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Barefoot Chronicles

The barely-coherent ramblings of barefoot ultramarathon runner Jason Robillard

Updated: 2018-03-06T05:23:44.327-05:00


Blogging has moved and The Barefoot Running Book has a new home!


As I mentioned in a previous post, I have moved my blog to the Barefoot Running University website.  The Wordpress format gives me more freedom than the Blogger format here.  Please update any links or blogrolls to reflect the move. 

Also, The barefoot Running Book now has a dedicated website:  Go there to take a look at the first 52 pages of the second edition for FREE!

New Post- Migration to New Blog


I have a new post, but it has been added to my new blog at Barefoot Running University.  To those that are following this blog, please migrate to the BRU site as I will be posting all new articles there.

Also, don't forget to add yourself to the Google Friend Connect at the new site!  It's my preferred method of selecting winners of my various contests.



The Barefoot Running Book- Second Edition Giveaway!


To celebrate the new Barefoot Running University website, I will be giving away a copy of the second edition of The Barefoot Running Book!  All you have to do to enter is become a friend of the Barefoot Running University site using Google Friend Connect.  The Google Friend Connect box is located in the far right column:

The winner will be randomly chosen this Saturday, September 11th.  Best of luck!

Also- the Barefoot Runners Society is now open to the public!


New Website!


I am in the process of integrating this blog and my website (  The ultimate goal is to combine both sites at that address.  The process will likely take several days, so please be patient. 

If you were redirected here from the Barefoot Running University site, those resources should be online by Monday evening.

The Greatest Ultramarathon Finish Ever! And a few more stories from the North Country Trail Races...


The North Country Trail Races held in Manistee, Michigan proved to be a memorable experience.  Personally, the race was an abysmal failure (more on that later).  Despite my own poor showing, this was a weekend filled with great stories.The 50 Mile FinishThe headline HAS to be the finish of the 50 miler.  Jesse Scott, my occasional training partner, pacer at Burning River, and friend was running his first-ever 50 miler.  He battled with Brad Hinton over the last miles of the course that culminated in a neck-and-neck sprint at the end.  See the video here:After some delay, Brad was awarded first (Brad in white), Jesse second (shirtless).  In my biased opinion, I think Jesse crossed the finish line first.  Unfortunately the officials (I believe the decision was made by Bart Yasso) ruled in favor of Brad.  Both Jesse and Brad were absolute class-acts and perfectly epitomize the sport of ultrarunning.The finish was even more dramatic as Brad had went off-course very early in the race.  Apparently a marker had been pulled where we were supposed to make a turn.  Most of the field missed the turn, including Brad.  A small group of runners had familiarized themselves with the course or looked at the map posted at the turn and took the correct route.  Jesse was among this group.For the record, I was among the group that missed the turn.  I was following another runner.  When we came to the intersection, he actually asked me where we were supposed to go.  Since there was no marker in sight, I assumed we continued on.  It did not occur to me to check the map.  Needless to say, I am not a good trail racer. :-)  The fact that Brad had to run more than 50 miles to catch Jesse for this finish was VERY impressive.A dark shadow was cast over the moment by another runner that dropped out of the 50 miler earlier in the day.  Moments after the finish, this individual started yelling at the officials.  the gist of his rants revolved around Brad having went off course, therefore he should be given the win.  Moments after barking at the judges, the same individual got in Jesse's face and told him he had to concede because Brad went off course.  It was one of the most despicable sights I've encountered in an ultra.  I would give this individual some latitude for being caught up in the moment, but the same individual was repeatedly yelling at his crew and volunteers in a another recent race we both participated in.  I can accept acting like a tool on occasion, especially in the heat of the moment.  I can't accept someone being a douche globally.Anyway, it was truly an awesome moment.  Jesse confirmed what I have long-suspected... his early successes in the ultra world were just a preview of things to come.  It was entertaining to listen to the rest of our "cabin crew" after hearing of Jesse's 3:45 split at the haf-way point.  I think most people underestimated his abilities... maybe because we often refer to each other as "hobby Joggers".  His progression as an ultra runner has been a huge inspiration for me to make a serious attempt at becoming a more competitive runner.The MarathonThe marathon was won by Sam Darling, who was staying with us at a cabin nearby.  He produces a dominating performance of 2:55 on a fairly technical trail in hot, humid conditions.  I got to pick Sam's brain after the race... he gave some good advice that should help me in my quest to become a faster runner.Alex Poulsen, another person camping at the same cabin, placed second.  Alex and Jesse often train together.  Alex is definitely a talented runner as this was his longest run ever.  One of the perks of DNFing so early- I got to see Shelly finish her second trail marathon in two weeks.  I am very proud of her accomplishments!  Here's the video of her finish:Our "cabin crew" had many[...]

