Thursday, August 20, 2009

Running the Tarahumara way.

Wendy and I are still up to our eyeballs in crazy. Yesterday was a funeral for my Grandfather who passed away this month at one hundred. This year also saw the passing of his wife, aged ninety-eight and my grandmother on my mother’s side at one hundred and five. It’s been a hard and busy year for my parents. After that we took the two and a half hour drive home, changed clothes and went to dinner with Wendy’s father and his girlfriend Nancy. A game of tennis broke out and twenty years of rust flaked off of Wendy’s and my skills. We still lost 3-6. Frowny face. I was eager like a puppy for two more sets but it was time for dinner.

Today was install another air conditioner, drop the RAV4 off at the garage twenty minutes away, jogging, go shopping, drop off stuff at the charity place, pick up a painting we had had repaired, pick up a necklace Wendy had made, go shopping, pick up the RAV4, write this, prepare for four guests for dinner. Most days are just like that. At least, they seem that way to me.

Two days ago while doing errands I swung into the dollar store for a pair of light shoes. Dock shoes? Deck shoes? Swimmies? Whatever you want to call them, they are a thin piece of rubber with flexible cloth that slides over your feet. Good for walking on a rocky ocean floor or a river or for keeping your balance on the deck of a boat. Not a lot of support, not a lot of weight, protection for the bottom of your feet.

If you remember my entry on the Tarahumara you remember me telling you they run further than anyone else on the planet as a way of life and they don’t have Nikes. They have old tires that they carve into soles and wrap under their feet with strips of cord around their ankle. No arch support, just protection for the bottom of the foot as you run.

I wanted to run like that. Today I did.

Try and remember how you walk across a gravel driveway. With sneakers on you slam your heel down and crunch forward striding easily across the rocks. Now walk that again with bare feet. You don’t walk heel first, you walk toes and balls of your feet first in case you encounter a sharp rock you can adjust weight or even place the foot elsewhere. This is how the human body is designed to walk and run. This is why we have the balls of our feet and an arch. The arch being supported is like putting a large iron support under a Roman archway and pushing up. You’re not helping anything; the arch is already perfectly designed.

Today I tried to run like the Tarahumara in my swimmies. It was quite the learning experience.

I started out running as normal and then switched to running on the balls of my feet. I felt like a ballerina, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I was sure that every person in every car that went by was thinking “Is that guy really flamboyantly gay? Or is there something wrong with him? Should we stop and help? Or maybe shout out the window something vile and derogatory?” (It is really tough to write this while trying to be politically correct. I mean, I have gay friends who are not flamboyant. They have no feminine qualities and unless they told you, you wouldn’t even guess their sexual preference. On the other hand, I have friends who are so feminine, gay and outrageous they are on fire. I feel like I am running like one of those friends. So, I want to write that people want to drive by and scream out “You run like a homo!” I don’t mean all homosexuals, just certain ones who actually do run like that. Or, you would imagine they would anyway.) Onward.

So I’m running like a ballerina and not enjoying it. Of course, I try to adjust and I keep going, trying to figure out how to get the new style to work right. I switch back into regular running just to see how it feels heel to toe in these flimsy shoes and immediately notice that I am smashing into the ground. No wonder people get injured this way. Focusing on it, I can feel the force of the ground traveling into my ankles, up to my knees and then pounding into my hips and back. Having run on the balls of my feet, I can now feel the difference.

I switch back to the Tarahumara way and work on being smoother. Not lifting my feet quite so high, not arching my feet so much that my heels are up in the air for so long on each step. After some more time running like this, it starts to feel more natural. My feet are landing with only an infinite split-second between the ball and then heel. Then I start to notice my calves are really burning. Yes, this method is definitely going to get my calves in shape very fast. I switch back to normal running and again, I am surprised by the pounding just thrumming through my body. I also discover that more air is forced out of the lungs when you run this way; which is a good thing actually, as I am getting quite winded. Your breathing is much deeper, probably because the pavement is kicking it out of you with each step.

After five minutes of this, I have more breath and my calves aren’t burning anymore so I switch to running on the balls of my feet again. I am now achieving a smooth, sliding step each time and feel much more natural. Again, the difference in force traveling through my body is gone. Not significantly reduced, but entirely gone! I feel like a primeval hunter, moving as swiftly and silently as he can to catch up to prey. I feel like Drizzt. I feel smooth, sure-footed… natural. I also feel as if someone would have to look hard at my running to notice any difference from a standard running style.

