while keeping the destination and direction in mind. Challenging and fun running, plus the steep running kicking your heart rate frequently into the +80% zone.

The strong wind and the just below 0°C temperature kept the stopover and photo break at the peak short and soon Mr. J lead us down in a very fast pace, challenging coordination and balance, while pushing the quads into the red zone. Gorgeous 🙂

A view to the cloud covered Sermitsiaq

A view to the cloud covered Sermitsiaq

Up came the relatively flat section of easier and rather wet trail to a slight incline to the place where we went our separate ways.

I did the funny rock and trail route back to central Nuuk, with a couple of steep inclines to squeeze the last bit out of my quads.

Nothing like reaching your doorstep with quads burning and feeling like you have gone all in and made it home still running 🙂

Me at the peak

Me at the peak

I was back in my Fivefinger Syridons this time, softer and thinner than the trail glove 2, but way more durable and with better traction and grip.

I have written very favourable about them before and they really are my favourite trail shoe. However, they do require strong feet when running highly technical and rough terrain.

The reason behind it is to be found in the construction of the shoe. While the soft mesh makes for ample protection from pretty much anything, they are at the same time so soft that it is the muscles and tendons in your feet that carries all of your weight every single step of the way. Once your feet start to wear out, you will be prone to some bumps and bruises on your feet.

I do not have the strength yet to wear them for more than up to say 20K. Longer than that and I the risk of getting hurt is too great for me, but they really are a wonderful tool and as I grow stronger they will be for longer distances as well.

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 🙂

Snowy and windy half marathon (728K to go):

 

 

NSP13_WEB_021Well today I was supposed to fly to Copenhagen, but shortly before my flight wind picked up a steady 20 knots and frequent gusts in the 35 knot range, not to mention that the temperature dropped just below zero and bringing snowfall, ranging from light flurries to heavy snow showers. In short, No Flying today.

I was a little moody after that. My girlfriend waiting at the arrival was no fun when being stranded at the departure point without an aircraft. Aside from messing up my Friday meeting schedule and evening plans today, it was also messing up my training plan. Friday was supposed to be gym and long run day, with a short run and bouldering session on Saturday., but as my Friday would now be spend flying I had to be creative.

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Well I dressed up warm and decided on a slow run target in the 12-15K range, I threw a couple of High5 ISO gels a pocket to make sure my stomach stay used to getting gels while running, the great thing about the ISO gels is that while a little larger than the average gel, they contain enough water to be digested without additional water, which is perfect for runs up to around half marathon distance where I usually do not consume water, unless it is very hot.

Weather was every bit as hostile as described, ans snow started to pile up several places, varying from a thin sometimes very icy crusty layer to sections of soft slushy snow varying from ankle depth to halfway to my knee.

Challenging, but also fun running conditions and the choice to strap into the seeyas were easy. with this much wet snow, I would be soaked well up towards my knee anyway for the duration, so might as well go for a shoe that drains fast and gain minimal weight from being wet.

The first kilometre and a half was all down hill, so an easy run, but given the unstable surface and varying traction, ice patches downhill are interesting, from a running point of view and while my feet were being hammered by the uneven surface, it is the perfect place for practising the whole centre of gravity thing 🙂

Uphill for half a kilometre and then I had the wind in my face for the first time and here it would stay for the next 4K. At kilometre 4 I passed a friend that were making her way home from somewhere. she smiled and called me crazy. I smiled waved and said high and continued to push through a section of deep snow uphill. It felt amazing to get my wind in the back for a few kilometres at the 6K mark and my legs were now warm and my feet were totally soaked, but had found a rhythm with the uneven ground, although they were taking a beating from uneven Ice and largish pebbles invisible under the snow. having my wind in the back made it a perfect moment to grab a gel too, which really were a great energy boost.

At kilometre 7 I pass my friend again and were awarded a big grin and a high five (thanks Eva), which meant another boost of mental energy had a great smooth back-wind section, the downhill were rather icy and I really had to stay sharp on my running style not to loose balance and fall over. It went very smooth and felt great and controllable 🙂

From kilometre 10 a Steep and 1K long uphill with the wind gusting a heavy snow shower into my face – hard. I shortened my stride a touch, adjusted my forward lean angle a touch, and upped the cadence a tiny bit and focused on my heel pull. The long steep uphill seemed to just roll under my feet, amazing. Another 3K of mixed shorter up and downhill sections followed and did a great job loosening up my legs a little, especially as I had the wind in my back for half of it 🙂

A 14K I felt no where near ready to stop, thus on the whim, I veered left and did a gorgeous 2,5K uphill section with the wind now blowing and gusting very heavy snow into my face. Now I wore my bad weather running shades (the now discontinued Adidas elevation – I have two pairs and save for the soft lens coating they are a favourite of mine), but the snow was so dense it nearly covered the lenses and I were forced to use the back of my glove to wipe them for every ten steps, but such a great section. From here followed the same section downhill and now with the wind in my back, shades in hand I had a strong and fast downhill section that felt just amazing.

