Saturday, December 31, 2011

Normally bloggers do a year review...

However, this is more of a forward looking post.

As you may have seen my posts have been a little sparten lately.  Like London Buses, as soon as I decided to take on one new project, 3 more turn up at the same time.  The last couple of months have been very hectic.

So instead of telling you what I have done --which frankly, as running goes, was a little lack-luster-- I am going to tell you what is to come.  Not a New Year Resolution post - let's say it's a "What the hell have I agreed to?" post.  This is what I am planning in 2012.

Since the end of October I have taken on 3, (yes 3!) new projects or roles.  So first ones first.

Barefoot Runner Society.  I have been the Chapter President of the Canada-Vancouver Chapter for about 14 months now.  I took on some other projects for TJ on behalf of BRS, mainly updating Facebook pages.  A couple of months ago, she asked me to take on more of a role.  I was honoured and a over-whelmed, but in my usual, 'what the heck!" manner, I accepted the role.

I am now the Regional Vice President of BRS.  Not only am I now on the Executive committee, but I am also responsible for the day-to-day management of ALL Chapters of BRS.  If a Chapter President has a problem, it's me they talk to.

It's a huge project and I am barely standing in TJ's shoes.  It has been a steep learning curve and I know I am learning on the fly.  So if there are any CP's out there - yep sorry, I am trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can.  I am just beginning to realise how much time and effort TJ has put into BRS.  We all knew it, but I think if people realised the amount of work involved, then I think BRS's 4,000+ members would all send TJ little medals.  She does an awesome job and I am so glad I can help her out.

Canadian Running Magazine.  This was a bolt out of the blue.  About 6 weeks ago, CRM contacted me to see if I wanted to write a weekly column about Barefoot and Minimalist running on their Internet site.  After double and triple checking they really meant me, I accepted.

The start date was sooner than I anticipated, so I have spent the last month trying to get a backlog of articles (in case of disaster weeks) and trying to contact minimalist shoe companies for PR contacts.  I have come to a conclusion that I didn't know as much about the minimalist shoe industry as I thought.  It had never been a priority for me as I wasn't a reviewer as such.  Boy, am I getting a crash course now!

My CRM blog site is here.  Feel free to read.  I have managed to push the envelope a little and my humour is coming out more and more.  I am going to see how far I can go until they tell me to stop.  I really like writing for them and I am amazed a "conventional" running magazine is embracing barefoot and minimalist running.  I have even been asked to write for their print magazine too, so you may even see my name in print!

Along with BRS, this is going to be an fantastic way to promote barefoot and minimalist running.

The KittyK Review.  I started this personal project just before I took the role with CRM and it has taken a bit of a hit as I have concentrated on the magazine.

I never set out to be a reviewer.  It was never my goal for this blog.  However, over the last year, I have been asked my opinion on the shoes I own.  I happily give my opinion, but never felt comfortable doing a review here.  This led to my blog post in August.

I then decided that it might be good to give a review of the shoes I own.  Especially as there aren't that many female minimalist shoe reviewers.  There are differences in the female and male designs and that should be brought up.

I wanted to put up my ideas (so I wasn't repeating myself), I wanted the reviews to be funny and I didn't want them here.  I wanted to keep this blog for me, my son and my running.  I didn't want to force my reviews down peoples throats when they didn't want my opinion in the first place.

So if you want to hear about me and my silly antics, as well as any thoughts I have on running, then come .. to well.. here.  If you want to hear my opinions on the shoes I own, then go to "The KittyK review".

I know that in the blogger ideology, this is the wrong way to play a review site.  I know splitting the reviews from this blog means I won't necessarily get the traffic or the membership required to get the "swag".  However, I don't care.  I didn't start this blog to see what I could get from it.  I started this site so that I could rant, rave and generally mess about.  Which I have achieved with fantastic success ;)

The review site is a way to share my opinions, not to see how many free shoes I can get.  I want to make you laugh whilst providing a pointer about the shoes I have.  This may mean that the number of shoes that are reviewed may not be as great as some out there, but my new role with CRM may help that situation.

As I mentioned, this project had to take a partial back-seat, so although some of my reviews are up, I have a good handful I need to write.  They will go up.  Check the site to see what I might be reviewing in the future.

The Run Smiley Collective.  This is still on-going, but I am going to chivy up the contributors who have taken a bit of "Thanksgiving-New Year" break.  So if your name is on the side-bar, be warned.  In January I am coming to get ya!  We want more challenges, virtual runs and posts.  Get ready, I am going to be pestering you.

