I took the opportunity last Wednesday to get in some speed work. I worked them into my schedule lightly since my first marathon was far below my goal but I realize that I still need a lot of base miles to finish. They come up every other week in place of my medium length mid-week run and they didn’t start until week 9. That is the Robert is your father’s brother way of saying it was my second shot at 800 meter repeats.
Since I started running in a minimal or barefoot shoes I’ve done 1 set of sprints and 1 session of 800 meter repeats (yasso 800’s). The sprints were a very short workout my girlfriend took from her rugby days and wasn’t supposed to get me ready for anything or assist in anything but general fitness as I was very new to minimal running and still building my general mileage so I needed a higher intensity workout. I did fast and full sprints in my Merrell Trail Gloves and after the first set it was clear that I was going too hard too soon. I was not a mature athlete at that point, so I worked through the pain, finished the workout and the jog home and took the rest of the week off with severe foot pain.
The second time was months later and went far better than the first. It was, after all a completely different workout focused on sustained high speed not short burst of all out effort. I didn’t escape unscathed (I never do) thanks to a pair of cheap socks that I happened to be wearing with a thick seam that wore a couple holes in a couple of my toes and made the run miserable until I took the socks off and wrapped them around my hands (yuck) and ran the rest of the workout sockless, which is fine as I was in my vivobarefoot neos which have really comfortable liners.
This third session of speed work I made sure to wear proper socks (new drymax ultra thin socks) and not hit too hard. The track is 1.5 miles from my apt. I ran to it as a warmup and hit the track and got going. I did 6 x 800m each at 3:50 with 3:50 as a rest for 400m. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable. It hurt just like all good workouts hurt. I grabbed a drink of water at the fountain, changed the playlist on my ipod and set off back home. After about half a mile I noticed that both Achilles tendons were remarkably tight and seemed to ache with every step, along with the outside base of my calves. Once I noticed that I noticed the top of my left foot hurting with every footfall and the bottom of my right foot as well.
The bottom of my right foot pain is old hat. Something about my stride and the way the neos are constructed make this pain consistent on runs longer than 4 miles. I’ve taken the pain as a sign that my stride was wrong, but after weeks of adjustments nothing I’ve tried has helped and I don’t have the time to build a new box, so I’ve phased them out of every workout except for short runs and for some reason, speed work seemed appropriate since I’m on a track. I’ve tried metatarsal pads but I felt like that was cheating, and they would always slide into my arch so it doesn’t really matter if a foot pad in a minimal shoe negates the minimalness of the shoe because it never stayed put long enough for me to even tell if it worked.
I would replace them if I had the money, but my budget only allows for so many shoes, and I’m due for another pair, but I’ve been enamored with the Merrell Trail Gloves and heard amazing things about their next iteration the Merrell Road Gloves so those are my next pair, but they’re not out yet, so until then I’m running in neos (and i wear them to work a couple days a week to get my minimal fix and i do all of my strength training in them. actually, aside from the toe pain at mid length runs, they're wonderful shoes; i'm not sorry i bought them)
I had to walk the rest of the way home; another mile total. It wasn’t all walking, as I have a stupid voice in my head that constantly says “you can probably bang out a few more strides,” and it was on full volume so I’d run until the pain was too great or when the tightness on my calves/Achilles was fearsome or both, and then walk a bit more. I got home and was insanely sore for the rest of the night. I hobbled around my apartment and iced iced iced to no avail.
The next day it hurt. I knew I wasn’t going to take my scheduled 4 miler the second I woke up. I wore soft shoes to work, kept it up on the desk whenever I could but before I got into bed I noticed a red spot on the top of my foot and some minor swelling. It hurt when I rubbed my big and 2nd toe together but I couldn’t produce pain any other way (much like the pain on the bottom of my right foot, there is no way to make it hurt save for running in the neos) so I figured it would go away. It didn’t. Friday the pain was less present but still there and with the long run (18 miles) scheduled for Saturday this week and not Sunday, it was in real jeopardy.