At Kilometre 19 I still felt great and decided that I might as well run the last 2,1 K  and make it a half marathon, so a quick a sprint half a kilometre downhill and then finishing strong on the last 1,6K uphill to home.

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I was quite surprised to see that I came in faster than the last half marathon less then a week ago, only around a minute faster, but I felt more relaxed on this one and the conditions were a lot tougher, so definitely a great run 🙂 I hope to be able to stick to these +20K runs once a week from now on, they are pure meditation for me and they really are able to challenge me on my technique and style. On this particular run my body posture was the big challenge. This due to the challenging running conditions, I needed to really watch my step and that cause a bit to much of a forward tilt from my hip neck, but I think I had it under control most of the time.

The other challenge were my feet, they really took a beating, but the flexibility and ground feedback from the seeyas were the right choice still and they remain my favourite running five fingers. they were soaked for 21,1K and not a single hotspot or blister. On rougher terrain I would still opt for the spyridon, but the seeyas do surprisingly well in a lot of terrain.

Last but not lest the centre of gravity thing got a lot of work here, the often icy  up and downhill sections, with or without a foot worth of slushy snow cover to disguise it as safe ground, really made running as perfectly as possible under my centre gravity mandatory.  pushing a touch with your feet on the way up in stead of lifting you feet off the ground and you are hugging the hill. stepping in front of yourself on the way down and you will slide the rest of it on your butt 🙂

Overall a great workout, now I will hit the sack and get some sleep, boarding  at 5:15 AM  tomorrow, but I am going back to yourope where the weather is warm enough to go completely barefoot 🙂

Travels, a half marathon and a blizzard run (749K to go):

I kind of hope a few of you have noticed that i have been inactive for two weeks 🙂

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The first week was spend mainly flying and then a long weekend of hiking (in my spyridons) in the wonderful Ilulissat region of Greenland, enjoying another passion of mine – Photography, some dogsledding fun of course and then a week worth of running.
I think what many tend to underestimate is how much hiking and day to day walking can help build up foot strength. My Bikila LS is the most padded shoe I wear and I spend every chance I can barefoot. It has meant a tremendous improvement in barefoot strength and my running have seen real benefits from it.
To me, a valuable lesson learned since January. if you want to run barefoot, then spend as much time as possible being barefoot, whether running or not.
The Hiking was amazing and a good continuation ice, rock, snow and other interesting stuff.
The spyridon with a thin toe sock and a debris gaiter (I use the inov8 one) really makes for a very nice and flexible winter boot so far no issues down to -20C.
A more flexible water resistant model built on the sole from the spyridon would be a welcome addition to the range of five fingers.

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Coming back to Nuuk last week, was great though, first thing was a relaxed 5K run with my girlfriend. her first in the steep terrain around Nuuk, but she managed a very nice run in spite of it. Personally it was just a nice relaxing 5K in my seeyas, to the point where little new to tell is available. I feel very settled in my running again, plenty of minor stuff to work on, but overall I feel relax and fluid when running.
Nuuk has fallen back to winter, so plenty of snow and a chilly temperature to it. I really like to run during winter and to feel snow between my toes when running, combined with the tactile sensation of plenty of tiny pebbles strewn everywhere and the sometimes rough ice underneath a thin crusty snow, is just soo nice.
Friday I had planned for a relaxed 6K home from work, but as I took off from work and started running, my feet felt strong and I just flew home in a way too brisk pace. I was great to be able to maintain that fast a pace with steep uphill sections in the run.
So a very positive run overall, my only concern about it was the long run planned for Saturday.

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Saturday, begun early, a trip to the gym for a leg, core and stability workout session, from there I went straight to the climbing gym and enjoyed a few hours of focus on precision hand and footwork. It is a very odd sensation to strap my climbing shoes on these days though and I actually did a good part of my warm up climbs in my KSO.
After the gym I did a light lunch and then started dressing up. blue skies and no wind, perfect for what I estimated to be a very slow 15K when setting out, because my legs were worn from the fast run and the days activities, but as I progressed through the first 5K my legs came back. pace cadence and style seemed good, at 10K everything looked really well an I decided to do the long route home and go for a 21,1K attempt. seemed a perfect way to test my feet, my style and my head above all. at 17K I started to have a bit of a crisis, my calves were beginning to feel exhausted on the downhill runs, but a hard focus on technique and upping the pace downhill solved it.
from 18,5K and home I upped the pace significantly and felt very good al the way home.
We are still far from my old half marathon race pace, but it does not matter much either at this stage. The important part is that I now have the necessary focus to keep my running style relatively tight on this distance and come out with nothing but sore calves from it.

