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

NAP_wall_009

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ย 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, ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

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 ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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™‚

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.

NSP13_WEB_020

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Kย  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.

NSP13_WEB_019

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ย 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. ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall a great workout, now I will hit the sack and get some sleep, boarding ย at 5:15 AMย  tomorrow, but I am going back to yourope where the weather is warm enough to go completely barefoot ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Blog_1
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.

Blog_2
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.

W001
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.

W002

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 10K – and me feet feels stronger than ever (824K to go):

DO you know those days where you have a whole host of stuff planned and running definitely would not fit your schedule, but when you are on your way home and the weather is just perfect, you discard everything and just go for a run?

Longwinded, but today was such a day for me ย ๐Ÿ™‚

No matter how much I need to clean the apartment, pack my travel duffel, write up some work stuff and a whole hsot of other things, then I simply could not resist sneaking into my seeyas and hit the road.

I started out in a fast but not too fast pace and in spite of having done a 14K just two days before, my feet, ankles and legs felt strong. So I decided to stick with the pace and see where it went.

My back was sore from the morning gym session, thus I had to monitor my running style a little more closely today, but it really was my only issue. I started to feel a slight tensioning in my middlefoot, but a slight adjustment to my upper body position, brought me back to a correct running style and the rest of the run was just one long perfect run.

Running data from the run said average pace 4;56 and a cadence of 196 SPM, so in the right range for me.

Heart rate was a little above average, but hardly problematic and my running style really seemed to come together today, best part though was my feet. They felt strong throughout the run and even after comming home they felt good and not really sore or tired as they did earlier.

It seems my approach to it with going barefoot style full time, and simply not wear a normal shoes at all, really has paid off so far and I am one happy runner right now ๐Ÿ™‚

14K and still feeling great (834K to go):

Yesterday was not really that perfect a day when it started out.

Had to get up early on the sunday and go to work. the culmination of 2 years of hard work and my biggest professional project ย has been rolling out this weekend.

Thus the opportunity to sneak into my seeyas and head out for a run with a friend seemed perfectly timed and I really needed to the mental boost and peace of mind running brings me.

The first kilometre was a pleasant warm up to meet my friend Tina. much to my surprise she was holding a pair of brand new VFF in her hand, but luckily wearing her normal runners.

from here followed 11 wonderful kilometres of hills, paved roads, slushy snow patches, ice, some rock, water puddles and some more paved roads. A perfect relaxed and very pleasant mix of surfaces. Some may claim that running this kind of mixed terrain in seeyas is a little stupid, but I really like them for all round running, mostly because they are such a perfect, soft and quickdrying ย almost invisible shoe.

TIna and I had a good chat about life in general and what is going on in our lives while running and I was really impressed by her uphill stamina too. It just felt good not to run alone for a change.

back at her place she quickly slipped into her sprints and we did 1K of running and technical training, it was fun to be around for her first minimalist run and hear her encountering the multiple surfaces we managed to pack in. She got to taste both gravel, paved roads, soft sea weed, pebbled trails and very wet feet. I felt quite privileged to be around for this first experience and glad that it was a good one. arriving back at her place I said a quick goodbye before sprinting the last kilometre home at full speed.

Getting to terms with the facts from the run afterwards was very rewarding. I had managed to keep my running style sharp, even with another runner around, cadence was a bit of a mixed bag and it took a continuous focus on it to stay in my normal 195-200 SPM cadence. when not paying attention it dropped to 180-185 SPM which is still in the OK range for me, albeit a little slow if I were to run totally barefoot.

Pace was relaxed and comfortable, but also necessary as we had to catch up along the way. running style was not perfect, but it is getting more solid for every run. I was particularly pleased to see that I had the ability to keep a decent running style and that talking did not take mental energy away from it.

So all in all a very, very good run and my first 14K in these barefoot thingys, best part is that even though I do have the slightest hint of sore calf muscles, then I came out clean and ready for more ๐Ÿ™‚

/T