Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fat and Happy?

Whose fault is it really, that we’re all fat? I read Trigreyhound’s blog with interest, not because of the discussion of US health care – that I will leave to US citizens - but because he implied that the good health that anyone can obtain with proper diet and exercise was entirely within the control of each and every one of us.

I’m not so sure I agree.

Three things I know about humans, we are social animals, we are profit motivated and we are survivors (so far) in the great game of evolution.

The food industry that churns out fat, sugar and salt laden products is really just responding to a very real human desire to have fat, sugar and salt. These desires are intrinsic to survival; any proto-human (any animal) that didn’t show the desire to obtain them didn’t live to reproduce. Cinnabons puts a lot of research and development into producing the smell that permeates a mall and renders me incapable of thinking about anything except how fantastic one of their buns would taste right now, with cold milk.

Am I eating one right now, no, I’m snacking on plums. I don’t actually have any idea how much a Cinnabon bun is but 3 plums just cost me $2 – and the very ancient survivalist brain of mine knows that the per calorie expense of the Cinnabon is considerably less than the per calorie expense of the plum. Having had the smell turn on the hunger urge in my brain (lots of R&D) the brain makes the rational choice for the most calories in the quickest fashion. And then, hey, we can all get together and have a Cinnabon at one of those tables in the food court. And then we’ll all go to the Gap and get something new. Gosh, somehow I’m heavier than I was in 20 years ago but I still take the same size. Looks like I can still have my Cinnabon and size 6/8/10/12 jeans just like when I was 23. I’m sure it’s not that the clothing stores have inflated sizes giving me an inaccurate method of determining whether I’m gaining weight or not.

Bingo, I’ve just fed my body lots of calories because they were available right now and I’ve shared with others of my species in consumption of food (very big culturally) and by shopping together (more socialization) at a store that supports my increased girth without making me feel bad about it.

And let’s just say I’m tired of being the size 12, I realize that I’m really a 16 and probably bigger since the pants don’t do up very comfortably these days.

How do I even start? What do I wear? Athletic clothing hasn’t got the comfort fit that I’m used to. A small is really small. I can’t buy the XL; the Gap doesn’t have me in XL. Everyone working in the store is so fit they must be laughing at me. Smell those Cinnabons?

There is an average size at races and I’m probably it. Whenever I see anyone, man or woman, larger that me out running, riding, swimming, I try to take what I went through to change my life and my relationship with my body and magnify that by the extra pounds they are carrying over what I started with. I usually want to hug them but I’m pretty sure that would be considered assault so I just smile.

We created a society that, in catering to the most basic instincts of our species, has created a toxic environment that has so permeated all our lives that we can’t even begin to see what it is doing to us. We pride ourselves that we are thinner than our friends without realizing that our friends are obese and we are very fat. Restaurants serve us enormous portions with calorie counts that defy belief.

Last Saturday my husband and I had a 120k ride/5k run brick. We were up north at our cottage without power after the massive storm that hit Ontario Thursday night. I insisted that we go out for dinner rather than trying to cook on a BBQ that is on its last legs augmented only by a side burner that is capable of boiling water only on a completely still night. I had just had a 5 ½ hour workout, I wanted pasta.

We went to Boston Pizza and I asked for a nutrition guide. If I was an average person going to the restaurant the staff would be primed to sell me as many calories as possible. The nutrition guide request probably shut that down. I’ve done that work in corporate restaurants, and got rewarded on our average cheque – ie the more items I could sell in additional to the entrees the more prizes I would win in contests, the happier management would be with me, the better shifts and sections I would get. So, you walk in and I’m working at Boston Pizza and I’m going to sell you everything. I don’t give a damn about your health; I just don’t want to have to work Sunday lunch next weekend.

Well, the spaghetti and meatball dinner has 1800 calories with the other pasta dishes falling downwards from there to a minimum of 670. Main entrees also fell in the 700+ range. Add in an appetizer (wine or beer and maybe a dessert because I deserve it) and I can hit more than my basal metabolic rate pretty quickly. I rode 5 hours and ran 30 minutes to burn up enough calories to spend on a Saturday night splurge.

People do eat that much, I know they do. And the skinny happy people in the commercials encourage them in it. You have friends, food, laughter, and more than 2000 calories. But you deserve it, right?

The food makes me feel loved, the staff is happy to see me, and the skinny women in the sports store are long behind. I don’t know how good a 5 ½ hour workout feels, I don’t know anymore what real muscle in my body feels like, and I sure don’t know how much fun triathlons can be. I know change is hard and I’m just not up to it right now. I’m still a size 12 after all, even if I have to unbutton my pants after dinner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It was supposed to be lovely and wonderful, instead it was ugly and disturbing. And I'm pretty sure something is going to end up infected.

I feel like we're getting down to crunch time. For Alex and I this is our last week of the 3rd last training cycle. We get next weekend off, then it's 7 weeks on, 1 week off and a 4 week taper. Consequently missed workouts start to prey on the mind. Today I decided that, nothing venture, nothing gained, so I would try the big outdoor pool down at the lake for my 3300 metre (pls help me) swim workout.

