rain

It’s Trekkin’ Season!

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For those of us up here in the Green Mountains, we’re finally just starting to find Spring popping up all around.  While today’s blustery winds brought a mix of snow and rain and there are still small heaps of ice and snow coating the wetlands behind my house, the flocks of birds at the bird feeder and blooming crocuses in my front yard let me know the end is near.

We had a long winter this year and some unusual thaw and freeze patterns.  That mixed with the recent floods and thunderstorms has done some real damage to my most trekked trail along the Mad River.  While I was sad to see the downed limbs, broken branches and layers of debris spread along the almost-washed-out path, I couldn’t fight back the urge to come out of my cocoon and get my butt back outside!  It’s not surprising that it was just about a year ago when I started barefoot running.  Today, I received my second pair of Vibram’s in the mail.  It’s true, I’m hooked.  This time I picked up a shiny pair of the new Vibram Fivefingers Treksports.

My KSO’s are holding up beautifully, despite all the running, swimming and hiking I put them through last year.  However, there were several reasons why the Treksports lured me in.  I recently started working with a personal trainer.  Naturally, I brought my KSO’s with me.  The first day, I took her spinning class prior to my personal training intake and I immediately regretted my decision.  The pedal of the bike I was on rode right on my arches, the softest most vulnerable part of the foot (aside from, perhaps, in between the toes).  I was visibly in pain,  My trainer moved me to another bike with a wider pedal, which helped, but overall I found the KSOs were just not the right choice.

My main reason for seeking personal training right now is that I have some big plans in mind for my summer.  Now that the weather is warming up I’m just itching to be outdoors as much as possible and I really want to push myself this year.  Running was fun, but I’m not necessarily looking to run as much this year.  I’m thinking of trying climbing and taking on more adventurous hikes.  I also need a shoe that can continue to play with me while I kayak, canoe, and splash around in Vermont’s rivers and lakes.

While the KSO’s did a fine job of keeping up with my water-bound activities last year, the Treksport’s plated midsoles and lightly cleated outsole really appealed to me.  I never fully felt comfortable using my KSO’s on adventurous hikes because of those few moments of stabbing pain on my arches when I hit a rock at the wrong angle, and the fact that I slipped quite a bit in mud.  For running, they were perfect.  For hiking, they just weren’t beefy enough.  However, the kangaroo leather upper on the KSO Treks didn’t jive well with my love for water or my being slightly put-off by wearing kangaroo hide on my feet.

So, on to the part you’re probably most interested in: a picture comparison. Disclaimer: keep in mind my KSOs are a bit worn.

The first time I slipped the Treksports on I definitely felt they had more continuity, but I still felt a firm connection with the ground and easy articulation.  My first test was to wrap my arches around a pointy piece of wood and the plated arch definitely works!  More on that later.

Let’s start by talking about the posterior difference:

As you can see, the Treksport have some padding around the Achilles.  This triangle-shaped pillow rises from the heel and makes the heel look wider than the KSOs in this picture, but when worn it hugs the heel nicely and provides additional stability.  Both feature the same strap design and both have a loop on the rear.

From the front there are some fun differences.  The Treksport toes have additional texture to them and the tips of the toes are reinforced:

While I haven’t experienced this with my KSOs, several folks online have complained that their non-reinforced toe Fivefinger shoes show signs of wear and ripping on the tops of the toes.  In the champagne color Treksports, the reinforced toes are clear and shiny.  I’ve read other reviews that the dark colored models have black reinforcing.  Regardless of the color, this is an important feature for those of us who really want to put our Vibrams through its paces.

Laterally, there isn’t a huge difference between the KSO and the Treksport with the exception that the Treksport sits a bit higher on its cleated sole.  It also appears that the outside rubber comes up just a hair higher on the Treksport.

Medially, there’s a noticeable difference between the two.  The KSOs actually have greater coverage on the medial part of the sole which causes the Treksport to appear to curve more at the arch.  While I haven’t played around with these enough to know yet, it does appear that the Treksports have more arch support whereas the KSOs are fairly flat with just a mild curve for the arch.

Now here’s the real money shot:

Oh, let’s see that up close!

