Category Archives: Barefoot running


I started my day at the physiotherapist to have my legs looked at. I’ve decided to see Paul at Body Leadership. He comes highly recommended by my running friends and I was not disappointed. I felt that Paul listened to me when I told him about my niggles, my injury history and my goals. Paul assessed my stride, flexibility and specific areas of strength. He did some massage to start releasing my tightness and gave me some homework. What I liked about him was that he explained what he was doing, answered my questions and didn’t try to talk me out of my slightly crazy 12-in-12 Challenge.

After enjoying a day at home with my partner, parents and an aunt, I went out running with my friend A tonight. We had organised a nice easy 4km run through the suburbs; a repeat of last Thursday’s easy run. I wanted to run 6km so did an extra 2km at 5:40 pace before meeting up with A. We had a lovely run and chat for about 4km.

I love these easy chatty runs. They are a nice reminder that running isn’t about training or racing but about movement and friendship.

Total: 6.34km barefoot run at 6:49pace. Elevation gain 74m. Average temperature: 18.0’C.

Stockyard Creek Orienteer

Found the control

After starting my day with the club run, I went home for a few hours to relax before heading off to the Stockyard Creek Orienteer event, hosted by the Toohey Forest Orienteering club. I’ve decided to give orienteering and rogaining a go because I want to advance my navigation skills and confidence.

I arrived early for the 1pm start. After a chat with some experienced orienteers I decided to attempt the most difficult and furthest course on offer: a 5km ‘red’ course. The controls on this course were all away from the trails that criss-cross the Stockyard Creek area and they were flung all over the field of play.

I set off at 1pm to try to find my way around the eleven controls. I underestimated the challenge of orienteering a fully off-track course and had a bit of a panic on my way to the first control. While I wouldn’t have had any difficulty navigating to the location under recreational circumstances, I felt pressure under ‘race’ conditions; not because I wanted to win but because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.

Once I relaxed and trusted my navigation skills I found the first control easily and ran cross-country through the scrub to the second control. Then I got overconfident. I checked the map but not my compass and ran off in the wrong direction. It didn’t take me long to realise my mistake but the only way to correct it was to backtrack to the second control. Then I made the mistake of not trusting my compass because I was frazzled. It probably took me twenty minutes to get from the second to third control.

Once I found the third control I regained my confidence and found the fourth and fifth controls easily before again making a mistake on my way to the sixth control. I got three-quarters of the way to the control when I made an error. Instead of trusting my compass, I made an incorrect assumption about where I thought the control would be and went off in the wrong direction. I was tired and hadn’t drunk enough water. While that’s not an excuse it does put my confusion into context.

I might have been last but I finished

Once I found the sixth control, the final five controls fell into place easily. It took me 84:44 to complete the course, which was 60 minutes slower than the winner and 20 minutes slower than the next orienteer. But I am pretty happy with my effort. It was my first orienteer and instead of playing safe I went out on a limb by entering the most difficult event. I found all the controls, didn’t get lost and learned a lot.

Next time I enter an event, I’m going to take 5 minutes at the start to plan my routes, note the compass directions I need to take off each control, and identify attack and catching features so that I don’t have to stop and route-find as much at each control.

I can’t see myself taking up orienteering as a sport because I don’t get the same heart thumping excitement about it as I do about trail running. But it will be a good training tool to help me keep improving my off-track navigation skills and confidence. And it is a nice way to develop leg strength and concentration skills through cross-country running (which, believe me, is really tough).


  • 6.85km club run in bare feet @ 5:34 pace. Average temperature: 14.7’C. Elevation gain: 2 m.
  • 5km long course orienteer (I probably ran closer to 7km with all the geographical embarrassment I endured).

Barefoot cruise and chat

My friend A hasn’t been able to run since June so tonight I organised for us to go for a light cruise through the suburbs. We had a lot to catch up on because we probably haven’t run together since late May. So we ran at A’s pace and caught up. I’m glad I found the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers Club because now I have people to run and chat with.

It felt good to run slowly in bare feet along the road. I felt really light and the running was easy. I love it when I am running well. It doesn’t matter that I was running slowly when I was running well. The important thing is that I felt like I was cruising so comfortably. It gives me confidence and joy.

Total: 5.01km @ 7:15 pace. Average temperature 21.3’C. Elevation gain: 57m.

