Friday, March 9, 2012

As I continue to evolve.....

Or perhaps the word is de-volve. According to Danny Dreyer's Chi Running book, I am supposed to be trying to recapture the joyful and effortless manner in which I ran as a child. I was a child well before the era of omnipresent video technology, so I'll just have to take Danny's word for it that the younger, lither, more innocent version of me did indeed run with perfect posture and perfect lean, striking lightly on the earth with perfect midfoot strides.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I am now at the point in my heel-to-midfoot/forefoot stride transition that heel striking finally feels awkward and wrong. And it makes a certain amount of sense. Every time you hit with your heel it's like putting on the brakes. Very jarring to the body. After a couple of months of running 12-16 minute miles, actively trying to make the switch, I think the new muscles are starting to fire and the old muscles are quieting down. My knee and foot pain are fading. I just have to be careful not to do too much too soon. It's so tempting to go out and run for three hours just because I can. For the first time in my life, I am trying (trying!) to be smart about running. I'm down to like a 10-minute mile.

I have spent a small fortune on running books. Of course I have and love Danny Dreyer's Chi Running, as well as Danny Abshire's Natural Running and Dr. Nicolas Romanov's Pose Method of Running. I order them, I get excited, they come in the mail, I leaf through them for a few days, and then they sit on the kitchen table for weeks languishing unread, collecting glops of ketchup and syrup until they are stuck permanently to the fickle tablecloth of old New Yorkers and Running Times and Utne Readers and math workbooks.

Chi Running

Pose Running

I don't think any of these running gurus would watch me run and call me one of their own. I'd love to take a class with one of these guys and really have them look at my stride. It's hard to coach yourself. I'm sure I'm doing lots of stuff "wrong." I kind of pick and choose details from all of these books and add them slapdash into my catalogue of things to think about while I'm running. I have lots of Ah-Ha! moments as I'm trolling along (ie, don't lift your knees, lift your ankles, stuff like that). There's no question, this is a slow transition. A long strange trip indeed.

I get so little time to read, and I'm right in the middle of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain as well as everything ever written by Julie Hecht (strange bedfellows there), these poor running books simply cannot compete. Chi Running is the only one I have actually read cover to cover, and plan to re-read now that I have been practicing this method for a while. This was an excellent book to get me started.

I think the Pose Running book will be next. Flipping through, I see that he has lots of exercises aimed at hips and hamstrings. I have hamstrings for the first time in my life, and they are definitely my weak link. As soon as my hamstrings get tired of lifting my foot straight up behind me (rather than out in front of me), I'm toast. I can handle the strain for 2 hours tops. I need to get started on Dr. Romanov's exercises.


It feels so good to be running again. It really is a gift. My husband Brian and I had our annual weekend trip to New York last month in which we walked all around the city eating out of diners and grocery stores for two days. I had a heavenly run early Sunday morning up the Hudson River and into Riverside Park, and back through Upper West Side. I really did feel like I was gliding along, slipping effortlessly past the super-wealthy dog walkers and uber-stylish churchgoers. With my new upright posture and nifty little hamstrings, I almost fit right in.

I'm still swimming more than I'm running. Swimming has been good to me this winter. I am now on friendly terms with all of the 5 a.m. swimmers. Early morning people are funny. We all park in the same spot every morning, take the same locker, then beeline to the same lane day after day. A young upstart newcomer beat me to Lane 5 yesterday morning and I admit I was shaken. Isn't it obvious from looking at me that I am the Lane 5 swimmer?! Things are different in Lane 3. It feels too close to the lifeguard. As soon as that girl left Lane 5, I scooted right over. I'll have to keep my eye on her from now on.

I made the difficult but necessary decision to drop out of both spring/summer races I had signed up for back in December. The VT 100 was first to go, as it became increasingly obvious that there was no way I'd be up to any kind of training mileage by mid-March. And then a month later I dropped out of the Wapack 50, which is a strenuous race run in May. I need to take the time to rebuild and regroup. I'm hoping to run some shorter trail races this summer, especially the Grand Tree series, and maybe hit a few of small, local ultras in the fall. The new Ghost Run in October especially beckons: nice folks, multi-distance, cheap, and you do not have to sign up months ahead of time.

Here's hoping!!