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W003Today I decided that running home from work would make for a nice soft run to start the week, I was wrong though – Mother Nature had decided to play me and throw a fierce 45 knot blizzard, with gusts on the lively side of 60 knots.
The run home went OK, parts of the run were a little exposed and i had to fight to stay on my feet on the ice covered roads. The most dangerous seemed to be the cars though, I met at least two cars where the drivers were struggling to stay on the road and where I was glad to be running and not in their car.
The seeyas were probably not the optimal choice of footwear for the run, the spyridons would have been preferred here, but that the seeya keep impressing me, it is a very versatile shoe.

A long update, but I wanted to fit everything in.

Thanks for reading.

A 6K sunday barefooter (787K to go):

W011Well today was Sunday and not unlike other Sundays, it means that my girlfriend and I will head out on our joint running session.

Today we did as the image indicate move our running out of Copenhagen and to the scenic “Dyrehaven” (Animal Garden), a large nature reserve North of Copenhagen.

Weather was absolutely fantastic and warm. THe running conditions would be more difficult than ever for my completely bare feet.

Plenty of gravel roads and mixed paths of forest floor with twigs and stones, gravel patches and the occasional smoothly paved sections. Definitely a step up from my running so far and what a challenge.

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The first half a kilometre was real easy, smooth laved path/road all the way, but then we hit gravel and I had to question whether I wanted to carry on or reach for my five fingers, because it was a really painful experience. Luckily the gravel soon smoothed a bit and my feet gradually softened up enough to eat the pebbles and gravel much better and the pain gave way for a very sensory rich run. But also a run where I was fully aware that I might be pushing my feet way too hard, but I really died not feel ready to confine my feet with a pair of seeyas, I enjoyed the sensory feedback too much.

Just before the 4K mark we decided to make a brief sun stop as we reached a suitable stone:)

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it left me time to bruch off my sore feet and to check up on the skinn under my feet, because I was really feeling the, to me, challenging conditions I was running.

As evident my feet were taking a pondering, upside was that hot spots and blisters were not showing at all.

That said I think my foot in the picture on the right kind of says everything there is to say.

I was surprised though, that it did not hurt more in general and especially as I sat down, but it seemed that speed and technique was a pretty good match.

4,5K into the route we came across another surprise.

as we followed a narrow trail next to a larger paved road, we came across a very calm and hungry deer.

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It was grassing just next to us and it seemed very, very calm about us running by, not even me sneaking out the camera seemed to disturb it. Which gave us the chance to capture the moment so to speak.

I am not sure if it is common to see deer this close to people in Dyrehaven. WHile I have a feeling it is, then it is the first time in a while I have seen them this used to or careless about humans.

 

As the run was completed we both agreed that Dyrehaven is going to be high on our list of new running locations, I just need to grow stronger or more resistant feet, along side a cleaner and lighter running style 🙂

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A smooth but windy 7K (793K to go):

Weather today has been not a real mess, but almost Greenlandic in Copenhagen.

Strong wind and a mix of sun, clouds and even a rain shower I believe. Perhaps these almost Greenlandic conditions were why I just had to go running today. my feets needed to be strapped in my seeyas though, the skin under my feet needed a bit of a rest.  As it has become the norm I set out without a fixed route or target in mind, around 5K was the expectation as I had a dinner appointment.

I am generally only following my cadence and then listening to my feet and body while running, thus the pace is not really something I consciously run for these days.

However at 1K I could see that I was doing really well, 2 and 3K said the same. I was running in strong headwind and I saw other runners struggling wiht it, but my running style felt fluid and excellent. micro adjustments to core activation and heel pull here and there, but otherwise it just felt like a nice smooth run.

The way home meant tail wind and naturally it went from smooth and fluid to almost flying home, I even did a detour adding an extra kilometre or so to the route. it was fun in its own way to run this fast on what can best be described as an interactive and constantly changing obstacle course , of shoppers, bikes, tourists, cars and other things. It definitely had me on my toes (if not literally, then figuratively).

As I reached my doorstep again and hit the stop, it said 7K and 30 minutes flat, which means that I am getting back into shape again all of the sudden. It is as if there has been a shift somewhere recently, I have not notised the exact moment, but on the last 3-4 runs something has changed in a good way.

Am I finally getting to the point where I begin to feel barefoot style running not as something new, but as the way it feels natural for me to run?