Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Death of a Forum

I know a 'Forum' can't die as it's not technically alive etc. But even inanimate objects can have soul and I am afraid to say souls can be lost. That was rather deep and meaningful, I should at this point grab the wine but my liver is still recovering from my belated Birthday party last night!

So a little history here. Don't worry I won't test you later, although you may find I will ask you to write an essay (to be handed in next week!).

In May 2009 I was recovering from my epic stress fractures and looking for an alternative to my clunky shoes. In my quest I came across 'Runners World On-line' and their new forum Barefoot Running'. Even to this day I am not entirely sure why I migrated from the 'Injuries' section to 'Barefoot Running'; it must have been cosmic karma, or maybe the fact I accidentally pressed the mouse button at the wrong time.

The 'Runners World On-line Barefoot Running' forum - or RWOL BFR from now on because my keyboard will grow legs and run away (barefoot of course) if I continue to type that every other sentence - had been active for about 2-3 months. It was initially created at the behest of TJ Gerken who later went on to co-founder the 'Barefoot Runners Society' and there were a few long time barefoot runners already present and posting. They were all very kind to a Newbie like me and if it wasn't for their help I wouldn't be running barefoot or writing this blog - so if you want to blame someone for my random attacks on the interweb, you should head straight for them.

In the beginning RWOL BFR was pretty much full of crazies. Good crazies, but crazy none-the-less. Barefoot Running was seen as a little kooky and strange and the people who ran like this were the epitome of this. As such the forum was not altogether 'normal'. We all had similar humour and as such the posts on RWOL BFR were fairly eclectic. Yes, we talked about running, but generally we went on the forum to mess about. The longest thread on RWOL BFR is called 'PWI (Classic)' which has well over 1,000 posts. Now I can hear you asking, "what running topic is so important that it elicits over a 1,000 posts?" Perhaps the true nature of the forum and the people on it will become apparent when I tell you that 'PWI' stands for 'Posting Whist Intoxicated'. We had a thread called 'Why am I the thread-ender?', which for some reason would only be resurrected on a Friday. We had a threads that talked about 'Boob-wobble' and 'Junk-jangle' as a running form guide. I think you are getting the idea here.

We celebrated in our quirkiness and our status outside of the 'normal' running community and we had fun. We delighted that we had found the answer to making running fun and surprisingly it involved large amounts of alcohol and taking your shoes off. We were the geeks and nerds; we were the equivalent of the AD+D group you would find in high-school, (except cooler obviously!).

In time the 'Barefoot Running Society' was formed and people started to migrate to the new site. We also all connected on the dreaded social networking tool 'Facebook' and RWOL BFR forum faded a little. We were still present though and still having fun, but some of the initial peeps had gone off to do their own thing.

Then the worst happened and this has been the 'death-nail' for the essential character of the forum. Barefoot Running became popular: It became mainstream. Now the forum was littered with lots of Newbies who wouldn't read the stickies and kept asking the same questions. The old crowd were a little more un-easy about the things they could post about.

Don't get me wrong, there were some Newbies, that were just like us and delighted in the absurd but unfortunately a lot of the Newbies were runners. I know this sounds strange that I am blaming runners for the 'death' of a running forum, but it did. Now the Barefoot running community wasn't a random band of misfits, it was now a community of people who were using the lack of shoes as a training tool, or they thought it was cool because an actor had his photo's taken wearing VFF's, or well.. whatever. Barefoot Running was now seen in the same category as a Garmin or GU-Shots.

The forum then lost it's soul. As the BRS site has been down due to migration issues, I have wondered over to RWOL BFR to see how things are going. Most of the names I don't recognise and there was not ONE stupid thread. Honestly 'PWI (classic)' had been left so long that there were cobwebs, dust and I swear a little mouse family located inside.

I have done my best along with the help of the other 'oldies' to resurrect the old character of the forum. Bumping old threads and posting stupid new ones, but frankly it's clear to see our efforts have failed. People aren't interested. I don't think there is anyway to pull the forum back to it's old excesses of stupidity and nonsense.

I know that this has to happen. Everything in life has to evolve and grow-up. We can't wish the things we cherish to never change. People move on and new people come to take their place. Honestly I understand this and I accept it. I suppose I just find it a little sad that the forum I have been with for so long has actually grown up when I am so determined to stay 6.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Acceptance.. in the dictionary it goes between "Sh!t" and "Growth"

Yes, I know technically it doesn't.. but my title would sound pretty stupid if I said Acceptance went after "Aardvark" and before "Ball-cock". It would also fail to show what this post is about. Actually, reading back, the title doesn't say anything anyway, so maybe "Aardvark" and "Ball-cock" is more appropriate.

So getting back on track. I am having my arse whipped by "Acceptance" the last couple of weeks. Despite my intentions, Acceptance keeps throwing life at me in various types of disaster until I do finally agree that it has to be part of my life. It's crap and I hate it, but like the stain on the wall from the dropped Spaghetti plate, it never goes away, you just have to learn to forget how it got there.