Barefoot Ted's Luna Huaraches: A Review


For a barefoot runner, I spend an inordinate amount of time testing shoes.  Even though I prefer to run barefoot, there are times when the protection of shoes is a welcome luxury.  Sometimes shoes are an absolute necessity.  My philosophy of shoe use is simple- run barefoot when you can. If you need the protection of shoes, use the most minimal shoe for the job.  The only way to assess the best shoe for any given situation is to test all options repeatedly.  Over time, huaraches have proven to be a great catch-all solution for almost every situation requiring shoes.  The genius of the huarache sandal is the simplicity of function.  It is a piece of material suspended below your foot with a piece of binding material, usually leather or twine.With every other minimalist shoe, some element of the shoe design interferes with foot function.  Vibrams unnaturally separate your toes and fit can be an issue as your foot must conform to the predetermined shape.  EVOs are snug around the ankles which limits some movement.  Racing flats tend to prevent your toes from splaying.  Reduced shoes like the Nike Free raise the heel.  Newtons have a very thick sole that prevents good ground feel.  Huaraches suffer none of these problems.  In essence, it is the perfect minimalist shoe.I've been using huaraches for about three years.  The first pair were homemade.  They were complete garbage.  I used them about once a month just for variety, but I did not enjoy the fit or feel.Earlier this year, I reviewed a pair of huaraches from another manufacturer.  The quality was improved over my home made version, which made a huge difference in function.  I used these huaraches for a series of long runs with great success.About six weeks ago, Barefoot Ted McDonald started selling the production model of his latest huarache sandal- the Luna.  I have been following Ted's fascinating adventures since his days of training for a triathlon using 1890's era equipment and setting a world record for skateboarding distances over a 24 hour period.  He has been producing huaraches for years.  Ted learned the craft from the Tarahumara themselves (as told in Born to Run), and has been diligently working for years to improve the design.  The Luna is the culmination of these efforts.The Lunas have several available options.  They can be ordered with or without a suede foot bed.  They can be ordered with leather laces of various colors, or with hemp laces.  The sandals are sold in standard US sizes and customizable for sizes smaller than 6 or larger than 14 (men's sizing).  The sandals can also be custom-made if you provide an outline of your foot.  I opted for the suede top with both sets of laces.  Shelly also ordered a pair with the same options.Yeah... they're kinda sexy, too.They arrived after only three days.  My first impression was positive.  The craftsmanship was far better than I expected.  The Vibram sole material was meticulously cut.  The suede foot bed was securely bonded to the rubber sole material.  The lacing holes were perfectly cut and symmetrical.  The sandals were laced with the leather cord, so I tested that first.  I laced them on my feet using a slip-off method and wore them around the house.A Note About TyingTying Huaraches is an art.  It took a fair amount of experimentation to find the exact amount of tension needed on the various parts of the sandal.  One loop expends from between your first and second toes to the medial side of your foot.  Another loop extends from the medial side, around your ankle to the lateral side of your ankle.  The final loop extends from the lateral side of the ankle and around the original loop.  In essence, the three loops form a triangle that suspends the sandal below your foo[...]

The Changing of the Guard: A Sociological Analysis of the Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Movement


Human behavior fascinates me.  Human behavior in relation to barefoot and minimalist shoe running fascinates me even more.  I have been in a position to observe the progression of this phenomenon for a number of years.  The entire movement can be framed within the context of the sociological/anthropological concept of the diffusion of innovations. The concept outlines the progression of any given innovation within a society.  It is somewhat odd to consider barefoot (BFR) and minimalist shoe running (MR) as an "innovation", but it does represent a significant change in our society's collective thoughts on running.  After all, we ran barefoot or in minimalist shoes for tens of thousands of years.  The modern running shoe has been around for thirty. The idea of framing BFR/MR within the context of the diffusion of innovation came from repeated discussions with individuals within the running shoe industry.  Over the years, I've had the opportunity to discuss BFR/MR with shoe marketers, designers, sales representatives, and retailers.  My interactions with the general running public confirms what I've learned from the running shoe industry... we are in the midst of a significant paradigm shift.For years, running form took a back seat to shoe design.  The idea was simple- runners did not have to bother learning good form, they just ran.  If they had serious biomechanical deficiencies, shoe manufacturers would design a shoe to correct the problem.  It is through this process of correcting imperfect running gait that we developed the neutral, stability, and motion control shoes that define the current running shoe industry.  We developed a set of criteria (wet test, pronation control, fancy gait analysis software,etc.) that allowed retailers to fit runners with their "ideal shoe".  This idea that technology can be used to solve problems is pervasive in our society.  In general, if we have a problem we would prefer to purchase a solution than resolve the root cause.  If we are depressed, we don't resolve the underlying issues.  We prefer to pop a pill.  If we are overweight, we don't try to reduce our caloric intake or increase our level of activity.  We have doctors remove our excess fat via liposuction.  If we have a wicked slice, we don't work on our swing.  We purchase a 1,200cc driver that resembles a globe on a stick.  Shortcuts are our specialty.Why?  There could be many causes.  Humans are inherently lazy... generally speaking, we save energy where we can.  It is easier to buy a solution than take the time and effort to go through a self-improvement process.  We could blame our capitalist society.  From an early age, we are conditioned to have a positive response to purchasing "stuff".  Many of us spend our lives collecting "stuff" because we get a little bit of a rush.  To repeat this rush, we work hard to earn more money.  The result is a cycle of consumption that fuels our economy.  We could also blame our love of technology.  Maybe this is a result of our meta-cognitive skills.  We have the ability to plan, assess, and contemplate the future.  The drive to advance seems to be hard-wired in our brains.  We're a relatively weak species.  Our cognitive ability is our best survival tool.  We have a belief that technology can transcend our biological limitations.  That belief is what allows our species to survive.The BFR/MR movement represents a shift in thought.  For years, most of us were comfortable with the "let's not bother learning to run, we can buy a shoe that will correct our deficiencies" paradigm.  This solution seemed to work for the vast majority of runners.  As we are beginning to learn, this paradigm is imperfect.  Some runners would ex[...]

