Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fancy a Chat?

Not just with me, but with a whole plethora of (okay 6) female barefoot runners?

Want to talk about what's it like to ditch the shoes and still keep sexy?

Want to talk about alcohol, running and having fun? Now, I've got ya!

Merrell are hosting an all female, singing (badly), dancing (only when we're drunk) crew of female barefoot runners on a Facebook Chat.  Myself and others will be there to talk about running barefoot and pretty much anything else you have on your mind.

They start tomorrow with Emily Snayd and continue once a week till you hit me at the bottom (literally, it is after Christmas) on Jan 5th.  So come on, grab a glass of something; if it's too early then grab the chocolate; if you are paleo grab the bacon; and sit with us for a while.

Date's and Info are as follows:  All times are Eastern.

12/01/11-1 to 2pm and 7 to 8pm-Emily Snayd
12/08/11-1 to 2pm-Iris Sutcliffe-
12/15/11-1 to 2pm-Caity McCardell-
12/22/11-1 to 2pm-Shelley Robillard-
12/28/11-7 to 8pm-Krista Cavendar
01/05/12-1 to 2pm-Katie Kift-

Friday, November 25, 2011

Running Hiatus, but still running around

Yep, I have been a bit quiet on the running front.  Also put in "blogging front" into that sentence too.  The Internet has had a small respite from ramblings.  However, I won't let the Internet get complacent, I am still around, lurking, like the bad smell left in the bathroom after a big Thanksgiving dinner ;)  Oh, I bet you have missed my mental imagery!

A weekend of deep aquafit, running in heeled boots and general weather changes meant my "post-recovery" status was reverted back to "recovery" status.  Added to the fact that I slipped on a damp ramp at the food store yesterday and my running has been set back a month or two.  It was a classic fall -Laurel and Hardy couldn't do better- and it has rather diminished my love affair I had with my bright yellow Gum Boots.  It seems my "little bits of wet weather sunshine" don't like inclines and damp - huh? who knew?!  However, I know in my head that I can get back there.  My brief entry into "back to running" has shown that this is a temporary hitch and I will recover.  I have to keep chanting that to myself as I avoid the pre-christmas chocolate and treats.  Damn you Christmas; the 1Kg British Dairy Milk bars are in the stores and I think I have already eaten half of one in a futile attempt to pretend I am running.  (Yeah, I don't get that logic either).

Winter has hit Vancouver in a surprise series of snow storms.  Our Summer was very late this year, so most Vancouverites were shocked when we had early winter storms.  There wasn't enough time to adjust our thinking.  Seeing red autumn leaves mixed in with snow is a very bizarre sight.  Yet, at heart I am a Brit and snow to us mean's playtime.  Everyone has an idea that the UK get's snow every year, but in the 30 or so years I lived there, I can only remember a handful of winters where we had large dumps of snow.  Therefore the idea of playing in the snow creates such kid-like excitement, that I immediately regress 30 years.  (Which as I believe I am 6, would make me -24).

The early winter and running hiatus, has lead to some bonuses.  I have managed to settle D into Grade One and he is coping better than expected.  I feel as if I have more of a handle on the situation than I did last year.  I feel more confident that we can get him through this year, whereas last year I felt in permanent battle mode from November onwards.  He still has his little quirks and issues, but I think we can creatively solve them before they happen (in a TARDIS, Doctor Who way), instead of fire-fighting (in a Torchwood, end of the world kind of way).  Yep, it's close to Christmas and it's this time of year I miss British TV.  Expect lots of UK TV references over the next couple of weeks.

I have started a few new projects and stepped up on a few others.  I am starting a new blog-site in the next few weeks and I have been busy writing for that.  I have been researching for articles I am writing that have more of a "scientific feel", hopefully I may be able to deposit them on BRU and  I have also taken on a bigger role with the Barefoot Runners Society.  I am now responsible for day-to-day running of the Chapters across the world - it has the fancy title of Regional VP which I still feel uncomfortable using.  Thankfully TJ is very supportive and breaking me in slowly.  I am just beginning to realise how much work she puts into the site.  Honestly if there was a medal of courage for Barefoot Running, she should have it!

