Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Running for good: Bryce Gaudian

Bryce Gaudian, age 51, resides on a 42-acre farm in south-central Minnesota (Hayward) with his wife, Cindy; they have four children. Raising organic beef and vegetables provides sustenance for short and long runs near the Iowa border through beautiful countryside. Bryce is a business-development manager at Agilis Company, which provides donation-processing services for nonprofit organizations. Bryce has been a running enthusiast for 35-plus years and has completed 10 marathons, with a personal best of 3:22:08. He has also run close to 50 other races, from 5K to half-marathons. He will be a member of the Twisted Blister team at the 2009 Hood-to-Coast Relay in Oregon in August (bio from Marathon and Beyond Magazine).

Bryce is an outstanding running and, most importantly, an incredible man. A part of nearly all of his running accolades is the idea of running for good. Bryce is an elite fundraiser for Operation Smile and a host of other great causes. Bryce brings meaning to his endurance endeavors through service to his fellow man. Running for good.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Guns don't kill people

Barefoot running doesn't cause injury; indiscriminate dispensation of time-tested, sage advice concerning mileage build-up causes injury.

Broken foot...was my 70 mile barefoot week the culprit? Of course. Does this incident debunk the barefoot running myth - the one that claims barefoot running is easier on your body? Nope. Not a chance. Just as guns don't kill people, barefoot running doesn't break feet. Hapless mileage build-up breaks feet. I went from zero barefoot miles a week to 70 in less than 4 weeks. Bad idea. I refuse to approach life cautiously - this gets me into trouble less often than you would think. More than that, I was so enjoying barefooting that I took every chance I had to get out and tear it up.

Now, I sit, in reality, in the reality of the consequences of fearlessness; of the indestructible complex. Limits, yeah, turns out that, in reality, we are all subject to a set of rules that govern how far we can go. Dispensing with conventional running wisdom from the outset, I have been creating my own terms of the game, erstwhile discovering, the hard way, my personal limits. My body is capable of running 204 miles a week - this I discovered last year. I am capable of maintaining 100+ mile weeks without a day off for over a year. I am capable of running a 6:22 50 miler. It is possible to run a half-marathon in the morning and a 50k in the afternoon - with a full day of work sandwiched in between. The point is, I was able to do those things, and we are all capable of much more than we know, but we cannot know our limits until we have crossed that threshold and suffered the consequences of going too far. Only in hindsight can we see where the edge of the realm of possibility lies - and by then, it is too late, the damage done.

I found my limit with barefooting; at least as far as haphazard mileage build-up goes. Now, I sit, defined by the reality of a fractured foot for the next several months. Rue the run? Nah. No regrets. I am not completely wreckless. We learn from our mistakes. Doubtless, my next training regime, upon full recovery, will be significantly more structured. Ah, the evolution of the runner. We are always learning and evolving based on those limits that we either seek to define or choose to destroy. For now, I take the conservative route. Rest, recovery and a careful build-up to next spring. Game on.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time for a break

First off, I am broken - of course, in the moral sense, but wait... there is more. A couple of miles from the finish of my last run of the week - one of the quickest, lightest and most fun barefoot runs of my life (thus the "blaze of glory") - my left foot went "snap" and I went "grrr", holding back the expletives the best I could, somehow attempting to pretend that a new and awful pain had entered my life. My pace slowed, and slowed, and slowed, until I was reduced to a stutter-stepping walk, just outside my office. I sat down for a bit, took a deep breath and thought, "hey, this will pass, probably just a trivial twinge for the high barefoot mileage this week". But alas, it was not so. I had to suck it up and call for a ride home from work. I RICEd the goodness out of the foot all Friday evening. Saturday morning I woke, one-eye opened to the reality of the pain I was experiencing. All signs pointed to stress fracture - the only way to know for sure to get x-rays and a docs opinion. Sure enough, after a short trip to the hospital, I emerged from the sterile facility with a large ski-boot, a limp and a 4-6 week prescription for recovery.The metatarsal off my big tow is fractured lengthwise. Drat. So my fall running plans, of course, are out the window. No Le Grizz, Pony Express or birthday run. Instead? Reading, Seinfeld watching, core exercises, friends, new hobbies, family, etc. Not a bad exchange.

Back to last week in running, the stats:
- 120 miles
- 70 barefoot, 50 shod
- 5,000 vertical feet

I am optimistic about the prognosis and short-term future here. I haven't taken an honest to goodness break from training in nearly 4 years. My mind has been consumed by training. It is do or die now. If I do - think about running - I die. So a break. A mandatory break. It is nice to meet my body at a breaking point. I have been blessed over the years in training. I have had knee problems here and there, but nothing I couldn't run through.

