The 3 Elements Of Trail Running – Brief Thoughts After #BareFootLeJog Part 1

I finished at 10pm on the 2nd of September after a 53 mile day in 10 hours of running.  This was the day after, having had a nice evening of celebrating with the traditional Scottish beverage.

I finished at 10pm on the 2nd of September after a 53 mile day in 10 hours of running. This was the day after, having had a nice evening of celebrating with the traditional Scottish beverage. ¬†There’s nothing like making fun of yourself with a proper wolly pose ūüėČ

Sean Conway, having completed his JogLe posted an article called the 4 elements of trail running.  At the time, I was in the process of putting the final pieces of my LeJog in place, so I read with interest and even added an additional element.

Travelling for 38 days, carrying what you need to survive tends to provide you with lots of time to ponder ephemeral ideas like the nature of endurance or how we escape from that dark place we sometimes find ourselves as ultra runners.  The whole elements of trail running seemed to stick in my head and it seemed to me that there are actually 3 elements to focus on.  The 4 Sean Conway mentions are actually breakdowns of these 3 elements and having complete LeJog, barefooted and unsupported in 38 days, I think I can put my thoughts down (38 days is a long time to think!).

The first element, although they are all of equal importance is mechanics. ¬†I’m referring to the understanding of how you move as a person and developing the efficiency of this movement. ¬†I felt I was reasonably efficient when I ran or walked, but on the 5th day I found I was moving far better than day one. ¬†Maybe it was getting used to the 8kg pack or even the breakfast I ate, but regardless, running along the Devon section of the South West Coast path felt more fluid that running ever had. ¬†Later I was using what I knew about physiology (research in book like Anatomy for Runners and various podcasts and websites) and I would then treat the problem and alter my movement as consciously as I could to prevent the problem. ¬†My hips would hurt near the end of the trip and so I dealt with them by working on my quads that were causing the problem. ¬†The was one problem early on that could have ended the barefoot LeJog adventure after just 5 days. ¬†I¬†was thrown off my feet by the gales of day 2 and had a lovely bruised lump on the top of my left foot. ¬†We compensate for injury, no matter how small and alter our mechanics, and mine caused severe tendentious at the join between my Achilles and my Soleous muscle.

This was hard to deal with and then leads to the second element, mentality. ¬†We train our bodies when we take on long distance running (well, any length of running or exercise) but how often do we train our brains? ¬†Day 6 was a difficult day. ¬†I had nothing to do, I could barely walk around and the time seemed to be used by my brain to think about failure. ¬†I realised a few days after that I wasn’t looking into that dark place but I had fallen in. ¬†The people who had virtually joined in, donated money and spoken to me at races before LeJog became a whole host of people I was going to let down. ¬†Then the phone buzzed and a friend sent me a message that threw my own words into my face…

“You either do something or you don’t. ¬†There’s no trying to do something”

I’d like to thank Master Yoda for that pearl of wisdom, but it had a massive impact on me. ¬†I genuinely believed those words when I spoke them and they seemed to trigger some kind of flow state. ¬†The rest of the run was rescheduled so that I had several weeks of short days and I set my mind to getting as far as I could. ¬†I think this is the part of our mentality as ultra runners that we need to celebrate and keep building. ¬†We can enter these flow states and become problem solving machines, but it seems to take utter immersion in what we’re doing and slight changes to our environment to trigger them. ¬†The other part of the mentality that is equally as important is acknowledging the suck! ¬†We know when things are bad, but we don’t always acknowledge them. ¬†I reached a point near the end of the trip where I would just admit I was tired, admit I needed to stop and once I did this, solving the problem seemed to be easier, whether it was related to physical or mental tiredness. ¬†Mental tiredness tended to end in a quick snooze and the physical tiredness was in some cases completely removed by knowing what to eat.

Above Malham Cove.  One of the best climbs of the trip with some awesome limestone slabs to bounce around on.

Above Malham Cove. One of the best climbs of the trip with some awesome limestone slabs to bounce around on.

Now comes the third element which is metabolism. ¬†By this I’m not just referring to what we eat, but how our bodies utilises water and the food we put in. ¬†After 2 weeks, I was barely eating anything. ¬†I would mix a bottle of tailwind up (2 scoops in 600ml) and this would last me for half a days worth of moving, followed by a refill and then an evening meal. ¬†Admittedly I was staying aerobic for most of the time, but even on the occasions where the trail was tremendous and it would be a sin not to unleash for just a few miles, I didn’t seem to need the extra fuel that we are told we need. ¬†I would go into shops after 20-30 miles and what I purchased was specific. ¬†I even left a fair few shops with no extra food and just water, even though I knew the day after would be a long one without any form of food stops. ¬†Now this is all diet based, but there is the side of metabolism that relates to what fuels we burn whilst moving and it really did seem to boil down to fat as fuel and glucose as a minor top up. ¬†I must have been doing something right though since I lost 10lbs over all, which was 4% of body fat with a 2% muscle gain. ¬†I was hoping to at least lose enough to get that coveted six pack!

