My Dry Year: Third Quarter Report

Standard

Now that I’m three-quarters of the way through my New Year’s resolution to not drink alcohol in 2014, it’s time for a quick update to the “Dry Year” thread of this blog.

SCF last drink

First of all, I’m very proud to report that I am still dry and I don’t miss drinking.  It’s true that I missed it early on, had mild withdrawal symptoms the first few weeks, and even had a nightmare in which I broke my resolution by inadvertently drinking a glass of wine. It also took longer than I had expected to develop the new habit of not drinking.

By the end of May, I had already achieved my goal weight and lost a total of 30 pounds (when you include the 7 pounds I lost last year). I explained exactly how I did it in this blog post.Although I had a few challenges along the way, I’m pleased to report that four months later, I am holding steady at 135 pounds, which is a few pounds below the goal weight I had set for myself.

June 2014 (after) CROPPED

In the first half of the year, I had also already achieved my personal record (or “PR”) marathon time. How I did that is explained here. It should be no surprise that, just as I had predicted early on, losing so much weight was the biggest contributor.

SCF with pace group

After achieving these two main goals so early in the year, I wrestled with the question of whether or not I want to start drinking again when 2015 rolls around. In the end, I decided that I want to have a glass of very nice champagne at midnight this coming New Year’s Eve and then play it by ear after that.

I also decided to add a stretch goal into the mix for the second half of 2014: qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  My first “BQ” attempt — as qualifying for the Boston Marathon is known to avid runners — on my 46th birthday in July was a real disaster. Despite that, it was an unforgettable experience to cross the finish line with a very close friend, no matter how long it took us.

This brings us to today.  This morning, I completed my last race of the season by trying one more time to BQ. I was very happy with my training plan, picked a course that had a nice sloping downhill, went to the race properly hydrated and fueled, and even wore a temporary tattoo with my mile-by-mile race plan on my forearm. All signs pointed to a great day on the course.

What was the result? I really killed the first half of the race, achieving a PR half-marathon time of 01:51:55 and stayed on my planned pace through 20 miles. Then, it got very hot and I started to slow and I worried that I might over-heat. Although I didn’t qualify for Boston, I am extremely proud of myself for pushing through the last several miles to the finish line and cutting another 19 minutes off my best marathon time.

887_Marathon_283 (Clarence Demar - Keene - 09-28-14)

As far as qualifying for Boston is concerned, that’s a goal I will happily carry with me into 2015. If you have any other ideas for New Year’s resolutions for 2015 for me, please leave those as comments to today’s blog post.

Lose Weight, Run Faster

Standard

As you can imagine, taking alcohol off the table is a good first step for both my diet and training goals. I’m encouraged that I lost 6 pounds so quickly and also that I felt great on my 6 mile run earlier today. In this post, I focus on two questions. Exactly how does alcohol impact diet and exercise? And, given my two ambitious goals, where do I start?

This article is a great summary of the detrimental effects consuming alcohol can have to your body and diet. In a nut shell, the human body has trouble processing alcohol, because it contains a bunch of calories with no nutritional value. This can slow your metabolism and contribute to weight gain, not to mention the direct effects of consuming all of those empty calories.

Alcohol also has several negative impacts on athletic performance, such as causing dehydration and reducing performance through lowered glucose production.  This summary article provides more detail on this, as does this one from the Guardian, and this one from Runner’s World; the latter focusing on impacts to running performance. The best one-stop-shop on the range of negative impacts alcohol has on the athlete is this amazing brochure from Princeton, produced by the NCAA.

Given all of this, I’m really happy I don’t have to worry about how drinking wine is going to affect my diet and my marathon training this year. It took just a few additional minutes of research and a lot of common sense to realize that I should lose the weight first and then concentrate on my training.

Exercising certainly can help you to lose weight. But, the reverse is also true. I noticed as I trained for multiple long distance races through the years that it’s a real pain to lug the extra pounds around, literally and figuratively. I also found that when I’m seriously training for half and whole marathons, I tend not to lose weight, because I eat more, both from being hungrier and from feeling I’ve earned it.

Making more progress on losing weight will surely lead to faster running times, and hopefully that marathon PR in July. How much faster should I expect to be? According to Runner’s World, if I lose 10 pounds, I should be able to shave 20 seconds off of my per-mile pace. Other blogs and articles, like Active.com and Livestrong.com, also echo this view. This means I could see an automatic 30 second reduction in my pace, if I lose 15 of my 20 pounds prior to the start of my running season. (I’ll worry about the final 5 pounds later in the year.)

With these multiple inputs and outputs, how am I going to keep it all straight to make sure I actually lose weight? That’s easy. I’m going to use MyFitnessPal to track my calorie consumption and stick to a specific daily calorie target determined by my goals and inputs when I created my account. As I exercise, I also log that into the daily diary and it will allow me to consume more calories.  It’s easy to use and completely free. I use the mobile app version and do most of my tracking on my iPhone. There are a ton of great features, including a prediction when you complete your daily log of what you will weigh in 5 weeks, “if every day were like today.” This is motivational both on good days and bad.

Image

This month and in March, when push comes to shove, I commit to focusing on my diet first and my training regime second. Hopefully, I’ll get within 5 pounds of my ideal weight by April Fools’ Day, allowing me plenty of time to crank up my training schedule for the race season. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be aided by a 30 second reduction in my average pace from the weight loss alone.