So what do I have to accept? Mainly that I am not running the miles I want to; the miles I have to, to reach the goals I had set myself in May 2010. I am trying to get my running schedule back on track from the inconsistency that has existed since September, (and was very apparent in December), but life is just getting in the way. This is the "Sh!t" part of the dictionary.

Normally, you can work around life. Little bumps and hills are easy to navigate around. However, I have been given huge mountains that are beginning to look like ranges rivalling the Rockies in size. The main cause of these diversions from my goals is my Son D. Don't get me wrong, D isn't the problem, it's the fact that people just don't WANT to understand my little man. This leads me onto another form of acceptance. Acceptance that we are all different.

My son has Autism; it's mild compared to a lot of Autistic kids, but he is still Autistic. Autistic kids think differently. They see connections in the world we don't. How we think baffles them, because frankly when you experience life through their eyes, we have it ALL wrong. No matter what degree of Autism these kids suffer from; whether they are verbal/non-verbal or high-functioning/mental deficit or isolated/over-social, hyper-sensory/hypo-sensory, I think deep down these children (and adults) ALL see the world the same. Unlike many handicaps, there is no big physical sign screaming "these kids have a problem". Because of that, I think they are often mis-understood, especially in the high-functioning children that suffer from Autism.

I was trying to explain this to a friend the other day and I used this example. You meet an unknown man and you strike up a conversation. Initially he maybe unreceptive and you think "huh?". Then eventually, you both start talking about a certain topic, but then the man keeps going on and on without letting you talk - now you think he's rude. He won't look at you directly and yet keeps talking. You can't figure out - is he just talking to me to humour me; is he bored? Yet again, you think he's rude. The thing is, he isn't, he's Autistic. However, he talks, he is eloquent, he is social, so the last thing you think is that he's Autistic. You just think he is plain, flat-out rude.

This is what has been happening with my Son and "certain" adults in his school. Because they don't know about Autism; they don't see through his eyes, they are assuming his outbursts are because he is willful or oppositional. They are treating him as "naughty" (his words) and not realising that the willfulness they are seeing are a consequence of their initial behaviour and NOT because he is being defiant. I can see it because I see the situation through his eye's. He is being reactive in his responses, not active in his behaviour.

This has lead to complaints in the school which are being investigated, but still the effect it has on D will last months. I can't and won't blame him, because he is in an environment where people he should respect (and he does, because Autistic children are very rule based) are treating him like crap. The adults he deals with all know his issues and yet SOME (not all, in fact not most) are not vigilant or caring enough to investigate his behaviours.

So the effect on him has lead to consequences of my own. I can't go out running when I want in the mornings (a goal of mine), because he might not have help in the classroom he needs, or he maybe anxious to go. I can't go running for as long as I want or as far as I want in case I get called back. I have had to cut back his time in school because of the anxiety he has, so therefore there is less days I can go running. I am spending more time in the school than I had expected; going to meetings and having conversations with certain parties. The "free" time I had expected 10 months ago is NOT happening.

This has lead to an acceptance in me, that my goals at the moment are not going to happen. I wanted to run a 50K trail marathon in April; nope I can't see that. I am now focusing on running the Vancouver Marathon in May. Will it be barefoot? I can't say, it depends if I can get the mileage in to toughen my feet up. Will the marathon be the time I expected, No. I think I will be glad if I get to the end.

However, acceptance is a great thing. It's a sign of growth. The second, or is it third, part of my title. It's late, I have had wine and a busy week - hey, I am just amazed I can type.

There are certain things in this world we should NEVER accept; war, religious intolerance (of any faith), violence, famine, bigotry and hatred. Acceptance that life is a fluid journey and that we need to adapt; that we shouldn't push ourselves in one area of our lives at the expense of another - that is a personal strength.

So I am NOT going to do the trail 50K in April, however, I will do the Vancouver Marathon in May and I will attempt 50K at "Mind the Ducks" two weeks later. I still have my goals, they have just slid a little. What have I gained because I have accepted my old goals are currently un-attainable? I have gained a son who will find a class that accepts him and his world. I am also finding there are other ways I can spend my time. Now that I am not going to running so much, I have a different schedule I can plan for; I am writing, reading and developing myself in other ways. I am taking courses about Autism so I can help and teach Autistic kids to reach their potential. I am helping with BRS more.

So is Acceptance a bad thing? It depends on what you do with it I suppose. Acceptance can mean you don't fight for anything - not a good move. However, acceptance can also mean you pick your battles. You chose what is worth fighting for. How can that EVER be a bad thing?

I must start running again; that is the 3 or so thoughtful posts in a month. I had better get back to being socially strange before people wonder what this blog is all about. :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

An organised Barefoot running meet-up - it's not a myth and it does happen!

(The feet of Barefoot/Minimalist running - Simon in his Vibrams, Me in my hacked water-shoes and Craig (Barefoot hero) in his bare tootsies)

So how many Barefoot/Minimalist runners does it take to change a lightbulb?

Probably none, they would sigh and figure, "who needs a new li
ghtbulb, won't the light from the beer fridge be just as good?"

