Barefoot Ted takes a break from his work at the Luna Sandal Factory in Seattle, WA to share with us his philosophy about running barefoot. We also talk about making the transition from shoes to shoeless, barefoot running cultures, skateboarding, Born to Run and his recent return to the Copper Canyons and so much more. Kick off your shoes and relax, Barefoot Ted has a lot on his mind.
It has been over 3 weeks since I ran the Avalon Benefit 50 Mile Run...and I am now finally getting a moment to take some time to record my thoughts on this event and share some photos...while sitting at my friends house on the other side of the world in Navi Mumbai, India.
Firstly, and most importantly, I want to point out that this run was a total experiment. I continue to test my idea about the least amount of training that works. Folks, I really don't train in a traditional sense anymore. I mean that I don't have a traditional training schedule. All I do is try and move well every day. I trot to the coffee house or market. I run the dogs. I trot over to the Luna Factory. I use my own two feet to power my life as much as possible and I error on the side of quality instead of quantity. My biggest inspiration to move is to see and feel natural beauty. My running is more like surfing and play. It's about exhilaration and joy and unexpected awesomeness and crazy gorgeous vistas (examples here). It's about freedom.
View from our rental
My working theory is to avoid turning running into a duty and instead turn it into a passion, an art of living. By listening to my body's own desire and need to move, I dance my running. Running barefoot or in sandals automatically encourages me to stay focused on form and keeps me tuned in. I believe that this style of running alone makes me a stronger runner and person. No junk miles along with no junk food. Running, walking and trotting between 2-5 miles a day maximum is enough to keep me fit and ready to run 50 mile plus events. This has been my experiment. Ultimate goal? Health and happiness and quick recovery leading to a stronger, healthier, happier me, and so far it's working!
Ready to start
So as I got on a plane to fly to LA, I really had to wonder if this style of "training"was going to be enough to allow me to complete a tough 50 mile course on Catalina Island. I was looking forward to finding out. Furthermore, I was going to be running in a pair of Leadville Lunas. It would be the first time running an ultra with the new ATS lacing system. In LA I met up with fellow Lunar Monkeys Patrick Sweeney and Reese Ruhland and we all got on a ferry along with Tracy Thomas (first Luna customer ever in 2007) and her partner Laura Vossman heading for Catalina. I had arranged for us all to share a rental house overlooking Avalon Bay. Good choice of monkeys and venue.
Race started at 5am on Saturday morning in darkness and immediately started with a long climb. One of the first things I noticed was the sound...of runners running in normal running shoes. It is loud...real loud. If we were a hunting party we would have been out of luck. In my Lunas, I was silent. I love the sound of silent running...am addicted to it. Up we climbed until we reached the ridge line. And then the most beautiful thing happened, we were all greeted with the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen. Photos don't do it justice.
It was a super clear day. It seemed as if you could see San Diego to the South and Santa Barbara to the North...a huge, dark coastline with the orange of the sunlight highlighting the silhouettes of dark mountains all along the mainland. Only the lights of Los Angeles could be seen. All else was black with the sunlight streaking across the 25 miles of ocean between us as if it were a smooth puddle. It was so inspiring, reminding me that regardless of all the baubles and gadgets humans create, nothing compares to the inspirational power of raw natural beauty of this caliber. Breathtaking. I had to stop and take photos. Something I continued to do for the entire 50 miles!
Mile 37's beauty
So, how does one run 50 miles on less than 25 miles a week of "training"? One thing I don't do - I don't waste any time worrying about time. No watch. No planned times to here or there. I just stay in my zone, my sweet spot. Running to me is a practice, an art of staying in the place that allows me to run effortlessly, smoothly and gently. My breathing remains lite and is primarily nose breathing...like yoga. Because of the beauty of the course I was continuously being awed by the views all around me. A deep sense of gratitude for being alive filled my mind. Music by Seattle composer Michael Maricle made up the background music along with wind and waves and birds and runners. I use headphones that leave my ears open, so I can hear music and the world at the same time. Highly recommended.
Breathtaking views everywhere
Light and smooth and gentle I made my way through the course...and what a course. Perfect for running in Luna Sandals, perfect for those who have learned how to run lightly even on the hardest surfaces. Much of the course is on fire trails. For many this was a bane. For me it was pure joy. It was sandal running territory par excellence. One long section after mile 25 had an out and back section that allowed one to see all the runners go by...over 300 of us. It was great getting a chance to see many old friends from the Southern California running community! Lots of smiling faces. I was beaming the whole way.
Loved my Lunas
The mile 40 aid station was one of the finest I have ever encountered in all my running days. Indeed all the aid stations were awesome. At mile 40, how about fresh Buffalo burgers and lobster? How about cold mixed fruit salads and a icy beer if you want it? How about a cool shower? They had it and more!
The last 10 miles are perhaps the most difficult. From 40 to 46 you are no longer on the coastline. The heat increased. But lucky me, I started picking Toyon Berries...and they happened to be the best tasting ones I had ever eaten. I was also admiring the profuse abundance of California native plant species on this section of the course. Most of them slightly different from the mainland varieties. All very interesting.
Cold ocean swim = priceless
Finally the last section came. 4 miles straight down a switchback road. After 46 miles of running, the legs are not as well prepared for so much downhill, but I was feeling good and let myself fly as smoothly as I could. It feels so good to be nearing the end of such a long race.
Now for the best part of all. When you are finished you are a stone's throw away from the ocean. Nothing is finer than a nice, cold ocean swim after 50 miles of running. Heaven on earth.
All in all a truly awesome experience. And to make things even more interesting, my best time for a 50 miler, a PR - 9 hours and 32 minutes and 69th out of 308 finishers. 22nd out of 59 in my class. All this without "training", taking pictures and having fun the whole way. I am onto something!
Adios for now, BFT
PS. One very cool fact is that another runner ran the race in Lunas!!! And it was his first 50 miler too. Congratulations Rusty (see photo below).
Was recently interviewed by Rachelle over at Barefoot-Running.us for their ongoing LINCHPIN SERIES.
Per usual, it is not easy to capture the torrent of words that stream out of my mouth when I start talking about Luna Sandals (McDougall captured that aspect of my character very well I think)...it flows and flows. She got the gist of my ideas, albeit, not perfectly...but my racing mind doesn't make perfect capture easy ;-)
Here are some tidbits:
"Luna Sandals is the coolest thing I could ever think about doing. It’s my passion. I’m the company’s storyteller. I’m just one of many who have had an ah ha moment, and I’m lucky to do this."
"Where we’ve been is awesome. Where we are is awesome. Where we’re going is more awesome still. It’s a beautiful organic story that is unfolding before our eyes."
"The goal is a better, more sustainable world. It’s growing happy, healthy people."
Lunatics, Lunar Explorers, Fellow Space Monkeys...
...this monkey is riding the biggest wave he has ever ridden...and loving it.
Lots of folks are wondering where I am going with Luna Sandals. Have I become a shoe salesman they wonder. "How can Barefoot Ted sell footwear? After all he's 'Barefoot' Ted, right?"
Well Space Monkeys, truth be told, I founded Luna Sandals in order to make the best sandals in the world...because my favorite footwear after my own bare feet are my Lunas. It's that simple.
Luna honors the foot first and the age old tradition of sandal wearing. Luna does not make the assumption that the foot is a broken, malformed appendage that lacks the functional ability to do what it does best, i.e., walk and run.
The barefoot alone is a marvel, one of the preeminently engineered human parts. Our foot and our head define us as a species. We are both smart and agile over varied terrain in our bare or minimally clad feet.
Luna's goal is simple. Spread the message of the greatness of the human foot and its capacities before the addition of any accoutrements while at the same time promoting the revival of footwear designs used by our hunter-gathering ancestors updated to fit the needs of 21st century primates.
Luna also wants future happy primates, so we move forward with the goal of using earth and people friendly processes and materials to manufacture Lunas in Seattle, Washington, USA.
Ultimately, Luna looks to facilitate and encourage now living humans to rediscover ancient styles of movement that our barefooted and sandal wearing relatives thoroughly and convincingly mastered over the millennia.
