December 19, 2014

5 Things I'm Not Doing For Christmas


I'm a couple hours away from pulling the plug at the office and enjoying two weeks of absolute dirtbag delight, at last! As I'm slowly drifting further from my responsibilities, I thought I'd remind myself of a few, very important things. So here's my Holiday's NOT To Do List :)





1. Plan
I refuse to plan anything. I don't care what date or time it is. I am going to daydream the living lights out of every day, and savour my stillness.

2. Binge on food
Seriously. What the hell is wrong with us? Where did the idea of fun from overeating come from? Rather, I'll take copious amounts of time shopping for ingredients and preparing delicious meals I don't always the time for when I'm in the rat race we call daily life.

3. Buy stuff
The last thing I need is... more things. If and when I buy new stuff, I remove other stuff first and, if possible, I remove more than I add. Concrete example : to my great dismay, my XBox 360 blew up dead a couple days ago. I relunctantly replaced it with the newer model (No point in replacing a product that is planned to be obsolete in a year or so), but in doing so I sold all the games I had, gave away all the extra accessories and basically emptied my gaming drawer. Since the new machine also plays DVDs, I am giving away my DVD player to someone who needs it.

4. Shop
Chances are you probably have gone to a shopping mall or a big store lately. Have you noticed the insanity? Frenzied, stressed out people running all over the place like their pants are on fire. No thanks.

5. Work
The biggest risk of staying home instead of travelling is getting caught up in trying to do things around the house that you never get to do. Unless it's some sort of fun or it allows me to improve quality of life, I'm not going to get drowned in little tasks that'll gnaw away at my off time.

6. Follow through
I want to allow myself to not finish anything I don't feel li





December 14, 2014

Hiatus

Were you wondering where the hell I'd gone? Had you noticed I didn't post anything since October? Maybe you were doing just fine without me and barely noticed I kinda dropped off the radar...

:)

Well, the truth is, I wasn't in the mood for writing. Partly because my life has been a little crazy. Mostly, however, because I was experiencing pain and injuries with my running for the first time in years.

I thought I was done with that knee crap. I thought my learning of proper form, through barefoot running a couple years ago, had "cured" my posture for good. I thought I now had the luxury to run in shoes, and to run as much as I wanted.

I was served an electrifying reminder for the first time at Crown King Scramble, last spring. Knee pain, the exact same type as the one I used to feel when I was trying to become a runner, in my 20's, wearing heavily motion-controlled shoes. But it didn't hit me at the time.

Then, it happened again at the Pandora 24. I wanted to go for 100-120K, and dropped at 60. Knee pain. I brushed it off as being not that bad, having gone at least some distance on a moderately difficult terrain.

On a subsequent couple-hours trail run, I came back limping. Knee pain.

Then I tried a run commute from my Belle's down to the office... and stopped 3K in. You guessed it. Knee pain again.

I started feeling the same frustration I had felt years before, when I wanted to scream into the wind "Why does everyone else seem to be able to run and not me? What have I done? Why? Why can't I run?" I felt desperate, and I felt sad. The one thing I really love, running free, was slowly escaping me.

Having a lot of time on my hands to reflect and think, I eventually realized that there might have been a number of things that I'd done wrong and which led to this point :
  • I was now running in shoes full time (sometimes in sandals);
  • I changed shoes a lot (partly because I test them for the blog);
  • My sabbatical allowed me to run 17 ultras in a year, whereas I usually run 3 to 5;
  • I trained less and less, relying more on the distance ran in events;
  • I quit yoga because I lost my favorite teacher;
  • The more I ran, the less I stretched;
  • My two dear therapists had been thousands of miles away because of my travels.
I needed to be back running, and I was ready to do whatever it takes to get there. I also felt a need to be the artisan of my own recovery, to be responsible for the solution as much as I had been responsible for the problem. So I did the only thing I could think of.

I decided to go back to basics.

I took several weeks completely off. No running. No commuting. Then, when I started to head back out again, I did very small distances to start with. 2, maybe 3K. I also did them on flat grounds, and wearing as little as possible on my feet, which is a pair of New Balance Minimus MT100, and not wearing socks.

I almost immediately started feeling better.

That got me thinking even more. This couldn't be a simple coincidence. Had I strayed too far from barefoot running? Had my posture slowly slacked off to the point where my running form had degraded and left too much room for very old, bad habits to come back?

Early on, as I started to rebuild from almost scratch, I asked my favorite massage therapist, Josie, for a professional opinion. She was completing a kinesiotherapy course and needed guinea pigs at that time, so it was a win-win. She also knew a little about my predicament because she was part of the support crew at the Pandora. I was a little shocked when she gave me her diagnosis; my left foot (specifically the arch and ankle) was weak and my kneecaps were yanked out of place by an unbalanced muscle structure in my upper legs. She suggested I do... barefoot exercises.

I didn't need any more nudging.

