Planet Wild Launches! It’s a new adventure, travel and fitness site that will bring readers and multisport athletes an even greater taste of the great outdoors. The site is done in conjunction with RailRiders Adventure Clothing. Feature Stories Include:
Amazon Crossing: Mickey Grosman’s 5,000-Mile Quest
Becoming a Navy SEAL: Lessons in Survival
Montana’s Yurt-Dwelling Ultrarunner Mike Foote
Bunion Derby: America’s First Transcontinental Running Race (1928)
Confession of a Barefoot Trail Runner in the Pacific Northwest
Lots more: travel and fitness tips, as well great videos. Go here.
It wasn't supposed to end this way for ultrarunning legend Micah True. Certainly not during a routine 12-mile trail run in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. But when he didn't return from his morning run, and then when search and rescue teams, including a plane, helicopter, and dogs later got involved in the operation to find the missing True who was the centerpiece of Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, the news spread quickly around the world, and not just among runners. On Friday, The New York Times reported his disappearance, less than a month after the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, of which True was the race director. His body was finally located over the weekend. According to the Associated Press, "he was found near a cold stream, his legs still in the water and his water bottle next to him, about a mile southeast of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Crews recovered his body Sunday and turned it over to the Office of the Medical Investigator, State Police Lt. Robert McDonald said. The cause of death was not yet known. There were no obvious signs of trauma, and McDonald said it could take a couple of days before authorities know what happened."
His death comes as a shock, really, to all us, many of whom only know him from Born to Run. Read more about Micah True on the Natural Running Center.
When I got the email late Saturday morning from Mark with just two words in the subject line, “I won!”, my digital jaw dropped in astonishment. Just a few weeks shy of his 45th birthday, Mark topped a field of 2,500 runners at the 2011 Air Force Marathon, which started and finished at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio on September 17. He won by a healthy margin of five minutes in a time of 2:38. (He also won in 2006 in 2:31). In addition to being fleet of foot and owner of the nation's first minimalist shoe store (Two Rivers Treads), Mark is a Professor of Family Medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine as well as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves.
So just how did he pull off this win? In an interview I did with him for the Natural Running Center, Mark explained that "running is all about efficiency and economy, a term Dr. Phil Maffetone calls “aerobic speed”. This is the speed you can achieve while still in your true aerobic zone (where a good portion of fuel is fat). Go a little faster than this and you are burning all glucose/glycogen. We only have an hour and a half of glucose/glycogen in the tank so this strategy does not work for a marathon.I do almost all my running very relaxed at a heart rate of about 145 bpms or lower and do supplemental short 50 meter sprints and light plyometrics to keep the range of motion and quickness. You want to be able to run 'fast' without running 'hard.' That is the secret."
But there's more and it's not much of a secret. Mark does much of his 50 to 60 weekly miles barefoot and his longest run is never over two hours. But for the Air Force Marathon, he wore the new Newton MV2, which is a 5-ounce zero-drop shoe. To read the full interview, go here to the Natural Running Center.
Zero Drop still hasn't gone all the way to zero drop in his running, and considers himself a tender-soled coward about hitting the pavement unshod, but he senses that this will soon change, a tingling sensation lodged deeply in his hidden neural pathways, and affected no doubt by barefoot mania. Okay, mania might be too extreme of a term, but not entirely what with Chris McDougall's Born to Run's paperback release book reading tour neatly called the Naked Tour, this superb barefoot running video that recently went live by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella (see below), a new barefoot race series sponsored by Merrell, and now the first barefoot female runner to finish Boston. Her name is Theresa Withee, 44, mother of three from Maine, and clocked a 4:01. Barefoot Runners Society has an interesting interview with the mom on the go who has been running barefoot since 2008. Two excerpts here:
What led you to running barefoot?
I got injuries in college from over training, IT Band and Patella Injury called Runner's knee. I found it harder and harder to run...I have always loved to run. It got to a point where I couldn't even run 1 mile without pain. My current running shoes needed to be replaced, but I just didn't want to buy another pair of running shoes. That did not seem to be the answer. I did a lot of research on the internet about barefoot running (a big thank you to Barefoot Ted and Barefoot Ken Bob for their websites). One day, I said to my husband, “What would you think if I ran barefoot?” He said, “Go for it! Give it a try.” I did. It worked. I started a little at a time every other day. Slowly built up my mileage. That was 3 years ago.