Zensah Leg Sleeves- A Review


Over the last year or so, I began seeing more and more runners sporting various leg and arm compression sleeves.  I tend to shy away from things that appear to be fad-like, which is where I placed compression sleeves.My opinions changed after Shelly purchased a pair of matching pink arm and leg sleeves.  She bought them for the UV protection aspect, though I'm sure the aesthetics of the pink color swayed her purchasing decision.  She tried them on various runs and wore them for a few races.  She praised them often, but I wasn't convinced.During a long run, she commented that she felt faster when wearing the sleeves.  Hmmm... that piqued my interest.  I was considering giving them a try, but couldn't quite pull the trigger.  The clincher came when I read a blog post by my friend Dr. Scott Hadley (the physical therapist that gave my the calf-rolling self treatment from his TrekoClinics site).  He discussed an article that appeared in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  The runners in the study were able to run longer, farther, and faster when wearing calf compression sleeves.  While a single study is but one data point open to debate and replication, it gave me enough reason to begin experimenting.Admittedly, I was also fascinated with the idea that compression sleeves could be a solution to my kilt dilemma.  In my opinion, the kilt looks A LOT better with kilt hose, but they are socks.  That's an obvious problem for the barefoot runner.  Compression sleeves could be a barefoot runner alternative to the traditional Scottish attire.I contacted Zensah, the same brand Shelly uses, and they graciously agreed to send me a pair for testing.  They arrived after two or three days.  Since I was recovering from the Fallsburg Marathon, I did not have any runs scheduled.  I was eager to try them out, so I wore them around the house the rest of the day.  And at night.  And the following day.  I even wore them when Shelly and I joined our running crew at the local Buffalo Wild Wings that night.  When worn casually, the feeling was familiar.  They felt much like my compression pants I wear during the winter, only isolated to my lower legs.  I feeling was pleasant, though I did not experience any positive effects.  I did seem to drink beer faster at BW3's, but I suspect that was not an effect of the sleeves.I didn't get an opportunity to use them for a run until several days later.  The real test came from a vigorous workout.  Shelly and I planned a hill running session.  The course starts up a 150 foot sand hill at a 20° grade.  Once we reach the top, we immediately run a quarter mile down an asphalt hill at a 10° grade, run about 100 yards on flat ground, then back up another asphalt road of the same length and incline.  Once we reached the top, we ran down the same sand hill.  We would repeat this route four times. The sleeves felt good, but were not really noticeable... until I started running.  For the first time ever, I was able to run to the top of the sand hill.  I usually make it about 2/3 of the way, then power-hike the remainder.  The run to the bottom of the asphalt, back up, then finally down the sand hill went well.  I could feel the gentle compression the entire distance.  Much to my surprise, each "lap" seemed easier than the previous one.  After four laps, my legs felt strong.  I kept the compression sleeves on for about an hour after the workout ended. These results were repeated in two more shorter training runs.  I am still undecided if the compression sleeves are actually causing physiological improvements, or if it is some sort of placebo effect.  If it is a placebo effect, it is nonetheless improving my perfo[...]

Common Question: Should My Heel Touch the Ground?


When running barefoot, the foot strike (I prefer the term foot "kiss") often receives unnecessary focus.  New barefoot runners will spend so much time trying to master the nuances of the "perfect" foot strike, they will ignore more important elements such as posture, relaxation, etc.

I routinely instruct people to do whatever feels natural.  The idea is simple- if you follow my advice of starting on a smooth, hard surface, foot strike will take care of itself.  If you land with a heavy heel strike or overstride, pain will ensue.  Giving detailed instructions cannot account for the natural variation in anatomy.  We're all different.  As such, our foot strike will look slightly different.  

I land on the lateral side of my sole and roll my foot inward.  Others land more towards the center of their midfoot.  How you do it is mostly inconsequential as long as you can accurately react to the feedback from your feet.

There is one issue that arises repeatedly.  many new barefoot runners (or minimalist shoe runners) have a tendency to tense their calf muscles throughout the gait cycle in an effort to prevent their heel from touching the ground.  Generally speaking, this is bad.  By keeping your calf muscles actively engaged, you put undue stress on your Achilles tendon and the musculature of the calf.  The result can be a damaged Achilles, damaged soleus (or other calf muscles), bone spurs, or plantar pain that is often misinterpreted as plantar fasciitis.  

Biomechanically, your feet and legs are not designed to keep the heel off the ground through the gait cycle.  Doing so eliminates the effectiveness of the longitudinal and transverse arch, quickly tires the calf muscles, and as previously mentioned, unnecessarily increases the chances of injury.  Early on, it will also place added stress on the metatarsal bones of the foot.

Simply put, your heel should always softly touch the ground with each step. The exception to this rule is running fast.  As speed increases, there will be a slight natural forward shift in weight that keeps the heel off the ground.  The Pose method of running explains this phenomenon especially well. 

If you're new to barefoot or minimalist shoe running, please heed this important advice!  

News and Notes- Wednesday, August 18th


With so many things happening, it is impossible to write a single post about each.  Instead, I will occasionally write a quick summary of current happenings.The Barefoot Event at SchulerThanks to everyone that attended the Schuler Books barefoot running event in Grand Rapids last night!  We had a great crowd!  Thanks for Dr. Dave Asselin of PT 360, Tiler Webster of Gazelle Sports, and Emily Stavrou of Schuler Books!  I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people.The Seven Day Minimalist ChallengeBeginning today, I am going to start a seven day challenge to continue my journey to a more minimal lifestyle.  I'm still in the "getting rid of junk" phase.  The difficulty is allotting the time to cull my possessions.  This challenge will help towards this end.  Here's the plan:Over the next seven days, I will throw out, donate, or recycle 100 of my possessions each day.  Hopefully this will seriously reduce my clutter. Update on the Paleo DietSo far, so good.  Shelly and I have been following our version of the diet for about five or six weeks.  The results have been very positive!  I am still surprised the cravings for bread-based carbs have all but disappeared.  It is also shocking that eating any sort of wheat-based food makes me feel absolutely horrible for about 24 hours.  I'll be writing more on this in the near future.The Barefoot Running Book: Retailers Needed!Now that I have the second edition of the book on-hand, I am beginning to reach out to retail establishments that may be interested in carrying the book.  If you own or work at a retail establishment that may be interested in carrying the book, please contact me at robillardj "at" gmail "dot" com!  I'm offering very good wholesale pricing and a low minimum order (10).   North County Trail 50 MilerOn Saturday, August 28th, Shelly and I will be running at the North Country Trail Races in Manistee, Michigan.  We know a lot of people that will be at the event.  If you are planning on attending or will be in the area, say hi!  I'll be the dude in the kilt. :-)  Upcoming Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running ClinicNext Tuesday (August 24th), I will be conducting another barefoot and minimalist shoe clinic at Crossfit Grand Rapids (  The clinic will be a hands-on workshop where I will teach the basics of barefoot running.  We do some running and drill work, so come dressed appropriately!  The clinic only costs $10 and promises to be a good time!  To register, email Brandon Armstrong at, or call him at 616.916.7210.  Space is limited, so please do not hesitate![...]

The Second Edition of The Barefoot Running Book: Availability and a Giveaway!