Barefoot Running University.  I have written a handful of articles for Jason and his site.  I am still hoping to do the same next year.

I haven't forgotten this site, which I still want to write once a week.  I have a few articles in mind.

Add in looking after a (soon to be) 7 year old kid with ASD,who has just started Social-group AND music therapy. Let's not forget the coaching I am doing with friends.  I think that's still important.

Oh, and I have started running with a Half-marathon clinic, I am going to start snow-shoeing,  learn to mountain bike,  doing a weekly boot-camp, I want to take up wall-climbing again, and perhaps swimming.

*Deep breath*  Do you think there are enough hours in a day?  Well thank goodness I am not one for a tidy house - I think the dust-bunnies can rest easy for another year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I must be permanently stressed.

I am trying an experiment.  For the first time in well… years, I am strapping technology to me as I run.  I am not talking about my iPod, because I have been running with music on and off for years.  Okay, let me amend my previous statement.  I am strapping another piece of technology to be used randomly as I run.

I have a heart rate monitor. I vaguely remember buying it when I was young and na├»ve and thought I needed technology to make me better.  I think I used it a handful of times then dumped it in the draw to collect dust bunnies.  In fact when I pulled it out from the “draw of doom” I had to spend $15 on getting a new battery for it. I think you are getting an idea on how much I like running with gadgets. :)

Unfortunately, as in all things, as soon as I decide to re-try something, life get’s in the way.  I fixed the watch, then 2 days later the belt dies.  So I had a dead heart rate monitor.  Should I take this as a sign, or should I allow my inquisitiveness overcome my wallet?  I had to make a decision

I have never really concerned myself with my heart rate before.  Whenever I have dragged the monitor from it’s nest in the draw, I always took comfort, that my resting heart rate of about 50, meant I was super fit and I had nothing to worry about.  I was active, I was not overweight and I ran.  Enough said.

However, after a year of injuries, illness and general “blah” I have decided that now is the time to experiment with training techniques and diet to see if they make a difference.

In fact 2011 hasn’t really been my running year.  2010 was awesome; I ran 5 half marathons, a good handful of other races and was finishing in the top third of pretty much any category you could think of.  I was enjoying running, I felt fit and I felt healthy.

This year? Yeah, not so much.  There have been a number of reasons for this, some I know and some I am probably just figuring out.  Firstly busting my knee is June was a dead give away that this wasn’t my year.  However there have been other little warning signs.  Frankly I am exhausted -- all the time.  Every time I go out for a run, even if it’s a short 5K, it feels like it takes me days to recover.  If I do manage a good week, with maybe 3 or 4 runs, then I get a cold the next week.  My body is on empty and I wasn’t sure why.

So as my knee is recovering and as I have lots of projects coming up, I have decided to train, but train easy.  My conclusion is that moving is better than sitting, so I should just slow my training down a notch and chill.  Build up very slowly, so that when next year comes around I will be fitter than before.

Hence the heart-rate monitor.  My dead heart rate monitor.  As it was close to my birthday, I decided to try the ill-fated task of seeing if I could get a GPS watch to fit my insanely small wrists.  This happens every year and I fail.  However, not this time.  So 20 minutes later, I walk from the running store, $250 lighter and on Forerunner 210 heavier. 

So off I go and start my experiment with low-heart rate training.  When I say “experimenting”, I actually do mean it.  I have no idea if it works or not and everything I have read doesn’t seem to convince me one way or another. I am going to give it a go and find out.  I know have to go slower than normal to build up my knee, so this is an ideal opportunity to clean up my form as well as testing other stuff as well.  Sweet!! Apart from the $250 lighter in the wallet part!

I worked out that given my age and the fact I have been run down lately, that my target heart range should be 121-131.  I think my overall limit should be 141, so I was guessing if I kept in this range I could occasionally peak a little higher and still be okay. 

So I tried it. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.  I have run a couple of times.  Anything from 3.5 to 6 miles.  Well, I say ran, I mean walk-run.  Actually when I say walk-run, I mean more .. well.. walk. Honestly it was almost impossible to keep my heart-rate down.  I probably didn’t help myself by doing all of my runs on a trail populated by off-leash dogs, walkers, strollers, kids, bikes, cute male runners and … sorry I was distracted by the cute guys then.  After being bitten on the trail last year I get nervous around dogs.  Every time I saw a dog coming towards me, my heart rate jumped 10 beats a minute.  Whenever I heard sounds of civialisation, either cars on the nearby road or people talking on the trail, up went my heart rate.  Even the noise of a chainsaw being used by the parks guys in a completely different part of the forest and BANG, my heart jumped.  As for the cute guy.. well, enough said really.