As late fall and winter were bringing bad, cold weather outside, I subscribed to a gym that accepted I run barefoot on the treadmill, and started to get back into a "training regimen" of at least 2 sessions per week, rapidly building up to 3. Most of my running was done that way and I started going from 10-15 minutes of running up to about 30, without any physical issue other than the hot spots I get under my feet from the treadmill's textured belt (Been there, I know I'll slowly build a skin resistance to it).

I added stretching at the end of my training, too. And I started working barefoot on a balance plate, mostly doing things I found both challenging and fun - like moving down to a full squat while trying to stay balanced. Maybe 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

After a couple months of that mix, I can't really claim I'm fixed, but things are sure going in the right direction. Over the course of the last 3 weeks, I've added an outside long run, then a second one, and another up to the point where I did my first serious back-to-back (1h10 treadmill, 2 hours + winter trail running) last Friday and Saturday. Pain free. With a huge freaking grin on my face :)

So this is what's been happening. I have been back to full barefoot running for about 70-75% of my weekly mileage for some weeks now, and I have to acknowledge the improvement and the encouraging progression in my running over the painful experiences of last summer. It looks a lot like barefoot running is getting my body back on track, and back to being able to do what I love most; running long, and free.

I will spend the rest of the winter experimenting with barefoot and shod running, looking for the right mixture. But I already know that whatever happens, I won't ever stray too far from running barefoot again. It's just... bad for me.

What about you?

As a runner, do you mix barefoot and shod running? And how has that worked out?





Ma course s'est déconstruite jusqu'au bord du désespoir... Mais j'y ai redécouvert la course barefoot, et je reviens progressivement à un équilibre qui me permet de faire ce que j'aime le plus au monde. Courir libre, et aussi longtemps que je le veux.

October 24, 2014

Review : Inov-8 Race Ultra

http://www.inov-8.com/new/global/Product-View-RaceUltra-290-Black-Blue-Mens-AW14.html
  • Type : Standard
  • Use : Trail running
  • Price : $130

Introduction
I tried my first pair of inov-8 shoes in the Arizona desert and was immediately impressed. I loved the underfoot protection and the grip, while the shoe, overall, felt light and fast. I wore it only two or three times, because when I got to Urique, I realized my Raramuri friend Javier had torn through his last pair of shoes. “Try these ones”, I said, handing out my Trailroc 235’s. He keeps the shoes that he likes; needless to say, I never got to wear them again :)

When my Race Ultra came in the mail, I was a little surprised to see how much thicker it was, and the 8-mm drop worried me a little bit. The shoe itself felt awesome in my feet and reminded me of the La Sportiva Cross Lite, one of the staples in my shoe cabinet. I had a race coming up, so I thought “Let’s try something new!”

Trail Test
I took the inov-8’s to the gorgeous Pandora 24 course, out here in Quebec. It’s one of the most technical terrains we have available, with ever-changing ground that swings from muddy mess to rocky pitches, and everything in-between.

I immediately felt that this shoe is built for the long run. What it loses in ground feel, it gains in overall comfort. This is way more cushiony than what you might expect of an inov-8, yet the added height doesn’t get in the way. Typically, and that’s what I usually dislike about thicker shoes, a bulkier outsole elevates my foot too much away from the ground and I end up twisting an ankle.

The grip is as good as it gets; whether I jumped down on shaky rocks or quickstepped through slippery mud, my feet never slid. I felt secure and in control. This is a key element for me, as it allows me to build enough confidence to increase or maintain speed over trickier segments in the trail.

My mudcaked Race Ultras, after a go on the Pandora course
Analysis
I have yet to run an ultra in these shoes, so I can’t say for sure whether the added cushioning proves relevant in the long run. After two hours in the woods, and on a fairly wet day, I was happy with the grip and the stability of the Race Ultras, although I did miss a little bit of the fast and nimble feeling I experienced with the slimmer, meaner Trailroc.

The lacing is precise and the upper material allows for enough extension that you don’t need to re-lace in the middle of your run. This is a true trail shoe, no doubt about it. Plus, with fall in full effect and winter at the door, I get the feeling the Race Ultra will be my shoe of choice for winter running, with its great combination of grip, thicker sole and a beefier upper.

Conclusion
If you like to have a wide choice of shoes to choose from, I think the inov-8 Race Ultra could definitely find a spot in the thicker, souped-up end of your range. It is definitely built for long outings, while still offering outstanding grip and stability, something not a lot of shoes in this segment can gloat about. Moreover, if you have to deal with winter running, the Race Ultra has everything you need to keep warm, standing upright and smiling… through your frozen beard ;)

High points
  • Excellent grip
  • Upper material is flexible and comfy
  • Behaves admirably on varying terrain
  • Very likely to become my winter running shoe of choice
  • “Ethical approach” to manufacturing which respects both workers and the environment

Low points
  • Bulkier than what I usually wear
  • I would’ve liked a 4-mm drop option



The equipment for this personal review was supplied by inov-8, free of charge, without any conditions.