The biggest visible difference between the KSO and the Treksport is the sole.  While my KSOs are a bit worn, the texture on the bottom of the KSOs are minimal.  The Treksport has noticeable grooves and mild cleats to provide better traction and grip in various terrain.  I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t want the Treksport if I was new to barefoot running.  “Real” barefoot runners already poo-poo us Fivefinger folks, and the Treksports push that line further.  Yes, it’s still much less padding than a sneaker and one can certainly run in them, but it wouldn’t be my choice.

However, with the additional grip and the reinforced arch I will definitely feel more comfortable trying the Treksports out in environments I shied away from with my KSOs.  One other thing to note is that the midsole is much thinner on the Treksport.  I have narrow feet and after walking around in these for a while I felt no discomfort or insecurities.  If you have wide feet you might want to really try them out in a store before making the investment.  I’ve only read positive reviews on the midsole width so far, but it’s something to take note of.

I’m super-stoked to take my new Fivefingers out for a ride!  Now that I’ve come out of winter hibernation, expect to hear more of my Treksport adventures!  Let’s hope they can keep up with me. 😉

Oh, and for those of you who are only here for the dog stories, here’s Toby and his new buddy, Charlie, enjoying some VT April showers.  Seriously, this white death falling from the sky has got to stop!

Vibram Takes Me Where I Want To Go

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It seems like the last two weeks really flew by and I apologize for the lack of an entry last weekend.  I have an admission that I’ll just get off my chest right off the bat; part of why I didn’t write last weekend was that I ended up not running during the crazy heat wave we had in VT.  With temps into the 100’s and incredibly heavy humidity it wasn’t exactly appealing.  When that was mixed with a holiday and then family in town I let the excuses pile up and I decided to find alternate sources of activity for the week.

It’s easy to make excuses.  I was reminded of the new Nike commercial, “No Excuses”.  I’m sure we can all relate:

However, my week was not a bust.  I had a full practice of massage clients and I swam almost every day.  The highlight of the week was hiking to Cady’s Falls with my pup.  Cady’s Falls is a natural waterfall and river carved out of a rock formation in Morrisville, my home town.  I had heard about it but kept looking in the wrong places (though that did help me find a nice swimming hole on the Lamoille River).  The hike was gorgeous.  The first quarter mile the path is surrounded by raspberry bushes and I snacked as I walked towards the river.  I learned later that I could have walked down the river to get to the waterfall, which would have been far less challenging than the road I chose.

I veered left up a path and headed on a steep hike upwards.  I ended up crossing paths with a couple who told me I was headed in the right direction so I kept going until I found the waterfall…and I was above it.  Two men swam below and, despite the loud wooshing sounds of the falls, I could hear one say, “Look, she’s up there!”  Obviously, I had not taken the “standard” path to get to the falls; though the path was well-traveled enough that I don’t really get points for originality.

After casing things out I stashed my belongings behind a rock above the falls and I slowly scooted myself down slippery rocks at the edge of the falls.  Since I didn’t risk bringing electronics down with me, I have no pictures of the beauty, but it really was a sight.  The base of the falls opened up to a deep swimming area that was almost ice-cold; much colder than the rivers I’d been swimming in.  However, given the heat and humidity it felt so good!

Toby ended up jumping down the falls.  I didn’t get to witness this but the reaction of the two men who saw him jump was pretty stellar.  We played around for a while and then I started scoping out the banks of the river to see how we could get back up.  That’s when I realized there was no safe way up.  We’d have to go back the way we came which meant climbing up the waterfall.

My Vibram Fivefingers were such an asset on this venture.  I definitely took my time, but I had no problem scaling the rocks back up to the top of the falls.  Toby, on the other hand, took some coaxing.  He was scared, and I was nervous that he might get hurt but I wanted to let him try it before hiking down and rescuing him.  I stood at the top of the falls and called to him.  He anxiously ran all around trying to find another way up until he came to the same conclusion I did.  I could see when he made the decision to try to climb up the falls, it took all his puppy courage.  He did a great job climbing up the rocks and only had one paw slip.  My dog is awesome!

Truthfully, I don’t think he would have been able to do it if I hadn’t been running with him and building up his strength in the past few month.  To be honest, I don’t know if I would have either.  Running has brought me confidence in areas that yoga, weigh lifting and aerobics have not.  Running encourages me to be adventurous and that sense of adventure crosses over into my hiking and swimming experiences.  I feel not only in shape and physically strong, but I feel a strong mind-body connection and an organic push to be in motion.

