This was my third year competing in the Lobsterman Triathlon but my first time running the 10k completely barefoot. Even six months ago I wondered if my foot pads would be able to weather that much asphalt but I figured I had plenty of time to toughen up. I was worried when early summer came and I was still maxing out at three miles before I had to put on my trusty Sockwas. Then, seemingly overnight, in mid-July, my once tender pads turned a corner – I was able to run 8+ miles on pavement blister and pain free. I was even comfortably kicking along at a 9 min/mile pace, which is a minor miracle for me.
Two weeks to go to my first 10k barefoot road race . . .
Two weeks before the race I was half-way through a “brick” workout (a 20 mile bike ride followed by a 3 mile run) when my inner calf muscle cramped-up in searing pain. I turned home slowly, running and then walking backwards and sideways, tail between my legs, trying not to cry.
Anusara Yoga to the Rescue
Fortunately as an Anusara yoga teacher I have a good understanding of how sports injuries occur and lots of healing techniques to fall back on. That first night lying in bed with my leg throbbing I realized that my overly fatigued soleus (calf) muscle had likely pulled away from the tibia and was thus inflamed, if not slightly torn. A tired muscle tends to fall away from the bone and this relaxing actually makes it more prone to injury. Tight and dehydrated muscles tire more easily, and muscles that are working over-time to compensate for other tight or tired muscles are also more vulnerable.
The Miracle of Muscular Energy
In Anusara yoga we spend a lot of time learning how to engage our muscles by hugging them closer to the bone (“muscular energy”). We are in effect providing our own compression wrap while we safely stretch and strengthen our muscles. However, if engaging the muscle is not possible (because the muscle is weak and injured) external compression also works wonderfully.
Remember RICE – Rest, Ice, COMPRESSION and Elevation
So I limped to the bathroom, found an old ace bandage and did what I consider the most important of the First Aid acronym: Compression. I wrapped my calf tightly, hugging muscle to bone all the way from ankle to knee. AHH, much better. That night, before gingerly climbing the stairs to bed, I rolled out my feet, hamstring and quadriceps muscles with “The Stick“. Then I took every herbal anti-inflammatory I could come up with: turmeric, boswellia, Traumeel, arnica . . . and drank a quart of water.
The pain was still pretty bad two days later. There is a tricky time after this kind of injury when the muscle is still too weak to safely stretch, but too tight to allow for the proper alignment and circulation that let real healing to begin. So while rest is especially important immediately following an injury, weight-bearing exercise done with excellent alignment and muscular energy is the key to recovery. By the third day I was able to firmly engage my leg muscles to the bone while I stretched my hip flexors and hamstrings. I stuck to standing, weight-bearing poses and only stretched my muscles as long as I could keep the the muscles enganged. Finally, for good measure, I broke out the foam roller and worked my IT band. Ouch!
Back on the Road
A week after the injury (and one week to go before the race) I went for a casual walk-run to test things out. I covered 6 miles in 85 mins. I was both humbled and thrilled – there was a good chance that I could finish the race without being hauled off on a stretcher!
Barefoot at the 2011 Lobsterman Triathlon
Finally, race weekend. While packing I realized I hadn’t used my Sockwas all summer. Where were they?? I was worried the pavement might be blacker and the sun hotter in Freeport then it is Downeast! I finally dug up my husband’s barely used pair, stuffed them in my gear bag (and forgot all about them.)
After a rough one-mile swim (my goggles got kicked off by another swimmer!) and a casual 25-mile bike ride (I LOVE my new aero bars), I ran the 10k, slowly and pain-free. I ran as if there was nowhere to go, nowhere to be. Just a gorgeous late-summer day running in Maine. My feet got a little hot on one sunny stretch but I found staying on the white line was perfectly soothing and meditative.The more casual I was about my running, the more comfortable my calves were. Perfect. 60(!!!) other friendly runners passed me and everyone had something kind (or incredulous) to say. It was the slowest and most enjoyable race I’ve ever run.
Success! From Nike Frees to barefeet in one year
A year earlier I had set the goal of being exactly where I was right now, running the Lobsterman barefoot. And here I was supremely satisfied to be meeting that goal, one fore-foot landing at a time.
P.S. For anatomy nerds out there – the cause of the injury: I realized that in my previous attempts to pick up my speed I had been tensing the top of my foot and lifting my big toe before each strike. This tightening of the anterior tibialis, (which is one of the antagonistic muscle to the soleus), was very likely the source of my injury. In order to avoid a repeat injury I am keeping my feet a bit more floppy as I strike, and even curling my toes as if to grip the earth as my foot moves under me. I’ll let you know how it goes.