The only time I was really able to run (at about a 12+min/mile pace) and keep my heart-rate within levels was when I was deep in the woods with just me, my feet and the mist. 

So I have come to conclusion that frankly civialisation scares the be-jesus out of me.  No wonder I have such a low resting heart rate because frankly it’s beating at a million miles an hour when I am out and about.  I am wondering if I am permanently stressed.  

The thing is, I am so used to being stressed, that I probably don’t really know what it feels like not to be stressed.  It’s kind of ironic, that I am so aware of this situation for D, but completely unaware of my own stress levels.  D has a similar situation; he is on a permanent level 3 because he has the stress of having to manually filter out his environment.  This is a reason why he can suddenly explode at a situation and then within seconds be perfectly calm.  We have spent the last 12 months trying to get him to analyize his own stress levels so he can prevent emotional explosions.  I just never realized that I may have to do the same.

So guys, let me know.  I need calming techniques… come on, give me some of your “chill-out” vibes!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The start of the avalanche?

“… It was reported that prescribing motion control shoes incorrectly, without proper justification or rationale, is potentially dangerous”

The sentence above seems fairly innocuous, until that is, you consider the source of the quote.  This was from an article titled, “The Science and History behind theRunning Shoe” by Dr. Reed Ferber.  It was also in the free “Running Room” magazine.


Okay, for some, if not most people, that will probably justify a virtual tumbleweed rolling across a virtual desert.  To some however, this is the sign of the beginning of the avalanche and acceptance of barefoot and minimalist running.  Yep, it might seem as if I am grasping at straws here.  Work with me on this.

The article itself was not “Barefoot or Minimal is great”, and neither did I expect it to be so.  However, it didn’t shout, “Buy big supportive shoes” either.  This is where I became interested.

“The Running Room” is, if you aren’t already aware, a running shoe store.  But in my experience (and in the experience of other minimal and barefoot runners) a shoe store which appears to be very anti-barefoot.  I will even go to say, anti-minimal shoe. 

My local Running Room fills me with dread.  I go in on very rare occasions and I ensure that I know precisely what I want and I try to get in and out as quickly as possible.  My un-orthodox training schedule, my haphazard attitude to racing and my barefoot/minimalist running stance has made conversations with the staff strained and uncomfortable.  They have been in my experience a very “conservative” store.  A store that seems unwilling to look at change.  A store that takes the art of running and in some cases itself, too seriously.  (Hence the reason we don’t really get along, because… well, I don’t!)

Then I saw this article.  The article is written by a Doctor who is investigating running injuries at the University of Calgary,.  He starts by talking about the history of the running shoe; providing dates which highlight the recent invention of the modern running shoe.  He writes how the term “over-pronation” was only coined in 1978.  1978!  I am older than the aliment that has created the motion-controlled shoe. He cites in his article relevant studies that show that incorrectly perscribed shoes cause damage.  At least half the article indicates that running shoes do not necessarily prevent injuries.  That running in the wrong shoe causes issues.

He quotes:
“Considering the complexity of running injuries, one must assume that changing footwear, or even eliminating shoes altogether, cannot eliminate the potential for –or serve- as the only treatment for a running-related injury”

What? Running Room? Shoes will not prevent running injuries?  I know it seems like I am making a big deal about this.  I mean the article doesn’t say “DITCH YOUR SHOES”, but coming from a company that has had over 25 years building a reputation cemented around the latest model of motion controlled running shoe, this I think is a significant change.

I think you will find a lot of Barefoot and Minimal runners out there –especially those who have been around the block, in pretty much most senses of the phrase- will not claim going barefoot will solve your running injuries either.  Okay, going barefoot helped me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I advocate everyone ditch their shoes immediately and embrace the mud.  Barefoot and Minimalist runners as a whole take the view:
“…the one thing research from the past decade clearly demonstrates is that you run best when you are in a comfortable shoe.”

Running Room and the minimalist community on the same page?  I am waiting for the correlating horsemen on winged horses and random debris to start falling from the sky.

So to me this insignificant one page article hidden in the midst of shoe advertising, sent in a free magazine from a shoe company that has in my experience been anti-barefoot/minimalist and very Pro supportive shoe, is huge.