Ancestor worship starts at the feet. Bare, it represents your connection to the earth and all other beings. Sandaled, it finds a way to stay connected without being disconnected. Carpe diem.
PS. Thanks to CodeMonkey Bookis for the new logo, it rocks!
Thank you for your ongoing support. We appreciate your participation in our little company’s expansion and development. We are grateful and love what we are doing.
Our philosophy: we are interested in the designs of traditional sandals from all over the world, sandals made out of natural, sustainable materials that are easy to make by hand with simple tools. We believe that the minimalist footwear traditions are part of our shared heritage and that we should preserve them and encourage others to do the same.
Our production sandals represent the best fruits of our experiences and experiments with old-school footwear and gleanings from insights that we have gathered from both our ancestors and our customers. Through small-scale, sustainable production, we give a growing audience a chance to try what we consider to be fine minimalist running sandals that happen to be great everyday footwear too.
In the coming months the Luna Sandal website (www.lunasandals.com) will develop into a place where you can share your experiences, get advice from other users, find resupplies and view the various production and custom sandals available. Your feedback and shared experiences are crucial to our continued growth and improvement.
Hecho en Los Estados Unidos de América by happy monkeys for happy monkeys.
¡Muchas Gracias! the Luna Sandal Team.
Luna partners include: Barefoot Ted, and the brothers Jules & Bookis Smuin
PS. By the way, we are constantly testing new materials and designs and will be releasing new models featuring recycled tire soles by the end of next month. Stay tuned.
PSS. If you are in Seattle, be sure to come on by the Factory for a Factory Tour...set up an appointment online at www.LunaSandals.com
My fourth summer in a row visit to Leadville, Colorado and my third completion of the Leadville 100 Mile Trail Race...what an experience. Deep gratitude for good friends and a strong body.
This year's race was to be my second attempt at running the entire course barefoot and with my own Luna Sandals. Two years ago, I started with sandals, but had to change into VFFs KSOs at the top of Hope Pass in order to complete the race due to horrible weather conditions. This year I was able to run the entire race with my sandals (see www.LunaSandals.com) and in bare feet...a pure joy fest.
At the finish line carpet, McDougall at my side.
I spent the week before the race acclimatizing in Leadville staying at the Labbe Family Compound behind the famous Tabor Opera House. The week leading up to the race included lots of great reunions with old friends along with a couple high mountain hikes. I have thankfully not suffered from any serious altitude problems while participating in the race...which I believe is connected to my practice of deep nose breathing throughout the week and throughout the run.
Pacers Jules and Bookis Smuin and me - Post Race in Proven Grounds
This year, Mas Loco veteran Chris Labbe, aka Cabro, came up with a terrific strategy. Both he and I had not really been training hard in preparation for the race. In his case, he just didn't have time. In my case, I have been purposely finding out what the lowest amount of training is necessary to complete the race well. For me, that meant averaging less that 15 miles per week throughout the year, completing a marathon in May (Copenhagen Marathon - barefoot), a 50K in June (Vashon Island 50k in Luna Sandals) and a 50 miler in July (White River 50 Mile Trail Race - barefoot & Lunas),...and concentrating on running gracefully and joyfully everyday.
I also want to add that I spent one week in West Virginia in July training with Erwan Le Corre and practicing MovNat. Now that added something to my overall fitness for sure.
Matt Mahoney and me pre race.
So Cabro's plan seemed genius: we would run to Winfield (the 50 mile point) in 12 hours and 30 minutes and come back in the same amount of time...thus getting in at or under 25 hours...and getting the big belt buckle prize. Sounded good to me.
The key to this strategy was going be avoiding trying to go too fast...as a matter of fact, we were going to have to go slow...slower than our bodies craved when fresh, slower than most everyone else on the course. No easy feat.
However, I bought in to his plan, mostly because it meant I could take it easy and just enjoy the run through the wilderness...barefoot and in my sandals...and focus on staying focused and smooth and graceful and happy. I think I succeeded.
