2014 Tough Mudder: Luna Sandals

Maybe I got caught up in the hype and excitement of reading Born to Run by ChristopherMcDougall. At the time I had not run further than 13.1 miles, finishing my first half marathon in a time of 1:58 after talking up running only 4 months earlier. After that run a co-worker recommended Born to Run and I was hooked! Much like finishing my first 50k on a runner’s high, I wanted to run…long distances. Inspired by the Rarámuri or Tarahumara I looked to transition to running sandals. If running was not enough I wanted to challenge myself and wear Luna Sandals for Tough Mudder.

I compared Luna Sandals with a competitor’s product (Xero Shoes) and based solely on price I bought the competitor’s “do it yourself” sandals. The learning curve was quite steep and I ended up with many blisters, sore feet and calves as I learned the proper way to run while wearing sandals. Eventually, the pain subsided and my feet toughened up and running in sandals felt refreshing.

Back in May I bought my first pair of Luna Sandals, after reading reviews and looking over the inventory for a pair of trail sandals. With my decision made I purchased the Leadville Pacer and awaited the package to arrive from Seattle, Washington. There was a shipping mix up and my sandals arrival were delayed, but I did get to speak with Barefoot Ted that in itself was cool.

The addition of the Tech Straps, which came standard on this sandal allowed my heel to remain securely in place and were comfortable. I snugged up the buckle on the nylon strap and I was off and running. The only problem I had with the Tech Straps came when they got wet. The nylon wanted to stretch the long tighter I pulled these straps, the less Velcro I had to keep them attached to. At no point did the straps ever come loose. When they completely dried after the event, the nylon straps returned to normal with no extra slack in them.

The Lunas were 5mm thicker than what I had run with before and it was very comfortable. Of course I wouldn’t really know how well they would respond until I hit the trails. Much like strapping you foot into sandals for the first time, it took me awhile to transition to the the Lunas for trail running.

Last year I purchased a pair of Salomon Speed Cross 3 trail shoes for Tough Mudder. After 11 miles and 20 obstacles, my feet never dried, I ended up with quite a bit of mud caked on the shoe and between the treads. I still hailed the shoes in a positive light, but I could not get over how sore my toes were. I rechecked at a local shoe store that the shoes I had were the right size.

I went back and forth for a few months, using my Lunas on the short runs while slipping into the Salomon’s for the long trail runs. After every trail run my toes were sore. This was most evident when I ran my first 50k this past April and they were bruised to the point of nearly losing a few toenails. After that run I vowed never to run in trail shoes again.

At work or at play!From that point forward I have worn nothing but my Luna Sandals. Five days a week you can find me wearing my Lunas from work to play and trails I frequent in the local hills. I am not very comfortable in my Lunas and while the occasional rock might find it’s way between my foot and sole, a quick shake and I am back in my stride.

Recently I made the decision to run Tough Mudder in my Lunas. I did not want a repeat performance of last year. I didn’t want my feet to feel miserable. I had some doubts about the sandals and bought my Salomon’s with me…just in case. Well being “Mas Loco!” I left the trail shoes at the bag check and this monkey took to the trails and obstacles in his Lunas.

The experience was beyond anything I imagined! I made sure I tightened the sandals before venturing off to the starting corral. When the horn sounded I was off and in my element. From narrow trails to steep climbs and dusty, rock strewn descents the Lunas were flawless. I felt at home with these sandals and my confidence grew the more miles I put in.

There was a bit of hesitation prior to the start that I might have some problems on the obstacles that required traction or footholds. The soles of my Leadville Pacers were quite worn, as these had turned into my “everyday” footwear. I felt confident enough that with the assistance of my teammates I would overcome any obstacle in my way.

The obstacles that required traction, Everest and Pyramid Scheme, were no problems for the Lunas. I conquered both obstacles without any issues. No slipping or sliding, which was a minor concern prior to starting Tough Mudder. On the climbs, Ladder to Hell, Balls to the Wall and Berlin Walls the Lunas provided enough support and traction that I climbed up and over like a good little monkey.

Through the water obstacles I knew I would get mud and debris between the shoe and my foot. The great thing about this was it was easy enough to clean without requiring me to take my shoes off. Better yet, I would find some loose dirt and kick it between my foot and sandals to shorten the drying time. Once dried the loose sand just fell out. It was awesome! I ran the entire event without wet feet and shoes.

The best part about wearing Lunas to Tough Mudder, they were a real conversation starter. Sure, I saw other participants wearing Vibrams, but I no one else in Lunas or sandals. I had many people ask me about the sandals and many were shocked to learn these were my running shoes. That usually led to a longer conversation about running in sandals. I would pass others up on trails or descents and sometimes I heard, “Look, he’s running flip flops!”

From a short run on pavement to trail running to mud races, I am sold on the Luna Sandals. I was very surprised at how the Lunas performed after 20 obstacles and 11.61 or varying terrain. I knew the trail running would be no issues, but held out hope I could be successful on the obstacles. Thankfully these sandals pulled through. The next Luna challenge, my first 50k next April, the American River 50 Endurance Run. No longer do I need to worry about shoes again, as Lunas fit the bill for my on and off road challenges.

Unlike many others who donated their muddy shoes at the end of Tough Mudder, I hosed them off and they looked brand new. So clean in fact I ended up wearing them for the 2 hour drive home. You would never know I ran Tough Mudder in Luna Sandals.

Almost Barefoot

xeroshoesMaybe I drank the Kool-Aid or hopped the bandwagon when it comes to barefoot running after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. There is a lengthy and interesting discussion of why to run barefoot over the science behind those high priced Nike, Asiacs, Brooks and other running shoes people cram their feet into. I found the words very interesting and looked at how I could incorporate barefoot running or almost barefoot running into my regime.