This could be the start of the avalanche…

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Inaugural Coquitlam Centre Jingle Bell Jog – Race report

Wow, a race report.  I haven’t done one of these since… well I broke my knee in June.  I did have a 10K scheduled last month, but as I had re-injured my knee around the same time, it proved to be my first ever DNS. Oh well. I like DNS, means I don’t have to remember a string of numbers every time I want to see videos of pets on “Youtube”.  Sorry, that was a very geeky reference – couldn’t help it!  About half of the readership of this blog is going “huh? I don’t get it”.

So it was a 1K kids race around the parking lot and then a 5K jog,  which went up some trail over a few roads -with nice RCMP cops blocking the roads- and a run around a park.  For a 5K –an especially a 5K where I wasn’t planning on running fast or furious – there isn’t much to say. I ran it and then I stopped.  No need to discuss race strategies, fueling plans, pacing or training plans.  The whole race pretty encompassed the ideas of  “turned up, run, finish and get the good muffins”.

Although of course, this is me we are talking about and although I spend my life in boring conformity, I do break the rules occasionally. 

So, first rule broken (and one I break repetitively), I will not dress sensibly.  I had asked D about a month ago if he wanted to run and if he wanted a racing TUTU from Glamrunner.  He said he wanted to race, but he didn’t want a TUTU (despite the fact he had spent a large chunk of his time in one since I brought mine back from NYC).  However, of course, he changed his mind last weekend.  As I knew it was too late to buy one, I decided to make one for him, (sending good vibes to Glamrunner in the process).  He also insisted I have one too, so a plethora of tulle, lots of elastic, ribbon and an evening later, we were the proud owners of 2 Christmas race TUTU’s.  Luckily no cats, dogs, kids or fish were harmed in the making of the TUTU’s although that is probably a close run thing!

We already knew that we were going to be getting Santa Hats and reindeer noses, so all that was left was to figure out was my race music and what shoes to wear (if any).  It had to be Christmas Classics of course; so I had John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bing Crosby and a whole host of other stars to rock too as I ran with one iPod bud in my ear.  Running with music is a contentious issue, but I think you have to have some form of Christmas music accompanying you if you are dressed like the fairy off a Christmas Tree!

Last but not least was what to wear on my feet.  The weather reports seemed to indicate freezing temps at the time of the race.  I had also discovered a patch of eczema on my one of my toes, so barefoot was out. I decided to see if a combination of toe-socks and my Invisible Shoes (6mm) would do the trick.  As you may remember the 4mm was lost in the “urban myth of the NYC Barefoot Run”.  So now I was a gladiatorial Christmas Fairy!

We caused quite a sight at the race start, which we only just managed to catch. D’s race was first and we literally sprinted to the start and we were off.  He was awesome.  I think he ran the whole way, only stopping to pick up his reindeer antlers.  This was so much different to 6 months ago when I had to drag him around the course. The “Mothers’ Day race “was “pre-minimalist shoe” and it showed.  He would never have run this far before, or have such a big grin on his face.  He did awesome and he made so many people smile. 

He had also asked on his Santa list for a “Giant golden trophy” for Christmas. (I haven’t figured that out either). So yesterday I scoured the stores looking for a giant trophy.  I managed to find a small one and it was enough.  I slipped it to Santa and brought D to him after the race.  The look on his face was priceless and you could see that it had made his day

I then went off to my race as M and D went to look for coffee – no point everyone standing in the cold for half an hour as I was running.

I had a few goals for this race.  I was going to smile for all of it. I was only going to run how I felt I should run and not run fast. I was going to thank every volunteer and I was going to sing my Christmas songs.

I achieved every single goal.  My bright neon, funky sandals and I had a blast.  I am glad I was wearing my sandals as we ended up running about a mile or so on gravel trail.  I love these things.  They were light, they were funky, they worked and I was able to really feel the ground.  I passed a few runners tying their shoes and I didn’t have to re-tie my sandals once.  I think I also peeved off a few people.  It must be quite demoralizing when you are huffing and puffing to have someone pass you who isn’t  wearing proper shoes but who is also singing really badly.  I did say “Merry Christmas” to them when I passed, so hopefully they will forgive me.
M and D JUST made it to the finish as I got there.  There were lots of hugs, cuddles and giggles.  It turns out despite my best efforts to take it easy I was 5 minutes quicker than I planned.  I was about 27-28 minutes, which as I haven’t run 5K in about 3 weeks and I haven’t been training properly for 6 months because of my knee I was pretty impressed.  I also know I wasn’t going full belt because apart from the gunk from my cold last week I didn’t feel out of breath at all.  Just goes to show that “Running Christmas Smiley”, isn’t as hard as it looked.  (Also I think a Running TUTU provides magical powers!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"I don't know, but it's been said, barefoot runners love Barefoot Ted"

No?  Confused? 

