Vibram Five Fingers …For Recovery?

Update: After writing this post, I did in fact do the 2011 Thanksgiving Atlanta Half Marathon and it went surprisingly well. At the last minute, after some nudging, I switched out the Vibrams for the Hoka Bondi shoe. I wrapped the ankle with a small amount of sticky tape, laced ’em up tight, and started out trying the 5/1, run/walk thing.

That run/walk stuff is no good for me, but I did find an easy sub-9 pace that was just right and prevented any ankle aggravation. I set the body at that cruising speed and just clipped off the miles one by one, pain-free.

1:52 (8:43/mile) – 22 minutes slower than my Half Marathon PR, but obviously I’ll take it!

Trail running ankle injury, day 1
photo: a couple of hours after my spill. Worry sets in.

Injury Sucks

For those who have somehow ducked my whining and balloon-ankle photos on Facebook, I am currently in the middle of my first real injury of my running “career”; and while I’m sure there is no optimal timing for any kind of injury, mine happened right towards the latter end of a strong, productive period of fast marathon training where I was showing solid improvement each and every week.

Having brought my half-marathon time down to 1:30, and with 5-weeks yet to peak for that sub-3 marathon at Rocket City, December 10, I did the most stupid thing a marathon trainee could do – raced a short, 15K trail race.

Cruising downhill, and having a couple of close calls and all-out falls already, I was wondering to myself if racing this thing was really a good idea or not… then, C-R-A-C-K, OOMPH!  I stepped in a hidden, leaf-covered hole, heard a snap, and dropped to the ground crawling around and screaming at the top of my lungs like a wounded seal.

All those heart-exploding speed training episodes, the half-marathon PRs, those sadistically painful, yet pleasurable, workouts where I swore Jennifer Vogel, my coach, was trying to kill me…

Just like that. Game over.

Oh, But it Gets Better

RICE, they say…

Well, this is what happens when an idiot like me, with great intentions, tries to follow directions…

I frost bit my own $%* ! foot. Say hello to my blistered ice burn:

The ankle injury continues to swell, now day 3
photo: cool. freeze-burning my skin as an added bonus. Swelling, at its worst.

I blame the seven Vicodin the day after; and yes, they were prescribed.

Well, not seven, but, well, you know how it goes…

I felt no pain.

I should never do drugs. Any drugs. I do not know moderation.

A Student of Discovery

It’s sort of a paradox, really. I’m well known for being unconventional, hard-headed, arrogant and a little crazy in my thinking. People much smarter than me advise me. I don’t listen. Doctors, other runners, friends, family, they all experience this with me. Some continue, some give up.

(thanks to those who don’t give up, by the way)

I’ll bet I’ve seen more head-shaking and gotten more “told ya so” comments and emails than anyone else on earth.

Thing is, I’m a student of discovery. The proverbial “gotta touch the stove to see if it’s hot” kinda dude. I really don’t believe anything until I experience it, and usually, the way my brain works, believe the opposite until I prove otherwise.

It’s a disease.

Enter Vibram Five Fingers

I had pretty much written off Vibrams. For one, it’s not really barefoot training. Barefoot training is “without shoes”, and I live in the city, so when I want to train barefoot for all its benefits, I train barefoot on a treadmill to avoid debris, rocks and glass.

Second, ironically, new Vibram models are starting to look more like shoes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I find that my Mizuno Wave Universe, or my all-time favorite, the Saucony A4 racing flats work best.

But, once I could walk again, though still hobbling, limping around with my lower lip all poked out and sad, I came to realization that I was most comfortable, with less pain, when I was barefoot.

Desperate to run, and yes out of better judgement from docs and friends, I tried running about five (5) days into recovery – and everything hurt. Even big-ass, balloon Hokas hurt like crap, and out of all of my shoes, and I have a lot, they were the absolute worst with this injury.

But, off in the corner, still stained with a little dog poop stuck to ’em from when one of the new puppies found the same corner, were the old Vibram Classics. Quite a bit dusty, with a couple of small rips in the toes, and a little curled-up from lack of use, but still wearable – and just as damn hard to put on.

I chuckled at how goofy they looked, ‘cuz, I’m sorry, but Vibram Classics really are ridiculous looking shoes, and I stepped on the treadmill to give it a go.

Day 11 of Recovery

And, I haven’t worn anything else on my feet since.