Over the last 4 years I have put in nearly 18,000 miles of running without a major incident. In that, I had a 4 month cycle where I was running 100 or more miles a week at 6:15 pace or quicker. Over the last couple of years I have averaged close to 120 miles a week - significantly slower; my personal record during that span being 204 miles in 7 days. All sans injury. The boot is humbling. It has reminded me of my limits, my edges. Already I am noticing a change in my thinking. I am thinking more clearly, not worried, anxious or distracted by my training. This will be a great period for me to reassess my goals, values and priorities and put things in their place, once again. I will be back. Oh, I will be back to the ultra scene, but in a totally different way. In balance.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When health care reform fails

The reason health care reform continually comes to a head at the corner of Entrenched Conservative Ave. and Idealism Rd. is because the argument is so far from being held in the correct arena that any possibility of consensus is, well, pretty near impossible - as is evidenced by decades of struggle on both sides. Politicians, and, to be quite honest, the general public (by general public I mean everyone but me and whomever you are, reading this) have missed the point completely and total. The answer to our "health care crisis" is ultra running.

I could probably leave it at that, as the implications of ultra running in relation to health care are self-evident, but because I have some time and a strong coffee buzz I will explain. Ultra running and health care are inextricably linked, and as near as I can tell there are four reasons for this:

1) Running excessive distances pretty much well flushes the body of any troubles. The body goes into survival mode when pushed to its edge. Vital functions operate at their greatest, while lesser functions go into hibernation, sitting tight and hoping the extreme trauma will pass. I know this doesn't sound that appealing and even counterintuitive to my argument, but it is in this sustained survival mode that the bodies functions strengthen and achieve a level of durability that is more than capable of addressing the, by comparison, mundane negative health factors of day-to-day living.

2) Running excessive distances burns calories at an alarming rate. Of course, ultra runners often become non-purging bulimics or vice versa, or live a life so centered on burning calories that life loses its luster. Nonetheless, 140-200 miles a week of running will no doubt slim down those who are looking to trim up and make skeletons of those who are already quite trim (in Montana, this serves many side purposes; parka sales in the fall will increase as those with less than 3% body fat will be flocking to their nearest outdoor retailer, etc.).

3) Running excessive distances takes time. Why does this matter? More time running, less time for TV watching, smoking, boozing, family (this is not a good thing), friends (this also is not a good thing, oops), work (let me stop), etc. The point is, time takes on a different meaning for the ultra runner training 3-5 hours a day. No time for health care = savings.

4) Running excessive distances transfers business from hospitals to physical therapists (a boon to their business, for sure). Physical therapists typically give their patients exercises framed within a recovery plan for the pain-stricken individual to do independently, under the heading of freedom - as opposed to repeat 200-300 dollar hospital visits. Oh yeah, on this vein, we will also be working our way towards building a race of automatons - what, with all of the knee, hip, bone, cartilage and titanium replacements.

In closing, these aren’t quite the points I had envisioned when brainstorming the writing of this, but they are points, nonetheless. The points I was intending to make were significantly more compelling. Compelling to the point of forcing any reader of the plan to blow off whatever it was they had planned for the rest of their lives, go down to their local running store to stock up on four dozen pairs of shoes and begin running 20-30 miles a day. Unfortunately, the moment was lost. This was no classical argument – my ethos, pathos, logos and, even kairos, were weak if not non-existent. So be it. It is probably best that this sort of massive health care overhaul is left to those who want what is best for everyone but don’t know what it means to get there. Back to the drawing board for me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barefooting in Big Sky

Wow! What a blessing! I put in 7-8 miles of barefoot hill running on the roads of Big Sky this morning as the sun rose o'er the mountains. 3-4 miles this evening as the sun set on Lone Mountain. The best part? It was pain free and truly enjoyable. Wait. No. That was a great part, but the best part was that the day sandwiched between those two runs was substantive and meaningful. A couple of interesting experiences with some AmeriCorps VISTAs at our current training, one which found me playing the part of ambulance transporting an ailing VISTA to the local clinic, waiting for a couple hours while the IVs dripped. All is well. Getting better, she is. Great day with people and work. That is it for now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Point of no Return?

So I have hit a very unusual spot in my running pursuit. Clod hurts, barefoot doesn't. It is funny because it is so dang black and white. My runs hurt from start to finish and the pain lingers sometime after when I hoof it in shoes - my right knee twinges, my left calf cramps and my stride is short and weak. The moment I remove my shoes I run free. I am floating. I move painfree. The after effects? None to speak of. Of course, the pain after running in shoes is nothing new, it is what I how my body has been reacting to running over the last 1/2 a year, I have just steadily ignored it. I guess now, after tasting the forbidden fruit, the higher good of bare biped locomotion, I notice just how bad the pain from shoed running is in contrast.

Where do I go from here? I never intended to be a barefoot runner, just to supplement a bit of my regular training with some barefoot exercises. Now I can't go back, at least not now. I will continue to run barefoot and test out of my shoed running form as a mirror. Doubtless, it is not the shoes themselves, it is how I run when I am in them. My hope is that after a term of barefoot training my stride will take shape and become my the new form which I will then be able to translate to shoed running. Who knows. This is an odd place to be. For now? Dirty feet and perplexed looks.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Barefooting: A Loathing Love

Yesterday, I had two very different barefooting (five fingers) experiences. One of love, one on the edge of hate.

