Friday, September 26, 2014


On September 1st I took on a challenge I thought would be extremely rewarding. Two weeks after my 70 mile Fat Dog adventure I decided to take on REDFAM - Run Every Day For A Month.
I was excited to get back running after two weeks off - and what better way to get back to running than doing it everyday?
It's safe to say that after twenty-five straight days of running - only 5 days away from making the full month - I'm giving up.
Though I'm not sure giving up is the right way to put it.
Running everyday is HARD!
It wasn't long until my legs were sore. Every. Day.
It's hard to be motivated to run the next day when your legs are still sore from the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that.
Long runs became nearly impossible - and I began to settle for shorter and shorter runs.
Lesson learned: you don't need to run every day to be well trained. I certainly don't!
So tomorrow I will be proud and somewhat relieved to take a much needed day off - and rest up for a nice long weekend run! :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Surprise! Bonnevier trail is beautiful

Along the forestry road section!

In doing the FatDog trail race for the last two years, I have never had the chance to see Bonnevier Trail in the daylight. All I’ve ever seen is a bright patch of trail with a pair of feet plodding away up the hill. This weekend I finally got my chance to see just what I’d been up against.
The turn onto Bonnevier Trail

On Saturday, Jenna’s mom dropped us off at the bottom of Bonnevier Trail just east of Manning Park, and planned to meet us up on Heather Trail at the top with her grandma.
Beautiful single track near the top of the false peak (Kandahar Peak)

After the initial forestry road section, we turned onto Bonnevier Trail proper, and, surprise! It’s beautiful! The trail is a nice single-track, that gently winds upward, with a few downhill and flat sections. Having climbed through super dry areas, lush forests and swathes of deadfall, it seems like you’ve reached the top of the mountain. Of course, this is part of FatDog and that would be too easy! So next comes a significant downhill section that drops about 200m over a couple kilometers. The good part is that it’s totally runnable! Too bad I’ve always been too tired to run it.

Gorgeous views of the surrounding valleys and mountains!
After the drop, the trail continues switch-backing upwards, eventually reaching open alpine meadows with beautiful vistas of the Three Brothers peaks and the surrounding area.

View of Big Buck Mountain and the First Brother in the distance
One thing that didn’t differ from the race was how long the alpine meadow section felt! It’s only a few kilometers, but it feels like it goes on forever!
Running through the meadows
Reaching Heather Trail we caught up with Jenna’s family and hiked out to Blackwall Peak, concluding our adventure for the day.
Hiking out to Blackwall Peak with Jenna's family

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Less pain, more fun, and my love of aid stations

Even before the race I knew things were going to be different at this year's FatDog120. Training was going really well, we managed to get out for a number of runs on the course, and we put in some really long back-to-back days through July. All that training gave me the confidence to go into the race without a pacer or crew, plus I knew that if I went really slow my dad or Jenna would catch up to me, so all was good.
On Thursday the pre-race briefing in Manning Park was a real eye-opener... there was five times more people than last year, so many that they were spilling out the doors! And thanks to Peter, (assistant RD) they all knew I was 'the guy wearing the silver skirt in last year's race video', yay...
Hoards of runners at the start line!
Anyway, we stayed the night at Stemwinder campground near Keremeos, and somehow managed to get a full 9 hours of sleep!
The morning of the race we were greeted by throngs of people! We had two bus-fulls driving to the start, which I thought was a lot, but arriving at the actual start was something else entirely. Vehicles were lined up all along the small dirt road by Lakeview Creek Campground - We're definitely not in Kansas anymore!

At 10:02 AM on Friday, the gun (bear banger) went off and it was time to hit the trails. Things went fairly smoothly up the first climb to Red Mountain through Cathedral Park. I wasn't having any foot or shoe problems like I did last year at this time so I was hopeful! Also, it only sprinkled on us for about five minutes before clearing up for the rest of the day. Thanks to Sam for the company on this section!

Pano of the top of Red Mountain in Cathedral Park! (Sam in the left corner)
Coming into Ashnola, the first major aid station, I was right on track for a 40-hour finish according to my pace chart from UltraSplits. The second climb up to Trapper Aid went well and I got in a few minutes before my pace schedule. From here I ran up to Flattop Mountain with a fellow from Victoria - the people are great at these races. Near the top I was warned by another runner that if I wasn't careful I'd take off 10 hours from last year's time. All I could think from then on was that if I was careful I could take off 10 hours from my time!

Calcite Aid Station was in a slightly different spot this year which was a little confusing, but it had some really great food nonetheless - salted potatoes, cheese quesadillas, and some sort of greasy fried bread... so yummy!
On the descent into Pasayten River I saw the first hint of sun all day. It was just the motivation I needed to run the final bit to the river crossing. The water felt so good I could have stayed in there for hours, but instead I had to settle for a refreshing rinse off. At this point I was half an hour ahead of schedule, uhoh!

Reaching Bonnevier Aid, I was pampered by the volunteers offering all sorts of foods and drinks as I changed my socks and shoes and got my night stuff ready (bear bell, music, headlamp, shot bloks with caffeine, etc). I probably should have taken them up on the offer and eaten more at this point because by half way up the climb to Heather Aid I was feeling extremely tired. From 10pm to 12am, it was all I could do to keep moving and not fall asleep on the trail! Luckily, there was another runner that I was able to tag along with for a little extra motivation. The real motivation though was the cheese quesadillas waiting at Heather Aid Station! And trust me, they didn't disappoint!
I tried not to stay long at Heather because it was rather chilly - we were in the clouds and there was a breeze over the alpine meadows. However, I did end up staying for nearly 15 minutes while drinking hot chocolate and eating.

Running towards Nicomen lake was certainly an adventure! The mist from the clouds made it hard to see more than several feet ahead on the trail. The only good part about the clouds was that they kept the day's heat in, at least when the wind wasn't blowing. The final descent into Nicomen Lake was the most treacherous part, given the rocky, scree-like nature of the trail and a slight lack of flagging for the misty conditions. At times I truly wondered if I was on the right trail at all! I did pull out my Suunto and reassure myself using the navigation functions that I was on the right track a couple times.
Finally at Nicomen, I enjoyed the most delicious piece of bacon I have ever had!! It was exactly what I needed at that point. Somehow I spent 10 minutes at the aid station, what could I possibly be doing for that time?! Continuing on I was feeling great, if not a little worried that I was still going too fast as I had reached Nicomen Lake 50 minutes ahead of schedule!