Wearing Vibrams to help with my ankle sprain
photo: Day 11, Hoping they carry me 13.1 tomorrow in the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half-Marathon.

An Idiot’s Guide to Why This is Working

I promise, I don’t know anything. I’m really, really stupid when it comes to doing the “right” things for training and recovery, so take all this with a grain of salt; but as this student of discovery thing I talked about, I think I have some good ideas why this is working so well for me:

  1. I have a neutral gait. Therefore, I do not need any stability or corrective orthodics.
  2. Because of this neutral gait, when barefoot, my foot is in its most natural state.
  3. In Vibram Classics, my feet stay flat and as close to ground as possible.
  4. Because of this more natural state, and low center of gravity, my foot is never being pulled, pushed, nor sliding around in any one direction that causes pain or aggravates the ligaments further.
  5. The Classics have a super wide collar. This prevents any squeezing of the foot or tender ankle.
  6. This lack of collar-squeezing, combined with increased foot freedom discourages additional swelling

Here’s the thing: I think shoes, and especially the huge sole-lift of the Hokas, were hurting me because they squeezed my foot and created instability. Even folks without injury have complained that the Hokas created instability for them, so it only makes sense that the same would be the case WITH injury.

When your ankle is that sensitive, even the slightest movement in the direction of, or away from, the injury center is enough to cause agonizing pain and aggravate the ankle sprain even worse.

What do you think? Am I crazy?

Ready for Even More Stupidity?

Tomorrow will be day 12 of recovery, and I’ve decided I’m still running the Atlanta Half Marathon.

…in Vibram Classics, of course.

I’ve never run more than six miles in them, so this should be interesting.

I know, I know, but would you consider thinking I’m less stupid if I said I’m running side by side with my wife? She doesn’t “race”, but instead runs 5:00 and walks 1:00, over and over again, until she finishes. I think it’s called the Galloway Method, but she could care less if it was called the jack sh!t method. I get the biggest kick out of Babette’s approach to running. No real training, no stress, no outrageous goals, no ego – just all fun and smiles and games.

She’s also never had a DNF.

I suspect if I can complete the full 13.1 in Vibrams, at her pace, I’m looking at 2:30 minimum on that hilly intown course.

Ugh.

But who cares? At least I’m running, and while I love to run fast, It’ll be cool to chill alongside Babette for this Thanksgiving event.

Next Steps

I know a lot of people think I’m nuts, but I’m used to it. If I’m wrong in my approach, then I have to live with it, no one else; but aren’t we are always told to go with our gut and do what feels right?

This feels right.

I believe that I can heal myself actively and nutritionally. Like an animal.

The moping game is over. The sadness is over. The “woe is me” is OVER.

I have to try it my way because I believe its the right way for me.

Maybe not everyone – Hell, maybe not anyone

But it feels like its right for me.

Eye on the sub-3 at Mercedes

So nope, I won’t get to chase that 2:55 marathon goal at Rocket City, and while that really bums me the #$%! out, I’ll just set my sights a little further out in the year and come back with a furious focus.

I can do that. I will do that. And if you’re a betting kinda person, put your money on me.

But I’m still running Rocket City, and even though he’s been training like Rocky IV in Russia, I’m still gonna beat the crap outta’ Weezy.

Whatcha got, kid? Come get me. The prey is wounded, sucka.

 

 

I Can’t Keep It In

I love running so much right now I think I might just explode.

After a challenging training run this morning, I found myself listening to a little Cat Stevens, and every single song that came on made me somehow apply the sentiments to running.

I’m so #$%$! addicted, and you get to hear all about it:

Can’t Keep It In

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb_03LP55Lc

Every new training day is like a completely new beginning.

Every single one.

The night before training, I lie in bed and think about the ways that I am going to push through the tough stuff, make my feet go faster, push those hips out further …and let ‘er rip.

I imagine it, picture it. Run through it over and over in my mind.

“Remember to smile, “ I say to myself, “It makes it easier.”

I remind myself how lucky I am that I have this ability. Not rock star ability, but just simply the ability to run. Flinging my body through the air, catching it, and doing it again.

I am healthy, happy, excited and living life to the fullest. Setting new goals and chasing them with a passion that consumes me.

It never gets old.

There’s always the next challenge, the next step, the next level.

