A good friend of mine recently pointed out to me that although this blog’s address is timandasha.blogspot.com, I (Tim) haven’t been contributing my fair share to its content. He was right. So here goes…
This week marked the beginning of a phase I have been looking to for six months now—the return of structured marathon training. As most of you know, I ran my first marathon one week before our wedding last October. It was a defining moment in my life to date (although nowhere near as “defining” as October 22, 2011) and left me even more run-crazed than before. For my second marathon, I’ve registered for the Marine Corps Marathon here in DC/Northern Virginia. More importantly though, I have fully embraced most runners' ultimate goal and am aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
For those who may not know, the standards for running Boston as a qualifier are notoriously challenging and they got even harder this year (more about that in a later post). In short, however, I have to drop my finishing time from 4 hours 10 minutes to approximately 3 hours flat. That equates to dropping my per-mile pace from 9:32 to 6:55. Given the sizeable challenge of improving my time this much, I have given myself three marathons to get there. Goal #1 then is to finish the Marine Corps Marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes or less this October. After that, I have my sights set on the L.A. Marathon (target time 3:10) in April 2013 and the Chicago Marathon (target time 3:00) in October 2013.
The bad news (already addressed above) is that I have a long way to go before I will be capable of qualifying for Boston. The good news, however, is that there are so many ways I can improve on my Kansas City Marathon performance. In fact, just cataloging the many different things I can do or am already doing to improve needs its own post. For now, I’ll highlight only one (but it’s one of the most significant).
Step 1: Overhaul my diet
I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth and I haven’t had a drink of soda since way back in the year 2000. Nevertheless, this step originated based on weight. I ran KC at 182 pounds, a weight which represented a fairly typical “fit” weight for me six months ago. In fact, 182 was on the light end of the spectrum of my weight continuum since I stopped playing basketball in college and at that weight no one would have looked and me and thought I was overweight. But noticeable or not, I had more weight in my midsection than I wanted. On top of that, I began reading studies which suggest that the loss of 1 pound often results in 2 second improvement per mile. Over the course of a marathon that adds up to almost a minute per pound shed. Given both of those factors, I decided I would aim to run MCM at 175, hopefully resulting in a more svelte midsection and a 7-minute marathon improvement even if I didn’t change anything else.
But since formulating the initial goal (i.e. run at 175 lbs) two things have happened. First, I have been eating primarily Asha’s home cooking which—if you’ve been reading this blog you already know—is delicious AND vegetarian. Combining this diet with my training has me down to a significantly-lighter-on-my-feet 170 pounds. Second, I began reading more about elite endurance athletes and their diets. While most elite athletes rely on chicken, fish, and other animal byproducts for their main source of protein, an increasing number of elite endurance athletes are switching to an entirely plant-based diet. In particular, Scott Jurek—the ultrarunning icon—has long relied on a vegan diet to propel him to his countless top finishes in ultramarathons across the U.S. (including seven-straight Western States 100 Mile Endurance Runs).
Since I have already surpassed my target weight loss, it’s time to set a new goal related to my diet. This time, I’ve decided to base it more on viewing food as fuel than on shedding pounds. Thus, as of today, I am officially cutting all pork from my diet. It’s not quite the diet espoused by Jurek, lawyer-turned-super-athlete Rich Roll, or my beautiful wife, but it’s a first step. And while my heart wants to be where they are, my head knows it will take a little while for me to adapt. It’s always easier to take a second step than it is to take a first.