This week has been full of barefoot revelations for myself. First off, my Merrell Trail Glove shoes no longer fit. I tried to put them on before heading to the podiatrist on Tuesday and I was barely able to slip them on past my metatarsals. While I did manage to literally squeeze my foot into one, I immediately took it off due to the sheer pain it was causing. It was my first time trying to put them on in probably a month or more, so I either have completely outgrown them (and Merrell does not make/recognize the need for wider widths) or I need to re-lace them again. I have a feeling my feet no longer fit into them and despite what the podiatrist said, I am pretty sure it’s not because my feet are swollen and if they are, the swelling is so minimal I cannot tell. So, I am now out of shoes and need to purchase more in preparation for my mud runs later this year. I like to barefoot run but the waivers for these runs strongly advise against doing them barefoot since there is stuff like barbed wire involved. I am considering buying the following:

  • Terra Plana VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra (in garish red!)
  • Invisible Shoe huaraches or other brand of huaraches
  • Luna sandals
  • Vibram Bikila (or similar)
  • Vibrams are dead last on my list because I have debated for the last four years about buying some and if I have not done so by now, I doubt I will in the next four months. I would love to replace or even fit back into my Merrells but I do not think that will be an option unless they release larger widths — another thing I do not see happening at all. So revelation one: barefoot running can somewhat increase the size of your foot on multiple planes. This means if you want to do this, expect your regular shoes to potentially no longer fit. The only shoes I have not outgrown during my barefoot run ‘career’ are my sandals — although the podiatrist said they are too narrow — and my extra wide motorcycle boots (which I no longer wear because they cause leg imbalances leading to MCL strains).

    My next revelation is this: habitual forefoot strikers are going to always experience a minimal amount of foot pain and soreness. Of course, the soreness is a given since you are pounding your foot directly into the ground for your run. I have always been a forefoot striker ever since my days in school when I played football and ran track; my shoes have always worn through on the toes more quickly than anywhere else. On my barefoot runs, I notice that I strike quite prominently on the balls of my feet and depending on my pace, hardly ever have my heels touching the ground. The latter part is a surefire disaster waiting to happen and I am working on it. I am finding it very difficult to re-train my gait to pull back a bit and land more stably on my midfoot, I suspect this will be true for any runners who spent an extended amount of training focusing only on speed — there is a reason my coaches told me to do one thing on kick-offs “get to the player before the ball does”. Since I am now a member of the GFLRRC, I will make my best attempts to hit the FAU track to work with the coach and see what kind of tips he can offer me.

    But I noticed something strange last week during the Levis JCC 5k, when I was pounding down the first two miles, I landed predominantly on my midfoot with some mild rolling to the outside of my foot. It was only when I started to slow down from the 180BPM pace did I start landing on my forefoot and noticing more strain placed on my muscles. Scott Jurek was certainly right: focus on at least 90 steps per minute with each leg (cf. Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body, it’s a better read than people give Ferriss credit for). If I can focus at least 80%-90% of my training at that speed, I am pretty sure I will be pumping out a much better track time next month at the ING Miami Marathon Kick-off 5k.

    The last thing I have finally learned convinced myself of: running on concrete is always going to hurt. It is hard, not spongy, and abrasive. Sure, the soles of my feet are very smooth, yet tough, thanks to the exfoliating they get every time I run but I just need to realize that it is a crappy surface to run on. I hate running on it but unlike grass, it does not conceal broken glass or dog poop so it is a pretty safe surface to run on. But now my running partner and I are running at a local park and it is more enjoyable since we are not dodging cars any more, just frisbees from all the ultimate frisbee/frisbee golf players at the park.

    Got another barefoot run tonight and then it is Tijuana Thursday time! I will stuff my gullet with a humongous salad from Tijuana Flats, covered with an insane amount of tomatoes and onions. YUM!

    Levis JCC 5k

    Yesterday was the Levis JCC Run, Sweat, & Beers 5k and my first official 5k. While this was a small run — there were just under 400 registered runners — it felt like there were a thousand people there! So many people around and cheering and crewing the course, it felt awesome. Since this is my first 5k, it was exhilarating to be in that environment and I can see why people run races, you get a high from the atmosphere alone! While I did not win, I placed 24th in my age group and 205th overall. There was no way I was going to win, first place went to a 15 year old from Boynton Beach who smoked the course at 17:56.5; he was nearly a minute faster than the next finisher who was twice his age, it blew my mind! I know everyone’s anxious to see stats, so here they are.

