The magic started by my lacing up shoes in the first place, but I was damned determined to run today, ITB pain or not. This was pretty boneheaded of me to even think, just sayin’. But today, I was in a mood to get shit done since my professor decided to end class 3 minutes after he walked in and asked us to hand in our papers — I did not drive all the way to campus for something I could have emailed. So after I got home, full of gusto, I threw on some running shorts and decided to conduct my final running experiment of the last month: running in (real) shoes. Not my huaraches, I honestly cannot wear them for running any more, they just do not stay put no matter how tight I tie them. I find they are great for yard work but not for running, sadly. Once those nylon webbing laces get saturated with water/sweat, they stretch out hardcore. I tossed on my Trail Gloves for the first time in what must have been three months, coincidentally it has been about that long since I last wore any shoes that were not flip flops. After filling the water bottles up and starting the Garmin, I was off.

That’s when the magic happened: I ran 3.29 miles nearly pain-free. I was expecting to cut the run off after a mile or so since that has been the point at which the ITB pain just gets too much to bear recently, but not today. Not today! The last time I was able to run continuously for more than a mile was a few days after the Freedom 5k on 11 Sept 2011. Nearly a month to the day since I started plodding along in pain in training.

But not today. The first two miles were glorious and were easy! I maintained a great pace over those miles — about 10:37 — and the only time I stopped was for traffic and to pull a stink bug out of my shoe since it was doing an excellent job of stinging me. Right around that 2 mile mark is when I started to feel the ITB pain again but it was very minimal and not the searing, burning, excruciating pain I have experienced in previous weeks. It was more of a dull and annoying pain, almost like someone gave me a Charlie horse in the hip. I also experienced no SI or lumbar pain in the piriformis region, great news! The worst part of the run was, aside from wearing shoes, I did not bring a towel or shirt to wick away sweat and my sexy headband is more for looks than anything else. All that searing, sweaty man glaze burned my eyes for the last 1.3 miles of the run. I could really use a hat!

So for now, I will no longer be training strictly barefoot. I have two races in the next three weeks and I need to get my body back up to speed for the distances. I will more than likely run the races barefoot or in new huaraches that stay tight to my feet (Brancas, perhaps?) but training will be strictly shod. As sad as this makes me, I have to run in a way that keeps me moving forward and out of the doctor’s office. I hope this change is not permanent, the feeling of running barefoot is second to none.

My first 5k in a month was a smashing success even if there was no one around to witness it, it made me feel like a titan.

I love my Merrell Barefoot shoes

I love my Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove shoes

Today I took my first trail run in my minimalist running shoes, the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves. Aside from my old wrestling shoes from high school, this is my first pair of zero-drop shoes and for the most part, they’re very comfortable. I’m still having some trouble lacing them up properly, I either get the ankle lacing a hair too tight or the mid-foot lacing too tight, I just cannot get that “perfect” lace-up yet. Anyway, enough about the shoes, I will be writing about those another time, this is about my run.

The run went a lot better than I could have expected. My run training now consists of the Couch to 5k plan; I’m on week 2 day 3 as I just started the plan itself this week. Prior to trying some trail running today, I was only running on the freshly repaved sidewalk across the street from where I live and it was, frankly, killing my calves. I was coming home with extremely worn out and my soleus muscles were absolutely blasted, making it an ordeal just to walk back. I do understand that part of this is from barefoot-style running and acclimatizing your calves to a new range of motion. But today, none of that happened at all. The only time my feet touched pavement were during my stretching, warm-up and cool down walk back home, the rest of my run was across a sub-1 mile stretch of grassy sand. My recovery tonight has been completely different from the previous few weeks, I have not spent most of the night trying to regain my energy and only my left soleus is tight at this time. My feet do not hurt, my quads and hamstrings do not hurt, and my lumbar feels great. In contrast, on Sunday’s run, I collapsed on the floor and fell asleep during my stretching — I also made the stupid choice to run in the middle of the day…in 90F+ heat. But overall, I have a very positive experience for my first minimalist shoe trail run and I will continue to train on my little trail.

I can now understand why barefoot runners, novice and experienced, strongly suggest integrating trail running into the routine, it’s a great experience. My minimalist shoes absorbed all the force they were supposed to while allowing me to literally feel everything but the blades of grass under my feet. I even felt this golf ball-sized limestone rock slam into my heel during a particularly up-and-down section of the trail; that kind of tactile feel was unbelievable. And fantastically enough, this trail run actually improved my time. According to my Garmin, I ran a hair under two miles and my average pace was nearly a full two minutes faster than my run yesterday which was the same cadence and mileage. Which I find to be very strange considering my quarter-mile splits are all slower than yesterday except for my first and fourth splits.

Splits from 12 May 2011 and 11 May 2011

Splits from 12 May 2011 and 11 May 2011

How can I digest that while I ran slower on six of eight splits (2-8)? I suppose if I toss out the first split since it is just a stretch and walk warm-up, I still cannot wrap my head around running faster on more technical terrain. For reference, splits 1 through 8 are the same distance, splits 9 through 11 on the 11th are from an extended cool-down walk, I was beat.

I certainly do not feel any faster and my form is still just as awful: plodding like I’m wearing concrete shoes rather than minimalist shoes. I know my first three run segments today felt great, I actually was running them faster than yesterday. However, this is going to take a little more of a break-in period as I am sore in a few other places than normal, such as my left gastroc and a spot right below my left knee. I would really love to attempt this stretch totally barefoot but I’m not sure if that is going to be possible just yet since I have not yet had enough time to fully analyze the trail for things like broken glass and dog poo. The former is the sole reason I do not run barefoot on the asphalt, I have seen too much of that around here lately.