Saturday, November 27, 2010

God Damn I'm Fat!

I jumped on the scale the other day and saw the bad news.


It was the end of the day and I was wearing clothes, but lets not split hairs here. I'm fat again. I've always struggled with my weight. I've also had it in control from time to time and been in great shape. I dialed back the food and increased my output a bit and was at 205 a couple mornings later. Lets call that the starting point: 205 pounds. If I plan to run a marathon in 2011 that is going to have to change. Sure, I can probably complete a marathon either way. But all that training, and the marathon itself, will be much more enjoyable if I'm not lugging a tire around with me on my midsection. I just glanced at the novice marathon training program I mentioned the other day from Hal Higdon. Once I start the program I will run 426 miles leading up to the marathon, not counting the 26.2 mile race itself. Wouldn't it be nice if I could do all that running 20 pounds lighter? 

Well, I can. I've done it before. 

When I first started running I weighed 215. I commuted by bicycle mostly, and I surfed a little, so I was relatively active compared to some people. But I also ate like crap, threw back gin and tonics like they were water, and sat at a computer the rest of the time. When I started to run, I could barely run a block. I would jog a tiny little bit and then huff and puff while I walked for 10 minutes to recover. After I moved to Santa Cruz, I kept with it. Eventually, I built up to where my regular run was about 10k. It was amazing the changes to my fitness. My asthma all but went away. I even lost some weight. I was hovering around 200 pounds or a bit more. But there it got stuck. I thought things were fantastic. I enjoyed running and I had dropped 15 pounds from my peak. What could be better? I was dating the wonderful woman who would become my wife and I was in the best shape I'd been in in years. Sure, I was still heavy. But not nearly as bad as it had been.

But then then at our wedding an old friend showed up. He had dropped a ton of weight, and was talking about the biochemistry behind the Atkins Diet. I had completely ignored the diet at the time, as I was a vegetarian. "What kind of stupid diet says you should only eat meat?" was my opinion. But, my friend was a vegetarian. He was more strict at it that I was (I had recently started eating sustainable seafood).  So I bought the book and gave it a read. Say what you want about the pop culture aspect of the Low Carb diets, there is a ton of evidence that supports them (and some that does not). 

Boiled down to its basic terms, simple carbohydrates make you fat and hungry. Insulin is required by the mechanism by which our body stores fat. The crash that extra insulin causes after carbs are burned and stored makes us hungry. Avoiding the insulin response to a carb spike makes it so that your body cannot store fat, and it keeps you from feeling hungry for a long time. So, I started eating as low as I could on the Glycemic Index just to see what would happen. I'd eat a 3 egg omelet for breakfast, a good salad for lunch with tofu for protein and seafood for dinner. Each meal had protein, and I was getting plenty of veggies. I avoided potatoes, rice, sugar and bread like they were poison. But I ate all I wanted. I never let myself go hungry or counted calories. 

I dropped 30 pounds in about 4 months without feeling hungry. I went from nearly 60 minutes for a 10k training run to a personal best of 44:22 in a 10k race, and completed my first half marathon at 1:47 (still my PR). I kept the weight off for a couple years too.  

So what the hell happened?

Things change. We moved to Vancouver. Had a child. Running became less of a focus, and the occasional pizza sure did hit the spot. And who can resist a muffin with their coffee? And it sure is cold and wet and dark up here in the Winter. Who has time to run in the Winter? We had another kid. Our lives are busy. Toast is a fine snack. Granola is a perfectly good breakfast. Followed by a carb-laden burrito for lunch and pasta or pizza for dinner. Dont forget the ice cream! 

The saying "everything in moderation" is a good guide. But moderation can creep up on you. Here I am: almost back to the weight I was at 12 years ago, before I took up running. Bread, rice, sugar: I'm convinced these are mostly to blame. It is time to turn that around. I've dropped the simple carbs. I'm eating a lot of salad, vegetables, eggs,  fish and some fruit. It feels good so far. The other morning the scale said 195. It could be a general fluctuation or water weight, but it is encouraging. Ten pounds is a good start, but I'm still fat.

How low can I go?

It will be no problem to drop another 10 pounds, but that isn't enough. I would love to drop 20 pounds, but I know that will be tough: it has been a long time since I weighed 175. I went down to 169 at my lowest (and fastest). So it isn't impossible. 180 seems like a reasonable target.

I'm throwing down the gauntlet! I will weigh 180 pounds by February 15th. That will be a reduction of 30 pounds from what I weighed recently, lost in roughly 3 months, during Christmas cookie season...

Let's see how I do. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Looking ahead.

It has been a hard couple months, as we've been coping with a death in the family. Haven't felt much like blogging about my running. But, I'm starting run a bit and I've been thinking about the future.

I'm hoping to finally do a marathon this year. It is something I've wanted to do since I started running, and keep not doing. It is understandable that I haven't, as there will be a big commitment in training and focus, and it is easy for the truly important things in life to take precedent. I know people do it, but I haven't been willing to put in that kind of time with the busy life we've had. Raising young kids is a marathon in itself, and time away just makes it all that much harder on the family. It seems selfish to set aside a day that includes a 4 hour run and hours of recovery, much less to fit in multiple workouts in a week. But life is a precious and limited resource. I''' be 42 years old after January and have yet to put myself to the 42km test. Running 1/4th of that tires me out these days and I'm hauling around way more weight than I should be.

Life could still get in the way, but I'm going to try. I did some googling on marathon training, and it seems the Hal Higdon plans are very popular. Their novice program looks really good. But it is 18 weeks with only Mondays and Fridays for rest.

No matter how I look at that graph, it seems a daunting time commitment. Most of this I can do as morning runs before work. But, in the last couple months Wednesdays will require a bit more time than that. Weeks 13 and 15 looks brutal. Cross training on Sundays seems terrible. Maybe I can swap Monday and Sunday: rest on Sundays with the Family and do cross training at the gym on Mondays.

I haven't yet decided which marathon I will do. I'll need to sort it out pretty quick so I don't wind up with less that 18 weeks to train.

Marathon, here I come. 2011 is the year.