The second edition of The barefoot Running Book is now available!  For those that pre-ordered, the books should ship on Wednesday.  They are currently available on the Barefoot Running University website.  For those of you that prefer Amazon, they will be available very soon (see page here).  The cost is $14.95.  I kept the price the same as the first, but it expanded from 61 to 188 pages.  Check out the BRU book page for more information!  To celebrate the finished project, I am holding a contest to give away two books.  Here's how it will work:Think of your best barefoot running tips.List each one as a comment under this post.I will send one copy to the person that lists the most legitimate tips, and I will send one copy to the person that left the last tip when I wake up tomorrow morning.  For those of you that like strategy, it will help to know about what time I normally wake up.  Facebook friends, you may have a bit of an advantage with that one... :-)Good luck! Barefoot Workshop/Talk in West Michigan If you happen to be in the West Michigan area tomorrow (Tuesday, August 17th), stop by Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids![...]

The Best Worst Run of My Life: Know When to Hold Them...


August 14th, Fallsburg marathon, Lowell, Michigan.  I set a personal worst for the marathon distance.  I experienced things in this race I have never experienced before.  Cramping.  Dead legs.  Extreme nausea.To top it off, I missed a turn and ran an alternate route for about a mile.  I have a seriously painful bruise on the arch of my left foot.  My body feels the cumulative effects of being beaten up repeatedly, and is not responding well.Despite all this, Fallsburg proved to be one of the most fun races I've had the opportunity to participate in.  I got to watch Shelly finish her first marathon (read her race report here), which she totally rocked!  I was exposed to an entirely new set of trails I had never run before.  I got to catch up with several people and meet many more.Shelly and Jen Jordan finishingBefore the race, I was able to chat with a bunch of people including fellow Hallucination 100 finisher Tim Adair, Barefoot Runners Society Michigan Chapter president Andy Grosvenor, Katie Swords from the Runners World Trail Running Forum, and Matt Plecher, a fellow barefoot/ minimalist shoe runner from Grand Rapids.  Shelly before the raceDuring the race, I chatted with many of the great aid station volunteers.  Many were interested in barefoot running, which is always my go-to conversation starter. Me before the raceAfter the race, I milled about and talked to a few others, including Joel Pennington, Katie's husband, marathon winner Ben VanHoose, Andy again, Mark, a fellow minimalist runner who's last name I cannot remember, and a few other great people.Andy finishingThe RaceSo the race... while I could write a complete, detailed recap, I'll spare my readers the painful details.  Here's the quick synopsis:The race started well.  The first 5 miles (fairly technical trails) went exceedingly well.  Around mile 7 or so, the course hit a gravel road.  It hurt.  A lot.  The wheels came off at that point as I hit a serious low.  The next 19 miles were a cascading cycle of negativity interspersed with occasional bouts of not-quite-as-bad negativity.  I've never run a race where the actual running part elicited so little intrinsic joy.  I did not want to be out on the course.  Me during the race.  Note- I felt good at that point.I reverted to "ultra survival mode" for the majority of the race.  I reduced my running gait to my slowest ultra shuffle and slogged through the mileage while conserving as much energy as I could. Around mile 24, I missed a turn.  After about three quarters of a mile, I realized I hadn't seen a course marker in some time.  I backtracked about a half mile, but still did not see any markers or other runners.  Not knowing where I was in relation to the actual course, I turned around and continued on.  I knew I was off course, and I knew how to get to the finish line.  At that moment, I was content with a DNF (did not finish).  After about a mile, I came to the course.  I jumped on the trail and finished the last mile.  The rough day seemed almost comical as I trudged to the finish line to collect my DNF.  When I emerged from the woods to the cheering of a few onlookers, I felt a mix of relief (the run was almost over) and guilt (hey, I cut the course... I didn't deserve that adulation).As I approached the finish line, that dichotomy of emotions grew.  I entered the chute and crossed the finish line.  A woman (I think it may have been RD Dan Droski's wife) congratulated me.  As Dan handed me my finisher's towel (awesome finisher's reward, by the way) and medal, I tried explaining that I had missed[...]

Fundamental Ultraruning Skills: The poo in the woods


My good friends over at Ted's Google Group started a thread on paleo wiping.  This reminded me of several questions I've received over the years regarding the delicate issue of pooping during ultras.  I am always a little surprised this question does not come up more often.  Here's the situation- you're thirty miles into a 50 mile run.  You're surrounded by nothing but untamed wilderness.  You have to drop a #2.  Since there are no porta-potties for another 20 miles, you are left with no choice but to drop drawers and let loose. I always assume everyone has the benefit of being raised in the sticks.  I sometimes forget my suburbanite friends have probably never had the opportunity to hone their wilderness bowel movement skills.  I am also somewhat surprised at the amount of anxiety some people feel at the thought of dropping a deuce outside the friendly confines of the plastic vertical coffins neatly lined up at the start line of races. My first bit of advice- practice.  Don't wait until race day to attempt a torpedo launch in the woods.  Next time you're out on the trails, find a secluded spot and give it a go.So how do you actually go about jettisoning some excess weigh?  Instead of explaining the process in detail, I'll refer you to this video posted in the Google Group:Here are some additional pointers not covered in the video:When actually squatting, it can be beneficial to hold your cheeks apart.  Sadly, I have to credit Mtv's The Real World for this tip.Keeping a small piece of biodegradable toilet paper in your pocket can help with the final cleanup procedure.When choosing a location to squat, most people simply wander a fair distance from the trail.  Make sure you don't inadvertently walk too close to a different trail or road.Know what the local poisonous plants... don't squat in them.Avoid plants with thorns, too.Same deal with bees.Experienced wilderness dumpers... have any additional tips to add? [...]

A bunch of randomness...


