Goal Post

This year I set myself a couple of running goals:

1. Run my first marathon.

2. Run one thousand miles.

I ran the White Peaks Marathon in May and really enjoyed it. Plus, all those long training runs certainly helped achieve the second target, which I hit much earlier than I anticipated.

And then I was goal-less.

I had been running barefoot twenty-five percent of my total mileage, and so decided to up the longest distance from about 8 miles and try for a barefoot half marathon – Goal three!

Training went pretty well, and I got up to the distance by the beginning of June – the first attempt at a barefoot long run! But I carried on running 13 or so miles barefoot most weekends, even managing a 16.5 mile barefoot run a couple of weeks ago on cherry picked roads and a sensible pace. But it took until this weekend to finally run an official barefoot half marathon!

Final mile

I got a little carried away with the pace, as I had intended to relax and enjoy a 1:54 hr race. This time would have equaled my first half marathon in traditional shoes. My 1:44 hr actual time is less than 3 minutes off my PB from last year in vibrams.

Cool mud at finish was a welcome bonus!

I put my unexpected time down to the number of long barefoot runs I did while waiting for race day, and enjoying overtaking the shod runners! I was aware of passing a lot in the first few miles because I started between the 2:00 and 2:15 hr markers. But the runpix system reports me overtaking 328 runners in the second half alone, while only being passed by a single runner!

I also realised there was another barefoot runner on the course from a few spectators comments of “There’s another barefoot runner!” Two barefoot runners out of 3431 finishers isn’t a bad ratio – Our numbers are definitely exploding!

Post race refreshment!

Running on the Limit

This post all started with a 100% effort Magic Mile run on the canal (the towpath part, not the actual watery bit). Immediately after (sort of) smashing out a 5:27 mile, I was blinded by the worst headache I’ve ever experienced. I initially blamed the pounding pain on the glue factory fumes I had unwisely decided to run downwind in, but two weeks later I was still headache unfree (or unheadache free if you will) whenever I tried to push it.

Google helpfully suggested ‘Exertion Induced Headaches’ as the probable cause, but also mentioned a few rather unpleasant alternatives so I thought I’d better see the doc.

Exertion Induced Headaches can be caused by straining the neck muscles coupled with a reduced oxygen intake. The effort dilates the blood vessels in the neck and restricts the blood flow to and from the head. The increase in pressure squishes (medical terminology) the nerves, hence the pain. It is most common in weight lifters lifting too much while holding their breath, or in this case a runner hammering it for a mile in toxic atmospheric conditions.

Googles cure…..two  weeks rest. I had already taken it (ahem) ‘easy’ for two weeks by running over 12 miles barefoot two days after, followed by a 9.5 miler, 6 miler, 8.5 miler, and a couple of runs with the dog (see – no speed work!)

The thought of no exertion for two weeks didn’t sound appealing, it’s not like a regular running injury where I could nip out on the bike or even go for a swim (possibly in the canal by the glue factory.) With a three half marathons on the calendar I wanted to stay in shape. And this got me thinking about my calorie intake and expenditure.

I found a calorie counting app which included a large food database and logged my eating habits over a week, as well as my running and dog walking activities. I wasn’t surprised to see that I crept over the 2000 calories most days, even when taking into account the lunchtime walk, dog walk / dog runs. The days when I had spare calories left were the ones that included a decent run eg 8.5 mile with 300 calories under and 16.5 mile run with 1350 calories spare!

I also wore my garmin heart rate monitor for three days to backup the calorie figures. What this also showed was a low resting heart rate.

After a consultation, the doc agreed with google on the cause of the headaches, but was happy for me to carry on running. To be safe I had a few blood tests and an ECG. The nurse commented on my low resting heart rate – normally a concern, but as I was a runner it was fine!

Thankfully all the tests came back fine, and the headaches subsided over a further couple of weeks – just in time for the first of the half marathons.

I had always regarding the calorie apps as too much hassle to bother with, but in fact it provided me with a good insight into my intake and expenditure. I sometimes found myself wondering if eating something was going to push me over the daily limit. I wouldn’t use the counter continuously, but a substantial change in exercise routine or eating habits would definitely warrant use again.