Two days after I restarted (day 9) I was lucky enough to be given a bag of left over roast potatoes and a nice lunch they made too.

Two days after I restarted (day 9) I was lucky enough to be given a bag of left over roast potatoes and a nice lunch they made too.

Now I’ve been really brief with these elements, since I have lots of thoughts on each one, in particular the mechanics and mentality elements. ¬†They are what made the trip as successful and for the majority of time a joy to do.

What was or wasn’t on my feet aside, once I got my head around the mentality and mechanics elements the metabolism seemed to be second nature. ¬†If something hurt, I would hunt for the source of that pain, whether it was poor movement, tight muscles or the distribution of weight in my pack. ¬†Aches and pains that I was getting seemed to go, new ones developed until I found their source and they would be banished too.

It’s time to round this off as the first part. ¬†These 3 elements deserve a little more time, so I’ll be working on my thoughts some more and posting about them as distinct ideas, but as far as the LeJog write up goes, this is part 1 of a possible 3.

Hope you found something useful or interesting in this post.

They’re Not Flip-flops! They’re Sandals! A Love Affair With Nylon & Rubber

  As odd as it seems, I tend to get more comments when running in my Lunas than I do running barefoot.  Maybe it’s the utter disbelief that someone would actually run with no shoes on that stops the comments, but regardless, there seems to be something about wearing them that attracts people attention.

Now, I’ve tried huarache sandals in the past, and I really didn’t like them, but something about the Lunas kept catching my attention.  Maybe it was the fact that I’d read about Barefoot Ted and seen some of the videos he’s posted on the internet, maybe it was the fact that they just looked and sounded good to run in, or maybe it was all the positive reviews I read.  Either way, I’ve ended up with a few pairs (3 to be exact) and really do enjoy running in them.

Running barefoot is not like running in barefoot style shoes.  You may think your stride and movements are the same, but I’ve grown to realise that actually…  They aren’t!

So what makes Lunas different, and why have I considered them as a sound footwear choice in case I need them between the 26th of July and whenever it is I finish this adventure?

  1. They are just simply comfortable!  There’s no more to it than that on this score.
  2. They don’t seem to effect the way I run.  This has actually surprised me, especially since comparing the wear pattern on the bottom of my sandals, they are actually different to the wear pattern on my “barefoot” shoes.
  3. Your feet don’t get that nasty trenched look if you are running in wet, boggy terrain.
  4. Blisters are a thing of the past!
  5. They are super easy to put on and take off.
  6. Grit is easily removed and mud between your foot and the foot bed (which is a problem) is solved by running through puddles.
  7. There is more toe space than any other shoe.  I know this is obvious, but I think this is the key to getting your movement mechanics right.
  8. They last around 1000-2000 miles!  This is ridiculous to me.  I’ve spent so much money on shoes that generally last me around 200-300 mile of running, which is actually only a coupe of months max.  These cost less than the average shoe and last 3-5 times longer.
  9. You get to call yourself a Lunatic.

I could keep going on an on about how great they are, but they are the main points that make them so good if you are wanting to go minimal.  Over the next week or so, I am going to have to make a decision about which sandals I am taking with me on my journey, so I guess the next thing to do is to write a little post about each one and the reasons behind my eventual choice.

Barefoot Ted…..  Thanks for going to that canyon and learning how to make these bad boys!  They really are amazing to run in ūüôā

Self Perpetuating Motivational Device

In all the training, organising potential sponsorship, contacting people regarding potential talks post run and getting the equipment sorted, I completely forgot that there is a Land’s End to John O’Groats Association. ¬†This is what their site says about becoming a member:

“Anyone who has completed the journey From Land’s End to John o’ Groats in either direction, by whatever means of transport is eligible for membership of the Association.¬† You will have to have completed your trip as a single journey no matter how long that takes and you will be asked to provide evidence of a properly completed trip¬†which could be in the form of a diary or log book with signatures from anyone who has witnessed your trip.¬†¬†Many places, garages, post offices etc¬†have a date stamp and will be happy to stamp and sign your log.¬† Other¬†acceptable forms are accommodation receipts or similar which show where you were at any particular time and date.”¬†

The¬†idea of carrying a small book that is then stamped, signed or is used to collect some kind sign of my passing is really appealing. ¬†One of my favourite pieces of art is by the artist On kawara. ¬†He went on a journey and would send a postcard home that simply said “I am still alive”. ¬†Without getting deep and philosophical he was questioning his own existence.

So here’s what I plan on doing.