What was your longest barefoot training run for Boston?
My longest barefoot training run for Boston was 10 miles. I ran a 20 mile training run in my VFFs because it was about 28 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like 10 degrees. And I did the Hyannis Marathon on February 27, 2011, as a training run, in VFFs, because again, the weather was cold, wet, snowing, and sleeting for most of the race, and I got a 3:50:49. I placed fifth in my age group with that time at Hyannis.
Barefoot running and minimalist footwear have recently rekindled interest in how early man ate. It's as if the fitness and diet clock have been turned back to a healthier, simpler age. The Paleo diet is the diet plan du jour these days for many endurance athletes and runners, and is one that focuses primarily on consuming daily portions of meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Refined and processed carbs, sugar, dairy, and wheat all get a big "no." But while the Paleo diet harkens back to Stone Age stomach concerns, it has been also called in the past by other names such as the Caveman Diet, Hunter-Gatherer Diet, Evolutionary Fitness, and Primal Diet. (Don't know of anyone calling it the Flintstones Diet, though their sugar-sweetened vitamins are a kids' favorites.)
Last week, Runner's World's editor-at-large Amby Burfoot interviewed Loren Cordain, Ph.D, who is the author of several popular books on the Paleo Diet. The full interview is here, and makes for fascinating reading. Zero Drop recommends you check it out. A taste here: "Paleo stands for Paleolithic which means the old stone age, or the period from about 2.5 million years ago with the first appearance of stone tools in the fossil record until about 10,000 years ago with the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution. During this period all humans existed as hunter gatherers. The Paleo Diet is a contemporary way of eating in which we attempt to emulate the characteristics of hunter gatherer diets by eating ancestral food groups...The Paleo diet has now been scientifically tested. In the past few years four controlled human trials of the diet have shown that it is highly therapeutic in improving blood chemistry, blood pressure, markers of inflammation and insulin metabolism. It is more effective than the Mediterranean diet in promoting weight loss and is more satiating as well. In addition to promoting weight loss and improving cardiovascular health, the Paleo Diet may be an effective treatment for many autoimmune diseases, according to a number of scientific papers. The molecular basis for the Paleo Diet's therapeutic effects are now being identified, whereas 25 years ago, they were not as well characterized."
Does Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, 43, ever have time to sleep, take it easy, relax? He’s a highly accomplished marathoner (2:24 PR), race director, family physician, Associate Professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine, Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves, and owner of Two Rivers Treads, a Center for Natural Running and Walking, in Sheperdstown, West Virginia. The store opened last May and is the nation’s first retail outlet (it also sells online) aimed specifically for the minimalist and barefoot-running shoe crowd, featuring Newton, Terra Plana, Inov-8, Kigo, Sockwa, as well as low-profile models from Saucony, New Balance, and Brooks. The store also carries healthy, functional children’s shoes from Terra Plana Vivo kids. Cucuzzella is passionate about many things—but getting injured runners back on their feet is right at the top of his list. To this end, he is one of the main guiding forces of a new state-of- the-art running conference, to be held on January 28-30, and which will offer talks and workshops on running injury prevention, gait mechanics, and rehabilitation. For more info on “New Trends in the Prevention of Running Injuries," go here. While Mark clocked 2:34 in the 2010 Boston Marathon at age 43, he used to be an injured runner. How he got to where he is now—pain-free and a true pioneer in the natural running movement—is the subject of the following personal essay that Mark wrote for Zero Drop.
So why would a Family Doctor be researching running injuries, experimenting with all types of running techniques and shoe designs, and even open a store selling only flat shoes in his free time? The answer is a quest to run completely pain free and with effortless efficient function with big toes that do not bend and in the more challenging mission to share the hard lessons learned to others wanting to keep moving for life.
I have been a runner since age 13 and ran competitively at University of Virginia in the mid-1980s. As an often-injured runner, my interest in medicine was sparked after experiencing our team physician Dr. Daniel Kulund of Charlottesville tried some bizarre at the time and innovative approaches to running injuries. He was the first to have people run in the pool for training and rehab and had a deep hot tub size pool in his office with a tether. He gave elite and recreational runners rebirth by his methods. Runners train in water now not just as injury rehab, but for prevention and supplemental training. Twenty years into my medical career, I am reviving the passion I felt at that time by working with innovators in running technique, functional strength, safer aerobic conditioning, and footwear design.