    Levis JCC 5k

    Levis JCC 5k

    My Garmin clocked 32:14 and my official time was 32:16 from my AccuChip. While this was two minutes off of my goal time of 30:00 , I did manage to run 30 seconds faster than my first timed 5k almost a month ago. Looking back at my full stats, my splits were nearly identical between the two with the 3rd mile showing me really gassing out. However, this time my first mile was nearly 30 seconds faster in total, I was burning up my soles on this one! Here are the full summary stats from my watch.

    Levis JCC 5k stats breakdown

    Levis JCC 5k stats breakdown

    The only thing I am not proud of is my heart rate, it was through the roof. Maybe it was the excitement of the event, the higher than normal humidity, I am not sure but 188bpm is way too high for me to be comfortable and I will be working on that for sure. I did manage to get a few photos at the event. Nothing special but the shots of my feet prove one thing: I run on my forefoot too much, I have to figure out how to flatten that out into a midfoot strike a bit more.

    Anyway, I finished and I am very proud of myself and I am working to line up the next few races. I have two mudders later in the year — Champions MudBash in November, Warrior Dash in December — but I need to find some regular races too. While I did not go home with an award, I got a sweet tech shirt and one thing I did not expect at all: dozens of people cheering on the only barefooter in the race. Out of 400 people, I was the only one smart crazy enough to pull it out barefoot. Of course, there were the usual hecklers and I just rolled with them, saying things like “I forgot them in the car!” or “I couldn’t find the shoe store!”, that stuff got a lot of smiles and laughs. I am not here to debate this stuff with people, I just want to run. Even the sports doctors there didn’t blink an eye at me when I got some KT tape over my 4th metatarsal on my left foot, they just said good luck. Biggest disappointment of the race? No beer! Yep, this was the Run, Sweat, & Beers 5k and they brought two kegs of beer. Those were floated before race results were read, so I went to World of Beer and had a bunch of good beers.

    The weekend’s here and I am going to find some food, I am home alone and do not want to cook!

    Since I have started my new diet lifestyle change a little over a month ago, I have kept a running log of the metrics I feel are most appropriate for not only measuring change and progress, but ones that also correlate to overall health and well-being and weight loss. Things such as:

      Weight (everyday)
      Food intake (almost every meal)
      Calorie intake (as often as possible)
      Water consumption
      Body measurements (waist, hips, both thighs) (every morning after weighing)
      Cholesterol (LDL, HDL, total, free)
      Testosterone levels (total, free)

    And now I’ve added one more thing: body fat percentage and body composition (fat vs. lean mass). I did all of this by hopping inside a BodPod which just looks like a spaceship capsule. I do not pretend to understand how it works entirely besides creating a pressure differential and then doing some other crazy stuff and spitting out my measurements, good or bad. It provides a lot of good data: fat mass, lean mass, weight, estimated RMR, estimated TEE, and estimated caloric intake based on RMR and activity level. Well, here are my test results.

    My BodPod results

    My BodPod results

    So here we see my weight (205.2lbs, which was actually 3lbs heavier than my own scale at home weighed an hour after I took the test), my fat mass of 23.1%, and lean body mass of 76.9%. Except for the weight, which I knew was incorrect, these numbers are slightly higher than I expected them to be. I only predicted I would be in the 18%-20% body fat range but being 3.1% higher than that was not much of a surprise. The weight was surprising since I had weighed 201.5lbs about six hours before and I knew it was not correct because after I got home from the testing center, I weighed myself at 202.5lbs. I did this by taking a 3lb bag of sugar and weighed it on both my food scale (which read 3lb 5oz) and my personal scale (which read 3.5lbs on the nose). Despite this weight discrepancy, my results are just about right — changing the weight would only make a 1% difference or so. So what does this mean for my weight loss now? Am I disappointed in my results despite having lost 17lbs in total? All good questions.