Wow, I’ve yammered on so much that I barely have time to write about the running I actually did this week.  While many Vermonters are still complaining that we’re in a heat wave, as soon as the temps dipped back into the 80’s I was ready to hit the trail and I was back on schedule for this whole week.

Monday’s run was such a relief.  I thought getting back on the trail for the first day might seem arduous but it was anything but.  As soon as I started my first sprint through the field I realized how much I missed it.  The runs were some of my fastest, but the speed-walking parts were slow as the raspberries and blackberries along the path are ripe and I just had to steal a few bites.  By the time I finished I was covered in sweat and Toby and I jumped right into the river which was warm and wonderful.  I just floated there for a while and let the current take me.  Have I mentioned just how much I love Vermont this time of year?

Friday was less amazing but still fun.  It was extremely humid and I thought I was timing my run perfectly to be out during a downpour.  Unfortunately, while I managed to stretch during the downpour, it really turned into a sprinkling while I ran so it was not the nice relieving feeling I was looking for.  I also had to forgo my swim as I had an unusually high workload for a Friday.  Oh well, I’ll certainly be swimming today and I’ll be back on the trail again tomorrow!

I’m going to risk the tl;dr labeling and add one more soapbox paragraph.  The only really discouraging thing about my explorations of Cady’s Falls and my Friday run was running into litter.  Cady’s Falls had empty beer bottles and soda cans strewn about (I’m definitely bringing a trash bag with me next time I head there).  Yesterday began an event on the Mad River Path called “Story Walk”.  It’s a really cute concept in which pages of a children’s book are laminated and posted on the path so as you walk you can read the story.  Good to promote reading and exercise, I love the idea!  I’m not 100% sure this was related, but along the parts of the path that had the story there was a ton of silver glitter littered all over the path.  I was shocked.  Who the hell would pour non-biodegratable shards of reflective plastic all along the path?!  Anyone who’s been to a rave knows how freaking hard it is to clean glitter off of anything, let alone an outdoor trail!  I’m planning on complaining to the town (something I rarely do, but this really bothers me) and I encourage anyone else who uses and enjoys The Mad River Path to do the same.

Happy running, swimming, hiking, jumping and anything else fun and outdoorsy you’re up to this week!  Yay, summer!

Amazon Warrior

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Wowza, what an adventure!  My run on Monday was more like a run through an Amazon jungle than a trail-run in Vermont.  Sunday night brought torrential downpours to the Mad River Valley that continued through Monday morning.  Honestly, given the high heat and unbearable humidity I was really hoping the rain would hold up and shower me during the run.  However, by the time I set out around 12:30 the skies had turned rust-colored and sun was hazily spreading across the sky.

I’ve complained about humidity often in the past few weeks, but please believe me when I say this was the worst it’s been so far.  It reminded me of the first time I went to St. Maarten, one late April, which I later learned is off-season due to the egregious humidity and lack of a cooling breeze.  The ground was still sopping wet when I headed out, so at least I had a cooling sensation on my feet to break up some of the wet-hot air.

As I set out, I couldn’t believe how slippery the ground underneath me was.  I slipped and slid on mud as I speed-walked, almost biting it a few times.  However, I was quite proud of myself for not sliding around at all when it came to running.  I’ve mentioned previously that early in my running research I found a blog where a barefoot runner compared proper barefoot form to “running through paint”.  He said one must be sure not to smear the paint.  What he meant is that it’s important to pick your feet straight up (kind of like jogging in place) and not push off the ground.  Sometimes when I’m feeling heavy in my body I turn to a mantra of, “Pick up, pick up” as I lift each foot.  On my return trip I even noticed that my footprints when I ran were solid marks, whereas my walking footprints were smeared.

Along with the wet wet wet came unexpected challenges on the path.  Trees had fallen down from the high winds the night before, the edges of the path had become overgrown from a week of high heat and a solid mix of sun and rain, and parts of the path were actually flooded by the massively swollen river (more on that later).  These obstacles provided a motivational distraction from the humidity and kept me entertained as I ran.  While I definitely sweat more than usual, and had some issues pushing myself on the way back, overall this was a successful and fun run.

