Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Which Marci Goes ChiRunning, and Other Important Things

Hello, dear reader.

There hasn't been that much going on with me until this past week. Hence, the lack of posts. Now that I've taken my first ChiRunning workshop, and attended the Fred's Team kickoff party, I've got some info to share.

But first, a break from our regularly scheduled programming for some supremely important messages.

First, let's show some love to the newest members of the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL, otherwise known as TEAM LIAM:

RON TAUBER (my endodontist!)

bringing the total going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research in honor of Prince Liam the Brave to (wait, I have to do some math; not all of these are up on the website yet) ...


Words fail.

That's amazing, but there is still a long way to go, and the need is so, so great. Let me share with you part of Gretchen's latest blog post on Prince Liam (click to read the entire post) because she says it so well.

The words of Dr. Cheung, one of the brilliant oncologists who works so hard on Liam's behalf, haunt me day and night. "It's not science that's holding us back, it's funding." Great. There's a price tag on my son's head. Isn't that just dandy? Can I even begin to tell you how that feels? My son is priceless. Evey child is priceless.

In another part of the post, she asks "What do we need to do to inspire people to get involved?" She's already done so much, starting not one, but two organizations focused on providing support and raising funds to battle pediatric cancer, Band of Parents and Cookies for Kids Cancer. Gee, I wonder where Liam gets his spirit from?

So what can I do? I can, as in years past, run the NYC marathon with Fred's Team, and unashamedly ask you all to donate to the Aubrey Fund in my name. But that's too easy now. As if running the NYC Marathon was easy. It's not. But I've proved to you, faithful friends, that I can do it.

How can I show you how serious I am about this, and how far I'm willing to go to ensure a bright future for Liam and all of the kids at MSKCC?

Like this.

I promise to run BOTH the Chicago Marathon AND the NYC Marathon. Three weeks apart. IF I can raise the money in time.

This is what I can do. Can I ask you to help me with this? I'm not too proud to say it -- I need to raise $5,000 by September to run both races. I want to help provide Liam, and all children, with the treatment that will allow them to live healthy, full lives. Just click here to access my Fred's Team webpage and make a secure donation.

Still not convinced that your donation makes a difference? Allow me to be shameless here, and share this picture with you.
Liam's sixth birthday would not have happened without the love and support of people like you.
Click here. You know you want to.
In order to prepare for this insanity, I signed up for a ChiRunning class last weekend. ChiRunning was developed by Danny Dreyer. Far be it for me to pretend to be an expert on the subject, so I promise to explain everything badly, but it's based on the idea that running can be effortless and injury-free, if you allow gravity to do most of the work. I remember years ago hearing running described as a "controlled fall," and that's at the essence of the ChiRunning form.
Another essential is proper posture -- crown of head stretching straight up, pelvis tipped up, shoulders and hips aligned with ankle. Now, this is the exact posture that my PT goddess Miri Ingwer has been trying to get me to commit to for years. When I'm standing correctly a la Miri, it feels like my shoulders and arms are floating away from my body. So while I can't say this comes naturally, it's a welcome reminder of what I learned from Miri and need to consciously put more into practice.
The other main essential of ChiRunning is the midfoot strike, and by that I mean landing on the ball of your foot, as opposed to landing on your heel and rolling down the foot. This is something that I now do almost automatically thanks to my Vibrams (we love you, Vibrams!!) and just wearing these shoes has improved my running tremendously. With ChiRunning, the twist is that you don't swing your leg out in front of you when you run.. You keep your legs relaxed and, leaning from the ankles, allow yourself to "fall foward" and catch yourself by placing your feet down. Basically, your body is tilted forward slightly and your legs are moving behind you, instead of in front of you. This propels you forward. Did I mention I would explain it badly? Go to the ChiRunning site for videos and a much better explanation.
Last weekend, I took a one-day workshop with Danny and his instructors, and he went over the basic principles of the technique, and then we did a series of short runs to put them into practice. So of course, the next day I was ready to try it out.
Oh, yes. Forgot to mention one of the larger components of the technique -- cadence. It's not turnover rate -- the amount of the times your feet hit the ground -- that affect speed with ChiRunning, it's the amount of lean. The more you lean, the longer your stride, and the faster you'll run, with no extra exertion. Your cadence, or strides per minute, remain the same. Only the lean changes. Pretty amazing! There are ideal cadences for running, which for someone of my height is between 85-90 strides per minutes. So the first day, I set my metronome at 90, and off I went.
Hit the bottom of Cat Hill, and the legs felt great. I figure let's do a mini-hill workout and see how this technique works. So up the hill I go.
Get to the top of the hill, and I have to stop and catch my breath. Holy frijoles. Legs felt fine, but I couldn't breathe at all. This is not normal for me after one trip up Cat Hill, even when i'm at my worst. Head back down and get some water.
Second try up the hill. Trying to breathe through my nose, and not lean into the hill too much. Still, by the time I hit the top of the hill, same thing -- gasping for air. Again, legs were fine.
Third attempt, really concentrated on posture and lean. Slightly better, but still need to stop and catch my breath before heading back down.
Different from the past, I was able to run home after the hills, although I only did three repeats, so I probably could've done it regardless. However, after finishing the run, buying a pretzel and getting home, so about five minutes after the run, I got a HUGE case of the dry heaves! Why did that happen? Not why did I get the heaves, but why did I get them five minutes later? That was weird.
I did not wear a watch for that first workout, and I mention this because I went out running again today, and did wear a watch. I needed to see how much faster I was, because that was the only explanation for my breathing difficulties, as least as far as I could see. Dialed it down to 85 and tried again.
The distance from my house to the bottom of Cat Hill is about a mile. I am, at this point, around a 10-minute miler. Excuse me -- was. Running at an 85 cadence got me to Cat Hill in 8:50.
No wonder I was gasping for air.
Had to stop again at the top of Cat Hill, which I ran up in around 2:10. That's normally a moderate effort for me. All I was doing was trying to keep my breathing regular. Again, no effort from the legs, just the lungs.
Set off again, to the Fred statue at the Runner's Gate. Normally, using this route, it takes me about 18 minutes to get there. Today -- 16:50. Gasp, gasp. So after I caught my breath, I dialed it down to 80 and set back out. It felt better on the lungs -- I was able to complete the rest of the run without further incident -- but my legs felt it was a little slow. They kept trying to push the pace. It was strange. It was like they wanted to go on their own. I had to work really hard to slow down, if you can believe it. I would concentrate on one thing -- cadence, arms, ankles, lean, etc. -- and everything else would kind of fall apart. Frustrating!! I know that soon it will become more automatically. But right now, ChiRunning is mentally exhausting. And the beep-beep of the metronome will shortly drive me mad. But I completed a 5.38 mile run in 50:50, or about a 9:30 pace. Thirty seconds per mile faster than I was, oh, a week ago, and but for the breathing, it felt amazing.
There is definitely something to this method, and I will be working it for all it's worth! The legs feel great -- no pain, no fatigue -- and once the breathing catches up, I think (hope!!) this will be a really good training season! It has to be -- it's going to be a bruiser.
More anon.

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