Monday, October 12, 2009

520 miles on the sprints-

So I calculated how many miles I have on my current pair of Sprints and it comes to 520 miles.  They look surprisingly nice for the amount of miles.  Most traditional running shoes need replaced around 200-300 miles.  I got right around 500 miles on my last  pair of Classics until the yellow material inside the heel started to break down.  The Sprints look awesome and I think they'll last another couple hundred miles.  In case you're wondering what they look like:

I haven't washed these nearly as much as I washed the Classics - I was wondering if that is the reason for the breakdown of the inside material.  The picture may not show but the Sprints are starting to get worn on the sole - I mainly run on asphalt.  There is a small rip in the fabric by one of the toes but otherwise they are in great shape.  And I don't have to worry about the breakdown of EVA either...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

barefoot running thesis

I completed my Master's thesis in May and thought I would post the results in case anybody is interested:

The biomechanics of barefoot running have been studied quite a lot - mainly it has been shown to decrease the risk of injury because when a person runs barefoot they land softer and their legs experience decreased ground reaction forces.  I wanted to further explore the physiological aspects of barefoot running and see if it could help an athlete's performance.

The title of my thesis was "An Analysis of the Energy Expenditure of Running Barefoot versus Running Shod: Treadmill and Overground".  The abstract is below:

          The purpose of this study was to investigate the energy expenditure involved with running barefoot and running shod on the treadmill as well as overground.  Ten subjects volunteered to participate in the study, and the age range was 19 to 29 years.  The subjects were healthy, reported no previous lower limb injuries, and ran at least 10 miles per week for six months prior to the study.
            All of the subjects participated in the four experimental conditions: 1) barefoot on treadmill, 2) shod on treadmill, 3) barefoot overground, and 4) shod overground.  For each condition, the subject was instructed to run for six minutes at 70% of their vVO2max pace.  To correct for air resistance a 1% grade was used on the treadmill.  Steady state VO2 was collected, as well as Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and heart rate.
            A 2x2 repeated measures ANOVA was used for analysis of the data.  Running with shoes showed significantly higher VO2 values on both the treadmill and the overground track (p<0.05).  The heart rate and RPE were significantly higher in the shod condition as well (p<0.02; p<0.01).  For the overground condition, running with shoes displayed 5.7% higher VO2 values than running barefoot.  In the treadmill condition, the difference was 2.0%.
            From the results of the experiment, the following can be concluded: 1) At a given velocity, barefoot running shows significantly lower VO2 values than running shod; this indicates a higher running economy when barefoot.  2) When a 1% grade is used on the treadmill, there is not a significant difference in VO2 values between running on a treadmill and running overground.  

What I found, essentially, in my study was that when the subjects were running barefoot they were more economical.  The main finding that barefooter runners might like is the overground condition.  I think overground testing is much more applicable to everyday runners than treadmill testing, as most runners prefer to run outside and see the world!  Take for example one of the subjects:  He was running on an indoor track at the university at 7 mph for both conditions- with shoes and without.  When he was running barefoot his body required less oxygen than when he was running with shoes on.  This basically means that it was easier for him to maintain that same pace while barefoot.  Over the 10 subjects the average increase in oxygen uptake when people went from barefoot to shoes was 5.7%.  This was very interesting though because economy of barefoot running hasn't been studied before overground and the results were great!

One of the subjects with the portable metabolic cart (Oxygen-measuring device)

The economy can kind of be explained like gas mileage with a car.  More economical cars can go further on a gallon of gas than less economical cars, just like one could go further on a certain volume of oxygen if they were barefoot.

the beginning

I was not a runner when I was younger, and didn't really run in high school or college. After I graduated with my Bachelor's degree I decided to go for a run. It went really well and I loved it. The next day I could barely walk; it was a shock to my body. After I took a few days off to heal I started running a three mile loop around my house seven days per week. I did all of this in an old pair of Nikes that were laying around the house. I ran fairly consistently for about a year until I stumbled on Barefoot Ken Bob's website and thought the idea of barefoot running was great. I decided to give it a try and implemented it during the last mile or so of my run every couple of days.

I really liked running barefoot but living in eastern Nebraska out in the country made this difficult. I tried running barefoot out on the highway but at the time it was summer, the asphalt was incredibly hot, and I ended up with some impressive blisters. Additionally, the winters are snowy/icy and there are not any good clean sidewalks where I live. I wanted an alternative...

I then found the Vibram Five Fingers website: This was exactly what I was looking for - a thin rubber sole that protected against hot asphalt, rocks and other road hazards but also allowed for the same foot movement as running barefoot. I immediately bought a pair.

When my blue Vibram Five Fingers Classics arrived I slipped them on, admired them in the mirror and went for a run. Three miles later I cam home, having thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The next morning, however, my calves were on FIRE! It took about three days for them to heal and I could try them out again. I started using them gradually after that, using them for the last mile or two of every run. Eventually I was using them for almost every run.

I had the chance to use them during a race but backed out at the last second and wore running shoes. A few weeks later I was doing my 20 mile run in preparation of my first marathon and my running shoes caused me to have some severe pain in my Achilles tendon. That is the last time I wore traditional running shoes. I rested my Achilles for a couple of days and then switched completely to the Five Fingers and barefoot running (if I am on the treadmill, or if it is very mild weather out I'll run barefoot but otherwise I am in the Five Fingers). I ran the Omaha Marathon in them a few weeks later, as well as the Market to Market Relay two weeks after that.