There is a reason for the lame attempt of joke honest. I am not just randomly inflicting my bad humour at you. Today was our first official Barefoot (and minimalist) runners meet-up for the Vancouver Chapter of BRS.

We were hoping for about six runners today, but due to cough, colds and other random stuff that happens, we only managed three in the end. Me (kittyk), Craig (flintstone) and Simon (peekay). I had met Simon before at the 10K Fall Classic in November. This was the first time I had met Craig. Craig is a lawyer for the Attorney-General and was busy with a trial when we had the Fall Classic meeting. (Oh, as a pointer - Don't lump Lawyers and Politicians in the same grouping; I made that little faux-pas. It produces the same reaction as calling a 'New Zealander' Australian)

The weather was perfect. We were attempting a run around the seawall in Vancouver, (about 10K). Every other time I have tried this run, Vancouver has been blanketed by fog. I have never managed to see the beautiful vistas of Stanley Park - the wonderful sights of grey mist, I am very familiar with! As I was driving into the city, I had a feeling this was going to happen again, but as I reached Downtown, the fog cleared and we had beautiful winter sunshine. The temperature was probably around about freezing, with the ground colder and damp/icy.

In my nervous state I hadn't had much sleep last night and as a resulting consequence I ended up being 20 mins early at the meet-up point of Coal Harbour Community Centre. Craig arrived first and luckily the 'Zems' gave him away. It's interesting that Barefoot runners seem to be more interested in runners feet than in any other gadgets they may have.

Craig and I waited for Simon (who we later found out was hopelessly lost and running up and down West Georgia St ). It was great to talk to Craig. I already knew a little about Craig from FaceBook and BRS, but it's always more interesting to hear everything in an actual conversation. I mean, face-to-face conversation, it's something 'normal' people do, (so I hear).

(So how do you look skinny despite the large quantity of chocolate you ate over Christmas? You stand next to very TALL runners - the perspective makes everything about you look small)

Simon turned up and after a pre-run photo and the usual handshakes we headed off. Craig is a pure veteran when it comes to Barefoot running. He has been barefoot running for 10 years and of course his form is perfect. Simon is coming on in leaps and bounds in both distance and form since I last saw him in November. My form however was awful. There are some days when running does not come naturally; with lack of sleep, other matters on my mind and the excitement of the meet-up I was all over the place. It may also have helped if I had shut up more and concentrated on what I was doing, but hey, I was the token woman - it's our natural curse to fill the silence with as much inane conversation as possible, regardless if it is wanted.

I made the decision to take off my funky water shoes at about 1.5KM. This was all due to excitement and it was clear that my feet hadn't warmed up enough. My form was hampered by cold feet and after 5KM they were numb and unfortunately bleeding..:( The hacked water booties came back on and we progressed under the Lions Gate Bridge.

Craig is surprisingly fast (well faster than Simon and I) and luckily he was a good enough sport to allow us to walk/run the last half of the 10KM. I was glad as the bleeding toe was causing my form to deteriorate even more and I was developing a fantastic blister! (It's epic - it's so large it could almost be counted as a land mass in it's own right). I was also feeling the extra poundage I was carrying due to the large amounts of chocolate I had eaten over Christmas. Curse you 'Dairy Milk' and 'Quality Street'!

Craig run's this route quite a bit and as the more experienced Barefoot runner, he has de-sensitised the local population. I was surprised we didn't get more looks, but as Craig pointed out; "You can feel comfortable making comments to one barefoot runner, but when there's more, we are a little more intimidating!". I think that was 'intimidating' in the 'mass-murder' sense, rather than 'intimidating' due to sparkling conversation and intelligence.

The second half of the route was warmer and we were all eager to get to the obligatory "Hobbit second breakfast". We were still walk/running, when Simon made the suggestion that we "enter the Community centre running". This seemed a good idea, but as Craig was the only one who knew the area and he's fitter than us, he didn't disagree. Simon and I realised the large amount of steel and glass buildings in the area had confused us and the centre was further away than we realised. We did all enter the building as if we had just run up Everest and it made a nice ending to the run.

(Post-run "hobbit second breakfast)

We all decided to go for our second breakfast in a cafe close to Craigs' work where we decided that we wanted to make these meet-ups a monthly event. So yes, you will be hearing more of these race reports, although I am hoping in the future they may have less preamble and more of our exploits. ;)

On the first BRS Vancouver meet-up I was struck about the diversity and the humour within the Barefoot running community. Craig, Simon and I all seemed to have a similar humour and we spent the run making jokes (many of which were not running related and probably not 'Politically correct'). We, (well Craig and Simon anyway) all had interesting jobs and a wonderful take on life. Although I haven't managed to learn much about fellow runners at the races I have been too, I liked the fact that our little group enjoyed running first and not how far or how quick we raced. It's a trend I see a lot on the Barefoot running sites and I think it's a interesting clue into the mid-set of those that decide running shoes are only useful as door-stops.

I think the first meet-up was a success and I am hoping our little gang of misfits will grow and be a more common sight in the Downtown Vancouver area. Do you think we get more people if I offer beer at the end?