Monthly Archives: January 2010

Footloose and Fancy-Free, Or, On Turning Into a Freaking Hippie.

For Christmas, I received a copy of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, the story of a tribe of Native Americans, hidden in the jungle canyons of Mexico, learned to appreciate the iconic Springsteen album has an entire culture built on running incredibly long distances.  The Tarahumara run wearing nothing on their feet but thin, handmade sandals (strips of old tire, tied on with leather thongs), and have no running injuries to speak of.  Parallel to the story of the Tarahumara and the first running of what has become the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, McDougall discusses recent research into the evolution of human running form and modern running injuries, and draws the conclusion that modern running shoes, with their high-tech cushioning, encourages landing on the heel.  The heel isn’t meant to take that kind of shock, and there appears to be a fair amount of evidence that humans evolved to run long distances landing on the forefoot or midfoot.  The book also describes research indicating that heel-strike running in cushioned running shoes causes more and worse injuries than the shoes prevent.

I’ve been hearing chatter about running barefoot or in shoes with minimal cushioning over the last couple of years, and while I was interested in the abstract idea, for the most part, I ignored the phenomenon.  I didn’t see how it would apply to me — a middle-aged distance runner with little access to any running surface more forgiving than asphalt and cement.

Reading BTR convinced me to take it more seriously; I spent some time reviewing other websites and podcasts on the topic, I decided to try it out.  As it’s January in Chicago, I’m not planning on going out for a barefoot run anytime soon.  I tried a couple of short treadmill runs barefoot, and noticed right away that my gait changed to a forefoot strike.  After putting my shoes back on (the treadmill belt is very rough on the soles of my feet), I tried to keep running with the barefoot gait, landing on the balls of my foot.  My lower calves were sore for a couple of days because I was using different muscles, but my feet, knees, and hips all felt surprisingly good after these runs.

My new running shoes?

I ordered a pair of Vibram FiveFingers – follow the link, they’re impossible to explain otherwise – to wear on the treadmill and outside once it warms up.  Unfortunately, they got here just as we got hit with a nasty virus Junior brought home from school, and I haven’t had a chance to try them out.  Since it’s 45 degrees and raining right now – completely inappropriate weather for January – I think I’ll get my run on the treadmill this morning, and try them out for a mile or two.

If you’re interested, here are some additional links on running barefoot or in minimalist shoes:

Barefoot Ted

Born to Run Links Page

Phedippidations Ep. 141: Running Barefoot

Phedippidations Ep. 203: The Pose Running Method

I recommend checking the show notes for the Fdip episodes, especially #141; Steve does a good job collecting relevant links.

Time for a run.


Getting Back Into The Swing of Things.

How much swinging do things actually do, anyway? Are we talking about Thing, The Thing, or Thing One and Thing Two? And is this any way to open up my first blog post in three weeks? Probably not.

Happy New Year. I hope your holidays rocked. I missed most of Hanukah with the kids because of travel for work, but we did dance the Horah to Bare Naked Ladies at least one night, and got the candles lit a few times. I did manage to teach the kids the dreidel game, which they enjoyed for about five minutes until I heard Junior complain that Unfocused Girl “gets all the gimmels, and I keep getting nun!” That ended fast.

Things at the job quieted down over Christmas, but of course, just as things slowed down for me at work, the Siren‘s commitments ramped up, from finishing her NaCoBakMo cookie baking (which was very successful, thank you to those who participated), to directing the Sunday school Christmas pageant at her church. She managed it all with her usual combination of sleep-deprivation and almost frightening competence, and at approximately 4:15am Christmas morning, everything was finally done.  Starting two and a half hours later, we had a lovely Christmas. We were even able to take a few days up in Wisconsin over New Year’s.

I made no progress on the novel in December after Dec. 2. I should have been able to get a fair amount done in the week before Christmas while the Siren was sewing, blogging, and baking until the wee hours every night, but I think I’d hit the end of the mental road and it was all I could do to spend hours screwing around on Facebook and Twitter. The entire second half of December felt like an extended adrenaline crash that I’m just started to get through.

I’m determined to make some progress on Breezeway Blows Town in January, even if it kills me. I’ve done Write or Die once or twice since New Year’s, which helps.  Yesterday, I sat down to write, and it took me four hours to write 600 words. I didn’t have any problems with the words coming, I just couldn’t keep my ass in my chair, and when I was seated in front of the keyboard I kept checking FB, Twitter, email, etc. Lucky for me, the kids were perfectly happy in the basement having an impromptu Ultraman marathon in their underwear (don’t ask me why; the basement is awfully damn cold, even with the gas fire going), and the Siren was sewing more doll clothes, so nobody cared what I was doing.

I managed a little better today, just over 500 words in less than two hours, including an hour-long nap when I fell asleep after the first 72 words. I was less distracted by social media and more by legitimate, if unnecessary at this stage, Internet research. Not fast, but it beat my performance yesterday.

In order to get our NaNoWriMo writing chops back, my NaNo buddy John Mierau and I have made a solemn pact to write every day for the remainder of the month. Even if I only manage 500 words a day, that’s more than 10,000 words added to Breezeway by January 31, bringing me that much closer to finishing the first draft. More important, it will get me back into the habit of daily writing, which is the only way to get this done. Even more important than that, it will give me an excuse to taunt John on Twitter on a regular basis. By the way, if you’re not listening to his podcast of his short fiction, you’re missing out.

I’m more than halfway through the story I’m trying to tell in Breezeway, and I’m still amused by it, even if no one else will be. Meet the Larssons was interesting in its own way, but it never gave me the opportunity to write anything like this:

“They’re moving!” Frankie shouted.  The car leapt forward into traffic as he mashed the accelerator.  The side of the Crown Vic scraped along the front bumper of the beige minivan, with a tooth-rattling grind.

“Fuck!” Luca shouted.  Tony twisted around and saw the pimp had spilled his mocha frappucino all over himself and the back seat of the Vic.

Tony snarled and yanked the gun out of his pocket, ripping the lining.  With his left hand, he mashed down the power window button and fumed for the 2.75 seconds it took for the window to open.

See what I mean? Meet the Larssons got way too heavy.  Breezeway is still just plain fun, the way I meant it to be.

I thought about writing a 2009 wrap up, and maybe I will, but right now I’m really looking forward to 2010. I’m going to finish the first draft of Breezeway soon, hopefully before spring, then move on to revisions. I have plans for my running, which I’ll talk about separately. And I just started watching Firefly, which I downloaded from iTunes. I’ve never seen it before, and series opener, at least was fantastic.

I’m back in that comfy chair and I’m falling asleep again. Better hit PUBLISH before it’s too late.