Beautifully barefoot on the waterfront

There’s a thin line of red light separating the clouds on the horizon from the blue grey sky above. Coochiemudlo Island is still a dark lump in the ocean but the dinghies and sailing boats moored in the bay are already clearly visible. The tide is high and the water’s surface is patterned by areas of flat calm between the ripples.

The grass beneath my bare feet is cold and damp. I look down and see that my toes have turned red as my body tries to pump blood to keep them warm. I’m not concerned. It’s still over 10’C and the worst of the winter cold should be behind us. I’m running well, averaging 5:13 minutes per kilometre. That’s a lot faster than my marathon and ultra marathon race pace but I’m only running 5km today. I feel strong.

As I pass the 2km mark the sun starts to break free of the clouds. The big ball of orange rises quickly into the sky. By the time I turn for home at the 2.5km mark the sun is a large bright red sphere filling the sky just north of Coochiemudlo Island. It’s red rays reflect off the water and I feel it’s warmth fill the air. For the first few minutes of my return leg I turn around to watch the sun’s ascent. Then, it’s filling the eastern sky. No longer do I run in the dawn but it is fully day.

Total: 5.01km @ 5:13 pace full barefoot. Average temperature: 11.5’C. Elevation gain: 15m.

Club run

Scenery from the club run

It was almost a perfect morning for running. The air was fresh, the sun was coming up over the water and the company was grand. Sure, there was a stiff cold breeze coming off the bay, but it’s not like we get really cold weather here.

My FiveFingers were still wet this morning from the wash I gave them last night so I decided just to run full barefoot for my club run. My feet enjoyed the freedom of feeling bitumen and grass as I cruised along the 6km waterfront route. I also enjoyed the company of club mates with whom I shared the run. We talked a bit as we ran, sharing stories of our adventures and plans. The more I turn up to our club runs the more I enjoy them. And the more I enjoy the hour or two at the bakery afterwards.

Tomorrow is the Lake Manchester 22km trail run. A group of us from Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers are going there together to run the event. It’s going to be a fun day.

Total: about 6.4km in 38:44.74 (6:03 pace).

Spontaneous? Who me?

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I was never going to wait until September to run my first 50km trail run.  That would be too organised and planned for me.

I’ve just gone and entered the 50km Flinders Tour Trail Run at the Glasshouse Mountains. The cut off is a bit tight for me (7 hours) so I’m going to take the early start option to give myself 8 hours to complete the event.

The really crazy thing is that the event is being held the day after I complete a 4 day bushwalking trip with my parents at the Conondale Range Great Walk. We’re walking 56km from Wednesday to Saturday carrying all our own gear. Then camping near the start of the trail run on Saturday night.

I’m excited about the challenge. I know I can complete 50km in 8 hours because I completed a 45km trail run in 7:30 last November when I was still struggling to run more than 7km in training. That 45km trail run was also held on beach sand and I ran it in bare feet. This run will be held on forestry trails and I’ll have my trusty new Vibrams to protect me.

My goals for the event are to:

  1. relax and enjoy the experience
  2. not get caught up in the stress of the start (I always go out too hard due to lack of trust in my ability to take it slow)
  3. practice eating often enough to stay fueled
  4. finish within the extended cut-off.

Horses and single track

Horses and cattle always make a scene look so country

What could be more perfect than starting the day with a trail run in good company? Not much.

After a few weeks of sporadic training, I’ve finally got some antibiotics and good cough syrup so am confident that my flu will soon be gone. Last night was the first night in weeks that I’ve actually been able to sleep right through, making it possible for me to wake early for a pre-work trail run.

And what a perfect return to morning training it was. In fact, after such a long period of trying to take things easy, it didn’t even feel like training. It felt like I was going out to play for an hour. And that’s just how running should feel.

Rosemary from running club joined me this morning for a beautiful little jaunt through Bayview Conservation Park. We started running in the dark along gravel fire trails. There was a big hill on the trail and I suggested that we walk up it. My excuse is that I’m training for ultras and I read somewhere that it’s good to practice walking up big hills in training if that’s what you are going to do in races. Any excuse really 😉

After a power walk up the hill we cruised down and along a circuitous fire trail for about 4km. The trail rolled up and down some more hills, providing us with a lovely view of the sun rising through the trees. Poor Rosemary has to listen to me chat away as we ran but I’m sure everyone at running club is used to that by now.

Enjoying the morning

After about 5km we got to the You’re Kidding mountain bike trail, which is one of my favourite single tracks in Bayview. We turned down it and spent a glorious few kilometres running through the grass trees and banksias. Banksias flower in winter so it’s the perfect season to enjoy their bright yellow candles, which rise from their dark green leaves. The single track just flowed beautifully and the running was easy.

