lørdag den 1. november 2014

There and back again - Barepadz 10km review

Today I had the opportunity to try a pair of Barepadz running "gloves", and took them for a 10km run over different terrains. The bottom line is... I'm completely sold - today was the best run I have had for as long as I can remember! Read on to find out the one thing which makes Barepadz better than minimal shoes AND barefoot!


I have been running up to - and including - marathon distance in minimalist shoes (Vibrams, Merrell Vaporgloves) for the last few years. As a middle-age, essentially lazy runner I attribute forefoot/midfoot running in minimalist shoes to the fact that I can run any distance at all. I tried running 5km barefoot once this year and ended up with feet covered in blisters, but could feel that running barefoot increased my ground-feel and proprioception...
  1. Proprioception (/ˌproʊpri.ɵˈsɛpʃən/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shən), from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own", "individual" and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.
... and realized I would have to harden my feet, or protect them in some way while retaining the barefoot running experience. Enter Barepadz.

Barepadz shoes gloves:

From the Barepadz website at www.barepadz.com :
Info: The World's Most Minimal Running Footwear.
BarePadz™ are the closest you can get to actually running barefoot while still providing enough protection for rough terrain. BarePadz™ are made of high quality neoprene with a kevlar enhanced pad and are very easy to put on. BarePadz™ are very easy to hand wash and dry out quickly. If you are an experienced barefoot runner, BarePadz will feel like running on a cloud. If you are an experienced minimal footwear runner, Barepadz will take you to the next level of shoeless running."

Barepadz 10k review:

I was offered a free pair of slightly used Barepadz, size large, via a Danish barefoot running forum on Facebook. My shoe size is EU43/44, and size L in Barepadz fit snugly and comfortably.

As I am not known for deep thought, I thought I would follow up my blisteringly disastrous 5k barefoot run earlier this year with a 10k test of the Barepadz. To my defence, I did take along a pair of Vaporgloves in case of disaster:

Backup Vaporgloves packed... let's go!

I ran the first two kilometers on smooth asphalt, and almost immediately noticed that my running was significantly smoother, more effortless, than even in Vaporgloves. Wow, I thought, I'm fabulous! 

The Kevlar sole gives more cushioning under my soles than minimal shoes do, while the heels and toes are completely free to act as sensors - proprioceptors - and I felt with each step that I was adjusting my footfall to land perfectly... outside of the foot touching down (natural pronation) and sensing the terrain, the rest of the forefoot rolling into position and finally the heel just kissing the ground enough to lightly compress the heel pad in its exact center Somehow, I felt I was regaining my optimal balance - foot, legs, hips, back and head began finding their own centers of gravity.

My running partner, Balou, checking the fit. And yes, you can get black toenails by running a marathon in minimal shoes too.

I went through a long series of different surfaces, and was astounded that the Barepadz were actually MORE comfortable than the thinnest minimal shoes. I felt like I was running on a cushion of air, while retaining all the advantages of unencumbered, barefoot running!

Gravel, no problem...

... unless you overdo it

Rough asphalt

No. Do not run on thorn bushes. Just take my word for it.

After 5km I stopped to take stock. I was having a ball! Checking the Barepadz I saw I had been landing on the outside of the Barepadz kevlar pad and had abraded almost all the way through the neoprene:

5k status. Average pace includes my running partner's urges to stop and pee, and talk to other dogs.

Neoprene blowout. Balou is such a poser.

More neoprene blowout, this time without Balou. A little more kevlar would fix this.

I was enjoying my run so much I decided to continue the next 5km in the Barepadz, despite the damage. By now I had warmed up nicely, and I felt my cadence increase and - to my surprise - my level of perceived exertion decrease. By the time I got home, my average pace had dropped sharply, despite me being stopped en route by my buddy Ole, who asked what I had on my feet.

