I've never had such a slow start to a training program before. But - I'd also never taken so much time off either, considering how relaxed the fall was. I spent the first six weeks of 2017 freaking out that I had dug myself into a hole of marathon proportions. Happy to report, there was no hole. Perhaps a bit of a crevice in the road, but nothing like the enormous crater my running anxiety envisioned.
What made a difference? Three key things:
Oh, the frustration I felt when the scale did not move. It was so discouraging. I was burning 1,000 calories a day between my runs and cross-training, and eating no more than 1400 calories. That alone would put in me in rapid weight loss mode, right? Nope. Hence all the blood tests, to determine if something really was wrong. They all came back perfect, every single one of them. Good news, right? While I'm healthy as a horse, it didn't offer many solutions. Quite frankly, there was no way I could have continued for another 7-8 weeks the way I was - exhausted, hungry, and unbelievably disheartened. So what the heck was going on?
A wise person told me "You cannot create something out of nothing." It took me a little time to decipher this, but he was essentially saying, "You are eating more than you think." Of course, I rebelled. Disagreed. Strongly! My diet is clean! It's SO healthy. Here, look at MyFitnessPal app - I religiously log in every day. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to carefully examine every morsel of food I ingested.
Taking my anger and ego out of the picture, I played detective for a few days. Remember how I cut out coffee? I subbed in tea. But while I can drink black coffee without a problem, tea without sweetener is just unpalatable. For every cup of tea, there was at least a tablespoon of honey going into it...or worse. I did not log these tablespoons. At the fancy tea store, their teas taste delicious - with the help of beet root sugar. Of course, I bought a bag and added a few crystals to every cup. Holy calorie bombs. This, too, went undocumented. I was probably consuming 400-600 calories of PURE SUGAR without even realizing it. Why not just eat a bag of Swedish Fish? Floss with some licorice. Gargle with hot chocolate. I mean, hello.
Second, remember that blog entry I wrote about how fat is good? Fat IS good...but in moderation. While I'm eating about the good kind (mono- and poly-unsaturated), fat is still fat. Consumed in copious amounts in the presence of hidden sugars (see above), guess what? Weight loss will stall. I wasn't indulging in fried foods anything that reckless, but almond butter? Going through a jar or two a month - which was essentially how January played out - is just dangerous. All of the scoops I nabbed as I walked by the cabinet - unrecorded. I dirtied a lot of spoons in January with little scoops, here and there. Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter is in my top five favorite foods of all time, but it's shockingly perilous because of its alleged innocence. At least junk food is appropriately named.I would never touch a Dorito but almond butter? It's a health food! I guess it is - just not by the jarful. Little stinker.
Once I figured out these few things, combined with eliminating other silly snacks, like handfuls of nuts and dried fruits, life got much better. Too much fat and sugar...it can happen to anyone. Isn't this the same fight we are all in? I swapped out these items for high-water content foods that also had a ton of fiber. Larger portions made me feel like I wasn't starving all the time. The calorie content of say, three cups of arugula has barely a flicker of the calorie explosion of sweetened teas or nuts. I'm eating more, weighing less, and am downright pleasant to be around again.
Black coffee, good. Apples, berries, broccoli, arugula, spinach, celery, carrots...these are all staples now, along with the vegan protein powder. We are moving in the right direction, finally!
I mentioned Johnny in my last entry but now have some space to elaborate. I cannot emphasize how much running with him has helped me. Yes, I had Julie last year but she moved back to the East Coast at the end of 2016, leaving me once again solo. ::sniffle::
Set up by Alex, our mutual friend, Johnny is faster than I am and getting faster by the day. *Note to self: do not challenge him in any short distances. He's fun, funny, reliable, and overall just a solid guy. I mean, on our first run, I had six miles before we met up, so I asked if he could possibly bring an extra water bottle for me. Not only did he remember the water, but as we stood by his car, he reached in and offered me a choice: "Chilled or room temperature?" I almost clicked my heels together in joy. Oh yes, this is a match made in detail heaven.