The one thing I was really looking forward to after a long hot run was a dip in the river.  However, while I ran it became apparent that might not be possible.  Generally, the banks of the river are anywhere from 2-6′ high and beyond the height of the banks there are some swimming-hole areas that have up to 20′ of pebbles where one could sit or stand right next to the river.  As I ran, I saw that the river had swollen over the banks and pebbles and crept up the paths to the trail.  It only covered the trail in a few areas, but the paths to get to the beach areas were covered with a good solid 1-2′ of water.  Even in Spring, when the river is high due to the snow melting, it’s never that high.  Even last year when we had unusually high rain falls all summer, which contributed to the tomato blight and there were e.coli warnings in the river that stopped us from swimming most of the summer (quick note: when we get a lot of rain in the valley runoff from the farms end up in the river causing high bacterial counts), it was never that high.  This was crazy!

I took a picture, albeit with my iPhone because I don’t exactly run with my fancy Canon (kinda wish I could!).  I looked for a comparison shot and all I have is a shot from early Spring, so the river is a high in that one too but this is the same area of the river (the Spring picture is just taken with a wider-angle lens):


To give you a little perspective, the rocks that you can see poking out in the Spring picture are usually fully exposed this time of year; people sit on them and picnic or play music; it’s usually a safe place to sit fully clothed.  The banks in this area this time of year are usually a good 6′.  The picture on the right shows the rocks are totally covered (though you can see a lip of waves on the right side gliding over the highest rock) and the banks are basically indistinguishable.

Needless to say, this was not a good time to swim.  Toby and I did venture down one path to the river in an attempt to brave it, but we were quickly swallowed up by brown murky river water and were unable to even make it to the river.  This was probably a good thing considering how fast the current was moving and how much bacteria was most likely in the flow.

Next run is Friday!  So far it sounds like the weather will be fair and sunny.  Fingers crossed!

C25K W7D2, Vibram’s Day 17

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One of the things I’m really enjoying about running is that I encounter something new every week.  Whether I’m watching the trail evolve as the seasons change, or I’m experiencing new muscle aches and finding solutions to keep my body happy, there is always something new keeping my attention.  Yesterday, I was met with the challenge of a new weather experience.

“People run in the rain; I’ve seen it, I know it’s true!  Not only do people run in the rain, but many seem to really enjoy it!”  This is what I told myself and my co-workers before I set out yesterday into moderate to heavy rain.  I had run in light rain and light snow before, but this was the first time that I set out knowing I was going to get soaked.  I could have run on the treadmill at work, but then Toby wouldn’t have had exercise, I would have been bored, and I wouldn’t have had the awesome experience of working up a sweat while getting drenched by warm rain.  I totally made the right decision!

To prepare, I wrapped my iPhone in plastic wrap, strapped it to my armband, and wore a hoodie on top of that.  Amazingly, I could still hear the speakers quite well.  Now, the Certified Apple Technician side of me is obligated to say that I am not recommending you run outside with your iPhone (or iPod, or iPad or computer or anything else electronic, ok?).  I did it knowing full well that if it ended up getting wet it was my own damn fault for stubbornly taking it out in the rain with me.  Luckily, it stayed bone-dry throughout the run.

I stretched indoors because I knew I would rush it if I stood outside.  While it was a fairly comfortable running temperature, at around 60º, it was still uncomfortably damp and cool when I first trekked out.  The rain, however, felt much warmer than the ambient temperature and that encouraged me to get my body moving and dive right in.

This was another 25 minute run, as all of the week seven runs are.  It’s getting easier and easier to complete the long runs without getting cramps or muscle aches or breathing issues.  This run went very smoothly, especially once I took my hood off (it was just getting in my way and causing my to tip my head forward a bit) and succumbed to the rain.  Toby was pleased as punch to combine his two favorite activities: swimming and running.  He was completely drenched by the time we got back to the office and he lay upside-down for most of the afternoon with a big grin on his face.

I felt extremely accomplished when I got back, but I also felt a little wonky; it was as if I had sea-legs.  It wasn’t a bad feeling, but I was definitely a little out of it for about 30 minutes; thankfully it was lunch time.  I’m also thankful that I carry so many extra clothes in my car so I had plenty of dry things to put on.

Today, I feel great!  I should mention that I did end up wearing my knee braces.  My right knee felt a little achy yesterday morning; I most likely was using poor body mechanics during the massage session with my client the previous evening.  I just didn’t want to risk it.  I’d still like to phase those out if possible, but the health of my knees comes first!

Tomorrow is the last week seven run and it looks like it’s going to be a HOT sunny day!