I refuse to settle.

I’m really enjoying …running fast.

Where Do the Children Play

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiiZrZTrOFY

Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me.

…and then, I ride the train, or walk into work, or view the people on the sidewalks, and I wonder what’s wrong with them.

No one plays anymore. Everything is so serious.

Drivers honking, middle fingers flying. Silence on the elevators. Silence on the train. Impatience in grocery store lines. Chest-thumping arguments on Facebooks.

It’s all so exhausting. …and kinda sorta sad.

But my training is my play time.

Aggressive play that fatigues me enough to rival any pharmaceutical calming alternative.

It frees me from all the angst and worry and frustrations and social banter that means absolutely, positively 100% nothing.

It reminds me of the joy of my family – which is 100% everything. It reminds me that I am free. I can move my body and feel good whenever I want to and nothing else matters but the sound of my breath, the beating in my chest, and the form of my body. Constantly scanning, evaluating, adjusting, so the pace never falls.

And if it does, so what, there’s always tomorrow.

Sitting (but only for second ‘cuz on my way)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrDHysMdu6U

I am working extra super duper crazy hard.

I have huge goals.

Training for this 2:55 marathon has been an humbling, dramatic series of incredibly challenging training runs.

And with only 39 days of training left,  I’m still way behind.

I need to be at a sub-38:00 10K, but I’m only at 39.

I need to be at a 1:25 half-marathon, but I raced a 1:30 five days ago.

And while the math shows my marathon at more like 3:10 at best, I’m not going to give up.

If I can train myself to run 20 miles at 6:53 without falling apart, I can force a progressive run for an additional 6.2, I know I can.

And even if it ends up that I can’t, then I will try again.

and again.

and again.

and again.

This is the most fun, I’ve ever had in my life.

Natural Vitality Products Review

Per my previous blog update:

“After a recent race, I received an email from a nutrition company representative asking if I would be interested in trying their Natural Vitality sports nutritional products”

And so I did.

The Natural Vitality Products Tested

Natural Vitality product review for athletes

First off, I would like to thank the company for selecting me as someone they found interesting enough to review their products. Sure it’s smart SEO (if you know what that means), but it also shows a strong level of confidence in your product offerings.

Each product is based on natural, organic food – mostly fruits and vegetables high in vitamins, aminos, and anti-oxidants. It’s all food (or juice) that one can buy at any health food store, but it’s rare to have access to such a wide variety, and in such convenient packaging.

Here are the products I tested:

  • NutraRev: billed as, “Antioxidant and Energy Booster”
  • Energy 28: energy product based on Golden Chlorella, “a unique nutrient-dense, ultra-pure, mild-tasting microalgae that provides naturally occurring amino acids.”
  • Organic Life: a liquid-based multi-vitamin as a combination of both fruits and added vitamins
  • Natural Calm: a magnesium supplement

I took all of the products every day, and some of the NutraRev and Energy 28 multiple times a day as recommended.

The Good

  • The products are easy  and convenient
  • They taste good
  • There is no fake feel or supplement after-taste
  • The products are based on real, whole organic foods

The Bad {or, perhaps “questionable”}

  • I can’t help but be concerned that there is no accountability for proof of quality
  • I am skeptical whenever products create their own trademark brands of common food blends
  • The product marketing makes me uncomfortable. Anti-aging? Really?
  • Serving quantities are very small

The Outcome

All this build up just to simply say that I have decided that I am generally indifferent.

While I applaud the approach, I can’t get around the marketing. As someone who has been around sports supplementation my entire life, I know excessive product marketing when I see it.

Over-promising runs rampant in the supplementation world. For example, as I mentioned above, calling a food product “anti-aging” really bothers me. Creates immediate distrust for me as a consumer.

However, the products never made me feel bad, and in fact, the magnesium supplement is something that I really enjoy taking before bed. But, is it truly helping me? I don’t know. I researched magnesium supplementation and found that I don’t suffer from any of the conditions that necessitate really needing it – but I’ll admit, it does make me feel calm at night.

Placebo effect? Maybe.

All-in-all, I would continue to use the products if they were free simply because, assuming the products are truly organic and wholesome, I enjoy having access to them in these concentrated forms; however, without truly experiencing any real noticeable effects during my one-month review trial, I can not rationalize paying the high price.

That’s my honest opinion.