This morning my daughters and I whipped up two of our favorite mineral-rich, prana-filled, kid-approved concoctions to enter into the No Bake Cookie Contest at this year’s Blue Hill Fair and we won! To be exact, my five year old daughter’s recipe won first place in the 12 and under category. Not to be sneezed at, this was a competitive category and she nudged ahead of at least 30 poopy-looking variations on the ever popular peanut butter, oatmeal, corn-syrup combo to win a substantial chunk of change and a gift card to the Blue Hill Co Op.
Raw, vegan and grain free, we made up our recipe this spring to replace the store-bought version my kids were clamoring for. Turns out it’s faster and way cheaper to make these at home . . . just one more reason we love home un-cooking!
Makes 12 small cookies
1. 1 1/2c Almond flour (raw)
2. 1/2 c Shredded coconut (raw)
3. 1 Tbs Grated lemon rind (rind from 1-2 organic lemons)
4. 1/4 c Lemon juice (juice from one lemon)
5. 1/3 C Maple syrup
6. 1 tsp Almond extract
7. 1/4 tsp Sea salt
8. 1/2 c Sliced almonds (optional, toasted)
1. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.
2. Toast sliced almonds (optional)
3. Roll dough into balls and coat with toasted sliced almonds.
4. Freeze for up to 60 mins if you like a more firm cookie.
This recipe is nutrient rich, filled with minerals and enzymes, creating a dessert that nourishes the taste buds and the body.
The other morning I was dragging, feeling sleepy and low energy, unfocused, sad and alone. No particular reason, but I was out of sync. Fortunately my job working for a local land trust required me to pull on my muck boots and head out into the woods for a few hours.
At first I begrudged the humidity, deer flies, and poorly marked boundary line, but soon I started to settle and see. One step toward Shakti and she comes rushing at you like a golden retriever. First in the form of a tiny little wood frog the size of my thumbnail clinging to a cattail where I paused to take a photo. Then an unexpected spring bubbling up from the soft pine forest. Then the rich smell of sphagnum moss and hay scented fern. Oooo, and there a giant pile of bear shit – almost entirely blackberries, shiny and fresh. And right above, a whole mess of (uneaten) blackberries hanging in plump bunches surrounded by pant-ripping thorns.
I made myself at home, picturing the bear, thick fur and soft paws reaching-in, mouthful after mouthful. Berry-stained and moving on up a hot hillside and over a hundred downed fir trees, a tangled mess of match sticks, some hold my weight, some don’t – it’s a game that takes me to the edge of a white cedar swamp where a red-eyed vireo is singing his endless summer song. Through sucking mud and back to the stonewall that lines the open field where I’d parked my car. Transformed. Back in sync with the hum of trees, moss, damp earth, and water, I am lighter, smiling and filled with gratitude.
When I spend time in the forest, I sync up with a bigger rhythm, each cell, each part and particle of me is restructured the way the crystals in an iron bar line up when they are magnetized. The sandpaper-on-brain feeling lifts and I feel this alignment as an ease, a sweetness, a smile. With all the parts dancing together, I am no longer working alone. This is the gift of nature.
Now it’s your turn. Stand up, walk outside, and see what comes leaping at you. I promise you won’t regret it.
Local, seasonal, fresh and beautiful
Nasturtiums, violets, rose petals, sorrel, dandelion, plantain leaves and seeds, lanvs quarters, fresh lettuce, raw corn kernels and cherry tomatoes. Dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt. Served in a bowl made by my dear friend Heather Stearns of Muddy Creek Pottery.
This is mid-summer perfection.
Beautiful, wild and nutritious
Use flowers and wild greens from your front yard to add color and vitamin A and C, iron and many trace elements, to your families diet. Our lawn is more of an open patch in the forest, it has never been sprayed with chemicals and the soil is shallow but rich in nutrients from glacial-era clay. The mix of sun and shade supports a variety of wild plants and a few raised beds where I plant the sweeter greens such as lettuce, spinach, chard and bok choi. Lambs quarters flourish there too.
I have my girls pick the greens and flowers for their own salads and I truly believe that they pick exactly what their bodies and spirits need to be optimally nourished in that moment. The other morning my playful 3 1/2 year old tried to make an “all flower salad” only to discover that it is more bitter than she hoped. So she added corn, and snap peas and left most of the beautiful petals sticking to the sides of her bowl. Later her kitten came along and licked the violet petals up, and she told Mouse “that’s purple, it’ll make your fur fluffy”. And she’s probably right.