I am a doctor who uses various holistic methods to get a person healthy again. I have been trained in the fields of functional neurology, biochemistry, acupressure meridian therapies, kinesiology, and dietary and lifestyle-modification methods. If you could sum up in a few words what I do, the most apt definition would be “complementary medicine.” Because my practice is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the range of people who come to me include software engineers, professors, housewives (and their kids), professional hockey players, dancers, and athletes and coaches from Duke and University of North Carolina.
I’m often the guy who they end up seeing after all the other “conventional” and usually over-priced treatments have failed. I’m much more interested in the cause of the health problem or injury than just merely addressing its symptoms. For example, an aching knee might be due to something else taking place, distant to where the actual pain is felt. An imbalance of the muscles of the leg and foot could be the cause of knee pain in one person; for someone else, the knee hurts because of improper footwear; or for another sufferer, the knee pain might be associated with too much stress from a poor diet and overtraining, which can often result in fatigued adrenal glands. Compared to conventional therapies which offer treatment of the symptoms via drugs, surgery, and physical therapy, dealing with the cause provides a more effective, faster, and rewarding remedy, not to mention it’s often much less expensive. You’d be surprised how quickly injuries and other health problems can be resolved when they’re dealt with on a cause-oriented, individual level.
I wear a white lab coat in my office to keep matters professional-looking but I don’t wear shoes. Just socks. Some patients will look at my feet without saying anything. Others might give a surprised expression they can’t entirely hide. I’m sure some of my new patients who have waited up to half a year to see me think, “I waited how long to see this guy?” It’s not that I can’t afford shoes. In fact, I own two very nice pairs. It’s just that spending around eight hours a day in any shoe is not great for the feet – and the body. So I take off my shoes as soon as I get to the office. While there’s no substitute for going barefoot, socks are the next best thing. I usually try to wear socks to match or complement the color of my pants.
Over 20 years ago when I started running competitively in high school, and then after I began racing triathlons in college, I followed the running shoe fads and wore whatever over-supported shoe promised to make me run faster. I was a heavy heel striker, quickly destroying the back of running shoes, moving onto a new pair every two to three months.
Through my long friendship and collaboration with author, coach, and all-around wise man, Dr. Phil Maffetone, I had the privilege of recently interviewing Christopher McDougall, whose best-selling book, "Born to Run," has done more to shake up the running world than Phil Knight and his Nike Swoosh originally did way back when. Yes indeed, the running shoe trend is trending backwards--thankfully-- to where it should never have left in the first place. Perhaps in ten or twenty years, the only place where you'll find highly cushioned, built-up running shoes will be on eBay and discontinued shoe discount warehouse sites. But it's not as if the $20 billion running shoe industry is suddenly going to issue a public apology to runners: "Sorry, Our Bad for totally screwing up you feet and legs all these years..." and do a complete overhaul of their product lines. Yeah, a real revolution starts with one step at a time. It's just that McDougall took that giant Neil Armstrong leap for all of us.
Question: I understand that you are going to run the New York City marathon barefoot! That gives new relevance to the old Neil Simon comedy “Barefoot in the Park!”
Last summer, Caleb Westfall, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, completed the Big Island Marathon on 31-inch stilts in a mind-stultifying time of 7 hours 37 minutes and 11 second, knocking 52 minutes off the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest marathon on a pair of gravity-defying peg legs. So what's the story with Caleb? Why the impressive circus-like running act? To answer these questions, let's turn to Wayne Joseph, Executive Director of the Big Island Marathon, who wrote about Caleb on his blog:
"'I started using stilts when I was 16 years old and learning the drywall business,” Westfall said. “The stilts help me reach up on those nine foot ceilings and I feel real comfortable using them.”Eight years ago Westfall’s brother gave him his current pair of stilts, valued at $200 to use in his drywall business. “The stilts I use probably weigh 25 pounds each and some days I have them on most of the eight hour work day, but I’ve never used them outside of work,” he said."Westfall is no stranger to running marathons as he has finished 11 of them, prior to doing Kona on stilts. His best time came at the Big Island International Marathon when he finished the race while pushing his son in a stroller in 3 hours and 44 minutes.Westfall chose the Kona Marathon to try it on stilts because it is the flattest marathon course in the state and he thought it would pose the least amount of obstacles.