Now, using the word fat is probably an exaggeration, but I’m not far off in my use of the word so hang in there with me while I explain. I’ve been a distance junkie for many, many years. I’ve run marathon after marathon, countless distances from 5k to 26.2, a dozen or so ultras (those beyond marathon distance), triathlons, ultra-swimming distances, etc. It may sound like I’m bragging, and from a “git r done” perspective, I am a little. But what I want to tell you about are my two ultimate athletic failures and what I learned from those failures.
First, in 2008, I ran 8 marathon or longer races. Some of these races were only a week apart. I was in great running shape. But I looked a little like the Pillsbury Dough (wo)man. Back then, I had no idea how or what to eat. I ate everything, anything, anytime I wanted. I was a runner! HEAR ME ROAR! When I was hungry, I was like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors. You could hear me from far distances – FEED ME! Ask my husband, he’ll back me up on this one. So failure #1 – I was a chubby distance runner.
Next, in 2015, I competed in my one and only Ironman full distance triathlon in Couer d Alene, Idaho – my only DNF (did not finish) in all the years of running, swimming, and biking. I worked with a professional coach, spent gobs of money, learned too much about heart-rate and zone training, trained so many hours that I simply cannot count them because it’s too depressing, and said no to friends and family and co-workers to anything that did not involve riding my bike 80 miles. I had no life. And again, I ate and ate and ate. I wasn’t fat like I was in 2008, but I wasn’t healthy. To be fair to myself, I was in about the best shape athletically as I’ve ever been and the thrill of completing “most” of 140.6 miles was awesome. But after the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile hilly bike ride, and 13 of the 26 miles I was to run, it was game over. I passed out and melted down and ended up in the medical tent. Why? Failure #2 – I was a disaster at understanding my nutritional needs for my lifestyle.
(Photo is from my Coeur d Alene swim with 2,300 of my Ironman buddies)
Here are the lessons I learned: 1) no matter what the books tell you, eating as much as you want and carb loading like a lunatic is NOT good for you. There are numerous sources today that give good advice on how to burn fat for fuel instead of relying upon spaghetti, cereal, pop tarts, or a loaf of bread (I’d be happy to provide in further detail for anyone who cares); 2) protein does not necessarily mean meat. I’m not evangelizing veganism here, but there are so many places to get protein in the plant world that it would rock your world if you opened your mind to new ideas. Eating a hunk of chicken or a steak with your meal is NOT necessary, and in fact, I would argue, is not a good way to get the protein you need for your well-balanced and healthy diet; and 3) fats can be something other than cooking with a ton of oil, including extra virgin olive oil, which I LOVE, but think avocado and coconut for a natural, whole food fat.
If you want to learn more or have a chat about nutrition for your lifestyle, reach out to me. I will be leading an 11-week Healthy Habits course which includes lots of good stuff about eating, beginning in March 2018. I’d love to have you on this journey with me as we work to evolve and align our habits to make our lives and hobbies like running, walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, swimming, cross-fit, knitting and so on, better. Thrive on, my friends.