The NB Minimus Approach to Trails

Post contributed by Anna Boom: continuing the discussion on minimalist shoes……

My new favorite running shoe: New Balance Minimus Trail or the WT10


In a previous blog entry, I wrote about the minimalist shoes movement, and introduced you to the Nike Free. New Balance has now jumped into this market with a great new shoe, the Minimus Trail. I have followed this shoe release and waited to see the reviews before buying. That is my style in all purchases, big or small, wait to see what everyone thinks. If you are like me, and have been waiting to see how this shoe performs, don’t wait any longer! This shoe is almost perfection for me, a lover of minimalist running shoe on trail and on road.

I bought these shoes using our WOOT discount, and had them shipped to my aunt’s in Minnesota so they’d be waiting for me when I arrived there in mid-July. Getting a new pair of running shoes is exciting, isn’t it? Once I smell that new shoe odor, I can’t wait to put them on and go for a run, which I did the following morning.

The Minimus Trail has a low profile Vibram sole. All the good things about Vibram FiveFingers with the benefit of having your toes kept together. Nothing to get between the toes of your shoes on trail!! Some of you may also have experienced problems with the toe shoes, specifically with the individual toe fit. If one of your toes is much longer than the others (like my second toe on both feet), the FiveFingers can be irritating as your longer toes rub and you either blister, or stop wearing them. Mine are in the closet. 

The NB WT10 comes in colors white or black, which is the color I bought. Black is great for the mud runs we all must eventually endure here on Okinawa. The inside is very smooth, so much so that you could run sockless. The weight is 7.1 oz. Yes, that is ounces. Unbelievably light. I wore these out on Paintball Plus and they did great on the slippery terrain and on the road. I also ran the Farm Roads and enjoyed most of the run. The larger rocks can hurt when you step on them as there is not much in place to protect the bottoms of your feet.

If you have heard of Anthon Krupicka, he is the spokesman for this new shoe and is a huge proponent of the minimal shoe. The slogan on the shoe is: <=> lss is mor. Kinda catchy! One important note, which I also mentioned in the Running FREE!! blog post: start slowly, please! 

New Balance attaches the following on the shoe:

Caution: This product increases the strain on the foot, calf, and Achilles tendon. Overuse of this product or use of activities outside of running and walking may increase the risk of sustaining injury.
This product should be introduced slowly into a running exercise routine. New Balance recommends limiting initial use to 10% of overall running workouts and very gradually increasing time and distance.”

When have you ever read a Caution statement on your running shoe?

Running FREE!!

Post contributed by Anna Boom

Over the last few years, minimalist running shoes have become very popular. I became intrigued and started running with the Nike Free back in the mid 2000’s. I thought you might also be interested in what the theory behind this new school of shoe is about. A quick wiki search provided a bit of information.

Nike came out with the Free design back in 2004. It was based on training by some track athletes, who were out on the track, running barefoot. One of the theories behind running barefoot is your body was born to run. When you think of the best runners in the world, who comes to mind? Kenyans. And what shoes do they grow up training in? Nikes, Adidas, Asics? Nope. Plain bare feet. This builds their foot, ankle, calf, knee, thigh, body, up to running naturally. Instead of putting on a shoe with more cushion, take away the big soft heel, and train your body to support you.

If you are willing to try this type of low profile shoe, the number one training tip that you must adhere to: start slowly! I am not talking speed, but mileage. Start with walking your kids and dog around the block first, then build up to some speed work, then a short 5Km race. I have heard of and know many runners who put a minimal shoe on, love it and start running the same distances they were in their old bulkier shoe, right out of the gate. This leads to injury so please, please, please start slowly.
When I first put on the Frees, I only walked in them doing my everyday errands. Then I started running shorter week runs in them before building up to the longer weekend runs. I love the Frees and have been running in them for 6 years now.
One note on the Frees: they use a numbering system that indicates the amount of cushion.  One is equivalent to barefoot and twelve is a normal running shoe, so the Nike Free 3.0 is the lowest amount of cushion or the closest they have to no shoe. I have every flavor in the Frees and use them for all types of training runs.
If you want to know more or read a wonderful book, try Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. It was published in 2009 and is about running with minimalist shoes, like Mexico’s Tarahumara tribe, who run in cut up pieces of tires, and Barefoot Ted, who runs in, well you guessed it. Mr. McDougall also delves into the history of why humans are born to run. It is a great read and is soon to be a movie.