Yes. Yes, that is a Pebble Smartwatch and iSmoothrun app combo, see http://thepebbleblog.blogspot.dk/

I explained what they were, and told him to hop up and down like he was jumping rope, first on his forefeet, then on his heels. Our neighbours were treated to a sight which must have made them shake their heads again and promise themselves to seriously call the estate agent first thing Monday morning.

A quick look at the stats shows that once I had settled in, my cadence and speed increased nicely.

No damage to me after 10k, except for a blister on my big toes...
 but the Barepadz are a bit worse-for-wear.


Barepadz are great! Really, I'm hooked and I am going to get a few more pairs. With the current design I estimate that there are between 40 and 60km in a pair, if you run correctly with perfect form. More kevlar on the outsides and more kevlar toward the toes will increase durability substantially. Other reviews have the same comments, and it appears a new version is already available. 

Don't run 10k in these the first time, unless you are already a barefoot runner - you'll get blister on your toes.

A huge and surprising (for me) upside is the cool air getting to your feet, I had no idea how nice it was to not have to run the last kilometers in hot and sweaty minimal shoes. 

I expect to be able to run down to about 8 degrees Celcius in dry weather, before my toes start losing their feeling and I need to change to minimal shoes and compression socks.

Another surprising upside is that the Barepadz afford some compression around the tendons and bones of the forefoot, and I felt the stretch of the neoprene working nicely with the suspension and elasticity of my feet. This is actually the one thing which makes Barepadz better than minimal shoes AND barefoot, and a very relevant reason for a barefoot runner to consider upgrading to Barepadz.

Would I run a marathon in these? You bet... Copenhagen 2015, here we come!

mandag den 2. juni 2014

Race report: Copenhagen Marathon 2014

Aim: 04H30... although with a 1/2 marathon time of 02H00 I really should be capable of 04H10-04H15.
  • Shoes: Merrel Vaporgloves (minimal Vibram soles, zero drop)
  • Compression: CEP socks and sleeves, compression T-shirt.
  • Nutrition: 4 x 82g Snickers bars
  • Hydration: Camelbak, 1.5L Powerade.
  • Technology: Pebble Steel; NATO strap on adapters; iSmoothrun for iOs/Pebble; iPhone 5

Four months before
After 2 marathon training sessions in 2013 on the borderline to Achilles Tendonitis, I reduced the mileage in my four month training period by about 50% compared to Copnehagen Marathon 2014.
Accordingly, I was prepared to run either significantly slower times (insufficient training) or significantly faster times (less damage) than last year. I certainly did not expect what transpired...

The week before
This year I elected for a complete rest from running the last week before Copenhagen. My right achilles was still tender, despite my reduced training load, and I figured the best I could do was give myself a complete rest. Five days before I started carb loading, by increasing the carbohydrate percentage of my diet and increasing my calorie count to 2000kCal/day.

The day before
With 24 hours to go, I found myself checking the weather report every hour or so. Expected conditions fluctuated between very hot to very wet:

I had arranged to collect my niece in Århus, then drive to Østerbro in Copenhagen and pick up my start number at the Expo around 6pm.

Pebble Smartwatch, SmartwatchPro: pickup start number at Østerbro in Copenhagen... let's go!

Pebble Smartwatch, WatchNote: pickup details, metro line info all on hand!

The travelling went smoothly, and the Expo was bustling - I bought two pairs of CEP compression socks (the short version, as I already have compression sleeves) as I had picked up blisters from a half marathon in March, which I had run in regular supermarket socks... :-(

We went out for a Pizza & lots of fluids and I hit the sack about 10pm.

The Day!

Up at 5 for a quick breakfast of oats and half a liter of isotonic drink, slowly got dressed and by 0730 I was headed for the Metro, destination Islands Brygge. Arrived at 0800, dropped off my clothes and took my last drink. Walked quitely around, stretched a bit and heard a few more chapters of my audiobook to zone out.

Pebble, SmartwatchPro: start time and location... as if I could forget!