As for a review - the Classics are great. The drawstring in the back has bugged my heel here and there but I've formed a small callus that has prevented any blisters or anything. I wore them for about 400-500 miles and then switched to the Sprints, which are very similar but instead of a drawstring they have two sets of velcro straps:

I have had these for about 400 miles and they are still going strong- I'm kind of curious to see how many miles I can get out of them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

omaha marathon 9.27.09

This is the second time I ran the Omaha Marathon, and my second marathon overall.  I trained a little harder for this one, peaking at 62 miles per week rather than 40 last year.  Last year's marathon was my first, and also the first race that I ran in my Vibram Five Fingers.  

This is a fairly tough course but having run it last year I felt I was ready for the challenge.  My time last year was 3:24:25 and my goal was to be as close to 3:00:00 as possible.  I figured I would hang out with the 3 hour pacer as long as possible and if I lost them along the way hopefully I could still be under 3:10:59 and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

So the race starts promptly at 7:00 am (maybe a minute or two early, actually) and we are off.  In Omaha, they start the 10k, half-marathon and full marathon together since the total is only around 3000 people.  The first couple miles I ran around 6:35 pace and have not yet seen the 3 hour pacer.  Then, about 3 miles into the race someone passes me and I notice a small "3:00" tag attached to his shorts.  I thought they would be holding a sign or have a larger tag, but oh well...  I decided to follow him as he weaved through the other various runners.  After each mile I looked at my watch and each of the first six miles were right around 6:35 pace.  I crossed the 10k point right at 41:00, which is exactly 6:35 pace.  I thought it was a little fast, since 3:00 pace for the marathon is around 6:52 pace, but I figured the pacer was allowing for the second half to be a little slower.  

It got a little crowded around the 10k point because there was some congestion and all of the half-marathoners were still around.  Somehow I lost sight of the pacer but decided to keep running at 6:35 pace for a while.  At a water/Gatorade station around mile 10 the pacer passed me, so somehow I had gotten ahead of him.  We ran together for a mile or so and each time there was a hill I would pull ahead but on the downhills he would surge forward.  We were holding steady for a while until the marathoners merged back with the half-marathoners on a narrow street.  It was there the the pacer pulled away.  We both reached the halfway point at 1:29 and that was the last I saw of the pacer.  

It was at the halfway point that I also started slowing down a bit.   In the Omaha Marathon the full marathoners split from the half-marathoners for good around the 14-15 mile point, and there the pack thins drastically.  I did the next few miles around 7:00 pace and started getting a little lonely.  I really enjoy running alone but during a marathon when it gets tough it's nice to have people around.  From mile 14 to 18 I didn't really see anybody behind or ahead of me so I slowed down a little without realizing it.  A group of people around mile 16 told me that I was the tenth runner to pass that station.  At around mile 18 I could see the leaders heading into the park and starting to finish their last 10k.  I took a gel from the station and plugged along.  

I crossed the 20 mile point at 2:18:30, which is right around 6:55 pace.  I really wanted to be at three hours but I was starting to fatigue and my body couldn't run as fast as my mind wanted it to.  I started the last 10k with some slight cramps in my legs, which was a first for me, and felt very odd.  I passed a triathlete (obvious from the zippered shirt) who asked me a couple questions about my Vibram FiveFingers:  Do I like running in them?  Do they offer any arch support?  Yes, I love them.  No, not really any support; they do make your feet stronger because of this though!

I was still plugging along at the 22 mile point but slowing down.  I got passed there by the female that won the marathon.  She was looking strong and I followed behind her and her cyclist.  For some reason at around mile 24 I really felt like I needed to walk for a few steps.  At the water station I grabbed a drink and walked with it for about 2 minutes.  It was here that I got passed by a runner around my age who seemed to have two assistants with them.  I didn't realize that fact until the last stretch when they both eased off the course to let the runner finish.  One was on a bike providing drinks and one was running beside him.  I let them pass me but caught up and was right behind them until the finish.

It was at the 25 mile point (up a hill!) where the race was getting really difficult.  I knew that I needed to hurry: 3:00 was out of the question but if I wanted to qualify for Boston I needed to keep running.  No more breaks!  I got up the hill (slowly) and headed toward the last part of the race.  On the last stretch there were people that had already finished the 10k or half-marathon and were cheering me on.  All I could think of was getting to the finish and getting an ice cold water to pour on my head and another to drink.  I got across the finish line at 3:06:31 which was good enough to qualify for Boston.  

(here I am getting asked yet another question about my "footwear")

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

omaha corporate cup 9.20.09

My goal for this 10 kilometer race was to break 40 minutes.  It was exactly one week before the marathon so I didn't want to run it too hard and possibly get hurt.  My best time for the 10k until that point was the Corporate Cup 2008 where I ran 41:05.  Last year I chickened out at the last minute and didn't wear my FiveFingers.  I had been training in my Classics for a few weeks but decided I wasn't ready to race in them (although I ran the marathon in them a week later...).  So I really just wanted to break 40 minutes for the first time.

It was a nice, cool morning and I showed up early and went into the seeded runners area.  Actually, before that I stopped by the bathroom and got one of the usual comments about the footwear- "Do you actually run in those?", to which I replied "Yes- all the time!".    The seeded area is nice because there are around 10,000 people there and it allows you to get a little ahead of all the slower runners so you aren't bobbing and weaving around all of them.  I didn't wear a watch for this race- I remembered that they had a couple clocks along the course the I could rely on.  I ran at a pace that was really comfortable and I thought would be just right.  I passed the halfway point right around 19 minutes so I decided that the pace was perfect.  I think I could have run faster, because when I crossed the finish line at 39:21 I felt great (unlike last year when I felt like I was going to pass out).  This must be evidence that more miles = better running economy!