Thursday, September 29, 2011

Party in New York! NYC Barefoot Run 2011 - Part1

Part Two can be found here.  PART TWO
Part Three can be found here.  PART THREE

I have spent the last weekend having what can only be described as the best party of my life.  Sorry, hubby, college friends and fellow co-workers.  I spent the last 72 hours living it large in the Big Apple in the world of barefooters a lot more famous than me.

There are times in your life when you look back on an event, or series of events and you think that honestly it could not have been as great as it was.  As if after the partying high, life resumes and the gloss wears off.  I have been back from NYC for a total of 4 days and I am still waiting for the gloss to wear off.

Admittedly I am also trying to remember what happened for some of it and i hoping that the rest of "The Collective" will be able to fill in the lots of gaps I have when we do our collaborative report.

So here is my brief re-cap of some of the highlights of the weekend.

Firstly, after a 10 hour flight and some hassle at US Border Control (based in Toronto - yep, still haven't figured that one out either), I landed in NYC.  I got to the hotel at about 7:30PM and my first quest was to shower, find Krista - who was bunking with me- and get to the party.  Krista walked into our room pretty much as I was finished getting changed and meeting her for the first time pretty much typified my whole NYC experience.

The thing is; the majority of the people I was meeting in NYC were people I had never met before in real life.  We have known each other virtually for years and as a result you get a good idea of what the are like, but sometimes reality never matches up.  Would there be awkwardness? Would we sit in stoney silence waiting for someone to be who we thought they would be?  Okay, the likelihood was small, but it was still something to think about.

So when Krista walked in the door, we pretty much squealed at each other, hugged and started telling rude jokes.  This was the same scenario for pretty much everyone I met this weekend.  Everyone I met were genuine people.  It was just nice to know that over the last few years, everyone was themselves on-line.  I still marvel about that.  Perhaps it's an in-built cynicism that people play a role and not themselves.  So to have my faith in humanity validated over and over - well frankly it's awesome.  (I apologize now, the word "Awesome", "Fantastic" and every other compliment will be used repetitively - get used to it). So when we met, there was no need to do introductions, or small-talk, we just launched into rude jokes and immaturity whilst drinking a stupid amount of alcohol.

Krista and I headed off to the PoPBurger restaurant for "informal" drinks.  The rest of the Merrell crew were flying in later and there was a good chance we wouldn't meet till the next day, so Krista and I decided to head out and represent regardless.

On getting there we ordered Guinesses and Chips (well Fries) and started being our rowdy selves.  We met Caity, who was awesome (see told you). Then I heard a tentative, "Kate?" behind me and Patrick  was behind me.  Everyone seemed to go quiet as I screamed "PATRICK!" and I think I actually broke some windows.  We carried on drinking, laughing, being rude  and doing death stares to the random guys who were stealing our food.  The rest of the evening became a bit of a blur.  At the PoPBurger Bar I vaguely remember meeting Barefoot Ted, (who complimented me on my "Alabaster skin") and KenBob who we convinced to place his fridge magnets as nipple tassels whilst we all took photo's.

Krista and I took off as the bar closed and for some bizarre reason we decided to run back to the hotel.  It was one of the most surreal runs. Krista in her flip-flops, me in my Merrell Mary-Janes.  Not completely drunk, but not quite sober, running with huge grins on our faces through Manhattan at 12:30AM.  As we got to the hotel, we decided to text the others to see if they had landed.  I think the text went something on the lines of "we're drunk, where are you?". Within minutes we had a text saying, "we're in the bar".  Christian and Jason were there to meet us.  Inside the bar was Shelly and Jesse, happily drinking away.  Again, there were huge hugs and no awkwardness.  We sat down and set about drinking till the bar-closed at 3am.

At 7:30 I got up and had breakfast with Christian.  We were meeting all of the Merrell party in the foyer and the plan was to run to the clinics.  The plan slightly changed and we were allowed to take the subway if we wanted to.  Christian and I changed our minds about 30 times before we decided we would join the others on the run.  Out of the drunken louts from the night before, there was only me, Christian and Jesse running.  It became clear after 5 mins, that we had made a mistake.  The running group was lead by Mark Cucuzella who won the Air Force Marathon the weekend before. Our sorry little group was hindered by hangovers and my short legs; we could make about a 10 min mile.  We soon lost them, but decided we knew where we were going anyway.  After another mile, we realized we didn't.  Christian "googled" our location and we discovered we were 4 miles from Battery Park - not bad for a 3 mile run.  As usual in these situations we brainstormed a solution. Heck, this is New York - Call a cab.  So we arrived at the clinic via Taxi.  We spent  5 mins goofing around, until we saw the running group coming through.  Despite taking motorized transport we were still late!