Pebble, WatchNote: backup pacing information, in case of GPS failure!

The race started precisely at 0930, and by 0944 I was crossing the start line.

Crossing the start line (right, green vest) 14 minutes after the first runners!

The route took us over Langebro into the City, through the center and out to Østerbro. I was on pace and running without issue by the time we headed back into the City at kilometer 10. Hot and humid.

The next few kilometers brought us through my old neighbourhood (Nørrebro) where we had lived almost 20 years ago, then back into the center of town, over some cobbled roads to wake us up and at 17km we were heading back out to Vesterbro. Still holding my target pace and running with no issues. Halfway was passed in 2:14:00 which meant I would have to run an even split for both halves to come in under 04H30. By this stage I had eaten 2 Snickers bars (890kCal) and about half a liter of Powerade (80kCal) and had expended about 1600kCal.

The long way back to Østerbro. Light rain started, which was a relief from the hot conditions up to now.  I could feel it required more and more of an effort to maintain my pace, and I began to switch off my mind from my surroundings. Couldn't stomach eating more Snickers or drinking Powerade, so I picked up water at the stops. On the upside, it felt pretty much like last year (no worse, no better) so I knew if I could keep on without an injury I should make it through. At 30km the sky opened and it started to rain heavily.

From 30k the hard work starts. Not fun any more. No thoughts. Foot. Next foot. Check pace. Shit. Push harder. Can't. C'mon, try. Can't. Just run. Foot. Next foot.

The loops at 32km takes you AWAY from the finish line, and it's hard not to swear. Dammit, same again at 35km.... pace starts to really drop. SOOO close at 38km but the sadistic bastards put in another loop, 3kms  AWAY this time! I'm beyond caring by now, just don't stop or I'll fall. Keep going.

Finally, finally there are no more tricks and the road leads over Langebro and the finish line at Islandsbrygge. I could walk now. Nope. I could...? Nope. And finally, finally...

Done. Urgh. F*ck.

Pebble/iSmoothRun paced me home in 04H35, average pace 6:26min/km....

...primarily using the Distance/Split average/Average Pace setup.

...using 30% of the Pebble's battery (100% at start, 70% at finish) with notifications etc. on.

Marathon number 3!

Post-race analysis:

  • Shoes: Merrel Vaporgloves are superb. Light, flexible, ultrathin, grippy - the perfect minimal running shoe.
  • CEP compression: no blisters at all from the compression socks, despite wet weather. I drove the 6 hours home immediately after the marathon with no cramps and no issues. I ran a short run 3 days after the marathon with some stiffness, but no more than that. No injuries. No achilles problems. I am convinced the support they give works particularly well for long distance running and recovery.
  • iPhone/Pebble Smartwatch: Pebble + WatchNote app are excellent for keeping relevant information (numbers, adresses, transportation, times etc etc. on hand. Pebble + iSmoothrun, with its multiple, user-configurable screens worked flawlessly at keeping me on pace. Kudos also to the extreme legibility of the Pebble Steel screen in direct sunlight, and its waterproof rating when sweating in a torrential downpour!
  • Time: I should be able to run 4H10 to 4H20. My three marathon times have been between 4H31 (Copenhagen '13) and 4H38 (Berlin '13). Each time the wheels fall off at about 32km. I probably need to do a few more long runs in training, but I think the main issue is energy - I need to improve fueling. I ran pretty much the same race this year (dark green) as I did last year (light green) and clearly I ran (sorry) into issues at the same place. Must work on this... c'mon, dude!

mandag den 14. april 2014

World Half Marathon Championships, Copenhagen 2014

The goal: a sub-2 hour half-marathon (21,097km) at a pace of 5:40/km

"Fast, flat and scenic! In 2014 the IAAF/AL-Bank World Half Marathon Championships will take place smack in the middle of Copenhagen - For the first time ever recreational runners will join the elite in a world half marathon and therefore it is a must attend event in your race calendar: The IAAF/AL-Bank World Half Marathon Championships is a once in a lifetime experience for runners of all kinds."