The descent into Cayuse Flats seems to take forever. Fortunately, my feet were still mostly intact (only a couple tender spots), unlike the fellow that I ran part of the descent with. I changed my socks at Cayuse and told myself I had to get them taped and fixed at Cascades if I didn't want to hate myself for the rest of the race. It was great to see Tim's mom helping out at Cayuse (she makes the best jam squares in case you were wondering!). Skagit Bluff Trail, and all of its glorious hills, wasn't nearly as long this year as it was last! Clearly, our training was paying off.

I managed to reach Cascades an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, yikes! But then I spent 45
Hanging out at Cascades aid station
minutes at the aid station drying my feet and getting them taped (thank you!) and eating everything I could! Potatoes, broth and watermelon are seriously fantastic!
Back on the road, it was time for the second highway section, which I managed to run at a reasonable pace and gain back some of the lost time from my prolonged stay at the aid station.
A quick stop at Sumallo Grove to use the bathroom and I was off and running. Yes, actually running! Not fast, mind you, but I'm fairly sure I did 11 or 12 minute miles for several miles. All this was spurred on by the fact I (momentarily) thought I could make a 36 hour finish. All I had to do was run the 10 miles from Sumallo to Shawatum in 2 hours, then the next section to Skyline in 2 hours, and that would leave me with 8 hours for the final 20 miles from Skyline to the finish. It sounded doable... until I got tired of maintaining a 12 minute mile pace halfway to Shawatum. Maybe 36 wasn't quite so doable, but sub-40 was still a possibility. It was at this point that I got passed by one of the 50-mile racers who encouraged me to run with him... yeah right!

I did manage to run the last couple miles into Shawatum, though this was really only possibly because walking was hurting the calluses on my heels - I thought those things were supposed to help?
Coming into Shawatum I was 1h20m ahead of the 40 hour pace, but I again spent a bunch of time at the aid station. Over 20 minutes, in fact, while I had my toes re-taped. This did give me time to refuel and rebugspray.
The next section to Skyline seemed to actually take forever, even longer that the part into Cayuse! I just wasn't going very fast; my feet were starting to get sore and the hills (I forgot that they were there) just weren't expected. I also may have been getting a little tired and delirious as I mistook a couple different stumps/bushes for people on the trail, oops. I was still doing 20 minute miles, so it could have been worse!

34 hours into the race, still looking fresh!
Skyline aid was a very welcome sight. Here I took the time to dry my feet and get them taped properly (thanks guys!) and change into my Altra Olympus shoes, a recent addition to my collection. I also took the time to devour some exceptionally delicious food. Really, it was heavenly! There was bacon and eggs and hashbrowns and smoothies! This really got me fueled up for the climb to Camp Mowich, which was fairly uneventful. I managed to reach the top in 3h15m, the same as when we hiked it in training! And the best part was that the sun didn't set till I was just out from the aid station.

My attempt at photographing one of the two owls I saw on
Skyline 2 trail. The two bright spots in the middle are its eyes.
At this point I was still an hour ahead of my 40 hour schedule, and I was still feeling fairly fresh. However, sitting at aid stations was starting to feel a little too good, I never wanted to move. On the trails the only thing that was bothering me were my feet and it was only really the downhills that hurt. I could still truck along on the flats and ups without any discomfort, but heck, whose feet wouldn't be a little sore at this point.

Peter and Nicola at Sky Junction!
After a seemingly long hike from Camp Mowich, I could finally hear familiar voices emanating from Sky Junction up through the trees. Things really started getting going at this point - I kicked it into high gear and ran (I think it was a run...) up the final switchbacks to Sky Junction aid station. I was greeted by the wonderful sight
and heckling of Peter (from before) and Nicola (also extremely involved in FatDog). These two are seriously awesome!

Fed and ready to go, I hit the trails. With only 8 miles left I could sense the finish line was getting close. And being nearly 4 hours ahead of my 40-hour schedule was a great feeling. Downhills still hurt a bit, but that was subsiding, surprisingly! I know some of the other racers were complaining about the last sections, but it seriously felt like I flew up some of those false peaks!
Coming down through the burnt out forest I could see there was potential to come in exactly 9 hours ahead of last year's time ie. do a 39h01m, and darn if I wasn't going to try for it! At about 2 to 2.5 miles from the finish I really kicked, getting down below 8 minute miles for the final portion around the lake.
There's not much better than that final 'sprint' to the finish of a race. Everything that you've done to get there, whether it's in training or during the race, sort of culminates in a final hoorah! and that just feels plain amazing!

I finished in 39h02m, 1 minute after my goal time of 39h01m, according to my watch that had been going since the second the gun went off so very long ago. (The finish line clock showed 39h04m)
Unfortunately, there was basically no one at the finish line since it was midnight. But after a little bit I look up from my seat by the propane heater and see my mom has come to cheer me in... Her and my sister finished the 30 mile distance several hours before and had been sleeping in the car, so you really can't blame them for not being there when I finished. Thankfully they brought clothes for me to change into
Post-race relaxing!

Post-race celebrations included a delicious midnight bacon cheeseburger from the wonderful volunteers at the finish line, and the awards ceremony at 10am the next day, from which I got a watermelon (score!) and a free trail race entry (double score!)
Overall, much more fun was had at this year's FatDog120 trail race! And turns out, I spent over 3h20m in total at aid stations!!! I think I know where I could shave off a little bit of time in the future...


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Impromptu Kayaking in Desolation Sound

Cruisin' in calm waters!
Almost a week after the big race we returned home to find ourselves with a bit more free time than initially planned for - so we jumped on a ferry heading towards Powell River for another exciting adventure!

Thursday August 21st. 4:30 PM - We return home from the Okanagan. Jenna is booked on a flight leaving for Calgary for field work at 9:00 am the next morning. 
5:00 PM - We get the call. The field adventure has been cancelled, leaving us with 3 work free days!
6:00 PM - Thinking about adventure to Powell River for the weekend.
8:00 PM - Adventure confirmed, packing commences.
10:00 PM - Backpacks are packed and we're ready to go! Let's hope we didn't forget anything!

Friday August 22nd, 9:40 AM - Missed the first ferry. Next connecting ferry isn't until 5:30 PM.
10:00 AM - Decide to take Monday off work to maximize adventure time.
6:30 PM - Arrive in Powell River

Let the adventure begin! We arrived in Powell River and were immediately whisked off to one of the coolest swimming holes I've ever been too. It came complete with a sketchy looking rope swing, and a rather terrifying cave. Just in case you aren't convinced - Chris will demonstrate (video comes complete with tarzan yelp).
Jason with the Humpback!!!

