Friday, 9 December 2011

I've only gone and blown it

Well, the pain in my right foot got worse.  On Thursday I could barely walk - any sort of flexing of the toes on my right foot was incredibly painful.

This morning I've been to A&E and been told I have a stress fracture on my second metarsal.  It doesn't show on the x-ray - apparently they don't until several days later.  I've got to go back for another x-ray on the 22nd Dec to see the extent of the damage.  Walking is definitely easier today, but there is a slight swelling on the top of my foot, along with a little redness (not much mind you - I don't think you could tell unless you were looking).  What matters is that it hurts to walk, so running is obviously out of the question.

At least I don't have to wear a cast (which would be exceedingly difficult to manage with three children), so I'm grateful for that.

What have I learnt?  During my transition to Fivefingers I have listened carefully to my muscles.  I started with less than a mile in distance, and built up over the course of four weeks to just under 3 miles.  I only ran a couple of times a week to give my calves a chance to rest.  What I didn't realise is that apparently it takes bones longer to strengthen than it does for muscles, so whilst I was doing the right thing as far as retraining my muscles, I failed to take my poor toe bones into account.  They've been protected by rubber and fabric for as long as I've been running, and have never had to flex and react like they do in my fives.

I guess the most annoying thing is that there was no real warning that this was going to happen - unlike muscles and joints which feel over tired and achey or they twinge when the damage is starting, this happened over the space of half a mile, and I will always be fearful of it happening again.

I feel a bit silly, and like I've let myself down.  I was cautious, but obviously not enough.  I will definitely go back to my Fivefingers once my bones have healed (and perhaps, just perhaps, the doctor is wrong and it's just a strain), but I will be very, very careful in the future to build up very slowly.

I'll be back... 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

One step back

As runners, I think we all except that it's often a case of two steps forward, one step back.  Well, today I had my first step back since getting my Fivefingers.

Last Sunday I did just under 3 miles - my longest run so far in my fives. My calves really felt like that were burning by the end, but there were no lasting ill effects.

Today is Wednesday, and I set off for a 3-miler. It was quite cold, though not freezing.  I did notice initially that the bones in my feet felt 'cold' and in need of warming up and easing in. After a mile they felt ok, though still a little stiff.

As the second mile crept on, I developed a definite pain in my right foot. It felt like it was on the sole of my foot, behind my 2nd and 3rd toes. It hurt every time I pushed off on my toes. I ended up walking much of the mile and a half back - something I almost never do on a run.

On my return, I've had a good prod around, and the pain seems to be coming from the bone (metatarsal?) belonging to my second toe: it hurts if I press it. I'm guessing this is a result of running much more on the forefront of my foot.

So, a sad day for fives, and I'll need to do a few shorter runs again now before I take those next two steps forward.... But I will take them, so keep watching!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Beginning to change

Just been for a three mile run in my regular trainers.  I felt it pretty much straight away in my shins.  Don't get me wrong... I'm not suggesting for one minute that I'm already converted to my fives, but I can definitely feel a change taking place.

What I'm noticing is that my footfall seems really heavy - it's as though my heel is digging into the road with every step, much like when you land heavily on your foot in a pothole.  And on several occasions I found the aching in my shins so annoying that I deliberately transferred to a forefront technique just to give them a rest, something that I would have felt totally unnatural just a few weeks ago.

It's not that my fivefingers are fixing my running, it's like they are reminding me of how I could - or even should - be running.  I could probably tape a pebble to the base of my heel for a similar reminder to stay off my heels, but it's much cooler to wear fivefingers.

I'm still not fully convinced that my running is going to change beyond all recognition... There's a cynic deep inside me, even though I've wanted these 'shoes' for ages, but I'm loving the fact that my hunches seem to be right so far, and the pain free running? Well, I doubt running will ever be that, but if it's part way there, then it'll do for me.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Little by little

Yesterday, I did 2 miles in my fives.  Nothing from my calves at all until 1.3 miles - which is significantly better than last time I ran.  I could feel the hardness of the road on the balls of my feet, but I wouldn't say it was uncomfortable.

I did rather make myself laugh though when I inadvertently ran across a patch of grass (it was very dark, and I thought it was a continuation of the pavement).  It was quite a shock to feel the squidgy softness of the ground after that hard tarmac.  At first, I thought 'yuck', but then I realised that being able to feel the ground under my feet is half the reason I bought the shoes in the first place!  I just think it'll take a while to get used to it, and out of the habit of avoiding the muddy patches.

Calves a little sore today, but not as bad as I'd feared, and not a single other ache or pain from any of my joints - hips, knees or ankles - which is lovely.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Slowly does it

Today I ran 1.5 miles in my fives.  I think I'm falling in love.  My legs felt great - no heaviness, no aching bones, no creaks and grinds.  There is still just a muscle fatigue ache in my left lower calf, which I'm sure is just a result of using a new muscle - hence the shorter distances.

But, my running is lighter, more propulsive, springier and easier.  I only did 10 min miles, but felt no real physical effort other than that dull ache in my calf.  I'm so curious to see how I feel on a longer distance that I can barely wait to try it, but I'm determined not to cause myself an injury and jump in too quick.