Great theory, right? I follow it as do many of you who I see running in Vibrams. Remember though, it is a theory and you need to listen to your body and follow what works for you.

Tarawera Ultramarathon – Race Report

Tarawera Ultramarathon – March 19th 2011
Race day! At 6:45am, I was amongst the huddle of runners eagerly awaiting the verbal cue from the race director to start running. It had rained the previous afternoon and through the night, so it was with great relief that the rain had stopped and my only concerns were the sharp chill in the air and my usual case of pre-race nerves.

Ready to go – all smiles

The first couple of kilometers were slow-going, as everyone made their way uphill in single file. Once the trail opened up however, that’s when Andrea and I started to push forward and find a steady pace. It wasn’t long before we were enjoying the scenery and feeling confident that the day would go well.

Stunning lake views before we had to start climbing

At around the second or third aid station we came across a couple of friendly “kiwi” blokes who struck up a conversation with us as we ran along one of the wider parts of the trail. I keep referring to “we” and “us” because although we didn’t intentionally plan on running together, Andrea and I had come to rely on each other in a way that I think probably only the two of us can really understand. Not only are we compatible as pacing partners, but we also do well at motivating one another. Some would say that our dependency on each other invites certain limitations, but we would say otherwise.

At around the 21k point, where the Millar Road aid station is situated, things began to get tough. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it would be approximately 15k before we saw another aid station, and much of that 15k would consist of arduous climbing that involved mostly walking. Reading back over the website after the race, this section of the course is described by one runner as “perfectly runnable.”  As far as I was concerned, this continuous and often steep stretch of trail was not runnable at all.

By the time Andrea and I reached the 36k aid station at Okataina, we were struggling to remain optimistic about the remaining kilometers we had yet to run. The 15k we had just covered had been much harder than we had anticipated, and in many ways, because of the way we were constantly blindsided by one hill-climb after another, our minds had also taken a beating; it was hard to stay focused and positive.

Furthermore, the descent to Okataina was long and steep, causing our quads to take the full brunt of the impact and rendering them half useless by the time we cleared the forest. If it hadn’t been for the support and cheering we received from my parents, and from mine and Anna’s daughters, I think I may have called it a day and quit.

Happy after seeing my parents and little Jade and Laura, AND after refuelling!
Laura and Jade wishing they could follow us

With 24k to go, I told myself that I had just two easy 10ks to run, followed by an even easier 4k. My father had told me that the worst part of the course was over and that it should be relatively flat and easy from Okataina to Tarawera Falls. I was happy to hear that, but a little skeptical as Andrea and I had heard similar reports about earlier parts of the course and none of them had been true.

The first 10k of the final stage was mostly uphill with some short and sharp descents, and it was on the descents that I started to experience problems with my left IT band. I was now moving at a slow but steady pace, my eyes to the ground and my mind repeating one of several pre-rehearsed mantras. I vaguely remember coming out of my little trance and in that instant being alerted to the fact that it was eerily quiet; I was startled when I realized that Andrea was no longer behind me.

With less than maybe 15k to go, I wearily moved forward, praying with every step that God would give me the strength to keep going. There were moments when the pain in my leg was so intense that I questioned whether I would make it. I also felt completely isolated at times, and afraid that I might have missed one of the trail markers. Hence it was with great relief when I saw the final aid station in front of me, and also the two men who had befriended Andrea and I earlier in the race.

