02 May 2010

Sore-ing to New Heights

I finally got them. My brand new Vibram KSO's. I had been waiting for no less than 3 months to obtain the Holy Grail of minimalist running shoes. I was sitting on the bench by the front door just having laced up my right shoe, getting ready to go for my mid-week mid-tempo run when the doorbell rang. It was my Vibrams. Actually, it was the UPS man delivering my new Vibrams. So, naturally, I took off my Asics and immediately donned my KSO's. I was so quick to get out the door and try them out that I forgot my chewing gum (something that is a prerequisite for my runs as my mouth and throat get so dry otherwise). I guess I would just have to tough out having a dry mouth. It was only a 5 mile run, I would probably be alright.

My feet felt light and quick. I did notice that when I happened to step on a large piece of gravel, I did feel it--something that didn't happen with my regular running shoes. I was travelling at a good quick pace; even faster than my goal pace. This was very cool. But, by the time I hit mile four, I could feel the familiar sting of blisters forming on my inner upper foot just below my big toe. Now every step was painful, but I couldn't decrease my pace. I would just run through the pain and deal with it when I got home. I couldn't understand why I would be getting blisters in my Vibrams. From all the dozens of reviews I read about these shoes, blisters were not mentioned!

I had a 5K race in two days. I thought that would be good enough to give my feet a rest and resolve the blisters. I decided that I would probably just wear my regular racing shoes for the race since I didn't want to make the blisters even more angry. By the evening after my maiden KSO run, my calves were starting to ache. It felt like I just did a major workout at the gym isolating my gastrocnemius muscles. I hoped that two days would heal that too.

Well, by Saturday morning, the blisters were pretty much gone, but I could still barely walk without pain. So, with the help of some naproxen sodium I ingested soon after arising and some Bio-Freeze massaged into my sore legs just minutes before the race, I decided to race in my Vibrams. I wasn't planning on winning the race, just getting through it. This was a training exercise if anything. Well, there were only about 55 participants and about 20 of those were walkers, so I didn't have a lot of competition. I ran as hard as I could. Almost to that point where I feel like I'm going to puke and then back off a little because that would be just too humiliating. My initial paces were great, but by the time I got to 3K, I was ready to be done. I was tired. I guess I went out too fast. Well, I pushed myself to the end. I didn't set any PR's that day. I finished in 23:29. But the good news is that I was the overall female winner! :-) Not my best time, but I guess I got rewarded for my effort.

Today is Sunday. My calves didn't get any less sore after pulling an all-out effort running basically barefoot on Saturday. And, as fate would have it, today is the "Long Run" day on my training calendar. I didn't think I should be heroic and don the minimalist shoes today. After all, I was still dealing with trying to walk without pain. So, I put on my good ole Asics Nimbus 11's and headed out to the trails for a 13.1 mile (21K) jaunt -- slow and easy. Every step was torture. All I could concentrate on was the pain I felt with each stride. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Even my iPod wasn't able to distract me from the discomfort. I didn't think there was any way I would survive 13 miles today. But, I would push myself as far as I could. This wasn't about speed, but endurance.

By the time I was about 5 miles into it, the calf pain seemed to subside. Either that, or some endorphins kicked in and dulled the pain. But it was still a laborious run. I wasn't going nearly as fast as my normal "slow" pace, but disappointingly much slower. It was humid and I was sticky, sweaty, and hot. I was tired. But I kept on going. I ran to Tobico Marsh and did the big loop twice and the small loop around the marsh once. I saw a black squirrel, a grey squirrel, several "normal" squirrels, almost got tripped by a scampering chipmunk and also met up with three fawns who pranced across the trail and then stopped about twenty feet away to watch me pass. I waved at them and (after I looked around to make sure no one was behind me) said, "Hi guys!" After a grueling nearly two hour run, I made it home and did and extra 0.2 km to boot.

Once safely inside the door, I could now fully experience and express my exhaustion and agony. I peeled off my shoes and socks only to reveal blisters on my blisters. My clothes were soaked and my face was covered with the salty residue I get when I know I put in a good workout. I downed a cold coconut water (this was the same coconut water I reminded myself was waiting for me if I hurried home and finished my run--my reward). Then, I headed to the shower, got dressed, uploaded my workout from my Garmin watch while sipping some freshly made apple juice and then crashed on the bed for an impromptu hour long nap. When I got up, my legs were even more sore and I could hardly move them, let alone actually walk. Ouch. I hobbled around for a while, played some games on the computer as a diversion from the soreness and later when I got up, it wasn't as bad as before. It's almost tolerable now. Nearly back to the level of moderate discomfort I had before I decided to add insult to injury with my half-marathon sized workout.
Tomorrow I have a day off of running. It's my cross-training day. Hopefully these legs will be able to pedal the stationary bike. I guess I'll find out. The next day, I get to do intervals. Oh, joy. I might even attempt them barefoot if I'm feeling bold enough. I hope my legs will have recovered a bit more by then. I know that this pain is just a sign that I'm using my muscles in a whole new way that theoretically should make me a stronger and better runner. I have another race next Saturday. I will be wearing my Vibrams. That is, if I am able to run at all.