After a delicious salmon dinner with my cousin Jason we were off and planning the weekend's adventure.
And then we have this brilliant idea - let's go on a three day kayak trip with a couple of hours notice, and be on the water by noon the next day!
I'm not even sure how we did it, but by noon the next day we had all the food and gear packed and we were ready to hit the water. We didn't even forget anything! Well, except for the bug spray - but that's a minor detail.

There's not much I can say that the pictures don't show. It was a beautiful weekend filled with seals, whales, crabs, star fish, sea bacon and sunshine!
Yes, you read that right, sea bacon. Now we were too chicken to try it - but rumor has it if you properly disect and pull the veins out of a sea cucumber it takes just like bacon! I think I'll stick with the traditional kind!

If you're looking for an amazing place to kayak (even paddle-free kayaking) - Desolation Sound is it!
Thanks for being an amazing host Jason!! We owe you!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Will do laps of Grouse Grind for charity!

I don't ask for much, in fact I hardly ever ask for anything at all.
But this time I'm asking you - no I'm begging you to help me help the Golder Trust for Orphans.
It's simple really.
You donate money (small amounts, large amounts, pennies, nickels, quarters, dimes, pocket lint).
The more money I raise - the more laps I do. For every additional $50 raised I will do an extra lap of the grind!
I'm not asking you to donate the full $50 yourself, unless you would like me to loathe you as I do a lap of the grind in your honour, purely because you're such a kind, generous individual....

In all honesty - Take a look at the amazing things the Golder Trust for Orphans does to improve the quality of life of children who have been orphaned or displaced by the AIDS pandemic.

The Trust, which is funded mainly by contributions from Golder’s operating companies and Golder staff, provides financial support to NGO’s caring for and counselling families and dependents of people living with HIV/AIDS. The Golder Trust for Orphans supports NGO’s and other organisations of all religions and ethnic groups. The primary focus is in Africa, with a vision to one day support projects all over the world.

When you're convinced that your money is going to a great cause, and as a bonus will cause me to endure another lap of the grind (named by Outside magazine as one of the world's most dangerous hikes, might I add) then donate, donate, donate! And pass it on!

Donations can be made securely through paypal here:

Help me keep on running :)

J.B. Running

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Fat Dog's Tale

It's Saturday August 16th at 4:45 in the morning. I wake up to my alarm blasting beside my head, hit the snooze button and snuggle back into my sleeping bag. Ten minutes later my alarm goes off again, I can hear Chris' family drag themselves out of the tent, and I know I have to do the same.
I finally muster up the courage to go out in to the cold and brave the day I'd known was coming for almost a year. I can't believe it's finally race day!

Foggy start to the FatDog70 up Blackwall Peak
It's now 7:00 am and Brad and I are loaded on the bus heading up to Blackwall Peak. It's warm enough outside to be in shorts and a shirt. We're hopeful the weather will hold and it does - sort of. We unload from the bus in the mist/fog/clouds to temperatures that have our teeth chattering, sending everyone scrambling for their jackets. After a short wait, we're off and running straight out into the alpine meadows. Although I know from training runs its absolutely beautiful up there, it was difficult to see more than a few meters away. It made for a pretty eerie start to the race!
I didn't make it far before I was hungry, since I always have trouble eating before a big race. Despite eating constantly, this hunger would plague me for the next 20 miles.
Let me just put this out there now... I'm not a strong starter. The first 20 miles was a mix of excitement that I was finally out doing the race and fear that I would get lost or run out of food.
About 5 miles in I was already on my own. I couldn't see far enough ahead to spot other runners, and I had no idea if there was anyone behind me. Though my legs were feeling good, I was rather tired and a little concerned as I'd already eaten half my food. I slogged through the next 20 miles, running where I could and walking pretty much every slight incline. By the time I made it to the first aid station (Cayuse flats), I had already had dangerous thoughts of failing at least 50 times.
Coming into Cayuse flats was one of the most motivating parts of the race. I had my watch on the minute gps recording intervals, so I came into the aid station 2 miles sooner than expected (according to my watch distance). My race crew (aka my family) was there to get me fed and back out on the course. I'm not sure what changed at that point, but I left Cayuse feeling like a whole new person. There are some nasty hills through the section between Cayuse and Cascade Aid Station that I powered through feeling rather fantastic.
The next section has a lot of aid stations close together, which was a blur of eating all the food I could stomach, and getting attacked by bug spray (thanks mom!). We also got to put on fancy safety vests and run on the highway for a bit which was fun!
Coming in to Shawatum aid station at mile 40
After Summallo Grove comes a flat section with nothing too exciting; I was feeling energized from all of the aid stations so there wasn't much to complain about. At this point the sun was out and it was glorious sweaty running along rolling hills. Though the flattest section before Shawatum aid station seemed to drag on forever, I finally made it back to my wonderful crew who fueled me up and sent me packing.
The next section was the only part of the racecourse I hadn't seen, which had me a little concerned. I'd been out on the trail for 10 hours by now, but I knew in 10 miles I'd have a pacer to drag me the last 20 , which was pretty darn motivating! The highlight of this section had to be the song that wouldn't leave my head, something like "walking on the trail with candy, walking on the trail with candy". Intelligent, eh? When I got bored of singing about my candy, I pulled out my mosquito net.  I was actually digging in my pack for electrolyte tablets, but decided I'd put it on the mozzy net and see if it helped. There were a few mosquitos buzzing in my ear - so it really couldn't hurt. This is when I knew I'd been running for too long, because I really don't know if it helped with the mosquitos, but it sure was a lot of fun. It added a new jungle like element to my vision that spiced things up a little. Though it did make it harder to eat candy.
I made it to the 50 mile mark (Skyline Aid), and was now excited knowing that despite the rather crappy start I could still make the full distance. I picked up my cousin - the BEST pacer in the world - grabbed my poles, and set out up the hill to break things! Yes, break things. But we'll get to that. Up until Skyline Aid I had been ignoring my pace chart completely, but I had the general feeling I was going pretty darn slow. Apparently, I was actually on pace for a 26 hour race (the cutoff being 27, my goal being 24), but thankfully nobody told me that.
I'd grabbed my poles at the last major aid station (Skyline) to help me get up and down the insane mountainous terrain that is the last 20 miles. Lucky for me, about 20 minutes in, the strap on my pole snapped, leaving me with a nice bracelet. A girl needs to feel pretty 50 miles in, right? The pole itself still worked just fine so we kept on truckin'. The next few hours are a blur of climbing uphill and stuffing down candy as darkness descended upon us. After 3+ hours of climbing in the dark we reached the descent into one of the remote aid stations - Camp Mowich.
I sat down to have some broth while the aid station crew filled my pack. A few minutes later I put my pack back on, and immediately tossed it right off. It was soaked! Of course my bladder was leaking. So we pulled out the bladder only to find a lovely little pinhole happily spouting out water. Nothing a little duct tape couldn't fix. A few minutes later I was all duct taped and ready to hit the trail.
And then I fell apart. It was about midnight, I was dead tired, sick of eating, overheating, and I felt like I could pass out any minute. Doing what any sane (ha!) person would do, I stopped and told my cousin we had to go back to the aid station - that I was too tired and I needed to sleep. She wasn't quite as convinced on heading back, as we had already hiked 15+ minutes uphill from the aid station. So she pulled out a garbage bag, sat me on the trail, and got me to eat and drink and recover for a few minutes. Shaking and still feeling like crap, I made the decision to go back to the aid station. So we started to hike back down the hill, stopping every 2 minutes because I wasn't entirely convinced I wanted to go back, and because I was feeling a little better. So after a quarter mile adventure back towards the aid station we again turned around and decided to trek the 8k to Sky Junction, where I could take a nice nap before continuing.
This was the hardest 8k I have ever done! I didn't want to eat, but if I didn't eat I started to feel sick so I had to eat. I battled this the whole race, but the waves of nausea and near loss of consciousness made it that much harder. So I kept moving forward, and eating, and drinking to stay awake. I don't suggest hydration as a means of staying awake, because I was overhydrated for the next 21k to the finish. I have to admit that having to pee every 5 minutes is a rather great way of staying awake on the trail, though its not very helpful for running.
We finally made it to Sky Junction. I had no idea what time it was nor did I care. They asked what I wanted and I said I needed a nap. I can't tell you how thankful I am that Peter (the assistant race director) was at that aid station. He sat me down on a nice ledge covered with a space blanket, handed me a giant can of pringles and refilled my leaky pack. He got me to put my music in, and pretty much just forget about everything. I'm not really proud to say this, but it took me 40 minutes to get myself off that ledge and muster up the strength to continue. If I wasn't getting cold I don't think I would have left. It also helped that it's further to hike out at this point than finish.
Now comes the fun part! It's 2am. I've finally dragged myself out of the aid station, and I'm on the top of a mountain singing - terribly, I might add. My pack is still leaking. It's duct taped, but there's a little too much water in it this time. So I spent the last 13k getting progressively soaked as my pack leaked all over me, and I had to stop to pee every 5 minutes. Have I sold you on how much fun I was having yet? BUT I MADE IT!
We finally came down the last hill into lightning lakes and the trail was lit with glow sticks to the finish line and it was incredible!! I crossed the finish line wet and cold at 4:30 in the morning - 4.5 hours faster than my predicted time after leaving skyline aid station at mile 50! My final finish time was 21h29m55s