I’m going to purchase one of my favourite makes of notebooks, a Moleskine. ¬†On the 26th of July, in the Early hours of a Sunday morning, I’m going to carry this small book and along the journey I’m going to collect items that I can store in this little book, and for each item title them with the date and time. ¬†It is a little arty I guess, but as a personal piece of memorabilia, it’s going to priceless.

It’s the little things that cause out memories to jolt into action and let us relive moments in the past, so this is going to be my little memory jogger, and it’ll give a second goal to focus on whilst moving persistently forward.

I guess that’s what this post is about….

I’ve found a way of redirecting my focus at times when I will be low and struggling. ¬†The book really can’t go unfinished!

I’ve already planned one or two of the Scottish pages. ¬†They will be filled with the daed bodies of midges ūüėČ

The Point Of No Return

Ive read a few book that are true stories about some incredible acts of human survival, and I’ve wandered what they must have had running through their minds.

I’ve asked these questions of others and myself…

“When do you know you’re ready?”

“What happens if you fail whilst under the watchful eyes of others?”

I think I’ve reached a point where I can answer both.  Oddly, it’s dawned on me not when running, but when revisiting my old hobby of Tai Chi.

How do I know that I’m ready?

It’s hard to put into to words, but in short, there’s a certain clarity to my thinking and I know that even when utterly destroyed from a previous days running that I can still move and my body will respond by becoming more fluid with each step.  I know I can embrace the dark moments of doubt and use my persistent forward motion to break through them.  Staying in the moment, listening to the feedback my body provides and acting as much on instinct as is possible.

Then there’s the whole issue of failure.

This is the second part of knowing you are ready.  You accept failure.  The Hagakura (samurai code) describes the perfect samurai mentality as one who has already accepted death.  A little morbid, I agree, but I’m ready to fail, learn, train and repeat the whole thing in the following year.  It is something I will keep trying till it is done and borrowing the words of Edison, I will learn 99 ways not to run 1206 miles in barefeet and one way to do it. 

Enjoy your day ūüėä

Something From The Weekend

Trail Running magazines editor got in touch and it ended with a mini email interview.  Now, this isn’t my usual cup of tea, but as some have said and I agree, the summer challenge isn’t really about me.  It’s about raising money and awareness to help those that are unfortunate enough to be effected by strokes. 

Part two of the interview was to get some pictures to go with the article.  Tricky task, considering everyone who could have run with me and help with the pictures were away.  So, tripod was strapped to my running pack and off I went.

  
I need to keep improving my metabolic efficiency, so instead of lots of food and Tailwind, I look one bottle of Tailwind, with the intention of refilling the bottle half way through training.  

13 miles of glorious weather, lots of stopping and using the timer option on my camera.  Eventually this whole stopping and starting wore a little thin, camera and tripod were packed away and I ran the last miles without stopping for pictures.  Here’s the result of all that stopping and starting…

          

Hopefully they are what the magazine is after, and lookout for the article in the July edition.  Fingers crossed it actually does some good in terms of raising money and raising the profile of the run.

With 77 days left before I start running from Land’s End, training is going to get harder, more targeted and take a lot more time.  Just as well I enjoy being out and running.  Otherwise, this whole venture would be horrendous. ūüėä

Grand Week Of Training

So far a solid 70 miles in the bag, with a mix of aerobic and anaerobic training.  Today 10kg weighted vest 5 miler was tough, but if it doesn’t kill me it’ll make me stronger.

I keep repeating the same things in my head.  Is 1206 miles barefoot going to be achievable in 6 weeks?  Will I fail?  How will I cope physically after so many days of high mileage?

To dispel the doubts I searched for some runspiration and found some quotes of achieving the impossible.  Time to switch mindset ūüôā

  

Testing Out Plan C #BareFootLeJog

Normally, a bank holiday involves a lie in, lazy morning and then possibly a visit to the local boozer.  I need to cut down on the alcohol so, 4am start to the day, couple of coffees and out the door.

Was shown a super route around Lathkill Dale, which is a mere 10 miles from me, but an area I’ve never run!!  

Post 11 miles leg teaser, a little Easter Sunday polish food left overs and back to Buxton, to pick up a local runner for a mini route recce.  A little bit of slow adventuring, some of my favourite running places finally got linked up in reality and then some lunch.  So, slightly shy of 20 miles in and I’m leading a trail run with Buxton AC runners.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an incredible display of lights from my favourite burning ball of gas…

The Sun ūüėä

Plan C for the barefoot 120 miler this summer is 28-33 miles, which if I feel as I do today, after training, then it should be doable.  Now I’m just going to repeat today’s shenanigans tomorrow to see what happens to my legs on Wednesday.  

And I’m completely in love with my Luna Venado sandals.   They are really not meant for trails, but now that they’ve started to bed and mould to my feet, they are just amazing! 

Here’s some snaps from my phone to prove how great a day it’s been