1) The experience of freedom and love that is so often heard when it comes to barefooting was fully realized yesterday morning during a 7 mile tempo run on grass. Wow. It was a thick, lush field of grass and after a couple of miles I was cruising - shirtless, tinsy shorts and barefoot, I felt like some sort of primordial tribesman chasing mega-fauna to the point of exhaustion (the animal). So, the barefoot experience was, in a word, glorious. It stole my heart.

2) So I had been meaning to take the five fingers and the barefooting experience into the mountains and since yesterday was my mountain run day - and riding high on the glorious barefoot experience in the morn - I went for it. I have a difficult time doing things conservatively and often times don't fully realize the undertakings I embark on, so smitten by out-of-body experiences as I am. The point is I chose a pretty formidable mountain run for my first five fingers mountain experience; my favorite 8.5-9 mile north face of Mt. Sentinel run.

From the first step on the Kim Williams trail to access the Mt. Sentinel trail I knew it was going to be a painful outing. My feet were, uncharacteristically, sensitive to the stony path. By the time I made it to the Sentinel trail my feet were screaming. I suppose I could have called it a run at that point, but I was pretty set on doing some steady ascending on Sentinel. It had been awhile. I was secretly wishing I had worn my shoes and plodded on, up the trail. I had to fastiduously powerwalk a few of the pure shale stretches of the opening section of the trail. My feet were screaming. I continued up the mountain and nearly had fun along the way. To the five fingers credit it was a light, fun and relatively quick ascent (that is, on the sections free of arrowheads sitting complacent and vertical - which was only 10%). I felt every rock on that mountain. I topped out effortlessly and with great fear of the forthcoming ascent.

The entire ride up, I scathingly leered at sections of the trail that would likely be, at best, tedious on the descent. The whole of thing, the descent, proved even more tenuous than I had anticipated. Every step down was an exercise in controlling my tongue and explicit verbage that echoed in thoughts. A great lesson in self control; for the woods are always listening and afford the greatest critique of a man's character. I tuned out for the 3 mile descent. Literally turned my mind off and slogged through the last portion of the trail. Wow. Check that, ouch. Now complete with aches and pains, it was back to the Kim Williams trail and back to the office. I had never been so pleased to run on pavement. No pebbles, rocks, talus or scree! Yeehaw. Never before had I so appreciated man's transporation amalgamate; cement.

All told, I am very happy to share this experience as it was humbling and eye-opening. I really ran well, albeit slow, considering the terrain. My form was incredible and, consequently, my recovery was instantaneous from the run. It was interesting to me, to have that intense, that focused and present, of an experience. Running barefoot on tenuous terrain requires every ounce of your attention and spirit. I was all there, and truthfully, enjoyed it. Though 95% of the run was honest-to-goodness pain, the moments and the result of a more humbled and well-rounded runner, now versed in the barefoot mountain experience, are priceless.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thurs: the day before fri and the one after wed

Sat: 15 (mostly barefoot)
Sun: 18
Mon: 6 + 25 stationary bike + weight lifting
Tue: 5 barefoot + 11
Wed: 5 + 41.5 stationary bike + weight lifting
Thurs: 7 barefoot + TBD...

Still a bit unsettled with my training, even on a cut-back week. I haven't felt like I have been giving my work outs all that they deserve - which is actually exactly where I want to be, I suppose. In the past, I have hammered out work outs to exhaustion each and everyday and have paid dearly in injuries. For now, I am enjoying the laid-back nature of my training, the way it is meant to be enjoyed. Ultra training is a different beast, a much tamer beast, than marathon or shorter training. It requires a lot of patience, what with the slower /longer work outs and all. I am slowly but surely getting into the ultra training groove again and hope to be in a good place for the Pony Express 100 miler next month. Next weekend, I will head out for a couple of back-to-back long runs (finally time affords it). Have great days.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This week in training...

Yes, my funky, Saturday through Friday training week. It should noted that this is a cut-back, let the ol' body recover week. Here it is:

Sat: 15 miles (I don't remember how, but I remember that it was 15 - mostly barefoot)
Sun: 18 shoed miles (8 on honest to goodness terra firma, 10 on the treadmill)
Mon: 6 shoed miles + 25 mile cardio push on ye' ol' bicycle + weight lifting
Tue: 5 shoeless miles this morning + TBD shoed miles this afternoon

The rest of the week will see some mountain runs, some more stationary cycling - a new passion of mine -, certainly some more barefooting, etc.

This week in favorites:

Favorite album: I-Empire, Angels and Airwaves
Favorite cereal: Just Bunches (Both delicious and on sale)
Book of the week: Siddhartha
Beverage of the week: Italian Pinot Noir
Favorite work out: Long, slow treadmill run
Favorite shoes: Saucony Type A2
Favorite unshoes: Vibram Five Fingers Sprint

That is all. Back to work. Peace.