I've also got to a point where I feel that I could confidently wear my fivefingers out and about without feeling like a weirdo, because I can genuinely say now that I think they're amazing.  I've even thought about getting a pair to wear like slippers in the house.  Sad?  Quite possibly!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Mixing it up

Did a four miler today. First mile in my Vibram FiveFinger TrekSport, and then I switched to my trainers.

My lower calves felt a bit of a burn towards the end of the first mile, but nowhere near as much as last time I used them.  What was really strange was switching to my regular trainers straight after this. I really noticed that my toes felt like they were lost floating around inside an empty space. The other thing I wasn't keen on was what seemed like a ridiculous amount of cumbersome padding around my ankle. It felt like I'd tied foam rollers around them.

After half a mile in my trainers I could really feel the effort in my shins... the motion of putting my heel down first and then rolling forward to my toes is clearly putting strain on my shins, and probably explains my early years of shin splints.  The trainers also felt very heavy and made my legs feel heavy too.

Could it all be in my head? Or are these FiveFingers as good as they seem? All I know at the moment is that I can't wait to run a bit further in them.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Day 3

After my wholly successful first day in my FiveFingers, I was surprised to wake up on Day 2 and find that my lower legs were really quite sore - just muscle soreness, not sore in a wrong way - but sore nonetheless.  I was rather pleased I had resisted the urge to go further.  So after a rest day, I've just gone out again and done probably just under a mile.

On this run I really noticed my lower calves getting a good work out.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say they feel like my arms do when I try to do a few press ups - a serious build up of lactic.  I've given them a good stretch now so hopefully they won't feel too bad later.

But it's interesting.  I've run 13 miles and not felt it in my calves, and these shoes are making them sore after less than a mile.  I'm definitely finding some new muscles!  I particulary loved the way my feet warmed up today after a couple of minutes.  My feet were freezing at the start, but after a quarter of a mile or so, they felt lovely and toasty, and it's nice to be able to wiggle my toes whilst I'm running.

My running style is naturally very different too.  I'm padding along like a big cat, running wholly on the balls of my feet and then springing off my toes - there seems to be a greater degree of forward propulsion.  This might be braking effect of heel striking that I remember reading about.  And I haven't been using my Garmin, so I may have been going much, much slower than usual, but it seems as if it's much less effort.  There's not a drop of sweat on me (TMI??? - sorry!).

So, second day in my fives and I'm still very enthusiastic.  Off for my jacket spud now!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

My new Vibram FiveFingers

I've been running for about 4 years now, having completed a number of 10k races and two half marathons, my PB being 1:58:20 in October 2011.

For many of those years, I've hankered after a pair of Vibram FiveFingers.  Why?  It's a good question.  I've read many articles about barefoot running and footwear and I've seen the pros and the cons of this type of footwear.  Maybe it's the big kid in me that things it would be good to run without trainers, or perhaps it's because I've taken to heart the views that barefoot running (or at least running with minimalist footwear) can lessen the chance of injury and lead to better posture.  Most likely it's the fact that for the first year and a half I suffered with chronic shin splits, and I started thinking 'there must be a better way'.

Whatever the reason, last week, after months of looking at different websites, blogs and pictures, I finally ordered myself a pair of Treksports, size 38.

When they arrived, I could barely bring myself to open the box in case they didn't fit, or I didn't like them.  When I tried them on, they seemed quite tight, but everything I'd read said they should be a snug fit, and that they'd give a bit after a few days use.  In particular, I found the big toe seemed to pinch quite a bit and press down on my nail, which felt a little uncomfortable.  I also struggled to get my little toes in their pockets, because I have hammer toes, and my little toes squish round and press on the next toe in.
As suggested in all the stuff I'd read, I only wore my 'fives' round the house to start with.  I did brave the outdoors and wore them to the local shop to buy some bread (just a short car trip away) - I was worried that someone would notice them, and then a bit peeved when nobody did!  Today, a week after getting them, I went for a short run.  
Day 1

On the day of my first ever run in VFFs I felt quite apprehensive, partly because I didn't want to have to explain my rather odd footwear to anyone, and partly because I really didn't know how I'd get on with them (and it's a lot of money to take a chance on!).  I ran about 3/4 mile in total, just down to our nearest main road and back. I'd read that VFFs encourage you to run on the balls of your feet, and I did wonder whether this would be the case for me too.  Without any effort at all, I found myself doing just that, running in a considerably more forefoot running style - I don't think my heels touched the ground at all.  Whilst I could feel the ground - stones and lumps - they didn't dig into my feet at all.

As my short run progressed, I could feel the balls of my feet really warming up, and I also really noticed my lower calves and ankles were getting much more of a work out.  But it felt great, really much more natural than I'd anticipated.  As I returned home, I took a slight detour down a cul-de-sac because I didn't want the run to end, but then I erred on the side of caution and went home.  I was really tempted to go straight back out again, but told myself I needed to be good and not overdo Day 1 with my fives.