Chi (cken) Run

Doberman Damage
Scar where the hole has healed and big lump to the left where the stupid animal didn’t manage to cut me. Glad I’m not in America because I’d have a gun and use it.

Chi (cken) Run
Tuesday – the day after the Chicken Run was predictably anything but normal. Getting out of bed at 3:55am meant even regardless of physical fatigue the day was unlikely to be very productive or energetic.

Wednesday – the body was ready to go for a run in the evening. Running seems to use different muscles so it’s still possible to work out correctly whereas a bike ride would definitely not have achieved very much.  This is the main reason why people like to “cross train” because the cardiovascular system itself is not tired.

Setting out on the usual 6km mountain trail it started to rain slightly, but the water was welcome – it can be refreshing when running as opposed to nearly always being a problem on a road bike. I’ve always enjoyed running in the rain and even mountain biking is fun because you can wear a reasonable amount of protective clothing. In fact one of the joys of both running and mountianbiking is getting thoroughly drenched and covered in mud. The run started with the focus mainly on maintaining a high cadence of over 180 strides/min and going though a check list for what all the body parts were doing – either individually or in relation to each other. Tiredness made it a little difficult to maintain good form to begin with, but this new way of running is amazing in that it actually energises you. Soon the tiredness had vanished and I was amazed to find myself ahead of the previous best time – getting audio feedback from the Endomondo app each kilometre split. 
About half way up the climb suddenly another piece of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place. The arm swing started to make sense in that the elbow is forced backwards instead of the hands forwards. This backwards push of the arm links to the psoas pulling the leg forwards from behind the body (on the same side) – acting as a counter force through the midsection. Once again everything is coordinated through the core muscles. I’d never felt this before yet it is a very clear feeling. It only happens because the leg is behind and the arm ahead – which is probably why if you run with your legs going out in front of the body you don’t make this connection. Occasionally the coordination became completely muddled and the outcome was quite funny – a spontaneous shuffle more like an uncontrolled spasm. The shuffle was so unexpected that it had me giggling to myself – especially at the absurdity of being unable to even coordinate basic bipedal locomotion. For the rest of the climb and all of the descent it was possible to focus on this connection though the core muscles and specifically the abdomen. Once focus was clearly on the abdomen it was then possible to release the relax the hips – exactly as described in the “ChiRunning” book. The feeling, probably enhanced by gravity on the descents, of increasing speed though greater relaxation instead of effort, couldn’t be clearer.

Personally I don’t like the “Chi” concept because it is constantly described in terms of “energy” which is patently false. The concept of energy only came into current Western language from ancient Greek during the Industrial Revolution, being necessary to give a name to things that could be quantified and measured. There is no such thing by definition as an “energy” that can’t be measured so there is no mysterious energy that is only perceived by the wise and informed. If we transport ourselves back several thousand years though and think about this – then “Chi” is only a word that encompasses the basic chemical, electrical and mechanical phenomena that we can explain now – but with an emphasis on the mystery of how to channel this most efficiently and counter-intuitively through the body. If understood in this manner then the word “Chi” is vastly superior and more enlightening than our mechanistic terms which were designed for steam engines and factories. We basically have very poor perception of our bodies and only a small percentage of people even begin to explore beyond those limitations – so “Chi” would be a nice way to open up this process if it hadn’t inherited an enormous baggage of irrelevant superstition and religious belief along with it. If all of this is kept in mind then I highly recommend “ChiRunning” as an extremely insightful and useful book. The only caveat that I have is that the author’s emphasis on “midfoot” landing is probably only due to the fact that he wears wedged running shoes – and if he was on flat shoes his forefoot would hit the ground first. Gordon Pirie describes the forefoot landing perfectly and I’ve linked to him in an earlier posting (use the search tool on the top right of the page).

In the event, regardless of tiredness my time over the 6km was improved by 3 minutes. This also confirms that it isn’t a question of strength but of relaxation – because my legs were worn out as would be demonstrated the following day.

Bike workout!

Thursday – 30 seconds into this workout and it was clear that the legs were still completely hollow. I felt great but there was no strength at all. The Endomondo coach feedback was giving me a kilometre by kilometre report of how far behind the scheduled time I was dropping – eventually finishing in 1:48hr a full 19:34mins slower than usual. The interesting thing was that focussing on core muscles and movements meant that it all felt pleasant and there was no demoralising struggle – just the impossibility of accelerating.

Friday – only today the DOMS from the fast run on Wednesday are starting to come through. That’s a good thing but also explains part of the general tiredness experienced yesterday. The DOMS are mild and will recover before the big race on Sunday – but whether my overall energy levels recover or not remain to be seen. Today and Saturday will be complete physical rest with a focus on eating. Weighed only 69kg after the bike ride yesterday (despite hydrating correctly) so need to to get some carbs back in the muscles now for Sunday – 173km and 4000m climbing – with 30+°C forecast!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *