Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Race Report: MPIB 2013 Run 12km

This is my first barefoot race.
I am full of doubt before the race started, but eventually I survived.
And to my surprise, I actually enjoy lots on this race.

Like the normal race, I prepared myself with plenty of shorter runs, ranged from 3~10km in December, all barefooted. I even went for a trial run on the route, but I only managed 8km. Stopped mid way before reached the Commuter station at Bank Negara, and walked back to the Bukit Aman car park. The route is so rough especially on the Bukit Tunku @ the Double Hills route. Also, the flu stacked with me for closed to 2 months and it basically took away all my long run, speed and stamina. I knew very well that I will not doing a fast race. It took away my confident and I seriously thinking to race with VFF. I was not able to decide until the Saturday morning. I saw this old slippers when I cleaning my car porch. So I decided to run barefoot with the slippers as spare.
Race kit
Due to the race excitement and the doubts on my own decision, I was not able to sleep well. Reached the starting line with about 3 hours sleep, I walked like zombie around the Padang Merbok. Met some fellow barefoot runners, exchanged best wishes and good lucks (yes, lots of luck required for me to complete this 12km). At 7am, without too much of notice or count down, the horn blew and the ladies 12km flagged off. And now is our turn. Maybe the race is too early or the starting gangway is too narrow, the crown in Men 12km didn’t seem to move after the flag off. Anyway, I just took my time as I didn’t have any target to chase.

I carefully picked my way ahead. The stretch from starting line to the entrance/exit of the Bukit Tunku is relatively smooth and barefoot friendly. I kept a steady 7 minutes pace until the rough road and tough climb at Bukit Tunku caught me. The pace dipped to 8 minutes. Btw, I didn’t felt the same roughness at Bukit Tunku like I did during the trial. I guess we have the whole road to pick my landing. During the trial run, I can only ran on the road side due to the traffic. As the road was closed during the race, I was following mostly the middle white line, and this helped lots on my barefoot.
The happy barefoot runner (by KahWai)
Not much problem all the way until the turn into Istana Selangor. This stretch of the road just resurfaced. But the tar/asphalt used is bigger and created some gaps on my landing. Also my stamina was about to finish at this point. No choice but to slow down to 8~9 minutes pace. I was thinking that my soles going to be bloody bad at this point of time, but I didn’t stop to check it out. Finally we reached the entrance to Padang Merbok. The parking area in Padang Merbok is really rough hence I can’t push towards the finish line this time. Finished the race in 1:29’07”.
I put on the slippers once I crossed the finish line and find a spot to check out the condition. Surprised to see the soles held up very well with out blisters or cuts. The barefoot training paid off nicely :) The only problem I got after this race was the blister between the inner tights. I must crossed my legs too much when I following the white lines.

Overall, I am happy with my first ever barefoot race. It builds my confident to run and race barefoot. The race itself was very well organized. Had been a while not getting so much of goodie from a race kit. Water stations and other supplies were plenty. Traffic control is great too. Not forget the effort of the series of running clinics organized since the registration opened. If you plan to start running but don’t know how, join this race and the running clinics. Running in a group will definitely help to get you over the starting barrier, and very soon you will addicted to this sport and ready to go on your own.

My next target? Barefooting in Brooks Half Marathon (it sounded weird to race barefoot in a race sponsored by a shoes company). This is another route with lots of inclines. No a place to speed or trial on my sub-2 half marathon target. So I will focus on barefooting only.

Btw, 6 weeks until the next race and my flu still lingering… any alternative cure apart from seeing the doctor?

Barefoot Running Part III: Training with Group

I do my routine training alone. It’s sure a lonely journey but that may be the solitary that some of us seeking for in running. But training can be difference when you run with a group of people with similar interest. You can look, mimic, learn and discuss with some experienced runners. You can try out new things, getting instance feedback from the experienced runners, and making adjustment immediately. Its extremely helpful when you trying to pick up the new running style/gait that is very difference from the shod running.

Paul, Rich and CP Tan started the Facebook group call Bare-With-Me. They are experienced barefoot runners who are really keen to share and willing to take the lead to organize some activities to keep the momentums going. The group established for some time but only recently we are kicking in more group activities like running clinics, group running, group t-shirt and trail running.

I so far joined few of the running clinics and group running, it was fun filled event and really learned a lots from these sifu. Attending these events also keep the motivation going, and it will make your transition period more fun. Come join us in FB and follow the event created.
After the Group Running & T-shirt Launching
After the Group Running & T-shirt Launching, the usual barefoot kaki post
Enjoying the group running around KL Bird Park

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Barefoot Running Part II: The Preparation & Training

What you need before you start? Actually you don’t need anything to start with. Some said the adoption will be even better if you start as none runners. So, like how we start running in shoes, we do the walking first, and take it slowly.

I choose to start right after the PBIM so I won’t have any race to push for a long enough period of time. I substitute my usual morning run with barefoot walking for 1 week. Then I start brisk walking and slowly increase the distances, pace and duration on barefoot. I also start with the tough surface first, instead of soft or barefoot friendly surface. Asphalts on my neighborhood really give me a tough time, but also my soles build up quickly with the rough surface.

