Monday, June 27, 2011

The Long and Winding Road - My Transition to Minimalist Running, Part 2

(I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at It is the epitome of my stupidity.)

Let's Roll!
After the raging success of my first minimalist run, I committed to a semi-serious schedule of 3 runs per week during lunch. Not knowing anything about proper, staged transition to a new running style, I simply choose arbitrary increases in my weekly mileage. I have a history over-extending when it comes to physical activities. If I can do something, I can over do it, and usually do.

So, I decided to go directly from one third of a mile, all the way to 1 mile on my second run. That's right, 3 times the distance that nearly killed me the first week.

"Pffft.." I thought, "It's just 1 mile. Should be easy. Let's roll!"

I was only slightly sore after the first run, so I stepped up to the line, started my watch, and trotted off, bouncing along on the balls of my feet. My feet made small, squeaky noises as they slipped around inside my $9 Walmart pool shoes. My pudgy middle jiggled around as I bounced along. Perhaps Kramer was on to something with that whole "mansiere" concept...

I completed the first lap without having a heart attack, but slowed significantly as I started the second lap. My body was confused by this strange new abuse. Apparently, it had completely forgotten that I used to be a runner.

By the end of the second lap, I was sweating profusely and having trouble getting enough oxygen to my addled brain.

"Buckle down, fat boy! Let's get a sub 10 minute mile in the books". I stink at encouraging myself.

The third lap was more of a heavy footed walk than a run. I was no longer bouncing. I could barely get my feet off the ground, and when they came back down, the landing was anything but soft. But, I managed to finish the last lap by walking just a bit (about half of the lap).

I trudged across the line and stopped my watch.

15 minutes.

"Well, that sucked! Running sucks! I suck!" I griped to myself as I staggered back to the locker room.

I shaved for this picture.
The next day, I couldn't walk up or down stairs. Just stepping over the curb in the parking lot was sheer agony. It was as if someone had beaten my calfs with rubber hoses. The day after that, the soreness really set in. On the bright side, I had no knee pain.

 There was no way I could finish the other two runs I had planned for the week. So, week 1 of my return to running saw me run a total of 1 mile. But, I don't give up easily. I can be annoyingly stubborn. Stupidly stubborn even.

My training plan. Days versus Miles.
The Ramp
The next few weeks saw me successfully finish a few 1 mile runs, following by a few two mile runs, as my body adjusted and my conditioning improved. Over the course of a couple of months, I managed to increase my mileage to 3 miles on a single run. The soreness decreased, but never truly went away since I was ramping too fast. By the end of February, my weekly runs consisted of 2 miles on Monday, 2 Miles on Wednesday, and 3 miles on Friday.

I had dropped about 10 pounds of weight over the course of those 2 months as well. This really gave me the drive to continue. I was feeling better with each run.

New rule - never run on Thorsday
As I started the third month of my running, I attempted my second run of 3 miles. I had stopped using my pool shoes (the soles had worn through in the ball of the foot area) and purchased some spiffy new Vibram Five Finger KSOs. I had plans for lunch that Friday, so moved my long run back to Thursday. I would attempt my second 3 mile run in my new shoes a day after my normal 2 mile run (cue ominous music).

Two miles into the run, I knew something wasn't right with my left foot. The top of the foot felt pinched. I stopped to loosen the velcro strap on my VFFs. The discomfort faded as soon as I stopped running, so of course I decided to continue running. Twenty steps later, it was as if Thor himself had hammered an acid coated ice pick through the top of my left foot.

"Holy shat-tastic nematodes!" I howled, hobbling to a stop on the track. Or at least, something along those lines...

I bagged the remainder of the run, and headed back to my office. My primary care physician is Dr. Google, and sure enough, he had an opening. The good doctor told me I had something generally called "top of foot pain" or TOFP. The consensus on the Runner's World forums was that it would fade away on it's own. Who was I to argue with the massive expertise on an internet running forum. I wouldn't let TOFP stop me.

Two days later found me at home on a Saturday, ready to run again. The pain in the top of my foot had eased, so I slipped on my VFFs and headed out the local greenway, determined to finish my 3 mile run for the week.

The ER doctors didn't believe me when I told
them that Thor did this to me. Atheists...
One mile later, Thor hammered my foot again. This time, instead of an acid coated ice pick, he used a large, dull, rusty nail. He had to hit it several times, very hard, to crack it into my foot.

"Damn it Thor, it's not even Thursday! Why me?!!" I whined. I hobbled home, depressed and discouraged.

This time it was bad. Bad enough to stop me from running for two weeks. Bad enough to make me visibly limp (even though I tried to hide it from everyone). I spent a lot of time icing and massaging the top of my left foot, and generally just kicking myself for being so stupid.

This wouldn't be the last time.

Next Installment - Thor Meets Achilles