We are lucky to live where there are very few native poisonous plants, and I taught my children early on to identify the ones they can’t eat (deadly night shade, poison ivy, fox glove . . .)
Walking Forest Salads are fun too
When we go on hikes the girls happily pick their way through the woods: bunchberry (aka crackleberry or Canada Dogwood), huckle and blueberries, wintergreen berries and leaves, wood sorrel (my five year old’s favorite) nettle (carefully picked and put into a backpack pocket for green smoothies later), blackberries, raspberries, strawberries . . . and if we are on the shore, seaside plantain and all kinds of seaweeds get nibbled too. Wild, abundant and beautiful, these plants have just what it takes to grow up on the wild rocky coast of Maine!
Why I eat greens for breakfast, lunch and dinner
It’s hot and dry, I’ve just finished a 26 mile bike ride before teaching my Saturday morning yoga class and I’ve got twenty minutes to refuel and refresh – what to do? A green juice of course! Now that the spinach and lettuce is bolting it is perfect fodder for my Breville juicer. And in goes an entire head of bok choy (I love that no matter how much I chop it back, it just keeps growing). Add a lemon and a few stalks of celery and I’ve got an instant deep-cell refresher that will get me through my class feeling as crisp and vibrant as the greens I just drank!
Greens for lunch?
By mid day I’m feeling peckish. Actually, to be honest, I’m ravenous. I love visiting the Blue Hill Farmer’s market after I teach, and though I am magnetically attracted to Millbrook Company’s gluten free (but not sugar free) brownies, I try to eat greens first. I like to mix it up, maybe a half pound of Horse Power Farm’s snap peas, a bag of Noah and Robyn’s mesclun lettuce from Living Branch Farm, a cucumber from Blue Zee Farm . . . All these fresh local organic green vegetables were grown in spectacularly mineral-rich soil, and I know they are well worth the price. When I eat greens like these, I’m getting exactly what my body needs to stay cool, calm and hydrated for the rest of the day. By filling up on these much needed alkalizing vitamins and minerals I’m counter-acting the natural acidity and depletion that comes with my typical summer excess of exercise and, yes, gluten-free brownies.
Eat greens for dinner too
Because really, you can’t over do it. My favorite way to make greenery into a filling dinner meal is to spend a few minutes foraging around the yard and garden with my girls until we have a mess of lettuce, sprouts, tender kale, dandelion greens, lambs quarter and sorrel. We bring it inside and wrap it up tightly into a few of Maine Sea Coast Vegetable’s raw nori sheets with a simple salad dressing like tahini and lemon juice, or even just a little salt and olive oil. Yum.
Nature says eat greens
Nature is giving us exactly what we need, right when we need it. These long, hot summer days can leave us feeling withered and depleted if we don’t refill with the natural nutrition and hydration of fresh, dark, leafy greens. And according to Ayurveda, the bitter taste that is prevalent in dark greens is perfect for neutralizing excess Pitta – the dominant dosha of summer.
Try it for yourself. Eat greens for three days, and report back. I’ve never met a human or animal that didn’t enjoy chewing the tender ends of grass . . . and feel better for it.
Agni is the power that creates form from the formless. It is the light of life and the fire of transformation. It is the intelligent spark that illuminates every part and particle of our being, and indeed of the entire universe. Currently Agni is the heat of summer that is burning my garden to a crisp and making me want to melt into my kid’s kiddie pool – even though it is filled with all kinds of weird floaty things. Agni is powerful stuff. It is the stuff of creation and dissolution. It is the beginning and the end. It is to be honored and not to be messed with – too much. The bright side of Agni – literally – is the illuminative, refined quality known as Tejas. Tejas is the light of Agni that clarifies our vision, that both reveals the intricacies, individuality and beauty of the parts as well as the unity and cohesion of the whole. It is the ability of each cell to know its own job and to recognize that it is part of one body. It is our own ability to discern one thing from another and to choose in the highest. The peril of Agni gone wild is that by the burning light of a raging bonfire we only see differences. Discernment turns to judgement and separation. In the heat of transformation we feel alone and uncertain, we forget our true identity – the one that is made of star dust, and the light of the stars. The one that dances for the sheer delight of it, leaping like the flames that turn form back into the formless. So the next time you feel hot, hot tempered or hot headed, the next time you feel certain that you are not that,that that is not you, soften your eyes, let them fuzz over a bit until the bright light of separation begins to blur. See how the spark of life unites every part and particle and every form of creation. Then sit back in the kiddie pool and recognize that the spark is in all those floaties too. If you have a beer, go ahead and drink it.