I had only 5k to go now, but the pain in my leg had caused me to lean heavily on one side, so my movement had slowed significantly. Several runners overtook me in this final stage of the race, but as I hobbled around the last bend towards the finishing corral, I ignored the pain in my leg and ran.

No tears, no self-pity, no regrets. Just sheer admiration and respect for all the runners who make up the relatively small community of ultramarathoners; a community I can proudly say, that through a test of extreme physical and mental strength, I have now been initiated into.

First ultramarathon completed – 23rd overall in a field of 65 and 6th female in a field of 25

Ultramarathon Series – Part Two

Part Two – Training recommences, injuries and all!

The week after I hurt my ankle I had to allow some time for recovery without losing too much of the cardiovascular fitness I had so far gained. In order to do so, I took a few days off from running and chose instead to exercise on a stationary bicycle. I also decided to pay a visit to Dr. Hamid’s chiropractic clinic in the hopes that he might be able to correct any misalignment problems that might have been causing my reoccurring leg injuries. After assessing my swollen ankle and treating me with a few minor adjustments, Dr. Hamid felt confident that I could resume my training within a few days, provided I apply both ice and heat packs to reduce the swelling. I ran my next set of long runs several days later with my ankle still strapped in a brace, and by the following weekend I was able to lose the brace altogether.

The first weekend in February called for a 3 hour run on Saturday, followed by a 3.5 hour run on Sunday. I was registered to run a half marathon on the Sunday however, and so to modify my training and still reap the benefits of two back-to-back long runs, I decided to run 4 hours on Friday, rest on Saturday, and race on Sunday. Andrea and I ran the 4 hours together on Friday, and not without having to take frequent snack breaks and walk the occasional hill. Saturday was a complete day of rest and by Sunday I was feeling ready to run again, although apprehensive at the same time. For some reason I always suffer from pre-race jitters and self-doubt; not doubt that I can run and finish the race but doubt that I have the ability to run as well as I would like, or as well as others expect me to run. On some occasions I live up to my own expectations, but more often than not I end up surprising myself.
The Nago Half Marathon was one of those races where I ended up surprising myself; I not only shaved four minutes off my PR, but I also finished three minutes ahead of my goal time,  placed 6th in my age division, and 2nd in the foreign female division. Having just completed a 4 hour long run two days prior, I was not expecting to run as well as I did.

Before the Nago Half Marathon – Anna came up to support me and run some trails while I raced

The next weekend was a tapering weekend with shorter long runs of 2 hours on Saturday and 2.5 hours on Sunday. We needed the rest because the weekend after that was going to require fresh legs and a lot of conserved energy. We had a 5 hour run scheduled for Friday, followed by the Okinawa Marathon on Sunday. Call us crazy, but we decided a few days before the marathon that rather than run the race as if we were on a training run, we would try instead to run it in under 3:45; this would be a Boston qualifying time for all three of us.

Friday’s 5 hour run completely exhausted me and left me feeling unsure about our goal for Sunday’s race, and by Sunday I felt even less confident. It was raining the morning of the marathon, and I felt tired, cold and depressed as we made our way on the shuttle bus to the starting point. Anna and Andrea helped to alleviate some of my nervous energy however, when the three of us fell into fits of laughter after taking goofy-looking pictures of ourselves on the bus. Our silly antics significantly brightened my mood, and then Anna said something that took root in my mind, “You know girls, the faster you run, the sooner you’ll be done.”

Goofing around in the back-row seats of the shuttle bus

I’m not sure if Anna’s words are responsible for what happened that day, but all three of us girls made our Boston qualifying time, finishing in consecutive 3:34 and 3:36 times (Anna crossed the finish line first, with Andrea and I right behind her crossing the line at the same time). We were the 2nd, 3rd  and 4th foreign females to finish and I later found out that I placed 2nd in the 40 to 49 year old female division, consequently earning an additional medal.  I was of course elated at the outcome of our race performance, but once again shocked and surprised. It was difficult to comprehend what we had just done given how mentally and physically exhausted we had felt before the race. 

