Channeling My Inner Carebear

That’s right. I said it. I’ve been channeling my inner Carebear this week. You may ask, “Why?” To which I say, “Why not?” They’re so cute, and I loved the Carebears when I was a kid. And I mean, LOVED. Who didn’t?

But seriously, there is some silly logic to this. On my Thursday run (a quick 3 miles before yoga) I decided that, instead of thinking about what I shouldn’t be doing on my runs, I would focus on what I should be doing. In other words, instead of trying to convince myself to relax I started thinking about gathering my energy, my ch’i, into my core and using that to propel me forward like a light beam. When I started visualizing that, I felt like a Carebear, and well, now I’m all about finding my Carebear stare on my runs. Like this:

I found that when I focused solely on projecting my energy in front of me like a lightbeam some tension in my legs did melt away and I was supported, almost lifted, by the energy.

I’m not entirely pulling this out of thin air. Chi Running is very much inspired by T’ai Chi, which has at its core the concept that your mind directs your ch’i and your ch’i moves your body. This is principle is applied in Chi Running through the practice of “gathering and issuing” and using your y’chi. The Carebear stare is just how I visualize doing this.

Today on my long run–7 miles (holy crap!)–I also thought about this and prior to the run I did a seated meditation for a few minutes to connect with my breath and start gathering my energy. However, during the run I wasn’t able to find my Carebear stare as much as I wanted. So this is something I’ll still need to practice, but I’m filing it away in the toolbox.

As for some remarks on today’s run, the first few miles were a little rough–my shins were pretty tender and I was really tight, but after some stretches I was able to relax more and get into a groove. For the first time I experienced the sensation of “miles passing by quickly,” which was a nice surprise. I finished the 7 miles in 1 hour and 19 minutes (11:24 pace, or so) and feel pretty good; hopefully I won’t be too sore tomorrow.

And, just for good measure, here’s a picture of Tenderheart Bear, the leader of the Carebears. Because every blog post should have at least three cartoon pictures, especially when my view for today’s run was so dreary.

See? Some Carebear (how many times can I say Carebear in one post?!) cheer and color is just what the doc ordered after this rainy, coldish, gray run.

So how do you gather your energy on your runs? What do you focus on?

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November 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm 8 comments

Week 6 Training Plan

Time rolls on and I am now in Week 6 of my 16 week half marathon training program. The form focus this week is upper body: arm swing, upper body posture, head and neck alignment, and proper breathing.

Here’s the plan:

Monday: travel home and rest

Tuesday: 45 minute upper body form focus run

Wednesday: Yoga

Thursday: 45 minute lunch run/yoga after work

Friday: rest

Saturday 7 miles (!!)

Sunday: 35 minute Recovery run

Why focus on upper body?

Because your upper body is just as important as your legs in running and by not paying proper attention to it, you can be working against yourself. The upper body lean balances out your lower body and creates balance.

What should your upper body be doing?

Your head, neck and shoulders should be pointed in the direction your heading, and square to the road. No shoulder rotation! Arms at 90 degrees, and allow your elbows to swing back from the pivot point in your shoulder socket. No pumping, no clenched fists and no shoulder rotation (aka, never cross your hands across the center line of your body)!

Any amount of upper body rotation will decrease your amount of lower body rotation, create unnecessary tension in your neck, and create an inefficient stride” (Chi Marathon, p. 83).

As far as proper breathing, this one is hard and will take time. I should be belly breathing through my nose–basically my yoga ujjayi breath–and matching my breath rate to my cadence. The book recommends breathing out for three strides and inhaling for two. This is hard for me because I’m used to breathing in and out for at lease 5 seconds with the ujjayi breath and I need to practice taking quick (for me), but still full (belly) breaths. I consider this an advanced skill and is something I will keep in mind but I still have so much work to do with my form that I am putting this in the backseat.

I ran last night for my 45 minute form focus run and it was pretty rough. I ran around my hilly neighborhood for the first time in about a month and realized I was using my legs too much because my calves tightened up immediately and I found it hard to practice relaxation for most of the run. I’m also still practicing pelvic rotation, along with now thinking about keeping my upper body strong, relaxed, aligned and square.

I keep thinking about the needle-in-cotton principle (great article linked to there, btw)–your core is your needle and the rest of your body moves around it like cotton; relaxed and limber. I’m finding it so hard to isolate the muscle engagement. When I tighten my core I also tighten my legs or my shoulders and when I relax, I relax everything. I’m getting there, but still have much progress to make. I should probably be taking Tai Chi, but in the meantime I will keep practicing. It’s back to the flat ground by the river for the next few runs. Removing challenging variables will reduce the ‘noise’ in my running focuses and hopefully the next few runs will go better.

But enough about me. How is your training going?

November 14, 2012 at 11:31 am 2 comments

A Magical History Tour

While in Baltimore hanging with my brother and father last weekend, we decided to take a few hours on Saturday to go on a magical Macgill family history tour. A Macgillical history tour?! Don’t mind if we do.

The very first Macgill, James Macgill, came over in the early 1700s from Scotland and settled in Baltimore (the spelling of the name is very particular and in most instances we are not related to MacGills, McGills, etc. It’s M-a-c-SMALLG-i-l-l thankyouverymuch).