I have also started coaching.  I am still uncertain about this because I still feel barely qualified to call myself a runner, let alone feel qualified to teach running form.  However, the coaching is informal and my test Guinea Pig (Ellie - yep you!) is coming on fantastically well.  I am getting a lot of satisfaction seeing all the tips and techniques I have learnt over the last couple of years come together.  It's solidifying my idea's and allowing me to test theories I had used on myself.  I am seriously enjoying it and although according to some, my business plan sucks -I coach for coffee and company- I don't think I would have it any other way.  Not sure I am really cut out for making money out of this running business!  Which is good, because I'm not. :D

I have been spending a lot of time on the snowy mountains with my family.  This is the first year, D has really been interested in the snow and he is loving it.  Every weekend we have been driving to the local mountains and I have to admit this is where I have been reducing my stress levels.  Forget running, I have been glorying in playing in the snow like a kid.  I am investigating snow-shoeing and my skates have been sharpened for the first time in a year.  Normally I run smiley, but as my knee is out of commission I have been playing smiley instead.

So okay, not running so much, however, I am still running around.  If you see a woman loping around the Vancouver area in a general "Quosimodo" type lurch, that's me.  Sorry Internet, but I am back :)  Haven't you missed me :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Merrell Dash Gloves: I don't do reviews..

However, in this case I will make an exception.  This is my concept review; imagine a wine review, however, it's not wine, but well shoes.  Confused?  Well grab a glass of wine and may-be it will make more sense ;)

So here goes...

Year:  To be released 2012.  Although I managed to grab an early pair in the same fashion of a restaurant trying to grab the first Beaujolais nouveau of the season.
Price: TBA
Region: Designed for road and easy trail. may be found on technical trail but only when worn by a lunatic looking for an easy escape from life - literally.
Color: Ranging from "pink and purple" to "Grey and Lime Green"
Aroma: Currently the least fragrant although a winter of wet running may create a more distinct nose.
Texture: A seamless upper design.  A breathable mesh that allows drainage and an overall dry finish.  A moulded Vibram sole with a the flexibility of a fledgling gymnast.  Finds itself easy to bend forwards but a little stiff bending back.
Taste: Minimalist road runners who are looking for ground feel with the ability to keep their toes during damp winter runs.  Should also appeal to those that like an "all-rounder"; the indoor gym rat and the outdoor jogging bunny,
Disadvantages:  Can be a bit of a slippery customer if you decide to partner up with it on a soggy grass and slippy forest trail.
Finish: I think a long lasting finish that may leave the pleasant dirt-filled taste of experimentation and pushing your limits.
KittyK rating: 4 out of 5

For the more serious readers out there - there may be some:

Merrell Dash Gloves - Out Feb 2012.
As you can tell this pair has been worn - LOTS
So, I snagged a pair of these from Merrell whilst in New York for the 2011 NYC Barefoot Race. One of the perks for the Merrell Roundtable I was invited to.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and you have to grab the goodies whilst you can; I am fairly sure I behaved badly enough that I won't be invited back ;)  So here's my BIAS warning; when reading the review, consider that I did get these for free! ;)

To date I have run in them in the following conditions:
Road, Easy trail, warm temperatures (23C/74F), cool temperatures, sun and rain.  I have tried cross-fit, outdoor boot-camps and fitness classes.  I have even managed a bit of muddy semi-technical mountain bike trail.  You name it I have probably tried it - within reason of course. In our house shoes never make it to the bedroom.  Lest said about that the better I think. *cough*

To date I have probably worn them for approximately.. well most of the time I have had them and I think this is the beauty of the Dash gloves.  So far there hasn't been a minimalist shoe out there that you can throw on and do most things in.  Wether it's dashing to the bank and grocery store (like me this morning), or going for a quick run around the easy inlet trail. Going to a Zumba class, the gym, or a a cross-fit bootcamp, these fit the bill. Indoors and outdoors, they will work.  I have to admit I was quite surprised about how versatile these shoes were.  Quite often with minimalist shoes, they will do one job; they will do it remarkably well, but as soon as you take them out of their comfort zone you have had it.  This was the case with the Merrell Pace gloves; take them on technical trail and well.. WOW. Take them for a walk around town and they weren't as comfortable - not overly bad, just noticeably different.  This was the first time I have had a pair of shoes where I was able to use them in a variety of environments.

