Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Chi Marathon" and tapering for AR50M

I recently listened to Danny Dreyer, Founder of ChiRunning and author of his new book, “Chi Marathon, the Breakthrough Natural Running Program for a Pain-Free Half Marathon and Marathon”, speak at a running store in Asheville, North Carolina last week.  His book, co-authored with his wife Katherine, is a wonderful next step to practicing the ChiRunning form and philosophy.  Since I began studying ChiRunning in July, 2010, I knew that I would need to race in order to fully test it.  With the release of his book, Danny has validated advancing ChiRunning practice through training and racing long distance.

ChiRunning, as many of you know, is more than just learning how to run properly.  It’s about living in those moments during a run where it is more than just putting one foot in front of the other or maximizing fitness.  It’s about moving through space effortlessly and with such ease that your joy and energy is uncontainable and boundless.  I'm sure others have said it more eloquently, but that's my version and I continue to struggle in describing what a huge impact it has had on my mental, spiritual and physical life.

In “Chi Marathon”, Danny and Katherine, write about the basic ChiRunning skills, and then they take it to the next level where the ChiRunning practitioner can refine their skills through training and racing in a half marathon, a full marathon or longer.  Danny writes about the Phases of training, preparation, racing and recovery in ways that have not been described before.  And although many runners, me included, may have preconceived notions of what the following phases mean, the way those phases are described through the eyes of the Master of ChiRunning himself are unique.  By the way, I have heard it said that Danny claims he is not a Master of ChiRunning.  He is a practitioner like we all are.

1.  Phase I:  Vision, Goals and Planning

2.  Phase II:  The Technique Phase

3.  Phase III:  The Conditioning Phase

4.  Phase IV:  The Mastery Phase

5.  Phase V:  Taper Time

6.  Phase VI:  Race Weekend

7.  Phase VII:  Rest and Renewal

I am currently tapering for the American River 50Mile Endurance Run on April 7, my 53rd birthday, only two days away as of this writing.

So, I thought I would write a bit about my experience of tapering as a way of reviewing  Danny and Katherine’s book.  Maybe I will write about Phase VI and VII in the next weeks.

Danny writes in the first paragraph of this chapter:  “The main Chi focus during the taper phase is Containment – containing your energy, your enthusiasm, your nerves and your desire for a successful outcome.”
(page 142)

Not an easy thing to do when I’m used to running 50 miles a week and now my longest run has been 10 miles in the last two weeks!  I’m so full of energy that I went skiing yesterday holding myself to two hours and long rests between 20 turns on the sweet steepness of the Chutes at Mt Rose.  Even that energy release barely appeased my fit legs.  I called Mary and chattered on for five minutes about how great the snow was and how good it felt.  She laughed and commented about how much energy there was in my voice.

Intensity and Quality of runs during tapering:

Most runners understand that the tapering phase before a race consists of a decrease in mileage, but not a decrease in intensity and quality.  I like how Danny writes about this distinction:  “… energy is like money in the bank. You only have so much, and the wise person spends that money carefully.  During taper time, you are amassing your money in the bank.” (Page 143). 

My runs have been shorter over the last two weeks, but they are at race pace (for 50 Miles that would be about 10:30 or slower for me.)  Although, I admit I’ve run a few 8’s and 9’s while in Asheville with runners 20 years younger than me!  As Danny instructs, the quality of these runs should be about keeping your body and mind sharp.  It is the time to focus and sharpen the ChiRunning focuses and “to allow all the good energy to be stored in your dantien”.  “The only thing to build in this phase is trust.”   I use positive affirmations that improve trust in me, my training and my fitness.  One phrase I began to use during my taper for the Way Too Cool 50K four weeks ago was, “I am confident in my skill, ability and fitness to run and finish the race strong.”  It was amazing how my nerves were calmed as I built my trust in my training.  I’d never thought about it that way:  to trust myself. 

I’m also very focused on pelvic rotation and relaxed ankles.  More specifically, allowing my left hip to rotate back equal to my right hip in order to ensure that I’m not overstriding on my right side.  I’m also very focused on the light in my dantien that my needle rotates around creating a strong connection to my mind and Y’chi. 


In “Chi Marathon”, Danny describes niggles as those little, unexplainable pains that have not been there before.  They kind of nag at you like you hadn’t noticed them ever before.  Like the funny knee pain I had never felt before in my left knee, I knew this was a niggle and it quickly disappeared after a few tenths of a mile running.

“No funny stuff”

or what I call, don’t do anything stupid!  I did ski yesterday and I did ski the Chutes, very steep runs where a fall would result in a 1000 foot slide with the potential to crash into some big rocks.  But I did it anyway and skied it fairly decent using the danger and risk to focus my mind and move from my dantien, my center.

Pre race diet:

Having a steak tonight.  I do love beef.  Should have stuck to something lighter this close to the race, but it will be ok.  Nothing that I don’t know how my body responds to.  Gathering energy. storing money in the bank, containing my enthusiasm to eat everything in sight.

Pre race planning logistics:

Danny calls it “The big list”.  I call it trying-to-decide-what- to-wear-and-put-in-my-fanny-pack-and- travel-bag.  I’m staying at the Quality Inn in Sacramento; driving down Friday with my training partner Ron and his wife, Carol; picking up our race packets at Fleet Feet; then having dinner at the Spaghetti Factory on J Street.  My dad and Dave have all the logistical information for the aid stations and about what time I will arrive at them so they can cheer me on and offer me stuff the stations might not have.


“Realize how much you have cultivated the intelligent athlete, knowing that you can rely on the wisdom of your mind and body to fully enjoy your event.” (page 148)

Thanks Danny for the release of your book during this critical phase of my training!  This race will be another "experiment" as Instructor Candidate, Glen said last week in Asheville. 

I'm ready.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post! There is so much truth in everything Cheryl writes. Yes, we take our running seriously but Cheryl knows how to have fun with it too. Having run this course 7 years ago I know that Cheryl will have lots of opportunities to continue practicing her ChiRunning skills. I often relate to my ChiRunning students how working through the ChiRunning focuses made 50 miles seem to fly by. One I particularly remember using is "needle in cotton". Feeling the cotton really helps you relax and enjoy the beauty of your environment in such a race. Have fun out there!