A Week of downs and ups.

I blogged previously about a terrible run I had. I came home deflated and defeated, no longer sure of my own abilities. I thought long and hard about what my next move was going to be, and I decided that I would try running in my VivoBarefoot running sandals. Yeah… that went well…

Thursday night, I decided that a 10k run alongside Kasia was what I needed. A simple run, nothing too taxing, at a pace I could handle without ever really trying. Forget the times, get back to running. I liberally applied anti-chaffing balm before putting on the Sandals (without socks). I wasn’t taking any chances with the blisters I already have.

It started so well. The sandals felt a little strange, and due to the barefoot feel, I was running constantly on my toes and the very front of my feet. It felt a little weird, and I could feel the pull on my calves, much as the transition from ‘normal’ running shoes to minimum shoes had felt. I knew this would pass in a day or two, so it didn’t bother me.

As we approached Liverpool street, our turnaround point, I told Kasia that I would run ahead for a while. The Vivo’s felt so natural, like running on carpet. They consist purely of a thin plastic base, with no cushioning at all, and I was surprised how soft the ground felt under my feet. As I waited for Kasia at Liverpool Street, I drew a few glances for my choice of footwear, most of them in disbelief. I don’t think many of them were admiring my choice.

Kasia arrived, and we started heading back. About halfway, she could see the look in my eyes, and just said “Go” and gave me a little push. And I was gone.

I ran like I hadn’t in years. I felt freed, and after the poor run earlier in the week, it felt great to be able to run like this. I was zoning pretty much constantly after that, and made it home still feeling great.

I decided to walk back a little to catch Kasia, who was about ten minutes. It was then I noticed the pain. Running hadn’t been an issue, but now walking was virtually impossible. People I had run past were now going in the opposite direction past me, and to me, the look on everyone’s face was “That’s what you get for running in shoes like that”.

I met Kasia, and we went home. I explained to her I was in real pain, but was unsure why. I had felt great running, but now my feet were killing me. As I sat and removed the sandals, the reason became obvious. The inside of each dripped with blood as I took them off.

Basically, running in a plastic shoe, without socks, for a long distance, at a fair speed, had meant that rather than blisters forming, the friction had effectively burned my feet. And when the distance had continued after that damage was done, it just rubbed away the burned skin.

So now I have a huge open blister on the side of my foot, three burned toes, and a missing toenail. The other foot is strangely unaffected though, and has but a single blister on the underside, and one burned toe.

I launched the shoes across the room. I really thought they would be the solution, but instead had made things worse.

I didn’t run again until Sunday. My feet were too sore, my calves still hurt, and frankly I didn’t want to.

But by Sunday, I was going stir crazy without running. We planned properly, eating right the night before, and again in the morning before the run. I went out, bought talc and applied it even more liberally than I had the anti-chaffing balm before. I was running back in my regular shoes, the minimal ones, rather than the Vivo’s. I put plasters around every single toe, and bought extra strong blisters plaster to cushion what blisters were already there. Worried about the talc making the plasters fall off,  I filled only one sock with talc before putting them on. I reasoned that at the very least, it would make an interesting experiment.

We set off at 1pm, and I stayed at Kasia’s pace, or maybe just a little faster than her usual pace. I felt great, but Kasia was really up against it. She later confessed that it was good I was pushing her, but she certainly wasn’t enjoying it to the same degree I was.

After about 10k, we started snacking on the power bars, bananas, dried fruit and various other treats we’d brought with us. I was using my running backpack, with a waterbag built into it, and I’m glad I did. It’s much more comfortable than a running belt, and also had room for all the extra things I brought with me – namely more talc and blister plasters.

Our run was 20km altogether, taking us out from Central London to a friend’s mother’s and grandmother’s house out in Essex. I’d lived with them a while back, and we’d recently received some bad news about his grandmother’s health, so it was time to pay her a visit. She’s been like a grandmother to me over the past year or so, and I was genuinely upset when I heard her diagnosis.

We ignored our time as we ran, using it only to check our water intake rather than our pace. This was about distance today. This is Kasia’s longest run since she started training, and this was the reason for her discomfort. She’ll be fine come marathon day, I have no doubt, but she did need this push today.

After a pleasant afternoon, we got the bus home, and Kasia promptly fell asleep on my shoulder almost as soon as we sat.

Removing my shoes after I entered our house, I feared the worse.

First the left shoe and sock. No new blisters. No further damage to the existing one. The burned toe looked exactly the same. This was the one with the extra talc, so this strategy obviously worked for me. This is great, and I know what I’ll be doing come race day.

The other shoe wasn’t quite such a success, though. While the old injuries hadn’t got worse, there was one new blister and, although small, was rather prominent, filled with blood, and nestled on the top of the only toe on the foot not to have a plaster around it. Ironically, it appears to have been caused by rubbing on the plaster on the adjacent toe.

But I came away feeling great from the run. Although tired from the run, I felt like I could have run much, much further.

I feel like I’m ready for the big one…

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