Check out my awesome 'Fat Dog' pj's I won!
The most important part of this post is to say THANK YOU! First to the amazing volunteers and people at Mountain Madness who made this an INCREDIBLE race! The course was so well flagged you couldn't get lost, the aid station crews were always smiling, there wasn't a thing I could find to complain about!
Next to Chris for dragging me on all those training runs and never getting tired of me!
My family for all coming out to support me as my crew and pacer!
And of course all of my friends and family who had to listen to me talk endlessly of our running adventures/Fat Dog/how messy our house was!

You are all amazing and I would not be a Fat Dog without you!

J.B. Running

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FatDog120 Course Maps

These maps of the FatDog race course may be of some help during the race. I've included aid stations etc so you know what to expect at each location. Some portions of the course (Leg 2 specifically) didn't have trail maps available so I had to use satellite/topo maps.
Major Aid stations have approximate checkpoint times (hours, time of day) indicated by T40 (for a 40 hours finish) or T48 (for a 48 hours finish). Hard cut-offs are indicated by C.
Each image below links to a higher quality one you can download.
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 1 trail map from Lakeview Creek Campground to Ashnola River Road
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 2 route map from Ashnola River Road to Pasayten River; potentially wet and squishy around Trapper Lake

FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 3 and 4 from Bonnevier to Heather to Cascade Aid Station
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 5 trail map from Cascade to Shawatum to Skyline 2 trailhead. This is the buggiest section.
FatDog120 Race Course Trail Map
Leg 6 of the FatDog120 race course from Skyline 2 trailhead to the finish at Lightning Lakes Day Use Area

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The last big hill climbed before FatDog!

This past weekend we headed back out to Manning Park to see the final 13 miles of the FatDog race course. We started Saturday morning with the goal of heading from our campsite at lightning lakes up Skyline to Camp Mowich and back. We were accompanied by Chris' mom and dad, who will be taking on the 30 mile and 70 mile course with us in August!

The rough uphill start leaves me in the dust while the Cochrane rabbits fly up it. My calves are burning, my heart is racing - and I can't help but feel like after all the training we've done I should be able to get up this hill without much trouble.
Camp Mowich - don't count on there being snow for the race!
After a 6 mile uphill warm-up I was finally able to run at a decent pace. Little did I know this tough start followed by a rather miraculous recovery would earn me the title of running like a "wounded possum". Thanks Brad & Sue!
I'm not sure whether this title was well deserved, or they were just dehydrated and delusional as the sun was beating down on us for 6+ hours!

After racing over a few slightly terrifying false peaks (because the first uphill was clearly not enough), we pranced through glorious alpine meadows and straight down the valley into Camp Mowich.

On the way back I came to see why last year's finishers crossed the line cursing those false peaks! If the climb from Skyline to Camp Mowich isn't enough - those false peaks are sure to knock your socks off.
On the bright side, the uphill I cursed at the start is actually quite a nice non-technical downhill.
Once we made it safely back to the campsite we decided to head back out around lightning lakes and part-way up frosty mountain to round out the mileage for the day. Chris ended up with 30 miles and 2400m climbing, while I stopped at a nice mountain marathon.

On Sunday we headed up Frosty Mountain for an easy (ha!) 26k loop. We started out tired and slightly sunburnt from Saturday's adventure. Of course, when I say slightly sunburnt I mean I had to borrow a hat and compression socks from Brad to make sure the sun never saw my skin again. Thank you!!!
I'm not sure how I survived this run, or why I agreed to go. This was not the first time we'd gone up Frosty, but I somehow managed to forget just how far 1300 m of climbing really is.