I think there were some serious design changes between the Merrell Pace Gloves and the Merrell Dash Gloves.  Someone must have told Merrell some things because they listened.  Gone is the rock-plate of the Pace Gloves.  This was probably where I had the biggest issues with the Pace Gloves.  Just for me, the combination of the snug arch of the sole and the foot plate, meant that on road or easy trail, I could feel the change in my form.  It wasn't noticeable on technical trail or serious incline/declines, but on flat surfaces, yeah it was there.  The Snug fitting sole along the arch is there on the Dash Gloves, but now it doesn't appear as noticeable and I am finding the more I wear them, the less I feel it.  It could be I am just getting used to it; perhaps my "hobbit" feet are just stretching the uppers to that well-worn feel. 

Also gone are the Luggs  that were apparent  on the front of the Pace Gloves.  That's understandable. This isn't a trail shoe; additional traction as you bomb up and down mountains isn't needed.  I compared the sole of the Dash gloves to those of the Merrell Barefoot Kids shoes.  They are pretty much the same.  I think this is the one thing other runners had been asking for and I am glad Merrell complied.

Dash Gloves compared to a pair of
Merrell Kids barefoot
Merrell Dash and Lithe gloves, side by side

The lacing system is pretty much the same as the rest of the Merrell line-up.  They hold the shoes onto your feet and only occasionally come undone if you are a completely unable to tie shoes properly - like me.  They seemed less prone to coming undone than my Pace gloves, so I count that as a plus. :)

A pair of well worn Merrell Pace Gloves
alongside a pair of well worn
Merrell Dash Gloves
The heel  is the same as the Pace gloves; there is an elasticated heel instead of a conventional heel.  I am pretty glad about this.  I know the elasticated heel isn't to everyone's taste, but if you have small "fairy/hobbit" feet like me, it's a god-send.  The problem I have with conventional running shoe heel is that they usually ride a little high for me, so as I am running I can feel them digging into the backs of my heel.  I suffered this a little with the Merrell Lithe Gloves and this issue was so bad on my NB Minimus that I gave up wearing them for a long time until I had the courage to grab a stanley-knife and hack the backs off them.  If you have smaller feet, you may find the elasticated heel much kinder to your achilles heel!

As you can see the Shape and Size of both the
Merrell Lithe Gloves and the Dash gloves
are very similar
The shape and size of the sole is pretty much the same as the Pace/Lithe Gloves, so expect the same amount of toe-box room and general fit. They have a moderately wide toe-box.  The lateral support across the arch is snug but not uncomfortable.

The are pretty flexible; you can easily roll them into a ball - the usual trick to check the flexibility.  They are of course zero drop; no heel-toe height differences to worry about.

So far so good - well for me and my duck-like feet anyway.  So how do they handle (said in a Jeremy Clarkson Top-Gear kind of way)?

Pretty good on what they are designed for.  They handled a Zumba class pretty well, (with the help of the "Z-sliders"; a hairband for your shoes, just don't go there).  I have tried the Zumba class with a number of other minimal shoes (mainly the Pace gloves and the VFF Sprints) and these were the most comfortable.  I ran a few sessions with my running club (road running) and I didn't suffer from the change in form I had suffered from the Pace gloves.  On easy trail, they worked well - not as much ground feel as maybe my VFF's but enough that that I was able to keep my form in check. 

