Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back at 2009

I have my new running goals for 2010, but I never really looked back at this year and my running. Not sure exactly what my goals were for 2009. I know I wanted to hit 50 miles for the Howl at the Moon 8-Hour race...and that didn't happen (although I ran well considering the heat & humidity). I vaguely remember wanting to set some new short distance PRs (5K, 10K)...that didn't happen either. And that darn 7-day stage race called for a new distance PR...nope. Sounds like a pretty dismal year. Not so fast with the negative judgments. I have ended the year happier, healthier, and injury-free. That counts for something. What's even better, is that I believe I know part of the reason I am ending the year in good shape: a shift to minimalist footwear and no more running logs.

For a long time, I have idolized the notion of being "in tune" with my running and less reliant on technology (including fancy footwear). The dude down the street (that would be Mr Riddle) got me to do some barefoot running on the local grass trails a few years ago. I liked it. Never really kept at in a systematic manner, but I did enjoy the feeling of "running free." But I always fell back into the "I can't do that all the time" restrictive thinking. Well, part of that thinking is true...it's hard to run barefoot in the winter when the temperature is 9 degrees and there is ice and snow on the ground. My thinking and my actions have changed since I bought a pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes this June. They protect my feet from the elements...to some degree...but still allow my feet and mind to feel the ground and adapt on the fly. My feet are stronger. My stride is more natural. I am running injury free. When it's too cold for the FiveFinger shoes, I now have minimalist racing flats (Mizuno Wave Universe 3) and my old trusty Mizuno Wave Revolvers. For tougher trails, I have my New Balance 790s. All are low-to-the-ground, lightweight, minimally cushioned, and unsupportive shoes. Not quite barefoot, but at least closer to that natural state than most shoes allow. Since June, I haven't had a running injury and I have felt stronger and more connected to my running. I still have a long way to go with this minimalist running thing...but I'm on the right path. For runners, it's good to be on the correct path!

A side effect of this minimalist thing is my current aversion to tracking everything. Less technology and less structure means more authentic running. I don't log my training runs anymore. None of them. I still log my races, but not any other runs. I don't track my miles, minutes, paces, routes, days...nothing...except my once a week "test runs" on the treadmill to track progress (and those are just posted to this blog). By not logging any runs, I have opened my eyes to "just running" and enjoying the experience. I live in the moment of today's run and not yesterday's or tomorrow's. I can run fast or slow, short or long, trails or roads, alone or with company. I can head out the door with one plan in mind and change if I encounter a more interesting alternative...and change again and again if I want. With no concern about violating my running log or being able to account for the run. I just run. Or walk. Or jog. Interestingly, this has made my running more consistent and productive. Probably because it's more fun. I have no problem just going out for a 2-3 mile jog. In the past, it was weird (embarrassing?) to log such a run. Plus, now when I am out running, I can stop to talk with a fellow runner, or take a different trail loop without worrying about tracking the exact mileage or time. I almost never run with a watch. Sometimes I do run with a heart rate monitor, but I don't use the stop watch function...I just like seeing my actual CURRENT heart rate. Nice to live in, and for, the moment!

So, 2009 has taught me a couple lessons. I don't need cushioned, supportive, high-heeled shoes. Those shoes tend to promote injuries and take me away from natural running. And I don't need to keep a running log to be a runner. In fact, I just need to run. Running makes me a runner. Not a log. Not race results. Just running. We'll see how 2010 goes. Will I return to "regular" commercial shoes? Will I start logging everything again? I'm still racing...and the pressure to perform may encourage me to slide back into old habits. A new year brings plenty of opportunities and challenges. I hope to have a positive report in about 365 days.

Hope your 2009 was a great running year. May 2010 be even better. Happy new year to all the runners out there!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know it really is not part of your running - BUT, you should add that you put on one hell of a race - Clinton Lake. See you soon!

We all enjoy your race and your blog!

Chris said...

Thanks. I am proud of the way Clinton Lake has turned out. Can't believe this is the 4th year! When you have a great trail and awesome volunteers, all I have to throw in as RD is passion for the event and a bit of organizational skills.

Jason Robillard said...

Awesome post! It's funny how we tend to take the fun factor out of anything by adding technology. Running became fun for me the moment I ditched my shoes.

Chris said...

Jason,

Yep, I want less technology and more fun in 2010. Well, at least in my running. I still love all my tech gadgets! ;-)