But my calves are on fire.

I switch back to “normal” running mode and let them rest. The pounding again assaults my body and again I can feel myself breathing easier, as if the force is helping me expel more air out of my lungs. I run normal for a bit then run the last half a mile the Tarahumara way. This time I notice that I don’t run slightly hunched over with this method, but instead run with my back straight, head up. In a bizarre twist, my left leg understands the way I am trying to run better than my right. My left leg swings forward lightly in a mastery of my new style. The right leg is doing it right, but not as smoothly, like it can’t seem to get the gait right or something. It feels like a prosthetic compared to the left. It feels separate from the rest of my body running this new way.

I love it. I end my run and walk over to the house and excitedly tell Wendy how it went.

It went amazing. It was nothing like what I expected, but so much more. So much more natural and enriching and just… correct. In other news, as I type this, five hours later, I have a small blister on the ball of my left foot. The right foot is fine. And my calves are still burning.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Our plane arrives an hour late, putting us in the middle of rush hour traffic out of Boston in our rented car. Four hours later we arrive home.

We have had major renovations to the house done and they are awe-inspiring. Our contractor “The Kid” has done an amazing job. Like Wendy, he is into the little details and through e-mail and e-photos they have made a shabby little house into a dream home. Photos we have seen do not do it justice and we are blown away.

Wendy falls asleep soon as it is five a.m. Madrid time. I am not ready for sleep and go talk with my parents for ninety minutes. When I come home, Doug has also fallen asleep and I wander around our home. Home is both places. When I drive back to Boston I will say “I can’t wait to be home” meaning Madrid.

The next morning we are awake by five and working on the eves (again) by six a.m. The stuff in there breeds. We cleaned out the eves the last time we were home.

Never mind, I’ll write that post later. Comments should be answered. And besides, didn't I already write that?

Chris : Pictures of before and after will be up soonish. He was amazing, came in and had a few beers with us and made sure he got everything right. Super nice guy, perfectionist and came in on budget and on time.

Anonymous – thanks man. Wendy was watchign a sad movie. We see the dogs twice a year, August and Christmas. Got my new license but here in town, not in the mail. I finally got to sleep. Jet lag is hard for me. Takes me a week or more to get back on track.

Kjetil _ It’s an homage to Alan Moore.

Rod – Thanks man. ;-)

Dave G. Not sure if the director’s cut is out yet. I can’t find it but will buy it the day I see it. If I was you, I would buy the directors cut. The stuff you missed is just more good stuff that had to be cut to make the movie small enough time-wise not to freak out the studio. Thanks for the book title suggestions. Some good things to consider. What do you think of “Nightmare?” I like “knowing” as well. Sleep is finally getting back to normal.

Chris – The more I watch it the more I like it. I still think going the ultra-violent and sleek costumes was a mistake but you’de have to read the novel in order to make your decision on that.

Mr Fantastic – Please post your blog address. Anyone who reads here regularly, I would like your blog address.

Doug, Everything well said and I totally agree.

Dave G. : High-larious. I love PVP and read it every week.

Wendy and I are pretty busy but things are starting to settle a lit bit. Wendy is meeting with more contractors (driveway, house settling, more for the "kid" to fix), we picked out a beautiful blue carpet for the new bedrooms and stairs, we returned the rental car, showed Ben-Jamon and Strother around Middelbury, we've had dinner with Wendy's dad, lunch with my folks, mowed the lawn, cleaned out the cellar, had college reunion, drinks with Doozer, dinner with the gazelle and prince Todd (sister + brother in law) and more.

In our free time we have been watching Top Chef and this morning watched "Nell" which was very well done. Soon as Wendy is out of the shower it's back into town for more errands, experimenting with grilling Lobster, preparing for Lena and Stefan and the kids coming tomorrow. Big UFC tomorrrow night too. Need to go through a huge stack of mail, answer email, comments, write a new blog post, get back to work on "The Secret Force of the Brother's Very Grimm" and Wendy should have final comments done on Marilyn's Story which will then be incorporated and then published. (Knowing or Nightmare? Knightmare?) Votes?