Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Throwdown

That’s it, time for a change. I’m tired of being a “big” female runner. I don’t have crazy body image issues (though I'd be lying if I said I am perfectly fine with my looks), but I’ve realized that I could be a heck of a lot faster if I wasn’t carrying around so much excess weight. I think I've been hiding behind trails and ultras this year because I enjoyed not being self-conscious about my racing weight. Every marathon I've ever done, I find myself comparing my body to all of the females around me. The common factor is always this: I am heavier. Even if I end up passing the skinny chicks in the little shorts, it still bothers me that I am not like them. I know that I could be faster if I was lighter.

My (embarrassing) stats:  

Height: 5’6”
Weight: 141 lbs
Body Fat: 22-23 % (not an accurate measurement...according to the scale 
in my bathroom)
BMI: 22.8%
Marathon Pace: 7:22 (Boston, 2010)

After playing around with the Flyer Handicap Calculator (a “weight” handicap calculator)
  it claims if I were 115 lbs, my finish time at Boston could’ve been a 2:56. I realize there are other factors, and this might not be 100% reliable, but that is pretty darn significant compared to my 3:12 at 141lbs.

According to Amby Burfoot’s Runner’s World Article,  marathon pace can be decreased by 2 seconds/mile for every 1 lb of weight-loss due to your body’s increase in maximal aerobic capacity (VO2 max). Female runners can get down to a BMI of 18.5% without cause for concern from losing too much weight (I have up to 4.3% to lose).

Now, I’m not trying to get super freaky skinny. I just want to shave off some unecessary fat so I can really start to get fast. If I lose 15 lbs, that’s a potential 30 seconds/mile off of my marathon pace. In fact, now that I think about it…it’s ridiculous that I ran  a 3:12 in the body that I’m in. I have an insane amount of respect for my lungs & legs.

The plan:
I’m getting a nutrition plan made, so don’t worry about me trying to cut weight by unhealthy means. I’m going to spend the winter back at the track with the Potomac River Running crew, and doing P90X (as much as I can handle with running). My mileage will be lower, but intensity is the name of the game after the JFK 50 miler (in 11 days…eeek!).

I have my eye on the Napa Marathon (March 6th). Napa has a net downhill course, with some rollers in the beginning. I’d like to shoot for a 2:59, if I can cut the weight in time. That will be about a 13 minute PR, but I think I have a good shot if all goes as planned. Napa is 16 weeks after JFK, so I’m hoping I can start a 12 week program after a full recovery.

Before anyone comments “You don’t have 15 lbs to lose!”, I say again….I’m 5’6” and 141 lbs. I do indeed have 15 lbs to lose. 126 is hardly “too skinny” for my height. Knowing I could be faster is making me very motivated to start getting serious about my speed.

**Edited to add pictures**

To prove that dropping 15 lbs isn't totally insane, here are 2 old pictures of when I was right at 125 lbs. It was my first BQ cycle, and first Boston. Of course, I was on deployment....so it wasn't that hard to lose weight :P

Iraq-2006 (125ish lbs)

Boston 2007 (130ish lbs)

The questions is this: Will my new marathon body hold up to the challenge? Is 16 weeks post-ultra enough time to whittle down the weight and get my speed up?

I can only try, and try I will.


  1. You go, girl! I think I wrote this post a few months ago (albeit with slower times, lol). I'm sure it will make a dramatic difference for you, so I'm all for it. Also, you're a smart cookie (mmm...cookies) so I trust you'll do it with that great head on your shoulders that has carried you so well thus far. Looking forward to following your progress.

  2. Agile, I love your times. I am in awe of your times. And you're right, your times at your current weight means that you can do MORE with less. :-)

  3. Really, I think going back to speed work and having a healthy training cycle would get you at least 5-7 minutes alone. Throw in some weight loss...who knows? I'm not the person to say 15 pounds is a good number for you. I think in general if you are more cognizant of what you are putting into you body, you will reap the benefits. If you don't get 15 pounds but end up with 5 or 10, you'll surely be better off...if for no other reason than you'll be lighter mentally. I don't know if picking an arbitrary number is the best technique, but then again a goal is something to shoot for. You may be adding some muscle too, you don't discount that.

    Anyway, I'm all for you training hard for a marathon. I think you are very talented and you work your ass off. Try not to neglect your sleep and recovery in the 16 week phase. If you are going to go all in, try to give yourself the best chance to succeed.

  4. GIM- I remember that post well, and it resonated deeply with me.

    Zab- You're right, it's just an arbitrary number. I would be ecstatic with 10 lbs. If I shoot for 15 and fail, it won't be the end of the world...but it would be nice to be back down to 125. I haven't been that small since I was in Iraq...they don't have wine there :(

    Thanks Miss T ;)

  5. While I am not anywhere NEAR as fast as you are, I think you are on to something. I have lost 10 pounds in the last year and without even feeling like I'm exerting any more energy I'm now running about a minute per mile faster (hilly trails)than I was at my old weight.
    Keep blogging, I'd love to hear about the weight loss journey and how your running goes as you progress. Good luck! :)

  6. Amy, I feel the same way about my body and my times. I know that I will never be as small as some runners, but also what wonder if what if I lose 5 to 10 lbs. I have to say I always would include you in the "small" runners category...

    Would love to hear how you plan to attack the lbs.

    P.S. Love that you are coming back to the track :)

  7. Oh Amy my dear....I have so many thoughts ringing through my head on this one.

    I totally get it, but at the same damn time I hate you not being happy with yourself.

    HOWEVER you obviously are in the arena of putting your body through some demanding crap and with that in mind I see where you are going. Understanding your calorie intake, logging your calorie intake, and being reasonable about what your asking from your body should get you where you want it to be.

    More about this in an email later....

  8. You can do it, Amy. My image of you is that difficult things and hard work have never been a matter of real concern to you, but only a matter of planning and doing. Rock on.

  9. Nance- You look AMAZING!!! I thought your Chicago weight looked perfect. I'm sure you have your own expectations, but seriously...you're tiny!!
    I haven't told M or C that I'll be coming back to the track, I'll wait until after JFK. Hopefully by mid-December I'll be a regular again! You'll probably whoop me back in to shape, I haven't run a single speed session in about a year now...

    Stevi- I'm happy with myself...but I think that knowing there is potential for such drastic improvement has me really motivated.

    Jules- Greart job on the 10lbs weight loss! That's amazing! I never had the guts to talk about this stuff before on a public forum...but for some reason I don't feel self conscious about it anymore. That must mean I'm getting down to business now!

    Anonymous- Well, I suck at planning...but thanks for the vote of confidence :) I'm more of a "defeat that obstacle when you get to it" sort of gal, but hard work doesn't scare me away.

  10. 115 is pretty skinny. I'd stick to the 125 at 5'6". You know what also makes you faster...getting stronger. Hit the weights! If you get too skinny you will lose your prettiness and you'll just look like a gaunt runner instead of a healthy woman like you look like now. Just saying...

  11. No WAY am I trying to get down to 115!! Don't you worry about that :) 125 would be a major victory.
    I'm just getting in to P90X, and I think that will help a lot. I haven't done weights in years, and ironically that was when I weighed 125. Doh!

  12. You can do it! And that's awesome you're doing it healthily :)