Saturday, February 23, 2013

Conflict in Crazytown

It's been about a month since my decision to stop trying to lose weight. It's been a challenge. After a lifetime of stepping on the scale each morning hoping for a lower number, although I haven't been trying to lose weight anymore, I've still felt a ripple of disappointment each day I stepped on and it wasn't lower. Still, I continued to target a minimum of 2000 calories and watched the scale cautiously, the numbers would pop up, then down, then up, then down. I had chosen a weight to represent my 'red line': the number at which I had to take action to keep from galloping back up to 255 lbs.

A week or so into the food, I red lined. My rational self suggested that this was because I'd eaten dinner late the night before. But I wasn't taking any chances. I cut to < 1200 calories. I returned to life as a hungry miserable grump. Good times. The next day, I was back in the safe zone on the scale, and with a new maximum: 1800. And I continued to feel that disappointment of maintaining - even though that was my goal. Conflict.

Then I red lined again. This time, I told myself we were going to continue on and wait and see what the scale said the next day before we took action. I was still on a post-race high. I was trying to honour the advice of my nutritionist. But I argued with myself all day over whether it was the right decision. Crazytown. Yes. I'm talking about myself as though there's more than one of me. Maybe there is. Me, the athlete wannabe. Me, the scale obsessed food Nazi. Conflict.

I managed to stay away from my red line in the week or so that followed but still felt very discontented with my body. It just wasn't right. Wasn't good. Too soft. Too squooshy. Not what I had envisioned. I had decided to focus on performance goals and reducing body fat but the absence of objective, immediate feedback was weighing heavy - that and the unhappiness with what I saw in the mirror. So that's how I found myself standing in front of my husband, grumbling about my body and voicing the thought that had been rolling around upstairs "maybe I should lose another 10 lbs".

Him: What do you weigh right now?
Me: 131
Him: So go to 120

Let me just offer a piece of advice to folks out there... When your partner stands before you after a 124 lb weight loss and says perhaps they should lose another 10, suggesting 11...? No. Maybe they do need to lose 11. Maybe they need to lose 111. But you're not the person to be suggesting that.

In all fairness to my husband, we have debriefed this little episode and he claims I misunderstood. That he meant "so go to 120" as a question. Not a directive. Or a request. Im willing to give him the benefit of the doubt but of course, now that there's doubt, I'm up to my neuroses in conflict. Trying to decide if its better to be a smart-eating, hard-training, flabby athlete or a hungry, weak, half-assed training skinny chick. You'd think by the adjectives I chose there, I'd have made up my mind for the former. But no. Conflict. Crazytown. Population: 1.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Race Report: Vancouver "First Half" Half Marathon

Yesterday was race day for me: the Vancouver First Half Half Marathon.

My good friend and running buddy, who I've done most of my races with and all of the "big" ones, is on a bit of a hiatus from running at the moment so race morning was a little different, getting myself organized with no one to message/Facebook about the event. Thank God for Twitter to keep me entertained (distracted?) while I ate breakfast. This has become my pre-long run staple: oatmeal with almond butter stirred in, and a sliced banana. Fabulous. And coffee.

Normally before a race, a couple of old friends drop by the night before to offer their own special brand of encouragement. They hadn't shown up the night before, and weren't even by the morning of while I was getting ready. Where were they? I began to worry. And then they turned up on the drive in. My good friends Nervousness and Self-Doubt. I was wondering where they had gotten to!

Hubby dropped me at the start while he went to find parking. Actually, he dropped me at the porta-potties beside the start line, and they were, oddly enough for 30 minutes before start-time, completely desserted. I popped into one and emerged as though from a time machine, to long line-ups. I swear I was not in there that long. This is really just to illustrate what a trendsetter I am.

It was a gorgeous sunny Vancouver day. The weather report had promised nothing but sunshine. No worries about keeping dry, or even working hard to stay that warm - once you get going. Here I am huddled with my daughter before it's time to be herded into the start corral. Keeping warm in my husband's jacket. I love him.

I head in to every race hoping to PR. My best half marathon time was set 3 months prior, at 2:25:35. And this new PR was a huge gain for me. My previous best Half time was 2:45:14 so that was an improvement of nearly 20 minutes. I hoped to finish under 2:25 but didn't think taking a ton of time off was possible, given the big drop a few months prior. Plus I had dropped a couple of 5-lb dumbbells on my foot in November and had to take three weeks off running. Then I had surgery in January and missed a long run. Still, the goal tacked up on my bulletin board for this one was 2:10-2:25. My first goal was to get under 2:25. My second was to beat superwoman and local runner Betty Jean McHugh, whose best time for this race is 2:27. And oh yeah, she's in her 80s.

I started out, a little on the fast side, but feeling comfortable, loving the weather and that calm feeling that washes over me as soon as the start gun goes and we're off running. At about the 5K mark, I did the math and thought for sure I would come in on the low end of my goal time but wondered if I could sustain the pace I was running at. Around that time, a dozen seagulls decided to take flight from the grass beside me. A bird swarming. I have a bird phobia. This was the low point of the race, I put my arms around my head, kept running, and was sure had I not had ear-buds in that I would have heard a chorus of "Mine. Mine. Mine."