Well, who could say no to that? Along with 300 elite runners and 25,000 recreational runners I set off on Friday afternoon - March 28, with my running partner Peter (with whom I ran Berlin Marathon last year) for Copenhagen, for a once-in-a-lifetime, gigantic running festival.

Pebble Smartwatch and WatchNote app.

Friday, March 28

We arrived in Copenhagen late in the afternoon, and loaded our gear off at my niece's apartment on Frederiksberg. Then we took the bus across town to Sparta Hallen, the site of the Expo and start-number pickup. Already here the flowing lines gave a foretaste of the amazing organization of the whole event. 

After picking up our start numbers, and browsing the expo, we walked back into Frederiksberg and replenished our carbs at Sticks 'n Sushi before preparing our gear and getting a good nights sleep.

Saturday, March 29

After breakfast of oats and milk at 8, we walked the 6km into Copenhagen center to get our legs loosened up. After dropping off our bags and jackets at the pickup-trucks we headed off for coffee at a sidewalk cafe, and by 11 we were moving toward the start area.

The gear: Pebble Smartwatch and Merrell Vapor Glove shoes

The race proper started at 12:00, but our starting group didn't get moving until about 30 minutes later. This was not a problem, as we had a grandstand view of a huge TV screen which allowed us to follow the elites' start and progress through the race: it was an amazing feeling to know we would be running the same race as the best in the world!


Finally we were off, and I settled in to my pace of 5:40/km from the first few meters.  I was able to keep adjusting my pace thanks to the iSmoothRun app on my Pebble Smartwatch. We had placed ourselves well, as I was able to latch on to a series of "pacers" fairly soon, and begin that process of abstraction I found necessary to remove my attention from the effort required to maintain a pace which was a full minute/km faster than my training paces (I really need to do something about those training paces...).

Watchnote app held all my information and paces.

After 4km I was at Østerbro, and still on pace, feeling like I was working hard - but not more than I expected to be able to maintain. The experience was surreal, with literally thousands of spectators lining the route, helicopters overhead, chasing the best runners in the world... but this was just a foretaste of what was to come!

The temperature was rising, and I found myself looking for the shady side of the street (not a usual occurence in March in Denmark, let me assure you!). By 10km we were heading back in a loop through the City, and I could feel that I had been pushing hard - the effort was beginning to tell. In addition, I had developed a hotspot under each foot which signalled blisters under development. This is not something I usually have problems with, and I think they arose due to the exertion - and a slightly longer stride than I am used to.

By 15km I had to empty a glass of water on my head (I always carry my own drinking water in a CamelBak) due to the heat, but by now we were on our way into Fredeiksberg, my "home" turf (I studied here for ten years). Here, the party really began - crowds 10 people thick on both sides of the street, live music everywhere and a general air of Spring, excitement and festival!

I had divided my race strategy into two halves, the first 17km (McDonalds on Frederiksberg) and then the last 5km to the finish line. I figured I would hold my target pace of 5:40 for 17km, then see what I had left. If needed - I figured - I could shuffle the last few kilometers if I had burnt all my reserves. 


My reserves where indeed at "Reserve", but turning the corner onto Frederiksberg Alle at 18km was... unbelievable. A slight downhill run of about 2km, even more crowds, an arch of flags across the boulevard, music, sunshine, an ocean of bobbing heads - and I decided to burn off my entire reserve over the next 2km to hold my pace in a last desperate effort. 

The 20km mark saw me passing Tivoli, and the last kilometer I ran  on"empty" with clenched teeth and a growing desperation.

Finally - the finish line: 21.27km at a pace of 5:39, and a time of...2:00:02!!! 

iSmoothrun and Pebble - worked perfectly!

Running for the shade had cost me an extra 150m - and my sub-2 hour finishing time!! 