The event at battery park was low key, a few tents and some coconut water.  However, that's not why we were there; We were there for the clinics.  It was a little surreal to see KenBob and Jason, Mark, Lee Saxby, and Barefoot Ted being dragged by Patrick.  All of these A-class barefoot running dudes, all in one place it was like a wild-life documentary. All of these Barefoot runners in their natural habitat.

Here I met on of the last friends I had been anxious to meet.  Another tentative "Kate?" and another squeal from me and I saw Chris.  Chris was one of the first authors on Run Smiley that approached us when we got going.  The previous authors were those that I had known in my past-lives as blogger and lay-about on Runners World. They were press-ganged into the "Collective".  Chris volunteered.  Chris is an awesome writer and as soon as I read his blog I realized he was a find.  I have only known Chris for a few months on-line, but I felt I had known him for years. We stuck by each other, on and off through-out the weekend, and meeting him was a highlight for me.  Chris highlights for me the power of "Run Smiley".  I have met so many fantastic people through the blog - it's like another avenue to new and fabulous friends.

I was able to only part-take of 2 clinics.  Mark Cucuzella's clinic was a real eye-opener.  He was able to explain why a barefoot form was essential for running well.  Even after a couple of days it has enabled me to describe the science behind why we stand, walk, run the way we do.  Jason's clinic was simple, concise and validated in my mind the way I feel we should teach Barefoot/Bareform running.  Again at my running group, I have already used his methods to be able to proper form.

I wish I could stay for more, but I was being whisked away in movie star fashion to a dungeon deep in Manhattan to be a small fish in a very famous pond.  Wow, that did sound kinky!  

Learn more in Part 2.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Essential packing guide to running in NYC - might not be what you are expecting.


I am getting ready.  I'm preparing. I am organising, what is essentially the biggest party I have been to in years.  

We aren't talking about a party involving vomiting kids and piƱata's; although I am sure there may be vomiting happening somewhere.  We are talking about lots of... well society would call us 'Kooks' and frankly society thinks we are a little bit strange.  That's okay, we are a bit, but now we have become organised and we are hitting New York City in droves.

On September 25th hundreds of barefoot and minimalist runners will be converging onto Governors Island in New York City and in a big snub to the mainstream shoe industry we are running; defying the norm. Okay, snubbing the shoe industry is our secondary goal.  Our primary goal is to inflict our drunken kookiness on as many unsuspecting New Yorkers as possible.  Fine, I have let our secret mission 'out of the bag' as it were.  It's not really a secret anymore.  Who am I kidding? No-one reads this blog.

Mwwwhahahahaha... New York will not know what hit it!

So I am planning.  What do I take?  My aim is to go as minimalist as possible.  I only want to take carry on luggage, so everything has to fit in a carry-on case. I have to take the bare-est essentials. So what does a 'Kook' need to for a drunken rampage on NYC?  Oh I will be running too; I keep forgetting that bit.
Here is my must-have list:

iPod 64gb.  This is going to be my main gadget workhorse. I love this thing.  I will be able to link up to do web-cams with my family when I am away, I will be able to watch TV, listen to music, check my email, update Facebook, you name it.  It's small enough that I can throw it into my purse and no-one is any wiser until I whip it out and take very embarrassing photo's of people doing very strange things.  Some of them I may even know!  

Yoga pants.  It's a sign of middle-age, but I beginning to really love these.  They are the new "tracksuit fat-pant" leggings of the 21st century.  They are warm, comfortable and hide everything.  The don't crease and the fold into small spaces. Yet, they can look smart if placed with a smart-top, t-shirt or sport top. I will be taking 3 pairs - all the same colour. I am a bit like a man like that.  Yes, I know "Yoga Pants" are the reason why Vancouver came 3rd in the "worst dressed city in the world",  (Jersey shore came 10th - so this is a true achievement), but I don't care.  Stretch spandex/luon is my new friend.

Freebie shirts.  I have been given a few freebie shirts over the last few months.  Have to show my swag catching abilities right?  So my BRUBRS and Luna shirt are making the trip. I also have a couple of Run Smiley shirts and a zapshirt.   I may have to trim which ones I take.  This isn't a fashion show, apparently (??) My "Hobby Jogga" hoodie will also have pride of place - It`s a statement of attitude not a piece of clothing!