This line adapted from the children's TV show, Magic School Bus, really sums up how the run felt...
"Please let this be a normal trail run.... With Chris?! NO WAY"

Somehow, knowing that I had to be able to go 70 miles in only 3 short weeks was pretty good motivation as well!

I must say I'm looking forward to having a bit more time on our hands as we down the mileage and begin to taper! Perhaps our house will be clean for more than a few hours... :)

Until next time - happy trails!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Fat Dog 120 Race Course GPX and Profile

The following links are to gpx files of the Fat Dog 120 race course. I found them super helpful last year using my Sunnto Ambit2 when I wanted to double check that I was on the right course, especially up by Trapper Lake.
I believe they are fairly accurate, though the total distance may be less than 120miles. They were recorded by Ed Sargisson a few years ago, so my greatest thanks to him! The course is split into 6 legs, but I also have it where it's split into 9 legs (for the relay) so let me know if you want me to upload those too.

For those using Movescount, you can search/see the Fat Dog course segments in the Routes section.

Below I've also included a profile with approximate locations of the aid stations, and where pacers are allowed to join. The pacer spots are also places that crew could have access in the latter part of the race - keep in mind Heather aid is 5km from the parking lot.

Leg 1 from the start at Lakeview Creek Campground to Ashnola River Road

Leg 2 from Ashnola River Road to Bonnevier

Leg 3 up Bonnevier to Heather Trail

 Leg 4 from Heather Trail to Cascade aid station

Leg 5 from Cascade aid station to Skyline 2 trailhead

Leg 6 from Skyline 2 to Lightening Lakes Day Use Area

GPX file of full Fat Dog course

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (approximate locations).
*Bonnevier Aid is just before the first uphill section as indicated by the arrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More Advice for the Fat Dog 120 Trail Race

I received an email from a fellow on the east coast asking about FatDog, here's his questions (in blue) and my response - hopefully you'll find some helpful advice in it.

1. How would you describe the surface? I live on the east coast and our trails are very rocky and rooty, which tends to be very hard on the feet and ankles. I've run Leadville and I consider that surface to be pretty mild throughout (except heading downhill into Twin Lakes)

The surface is mostly single-track trails with minimal rocks/roots. There are a couple sections that do have a rockier surface, specifically at the top of Red Mountain in Cathedral Park, a steeper section coming into Nicomen Lake, a section along Skagit Valley, and the final descent into Lightening Lakes. The softest sections are coincidentally also along the Skagit Valley. If the weather keeps up the way has been, the trails will be quite dry and dusty, and likely a little on the hard side, but certainly nothing compared to the rocky/rooty trails you are used to.

2. Wondering about your shoe choice. I'm a Saucony Xodus fan (its like a road shoe but with a lugged outsole), but I use a few others too. Was even considering using a well-cushioned road shoe. Thoughts? What did you use?

This year I'll be wearing Altra LonePeaks for the first 40miles, then after the river crossing I'll be switching to Altra Olympus. I think your choice of shoe should be fine, you really won't need too aggressive of an outsole given the trails. In fact, a road shoe might not be such a bad idea for between Cascade and Skyline 2 aid as this is the most runnable of sections (nearly flat for 20+ miles). Last year I had some issues with shoes rubbing (wore some Salomon ones), but I think I've got that figured out now.

3. Temperature. Is it hot during the day? What about nighttime? I don't have a crew/pacer and am considering just carrying a lightweight fake-down jacket to keep me warm at night.

Typically, day time temperatures are upper 20's or low-mid 30's. This, combined with the exposure of the course, can mean fairly warm conditions. That being said, a storm could very well roll in and we would get rained on all day, so who knows! Nighttime will get chilly though - not terribly cold so long as you're running, but if you stop you'll freeze. For nighttime I added a light jacket, a moderately warm toque (winter cap) and compression socks in addition to the shorts and tshirt I wore through the day. I ended up having to wrap a space blanket around me for the last portion along Skyline ridge as it was breezy through the night. I don't recall whether I used gloves or not.

4. As for a pack, I've looked at the video and Ive seen a range of what people carry. One woman was using handhelds (which is way too minimalist for me), others seem to have small camelbaks that don't have much storage space for anything more than water and a few snacks and others have bigger packs. My thought was that it should be big since I need to carry lots of water, extra clothing, lights and food. How big was your pack?

I used a Nathan Synergy Pack (only a single bladder though) as it had enough space to carry my gear (jacket, head lamp, hat etc) for when I wasn't using them. Definitely use something with space for a couple liters of water - the course will be bone dry by the race if it keeps up like it has, so that means the only water will be at aid stations. Last year I carried my bladder with approx 2L (can hold 3L) and a small 500 mL flask as a back-up so that if I sucked the pack dry I knew I had at least a few sips to keep me going. I didn't have to use the flask for myself, but I did give it to another runner that ran out before Trapper aid station. Just make sure you refill at the aid stations, especially at Trapper and Sumallo.

5. What would you say was the biggest challenge of this race? Why? Could you have better prepared for it and how?

Three of the large climbs come in the first 50 miles of the race, then you're expected to be able to 'run' the next 50 and follow that up with another large climb with several false peaks. Once you add in the distance/time between aid stations the race becomes challenging. I have increased my overall volume this year and included more hills and am hoping that, combined with fixing the shoe problem, will give me an edge over last year.

6. Did you use poles? I was planning to just go without

I didn't use poles, and don't plan to this year. If I were going to though, I would put them in my drop bag at Skyline 2 for the last 20 miles. There are a couple parts that traverse steep scree-like slopes and the added stability at the end of the race couple be helpful for some. As well, the final downhill into Lightening Lakes could probably benefit from poles, but it really depends on how you think you'll be feeling at that point and whether you'll be bounding down the hill or needing poles to lessen the load on the legs.

7. Obviously the elevation gain/descent is the big part of this race. Are the hills super steep or just very long and plentiful?

Very long and plentiful... The first climb is somewhat steeper than the others, and so are a few of the false peaks near the end of the race. The descent just before and after Nicomen is steep as well, then sort of levels into a constant descent. Overall though, the climbs are just quite long.

8. Feel free to share anything you think may be helpful. I've complete 10 100's and multiple other ultra-races. I'm not new to this, but Fat Dog seems to have this mystique. Aside from the elevation gain/loss and the 120 mile distance, what makes it top-10 most difficult ultra?

I think the real test comes at mile 100 when you begin the final ascent to Mowich and you're into that next level of challenge, having already completed what would be a tough 100. If you plan each section carefully in terms of food, water and clothing, and minimize carrying of needless items (headlamp during the day, sunglasses at night etc) I think you'll see a lot of success.

