Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Confessions of an Age Group Triathlete

OK, I've got to come clean about a few things. This isn't going to be pretty so if you're looking for an inspirational, happy post today, you might need to go visit Iron Benny. But I have some confessions to make...and I figure if I can say it here, then it's said, it's true and I can start the work. Please don't judge me...

First, I'm having a really, really, really hard time with my diet. I'm incredibly good at justifying everything that goes into my mouth...and if I can't justify it, then I can wait until tomorrow to be "good." And I got to tell you, the weight is right back up where I started. Seriously. I think I need to wire my jaw shut. Or hire a personal chef like Oprah did. Losing weight is the ONE thing in my life that I have NEVER succeeded at. I've gotten to within 15 lbs. of a goal weight but finishing that last bit has never happened. And truthfully, I'm feeling ready to give up. I'm healthy, I've got a strong fitness base, maybe my body was just meant to be this weight. Right? NO. F'ING. WAY. Not possible. I just can't accept that...

So I've been thinking a lot about what motivates me. When it comes to exercise, I'm good - I like the endorphins, I feel good during and afterward, I can see gains in my strength and speed from week to week... And I imagine how strong and fast I'd be if I weren't carrying around this extra 60 lbs. Try loading a backpack with 60 lbs. and running 6 miles with it. I CAN DO IT. I do it every day that I work out... and I know that I'm doing damage to my hips, knees, and ankles...even though I'm not hurting. It's just inevitable that things will start to break down eventually. And the older I get, the harder it's going to be to change things. That's just fact... nature...

I started training for triathlon to have a goal to work toward but the bigger reason was to get healthy. So why is there such a huge disconnect between my weight, my health and what goes into my mouth? It just makes no sense that I'm missing the cause and effect of it all. UGH. total frustration.

I don't want to take diet drugs to help me lose weight. Even to help me START to lose weight. I don't want to hurt my body by trying Slim Fast or any other of those fad diets. But I'm hurting my body by NOT losing the weight. Why can't I just DECIDE to stick to a plan and get it done? Because I'm afraid of failing...again. I'm sidetracked before I even begin because I don't believe I can do it. Where to find that confidence? I've found it in my career, in my training, in my relationship...why is it missing when it comes to my weight? Don't answer that. It's rhetorical. I just needed to see it written down...

OK, so along the lines of weight...what's the purpose behind having a Clydesdale and Athena class in triathlon? My next confession - not since my sophmore year in high school have I been able to claim non-Athena status...yet I've NEVER entered myself as an Athena athlete in any tri I've ever done. It just seems like to place as an Athena is somehow less than placing as a non-athena. Like, "Oh, you won...but you won among the FATTIES. In relation to everyone ELSE, you didn't come CLOSE to placing." Where did I get this attitude? Know that IN NO WAY do I intend to put down athletes in this category...I'm a full 46 lbs. into it... but I certainly have a negative attitude about it, don't I? So here I'm thinking it's probably not the best thing to have negative thoughts ABOUT MYSELF. Pretty counterproductive, don't you think? Maybe I should embrace the Athena category. Maybe. But I'd still want to work to get out of the category. Does anyone know why it was created? Seriously? It just seems like a weird thing... I know in crew and wrestling there are different weight it supposed to be along those lines? because if you're big, even if you're not FAT, you're going to be slower overall? That doesn't seem accurate. I'd love to know: 1.) if you're an athena or clydesdale athlete, do you race as one? if yes, why? if no, why not? And 2.) Why were those categories designated? Does anyone know?

So I'm not sure how I'm going to move forward thru this. My training is going great so I'll keep that up but I HAVE to figure out how to manage my food intake. I don't want to be this heavy...I'm tired of my clothes not fitting. I want to LOOK like the triathlete I've become. For ME. I need to find some motivation...and some patience.

My last confession: I got a copy of Going Long for Christmas from my mom. I've read the first chapter. Three times. Does that mean I have to hand over my permit to tri? I just can't seem to stay awake... What's UP with that?

OK, I feel a little bit unburdened. Thanks for slogging thru the tome. I hate to complain...I'm just feeling kind of hopeless about it. I hope someday soon I can look back at this post and remember 196 lbs. as a thing of the past. I DO want to succeed.

6 mile run at 75% HR Max on tap for this evening - 60 lb. pack and all. It's going to be 70˚F and I can't wait.

Train hard...


Blogger Joe said...

Wow...a stunning post.

I have some suggestions. You've probably heard these all before but just in case, I'm repeating them.

First, for the next few days, why don't you keep track of what you are eating and post it here, much like Lisa does on her blog. That will serve two purposes. First, other people may be able to spot things and make recommendations like "you're taking too much time between meals and your metabolism is shutting down". Second, it might make you more likely to eat your vegies (or whatever healthy food your not eating enough of) because people will be scrutinizing what you eat. Obviously, keeping this log is a hassle so maybe just try it for a few weeks.

Switch to brown rice and whole pasta instead of white rice and white pasta. Once you acquire a taste for that stuff, you won't want to go back. White rice and pasta taste awful to me now.