Minimalist running Shoes - yep I am taking some shoes.  I am thinking of wearing my Merrell Barefoot Mary-Janes as they are vaguely smart and comfortable.  For running I am thinking of stripy injini socks and my 4mm Invisible Shoes.  My theme for the run, is hobo/wicked witch of the west, mixed in with prima ballerina - more on that one later.  Yeah, the mental images are a bit scary huh? May also take my Luna Originals if I have room. I can then mix in a bit of roman centurion look into the mix. (We all know "Centurions are cool")

Ta-Ta Tamers.  The ultimate running bra.  Yes, I know the sign of good form is "no boob-wobble", but with a cup-size rivalling a "Venti" order of coffee at Starbucks, I need all the help I can get.  TMI'ing a little there. Again, you are getting some fantastic mental imagery here.

TU-TU's. I admit I am cheating here.  I couldn't get the TU-TU's made and shipped to Canada in time.  These aren't going in my hand luggage, although I will have figure out a way to bring them back without being detained at the airports as a security risk.  They are being shipped to NYC directly.  This is the ballerina part of my costume.  Luckily I won't be the only ones wearing them; should give our "kookie" ambience some credence.

Tweed jacket.  I will be wearing this on the plane.  Okay, so I am going for a hobo/wicked witch/ballerina/Dr. Who look.  Yeah, I am not helping with this mental imagery here.  I am going to have to take photo's.  If I get the bow-tie my outfit will be complete.  Oh so tempted. I am also tempted to take my straw stetson hat.  Like Centurions, "stetson's are cool"

An additional empty bag. Although my personal shopping time is limited, I am hoping to snag some goodies at the expo. Free would be nice, but the credit card will have to be with me for security reasons.  I also have very little will-power.  I wonder if that will work as an excuse when Hubby opens the credit card statement next month?  I also have to find a smurf'.  Really, CAPCOM really has a lot to answer for when they made 'Smurfsville'.  Disney didn't help with the movie either.  I now have a 6 year old that believes New York is completely covered in Smurfs.  Forget running as a goal, if I don't come back with a smurf the next 6 months of my life won`t be worth living.  (Although I do like Caity's idea of claiming that "Smurfs don't have a passport and were detained by immigration". That is my back-up plan!)

As you can see, there is not one mention of a Garmin watch, black lycra tights, supportive running shoes or body-glide. Not the usual suitcase for a trip to a running race.  However, an accurate reflection of my attitude I think.  Yeah, Merrell are never going to ask me back are they? *Big Grin*

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Should we provide Manuals for Running Shoes? ALL running shoes?


[Warning: This is a PMS, angst ridden post about the state of modern society and peoples inability to think for themselves. Kind of - it's about running shoes too. I am sure it will upset someone, but frankly I haven't had my therapeutic dose of chocolate yet, so.. umm.. tough. Deal with it.  Also remember this is my personal view, so if you don't like it, okay by me.  Just remember to keep snarky comments polite. :D]

I am not talking about getting guides or manuals when you buy a pair of VFF's, Merrells or any other minimal shoes.  I am talking about ALL running shoes.  However, how much information should we provide?

Firstly, should we provide a manual for all running shoes?  I was thinking about this the other day.  How much information do you get when you walk into a store and buy a pair of running shoes?  I can tell you - usually zip, nada, nothing.  They will do funky tests, make you run up and down the store, but essentially when you walk out that door you are on your own. Let's face it, how many of us are going to then go on the internet and research how we run? Again, zip, nada.. you get the idea. We have a gleaming pair of $140 shoes.  We just want to take them for a test drive.  We have all seen "Chariots of Fire".  Look at all those action movies - there is a lot of running in them. Hundreds of Hollywood actors heel-striking can't be wrong, right? So why should we need to research this?

Frankly, most of us run wrong.  Ask coaches, elites and those that run for a living and they will probably tell us we are running wrong. Look at the statistics; the hospital admissions and trips to the Physiotherapists.  Running Injuries are common; they cost millions of dollars a year in bills; yet, there isn't a warning label on your shoes.  You don't have a huge sticker that says "This product may seriously damage your health". Why not?

It is clear due to a plethora of  anthropological and anatomical studies, we now know how our bodies are designed.  We know how we are physical built to move. Heck, even Newton and Einstein had laws of Physics and they are integral in the way we are built to walk and run.  Newton and Einstein can't be wrong, can they?  If they are, then Scotty no longer has a catchphrase. So why do we run in a way that is detrimental to us?

