Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snow Break and setting up for a good 2012

And did we have snow!  We had a few inches sticking to the roads the sunday after Nookachamps.  Monday and Tuesday stayed cold and then Wednesday, we got a few more inches.  it iced overnight and then we recieved a lovely mix of ice and snow, turning to mostly snow Thursday.  Winter roared in reminding us that nature can do whatever the hell it wants.  I measured 7" on Thursday and this was after a lot of it had compacted down.  I know we had more.  It's a lot for hilly, hilly seattle without a lot of snow removal equipment. 
it's pretty unusual for snow to stick around for more than a few days here in the Seattle lowlands. This snow stuck and even stuck around downtown.  I don't fuss with snow when training since I do not belong to a gym.  I count it as a rest week and don't worry about getting running workouts in.  I did go out and do a couple of short but really fun snow runs from our house on the hill.  all the kids with their sleds were out, i saw people cross country skiing and just tons of smiles on faces.  Sure i had to go to work everyday and I did except for the day when the ice exceeded my limit and I stayed put and worked from home.  Generally I can run on the waterfront trail along Downtown Seattle but this storm, even Downtown was affected.  I rode on the trainer a couple times for a short bit and just enjoyed looking out the window.  We even went and had wine and played scrabble with the neighbors. Fun snow stuff! 

It came at a great time too.  Nookachamps, the goal race, was a bust.  What next?  well I am signed up for a couple upcoming races (both trail and road) but I haven't really set the next goal.  I did take a closer look at why I think Nookachamps would've been tough to run well even if the weather had cooperated.  I really feel like I need to bump up my overall mileage and I need to look at my weight.  These two do go hand in hand to some extent (if i ran more, i'd lose a bit) but it's not that simple.  

I looked back to see what I weighed when I was racing and running my best.  The number shocked me as it seems so much less than what I weigh now.  Really? I know I have more muscle on me than when I set those running PRs. I've worked hard to build strength in my upper body, core, glutes and that strength has helped me stay injury free (knock down the tree!) and makes me a better trail runner. This is just a couple instances of why better strength is good.  

I didn't get into running for weight loss.  It was something I thought I could do and would be enjoyable and keep me fit.  And it certainly did that and more and as a bonus, I lost some weight.  But recently as I hit middle age and my female body is creeping towards change, I've noticed some gradual weight gain over the past couple years.  I didn't think much of it.  

However there is now a bit of a tummy that doesn't want to go away and a bit of extra padding which I'm pretty certain wasn't there a few years ago.  I came through the holidays with the extra pound or two gain which honestly is just fine to me.  I like to celebrate with family and friends and that often means eating and there is nothing wrong with that.  At some point, I have to draw the line and realize the extra pounds slow me down and will keep adding on.  what to do?

I usually go back to what worked when I initially needed to control my diet back when I'd joined a gym but wasn't a runner.  I cut out snacking at work except for what I bring.  I make sure I'm getting fruits/veggies with every meal and start measuring portions of things like rice and pasta.  I don't cut out wine or alcohol or sweets but do limit them to a few times a week.  This has generally worked without much fuss. 

And now?  I'm finding this harder to do when training as an endurance athlete.  I still gradually lose weight but struggle to eat enough at times and deal with hunger and wonder if my training suffers. And all this showed in my lead up to Nookachamps Half Marathon (turned 10k) I think.  Nookachamps is challenging because of the weather but also the time of year.  I enjoyed my egg nog a lot this holiday season and my weight is up.  If you know me, you probably can't necessarily tell.  It helps that I'm a taller person and can hide some extra weight.  I can tell you though that I am tired of carrying the extra weight up hills. 

I am not one who thinks I can successfully carry out a diet which limits or eliminates a lot of foods.  I like meat.  I like veggies, carbs, fruits and wine.  I love cheese and milk and full fat ice cream and homemade baked goods.  I'm the best omnivore I know!  Ok, I fail miserably at eating mushrooms (ick!) and seafood (mostly ick!) but I make do.  I've looked at diets like vegan or vegetarian or paleo or clean eating and there is no way that i could sustain that happily except for a short time.  I am very happy that i have not been forced to change my diet because of food sensitivities or gut issues. 