Over the last few weeks, I've been busy with my various adventures, then documenting said adventures.  There are a lot of happenings occurring in the very near future, lots of news to share.  Let's begin!My Achilles InjuryWhen running in the Burning River 100, I tweaked my left Achilles.  As of last week, it was still sore and inflamed.  My plan was to simply rest in preparation for the Fallsburg Marathon this upcoming weekend.  Late last week, I was emailing Dr. Scott Hadley, a barefoot running friend of mine.  He had read my race report about Burning River and suggested I try a self-treatment he developed on his TrekoClinics site.  I felt a bit foolish; I had forgotten I had access to one of the leaders in the field of diagnosing and treating.  Based on Scott's recommendation, I used the treatment he described in the sample video on the site's main page.  After three days, the Achilles feels perfect!  The tightness and pain I had felt completely disappeared.  I tested it with a four mile tempo run yesterday at a 7:20 pace.  This would constitute one of my two training runs before tapering for the marathon.  The Achilles was 100% both during and after the run.  Bottom line- the treatment worked.Barefoot Track MeetMy friend, occasional training partner, and Barefoot Runners Society Michigan Chapter president Andy Grosvenor is helping to organize a barefoot/minimalist shoe track meet this Friday in Rockford, Michigan.  The idea is simple- it's a fun event to help raise the awareness of barefoot running.  I'm still working on my schedule, but am planning on being in attendance.  I'll be running the longest event, but doing it very slowly.  I'll be happy to answer any questions people may have about barefoot or minimalist shoe running.  Additionally, there will be at least a few more VERY experienced barefoot runners in attendance.  It will be a great opportunity to learn.All are welcome!  Here are the details:WHEN: Friday, August 13th, 7pmWHERE: Rockford North Middle School Track,397 E Division Street Northeast, Rockford, MIWHAT: 440, 880, 1mi, 2mi, and 3mi in nothing but the bare of your barefeet [or some interesting MINIMAL footwear, if your feet can't take it...]WHY: because we can, to raise awareness of barefoot running, and for a groovy homemade medal!Book Signing/ Barefoot Workshop I will be leading a discussion on barefoot running at Schuler Books in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, August 17th at 7:00pm.  I will be joined by physical therapist Dr. Dave Asselin and Gazelle Sports.  The workshop will be more topical than my usual workshops due to time constraints, but we will have ample time to answer questions from the audience.  The event is free!This will also be the first opportunity to purchase the second edition of my barefoot running book.  Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Barefoot Runners Society!Barefoot Running WorkshopI will continue my series of regular barefoot/minimalist shoe running workshops at Crossfit Grand Rapids.  The next workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, August 24th from 7:30pm to about 9:30pm.  This is a comprehensive hands-on (of feet-on) workshop that involves actual drills and running.  Cost is $10 and you can reserve a spot by contacting Brandon Armstrong at or 616.916.7210.  Spots are limited and fill up rather fast, so it's usually best not to wait until the last minute.616-916-7210 begin_of_the_skype_highlightingend_of_the_skype_highlightingPaleo DietShelly and I have been following a quasi-paleo diet for about a month now.  This will be a topic of [...]

Burning River 100 Mile Race Report: Part VI


Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Merriman Road to Memorial Parkway (3 miles, 96.3 total)This was a mostly flat section comprised almost entirely of tow path.  Shelly was now pacing me.  We walked a lot.  I peed a lot.  Apparently I was hallucinating a lot... I repeatedly asked Shelly if she had said something.  She had not.When she did talk, she told some more stories of the crew experiences throughout the night.  I really don't remember any of them.  We were passed by a handful of runners at this point, including a pair that were running.  I marveled at their ability to run at this point.  We were also passed by a few runners unaffiliated with the race.  All seemed aware of the race as they congratulated me for making it this far.Shelly reminded me of all the vomit piles during this section.  She could identify them as Burning River runners based on the partially-digested aid station food.  It was pretty gross.We were passed by one dude that was still running... I yelled out "Great job running at this point!"  He looked down at my huarache-clad feet and exclaimed in a douchey-like voice "Thanks, it's my shoes." This section took us over an hour, but we pulled into the last aid station- Memorial Parkway- a little before the 27 hour point.When I arrived at this aid station, Shelley Viggiano recorded me for a minute. (See Jimmy's video here).  I really didn't remember what I said until seeing the footage later.  I was still a bit out of it.  I knew if I hurried, I could still walk in to a PR.  I ate quickly, got my water bottles, and Shelly and I were off.Section pace: 23:00Memorial Parkway to the Finish Line (4.8 miles, 101.1 total)As far as I know, Shelly and Jesse never discussed the kick idea.  I don't think I discussed it with Shelly, either.  Regardless, as soon as we started this section, she said "Let's try running a bit."There were orange traffic cones marking the path through the early part of this loop.  Shelly challenged me to run to the cone about fifth yards ahead.  I managed to break into a labored, plodding trot at a breakneck 15:00 pace.  As I neared the cone, I asked her if this was the one she was talking about.  She said no, the next one.  I did it.  It didn't feel horrible.We came to a hill, which I walked.  Once we crested the top, Shelly told me to try running again.  To my surprise, I was able to run downhill fairly well.  The pace was still hovering around 14:30, but it was faster than walking.  Shelly was running ahead of me and I was trying to keep up.  We crossed a road and headed into some trails.  Or pace slowly crept up.  14:15.14:00.13:45.Damn, I was starting to feel pretty good.  The pain went away.  The stiffness went away.  I took the lead ahead of Shelly.  I sped up to a 12:00 pace.  It felt as if I were flying!I don't think we had passed any other runners at that point.  We came to the first set of dreaded stairs.  By instinct, I sped up.  I LOVE running both stairs and hills... there's no greater feeling than pushing hard on hills.  I took the first few steps harder than I should.  I could feel the high beginning to crash, so I dialed it back a bit and power-hiked upward.  When I got to the top, I broke into a run again.Eventually we came to the second set of stairs, which I galloped up a little faster.  Once we got to the top, we ran into several small groups of runners.  With each group, the killer "catch the person in front of you" instinct kicked in.  I had an even greater surge of energ[...]