When I hit the 10K timing mat, my Garmin said 1:01:15 - which is faster than I have ever run 10K before. Ever. I thought to myself "I'm going to kill my time. I am a BEAST. I'm going to eat a hamburger tonight - and eat both sides of the bun!" That last part was totally the endorphins talking.

With about 6K to go, still feeling really comfortable, I realized I was probably going to finish better than the low end of my goal time. I'd been doing the math all the way through the run and kept coming in at under 2:10 but telling myself that I would probably slow down in the second half. But that didn't happen. I just felt awesome. And strong. Coming up the short hill in the last kilometre to the finish, I thanked GEB and Hammond (my hill training nemeses) and powered past the people ahead of me. Here I am coming into the finish, big smile because I am so happy with my time.

So what was my time? Official chip time: 2:07:45. I felt like a friggin' rock star.
(Superwoman and octogenarian BJ McHugh finished in 2:32. She's my hero.)

I'm pretty surprised to have taken close to 18 minutes off of a time that was a 19-minute PR just a few short months ago. Especially since I'd lost some training time, a long run, and reduced the number of days a week I run in order to accommodate Half Ironman training and be a little kinder to my knees. I have concluded there are 2 things contributing to this:
1) Running the 5K time trial with the tri-club I joined, and pushing to try and crank out a sub-30 5K (first ever) caused me to question some of the limits I had placed on myself. I'd never be able to run a sub-30 5K. And then I did. And the self-talk becomes: You can do it. Are you willing to work for it?

2) FOOD. Average daily calories in the weeks leading up to the November half marathon were 800-1100. Average calories in the last 2 weeks prior to this one: 1800-2000. If someone had told me that I could improve my race times by eating more, I'd have dismissed the idea out of hand. This is very tied up with the challenge of living on the "other side" of weight loss for me. I'm trying to focus on body composition changes (getting leaner) and performance goals, and that requires more food. But 20+ years of working to lose weight have trained me to restrict and that less is better. It's a different world. But like running a sub-30 5K and setting a new benchmark for what's possible, hopefully these experiences will help me to eat the damn food without worrying that disaster is looming.

Next race to be conquered: Vancouver Marathon.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Eat: Pumpkin Oat Pancakes

I have been craving pancakes for months. I don't know why because I'm not a pancake-aholic or anything. Normally, I could take 'em or leave 'em. But for many months, I've just been Jonesing for a warm, yummy pile of pancakes & syrup. But over those same many months, I've been holding to two starch servings a day so I wasn't inclined to give 'em both up on pancakes. Like I said, I'm not a pancake-aholic. But now that I'm trying to eat more (more details here), satisfying that craving became a possibility. Part of the challenge in beginning to eat more, along with worrying about exploding back to my former size, is ensuring that I continue to make really good choices nutrition wise and not just supplement my former regime with more calories spent on junk. So that, coupled with a heartsick longing for pumpkin spice lattes, sent me searching for a recipe that would offer pancakey, pumpkiny goodness that was healthy too. Hint: I added oats to my search strings to avoid fluffy white flour pancakes with a whisper of pumpkin. That led me to Caroline's recipe which I adapted to suit my own needs: different yogurt, more pumpkin, whole eggs, more oats... you get the idea. The result was a tastey, dense pancake, tangy from the Greek yogurt and not at all sweet. Next time, I think I might try grating an apple into the batter.

142g container of Greek yogurt, honey flavoured (vanilla would work too)
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup old-fashioned oats

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. The batter will be thick. Spray your hot griddle with non-stick spray or olive oil mist. Drop batter onto griddle. Cook about 4 minutes/side, turning once.

I enjoyed with chopped pecans and maple syrup.

Serves 2, 3 pancakes each.

I plugged my ingredients in to LiveStrong and come out at 307 calories per serving but I encourage you to calculate your own version based on the brands & quantities you use.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

Eat: Curried Lentils, Sweet Potatoes & Chard

Experimenting in the kitchen, with a goal of finding ways to eat more veggies, more whole foods, make healthier food choices in general, and find new favorites has been an important part of my weight loss success - particularly in the last 6 months. Here's a new combination I came up with tonight. I'm trying to boost my iron intake, without eating more red meat, and my nutritionist suggested lentils. Also high in iron: dark, leafy greens and raisins. This recipe was my starting point but I ended up changing ingredients, quantities and well - the whole flavour profile. The final product is a delicious, wholesome redefinition of comfort food. I think this would also be great with some toasted almonds and/or a bit of shredded coconut sprinkled on top.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 small sweet potatoes, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
4 big stalks of rainbow chard, tough stems removed, leaves chopped
1 cup green lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins

Heat oil in a medium-large pot. Add onion, carrots, celery & sweet potatoes - adding to pot as you chop. Saute about 6 minutes after the last of the veggies hit the pot. Add garlic & chard and stir until the chard begins to wilt. Add lentils & broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes. Add curry powder, salt & raisins. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then dig in.

Serves 4.

I plugged my ingredients in to LiveStrong and come out at 394 calories per bowl but I encourage you to calculate your own version based on the brands & quantities you use.