When you run lots of long, slow, painful miles alone… you think about stuff…
I have been skipping my regular doses of reality lately. Living in a mind full of big dreams and lofty goals. But starting on the 13th of December, I received a loading dose plus a couple of double strength doses. The hardest dose to take was where I am, physically.
I started a little exercise with some friends called “The 12 days of Christmas running”. Like it sounds, this challenge is to run 12 on the first day, 11 on the second day, etc. until you get to 1 mile on the day before Christmas. As you could expect, the key here is to run SLOW and survive the first 4-5 days. The rest is easy. I decided to take the challenge to see where I was at physically. If I am to run a marathon in early April, I should be at about 30-40 miles per week by now as a norm with at least a couple of days a month up over 14 miles. I had been running about 30 miles a week but only on 4 days a week. I wanted to see what it would feel like to run every day and how my recovery time would be. In short, it was awful.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I expected to be tired. I expected to be sore. I even pushed it out so that I ended up running a 60 mile week. My longest ever. Over the 12 days I ended up running 85+ miles. All of them very slow and as comfortable as I could make them. Most of the miles were on the road or trail, but a few of them were offroad (about 14). While this would seem like a great accomplishment (and in some ways, it really was), it really forced me to look at myself for the first time in a long time. I really didn’t like what I saw. I am dangerously overweight. And I don’t know why. One would think that weight wouldn’t be a problem… but that is not the case. And after about the 4th day of running my knees began to hurt, as did my hips/butt. And it was in that old “familiar” way that really concerned me. I was also slowing down. I usually run between 7:45 and 8:00 miles on a normal 6-9 mile run. I set my goal pace at 9:00 for the challenge and though I started out where I wanted, by the 6th day I was running 9:45-10:00 miles and suffering the whole way through. And besides that, I couldn’t walk up or down stairs and every step was painful in my ankles, knees, hips and groin.
So let’s talk reality.
It’s no secret to those who know me that weight has always been an issue for me. I have never been able to successfully balance exercise and good eating habits and marry them into a healthy body. I have always thought that if I ever COULD get my weight down, I could be very competitive, even at my age. I think I am still capable of running miles in the 6:00-6:30 range and could easily push a bike up over 23 mph. I’ve done both for short periods of time, although not in the same race. Not world class, but pretty fast. The one thing that is getting in the way is weight. I am running mid pack right now but I’m carrying an extra 35lb with me. What could I do if it was gone?
So the reality is this. The extra weight I carry around with me and can’t seem to lose (or that I keep re-finding) is 1.) Hurting me physically. It puts undo pressure on my knees, hips and probably heart as well, and 2.) Getting in the way of me achieving any goals I set. I can’t do any of the things I mentioned above, nor can I realistically, and more importantly, “safely”, run long distances or push hard in training.
I need to change some things.
First, my eating habits are deplorable. I have taken it for granted that I could just go workout some more if I ate poorly or drank beer. While this logic may work for some, it does not work for me.
Second, I make poor choices. It is far too easy for me to talk myself into bad habits.
Third, my goals are from dreamland. Let’s face it, I had no business doing a half ironman this last fall and paid the consequences. I had no idea what I was doing and was very poorly trained. The more I have thought about that race, the more foolish I realize it was. And dangerous. I have never felt that bad immediately after a race and have never had a blood sugar problem at a race (or ever). I was not in proper shape to run that race and it could have killed me. Just to let everyone who didn’t see me at Nationals know… and this is sad and embarrassing to admit… I went into that race 10 pounds HEAVIER than when I started training for it in the spring. And, no, it wasn’t muscle weight.
Fourth, I drank the triathlete Kool-Aid. I listened to all of those success stories of weight loss, personal achievement, surviving personal tragedy, overcoming diseases and limitations and wanted to be one of those people. I thought that since I was (or, used to be) a competitive athlete, that I could figure it out and that the training would fix my weight problem. That I would be the one eventually telling my story. I forgot about balance. I forgot about control.
So what do I do about this…
First, I need to listen to my body. It is saying, today, that it cannot handle what I am asking it to do. It is saying medium distances like Olympic distance triathlons and 10K to 1/2 marathon distance races are all it can do. And until I lose that same damn 35 pounds I have been fighting with for 4 years. I can do no more. The consequence of doing more right now would be hurting myself to the point that I can’t do this stuff anymore. And that would be tragic.
Second, I need to change my focus. I need to change my eating habits and food lifestyle and my ONLY goal needs to be to get the weight off. This means less push ups and more push AWAYS (from the table). It also means more bicep curls and NO 12 ounce curls. It also means NOT setting race or distance goals until I am at a safe weight to do so. I can still train at a reasonable rate and work out hard, but within limits.
And I need your help. Don’t change anything you are doing around me. Do invite me all the usual rides, runs and social stuff. But please understand if I say “no” or pass on the beer. And I know you have heard me say this before so don’t roll your eyes and say “here we go again”. My struggle with weight is equal to any challenge you have ever attempted. Imagine running or riding THOUSANDS of miles… but the odometer never changes… If you worked that hard and never went anywhere… wouldn’t you be frustrated?
The new plan for 2013
Achieve and maintain my target weight of 165-170lb
NO. I will not be running a spring marathon. It’s not safe for me right now to do so at my weight.
NO. I will not be running (as of this writing) the Heart of America marathon in September. The only way this would change is if I am able to hit my target weight by June 1. If not, there is always next year.
NO. I will not be running an ultra in the fall.
YES. I will do races. Which ones I do depend on how my training and weight loss goals go. As of today, though, I do not plan on anything longer than a 10K run or Sprint triathlon. Again, the only way this would change is if my goal weight is achieved. I do not, however, plan on doing anything longer than half marathon or Olympic this year even if I hit my target weight. Again, it’s just not healthy right now.
YES. I will be hitting the gym for weightlifting, spin classes, etc.
YES. I will finally start that stretching program I should have been doing all along.
YES. This is frustrating.
NO. This has nothing to do with resolutions or new years.
So anyway, if you see more of me, or (preferably) less of me in the coming months, hopefully you will now understand why. I could be at every race or none of them. Races are not important right now. And they won’t be until I’m healthy.