That doesn't mean there were no area's they had difficulty with.  I went to an outdoor bootcamp in the pouring rain and I did have to be extra cautious.  On the leaf-strew uphills we were working on, I could feel some slipping.  As to the wet grass we were working on, for quick, tight turns I was all over the place.  I was a little cautious on the wet easy forest trail, but they did hold up better than I expected.  This isn't a surprise - without the Luggs, the grip is compromised and as such in exceptionally wet or sloppy terrain, the shoes will be a little harder to handle. So on icy roads (not that I have had the opportunity to test this yet) I can imagine you would have to be a little careful.  Saying that, I did run on some damp semi-technical bike trail and they were better than I expected.  I wouldn't recommend it as a trail shoe but if the mood took you and you saw a bit of trail as you were running along, these shoes wouldn't stop you from going there.  I think their only weakness is very slippy and wet terrain.

As to my other criteria for a good minimal shoe, they performed quite well.  My feet were warm even during the soaking rain.  I have very funky feet and I suffer with the cold terribly. So warm feet even under wet conditions is a big plus for me.  Even though my feet and socks did get completely drenched during the bootcamp, the shoes drained very quickly.  I was surprised that it only took a couple of hours over a heating vent to dry them out completely.  With some of my minimal shoes, it was usually an overnight job.

Not the prettiest shoe out there; Not as pretty as the mens version
However, it's not looks that matter - supposedly ;)
 I will be interested to see what other styling options may be forthcoming.  I currently have the purple/pink variety, which certainly get noticed.  I recently went shopping for winter boots and the store assistants were more interested in the shoes I was wearing (i.e. the Dash gloves) than any they were selling.  The styling for the Dash Glove doesn't seem to be as sleek as the styling on the Men's version (Road Glove).  I think the term "striking", i.e in a "not completely hideous but certainly not the Prom Queen".  I am not sure if that's just because I have small feet, but I have heard of the same complaint from other quarters too.  That's a shame, because I think the Men's version of the Dash Glove is a fantastically looking shoe.

So overall, it's a shoe that performs a number of jobs quite well and that's rare in a minimal shoe.  I think it's the shoe that will probably appeal to the female runner who is considering a minimalist shoe for the first time.  It looks like a normal running shoe, it does everything you need it to do as you are starting out.  I can see the Merrell Dash Gloves being the shoe that people are directed to when they first start out Minimalist  running; like the VFF's were a couple of years ago.  The advantage the Dash Gloves have is that it doesn't scream; look at me! and I think this will appeal to a lot of women.  In fact as a test, I lent them to a friend who I am coaching.  She is new to running and we are starting out the right way; good form, as close to barefoot as possible.  Let’s just say, her comments were along the lines of, “They are so comfy, they are like running in slippers”.  I was on the point of having to wrestle them away. 

Yep, Definitely the "grab them off the shelf and run" staple that we have been looking for.  

NOTE:  Apologies in the time it's taken to get the review out.  When I test something, I REALLY want to test it...:)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the Teacher's Office (AGAIN)

When you decide to have kids; when you get that positive test result after pee'ing on a stick, you see your life stretched out in front of you.  You see where you will be in 9 months time; giving birth. You see your life 12 months time; weening a happy baby with mushed banana and rice pudding. In 6 years time you are patting them on their head and sending them to school.  Happy, content and ready to be educated.  Your life will then be set to resume on it's normal course, except poorer and more hectic.  Everything will be just peachy.

Except in 6 years time, (or in our case 7), you aren't sat in front of your office desk, looking at family pictures, waiting till 5pm comes around so you can pick up your angel from Day-care. Nope, you are sat in the resource room discussing behavioural issues. AGAIN. For the.. what is it? The fifth time that year and it's only November?

Yep, that was me. AGAIN. Why is it whenever I get called to the resource room regarding an incident with D in school I get that feeling of dread? I am not 15. I haven't been caught kissing Rob, "what's-his-name" behind the school gym.  I haven't forgotten my homework. I haven't been sending notes to the back of the class to my friends.  I left school 20 years ago, but yet, every time I get that call (or in this case text message, this is the 21st century), I get the exact feeling.  I can feel the humiliation as I walk to the teachers office.  This time however , it's not a case of being a bad student, but the feeling of being a bad parent.

