Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catching up from Italy

Sooo, it's been a long time since I've written a blog post. Last time I wrote, I was living and running in Dorset in south England. Now I'm visiting the lovely hill town area of Labro, Italy, just north of Italy on the border with Umbria. In the meantime, I spent a week in London in mid-May and participated in my very first Park Run, in Hampstead Heath, which was a great experience. For those of you in the UK, Australia or South Africa, if you can get to a Park Run, I highly recommend them. I ran barefoot to the race which was a nice 2 mile or so warmup on a very chilly morning, then I ran the 5k course barefoot which was challenging because I wanted to run as fast as possible and, being in a park, the course offered a wide variety of surfaces. I was pretty proud that I actually was the fastest in my age group!

From 23 May to 27 June, I was in northern Spain where I walked the Camino de Santiago, about 50% of it barefoot. I was able to get in one run when my companions took my backpack from Mansilla to Léon and I was able to run about 18km. And I spent several days in Santiago de Compostela where I had fun running through the cobblestone streets barefoot.

Now I'm spending a few weeks in Italy and getting back into the swing of running. Here's a photo from the lake in Piediluco, down below where I am staying. On the left you can see the beautifully restored medieval hilltown of Labro and on the left, the town of Morro Reatini. This is where I am running these days. It is gorgeous and hot and very hilly. I have now figured out several routes around the house ranging from 4 to 10 miles long and am having run exploring, though I've had several runs that were longer than I intended because I got lost--always the adventure in a new location! Last week I ran 27 miles and this week will likely be around the mid-30s. I'm not running fast at all because basically I run straight uphill and then straight downhill or vice versa, but I can really tell that walking 25-35km a day for a month improved my conditioning. On Sunday I ran 9 miles and then on Tuesday I went exploring and took a rather long detour, ending up running 10 miles (when I intended to do 6) and was none the worse for wear.

My current equipment: 

- a pair of New Balance MInimus Zero trail shoes which I haven't really taken seriously off-road but I absolutely love. The first shoes I've really been able to wear without socks! They are stunningly minimal. I had a pair of Minimus Trails (not zero drop) which I used for walking the Camino and I started out sockless in those, but they caused rubbing on my heels. 

- a pair of Invisible Shoes sandals (the thinnest soles). I'm still working on the lacing methodology. I'm having the same problems I've had with Luna sandals -- basically my foot slides backwards, particularly when going up hill (and after that, when flat), which makes the heel strap dig painfully into my heel and the front end flops around so much that they would be quite dangerous on uneven ground. Those were the results with the most minimal lacing (one strap all around), so my next experiment will be with a double strap on the heel to see if that makes a difference. I also have an issue with my right foot sliding sideways--to the right. The good thing about the Invisible Shoes vs. the Lunas is that the cord is quite soft and so I have no issue with the thong between my toes (although on the 10 miler I got a bit of a blister because of my foot sliding to the side). 

- a Garmin 610 watch -- the best Garmin I've had. The most comfortable and the bezel doesn't get accidentally activated as used to happen with the 405 and 410.

- an iPod Nano -- I think this will be my "go to" device. It seems to work fine for running as long as I don't stick it inside my shorts. It also has enough capacity to store most of my current podcasts plus a playlist of songs for running. (I used to use a Shuffle for running, but lost it when I moved from Namibia.) I'm thinking of selling my iPod classic which is what I've always used for listening around the house.

- Dr. Dre Beats earphones -- I love the sound and the fit of these, but mechanically they are crap. I've literally sent back 4 pairs because within a month or two of using them, the controller (that allows for volume control, skipping songs and voice over) stops working. When I was on the Camino, I used a "One Good Earbud" which I won. It worked brilliantly, but for running, I am waiting for them to make an over-the-ear model with a shortened cord.

That's it for now. I intend to get back into the rhythm of posting regularly. I'll be in Italy for another couple of weeks and then I'm going to France, so the adventures continue!