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."

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.