The stupid thing is, is that I know I am not.  I also know that the teachers and probably the parent's at the school -well the one's worth knowing- know I'm not.  They know I am doing the best I can.  There is no reason to feel like this.

They know that at 9:30 at night, (let's call this a Friday, because it's a public holiday tomorrow), with a glass of wine in hand and maybe a couple already in the system, I am sat in front of the computer checking out Behavioural Consultants.  I have a browser tab open at the local "Mental-health" bookstore, so I can research books on behavioural intervention.  I am sending emails to Autism centres about group sessions.  I am looking at my own collection of text books on behavioural intervention seeing what practises I can put into place to help the issues happening in school.

Yet, when I walk into that office, I feel like I have failed and it's crappy. It's stupid and idiotic and completely untrue, but yet, the smell of the dis-infectant and floor wax, just takes me back 20+years.  I get that feeling in my stomach and I feel my heart racing.  I get that feeling of dread; the same one you have before you take an exam - or a firing squad.

I am writing this post not for any real reason, other than to unleash my slightly tipsy and over-tired thoughts onto the unsuspecting populous.  Just feeling a need to rant and rave at the unjust feelings I have because I was dealt a slightly different hand to the one I had planned 7 years ago, as the stick turned blue. Just wanting a few moments to shout, "THIS ISN'T FAIR! I WANTED A NORMAL FAMILY".

I then realise that as soon as I say something like that - as soon as I jealously covet the other mothers picking up their normal kids from school - that I realise I actually don't want that at all.  Frankly having a normal kid would be dull and would drive me more insane than I already am.  That if I had a normal 6 year old, I wouldn't have the opportunity to feel pride as his resource room teacher mentioned she had a very interesting discussion with him about black holes.  I wouldn't get the same "kick" out of the "normal" kid, as I do with mine, when he get's up on stage to recite a Remembrance Poem with his class.  Looking at him fidget and squirm, but knowing that just being up there on stage means he is trying 110% more than his class mates.  I wouldn't be able to show that I can be the exceptional mother I am because I have the exceptional son I have.

Okay, that post turned into more of a self-affirmation than I had planned, but you know what? I don't care.  Frankly it's kind of what I needed right now.  It was either patting myself on the back, or hitting the hard liquor and prozac.  I just had to shell out $450 on police certificates for our residency application today - self affirmation is cheaper ;)  Okay, so the internet is in a sorrier state than it was 25 minutes ago, but I feel better.  Hey, just be thankful - I could be posting one of those blog posts, telling you that my golden child had just scored his 3rd world class medal at chess and he's only 3.  Admit it, my (slightly) drunken posts talking about my (slightly) dis-functional kid is a lot less annoying. :)

Thanks for reading this far.  If I ever meet-up with you, I'll buy you a drink. Heck, if you have read this far, you deserve it!  Personally, I am going to publish this, crash into bed, then wake up tomorrow as I look on in horror and scream "I WROTE WHAT?".  Enjoy this before I wake up tomorrow with a slight hang-over and remember how to use the delete key.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pissing me off

Sign found at the trail-head of one of my
favourite trails.
There aren’t many things in this world that Piss me off.  At most you may get the sense of mild irritation from me, but as far as stuff that actually makes me angry, well, they are pretty few and far between.
As I came off a walk on a local trail the other day.  I saw something that really pissed me off.  It was this sign

The trail I had come off is one of my hidden favourites.  It generally is quiet and although it’s really only a short trail and not technical, I loved the fact that here I was off the beaten track, but still relatively safe.