I came across a book which has really gotten me thinking about things like appetite, hunger, training versus racing weight, diet quality and balancing energy sources (fat, protein, carbohydrates) for an endurance athlete. 

Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performances by Matt Fitzgerald had me enthralled on the bus.  I had to take out my phone with calculator and start figuring my optimal performance weight.  This book is very technical to begin with and i can just imagine someone who has a lot of weight to lose could find it discouraging.  I did find a lot of references to what to aim for if that is the case.  Some simple changes include adding in more fruits and veggies (higher diet quality), portion control, nutrient timing and rethinking things like managing appetite instead of trying to control something you need.  I have one of those fancy scales to measure body fat percentage.  I hadn't done much but notice that yes as I peaked for races, my body fat would subtly decrease while weight would stay about the same.  I didn't track this or compare it to anything however. 

This book lets me do that and gives me a reasonable body fat goal to aim for while losing a couple pounds.  I know what I weighed when I raced my best.  I know I have more muscle than i did then so that weight may not be optimal now.  I really liked the discussion about balancing energy sources (ie how much fat, protein, carbs should I eat).  As a runner, I hear a lot about making sure to fuel a run by eating carbohydrates but then don't forget to eat protein to build muscle.  I'm sure you've heard this too and it isn't quite as simple as that nor in the case of protein building muscle even true.  

Note that this book is not really about what to eat when working out.  As Coach Lesley was quick to point out, everyone has different energy requirements when working out.  I know I burn fuel quickly when running a more moderate pace and have to fuel accordingly and often higher than someone else will.  but those higher carb diets overall make me hungry and cranky and prone to gorging on fatty stuff.  I was interested to see that higher levels of protein and fat is (probably) called for when you are NOT training at a high level.  I don't train at a high level.  I normally train about 5 hours a week consistently and if i plug in the recommended carb intake for that level of training, it is about what I get naturally.  If my training time goes up (ie my mileage is higher or I add a lot more biking) than I naturally start adding in snacks like whole grain cereal and other high quality carbohydrates. 

The timing of nutrient intake makes a difference too.  when you eat and what you eat can either go to restock fuel sources, power muscle work, power immediate energy needs or get stored in adipose tissue making you fatter.  I like all the options but that last one.  How 'bout you  I like tracking food and activities because it really shows me how wildly I swing between undereating and overeating depending on my activity level.  I know that after a busy weekend of running, I can get to work on Monday and I'm starving all day long and do eat knowing that i need the calories.  Nutrient intake timing FAIL!  ha! I should've eaten a lot more over the weekend but i was too busy having fun.  what is my body doing with that extra calories now?  Hmmm.

No my body's energy requirements are not the same throughout the day nor every day and I often try to eat the same amount every day.  Athletes who do a better job of matching calorie intake with calorie needs throughout the day were leaner.  This means i probably need to bring even more food to work for snacks. Sigh.  I also plan on adding a quick snack before longer midweek runs to help. 

The author does a great job of debunking a lot of myths and pointing out design flaws in studies. What works for this elite athlete may not work for this other elite athlete in another country and may not work for you or me (definitely non-elite!).  This book was published in 2009.  I just noticed that the author has a new one out (Racing Weight Quick Start Guide). I've requested that one from the library and I'm curious to see what's different.  Like I said, the edition I'm reviewing here is pretty technical which the geek/nerd side of me loves!  Please, poke holes in studies and tell those nuanced shades of gray!  I don't believe the black and white.  I hate news stories which flash: Drink 12 gallons of mustard sauce to lose weight, build brain health and cure cancer!

I don't think food is cure for things.  I like to eat and I like to run.  I know that by making some subtle changes and bringing my weight down a smidge for training and then a bit more for a short time for racing, I'll run better.  AND I'll continue sailing into middle age happy about my body and what it can do.  It takes some effort on my part and that is ok.  It's the only body I have. 


Dusty said...


Thanks for this post and talking about weight, food and running. I will find Matt's book and do some reading!

Beautiful snow pictures!


sjohnie said...

I own that book, i need to pull it out and look at it again.