We turned left at the end of You’re Kidding to head back to the carpark along fire trails that were soft under foot. The trail ran along the boundary of a hobby farm and we were treated to views of gums standing in open grassland with the changing colours of the dawn sky behind. Then we rounded a corner and were greeted with the pretty sight of horses and cattle standing in a paddock. It’s a scene that always invokes poetry in my mind; perhaps because I was always a fan of Banjo Patterson when I was a child and he wrote a lot about rural scenery.

There was a sole grey horse in the paddock who came wandering over as soon as he saw us. Naturally we had to stop and pat him. The smell of damp musty horse (it’s been raining) reminded me so much of my youth when I had my own horse who I rode along these very trails.

My decision to run ultras has totally changed the way I think and feel about running. When I was a triathlete, running filled me with anxiety because I felt I had to train to be fast and competitive. But I feel less pressure now that I’m training for ultras. I always thought that training for longer distances would be more stressful because there’s more miles to get under my feet. But for me it was always the speed and discipline issue that stressed me about running. Now that I’m training for ultras I just let myself relax into my running and enjoy the scenery a little more. Sure, I run a lot more slowly but I don’t think that will matter; in fact, it might be just the thing I need to get me across the finish line.

Total: 8.34km @ 7:30 pace (7:04 moving pace). Elevation gain / loss: 189m / 198m. Average temperature: 17.9’C.

First run in new Vibrams

Tingalpa Creek in Venman Bushland Reserve

I managed to leave work early today. Instead of hitting the trails after dark, I got in some time before the sunset and still got to enjoy over half my run in the quiet of darkness. I rode my motorbike up to Venman Bushland National Park, changed my motorbike gear for my new Vibrams and took off into the bush.

My shoes didn’t stay dry long because the unseasonal rains have left all the creeks full and all the swamp sections muddy. Fortunately, I’m not afraid of mud and water; they’re just part and parcel of trail running.

Gravel fire trail

I followed the Venman Circuit for a few kilometres before turning off along a trail to Leo Lindo Drive. Most of the trails leading to Leo Lindo were gravel fire trails. While I could never have run these trails full barefoot, the Vibrams allowed me to cruise along without any troubles. I followed the bitumen Leo Lindo Drive for a few hundred metres between the end of the fire trail and start of the single track. The shoes also handled the bitumen well.

At the end of the bitumen I stepped over a small fence and set off down the 2.5km long Nirvana single track trail. It’s actually a mountain bike trail but I didn’t expect there would be too many riders tackling it now that the sun had gone down. I enjoyed the narrow, steep and winding trail by head torch.

Armed with my new shoes I felt so much more confident than on the trails than ever before. The ITB pain and shin splints that have been bothering me on-and-off for months didn’t bother me at all.

Night is visibly creeping across the sky

After Nirvana I ran along fire trails all the way back to where I’d parked my motorbike, making a full loop. At the lookout above the old quarry I watched the black of night push the last glows of orange out of the western sky. With the world in darkness I cruised back along the second half of the Venman Trail all the way back to my motorbike. I sloshed through muddy puddles and shallow sections of creek, giving the new Vibrams a really solid test, which they passed.

I always feel privileged when I get to run at night. There’s something magical about being alone in the bush knowing the rest of the world thinks they are ‘safely’ at home while really you can also be safe in the bush. It’s just totally magical out there in the darkness.

Total: 13.58km @ 7:19 pace. Average temperature: 19.9’C.

I have Vibrams!

My new Vibram Bikila LS shoes

I’m so excited! I’ve wanted a pair of Vibram Five Fingers since I started barefoot running 12 months ago. And now I own a pair. And not just the base pair; a pair of Bikila LS, which are a more fancy.

The biggest reason I’ve not wanted to buy a pair of the Vibrams is that they were ridiculously expensive in Australia, compared with both ‘normal’ running shoes and the international prices for them. The other reason was because only one shoe store in the whole of Brisbane (population 2.1 million) was authorised to sell them and it was too much effort to travel into the city on the hope that that particular store was both open and had my size / style.

All that has changed. Today, my partner and I stopped in one of the mainstream chain sports stores at our local suburban shopping centre. I only intended to quickly browse and leave. But them my partner saw the Vibrams and exlaimed:

These shoes look groovy.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw both the range of Five Fingers on offer and the prices. Actually, I almost feinted in shock when I saw the Vibram Bikilas for $AU179. That’s the same price as a mid-range pair of ‘normal’ running shoes and over $100 cheaper than they were last year when they were only available from one stockist.

I really was going to be good and wait until payday next week but when my partner announced that she loved the shoes herself and wanted a pair resistance became futile. We now each own a grey pair of Vibram Bikila LS shoes. Her’s are two sizes smaller than mine but no doubt the best way to identify the difference will be that mine are the stinky ones that have been used on trail runs while hers are the clean pair that she has used while walking and going to the gym.

I was already excited about my 15km trail run tonight but now I can barely wait until 5:30pm to get out of work. Not only is this my first new pair of running shoes since May 2011 but this is actually a pair I like, rather than the cheapest pair I could find on sale.

Aah … the joys of barefoot running

Aah … the joys of barefoot running 🙂 . I can’t believe I let myself forget the sheer pleasure of feeling concrete, grass, bitumen and sand under my bare feet. I can’t believe I forgot the pure pleasure of simplicity.

I know why I stopped running barefoot. It was because I overdid it at the Convicts and Wenches Half Marathon on Australia Day, back in January. I stood on lots of small pieces of gravel during the event and the concrete paths were scorching hot. I ended up with a painful spot along the ball of my foot between my second and fourth toes. I could barely walk on it for weeks but didn’t stop running either. After a month I bought a pair of shoes to protect my foot when I ran. That worked fine but when the pain stopped, I should have tossed the shoes aside.

While the shoes allowed me to keep running through whatever the foot injury was (I had x-rays but there was no visible damage so it might just have been bad bruising), they brought with them a raft of other problems. For the past two months, I have been suffering from shin splints and ITB syndrome. The pain has been at it’s early stages and I’ve been able to run through it after about 20 minutes. But I know from personal experience that the niggles will become major injuries if I don’t take action.

See, I used to run a lot. Seven years ago I was running every lunch time at work – and I was running hard. I’d go out in summer and winter for an hour and find the toughest inner-city courses I could. I’d run in driving rain and temperatures in the mid-thirties (celcius). I’d run stairs and hills. I’d do fartlek like I was training for the Olympics and pretty much wreck myself every day. I was using running as an escape from emotional pain and as a sort of self-punishment for being transgender.

Before I started the running I had been suffering from shin splints and ITB syndrome for years. But I never knew what the pains were. Every time I went running I was in agony; afterwards I’d be limping around the office, unable to bend my right knee or move my right hip. I just kept belting myself through the pain until one day I couldn’t take it any more. I had to stop. And for the next six years I couldn’t run at all. Every time I tried my right leg seized up. It was so bad that even walking with a wallet in my right pocket would cause my right leg to seize.

I tried everything to fix the pain. Physiotherapy was excruciatingly painful and didn’t ease the tension in my ITB and shins. Craniosacral therapy helped me walk again without pain but I still couldn’t run. So deciding to become a triathlete again in July 2011 was a scary thing. What if my leg kept seizing up? What if I my shins would be tender every day just from running?

They did. My leg seized up in those first few 500m runs. My shins throbbed for hours afterwards. It was demoralising to want to change my life so badly but to be in so much pain doing it. And then I read Born to Run. My soul was drawn to the magic of long-distance running. My mind was drawn to the simplicity of running over other sports. And my intellect was captivated by the possibility of running pain-free by shunning shoes.

From July 2011 to January 2012 I ran barefoot. I ran pain free. I enjoyed the simplicity of running. And I have to admit I liked the fact that I loved not having to spend $200 or more on running shoes (yes, shoes are ridiculously expensive in Australia).

I’ve been running in shoes for the past four months. For the past two to three months I’ve been experiencing shin splints and the first warning signs of my right leg seizing back up. Last week I couldn’t take it anymore and I took off my shoes. The pain subsided almost immediately.

This morning was my third run back in bare feet and I loved every minute of it. I’m taking it slowly again. I will limit myself to 4-5km a session until the end of June. I will try to run on a mixture of surfaces to toughen my feet back up. It sounds counter-intuitive to many … but bare foot running makes so much sense to me. It’s natural and is how we were designed to move. Yes, there are times when I need to wear shoes, such as during triathlon races (only because it’s in the rules, a rule I whole-heartedly disagree with) and on gravelly trails that my feet will probably never be tough enough to run. But I’m a bare foot runner at heart.

Total: 4.38km barefoot run @ 6:27 pace. Average temperature: 11.1’C.