This a lousy attempt to show a little trick  I have learnt to help me with my running form. I have been using it for a long while now and when I have talked to others about it, it seems to have sparked some interesting comments and surprisingly a few admissions that it works.

I vaguely remember that this trick was briefly mentioned on the Runners World Barefoot Forum, probably around summer 2009 and I think it was Angie B who brought it up. I can't be sure, it was a LONG time ago.  Since then it's stuck in my head and I use it pretty much every time I do a long run to "reset" myself when I am getting tired.  It takes about 10 seconds and it fixes my form pretty much immediately.

So are you eager?  Hanging on my every word? Want to know what this magic skill is? Say Please…;)


The trick is singing the double-time march in my head.  We all know it, sort of. "1-2-3-4-hey".  Okay, that didn't really work; one of the few times it literally did sound better in my head. It's this…

Why is this trick so important in running with good form?  It's simple.  The double-time military cadence is 180 beats per minute.  Simple as that.  Just be glad I wasn't one of those Internet con-artists asking for money before I told you the magic secret. Hey, I think I messed up somewhere.  I really need to work on my business model.

I have long maintained that the hidden secret to good form is cadence.  Get your legs running to a minimum of 180 steps a minute and you will have cracked it.  Landing on your fore or mid foot, landing underneath you, running upright - that will all kick into place when you have a cadence of 180 beats per minute.  About 80-90% of your form will magically happen when you finally hit that beat.  The other 20 or so percent is just bell's and whistles.  Not real bells and whistles by the way.  It was a metaphor, although... it may make those walkers move out of your way on the trail.. hum.  I think I have just found my million dollar seller!  Warning devices for "ninja-like" barefoot runners.

*Starts daydreaming*

Okay, now back to the good part.. (That was just for you Jesse)

The issue most people have is that getting the right cadence is sometimes easier said than done.  Especially if you have come from "heel striking", supportive-shoe territory.  You are so used to running at a slower cadence that running at a 180 pace makes you feel like you are in a hamster wheel and it feels very strange.  It's hard to automatically know what 180 beats per minute feels like.  Until you have been running at this cadence for a while it's easy to slip up and that's when your form issues come to the front again.  People have used ipods with specific tracks, or even a metronome to perfect it.  But why carry around all of that gear.  We are meant to be reducing our running burden.  The only gadget you need is your mind and a 10 second burst of chanting in a very loud voice.  

I personally run at a higher cadence; I would estimate I run at about a 200 ish beats per minute.  I put this down to the fact I run trails a lot.  When you run trails it's easier to have a quicker cadence and a smaller stride so you can dodge the obstacles on the trail.  This gives me the slight edge because generally during a road race or when I am tired on a long run, my cadence won't really go below that magic 180 number.

However, that doesn't mean it doesn't come close.  When I get tired during a long run and I feel my form slipping, I use a quick 10 second burst of the "double-time" march as a silent chant in my head to check if my cadence has slipped.  If it has, I repeat the double-time march through my head until my cadence comes back up.  Trust me, having "Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh-Duhhh" or "1-2-3-4-hey" running constantly through your head is more annoying than any tweenie pop song the local radio station can throw out.  You will pick up your form just so you can stop chanting it to yourself.

I found it so helpful for me, I have suggested it to fellow running friends and those who run at the "Good Form" group at the local running club and scarily enough it works.  Everyone seemed to have issues maintaining 180 cadence until I told them to quietly chant the double-time march in their heads.  As soon as they did, their cadence picked up and their form improved.  You see, I am a genius. Or it could be Angie... like I said it was a long time ago and I was probably "very, very drunk".

I have experimented even further.  I have downloaded a few marine "double-time" military chants onto my iPod (mainly these ones - look for the ones marked as Running Cadence) and placed them into the play-list from about 30-40 minutes into the run then at about 10 -15 minute intervals. (Just think of them as mental GU shots).  I found I was able to run longer because during the natural lull in my run -at the point my form would start slipping- my mind became focused on the rhythm of the chants.  I also found the call-back part of the chants very calming despite the chants themselves being sometimes very uncomfortable to my civilian mentality.  (If people can think of "Barefoot running chants" post them in the comments section.  Maybe we can make our own playlist!)

So you would like a quick and easy method to getting better form?  Then chant boys! Slap on the black paint and webbing and repeat after me…

"I wanna be a barefoot runner, Live the life of beer and summer."