Other tidbits:
Compression/tall socks will help keep the foliage from brushing your legs in the last 40 miles and help keep you sane.
If you have a mosquito head net, it's a good idea to stick that in a drop bag for the section from Sumallo to Camp Mowich. Bug spray is good too!!!

Good luck to everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

2 months of Running (and other busy-ness)

If you're reading this you probably noticed that we haven't posted in almost 2 months, and there is a reason for that... We've just been too busy running!

Over the past 2 months, we've done some really cool and amazing (and really long) runs! Here's a recap:
Jenna running along Blue Gentian lake, off the BP trail

May was mostly comprised of several recon runs along the Baden Powell trail in preparation for the Vancouver 100 in June.

May 25: Jenna and I both ran the Iron Knee 24km trail race from Cleveland Dam Park to Deep Cove. The 'highlight' of this race is that it goes up and over Powerline trail, a ssolid ascent of over 1100 ft, this of course is after the first half of the race where you climb from the start over 1000ft to the top of the BP trail near Dempsey Rd. Overall a great day though, as I placed 9th overall with a 1h55m finish and Jenna came in at 2h36m, in the top quarter for the women.

June 7: This was the day of the Vancouver 100, or what was supposed to be 100 anyway. It was a hot one! At 5am when we started we were only wearing shorts and t-shirts and we were already cooking. By midday, it was even hotter! Athough I should have known better, I went out fairly hard, keeping up with Daniel Goddard (a darn fast runner!), not a good idea. I ended up becoming extremely dehydrated by the second half and had to drop at kilometer 74 - things weren't looking too good. Good news was that my feet looked beautiful, not a blister or hot spot, thanks to my Injinji toe socks and my Altra LonePeaks!
Jenna was feeling an old injury by the halfway point and decided to call it a day. Still a good 50km all in all.
Big thanks to Hasan and Mike for meeting us at the halfway mark! You guys rock!!

June 14 weekend: We went backpacking in Manning Park with my family for the weekend and didn't get in much running, but the weighted hiking probably wasn't so bad for training.

June 21 weekend: This was really good training weekend in Manning Park as we got to run some of the FatDog course, parts Jenna hadn't seen yet that she would be facing in August. On the Saturday we went from Sumallo Grove to Shawatum Day Use and back, for 21 miles. The next day we did Cayuse Flats to Cascade Rec Area and back, then a little bit up towards Nicomen Lake for a 12mile total with some good hills.

June 28 weekend: This weekend we were camping in Clearwater/Wells Gray Provincial Park with Jenna's family. We managed to get in a couple runs over the weekend including a 17 mile day during which we got absolutely poured on!

July 5 weekend: This was the weekend of 24 in the Forest, our little event here in the UBC forest. We ended up seeing about a dozen runners come out over the two days, less than had signed up, but more than I expected - the weather may have deterred some people as it was overcast and threatening to rain the whole time. On the Saturday, I got in 10 laps of the course (51.8 miles) and Jenna did 9 (46.6 miles), then on Sunday I did another 7 (36.2 miles) while Jenna joined my sister for a lap. A most successful training weekend by far!
Camp Mowich, mile 107 of FatDog

July 12: We decided to do a day trip to the Skagit Valley to run from Skyline 2 trailhead to Camp Mowich and back, with the intention of going further at the top. We made it Camp Mowich in 3 hours, but decided to turn around at that point as battling with mosquitoes and spiderwebs on the way up was more difficult than imagined. Also, it's a lot farther up the mountain than expected. For anyone planning a training day, make sure to go for a swim in Ross Lake, it's glorious!

View of Ross Lake from near Camp Mowich
July 13: I ran to Grouse Mountain to meet Jenna and her cousin to do the BCMC. Following that, Jenna and I did the GG proper with her mom and aunt. As an added level of difficulty we, at times, hopped up the grind - that's how you get fit!

This past weekend's adventures included a 33.5mile trail run with 3000m of climbing on Saturday, followed by a 16mile, 1400m ascent/descent, day on Sunday. Definitely one of the best training weekend's thus far! On a side note, if you ever get hungry when you're running in/near Deep Cove, check out Deep Cove Pizza for a snack. Call ahead 15mins and you won't have to wait.

Friday, May 9, 2014

24 in the Forest Trail Race

It's settled; the 24 in the Forest Trail Race at UBC on July 5th 2014 now has a course! We decided on a 5.18 mile (8.33km) loop all on trails through the south-eastern part of Pacific Spirit Park. This distance will make it really easy for those runners wanting to do 25, 50 or 100km as they just have to do 3, 6 or 12 laps, respectively. For anyone brave enough to go for 100miles they need only do 19 laps of the main loop, and one lap of a shorter loop (see course description here).

The idea of a 24 hour race is certainly not for the faint of heart, but this event should not be intimidating to anyone! Since it's a Club Fat Ass style event participants are free to go for as long (or little) as they feel like. To help breakdown any possible barrier for beginner runners we have decided to include a 1 lap category. And for anyone doing more than one lap, their first lap will also be scored in the 1 lap category results.

Course map for 24 in the Forest Trail Race - one lap is 5.18miles (8.33km)
See you out there on July 5th!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

North Shore Enduro 2014 Edition

After a glorious sunny week in Vancouver with temperatures in the mid-20s, we were excited to take on the North Shore Enduro for the first time.
The weekend forecast, of course, was for rain! They don't call it raincouver for nothing, after all.

The race is a 7.6 km looped course on trails in the Lower Seymour/Lynn Valley area. The idea is to run as many laps as you can in six hours. Each lap has approximately 200m of elevation gain, so its not just a walk in the park. The event is run by Club Fat Ass - a just for fun running club where people post a variety of races and runs. You can check out upcoming events here:

We were just using this as a fun training run, however we set ambitious goals as always. Chris set out aiming for 7-8 laps, and I was hoping for 6-7. The record for the most number of laps completed within the time limit is nine.

It was overcast to start, but warm enough to be in shorts and a t-shirt. Chris took off at a blistering pace - completing the first few laps in 40 minutes each (on pace to do 9 laps!). Unfortunately he suffered from some diaphragm and stomach issues from lap 4 onwards, and had to throw in the towel after lap 6. He ended the day completing 6 laps in 4h 42m!

I paced myself a little more conservatively, completing 6 laps in 5h 42m for a total of 43.87km with 1250m of elevation gain! Not bad for my first Club Fat Ass event - I will definitely be back for more!

