Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Long and Winding Road - My Transition to Minimalist Running, Part 5

Magical Five Fingers Recursion (yes, I'm a geek)
Vibram Five Finger Are Not Magic!
After a couple of months of uneventful and enjoyable increases in running mileage, I was a full fledged believer in the minimalist running philosophy of "less is more". I was running long miles with no knee pain and truly enjoying running in a way that I never had in my younger years. Appreciation of the experience and the of moment are one of the gifts of old(er) age, and I try to leverage that gift at all times. However, as with most deeply held beliefs, evidence can be a bummer.

In the middle of a 7 mile run in late May, floating along oblivious to any possible dangers, I stepped on something while wearing my VFFs. And it hurt.

Let me re-emphasize that - it hurt! After cursing furiously for a few seconds, I hobbled to a halt and backtracked a few steps to see what I had stepped on. Lying near the joint of the sidewalk, was a large rusty lag bolt. I picked it up and furiously flung it into the woods nearby. I limped the last 3 miles to the end of the run with my forefoot stinging very badly.

Dramatic recreation of my VFF battling
and losing against a large lag bolt.
The next day the ball of my foot was extremely sore behind my second toe where I had jammed the bolt into my foot. So, I decided to take a whole extra day off before my next run. I patted myself on the back, thinking that I was actually learning to back off when injured, rather than pushing ahead into larger problems. Two days later, I went out for a 5 miler. My foot was only slightly sore, so I thought the run would go fine. Less than a mile into the run, I had to stop. The pain in my forefoot was excruciating. Every step felt as if something was stabbing into the ball of my foot. And Thor with his hammer and acid covered ice pick was no where to be seen, so this time I couldn't blame the gods.

The only elliptical machine
I will ever ride again...
Riding the Elliptical Machine Through the Land of Metatarsalgia
"Metatarsalgia" said Doctor Google. Another condition that I had never known before my return to running had now entered my consciousness. According to Doctor Google, the recommended recovery was rest, anti-inflammatories, and possibly a steroid shot to reduce the irritation. Since I am nearly allergic to ibuprofen and have had my lifetime quota of cortisone shots, I decided to rest for a few weeks. Of course to me, resting simply meant not running. So it was that I found myself once again on that neuron decimating contraption known as the elliptical machine.

Having previously forsworn riding the elliptical machine, finding myself on it once again was sad, to say the least. I've learned over the years that admitting ignorance is not nearly as bad as admitting self deception, so I convinced myself that this was a "necessary" although unexpected part of my recovery. And I will never admit that this was self deception...

However, my self-deceiving, ignorant reasoning wasn't enough to make the elliptical machine anything less than absolute torture. So, one week into my recovery, I abandoned the gym forever. I would rather rot than have to mount that mental torture device again.

There are several books out about
barefoot running, but this is the
one I have and recommend.
Barefoot Running Cures Stupidity, Almost
Having turned to Doctor Google for other reasons, I revisited him in hopes of finding something, anything, that might help me through the seemingly never ending series of transition traps that I kept blundering into. I found Barefoot Ted's mailing list on Google for the first time. Looking over the posts to the list, I finally felt like I wasn't alone in the transition wilderness. Lots of other people had been through the transition, and many of them had experienced the same issues as me.

After lots of reading, and a few posts to the group asking questions, I decided to reset my running once again, this time using barefoot running as a means of controlling both my distance and my form (blisters are a good teacher).

And it worked! Mostly...

Final installment - How barefoot running saved me, and nearly destroyed me...