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report Part V


Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Pine Hollow #2 to Covered Bridge #1 (6.6 miles, 80.8 total)This section started innocently enough.  I drank a Red Bull at Pine Hollow, and it definitely picked me up!   Within about two minutes of leaving Pine Hollow for the second time, I felt a surge of energy that I hadn't felt since mile 20.  I felt very good physically and mentally.  My legs were still stiff, but the only pain radiated from my left Achilles. Jesse and I were making great progress.  I don't remember if I ran at this point, but I was definitely hiking faster than I had over the last few sections. I'm pretty sure this was about the time Jesse and I started discussing his Mind the Ducks 12 Hour performance.  At the end of the race, Jesse ran one half-mile loop at a blistering 5:20 pace.  It was the fastest lap anyone ran all day... after he had already run over 64 miles.  I have also witnessed Jesse exhibiting this kick on some of our long training runs.  On our now-famous 68 mile training run, he stopped to take a leak.  Mark Robillard (the same Mark now played by the Ken doll) and I continued on.  We covered about a quarter mile before Jesse sprinted to catch up to us.  This was at mile 60.Anyway, we talked about the body's ability to squeeze out more performance even when you think you are on the brink of death.  I have always been fascinated by the idea.  Dr. Tim Noakes talks about his "central regulator" theory in "The Lore of Running".  The idea is simple- fatigue is merely a mechanism your brain employs to prevent maximal effort.  It is your brain's method of keeping something "in the tank" in the event of an emergency.  Even at the end of a 100 miler, your body should be capable of more than a slow shuffle.  That conversation planted the seed.  At this point, even though I felt better than I had for hours and hours, I could not fathom the idea of a fast run to end this race.  Still, I knew I should be capable of a kick.  This idea brewed for the next 25 miles.Just as I was silently imagining what it would be like to cross the finish line in a sprint, my Fenix handheld died.  Since it is a regulated light, it doesn't dim before dying... it just dies.  At first I thought I may have accidentally clicked the on/off button, so I clicked it back on.  After ten seconds, it died again.  I stopped and fiddled around with it.  Jesse tried the same.  No luck.  It wasn't a disaster; I still had my headlamp.  Jesse was also sporting to lights, and he had both of his.  We continued on.I was silently questioning whether I had reminded the crew to change the batteries after the start.  I brought the handheld with me way back at the beginning and dropped it off at Polo Fields.  I was supposed to tell them to replace all batteries to make sure they didn't die during the night.  A sense of dread slowly built as I realized I had said nothing.  My Red Bull-fueled train of thought went something like this:"Okay no problems I still have one light and Jesse still has two the aid station is only about five or six miles away let's see at this pace that works out to be about two hour damn two hours is a long time if one already died oh my god what will happen if they all die how will we navigate to the next aid station in complete darkness shit shit shit this is how it could end Jesse and I will be lost wandering around the wilderness for hours..."Maybe the Red Bull had something to do with the paranoia.  Maybe not.  About five minutes later, Jesse's handhel[...]

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report Part IV


Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Boston Store to Pine Lane (4.1 miles, 58.6 total)This section was filled with memories.  In 2008, I was on a death march.  It took me about two and a half hours to navigate this 4.1 mile section.  This year, I was feeling immeasurably better.  I had Shelly to keep me company. The trails were pretty gnarly, including an incredibly root-laden stretch.  This section was a net gain in altitude, so I powered uphill more than down.  We tried to stick with the 10/2 ratio, but our efforts were thwarted by the hills.Shelly gave me the run-down of the crew's experiences throughout the day.  As I expected, their day had been spent frantically rushing, relaxing, and laughing.  She told tales of goiters, the dude that had his crew spray him down with Axe body spray, a side-trip to a gourmet deli at a local grocery store, Jesse fixing our car (the guy really is the jack of all trades), Art's unnaturally-large big toes, and some other assorted shenanigans (some cannot be printed to protect the innocent... or not so innocent).  Also, it seemed as though NE Ohio does not open until later in the morning.  McDonalds doesn't open until 7:00?!?  A grocery store that doesn't open until 9:00?!?  WTF?The conversation and fun terrain took my mind off the 55+ cumulative miles I ran to this point.  We quickly approached Pine Lane, the next aid station.  This was the aid station where I was pulled from the course in 2008.  I had bitter memories of slinking back to the minivan my crew had at the time, my head hung in defeat.  Still feeling as good as I did was a huge moral boost!The volunteers had A LOT of questions about he kilt.  One of the gentlemen had previously run a 5k in a traditional kilt.  Needless to say, I was impressed!  Another lady asked her friend "Is that what I think it is?"  in a not-quite-quiet enough whisper.  I think I ate a grilled cheese and a few Gu packets.  I refilled my water bottles, Shelly refilled hers.  We said some goodbyes and were off!Section pace: 18:18 Pine Lane to Happy Days (5.5 miles, 64.1 total)I would like to say this section went as smoothly as the first.  I would also like to say I stumbled upon a briefcase full of unmarked fifties.The section started well.  There were a few trails that gave way to a bike path.  I was trying to maintain the 10/2 ratio, but it quickly broke down.  This was my first and most severe low point of the day. Unfortunately, Shelly has never been with me through a low like this.  We went for being very talkative to dead silent.  When I go through a serious low, I tend to focus inward.  I monitor my body at this point being very careful to meet all my needs.  I know the low will pass, but it can be a very dangerous time IF I were to stop eating or drinking. As if by some intuitive sense, Shelly handled this rough patch extremely well.  She reminded me to keep eating Gu, keep drinking, and keep taking the occasional electrolyte capsule.  This section felt like it took forever. At some point, Ben passed us, as did Liz Bondar (Movingon).  Both looked as if they were in much better shape than I was.  Eventually, we entered a large field and could see the aid station at the other end.  Just as we began crossing the field, I began to perk up.  What horrible timing!Jesse and Art were waiting.  They took my water bottles and exchanged them.  They led me to the chair and I eagerly plopped down.  Being off my feet was definitely a relief at t[...]

Barefoot Ted's Luna huaraches... a first look


They just came in the mail today!  I'm pumped; these are of excellent quality!  After running the last two-thirds of Burning River in huaraches, I decided to make these my go-to minimalist shoe for most conditions.  They can be purchased here.  Here are some initial pics:

I'll be doing a full review, possibly after the Fallsburg Marathon next week.

Burning River 100 Interview with Crossfit Grand Rapids


This is my interview with Brandon Armstrong of Crossfit Grand Rapids, the location of my barefoot running clinics:

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Check out their website for more information!