Drink lots of water and eat bran cereal. It helps to keep things moving down below.

Drink green tea. Supposedly, it speeds up the metabolism.

Eat breakfast. Supposedly, it speeds up the metabolism. If you skip breakfast, your body shuts down the metabolism because it thinks you are fasting.

Eat shit loads of broccoli. Its good for you, extremely filling and has very few calories.

Eat less cheese.

Go in the hot tub right after your swim practice. It's harder to lose weight by swimming than it is by running. You can compensate for this somewhat by getting your body really hot right after swimming.

11:03 AM GMT-5

Blogger TriSaraTops said...

Wow, Spence. Amazing post. I am with you on so many levels here. I have struggled with my weight and the image of what it "should" be my entire life. It continues to be a daily struggle, as anyone who's ever had an eating disorder will tell you. I was active as you are and still had trouble losing weight. I found Weight Watchers to be the healthiest thing I could find out there, and on a recommendation from a friend, went to a meeting. I credit it with really helping me lose weight I had almost accepted I would never lose. It taught me portion control, which was the hardest thing for me to learn.

I'm 146-148 now, so if Athena's 140 I qualify and I used to qualify all the time. But I never signed up. Not once. I feel, which I know isn't right, the same way you did--that it would make a "victory" less of a victory. I don't feel this way anymore--it DOES make sense that if you are taller, more muscular, whatever, that it IS more accurate to pace yourself against people of like body type. I will never EVER be a 120 pound gazelle. :) But I feel like I'm finally almost at peace with my body. Almost.

Hang in there. You are very inspiring to all of us!!!

11:09 AM GMT-5

Blogger TriSaraTops said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:36 PM GMT-5

Blogger Flatman said...

Saratops is right, you are an inspiration to all of us and lots of us are in the same boat. I have been (and I mean always) over "my" ideal weight (what I think I should weight). Up until a couple of years ago, I was WAY over it. I have lost most of my weight but the last 10-15 pounds are eating my lunch, no pun intended. :)

I have yet to find the magic solution. I know that consistency is the main ingredient and I have done so much better with my training, but I have a hard time on the diet front like you. It doesn't help to have a wife that can eat anything she wants and still weighs the same as she did in high school... I have got to be stronger and just say no to the unhealthy choices.

Thanks for bringing up a subject that most of us don't like to think about....

Now, let's get to it!!!

1:06 PM GMT-5

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to know some are going through the same stuff as I am. great post

1:25 PM GMT-5

Blogger Bolder said...

i'm always reluctant to chime in on this subject because i am genetically lean compared to the average person. but, at the same time, my first step was to drop 10% of my body weight to start my ironman journey, and avoid the weighted-down backpack that you describe.

so, i'm going to share what works for me, and hope that one part of it helps you.

i start off by thinking what i would do if i owned a kentucky derby winning gazillion dollar race horse... what would i feed it, how would i take care of it.

would i give it the best food, love, and the best training? absolutely. if i would do that for just a horse, why would i not do that for me.

i've decided that i am -- TO ME -- a gazillion dollar race horse that is worth investing in. even though i will not win an Ironman -- TO ME -- i am worth the investment... this is the most important first step, believing in investing in you.

Ask yourself in you believe you are worth the investment?

Next, given I believe that I am worth the investment, then I believe you need to be knowledgeable about 'food as fuel'... the core of what i eat is to power me through workouts, with mild rewards (100g of chocolate) built in that is within my caloric guidelines.

I've journalled my food in, and as well brought Tanita into my life to become knowledgeable.

For me, Chris Carmichael's 'Eat Right to Train Right' answered those questions for me. As a poor TdF racer, Chris's movitation for 'food as fuel' was budget.

Find what works for you.

finally, the key to my eating poorly is based on how the bad foods get physically into my hands, my home. when i am at my beloved Safeway, i don't run down the cookie aisle trying to avoid it, my 'shop thought' is food for fuel, and cookies won't cut it. so, they are just not an option.

ok, really finally, once you've lost your health, in my opinion, you've lost everything -- nothing else matters -- i have witnessed it first hand, and want to do everything in my power (maximizing organic milks and meats, ...) to ensure I do everything within reason that i can.

I'm going to continue exploring this in future posts, as my focus is on 'Power to Weight'. But, the first step was Weight, and now I am on to Power.

You can do it.

2:29 PM GMT-5

Blogger Spence said...

Ya'll are makin' me weepy. Such good thoughts... Of course I should feed myself as well as a horse...this is all so helpful and hopeful... Thanks guys...

2:44 PM GMT-5

Blogger nancytoby said...

Yes, I race as an Athena. While I'm not a fan of the nomenclature, I do support the idea of weight-class competition in all types of athletics. They have weight classes to provide a competitive opportunities for people of low body weights in wrestling, martial arts, weightlifting, bodybuilding, etc., in sports where body weight represents a competitive advantage. Why not support competitive opportunities for people of higher body weights in sports where weight is a competitive disadvantage? It's only fair.