Met colleagues at the finishing line - both finished in sub 2:00...

I was ecstatic at having had the chance to compete and finish without injury, at maintaining my goal pace so consistently (thanks Pebble and iSmoothRun!) and at having a running experience like no other - hours of winter plodding in slush and snow culminating in a superlative runing festival on a superb first-day-of-Spring!

Everyone who participated - elite and mass participant - contributed to a once-in-a-lifetime event. We all had the same goal: to reach and exceed our potential on the road. But the greatest thanks must go to the spectators and organizers, who turned the day into a true Festival of Running, and provided us with inspiration - both on the road but also for the years ahead!

søndag den 13. oktober 2013

Berlin marathon 2013 race report.

Berlin marathon 2013 race report. 

Urgh.... still time to back out!

Training for the 2013 Berlin Marathon started in the week after Copenhagen Marathon, in May 2013. I paid the price of not resting after Copenhagen by pulling my Achilles tendon almost immediately. This injury plagued the rest of my training until September. From May till the end of July, I supplemented limited running with cycling and walking. Throughout most of August and September I was able to increase my mileage, running a few training runs in excess of 20 km with two of these at 30 km. In all, I cycled considerably more then in the training leading up to Copenhagen while running somewhat fewer kilometers.

Running (top) and cycling stats 2013

My Achilles injuries also meant that speed training was out of the question, and I changed my goal to completing the Berlin Marathon in four hours and 30 minutes.

Friday, 27 September, at 5:30 AM:
Frederik - now with new drivers license! - drove me to Holstebro train station. I caught the train from Holstebro via Fredericia to Berlin, arriving in Berlin at about 2:30 in the afternoon. After spending about half an hour in the Berlin train station trying to figure out how to get to Templehof Airport I finally got to the check-in at about 4 o'clock, where I met up with Peter.  We picked up our race numbers and spent half an hour looking at the exhibition - where I got my Achilles taped up with pink sports tape - before heading out to our hotel near Alexanderplatz.


Almost there...

Taped up for Sunday...

We met up with Peter's family and went out to dinner together where we started our carb loading with a plate of sushi and another of noodles.

Saturday, 28 September:
Today was spent relaxing and carb loading, first with a few hours in the Natural History Museum where I saw the famous Archaeopteryx fossil, and later with a pasta lunch at Alexanderplatz.


Saturday evening Peter and I went for a 3 km run in the park to loosen up and test our equipment. Finally, we ended the day with a pasta dinner at the local Italian restaurant. Early to bed by 10 PM.

Sunday morning, 29 September:
Breakfast room at 6 AM. Breakfast consisted of a double portion of Muesli, and plenty of coffee. This was supplemented with three shots of beetroot juice, and two energy bars. We left the hotel at 6:30, walking to Alexanderplatz, where we took the U-Bahn to Friedrichsstrasse, near the Reichstag. Another 20 minutes walk brought us to the starting area where we were among the first to arrive. We deposited our clothing bags, and used the toilets, after waiting in line for about 50 minutes.

Start line!
4 degrees and waiting in the toilet queue...

We should be starting round about now!

Feeling the effects of coffee...

... but not as much as this guy!

Knowing that our starting pen would start about 20 minutes after the first runners we moved slowly toward block H, where we spent another 15 minutes waiting before we started slowly to move forward. Five minutes later, block H was started and we were on our way: Berlin Marathon 2014!

And...we're off!

Starting as we did at the back of block H, there were about 38,000 other runners in front of us. Before the end of the day we would pass more than 12,000 of these runners, weaving and ducking our way through the masses. This cost us at least an extra kilometer of running, and about 10 minutes on our total time. Note to self: move up to the front of the starting blocks for your next big city marathon!