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report, Part III


Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Egbert Shelter to Alexander Road (5 miles, 28.4 miles total)I took a deep breath as I left the Egbert Shelter aid station.  I knew this part was going to get dicey.  In 2008, this is the section that forced me to don my one-size-too-small Vibram KSOs, which ultimately led to a host of foot problems.  I was ready, though.  Through training, I forged by body and mind into a fearless gravel-running barefoot ninja. The loop starts out smooth.  Hard-packed dirt mixed with an occasional rock... as my daughter would say "It was easy-peasy!"  That false sense of security vanished quickly.  The gravel starts out fairly smooth.  Then you hit a climb.  It took a little evasive hopping around, but it was still doable.  At the top of the hill, the rugged trail REALLY began.My thought process:The first 100 yards as I am still running: "Damn!  This is more rugged than I remember."The second 100 yards, still running despite stepping on at least ten VERY large, sharp rocks: "Okay, this is a lot harder than I anticipated.  Be cool, Jason, be cool.  Just relax and float over the trail..."By the 1/4 mile mark, now walking: "What the Hell was I thinking?  This shit is impossible to run on!"By the one mile mark as about twenty runners have passed me and my pace has slowed to a 30 minute/mile tap dance "Oh my god, what am I doing?!?  If there's any chance of finishing this race, I'm going to need some protection!  I think I packed my huaraches.  This was the stupidest idea I've ever had!  I have almost nine more miles before I see my crew!After the two mile mark, the trail smoothed out to allow some occasional running.  The damage had been done, however.  My average pace shot up like a rocket.  I was passed by what seemed like forty runners.  My feet were badly bruised from the relentlessly tight-packed sharp rocks.  I tweaked my left Achilles on a particularly rocky climb.  I had to make a decision.  Do I continue the race barefoot and accomplish a long-standing goal, or do I change to my huaraches and dramatically increase the chances of finishing.  At that point, I seriously doubted I could run another 70 miles or so on bruised feet over terrain that will be just as rugged in select sections.  I agonized over this decision for the next seven miles or so.It's worth noting- many of the runners that passed me commented how brave I was for running this barefoot.  I have to be honest... if I saw someone doing what I was doing, I would think they were idiots.  There's a fine line between bravery and stupidity... I think I overshot that line by a safe distance.Eventually I came to the Alexander Road aid station.  Barefoot Johnny O was one of the volunteers here, so he was a welcome sight.  I know I didn't represent barefoot runners very well as I'm sure I did a lot of whining and complaining about the rocks. Johnny and the rest of the volunteers gave me a very good description of the next section.  I'd be on relatively smooth trails for two or three miles before hitting the crushed limestone towpath.  I could handle this...Section pace: 14:12Alexander Road to Station Road Bridge (4.9 miles, 33.3 total)This next section was a breeze compared to the last.  The trail was comprised of hard-packed dirt with large, flat shale-like stones protruding in various places.  It took some focus to avoid tripping, but this section allowed for a MUCH f[...]

2010 Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report Part II


Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Before I dive into the race, I should explain my sometimes controversial race strategy.  In the past, I've tried a variety of methods.  Most race strategies involved starting VERY at a VERY slow pace to conserve energy.  This idea was manifested in a run/walk strategy.  My favorite was an "eight/ two" ratio: run for eight minutes, then walk for two.  Additionally, I would walk all uphills and run all downhills.This strategy presented two major problems.  First, it never felt good.  I never felt like I was able to find a groove.  The transition from run to walk and back again was too distracting.  Second, it was too slow.  From the beginning of the race, I would be close to the cutoff time.  The conservative nature did not suit me well.I found a new strategy thanks to Jeremiah Cataldo, my ultrarunner friend mentioned in the first part.  He would run as long as possible, then switch to a more conservative run/ walk ratio.  Given that he is a MUCH better runner, I listened.  Through experimentation, I found it suited me well.For Burning River, this was my plan:Run at a comfortable pace for the first 30 miles, likely between 10 and 12 minute miles, and walk all hills;From mile 30 to 50, slow down as needed, maybe to 12 to 14 minute miles;From mile 50 to 70, implement a 10/2 run/ walk ratioWalk from 70 to finish, run when possible.For the most part, this is what I did.  If I had more training mileage, I am confident I could move the mileage back at each level.  This plan was realistic, however. The Race- Start Line to Old Mill Road (4.8 miles) A stampede of runners made their way across the dew-covered open field.  A few people commented about having to run in damp shoes.  I smiled as my bare feet would be dry within minutes. After a few hundred yards, we turned onto the asphalt road that would carry us for the next nine or ten miles.  This section was uneventful.  A lot of runners were engaging in conversation.  I answered a myriad of questions about the kilt are bare feet.  I settled into a comfortable 10:30 pace for this section.As we neared the first aid station, darkness gave way to dawn.  This area of Ohio is quite striking with what appear to be large horse ranched dotting the countryside. The aid station at Old Mill Road was a very fast stop.  I refilled my lone water bottle with HEED and quickly headed out. Old Mill Road to Polo Fields (4.8 miles, 9.6 total)Section two was nearly identical to section one.  The entire section consisted of rolling hills on asphalt roads.  There was at least one fairly long road that required walking, and it showed in my average pace which dropped to 10:40. I met up with Scott Handley, a fellow Kickrunners forum member and Michigander.  He had recently finished his first 100 miler at Javalina late last year.  He would go on to finish the race shortly after me.  I also met a gentleman from Sacramento, CA.  Since that area would be one of my dream destinations for future relocation, I asked him a ton of questions.  He graciously answered them all.  As it turns out, he had also considered moving to Auburn, CA, the finishing point of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Western States is the highest profile event in ultrarunning.At the end of this section, I met my crew for the first time.  The Polo Fields aid station was quite busy as the runne[...]

