Monday, November 5, 2007

Feed Me Seymour!

I feel like a bottomless pit. Nay, my stomach feels like a bottomless pit. This is absolute madness. Is this part of the "tapering" deal? Or is it pre-race "fight or flight" jitters that are propelling me to consume large quantities of food? Because the "flight" part really isn't much of an option at this junction (point can be taken either from the perspective that I'm racing this weekend, no "ifs" "ands" or "buts" or that I've just about eaten my weight in food and am not able to get my sorry rear off the ground to fly away. You pick!) In all reality, I suppose it's a bit of both. My body is prepping for what it knows will be an upcoming test while at the same time, doing high intensity bursts of speed - and trying to fuel properly, take in, maintain, and recover all at once. A lot of demand for one body. So it responds by growling and demanding more!

You may remember from a previous blog post that I'm not the "typical" long/lean/thin triathlete. The Football player shoulders, rower back, and Eastern European upper body (chest, mostly) are great for bursts of speed during short distances, but aren't the most useful tool for endurance events. Picture for a moment Gimly (dwarf in "Lord of the Rings") and Legolas (the tall, slender elf). I'm Gimly. Well, I used to be. Deadly over short distances! Let's just say that while retaining elements of Gimly, I've tried to turn into Legolas. So there you have it: short, barrel chested, determined, but with better endurance.

Keeping that in mind, when I don't watch what I eat, or note my portion sizes, I'll gain weight (most of us do). When training, it's usually not a big deal. Off season is the time I have to buckle down (let's face it, no one wants to continue working off their holiday weight gain in mid-June!). This past season was a little different for me.

Before the season started, I visited a nutritionist who asked me to keep track of everything I consumed over a 3-5 day period. Being the diligent and slightly compulsive student of the sport I am, I kept track of foods, portion sizes, and approximate calorie values. After going over the initial results, we found that most of my calories were in the form of simple or complex carbohydrates. I was GREAT with breads, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, and all kinds of fruits. Yay for me. It was just way too much for my body to handle. (No more Peanut Butter Toasted English Muffins right before bed or bottomless bowls of pasta!) I just wasn't getting enough veggies, dairy, or protein in my diet. So after implementing a few well-placed suggestions, keeping a long of my new nutrition strategy, I noticed a big improvement in how I felt, and I was able to drop a few pounds that I thought would never go away (just goes to show what eating too many processed foods can do, even if they were whole grains!). I felt great, I looked great, and the quality of my workouts started getting better and better.

One of the biggest points my nutritionist made to me, was portion control. I tend to be a bit of an over eater - and food is a real source of pleasure for me. The nutritionist suggested that I cut back a little on the carbohydrates (especially during the off season when I didn't need them as much), and instead vamp up the veggies, dairy, and protein. When my training began in earnest, I kept the level of non-carbs the same, but gradually increased my carbohydrate intake to match my work load. On longer training days, I ate as much as I felt, while on shorter, I didn't need as much to keep me satisfied. I kept a food journal and gradually began (in earnest) to understand how my body functioned, what kinds of foods worked, what was good, bad, how much I needed, when it was too much/too little - and I believe that I'm a smarter athlete because of it. And I'm not lugging around an extra 10 pounds.

These past few weeks, everything that I thought I knew, has just about gone out the window.

Feed Me Seymour!

At this point, my stomach is like the man-eating plant in "Little Shop of Horrors".

I just can't get enough food. And the more I eat, the hungrier I am. Bonus - if I don't eat enough, I loose weight, which at this point is NOT what I want. Not that I'll ever worry about being to slim (I happen to enjoy food too much for that), but not exactly want while approaching a big race. So now I find myself snacking at night on - oatmeal, bread, cereal... all the things I tried to avoid because my body didn't need them. Well, that was then. And now, well - my stomach is in control. But it obviously has some kind of idea and knows a little about what it's doing - because the quality of my morning workouts has gotten better (or maybe that's just my tapered body). Now that I'm in my final few days, the early stuff won't be happening all that much any more - but my body is still demanding fuel.

Feed Me Seymour!

Unfortunately, when I'm hungry, I can also get a bit, er, cranky. Nathaniel, bless his heart (I can't believe I actually wrote that Southern phrase in my blog! My Minnesota heritage would be shocked!) - does his best to deal with me. He doesn't say much, while I'm banging through the fridge or raiding the pantry to look for the granola. He just calmly gets out of the way, steps aside, and tentatively asks if he can help. He knows me well enough to brush these incidents aside, but a few manic looks from me and he'll usually get completely out of the picture. Poor guy - he puts up with the crazy sport and my crazy antics for so long, and then to have me, no MY STOMACH act up like this in the final days before the end of my season - well, it's a little much for anyone to handle. But he's doing great.

Feed Me Seymour!

So there I am: hungry, cranky (because I haven't eaten substantially in an hour), and worried that we'll run out of granola bars. It's a never ending battle, I tell you. And the weird part about this, is that eating like this is SO against my instinct. I don't deny myself food: I've bonked once, thank-you-very-much, and don't wish for a repeat. It's just that in a sport where the lean and naturally thin have an apparent advantage (remember, from the vantage point of Endurance crazy Gimly the dwarf!) over the rest of the field, my instinct this season has been to really watch my intake, monitor my food, and deny myself the calories that I don't need.

Feed Me Seymour!

I guess that's why this is so different for me. For the first time in my season, I'm actually letting go and eating as much as I want and not gaining weight. If I don't, I'm afraid I'll turn into the man-eating plant, and suddenly we'll be down a cat or so (Sorry Tabbitha, but you're back up to 18 pounds, surely enough to keep me sustained for a few hours).

It just goes to show that you can journal, prepare, plan, monitor, and track all you want. You think that you know yourself really well, and then out of left field; BAM, a completely new sensation. I've never done a race like this before, racing at a world championships. It's new and uncharted territory for me. Which just goes to show that I'll need to expect the unexpected. And a little more pasta, please!

Feed Me Seymour!

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