Back in college, I (Damon) was actually quite fast as a cross-country runner. (Basically, if you’re tall, skinny, and stubborn, you’re tailor-made for long-distance running.) Since those days, I’ve gradually gotten older, slower, and fatter (still tall, though). For example, waaaaaaaaaay back in 1992, when running cross country, I was a too-thin 125 lbs., with about 4% body fat. Fast forward 17 years to August of 2009 and I’d risen to 185 lbs. with over 30% of my body composed of fat. Wow! I’d gained 60 pounds in 17 years. At that rate, when I turn 60, I’ll be over 330 lbs!
The reason I mention August, is that when it came time to fit back into that orange-and-blue costume I wear to college football games, I had a little [ahem] trouble keeping the front snaps closed. Bending over to pickup something while seated would cause the Velcro holding my belt closed to pop open. Yikes! So, I began crash dieting.
I know, everyone says it’s unhealthy, but the way I do it is a little different. You see I gain weight because I hate being hungry. So, all I have to do is find foods that I can eat insane amounts of without gaining weight. These foods are called “vegetables.” Specifically, potatoes (don’t be scared by the high starch, the low calorie, low fat content make up for that), tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce (i.e. salad). You’d be amazed how filling 3 baked potatoes and a salad made from half a head of lettuce are. If you ate nothing but those things for a week, you’d definitely lose weight. You eat that for a month, you might lose 20 pounds… like I did.
Just weighing less isn’t enough. I need a goal that I can stubbornly stick to make it all worth while. Fitting into my alter ego’s costume is fine for football and basketball season, but I wanted something long-term, and more rewarding. Back in August, a couple of guys from my church competed in the local sprint triathlon. It’s a mini-version of a full-on Iron Man Triathlon consisting of only a 1/4 mile swim, 12 miles of cycling, and 2 miles of running. Note: Individuals and teams are welcomed – that’ll be important in a minute.
Now, I’m pretty slow as a swimmer and I’m not too comfortable on a bike. But I KNOW I can get into shape enough to run a respectable 2 miles. Fortunately, I work with a guy who swims regularly (Ed) and a guy who’s way more comfortable on two wheels (Dave) than I am. Long story short(er), we’ve decide to compete as a team in the 2010 SportsBarn/ Quintanaroo Sprint Triathlon. Woo hoo!
Now I have something to shoot for. But remember, I want to run a “respectable” time. I used to be the fastest runner on the team in college, and it would be a huge blow to my enormous ego to post some sad, slow 2-mile time. In my prime, I could run 2 miles in under 10 minutes, or 5 minutes/ mile. My goal for my 40-year-old self in August, is to run 2 miles in under 12 minutes, or 6 minutes/ mile.
As my body nears 40, I just can’t train in the reckless, pell-mell fashion I did as a 20-something. I need to be smart about this. I need to eliminate any “wasted” training time. Wasted time is time that I’m running but not getting much benefit out of it. Traditionally, I’ve trained by running a long distance over-and-over until I get progressively faster. I might’ve added a few runs of extreme distances to build my stamina, and some sprint or hill-work runs to build my strength, but the meat of the running was at the target distance. These days, I just don’t have the time or physical capacity to train that way. I need to make sure that whenever I’m running, it’s really pushing my body to be faster/ stronger… no wasted time/ effort.
So here’s my new approach. I plan to train by always running at a 6 minute/ mile pace. I’ll vary the distances I run to accommodate my ability to maintain that pace. This way, my body will always be used to running 6 minutes a mile (no getting lazy during the run). My training will focus on extending the distance I can keep up that pace.
As an added level of sophistication, I also want to train specifically for the course I’ll be running next August. So, I mapped out the course in Google Maps and divided it up into sections or “legs.” The initial phase of my training will focus on running the first leg of the course at a 6 min/ mile. pace. Then, once I achieve that, I’ll train by running both the first and second legs at the 6 min/ mile pace. I plan to repeat this, extending the amount of the course I can run at pace, until I’ve conquered the entire 2 miles.
I also created a spreadsheet detailing the elevation of the course, illustrating the amount of the course I can run at pace. As of October 15th, here’s how much of the course I’d “conquered.”
Currently, I’m very close to scaling the first big hill on the course at pace. Hopefully, I’ll defeat it within the next 2 weeks. I’ll post updated graphs as I progress.
So far, so good. After nearly two months of dieting I’ve lost close to 30 pounds. In just over a month of running, I’m only 2 seconds behind pace for the first quarter-mile of the course (which is dang good considering the monster hill it contains). As a plus, my costume fits better, I’m noticeably thinner, and I feel a lot healthier & stronger. Sweet.