Editorially, I believe that often, when there is opposition to weight classes for larger athletes, it boils down to simple prejudice against people of higher body weights. I just don't understand that. If people don't want to compete in weight classes, then by all means, don't!

On the weight - you know what to do if you want to do it. Of course you do. Just be kind to yourself in the process. Weight is NOT an ethical issue. :-)

3:24 PM GMT-5

Blogger jameson said...

yeah... what bolder said. you can do it!

11:54 PM GMT-5

Blogger Nick said...

I think it should be said that you are obviously heading in the right direction! It's not easy, anyone who says so is the exception rather than the rule, and you should be nicer to yourself in recognition of this. You just have to be determined to make steady progress, and be ok with the fact that it won't happen overnight, swimming should convince you of that!

If it means that you have to re-commit yourself every morning to making progress, that's what it will take. You don't have to immolate yourself if you veer off the path once in a while either - just get back on with it and keeping heading in the right direction.

If you go to Gordo's website, you will encounter a character called KP, who in many ways is as remarkable and inspirational as Gordo. He has (or used to have) a slogan that I like - "Keep it rolling". That's all you have to do, and enjoy the ride.

UK Weaselboy

4:00 AM GMT-5

Blogger Chris said...

Sorry to hear that you're having such troubles with your nutrition.
Like Bolder, I'm generally not *too* heavy even during the off-season,
but I can still relate to what you're going through. Nutrition is an
entirely different beast than the other three things that we train for.
And it's something that many of us (my included) struggle with the most.
I can honestly say that it's easier for me to workout three hours a day
than it is to regulate what I eat. That's just the way by brain is
wired for whatever reason.

You might want to skip ahead in Going Long to the nutrition chaper.
Gordo does have some good things to say about nutrition and how it
relates to the athlete. One of the things that's always sort of stuck
in my head is the notion that "how we look today is a result of
thousands of decisions that we made in the past, but how we look
tomorrow is a result of what we choose right now!" You can't do
anything to instantly fix those decisions that were made long ago, but
you can make better decisions every day.

Best of luck with everything! Know that there are others out there that
have your same struggles. We're right beside you and you're definitely
not alone!

9:08 AM GMT-5

Blogger jp said...

Hey there Spence,

First, thanks for sharing your struggle. I think its great to have the strength to be so honest about your challenges.

If it helps at all, I've struggled with the same weakness myself. Since Sept 05, I've dropped 35 lbs, but I have 15 to go and I'm stuck. Yesterday, I completely cracked and ate a cheeseburger for lunch and 3 hot dogs for dinner (!). What the hell, right?? So, you're not alone in having a love/hate relationship with food. It really is a struggle day by day to eat the right fact, its harder in alot of ways for me then actual workouts.

Here's what I'm trying to do to stay on track. A lot of this has been repeated, so forgive me if it's redundant.

1) get rid of all the bad stuff in the house. If its not there you can't eat it.

2) keep a food journal that counts calories for you (like or LOG EVERYTHING YOU EAT OR DRINK. If it helps, post your meals on your blog...the sense of being accountable may help.

3)allow yourself one day a week to eat what you want. I do this on a weekend day...usually when i do my long run.

4) buy a food scale if you don't have one. Relearn what you know about portion size.

5) if you crack (like I did yesterday), just put it behind you and move on.


I'll be checking your blog for updates. Hang in there. Just take it one day at a time. I know you can do it!!

1:16 PM GMT-5

Blogger E-Speed said...

first of all the whole athena thing is crap. i don't know many normal women who come close to weighing less than 140, I mean give me a break!

Second of all weight loss is tough. And obviously we are all struggling with how to get to an "ideal" weight.

I think as long as you continue along the healthy path of excercise and keep struggling you will find a balance that works for you.

I have been blessed with a high metabolism but when I was just training recreationally I put on a good 25 pounds. Tri training is one of the healthiest ways to keep off the unhealthy pounds!

You'll get where you want to be! I have faith in you!

2:51 PM GMT-5

Blogger tarheeltri said...

Because of the average persons ability to ride longer than they can run or swim, cycling is the best way to lose weight. And, you really only have to do it once a week. A 3-hour ride once a week while focusing on your diet is the perfect combo. Eat great Monday through Friday, then go for at least a 3-hour ride on Saturday, eat whatever the heck you want on Saturday, then eat semi-healthy on Sunday and get back to the super healthy diet Monday through Friday. I liken it to my "diet work week".

I lost more weight following this routine than tri-training.

Triathlon training is a double-edged sword for those trying to lose weight. It raises your DAILY caloric need so HIGH its almost impossible to eat right.

I know you like swimming, so if I were you, I'd only swim during the week and do a long ride on the weekend. When you find healthy foods you enjoy eating, then venture back into triathlons.

By the way, you should be "perimeter shopping" at the store. All the fresh foods are on the perimeter of the store. Only venture into the center aisles for cereals and pastas and pasta sauce.

You can do this!

10:31 PM GMT-5


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