I don't know about you but I find the whole idea of going to a new pool to be really difficult. I think it's because you are barely dressed and your hair is going to get wet - both those things leave me pretty vulnerable. So, this was a big step for me but I didn't get into triathlon to work out inside and the summer has finally warmed up so - off to an outdoor pool. It sounded romantic. The staff promised all day lane swimming in one section of the pool.

I should have asked about the floating filth.

After a ridiculous, hot and long drive - transit to the lake not being a priority of the city of Toronto - I paid my $3 for parking and walked into the pool building. It was promising, it was clean, it felt like the right thing to do. The lockers were ridiculously small but I had two quarters.

First problem was the sudden failure of the spandex in my bathing suit. (see above) I have boobs, this is an issue.

Feeling very much let down I proceeded to the pool area only to find the "lap swim" area populated by young men with more testosterone than swimming ability. Heads up, arms flailing, zigzagging at warp speed to one end with a long breathless wait at the other.

In my peer group I'm a crappy swimmer - here I was that chick with the great body and all the gold medals. I swam one lap, decided that manslaughter might be a charge if I stayed, and had a ridiculous long and hot drive home.

So now I sit, having missed a key workout, contemplating a course of intravenous antibiotics, debating whether to try the swim again tomorrow or just move on to the bike interval workout. On my trainer, in a hot house...choice made. A lovely wonderful indoor pool. A supportive bathing suit. But still 3300 metres.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bracebridge Half-Iron Distance

I used to write race reports on a blog that has since been sent to blog heaven but I stopped a couple of years ago. I felt that I had created for myself this blog personna of little Susie, the loveable loser, having panics in the swim, pushing her bike up hills, triumphing at the end only because she actually finished the course. After my olympic distance year I stopped writing. A few people who had enjoyed the tales asked me about it but I told them that the whole process had become so personal that I just didn't feel I could do it any more.

Two years later, having gone through 12 weeks of therapy to deal with the swim panic, little Susie, the loveable loser is no more. Not that I'm winning. To cut to the chase, last year I did Bracebridge in 8 hours 11 minutes - last in my age group. This year I did it in 7 hours 33 minutes, and guess what - yup, last in my age group.

I will not discuss the swim as I've dwelt too much on that and its emotional impact on me in the past - the new Susie ignores the time between the horn going off and getting out of the freaking wetsuit. I will thank John Salt and Multisport for getting last year's water treadmill (i.e. an open dam up river) turned off.

In the morning's briefing, John, the race director said that their reports indicated that the rain would hold off until about 2 pm. Most of us, he said, would be pretty much off the course by then. I knew I wouldn't but with only an hour or so left on the run I didn't think the rain would bother me a bit.

My only comfort with the weather prediction was that John was doing the bike this year as part of a relay team. I know, therefore, no matter how fast he was, he was stuck in the same biblical level downpour as the rest of us. At one point, having taken off my glasses (Oakley oranges lenses to add detail to the road on overcast days -HAH), I was heading downhill in excess of 50 k per hour on a frost heaved road. I alternated right then left eyes closing against what felt like wet bullets on the face and considered that this was not exactly a wise thing for a 45 year old woman to do on a Sunday. Then I let out yet another "whoo hoo" and sang made up words to the Blur song.

Doris, my new women's specific Specialized performed admirably - I did the bike 2 km/hour faster than last year and, without the rain, might have pushed it a bit more.

The run started out really well. I felt so strong that when I saw Alex, with 5 km or so to do on his run, I told him I was up for a 7:15. Somehow, around 10k I lost my mojo and the last half was a struggle. I ran for a bit with Nerina - famous to all by the signs her friends had left on the road in chalk, with Cherith, who ships out to Afghanistan next year, and with Steve, who agreed with me that 1964 was a great year.

It's a very small race and you are with the same bunch of people for most of it so it just felt right at the end to shake each other's hands and wish them well. A slice of pizza and a cooler to sit on almost got the body right and we headed home after seeing our Ironman Arizona friends - who all won in their age group.

Now with a week of vacation at our cottage to recover and looking forward to matching my PB at Muskoka 70.3 in September I'm excited about increasing my fitness to get through that half marathon with a little more energy. Then, of course, on to the biggy. I know it won't rain in Arizona.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Walking home from work tonight I got to a busy corner very near where I live. The sidewalk was narrowed from scaffolding set up and we were all trying to finish crossing on the light and rushing to catch the green. The downtown hipsters were dressed in downtown hipster fashion including one woman with great red hair (a red not seen in nature), high heels and the newest fashion accessory, a bike. Coming the other way was a man in a wheelchair who was long past his hipster days and probably just one level up from living on the street. We all made way for him to get by first but he offered the sidewalk to all of us. We thanked him, moved forward and I though that he had the most incredible dignity in his manner. There was nothing handicapped about him; he was equal to any of us, including the bike woman who then thanked his for his "gentlemanness". Freaking triathlon making me in touch with my emotions - I almost cried at her wonderful grace. But that wouldn't be hip.