Because we are more likely to believe the movies and we have no "free-in the box", "automatically handed out" manuals.  The Human Species is essentially lazy.  As a species our greatest developmental surges happen in times of plenty; when we can spend less time looking for food and more time increasing our grey matter.  This is why we prefer sitting in front of the TV with a bag of chips.  Because through our desire for progress, our food is now easily available and lasts longer than a TV Sit-com re-run.  This is how we are designed to act in a time of plenty. What would you prefer? Chase your food for 3 hours or sit on the couch with an easy to open bag?  I know what I would do if I was given a no-guilt free choice.   

It's the same for everything else.  We get manuals and instructions for everything these days.  Your Kettle, your toaster, probably that easy to open bag of chips.  And we follow them to the letter.  Why? Because it is easier to follow instructions than to think for ourselves.  Why re-invent the wheel, when you can "google" the word "wheel" and in 10 seconds you have a stream of easy information?

When you walk out of that store, there is no manual on how to run. So what do the majority of people do?  They slap on their shoes and they run.  They take the messages they have seen from TV and the movies and they run. Badly.  They then go to the doctors offices and wait to be treated.

So should we put instruction manuals in with our running shoes?  Should there be a 10 page step-by-step instruction leaflet on how to run, along with the usual disclaimers, that if you put your shoes in water you will be electrocuted? Sorry, scrap the last part, I was thinking of the toaster again. You get the idea though.

Is it now time to accept that we are incapable of performing the simple act of running without help? Should ALL shoe companies automatically accept we need instructions?  

In my personal view. Probably.  Even if it's a single sentence that says "Running is a complex sport; check your local library or the internet for more information"

Then there is the issue of what should we put into the manuals if they were provided.  Running isn't a simple concept to distill because there is a huge variable at work here.  Us. The human body.  The glory of the individual.

The thing is how I run is not the same as the way you will run.  I am a short-arse female, of middling years and European descent.  I have wobbly bits in the right AND wrong places.  I have funky toes and screwed up ankles.  My knees bend in different directions.  Okay, I am making myself sound like an extra for the "Muppets" or a horror movie.  Most of all however, is that I am unique. Completely unique. This is the same for every single one of us.  When you have 6 billion variables in the mix, how do you create a prescribed manual on how to run.

Fact is you can't.  This leads into a difficult and perilous situation.  Our uniqueness combined with an innate desire to be lazy means that if someone DID write a manual on how to run, chances are that you will find a large proportion will try and follow it to the letter. Every step will be completed regardless to the fact that step 3, 4, 5, whatever, is actually causing more harm than good?

You have a choice; too much or too little information.

You could write a manual with SO much information that every variable is covered. The manual would contain more pages than "War and Peace" and will either be completely unreadable or just totally ignored.  If the manual WAS read and understood, you still risk the problem that there is one variable you did not cover. As you didn't mention it in your "bible of running", the reader would not think to ask, or make the mental connection.  The ability to consciously think about what you are doing or what you are trying to achieve has been removed.

I fell into this trap when I started minimalist running.  I took ALL of the advice that was given to me and I tried to follow it. All of it.  It was easier to listen to the advice of others than it was to listen to my body.  I was willing to trust others I deemed more knowledgeable, at the expense of trusting myself.  Although I had run longer and further in minimalist shoes than I had ever achieved in conventional shoes, I still had difficulties. It was still hard. Then, one day, I decided to just listen to what my feet were telling me; I went against a lot of the well-meaning advice and then my running fell into place.  I listened to my body and myself - eventually.  Still didn't stop the 4-5 months I spent figuring out the good information from the bad.

TOO much information is a bad thing.  Trusting everything you read is a bad thing.

However, you can go the other way, condensing a complex activity into 2 or 3 sentences; you are giving the basic information and trusting the masses will work it out.  In a society where everyone from the government downwards are so busy covering themselves legally; are we ready to put the trust in people to use common sense and work this out (without holding someone accountable if they personally Fuck it up)?

it's a fine line to walk - or in this case run.  I am not sure there will ever be a right or wrong answer.

Personally I am for giving the power back to the people. Ensuring that the information I give is accurate, even if that means leaving a lot of the "extra" helpful stuff out.  You can never be sure that the "helpful" stuff will actually be true for your target audience.  I am for allowing people to use common sense; to trust themselves and then providing extra help if it is needed.  There will be people that fall through the cracks; that can't handle the lack of immediate, "no effort necessary" approach, but I am putting my faith in my fellow man that this percentage of the human race is smaller than is portrayed in the media.

Still won't stop me putting a disclaimer.  My life of idle meanderings doesn't cover any potential legal bills. :)