North Shore Enduro elevation profile from my new Suunto Ambit2R
The highlight of the day was midway through lap 3 when the rain came! Of course, I was on one of the most open parts of the trail, trying to hug the side of it to stay under the trees for protection. This section is followed by a gnarly uphill section with lots and lots of staircases. As I started the ascent - it began to hail! I crossed paths with someone coming down the hill who noted that the hail felt quite exfoliating, which I found rather humorous. The hail only lasted a few minutes, and it only rained for about an hour and was replaced by an attempt at sunshine. So I guess we can't complain.

Hope to see you out at the next Club Fat Ass event!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

RED FAMished

That was one tough month! Although it started out slow, it really ended with a bang. And I did manage to hit my goal of 250 miles for the month, though that wasn't without some difficulty as I had to put in two long days of running back to back this past Monday and Tuesday.

Here's what I learned from running everyday and from trying to go for a distance goal for the month.

First, it really does become a routine to at least go for a short run every day - I would get off work, lace up my shoes rain or shine and get out there. It was a nice addition to my day.

That being said, running everyday is not conducive to doing really long runs, the ones that are important for ultra training. Having to go every day means that you don't have adequate time to recover if you do a long one, plus housework and other stuff like that can really pile up if you don't have days during the week when you don't do anything. All that combined meant I did fewer days of 12-20 miles than I would with a normal training schedule.

All this RED FAMing meant I was quite RED FAMished! Seriously, I didn't think my appetite would increase that much seeing as I run all the time normally, but it definitely did. I even found myself ordering multiple entrees when we went out for dinner one night. This month was not friendly to the grocery bill.

Mileage for month of April (distances in miles)
The last thing that became apparent from running every day, is the need for multiple pairs of shoes. It's really not ideal to run in the same pair every day, it's just  uncomfortable!

Hopefully you can learn something from my experience of running every day for a month, I know I sure have!
Now to rest up for this weekend's Club Fat Ass North Shore Enduro 6hr race...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wanting to Run Barefoot? Here's how! - Phase 3

Phase 3 of this minimalist running guide builds off of Phases 1 and 2 and should only be read after reading the previous posts.

The Final Steps to Minimalism

Phase 3 starts at the 'Zero Heel Drop/Minimal Cushion' stage of Phase 2, so the next step is to raise the bar by losing the shoe. Now I should warn you that this is the stage that I'm currently at, so the actual barefoot thing is quite new to me as well. I will try to provide the most reasonable advice available, but I haven't personally tested it all... yet!

Assuming that you've become proficient at running light on your feet in a minimalist shoe, and have built up some sort of endurance for the activity, the most difficult part of this stage will be strengthening and adapting the soles of your feet. Not in a muscular way, but in tolerance-to-sharp-or-rough-things kind of way. And just as you did in Phase 2 as you transitioned to the right along the Minimalist Progression Scale, you'll want to start with extremely short barefoot runs (0-2 min). Please be mindful of the conditions outside when attempting this - if there is ice and snow your feet may freeze, if it's hot and sunny you could burn them on a hot side-walk; be smart about it.

You may find your feet feel quite warm on the soles while running and later may be a little tender to the touch. This is normal and is the reason you're starting out slowly, they just need time to adapt. Ice baths for your feet can feel really good! Also, has a great section on ways that you can help toughen up your feet more quickly.

Going Further - Limits of Form

You may not want to go all the way to barefoot running and that's totally OK! But, no matter where you choose to stop along the horizontal axis of the Minimalist Progression Scale, you'll likely want to keep increasing the distance you're running.While doing this, be mindful of the effects of fatigue on your form. In my experience, my form would break down 15-20 miles into a marathon, despite training exclusively in Vibram Five Fingers for 2 years, and that is when injuries can happen. Now this may be farther than you might try and go in your minimalist shoes, but the lesson will be the same; form breaks down with fatigue, and injuries are more likely at that point. Which brings me to my next point:

Train Low, Race High

Training in a minimalist style is great since you can focus on maintaining that proper form and you can adjust your run length to reflect how you're feeling. Racing on the other hand can present issues in terms of maintaining form. So, one option is to train in your minimalist shoe (or barefoot) and then use a slightly more cushioned shoe for your racing. This allows you a little give in terms of your form while you race and will provide that extra little bit of comfort. Traditional racing flats are a good option as they have minimal heel drop but still have enough cushion for when you're fatigued.

Staying Balanced

With long-term minimalist running certain muscle groups can become weaker than they would with traditional shod running, most evidently quads, glutes and tibialis anterior. This is not normally an issue so long as you continue running in a minimalist style, but if you're like me and you need to go back to a more cushioned shoe, say for trail running, you can have problems. So even if you don't plan to switch back, it is smart to do some form of cross- or weight-training, targeting the quads, hips and glutes.

I hope you've enjoyed this minimalist and barefoot running guide and that it has been somewhat educational for you. The only thing I can't emphasize enough is to build up to your goals slowly and deliberately while taking precautionary steps as needed to avoid injuries and other issues.

Run free!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wanting to Run Barefoot? Here's how! - Phase 2

This is a continuation from Phase 1, please take the time to read it before jumping into this post!

Your Next Steps

You've done your reading and your pre-strengthening exercises and you're ready to take the plunge into minimalist running, so let's do it!

First thing to do now is figure out where you're at along the horizontal axis of the Minimalist Progression Scale below. Your goal is to progress rightward along the scale and downward, until you reach your desired result.
Start slowly by either incorporating a short period of fore-foot running into a longer run, or go out for couple minute 'minimalist run' (MR). In both cases you should start at the top of the vertical axis (0-2 min) and focus on proper form - light, quick, short strides. To help facilitate the fore-foot strike you can try moving one level to the right for your MRs. If you do this, you may want to stick with your typical shoes/style for your normal longer runs, that way you don't overdo it. For your MRs, only go as long as you are able to maintain that proper form otherwise you risk injuring yourself. And only progress when you're comfortable with that time and distance.

Progression should always follow the 10% percent rule. Just keep in mind that you will be changing both the distance ran and what you are running in and since the latter is a big change it's advisable to  decrease your time/distance when shifting right along the scale. Even starting again at the 0-2 minute mark is not unreasonable! Starting slowly will ensure a safe and happy transition to a minimalist running style.

Take Home Message: Find your current horizontal axis category and shift one to the right. Now increase time and distance in that category starting from 0-2 min. When you've reached an acceptable target distance, shift one more category to the right, and start again from the top of the vertical axis. Repeat as needed!