Feeling tired but thrilled with our results

While the marathon was undoubtedly a great victory for us, it came at a cost. For me, the cost came in the form of more swelling, this time around my left ankle and up into the calf area. My right calf and hamstring had started hurting at around mile 13 of the marathon, so to take the weight off my right side I began to lean more on my left side. I suspect that was probably the cause of my latest injury, and while I am not certain of that, the fact remained that I was facing yet another injury and the ultra was now just four weeks away. I also had another huge training weekend ahead of me; a 5 hour run scheduled for Friday, followed by a 4 hour run on Saturday.

Andrea and I struggled on our next 5 hour run, barely making it back to our cars, and the next morning Anna and I only managed to run for 3 hours while Andrea stopped after just a couple of hours due to lower back pain. We were all beat up and tired by this stage in our training, and a few weeks of tapering was what we were all in need of and more than ready to embrace. Several of my runs over the next couple of weeks showed just how fatigued I really was, as my breathing felt very labored and on one of my runs I had to stop after just 2 miles when I almost fainted.
The final week before we left for New Zealand arrived with even more setbacks. Anna was studying for an IT exam which required intensive study time, Andrea’s husband had left on a sudden deployment a few weeks earlier leaving her to adapt to a new and busier routine as a single parent, and I was tied up with a friend visiting from New Zealand followed by a couple of days away with my husband who was getting ready to leave on a two month work assignment. Finding time to run during this period was impossible for all three of us, but we each resigned ourselves to believing that a few missed runs wouldn’t undo all of our hard work.

As race day drew nearer, and my nerves were a constant reminder of the enormous challenge we were about to undertake, I was able to take comfort in the words of the race director who spoke to us at our pre-race orientation. He reminded us all that while it was indeed a race for many of us, it was also a race that would take us along some of the most beautiful and scenic trails in the world and we should enjoy every moment of it. His words were simple yet profound, and it suddenly dawned on me that race day wasn’t a day to fear, but a day to look forward to.

Part three to follow next week…..

This week’s ultratraining tip:
Set aside some extra funds to go towards recuperative and injury-prevention treatments such as deep-tissue massage, acupuncture, and chiropratic adjustments. Training for an ultramarathon takes an incredible toll on the body and extra care and attention to tired muscles and joints is mandatory if you want to stay injury-free and recover quickly from training runs. Some self-care techniques you can do yourself at home include taking ice baths after long runs, using a foam roller or tennis ball to massage tender spots, and using ice and heat pads to help reduce inflammation.

Ultramarathon Series – Part One

Some of you ladies have been enquiring lately about running an ultramarathon and the type of training one should do to prepare for such long distance runs. I don’t have all the answers for you but so that you may get a glimpse into the type of mindset and physical endurance you will need to tackle any of type of ultra-distance event, I am going to post a three-part series of journal entries that I wrote about the New Zealand ultramarathon I raced in earlier this year.

Part One – Am I Crazy To Consider Running an Ultramarathon?
I’m not entirely sure when I first started toying with the idea of running an ultramarathon, but I can say that it was probably after Anna and some of the other ladies returned from Mongolia last July and I heard the great news that Anna had done exceptionally well in the 100k event. I remember feeling incredibly proud of her accomplishment, yet void of any inclination to want to run an ultramarathon (which is why I am unable to determine when exactly I started to think otherwise). In all honesty, my decision was most likely influenced by the simple fact that the same group of girls who traveled to Mongolia, were also willing to travel to my homeland in New Zealand and run an ultramarathon in the northern part of the country. So here I am,
just weeks away from running my first ultra, and I’m wondering if I have got myself into something I’ll later regret. The thing is, I want to believe that my latest running endeavor is perfectly normal and not nearly as extreme as some people have suggested, but sadly I haven’t reached that conclusion, yet!