Plus, he's just fun to be around. Our personalities are highly compatible and he brings a ton of great energy to all of our runs. On our last long run, I planned to get in nine miles before meeting up with him. (His marathon is four weeks after Boston, hence the delay in our schedules.) We planned to meet up on the corner of Calico Basin Road - he'd come down Hwy 159, note my location, drive a mile in, park, run a mile up to the highway, and we'd take off together. It was a great plan - until it didn't work. I kept looking at each car that went by - nope, not him. I had a tempo run squeezed into those miles, so I was flying by the time I reached our turnaround point. My head was going over all of the possibilities - he was late, he wasn't coming, something terrible had happened. Just as I reached for the water bottle I had dropped on our meet-up corner, amid the other runners and cyclists that were passing, he pulled up. He rolled his window down and the look of contrition of his face was priceless. He mouthed "I'm sorry" with such sincerity, I almost burst into giggles. So earnest, so thoughtful. Instant forgiveness. It's okay! I mouthed back. Knowing he was a solid ten minutes behind me, I pointed to the road and gestured that I was going to keep running. I wasn't sure I could spend ten minutes standing there, lest I cramp up. I took off and hoped he catch me.
After four miles, the first pangs of guilt set in. I was picking up all the water I had dropped for us along the way, since he didn't know where the drop spots were. Should I have stayed? Waited? He was so great and patient the day I overheated. What if he was thirsty? By mile 5, "I Will Wait" by Mumford & Sons came on and I realized the error of my ways. I should have waited. So I doubled back, looking for the super tall dude in the bright yellow shirt and after less than a half mile, he came flying over the hill. I tossed him his water and we were set.
Thank goodness for that. A good running partner pushes you without breaking you. Case in point: he had 10 miles to my 18, and when we hit my mile 17, I was fading. Quickly. We had been slowly picking up speed as we descended, with our last few miles around 8:15 (marathon pace for me). But things were starting to get fuzzy around the edges. I wasn't sure how much I had left in the tank. We were not talking at that point since all of our energy was being used to run, but I think he sensed the fade. He took the lead and yelled, "We're on Boyleston!", the last street of the Boston Marathon. That was exactly what I needed to hear. The dusty Nevada desert melted away and suddenly I cruising down Boyleston on Patriots' Day. It was like a shot of adrenaline - and a GREAT reminder why we were engaging in this suffer-fest. So without speaking, we crested into the town of Blue Diamond, running hard and running well. That final mile? 7:57. There's no way I could have done that on my own.
There is strength in numbers. Cheers to running buddies!
PS - he writes a blog and likes cats too!
I know, this is the last thing you'd expect me to say. Relax? That sounds horrible! Pedal to the mettle, people! Push! But this whole "not having to qualify anymore" thing is quite appealing. It's given me a chance to step outside my highly concentrated, hyper-focused, self-involved world and look around. As in, why the heck am I doing this? Why must I inflict myself with so much pain on a weekly basis? Are all runners just obsessive, narcissistic masochists?
I Google'd it ("Are Runners Obsessive, Narcissistic Masochists?") and once again, the interwebs did not let me down. Turns out, there is an article by that very same name. Check it out. It had me laughing hysterically. It even references George Sheehan, one of my favorite writers-who-run (not to be confused with runners-who-write; two totally different animals). George, of course, wrote volumes about how running led him to various forms of self-discovery. "Illumination of the essential person within," says the article. I, too, have written many times about this very subject, how running has laid bare so many ugly parts that I would rather not acknowledge, or times I drew upon strength I did not know I had.
It was all well and great until they interviewed George Sheehan's son, who had less than stellar things to say about his dad. He "...and his siblings were always amused by 'the degree to which he fell short of his self-description.'" Ouch. But it did make me snicker. I mean, I think most runners view themselves as philosophers in sneakers, pounding the pavement to self-actualization. Or maybe us mid-packers just think that way, since we need something to think about to pass the miles. But we create meaning in our running, and that is important. Otherwise, why are we out there? It reminds me of what the Oatmeal said about his first marathon: "...in reality, what did I actually accomplish? I shuffled, groaned, and sweated over a 26.2 mile stretch of pavement before gorging myself on granola bars and passing out in the warm afterglow of a runner's high. I run long distances because it makes me feel better. I run because I want to slay the Kraken; I just don't want to actually lift the sword."
Regardless, the article certainly did make me smile. Best, it gave me a chance to take a deep breath and settle some unnecessary nerves. A sport I take SO seriously, one that I hope inspires my child and perhaps others around me, a sport that I'm willing to give up sleep, foods I love, and a degree of sanity, while taking on an enormous amount of pain and pressure...for what? No, I'm not a poet in Pumas. I'm just a mom who runs. And while it's good to be "all in" on various levels (like now), it's also helpful to have a more global perspective, too. I finally feel as though I do not have running in a perpetual choke-hold. That's a good thing.
Run happy. Run relaxed. Run with friends!
T-minus 40 days until the big show