    Am I disappointed in the results? No, and why would I be?! I have dropped 17lbs in total since I switched to a primal/paleo diet and I have dropped nearly nine inches in size over the areas I measure (waist, hips, thighs). This includes a three inch reduction in my waist and a one inch reduction in my hips. My thigh measurements are bouncing around the same numbers everyday because I have had fairly large thighs since working out in high school, I simply never lost the bulk but now it is more fat than muscle! Now that I have these results of fat vs. lean mass, what does that mean for my weight loss plan going forward? Well, that is pretty simple. Since I now know my lean body mass, I can calculate how much protein I should be consuming per day to support and stimulate muscle growth and repair. This is one of the most important factors of my current plan because this diet has allowed me to recover more quickly after my running sessions with little to no pain the next day if I have a high protein meal the night of my run. So now I can take my total protein intake and optimize it for consumption over the day, with a focus on adding more to my lunch and bulking it up on dinners after I exercise. Being able to correctly and accurately evaluate my protein needs will then further allow me to optimize my dietary planning overall. I can now say, with more precision, that I need to eat X amount of meat per day and make sure to eat Y amount of vegetables; I like to try and keep a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of vegetables to meats each day. Some days I hit those ratios, some days I do not and trust me, when I do not, I know it the next day.

    I will go back in a few months to get another measurement, probably around September or October. This will be perfect since I am getting another blood panel conducted in the next two to four weeks to make sure my other metrics (cholesterol, testosterone, etc) are still within healthy limits and are helping me stay healthy and not putting me further at risk. I hope that, by then, I will reduce my love handles to simply ‘like’ handles or something silly like that but we will see then.

    Disclosure: I was not paid by nor contacted by COSMED USA/BodPod to write anything about their product, I have absolutely no connection to them. I used it because it is more accurate than fat calipers and is the standard body measurement tool for the NFL. If football teams trust it, I figure I can as well.

    My day went mostly like the title says. Got up and weighed in, I tipped the scales at 202lbs, which was exactly what I had weighed yesterday morning. That was news to my eyes and conscience because I pigged out yesterday, hardcore. Despite being on a strict primal diet, I am adhering to an even more strict philosophy of eating well and conscientiously all week but one day a week, I binge on whatever I want. Not only does it stave off cravings during the week, it throws my physiology for a loop to keep my body churning and moving forward. My bingeing yesterday seemed to keep my body definitely on track as I maintained weight despite eating (and drinking) very poorly. But it was awesome eating pancakes and drinking beer again.

    Then there is the down part of today: staring down chores. After breakfast and coupon clipping, the girlfriend went grocery shopping while I hunkered down and cleaned up the house and moved a bunch of stuff from the dining room into my office. It is amazing what I managed to fit in my tiny office closet, I have no intentions of screwing up the organization, so I plan on never opening the door. Next order of business was moving to outside and mowing. In hindsight, I did not think this through all the way. While the temperatures hovered around 90F, the heat index was over 100F and here I was, mowing in the middle of the day. I should have remembered that my meteorology professor always told us the hottest part of the day was between 2 and 3 PM, the prime time when I was cutting grass. I got everything done but I came away from it super dehydrated and absolutely covered in sweat. This is where things went even further downhill. After rehydrating, sort of, I had the bright idea it was a good time to run. After all, it was after 5 and the sun was less overhead than it had been, I was already sweaty and warmed up.

    Well, that turned out to be a pretty stupid idea.

    After I washed all the dirt off my feet and flip-flops — it is amazing how much dirt gets kicked up mowing the lawn — I switched into my old flops and headed over to my buddy’s house to run. I figured that since I was very warmed up from having spent the last two hours or so walking around, I figured that I was well prepared to run. Ignoring the signals my body was giving me, we headed out and I was doomed from the start. Everything just felt off. My stride was off the mark (scrapped my big toe across the concrete, ouch), my breathing was definitely off (side stitch/cramp in less than half a mile), and I was still woefully dehydrated feeling. In other words: running was a pretty stupid idea. It was great being out with my buddy and running but my body just was not up to it. We had to stop a few times to wait for traffic and each time my legs felt a little heavier, I attributed it to just being a little more warmed up than normal and that it would pass once I broke into a good stride on a long stretch. Then it happened:

    I bonked, hard. My first bonk.

    We had reached our route’s typical walking/cool-down section and since we had just completed the C25k time (week 3 day 3, for about the fifth time), I suggested we simply run the next half mile or so back to my running partner’s place at our own pace. Well, my pace turned out to be walking. I took about fifteen or twenty heavy steps and gave out completely. My legs barely moved and worse, I felt an over-use pain in my right inner quad and in my right foot. I knew the pain meant a few things: it was temporary, I had taken a turn too capriciously earlier in the run, and my glycogen stores were empty. I was walking at a snail’s pace it seemed and I was happy with that, this particular part of the trail is rough on my feet. Plus, someone was nice enough to break a bottle on the road and I had to dodge glass for about one hundred feet. A few pieces got stuck to my feet but did not pierce, luckily. There was a glimmer of sunshine in all of this: no blisters this time and my soles only hurt once I stopped running.

