So what’s next for Iron Snook……………???????

The question I have most often been asked following my Ironman exploits is “what’s next?”

This question is asked with a sort of expectation hanging over it, as if I should have already planned my next endurance event.  A huge number of people who complete an Ironman for the first time immediately sign up for another one.  The buzz that you get from Ironman, the sense of accomplishment and the exhilaration of finishing the race are so huge that you want to feel that way again.

I have not signed up for another Ironman.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to do another one; however this would need to be some time in the future.  My wife and family sacrificed a lot to allow me to do all the required training for Weymouth.  The stress and worry I put my wife through, competing at Weymouth, is not something I wish to repeat in the near future.  Likewise, with my girls being so young, I owe it to them to have a few summers together where we can enjoy ourselves without having to fit Ironman training around us.  

So if not another Ironman, then what is next?  One thing is certain, I will not be going back to my old lifestyle.  The couch potato is long gone.  I really enjoy exercising now and intend to keep it up.  Also, I love a challenge.  Weymouth was exactly this.  I went, I competed and I conquered.  Another challenge for 2016 is needed.  Some people may not understand this but I need the challenge in my life.  Something to aim for, strive towards.  After all, a rolling stone gathers no moss……..right?

I have been running through a few ideas in my head.  None of them have really cemented.  The closest I have gotten is considering running a marathon every month from April to December.  I already have Brighton Marathon booked up (in April), proudly competing as one of the Chestnut Tree House runners.  It would be easy to book a marathon for each month until the end of the year. Bizarrely though that challenge doesn’t seem big enough.  I am fairly confident I could put my trainers on in the morning and run a marathon.  I am physically fit enough, the rest is just mind over matter.  My experience at Weymouth has taught me that mentally I am stronger than I ever imagined.

Looking back through my blog it has become apparent to me that a little over 12 months ago I couldn’t run at all.  Injury had plagued my running and I searched high and low for answers, eventually finding a solution to my problem in barefoot running.

I ran barefoot to rehabilitate myself from injury.  It worked.  As soon as I was healed I went back to running in shoes as I had to do fairly big mileage for the Ironman and was not going to compete at that barefooted. It made sense to run in shoes.  Ever since I have neglected my barefoot beginnings, running over 800km in my trusty Brooks running shoes.  Recently I got an email from Strava (the run logging app) advising me that I had run past the 800km mark and I needed to buy some more shoes.  Apparently you are not supposed to run more than 800km in shoes.  You need some new ones at that point to protect your feet.  That has gotten me thinking…………….

I know from my barefoot running that you do not need running shoes to protect your feet, especially when running on tarmac.  Our feet are strong, and have 1000’s of receptors in them that constantly feed back to our brain in a beautiful subconscious loop.  Just like our fingers and hands, our feet and toes are sensitive.  To perfect the art of running, to truly understand my body mechanics and how it works, I need to run barefooted.  To become better at playing the guitar or making a clay pot you would never dream of wearing gloves. It would dull your senses and make it harder for your brain to receive the feedback that it wants to.  Wearing shoes and socks does the same for our feet.

Now obviously I am not going to try playing guitar or making a clay pot with my feet.  These are both artistic endeavours, requiring the dexterity that your fingers have.  You would not necessarily think of running as an art form, but in a lot of ways it is.  Similar to many things in life, running (done badly) is doing nobody any favours. If you run with poor form, you will get injured.  If you don’t listen to your body, you will over train and hurt yourself.  Our feet are the number one way that our body has to tell us if we are over training when running.  They will hurt before we injure ourselves, forcing us to stop.  Encasing them in shoes and socks can stop this feedback loop, leading to running with poor form and injury.  This happened to me once before.  I have no intention on letting it happen again.

As such, Iron Snook will be reborn as Barefoot Snook.  It is my intention to set myself the challenge of completing a major running race barefooted before the end of 2016.  Depending on how I get on, this may be an autumn marathon.  Alternatively I might make it an autumn half marathon, or perhaps a 10 mile race (like the Great South Run).

Compared to an Ironman this may seem like small beer; however teaching myself to undo all of the bad habits that years of wearing shoes have taught me will not be easy.  Wearing shoes with raised heels (as almost all shoes have) has shortened my achilles tendons, shortened my calf muscles and weakened the bridge of my foot.  I will need to take it slowly to allow my body time to adapt to that of a barefooter. I also need to build up the foot and leg strength required for barefoot running.  Finally I need to make my running form as close to perfect as I can get.  Barefooting will allow me to do this.

Of course there will be more info to come from me over the next few weeks as I re-start my barefoot journey.  For the time being Iron Snook is having a rest and Barefoot Snook is rising from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix.  

TTFN

Snooky





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