You may think if I already ran in VFF, I should be able to start to run barefoot immediately. The answer is no. VFF provide some protection on the soles, hence you landing will still be quite heavy compared to barefoot. During your transition to barefoot running, the most valuable learning is how to run with light foot landing. Many ways to land but to put down your foot lightly, your muscles will be strengthen by all your effort to tiptoes over the route. Listen to the feedback and learn how to you can adjust your landing without the painful “ouch!” is the main task in this stage.

Once your soles build up (at least >28 days or 4 weeks), you can start to put in some speed and add more distant. The key is to follow your body feedback, if you got blister, tentatively your soles is not ready for that speed you trained on, or the surface you ran is too rough, or even the combination of both. No matter how much your soles developed, you will still need to slow down in rough surface to avoid or minimize the wearing of the soles. Learn when to slow down, change running route, or even take a longer break is the key to success in barefoot running.
In short,
1. Remove the shoes and your running PB target, start from zero.
2. Identify a suitable training ground, hard or soft surface will depend on availability and your choice.
3. Walking on the training ground to get familiar with the surface, pay attention to the feedback from the feet.
4. Start brisk walking once your soles are ready to take the beat. Check this Marrels Barefoot Running video on good barefoot running posture (short strides, high cadences, body keep up right but at ease, running with slightly bending forward).
5. Learn how to land lightly without the painful “ouch!” on each landing. Train up the landing muscle.

If you usually training on tar/asphalts/road, some tricks you can use,
1. White / Yellow lines are your friends, but only follow these lines when the traffic conditions are allowable. Don’t run at the middle of the road when you foresee heavy traffic.
2. Select a stretch road that you are familiar with and near by to your home. If you have VFF, do a few survey runs on these stretches before go barefooting on them. If you felt the road surface in VFF, most likely it is too rough for barefooting.
3. If you ran after rain, you can see clearly the condition on the asphalts. Normally the asphalts or the tar surface that trap moisture (look wet and other part of the road dried up) is rougher. Pick the dry surface to save your soles (yes I knew the temptation to run barefoot over the puddles.
4. Normally the inner road condition around neighborhood is worst compare to main road.

Enjoy barefooting!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Barefoot Running Part I: The Battle with the Running Shoes

After PBIM, I moved on to the next stage on my running revolution. Sept 2010 I started run regularly. Sept 2011 completed my first full marathon, and Apr 2012 completed my first full marathon in VFF. Now I am doing full time barefoot running.

When I first started in running, I was like others. Do some online research about running shoes, visit the local store to get one. Local famous brand like Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Asics and Brooks are the first few stores we look into. Btw, the quality of the sales force in these stores varied. Some will able to help you with the right recommendation, some will just pushing their sale target.

My research was through enough to cover some of the big term used in running shoes, so I figured that I will need stability or motions control shoes as I am flat-foot with over-pronation and wide foot. That’s, the beginning of my battle with running shoes…

Round 1, NB1226 was recommended by RunnersWorld. I was lucky that this is really what I wanted and the shoes see me thru the next 1000km before I need to get into the shoes problem again.
NB1226 in action, PACM 15km Run @ 2011
Round 2, NB905. Not really getting along with this model. Make some mistake and learn something new about shoes then moved on.
NB905, can't find any photo in it, only raced in SCKLM HM 2011
Round 3, VibramFiveFingers Komodo Sports. Got this shoe because it is on great sale when Running Lab Malaysia open. I am not ready back then to run in VFF, only used in shorter distances training and races.

Round 4, Brooks GTS10. After throwing away NB905 and not ready to go full time in VFF, Brooks GTS10 came into rescue. Did my first full marathon in it and this shoe is great. I got another GTS10 as spare on the next clearance sale. But after some time, my running injuries are starting to haunt me. ITB, shin, knees, butt, and lower back start to aching up. A short 20k run on Sunday morning will saw me hoping for at least half a day. I started to look for alternative, or perhaps cure.
Brooks GTS10 in action, my first FM @ RJM 2011 (with Khoo)
Round 5, VFF Komodo Sports. After some research, I start to run in VFF full time. The pain is at bay, but still come back from time to time if I pushed too hard. Then I thought I went too bare.
VFF KS in action, my first VFF FM @ Energizer 2012
Round 6, NB MR00. This is the shoes that really drive me off the cliff. The terrible build quality, and again my foot can’t get along with it. I start to wonder what to do with the shoes that I can’t run with, how to reduce the failure rate and getting the shoes that fit me all the time.
NB MR00, never used in any race, still nicely packed in the box...
Round 7, VFF Komodo Sports. And next? Perhaps, is time to take the shoes out of the running equation?

Then, I started to run barefoot.

Summary on the running shoes I owned since Sept 2010:
1x NB1226
1x NB905
1x NB MR00
2x Brooks GTS10
3x VibramFiveFingers Komodo Sports