    So my first bonk turned out to be a humbling learning experience and saved me from some cut feet. I felt only slightly defeated since I knew why it had happened (hint: do not go cutting your grass and then fully expect to go running afterward) but it garnered some good conversation on the walk back. But I still experienced a bonk and still sucked.

    Little did I know it but I had a little surprise waiting for me when I got home.

    Killing it, weight-loss style

    Killing it, weight-loss style

    All the pounding I put myself through today outside paid off. I dropped a pound and a half of weight today. I know that much of it was water weight from yesterday however, tomorrow morning’s body measurements will clue me into whether any of it was fat weight. I felt absolutely AWESOME seeing that scale read out 200.5lbs, especially after I had consumed 16 fl oz of milk and another cup or two of water since I had gotten home about 45 minutes before I stepped on the scales. Sure, I bonked hard today out on the running route but it served a purpose.

    Running (and blogging) will be light this week since I have family coming into town on Tuesday and we are going out of town on Friday, so I have to make up my miles where I can. I hope this includes a few runs I will update about next week!

    Ah, the weekend is finally here. In just a few days, I have family coming in from out-of-town and we are going to spend next week goofing off until we leave for the Bahamas next Friday. That also means I get to spend most of tomorrow (Saturday) cleaning up and finishing off some chores. So luckily, my running partner helped prepare me for the weekend with a good brisk run yesterday afternoon. We were busy rehashing week 3 day 3 of the Couch 2 5k program that we have both been following and since I was feeling fresh and frisky, I set pace. While I am not a particularly fast runner, especially since my feet are still toughening up, I did not go too terribly fast but our average pace on the four running portions never crept over the 9:00 mark, which I was ecstatic about. Sure this does not mean much considering our whole jaunt was just under the 2.5 mile mark but we were busting out some serious speed on our short run portions. I expect to be returning to those days in the C25k app if/when I do sprint intervals, I definitely liked the speed.

    And since it is now the weekend and that means today is Friday, I have to again conduct a little food experiment. After spending a significant part of my free time this week thinking about why my body seems to be holding onto so much weight over the Friday-Saturday time frame, I have come to a few conclusions, none of which I am very sure of:

      1. My body knows it is the weekend and since I have spent the last few years abusing it calorie-wise, it naturally slows down my metabolism in preparation for a night (or two) of beers and greasy food.
      2. Since I sleep more on the weekends, my body’s natural repair mechanisms work more slowly due to the extended periods of sleep. During the week, I clock in around five to six hours of sleep a night but on the weekends, I typically get a “good night’s sleep” of eight or more hours. This is in spite of the fact that I typically go to bed around 1:30am or 2am six nights a week, my body naturally sleeps longer on Saturday and Sunday morning.
      3. The weekends mean one thing to me, drinks-wise: I consume three or four times more coffee per day than during the week and so, my water intake plummets to just a few cups a day. And I am speaking strictly water here, I do not count tea as a cup of water.

    Of course, it is more than likely a combination of any of these or none of these, I have no idea. But I do know that something is going on and no matter how much food I eat on a Friday night — or what it is, for that matter — I always weigh in two or three pounds heavier on Saturday morning. Each of the last four Fridays, including tonight, I have eaten a meal that has a rice portion (my only one during the week) and that seems to spike my weight loss for a few days. I hope to end that trend next Friday but since I will be out of the country and beholden to cuisine I have little choice over, I may have to wait my experiment out another week.

    But now, I am just glad it is the weekend and I do not have to wake up and go to work tomorrow. While I do have a number of things, sitting in front of a computer all day is not one of them and I will make sure to go outside and generate more natural vitamin D supply. And once Sunday comes, I will get back out there and log some more barefoot miles. I am happy to say that each successive run this week has resulted in two things:

      1. Fewer blisters
      2. Less foot pain/throbbing the day after a run

    Is this a sign of padding generation on my foot? Well, it is either that or I am killing all the nerve endings in the soles of my feet. Either way, I am happy with the progress and I do not really miss running in shoes, even though I really like running in my Merrell Trail Gloves. Maybe I will run the Levis 5k in two weeks in my Merrells!