If you haven't been running recently at all, or are just getting into running and are wanting to go minimalist then you will want to start farther along the scale to the right and just progress slowly. You may even want to start at the Phase 3 Barefoot stage as suggested by So those of you who run a lot don't get jealous and try to skip ahead, it's easier to start running in this new form as a new runner, than it is to transition to a different running style. This is due to the potential muscle imbalances that you must overcome and rectify during the transition.

A Note About Form

Although it is called a fore-foot strike and you are supposed to land on your fore-foot first, some people think that they should only land on their fore-foot, but this just sets you up for problems. Try landing first with the fore-foot and then allowing the mid-foot to come into contact with the ground in a controlled manner. The heel can contact after this (if you're going slowly), but very little force should be applied.

Another way of encouraging that fore-foot strike is to run faster. If you've ever watched sprinters run, you'll have noticed that they're landing on their toes the entire time; this is just natural when you run that fast. So feel free to increase your speed a little, but be aware that with increasing speed comes increasing loading of the calf etc, so it may be smart to reduce the length of your MR.


The key to any great training program it to recover properly. This involves allowing sufficient time between work-outs and can include other recovery techniques such as stretching, rolling, massage or icing.

You'll likely notice that your calves and foot muscles are more sore than usual after you first start running with a minimalist style. This is normal as you're using a part of your body more than you did before. However, there are some things you can do to help those muscles recover:
Stretch after a MR, specifically the muscles of the calf, the arches of your feet and your hamstrings.

A golf ball can be quite helpful to massage out the arches. Another helpful trick is to use a small foam roller (or Trigger Point Quadballer or poly-carbonate water bottle) to roll out the calf muscles. This one always hurts so good, so be gentle.

For painful DOMS in the foot and calf muscles ice (or ice-baths) can be used. Remember not to stretch right after icing!!

A good massage therapist is always a welcome addition to any recovery regime. They'll be able to work out some of those knots that stretching and rolling just can't get at. Self-massage can also be a good idea if you know what you're doing. When booking a massage keep in mind that you will want a couple days of rest (ie. no running!) around the massage date. My suggestion would be at least no running for 1 day before and 1 day after the massage - 2 after preferred. This allows those muscles to really relax and stretch out. Gentle stretching recommended during this period.

Take Home Message: Recovery is extremely important! Rest and stretch it out after a hard work-out.

Happy running!
Check back for Part 3 of your guide to barefoot running.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wanting to Run Barefoot? Here's how! - Phase 1

Barefoot and minimalist running have been suggested to be better on the body and induce less injuries, but that's not the only reason to go away from traditional running. Running either barefoot or in a minimalist shoe feels great! You feel free and energized, like you're floating along on your run, uninhibited by the ground on which you tread. Plus, they can provide great gains in strength and speed, making you the strongest, quickest runner you can be.

This step-by-step guide to minimalist running will emphasize an injury free progression from a
heel-strike style of running to as far along the minimalist scale as you'd like to go. Progression is always at your own pace and what you're comfortable with! I have broken up this guide into three phases: 1) Preventative Measures, 2) Your Next Steps and 3) The Final Steps to Minimalism. Each phase includes how-to's and helpful advice to make your transition as seamless as possible. Cautionary piece before I start: I am not an expert in barefoot or minimalist running, so this post is based solely on my experiences running in vibram five fingers and minimalist shoes over the last few years. Take from it what you will, but know that you may have different results.

Preventative Measures

The form and style of minimalist running is obviously different from that of traditional shod running. Runners tend to land somewhere between mid-foot and fore-foot, absorbing the impact using their muscles, especially their calves! Traditional running involves landing on the heel and absorbing impact using mainly the material of the shoe, with some contribution from the muscles. By landing on the fore/mid-foot, greater energy can be stored in the tendons and muscles, and that can increase the efficiency of running.

Another important difference is that cadence, or leg turnover rate, is typically higher in minimalist runners. This helps reduce the loads on the foot and muscles thereby reducing injuries. Also, by increasing cadence, it becomes quite difficult to over-stride and cause damage to the foot from an improper landing. Increases in cadence can also increase efficiency of running.

You can read through these websites to get an idea of some stylistic things to think about while transitioning to a more minimalist running technique: Pose Running (website is messy, but good info) and Chi Running

Take Home Message: Land lightly on the mid- to fore-foot to reduce stresses on muscles and bones of the foot and ankle

Common Injuries

Knowledge of common injuries and how to prevent them is also vital to your success. Here are two of the most common issues:

Metatarsal stress fractures involve forces being repeatedly applied to the bones of the foot above and beyond what the bones are adapted to. This is usually associated with a sudden switch to barefoot/minimalist running or a rapid increase in the time or distance ran in that style. This common running injury can be avoided by gradually switching from shod to minimalist running using proper form in which the runner is light on their feet. This allows the bones to strengthen and adapt to the new forces and encourages the newly strengthened muscles to absorb the load instead.  Another possible cause is from stepping on a rock with significant force while running. This is also the result of bad form as the runner is not staying light on their feet with quick leg turnover.

Achilles tendonitis and Achilles strains are also quite common. These sorts of conditions result from abrupt increases in activity without adequate recovery or stretching. The best approach to these conditions is prevention: undertake changes to your activities gradually, slowly developing the time/distance you run with a minimalist/barefoot style.

Strengthening Exercises

So with all this "increase-too-quickly-get-some-scary-injury" talk, what should you do? Strengthening exercises, that's what!  By starting to strengthen the muscles of the foot and calf, before even changing your running style, you can help avoid some injuries, and make the transition that much more seamless. Here's two exercises that can help prepare you to run barefoot/minimalist.

Eccentric calf raises (see link for video) can help strengthen the calf muscles and prepare them and
the Achilles tendon for the stresses of running with a fore-foot strike. This exercise involves raising and more importantly lowering the body using the calf muscles and can be done on a stair or a stool that is close to a wall or counter for support.

Towel pulls can help strengthen the muscles of the foot and ankle, thus helping protect the bones in the foot by absorbing the impact upon foot strike. To do these get a small towel (hand towel works great) and lay it on the ground in front of you. While keeping your heel still, use your toes to grab and pull in the towel toward your heel. Lay the towel back out (use your feet if you can!), switch feet and repeat.

Ideally you should do these exercises for a few weeks before taking on the next steps in your switch to minimalist running. Over this time, increase the time or number of reps that you do, allowing adequate recovery time and stretching between sessions.

Take Home Message: The saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" holds true for minimalist running! Prepare your muscles and your mind to make your transition easier!

Phase 2 of this guide will be posted soon, stay tuned!