2010 Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run Race Report


 Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Back StoryI used to be a normal guy.  I liked watching TV.  I exercised in moderation.  I ran in the same attire other runners utilized.  I wore shoes.  Then I caught the ultramarathon bug.  Shortly after, I also caught the barefoot running bug.  The last five years of my life have been spent learning how to intertwine these two passions.  For the last five years, I have been working towards a goal of running a 100 mile race without shoes.  Completely barefoot. Most people were skeptical.  Even dedicated barefoot runners expressed some hesitation.  I was determined to prove them wrong.I started with a 50 miler in aqua socks.  Next was a barefoot 50 miler.  In 2008, I thought I was ready for the barefoot 100 miler, so I signed up for Burning River.  I made it to about mile 23, then ran into some of the most rocky trails I had ever encountered.  I happened to be carrying a pair of Vibram Five Fingers in the unlikely (so I thought) event I would need them.  i ended up swapping between barefoot and the VFFs for approximately 64 miles before DNFing.  I was the first race I did not finish. I regrouped and decided to put the barefoot 100 miler on hold.  I had to learn how to conquer the 100 mile beast first before attempting it without some protection on my feet.In 2009, I ran and finished the Hallucination 100 mile run in Pinckney, Michigan.  This race taught me many things about running this distance.  Most importantly, it gave me the confidence that I CAN finish a race of this distance.After perusing the ultra calendars, I decided on the next race... the 2010 Burning River.  Not only would I have the opportunity to finally reach this goal, but I would get some redemption for my failures in 2008.  I could get this monkey off my back.The next ten months would be spent planning and preparing to take another stab at my longstanding goal of running a barefoot 100 mile race.  Early on, I had my doubts.  I remembered the bitter taste of failure from 2008.  I remembered being alone in the dark on the trails of Northeast Ohio... feeling completely helpless as my body refused to move down the trail.  I remembered the feeling of mentally giving up shortly after.  When you set out to test your limits, most of us probably expect to surpass them.  I found out what it was like to find your limit.  It was not pleasant.  Did I really want to do this again?In the fall of last year, while contemplating my future, I had the opportunity to meet my ultrarunning hero- Scott Jurek.  He was in the area to talk at a local running store.  The store had organized a group run prior to the talk, so I had the opportunity to actually run with him, too.  During the run, I was able to participate in discussions with Scott regarding all aspects of ultrarunning.  One of the topics he discussed was the difficulty to ultras.  He candidly revealed that the elites go through the exact same feelings of self-doubt; they go through the same internal struggle to quit or continue on.  Jurek's discussions renewed my enthusiasm to continue chasing this goal.Over the winter, I maintained a fairly ambitious workout routine.  I ran once or twice a week on snow-covered trails to maintain my endurance base.  I continued crosstraining two or three days per week.  The goal was to simply maintain f[...]

"The Barefoot Book" winner!


Using, Rebecca was chosen as the winner of Daniel Howell's "The Barefoot Book!"  Rebecca, just send me an email at robillardj "at" gmail "dot" com, and I will get it out to you as soon as possible!

Burning River Initial Report, The Barefoot Running Book Pre-order, and The Barefoot Book giveaway!


Burning RiverWell, I finished the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run this weekend!  While I did not meet my goal of running the entire race barefoot (I decided to wear huarache sandals after mile 33.3), I did set a 100 mile PR (27:48 or so).  It was an awesome weekend!  Tons of thanks goes to my excellent crew consisting of my wife Shelly, Jesse Scott, and Barefoot Art.  I met a ton of wonderful people, got to spend time with friends I don't see often, and experienced the full Burning River course.  A full race report will be forthcoming, but here are a few highlights:I wore a kilt for the entire race,My "Mike's Hard Lemonade and chia" iskiate worked as planned,I realized drinking 92 ounces of beer the night before a race and getting four hours of sleep is a bad idea, I am considering abandoning my goal of running a barefoot 100 miler and focusing on getting competitive,I am very good at powering up hills, but equally bad at running down hills,I need to do more back-to-back long runs to reduce the amount of walking after the half-way point,I am capable of a pretty good kick, even at the end of a 100 miler.  Thanks to Jesse's inspiration and Shelly's leadership, I managed to crank out a 12:00 pace for the last 4.8 miles, highlighted by a 6:45 sprint over the last 100 yards.Photo courtesy Laurie ColónThe race report will be written over the course of this week and will be posted here.  Check back often. :-)In other news...The second edition of "The Barefoot Running Book: A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running" is almost done!  I am very excited; this edition is a significant improvement over the first edition.  To celebrate, I am offering it for only $9.99 + shipping and handling for about two weeks.  For those that order it, the book should arrive from the printer around the last week in August.  I will ship them as soon as they arrive.The book can be pre-ordered here: CLICK HEREFinally...Just a reminder- you can win a copy of Daniel Howell's excellent "The Barefoot Book" by following these directions before August 4th (this Wednesday).  [...]

The Eve of a Goal Race and the GoLite Tara Lite pics


In roughly 25 hours, I will finally be able to end this damned taper!  The Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run starts at 5am tomorrow morning.  The training has been done.  The gear is packed.  The directions are programmed into the GPS.  The crew is ready... more or less.  Now I drive.  And wait.  And sleep... more or less.The day before a major goal race is always nerve-racking.  I'm fidgety with anticipation.  Unlike the shorter races like 5 or 10ks or even marathons, 100 milers represent such an unknown.  Even though I am a relative novice at the distance, I am aware of the variability in experiences.  Every race presents a slew of potential problems.  Which problems will spring up tomorrow?  Will I be prepared to handle issues as they arise?  Today will be spend going through an endless litany of mental checklists:Before the race... do I have my clothes ready? Check.Light? Check.Lube?  Check.Nipples taped?  Check.What shoes do I wear to the start?  Sandals?  Check.Oh, sun screen?  Check.Aid stations... what do I do?  Change water bottles.Replenish supply of electrolytes.Drink high-calorie drink.Eat some solid food.Maybe eat chia, perhaps with Mike's Hard Lemonade.Check feet.As I'm running... how is my pace?How close am I to my goal pace?How far ahead of the cutoff am I?How far to the next aid station?How is hydration... when did I last pee?What color was it?Am I getting enough calories?These are just a few of the thoughts that will run through my head today.  It is the storm before the calm.  I will be a nervous wreck.  Then tomorrow morning will come.  For whatever reason, race morning is always calm... always peaceful.  The nervous, frantic, obsessive thoughts are replaced by... tranquil enjoyment.  Needless to say, I cannot wait for tomorrow morning.On a completely unrelated note:  minimalist shoe junkies, here are two pics of the GoLite Tara Lite minimalist shoe to be released soon.  It features a zero-drop last and some pretty aggressive tread.  I haven't tested it yet, but it promises to be an interesting addition to the current minimalist shoe offerings from a variety of manufacturers.[...]