The unfortunate situation we have here in Vancouver is the regular attacks on women on trails.  I am sure that it’s possibly the same in every city, but perhaps it’s the fact that Vancouver is portrayed as generally a safe city to be around, these attacks always come as a shock.  However, at least once a year, there is usually a murder on one of the many trails around here; the victim is always a woman.  Last year, the murder happened to be on one of the trails I was running with a friend in Burnaby.  The year before the murder happened to be at UBC.

I am not an overly cautious woman.  I don’t jump at my shadows or feel scared to venture out of the house.  I lived in South-East London during college and the area I frequented wasn’t necessarily the safest place on the planet.  I prided myself that I was always super-aware of where I was, aware of the nearest safest places I could run to and that I could handle myself if needs be.  In an very urban environment, it’s easy to get help, you are never more than a shout away from another human being - saying that attacks happen there more frequently. I judged the risks and I carried on.

The same in running trails.  I am aware that when I am out in the wilderness; that the likelihood of someone coming to help me if I get into trouble are very small.  However, attacks although publicised are not necessarily that common compared to an urban area.  Despite all of this, I have to admit, I am usually more concerned about a Bear encounter, than an attack by another human being.  I still run alone on the trails and I glory in the fact that this is my way to escape from the normal life.  I wouldn’t swap that for anything.  I still felt relatively safe. 

I am also well aware that I am only 5’2” and a 110(ish) lbs.  If I did get attacked, my only means really of protecting myself is running to the nearest safest area.  This is why I chose trails that are either more populated, or are small and have good access to roads/houses/anything with people on it.  If I run unknown trails or those that are not frequently trafficked, then I run with others.  I hate to do it; but I accept it.

Would I have felt different if I was a man?  The thing is that if I was a 5’2” man weighing a 110lb’s, then I still would be incapable of fighting off a stronger, heavier adversary.  Gender in that respect has nothing to do with it.

So when I saw this sign, I got angry. Angry on so many different levels.  I was angry that someone felt they could upset and frighten another human being.  I felt angry that one of the few places that I felt safe to run by myself was taken away. I was angry that this petty little man had felt that he had a right to do this. I was angry that his actions had made me consider altering my own in a way I didn’t like.  I was angry that I felt smaller because, perhaps, he in fact, thought he was insignificant.

Unfortunately what gender does have to do with, is that women are still seen by a section of men as an object and that they can do with what they want, when they want.  That unprovoked attacks like this, are more likely to be men against women, not the other way around.  That if I was attacked “some” sections of society would claim it would be “MY” fault because I was acting in a manner that was not appropriate - I wasn’t in the stereotypical place of the home with kids.  

I get angry that even in our supposedly enlightened age and society, women are still counted as second place to the rest of population. Wages, jobs, perception - even after all this time we are not counted as equals.

I suppose in some respects I am just as angry at myself because by typing this I am allowing this “unknown, middle-aged” man to upset me this much. I am blaming him for making me feel this vulnerable.  I feel cheated that I am having to alter my actions.  I am angry at myself because I feel like a potential statistic for enjoying a sport, which I enjoy doing alone.

A couple of days later I went back onto the same trail.  I am trying to do a little photography and this trail is beautiful.  As I walked towards the trail-head an elderly lady stopped me and in her faltering English, warned me not to go on the trail. As she put it “There is a bad man”.  I comforted her that I was only going a little way onto the trail. During that one hour I was there, I met a few people walking their dogs.  Each time I was always a little wary when a solitary man went past.  However, you could see it in the faces of the people that passed me, each man was thinking, “I hope she doesn’t think it was me!”  I then began to realise that it wasn’t just the woman who frequent the trail that had something taken away from them. The men had too.  The men were having to be just as guarded and they had in a way, altered their behaviour because of the actions of one man.

It’s safe to say that during that hour I spent on the trail I wasn’t accosted or molested and in some ways that made me feel stronger in reclaiming my trail back.  Doesn’t stop the fact that despite my determination to run there regardless that for the fore-seeable future, the actions of one man has altered the behaviour of everyone who frequents the trail. That he has made the world a scarier place for everyone.

And that really Pisses me off.