See, here is the dilemma I face – recently I received an email from one of my daughter’s high school teachers, asking me to clarify the difference between a marathon and an ultramarathon. The following dialogue is what ensued:

Me:An ultramarathon is officially any race distance further than the marathon distance of 26.2 miles (approx. 40k). There are various ultramarathon distances, with perhaps the more common race distances being 50 miles and 100k (62 miles) – I am running 60k on trails.

Teacher:I can’t help but wonder what the human body is capable of? When we push ourselves to physical and/or mental limits, at what point will the body or mind self destruct?

Me:Well, let’s see…… given that I am a 40 year old woman with a clean bill of health, both physically and mentally (according to my physician’s most recent assessment), and the only “bad” habit I supposedly have is my love of running, then I’m willing to take that gamble. Life is too short to spend it doing things that are neither meaningful or enjoyable, and if seeing the world by running along some of the most beautiful trails enables me to avoid such a tragic lifestyle, then that is how I will continue to live my life – at least as long as my mind and body enables me to and doesn’t “self-destruct.”

Teacher:Interesting thoughts. I have a lot of admiration for people like yourself who push themselves for excellence and live life rather than stagnate and become part of the growing population of the living dead. At 63, if my wife and I could climb Mt. Fuji together that would be quite an accomplishment for me. I’ve always wanted to do that. I find your life philosophy very inspiring. One that I strive to emulate. Keep on, keeping on.

I cannot deny that I felt a certain sense of smugness when my daughter’s teacher conceded to my way of thinking, but that feeling lasted just a few days and ended when the weekend rolled around with long runs planned for both Saturday and Sunday. Having successfully completed back-to-back long runs the weekend before, I wouldn’t have felt so miserable about the runs that lay ahead except for the fact that it was wet, windy, and damn cold!

Saturday’s run was looking to be bad enough with the harsh weather conditions, but since Anna was going to be joining us I knew that it was going to be a tough run for Andrea and I. Anna has a tendency to push us out of our comfort zones, a trait of hers we often “affectionately” criticize her for but which we also accept is needed from time to time. This particular morning we were in no mood for any type of motivational tauntings, and so it was with great relief when Anna left us after the first hour and a half to go lead the fast pack on our scheduled WOOT run.

With Saturday’s run under our belt and a sense of achievement at having successfully completed the full three and half hours in less-than-desirable weather conditions, Andrea and I tried to remain positive about the three hour run we faced the very next morning. During the remainder of the day and into the night however,  the wind and rain picked up and by Sunday morning I felt depressed at having to get up. My mind sent a barrage of negative messages to my tired body, not realizing that such negative self-talk would culminate in an even worse run than I imagined. As I prepared to head out the door, I pathetically checked my email inbox one more time desperately hoping that Andrea may have had the good sense to cancel our run; no such luck.

Decked out in long winter-layered running pants, a wind-breaker jacket, thick gloves, and a baseball cap which gratefully steered the raindrops down over the visor and away from my face, I met Andrea and together we set out to brave the nasty elements. We were perhaps no more than twenty minutes into our run when the first hint of pain registered in my right ankle. Not willing to yield to defeat so early into our run, I  refused to acknowledge its presence and consequently spent the following two days with my right foot strapped in an ankle brace and me starting to wonder if I might have slightly misled my daughter’s teacher with my “life is too short” spiel.

Part two to follow next week…..

This week’s ultratraining tip:
Choose a hydration pack that is able to store enough water and food supplies to keep you well-fueled for at least a three-hour period. The one that Anna, myself and Andrea used was the Camelbak Octane – the main appeal of this particular pack was that it has side pockets which we could easily access without having to take the pack off. One thing we will all attest to is that after running for more than five or six hours, something as simple as taking off a pack to remove food supplies quickly becomes burdensome and difficult.

Watch for specials at the BX – this camelbak retails for more than $50 or $60 but we picked them up on sale for less than $30.