Friday, August 24, 2012

Post-Race Weight Gain (and Loss)

I am writing this blog to all runners out there concerned about putting on weight after a big race.  This is a brief overview of what happened to me, and I hope that it gives you some relief as you step on your scale tomorrow morning:

I am pleased to report that I am back to my pre-ultramarathon weight this morning.  <Insert giant sigh of relief here>

When I left for Olympia (and my first ultra-marathon) on August 10th, I weighed myself and - naively - wondered how much weight I might lose if I met my goals of running/walking for the full 12 hours.  Of course, this wasn't a weight loss plan; I wasn't trying to lose weight, per se.  But I knew that I would be burning lots of calories and sweating a lot in the 90-degree heat, and I assumed that I would have a pleasant surprise when I got home and stepped on the scale.

To my surprise (and horror), I weighed SEVEN pounds more when I returned home on August 13.  "How can that be?" I thought.  "I didn't eat much during the run, and I threw up everything in my stomach anyway." 

My mind kicked into overdrive.  I thought about everything I ate after the race and the next morning - a chicken sandwich, a half-can of chicken noodle soup, a large Diet Coke, a snack-size Sun Chips bag, and a gas station breakfast burrito.  I couldn't figure out how those items added up to seven pounds, even though the burrito wasn't exactly health food.

I went online and found lots of articles, blogs, and discussion boards describing similar weight gain.  Most folks said that they gained 2-4 pounds after a big race ("water weight") and that the weight came off in a few days.  That eased my mind somewhat, but I was worried that my weight gain was more significant, and when the weight went up another half-pound in two days, I felt concerned. (Years ago I was overweight, and I worried that I was getting fat again.)

And I felt bigger.  I felt like I was swollen and thicker than I should be.  I felt all 7.5 pounds.

Thankfully, the past few days have been good to me.  This might be TMI, but I have been using the restroom a lot more, and it seems like my body has wanted to get rid of excess fluid and anything else that it has been holding onto (probably because it was in shock over the whole 12-hour race).  It seems to have relaxed back into normal life.

This morning I stepped on the scale, and I am at my pre-race weight.  My stomach feels flatter, and my fingers don't feel so sausage-y.  I'm not a skinny girl, but I feel better, and I am well within "healthy and normal" weight.  I'm so glad.

If I do another ultra, I might do a little bit more work on my fueling so that I don't feel so sick after the race and so I don't put on so much weight during and after the race.

Monday, August 20, 2012

12-Hour Transcendance Race

On Sunday the 12th I participated in the Transcendence 12-Hour Endurance Race in Olympia, WA, and I have to say that it was amazing and unlike anything I have ever done.

In the past couple of weeks I have told people that I was going to run a 12-hour race, and some have been surprised that I haven't been training.  Running one's first ultra, after all, is no joke.  But I didn't want to train; my relationship to running has simply changed, and I haven't wanted to put in the long hours and even longer miles to prepare for this race.  So my mindset going into the race was probably different than most runners'; I really wanted to see what I am made of - who I am right now - with this heart and this body and this mind.  I exercised a few days a week, went on some runs and walks, kept my weight under control, and tried to keep my expectations of myself reasonable for the race.  And not to give away the ending, but I consider my race experience very successful and positive and do not regret a thing.

Because it was such a long day and the thought of writing down everything that happened is overwhelming for me, I'll just include the highlights:

Sunday was here before I knew it, and I found myself at the starting line with 79 other runners.  The sun hadn't come out yet, and I was excited to see what I could do on this 1.52-mile course.  I felt lucky to start my first ultra with Scott and to see him throughout the race.

The course, although short, was quite pretty.  It was great to not have to worry about carrying water since there were drinking fountains along the course, and I knew that an aid station was only a mile and a half away.  

Sunrise on the lake
Capitol building view
I downloaded a great book on tape called The Five Love Languages, and listened to it for a good chunk of time during the run/walk.  I learned a lot, and it kept me entertained for over five hours in a way that even Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift cannot.  ;)

I met a bunch of people over the course of twelve hours.  I met Max, a retired Air Force man who runs ultras in his retirement; Jenneth, a gal who told me that not picking up a penny is telling the universe that you have enough and won't accept free money; Brock, a harmonica player who rode his bike next to me during my final two laps just because he was enjoying talking with me; Josh, a Vibram Fivefingers runner who gave the first place finisher a run for his money; and others who were happy to share bits of their life stories.  This one of the coolest parts of the race, in my opinion.  Just think, if this was a traditional ultramarathon course, there never would have been an opportunity for me to run or walk a mile and a half with any of these people; they would have been 10 miles ahead or behind me.  It was neat to see familiar faces and to have so many opportunities to walk-n-chat.

It was very cool that Scott jogged/walked his final couple of loops with me.  He finished his 50k in under 6 hours and then crewed for me for the next 6.  It felt great to be greeted at our little tent with some Gatorade and a cool cloth to wipe my face. 

After I left the tent, I walked only a few feet to the food tables and ate potatoes with salt and potato chips.
After I completed my first 50k, everyone at the finish line cheered and rang bell.  When I left the tent and started the next loop, it felt awesome to know that - for once - I was going to run farther than Scott.  (I realize he is recovering from injuries and that his pace was much faster than mine.  Still, it felt good.)  I learned later that Scott had posted my accomplishment to Facebook, and I had a crazy number of encouraging and congratulatory comments.  (Thanks, everyone!!)

I completed just over 38 miles!  That is almost a marathon and a half-marathon back-to-back!  I felt pretty awesome.  Period.

(I made page 2!)

While most people "hit the wall" and "bonk" during races this long, I never did...probably because I wasn't going for speed.  I felt really good emotionally and physically throughout the whole day, other than the blisters that I got around Mile 6.  Yes, my fingers swelled, and yes, my legs were tired, but I never felt miserable during the race.  (I did feel miserable about fifteen minutes after the race, after my shoes were off and my feet were in an ice bath.  I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up all at once.  I never passed out...)

My mom drove all the way from Boise to Olympia and tried to get there in time to walk a lap or two with me, but the race was over when she arrived.  The bad news - she saw me when I was in the post-race, pukey-nightmare stage of the day.  I could barely walk on my blistered feet and tired legs, and I ended up throwing up my grape Gatorade in her car.  The good news - my mom came to see me at a race (yay!), and when I felt icky, she took me back to her house in Mossyrock, WA and fed me chicken noodle soup. 

This picture cracks me up.  I wasn't feeling too great on the car ride to Mom's.
I am really pleased with my experience with this race and would do it again.  Heck, even the tech shirts are cool, and I plan to wear mine with pride.  I'm so glad that my first ultra attempt was so positive and successful.  Thanks to everyone who supported me and to Guerrilla Running for putting on such a great event!