Guest blog: Dublin Race Series 2012 in Vibram Five Fingers
Former user of the week, Eoin O, tells us how minimalist running is not just for the trails - he's taking on the Dublin road race series wearing VFFs:
I started running in February 2010, like most people do; I put on the runners I had around the house, a pair of shorts a t-shirt and just went running. By April 2011, I was training for a marathon but was noticing hamstring pain on longer runs. By the end of the marathon, I managed to build up my speed going up to and over the line, but I was in pain. It was mainly my right glutes and the top of my hamstring.
A month after Connemarathon I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) Bikilas. I had read lots about them and knew I needed to take it slowly. I started off jogging to the local shops and back. Then when I felt ok with that I would wear them for my warm up of 3k or so and take them off and put on regular runners for the main part of my run. Pretty quickly I found that my track sessions were faster in VFFs. Probably because you are almost forced to run with good form and efficiency in them.
Fast forward to August the same year (2011) and I was in full on training (80k+ a week) for the Dublin Marathon when, two weeks before the race, my hamstring gave out 16k into the last of the long runs. I had trouble walking, and the 4k I had to walk home took nearly an hour.
When I did get back to running (Feb 2012) I set myself no goals apart from getting my fitness back. One thing I did tell myself was that I was going to be doing more runs and distance in the VFFs, because I felt I hadn’t given them a proper go in 2011.
It didn’t take long before I realised that after I did runs in normal runners my hamstring was sore, after runs in VFFs it was fine. Not only that, but the next day my legs felt fresher too. I had been planning on running 2-3 marathons in 2012, but after the hamstring issue I decided to concentrate on 5k-10k races and see how I got on. I kept alternating runners and VFFs, gently building up the distance to about 5-6k again.
Dublin Race Series
I signed up for four races comprising of 8k, 10k, 16k and a half marathon (21k), each about a month apart:
Phoenix Park 8k race - I ran this at the end of June, the race went really well and I managed to finish in 36:47, a PB by over 90 seconds.
10k race - I didn’t have much time to prepare for the next race after a quick trip away with the family, but I already decided to do the 10k race (second in the Race Series) in the VFFs. It was a tough race, quite hilly, warm and humid. My lower legs didn’t feel great going into it and I never really got a good pace. I finished in 47:30 or so, over 2mins over my target time. But, it was the longest run or race I’d ever done in the VFFs, so I was happy from that standpoint.
Training - I recovered pretty well from the 10k, but as the next race in the series was five weeks away and 6k further I knew I had to get down to doing more in the VFFs if I didn’t want seriously tight legs afterwards. By this time, my training schedule was including a mid-week 10k easy run. I decided I had to start doing them in the VFFs and one or two other runs a week in them also. Earlier this year I was planning out my weekly runs and trying to decide which I could run in the VFFs. I’ve now gone 180 degrees and am now figuring which ones I won’t do in them, to give my lower legs and feet a rest! In general I am not using them for shorter runs as I don’t want to do longer runs in normal runners and get aches and pains back again.
Frank Duffy 16k race - So after five weeks of building up from the 10k race I was feeling good and ready for the third in the race series, the Frank Duffy 16k (10mile). By the time I got there I really needed to find a toilet and got in the portaloo queue. There were 12-14 people in front of me when a man called out over a megaphone that there was 5 mins to the start! I ran over to a tree about 100m away and did what had to be done. The only issue was that the long grass I ran over was very wet and muddy, which would be a big deal later on...
I was hoping to beat last year's time of 1:21:23 and get under 1:20 if all went to plan. Pretty soon the air horn sounded the start. I kept myself held back for the first 2k or so until I found a happy pace, one that I could keep for the distance.
Just past the 14k mark two of the toes on my right foot were rubbing badly, I knew I had blistered and every step was sore (all thanks to getting my feet wet before the start). I decided that I'd be finished quicker if I ran faster, so I did. I didn't want to get over the line and be full of energy, I wanted to put in as much of myself as I could.
This was taken with about 150m to go. Official time was 1:16:59, woohoo!! That's over 4 mins off my previous 16k time.
I jogged slowly back to my car. My right foot was in a lot of pain now, but I didn't want to take the VFFs off until I could do something about it and I reckoned they would keep a lot of crap out of the blisters too.
Three of my toes had blistered and two of them had burst. All in all, despite the blisters I felt great afterwards and felt like I could have kept going at a steady pace. Time to recalculate my goals, get some advice on VFFs and blisters and training for the HM in three weeks!
Training - With just two weeks to go I was going out for one of my two weekend runs and while on the run I decided that I should just do one long run and aim for the HM distance (21k) or close to it. With about 4k to go I ran over a stone with my right foot. I didn’t feel sore at the time, but about five minutes later it had inflamed was tough to run on, so I slowed down. I ended up with 20k in the VFFs. The next day or two I had issues walking and I booked a session with a local physio. She confirmed that I had some inflammation on the outside of my right foot and I wasn’t to do any running, but to ice it and see her again on Friday.
Phoenix Park Half Marathon - On Saturday, the morning of the race, the foot felt ok. After driving to the Phoenix Park and parking up I jogged to the start line. My foot was sore in the same place again! I knew I’d be able to push through, so I abandoned my Plan A of getting a PB and went with Plan B – to run the race in the VFFs at whatever pace I could.
My foot was sore with every step, but I tried to focus on form and cadence, which took my mind off things and the kilometres ticked by. On the last hill I picked up the pace, crested the hill and kept increasing the pace as I went for the last 1.5k or so. I made it over the line just over 1:47, sore, but very happy to have achieved my goal. I’ll take a week off running now and do some short test runs before I resume training for the Killarney Adventure Race, which I’ll also do in VFFs.
I’ve already booked myself onto the Connemara Marathon for April 2013. Will I do it in the VFFs? Time will tell...
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