Me and Cabro entering Mayqueen outbound | Photo Matt Mahoney
All was going according to plan until we started climbing outbound Hope Pass. Cabro just could not keep his speed down. Up he went, passing one runner after another...even though we had already tested the idea of keeping the intensity down on this climb. I tried to stick to the plan, but was sad to see him go, for I was relying on his knowledge of the course and the splits we needed to maintain in order to get under 25.
On my way outbound to Hagerman Pass | Photo Matt Mahoney
By the time I got over to Winfield, I was pretty tired. It's amazing how much energy one must have in order to run 50 miles and still have enough energy to run 50 more. Once into Winfield, I met up with my first pacer, Dennis Shaver, and was given some homemade burritos (thanks Joey!) that really tasted great after having basically been living off of gels for the last 12 hours. Dennis' job was to get me up and over Hope Pass a second time...not easy even with fresh legs, but we did it and found ourselves in Twin Lakes for the second time...and me really starting to feel good.
Matt Mahoney captured this shot of me on my way towards the Hope climb
In Twin Lakes I picked up my second pacer, Luna Sandal wearing Jules Smuin. Jules was in for a treat. As we left Twin Lakes and started our 9 mile journey to Half Moon, I started to feel stronger and stronger. About half way to Half Moon, I started passing runners and would continue to do so for most of the rest of the race. Note: it is a delight to be strong during the last half of a 100 mile race. While others have spent the day running in the heat to gain position, I was able to preserve myself. Running at night is easier, primarily because it is cooler. And with headlights to chase in the distance, one has something to follow and aim for...persistence hunting ones way to the finish.
Crossing river out of Twin Lakes | Photo Matt Mahoney
At the Fish Hatchery I picked up my third pacer, Bookis Smuin sporting sandals too. He paced me up and over Powerline and down to Mayqueen. We were amazed at the power of my newest light, a Fenix PD30 - the brightest light you could ever hope for, small, lightweight, a dream...making it possible for me to run sections of the trail that proved impossible last year without good light.
Tracy Thomas and me, day before race.
Upon arriving in Mayqueen inbound, I picked up my final pacer, Born to Run author Christopher McDougall and he too was wearing sandals. Now, I truly did have a lot of juice left in me, but I was not about to just run without talking to Mr. Oso. We turned the last 3 1/2 hours into a time for catching up...hearing about all the exciting things happening including a possible film adaptation of BTR. Very cool stuff.
Outbound at Powerline
We finally arrived at the finish line at 7:16am...27 hours after I had left. Me feeling great. Feet feeling great. It is great to be alive.
Running barefoot with sandals in hand at the White River 50
photo by Glenn Tachiyama
What's EL MONO doing, you ask?
Well, I am working on my third summer preparing for the Leadville 100 Trail Race in Leadville, Colorado coming up on August 21. Leadville is becoming a summer mecca spot for me.
My training is not as extensive as most seem to require. Overall fitness and lots of easy running is key for me. This year my training for the Leadville 100, apart from my little daily runs with the dogs in Volunteer Park, is thus: In May, the Copenhagen Marathon. In June the Vashon Island Ultra Marathon. In July, the White River 50. That's it...and should be enough.
At the top of Hope Pass...acclimatizing
So, in this year's Leadville 100, I hope to do the race in my newest Luna Sandal model dubbed the LEADVILLE (see below):
Prototype dubbed LEADVILLE before 50 mile trail run
So far, my tests with this new sandal have given me the confidence to believe that they are ready for a full 100 mile tough trail race...as long as it doesn't get too muddy. So stay tuned, by this time next week I will have a report to share...and it should be interesting ;-)
Prototype dubbed LEADVILLE after 50 mile trail run
PS. The new LEADVILLE model will start being available for sale online starting August 25th. If you are lucky enough to be in Leadville this week, we will be offering them for sale in town.
PSS. I am staying in veteran Mas Loco runner Chris Labbe's Family's house behind the Tabor Opera House in Leadville...feel free to drop by and say howdy.
Barefoot Ted's Adventures
817 5TH AVE N
Seattle, Washington 98109
Barefoot Ted from "Born to Run" is an independent athlete committed to re-discovering primal human capacities and encouraging others to do the same. (bio)(contact)