He was an Episcopal priest:

The original log church where James Macgill preached is no longer there but the old brick church that is over 200 years old is still standing. Fun fact: my father is also an Episcopal priest. Runs in the family I suppose.

James Macgill owned quite a bit of land near the church and the area is now known as Macgill’s Common. It is situated in the village of Kings Contrivance, in Columbia, Maryland. I don’t really understand the hamlet within a village within a town naming scheme, but that’s basically what it is.

Just beside Macgill’s Common, in another hamlet, is the house James Macgill built. We may or may not have been trespassing a little bit so I had to take a covert picture. It’s a beautiful home. Apparently James Macgill is buried somewhere on the land but the grave marker is gone.

Nearby that house is the 2nd house that was built by James and/or his children. The house was sold in the 1960s and is now a restaurant called Kings Contrivance. I hear Sunday Brunch there is where it’s at.

Finally, we visited a huge and very old graveyard where Macgills born in the 19th century are buried.

Some of them were doctors and sons of doctors. And then some sons were farmers and Episcopal priests and government workers (see feet).

And then I took random pictures of the cemetery because I think old cemeteries are beautiful.

So there you have it. A very Macgillical family history tour in greater Baltimore. We also visited the site where Charles Macgill’s house was (the first doctor) but it had been torn down to make way for a gas station in the 1950s. I think we all know what a BP looks like so I didn’t take a picture. I also got to see where James Macgill’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson has gotten his oil changed over the years and where that grandson’s son currently goes to school. All in all, it purely was magical, informative and piqued my curiosity in filling out the details of the family history.

Do you know your family history? Have you been on any magical tours of your ancestors’ history?

November 14, 2012 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

Day 41: 6 miles in Charm City

Welp, I ran 6 miles on Saturday, which was the second time I’ve ever run that far, ever. My legs felt like lead after such a bit of a long run on Friday (which turned out much more aggressive than I thought), so it was a bit of a struggle but I finished. And I finished at my nephews’ soccer games and it was so awesome to watch them play. Little kid soccer is hilarious but they both did so great.

My phone died halfway through the run so I only have pics from the first half but here is a little tour of the Baltimore Inner Harbor. I ran down the north side to Fells Point and then looped back west and ran south to Locust Point.

Diversity: a really old wooden ship

The National Aquarium

Update: turns out a friend’s dad served on this ship in Vietnam

 The Domino Sugar Factory

Nautical-inspired sculpture

A wonky picture of the Harbor

Overall, a great, entertaining run. My form held strong pretty well but I still have some work to do on ensuring my pelvis is rotating properly the whole time. I definitely found myself slipping into old habits (like being too stiff and not relaxed). Even though I enjoyed the views and the newness of it all, I was also really glad when the run was over. No more aggressive runs the day before a long run. Lesson learned.

November 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm 1 comment

Day 40: Exploring Baltimore

Have you ever been to Baltimore?

What a great city! I had a fun time running around downtown today–I got to see many cool spots, and navigating the new streets and much more traffic than I’m used to helped the time fly by.

I have no idea how far I ran or my pace. My garmin said I ran 4 miles in 45 minutes while mapmyrun said I ran 4.6 miles in 52 minutes. The garmin time is closest since I stopped it at lights and mostly remembered to start it each time, but I have no idea of my distance or why the discrepancy. So, I averaged the two and am guessing I ran 4.3 in 47 minutes. Totally cool with that.

As for where I ran, check it out, although I apologize for the picture quality–I have no way of editing or sizing the pics on the road. I started in the business district downtown…

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Ran toward the harbor and Camden Yards…

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Ran by a ship and got a glimpse of the water….

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And up Charles street where I saw amazing architecture, churches, cathedrals, monuments…

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I ran through the Mt. Vernon neighborhood to Penn Station, a “port” of entry so common for me a while back that a few years ago my youngest nephew asked his mom, “why doesn’t aunt Stephanie have a car?” (answer: I was always arriving in Baltimore by train after having flown to new york or DC from Reno:)

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And then I ran back to the hotel rejuvenated after so many days of sitting indoors. It’s the little things, you know?

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I’ve mapped out a six mile route tomorrow that will take me all over the harbor, to Fort McHenry (home of the National Anthem), and that will culminate at my nephews’ soccer games. Can’t wait!

November 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm 5 comments

Day 37: Back on the horse

I went running on Tuesday for the first time in 10 days and I did not die. I thought it was going to be awful but it wasn’t. I actually felt pretty strong and I was able to breathe, despite still having some head cold lingerings. I wasn’t coughing up a lung and I kept a pretty good pace.

Victory!

I did 3.5 miles on my lunch break in 40 minutes. I ran along the river, running with the current and it was nice. I will do it again. I tried focusing on pelvic rotation and it went fine, but the run was more to see how I could hang after such a long hiatus. It was actually really nice to have such fresh legs. And, of course so nice to run in high fall.

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And then I travelled.

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Now I’m in Baltimore, and gearing up to run today and the next two days. I was supposed to run yesterday but just didn’t have any time. I had to present a poster and a paper at a policy research conference, do some networking, meet up with my parents, eat dinner with my brother, sister in law and kids, and do more networking. So a short run today after conference stuff; I’m thinking up Charles Street to do some sightseeing. Saturday will be a long run around the Harbor. Stay tuned.

November 9, 2012 at 4:07 am 2 comments

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