Saturday, July 03, 2010

The gutsy girl I know ...and (ouch!) the broken toe!

Between a rock and a hard place - trail running on Mt Tzouhalem.

First of all, let me say that we're pleased, delighted, and yep, pretty proud. Our little blog, "OCEANPAX paddle /run", has been given the "Stomp of Approval" by the newly formed Barefoot Runners Society. It's just in the beginning stages, but the running world is going to hear a lot about and from this organization! In the past couple of years we have discovered, with growing numbers of others, the incredible adventure of minimalist / barefoot running. Despite the awkward little "hiccup" that I will describe below, we look forward to many, many shared running "miles" with the BRS community, around the world! Lots more to come!

As a preface to the story of this "hiccup", I have to say that Joan is one gutsy girl. First of all, thirty-eight years ago, she agreed to marry me - subsequent to a "proposal", nervously scribbled and dispatched on the wings of a paper airplane in the cafeteria of a university residence! (Nope, I wasn't feeling very brave.) Thankfully, that happy day was just the beginning.

A year later, when asked where I wanted to do a summer internship, I responded with, "The most isolated place you have."...and then asked Joan. Even though she had to take a four month leave of absence from an excellent social work position, she was good-to-go and completely supportive. Three years after that, following graduation, when asked again where we would like to begin full-time parish work, I blurted out, "The far north!" (remember, we live in Canada) ...and, yup, then called Joan to see if that would be OK. She was completely excited about the idea and although we didn't get to the "far" north, we were pretty happy to be going to what was, at the time, a brand new and isolated community in the Rockies north of Jasper, by the name of Grande Cache. It's an awesome place and as many will know, it's home to the annual "North Face Canadian Death Race", a 135 kilometre ultra-marathon - a more-than-gruelling extreme event that indulges runners in over 17,000 feet of elevation change! Totally beyond comprehension!

My beloved spouse has always been open to new adventures and has always encouraged me to be similarly open to growing and learning new things. Aware of my burning desire to learn to fly, and probably tired of hearing me whine about never getting the opportunity, she drove from our home in Banff, down to the local flight training center in Calgary, purchased a "Discovery Flight" ticket, presented it, and gently said, "Now you can decide whether or not to follow your dream." I did. And a year later, as a newly licensed pilot, and against what some might consider common sense, she accepted the invitation to be my very first "passenger". (She did, however, draw the line at taking our then, four-year-old son with us.) I always had a sense that if anything went wrong, she could probably get us back to the airport. She has always had the kind of quiet confidence and demeanor that easily calms an overly-beating heart.

I could tell story after story about how the go-for-it spirit that is my partner, has been willing to leave the comfort and safety of any given "harbour" for the promise of new adventure. Big waves? Joan says, "Bring 'em on!"

Between waves on the Strait of Georgia.

Most recently, at what some might consider a somewhat "advanced" age for such things, she encouraged us to experiment with minimalist running. Yeah, put aside the overly cushioned, overly supportive, overly stability-controlled, and overly expensive running shoes and allow the feet, legs, and bodies to move the way they were built to move. Hmmm, interesting concept and clearly there was a growing body of literature to support it. It was opting for what makes sound and proven bio-mechanical sense and a rejection of what we've been told we need to wear on our feet by those who manufacture running shoes, albeit, only since the early seventies when the "modern" running shoe was developed. Well, it has been an unbelievable experience. Running has never been such fun.

There is always a slight risk, however, in any new endeavour such as this, and yesterday, late afternoon, we experienced such a "hiccup". Joan had an "altercation" with a rock. Needless to say, Vibram FiveFingers offer an incredibly liberating experience on the trail or on the road...but very little protection in a situation such as this. We were running down a rocky trail on Mt Tzouhalem, with only another ten minutes to go before arriving back at the trail head. I was in front of Joan when I heard a somewhat emphatic-sounding, "Oww!". Turning around to see what was up, my running partner, with a slightly pained (but not overly so) look on her face was favouring her left foot. "Stubbed my toe." Feeling slightly impatient and low on energy, I'm afraid I unintentionally gave Joan a "look" that said, "Well, suck it up, we're almost home." (Gee, I can be pretty insensitive at times!). So, you can easily imagine how guilty I felt when, after getting home, Joan peeled off her minimalist shoe to reveal her baby toe...pointing "west". The problem was, of course, the other four toes were pointing "north". Clearly the baby toe was broken.

Well, the rest is history. The on-duty orthopedic surgeon was genuinely interested in the idea of minimalist running and also had the grace not to lecture his patient about the possible vulnerability of toes in minimalist foot wear. As for Joan, well, it'll take about a month for complete recovery but then it will be back to trail running with renewed gusto! Meanwhile, I will just have to enjoy the trails for the both of us!

Of course, this would be a good time for naysayers, doubters, and detractors of minimalist running to say, "I told ya so.", or at the very least, roll their eyes. Gee, would anybody do that? Heck, I'd understand if you did. But before you do, you might want to browse the pages, and read carefully, the Harvard University web page that you can find here. You might also enjoy perusing the vast (and increasing) number of blogs and websites that feature news and views about this fascinating and liberating way of running. You'll probably have a sense that you are, indeed, missing out on something. Then we can talk some more. ;-)

Be careful out there, folks.



  1. I could not stop laughing because it is so funny. I did warn you of these things happening. However, am glad it's not worse than that even though that is bad enough. Can she get on any shoes at all?

  2. Gee Duncan, now what are you going to do with Joan out of commission?
    Can you manage tomorrow on your own?
    Give her hugs and for heavens sake let her rest and heal!!

  3. Hi J and L, thanks for dropping by. I just don't get it though! How can something like a broken little toe come between us and our daily time out on the trails. Where's the commitment?! Only kidding, Joan. Honest! :-) D.

  4. Hugs Joan, and Duncan take good care of her :-)

  5. Poor you, Joan! Fortunately, you have another little toe on the other foot. And plus, now you've got a great story to tell.

  6. Thanks Sheila and Andy for your good thoughts. Yeah, one little toe is just 10 percent so I calculate that a person should be operating at 90 percent. That ain't bad!

  7. Well I can certainly see why you and Andy are such good friends....such compassion you both have....wonder how Joan manages with the two of you when you are together.

  8. That sucks, Joan...a month for a little toe?? Well, at least you can kayak, right? Take care.

  9. Now just hang on there, Anon, I 'represent' those remarks! Haha. Duncan.

    Hi Jill, It's amazing how much that little toe gets involved in life! It's still only a few days though. Not very good timing but it's just annoying. Joan.

  10. Congrats Duncan on the Stomp of Approval! Also do not let the haters fool you. I've broken a toe only once in my life. It was big toe and I was wearing conventional running shoes. No such injuries without shoes so there nay sayers :-) Keep up the great writing. This was a fun read, especially the paper airplane!

  11. Thanks Jimmy, always good to hear from you. Duncan.