As I found out the hard way, it takes time to transition from high dollar running shoes to barefoot running. After a 5 mile run a few weeks back I decided to take my shoes and socks off and jog home, the distance was less than a mile. I didn’t take into consider the temperature of the sidewalk and street. By the time I got home I had 6 blisters on my feet. Stupid!

I continued to read about barefoot running and the Tarahumara of the northwestern Mexico and found a few companies who sold huaraches similar to what theses native American used. While I couldn’t justify the price, which was actually quite affordable, I wondered what material I had at home I could use to make my own. After a few weeks of playing around I decided to purchase my first pair of Xero Shoes.

My sandals arrived on Wednesday, sat down and removed my flip flops and got ready to lace and tie my new Xero Shoes. I ordered the Do-It-Yourself Xero Shoes Kit that came complete with sole, laces and a hole punch. I decided on black soles with black laces and the only hole you were required to punch was between the toes depending on how your foot fit. Thankfully I did not have to trim my soles, they fit my foot nearly perfect.

Next it was to push the laces through the out heel hole in preparation to tie the shoes around the foot. Thanks to the You Tube videos on how to accomplish this, it took me about 5 minutes to get the right sandal tied onto my foot. I quickly followed with the left foot and was ready to run…almost barefoot. There are numerous ways to accomplish the tying, I went with a minimalist style that remains on the foot and doesn’t climb the ankle.

It would be another day before I ran in the sandals. I did however take a quick run up and down the street, but it really didn’t prepare for my first run. I wore the sandals the rest of the day in order for my feet to comfortable on these 6mm thick rubber soles. Overall they felt good, but the rubbing was causing some pre-existing blisters to hurt.

Thursday came and I was anxious to get out the run…almost barefoot. Then again getting out and running anytime is always enjoyable. Today was going to be something special or so I thought. I walked out the front door was was planning on 5 miles, but settled on 2 miles in the end. These sandals require a transition period. I had started working around the house in flip flops and barefeet in order to toughen my feet for just this day. Unfortunately it was not enough. I started off at an 8 min/mile pace, the temperature was in the high 80s and we had a breeze blowing east.

It’s a completely different feeling running almost barefoot, I didn’t know what to expect. During a previous reading session I read about trying to land on your forefoot instead of your heal because of all the pressure put on your knees. Having 2 knee surgeries I hoped to avoid any further complications. So one day I took off at a moderate pace running on my toes (or forefoot). The next day I could hardly walk. My calves were burning and in pain from the shock treatment they had undergone for 3 miles. Yesterday was a similar experience, although I did not expect this sort of pain. I figured I was past this pain stage as I favor running on forefoot and had not experienced any since the first week I ran this way, which was a few months ago.

I will have another period in which to break in the sandals and acclimate my feet to running almost barefoot. I won’t be able to break out and do 10 miles on the weekend. The calf pain I can deal with, but its the blisters I must  work to keep under control. Right now I will cover them with a band-aid or pad in order to prevent them further irritation. Not sure I will have much luck as these blisters are on the lower pads of my toes (2 on each foot). These were originally caused by my $120 pair of Brooks Ghost 5 I bought as my first pair of running shoes. They have never gone away.

I received quite a few comments on Facebook about my “new shoes” from friends and family. The comments varied from “Those are awesome!” to “Why is Steve wearing girl shoes???” Not to mention comments about Jesus (if I would have kept the long hair) and parting the Red Sea. Sure it’s unique maybe really out there, especially if you don’t run to see an individual with sandals laced up running. While I can’t swear by it…yet…I plan on running with these sandals instead of investing in another pair of running shoes. Hopefully over the next few months I am strengthen my legs and feet and get to a point where I reap the rewards of running almost barefoot.

Run with No Excuses

running-no-excusesAs June comes to a close, it’s been just about 3 months since I have taken up running. Not jogging, but running with training and goals in my. To date I haven’t officially signed up for any races, but am planning on three before 2013 is over. I have been very surprised at how quickly my body has adjusted to running, my form has improved and my times have decreased. Still, there is a long road ahead before I am ready to run my first half marathon. I am running by the credo, “run with no excuses” in order to remain on my plan in order to achieve the goals I have set. I still haven’t answer some basic questions; “What does it mean to you? How hard are you willing to work? What are you willing to sacrifice? Why is it even important and why does it even matter?”

My ultimate goal is to participate in my first marathon on December 2. With any luck I will be registering in 2 weeks to run in the California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA. Initially my training started so I could run in my first half marathon on August 3, the Summer Breeze Half Marathon in San Leandro, CA. I blame Born to Run by Christopher McDougall for the onset of this running addiction. It does seem to be the natural progression, running a few shorter races before challenging yourself with 26.2 miles. I have gone back and forth on running in Sacramento, but after planning out my training I realized Sacramento was possible. I am now considering a third race as a tune up to the marathon, the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in San Jose on Oct 6.

It’s an odd feeling of wanting to run, all the time. That is how I feel now after just 3 months, but not the 42 years prior. It is my desire to continue building endurance to participate in longer run and challenge myself. Each run is an adventure. Is it going to be difficult? Yup. Will I want to feel like quitting? Yup. Is it all worth it? Yup! While I still don’t have answers to the questions I asked there is something special about running. Born to Run has inspired me to challenge myself and run with “no excuses!”

While the marathon is the goal for this year, it’s definitely not the end of the road. I am already looking forward to other races, longer training run and getting into trail running. I have experienced some wonderful benefits from running and learned quite a bit in just a short period of time. Reading the CIM website for the marathon, I felt a bit overwhelmed by information. It was overload, but I do feel I will enjoy this “ultimate” experience and reflect upon it positively, looking forward to other challenges.