Within a few minutes we passed the Victory Column, commemorating the Austrian - Prussian defeat of Denmark in 1864. Suitably chastened, we try to pick up our speed from 6:30 to our goal pace of 6 minutes per kilometer. Running conditions were perfect: the sky was cloudless, temperatures at about 10 degrees rising to about 14 degrees later in the day. Only later in the race would experience some wind, although this was for such a short period that it was not a problem.

Our strategy was to run together for at least the beginning of the rice. Peter had been running consistently faster in training then I had, so we agreed that he should move on at his own pace if he found the going too slow. Our strategy was to run a pace of about 6:30 per kilometer for the first 10 km, accelerating to 6:15 per kilometer for the next 20 km and then to see if we could increase of pace for the remainder of the race.

Almost immediately we found ourselves battling to maintain our pace. For the first 10 km we spent a lot of energy ducking and weaving around slower runners before finding a group of Dutch runners who were maintaining a pace of about 6:05 per kilometer. Fortunately we were able to run with them for much of the race.

The first water point was at 5 km which we passed as we were carrying Camel Baks. Carrying our own water was a huge advantage as all of the water stops were pure chaos. Many of the water points also had gels, which meant that the roads became increasingly sticky as we progressed into the race. At 7 km we passed the Reichstag, although the sheer mass of runners and spectators was so huge, and the task of weaving around other runners was so demanding that I had no idea where we were, or what we were running past.

By 10 km we were running at 6:05 per kilometer and had found our rythm. At this stage we were approaching Alexanderplatz and ran within a few hundred metres of our hotel.

Iphone and Pebble Smartwatch

At 12 km we crossed the river Spree for about the sixth time and began moving towards the suburb of Kreuzberg and the 15 km refreshment station. The half marathon point at 21.2 km in Schoeneberg was reached after two hours and 13 minutes, precisely on time to maintain our target. From this point we need to increase our pace to her about six minutes per kilometer. The crowds here were very big, and we began to appreciate the steel drum rhythms being played at regular intervals. This helped us maintain our pace.

At about 23 km I lost Peter at a water point and at the same time we lost our Dutch pacers. I decided to accelerate and see if I could catch up with the Dutch group again. A few kilometers later I caught up with the Dutch runners, and shortly afterwards Peter caught up with me again. This was something of a miracle considering the sheer numbers of runners on the road!

At 24 km we passed the Schoeneberg Rathaus, where president Kennedy held his historic "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. At this stage I honestly had no idea where we were, and was concentrating on maintaining my pace.

From 30 km I began to feel the first signs of fatigue, and we began the long haul to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church. With 35 km behind us we reached the Kurfuerstendam and I began to feel we might get to the end. By now it was just a question of survival. I found myself again in that 'dark place' - where the thought of crossing the finishing line was the only thing I was able to concentrate on. I knew that if I stopped running now I would not make it, so I forced myself to keep going and from 37 km my reserves had been used and my pace began to decline.

The last 4 km along Leipziger Strasse, past the Konzerthaus building: towards Unter den Linden were painful, music and shouts of encouragement from the crowds kept me going. Finally, I could see the Brandenburg gates in the distance, giving me final reserves of strength and I was able to continue running through the Brandenburg Gate and the last 200m to the finish line.

We picked up our finishers medals, collected our clothes and an Erdinger beer or two, and began to walk slowly back with the limping, shuffling crowds to Friedrichsstrasse U-Bahn. Back at Alexanderplatz we had a quick bratwurst before heading back to our hotel for a shower and an hour lying down before heading out for pizza!

So - the classic question again: will I do another? Yep - the World Half-Marathon championships in Copenhagen is next spring, and I was lucky enough to get a start number, and then the Frankfurt Marathon in October would be a nice way of celebrating my 50th year in my birthplace. Somewhere in between I'd like to try a 50k Ultra, too...

Lessons learnt:

1) Placing at the start of a big city race is crucial if you want to achieve specific time!
2) Now I've tried a 40.000 person marathon, my next races will be smaller races with fewer people and more space to find my pace!