I LOVE RUNNING, BUT……………TODAY WAS SPECIAL

10.20.2013

What can I say? Here I sit having just watched the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (some people may have still been finishing as I began to write). I love to see those smooth, fast folk at the front and how they cruise through times I would now be happy with for a half marathon. I love to see the special stories of folks like Team Joshua (Mom, Michelle, and Josh) and their personal victories. And, I know from my own experience that every runner out there has his or her reason for running and aspirations for a personal day of victory. As the opening line of the old TV show used to intone: “There are Eight Million Stories in the Naked City”. Well, there were at least 25,000 stories in Toronto today.

Most of all though, I like to see how those in my crowd of older (Seasoned, if you like) runners are doing. I’ve got a fair number of local inspirational runners to reflect upon with people like BJ McHugh and Rod Waterlow, to name two of a good many in the Vancouver/Victoria area. But, for shear inspiration none beat 82 year-old Ed Whitlock. Apparently Ed has not been too well the last couple of weeks (a nasty cold) and although nobody claimed he was actually running sick, his training has not been what it normally would be coming up to the race. It seems to have been a bad day out there on the roads of Toronto, what with Ed only recording a time of 3:41:58! (sarcasm alert)  According to commentators, his goal was somewhere in the upper 3:20’s.

I made a few posts on Facebook feeds re Ed’s day, one of which was to the effect, “I want to be like Ed Whitlock when I grow up!” What I really mean is that I just hope I can use his inspirational example to keep going myself. Ed is both so old and so good, the age grading systems have trouble properly accounting for his performances.  For the most part, anyone his age is lauded, and rightly so, if they just finish a marathon. I mean, I am starting to reach that stage myself and I’m just approaching 69. Every time Ed Whitlock laces on his shoes for a race, he is probably going to set a Single Age World Record, but for him it is no ‘attendance prize’. His times are respectable for almost anybody. For instance, his 10K split today was something like 49 minutes. I don’t know that many weekend warrior type runners who would turn up their noses at such a time.

So, with a big year of running trailing out behind me I got comparing myself to Ed Whitlock under my aspiration to ‘be like Ed when I grow up’.

The first thing I see as essential is not to grow so much, as to shrink or recede. As the race continued today it was revealed that Ed normally weighs 115-117lb, so let us say 116, for easy reference. It was also stated that he was 5’7″ in height OR, 67 inches. Now, what do we do with this bit of information? Well, the first thing I decided to explore is how his ‘density’ in a manner of speaking, compares. If he is 67″ tall and weighs 116 lb, then that would be an average of 1.73lb/vertical inch. With trembling fingers, I began entering my stats into a similar calculation, to determine, being both taller and heavier, that my comparative number is 2.63lb/inch.

I had made a comment on one of the Facebook feeds that if I was going to be like Ed, I’d need to first lose about 70lb, but that is based purely on weight, and since I’m at least four inches taller, not a fair comparison. Using my half-baked ‘density’ system, for me to attain a similar physical structure I might strive for a similar weight/height ratio and would need to get not to 116lb, but rather just to 123lb!  Ha! Piece of cake! [NOT].

I think I may have weighed 123lb at one time, but I was probably about twelve at the time. I was an early sprouter, and have been most of my adult height since I was about thirteen. In my late teens and very early 20’s I was around 165 and the day I got married was 174lb. In other words, if I really must get back to 123lb, I have been doomed for decades.  As I think about it, my BONES might outweigh Ed Whitlock! And, in all seriousness, that is an aspect of our physical make-up we can’t do much about in absolute terms. Most of us just have to come to grips with our own personal ‘facts’. That stuff just can’t be wished away. Then, there is the matter of our miss-spent youth. Mine wasn’t so much poorly spent as inappropriately oriented if I wanted to be a marathoner when I grew up. I played lots of sports, including running, but almost all was oriented to short sharp bursts of fast running. My sports were soccer, or football should you prefer, baseball and track and field. And, the T&F stuff was shorter, faster distances, so all of this required the building of large muscles in the legs and power for short bursts. In those younger days, and for that matter even now, most people could not guess my weight accurately unless I was half naked – because most of my weight is in my legs. Unfortunately, my upper body has ‘grown into’ my lower body over the years and not really in a good way – if you get my meaning.  Even if I dropped every ounce of unwanted fat, I would once again be bottom-heavy with large solid muscle in my legs, and back to being the proverbial ninety pound weakling from the waist up.

So, for me and pretty much most average people, the best we can hope for is some kind of new balance. We can modify and optimize what we ARE, but pretty much can’t become something or somebody else. I guess Ed Whitlock can now feel safe, at least from me. Somehow, I don’t think he was actually worried in any case.

I was relieved to learn I did not have to lose 70lb as first declared – just 64. But, that is still a pretty tall order and if I were to lose that much weight I would wonder if I could walk let alone run. This was always meant to be light-hearted and not taken tooooooo, seriously, but it does leave me pondering for myself and other mid-pack average sorts of runners, what is reasonable. That is a loaded term in itself. What is reasonable for one may be just plain silly for another. If at all, I will try only to define reasonable for me. If you want to play along, you will have to define your own ‘reasonable’.

I mentioned my weight, both in actual terms and in that of personal/genetic heritage. Recently, I was alerted to a relatively new age/weight grading system.  Anyone who reads my words knows how much I enjoy age grading as a way to compare some thirty years of personal running achievements. Well, this system adds the matter of weight into the mix. I have not studied it at any length, but did quickly pop in some of my times and weights over the years and concluded that having always been a relatively heavy runner, the weight factor helped to improve my results. It did NOT turn me from a relative slug into an Olympian. In other words, on a sample of one, it seems reasonable.  For instance, my best 5K time when I was 44 was mid-nineteen minutes. Pure age grading took that to about 17 minutes and adding the weight factor dropped it to 16 minutes; pleasing but not silly.

These converters or calculators generally bring everyone to the same standard. In the case of this weight and age system, the age is 25 and weight is 110lb for women and 143lb for men. At least that 143lb is a bit more realistic for me, even if it is NOT likely achievable either.

That brings us back to what is reasonable. The only way I know to stop getting older is unacceptable and counterproductive in the extreme where it comes to running (or anything else). I CAN do something about weight, but even then, just so much. When I start a marathon or half marathon I generally feel pretty good and not that I am labouring with the weight I’m carrying (even if I probably am). Naturally, that changes as the race goes on. I have been pondering this for some time, but today’s race has caused me to think more deeply and to seriously consider how to be MORE like Ed Whitlock, when I grow up. I do think my simple factor of  lb/vertical inch is a place to start. There is no doubt in my mind that losing some amount of weight will help if for no other reason than that I won’t have to pack it over 42km.

The trick with losing weight is careful maintenance of muscle and strength. Reduction of caloric intake and perhaps modification of the mix of food groups consumed can reduce weight, but should be combined with exercise and not just my personal favourite, running. I have long known that converting fat to muscle is actually a losing weight loss proposition in the sense that muscle is more dense than fat and for a time, a person may see no loss of weight, and maybe even a small gain. Exercise is extremely important to all of this but one needs to remember that physical exertion does not burn nearly as many calories as we imagine. For instance, at my weight and pace, a marathon burns about the equivalent in calories of just one pound of real actual ‘meat’. We all lose a bunch of weight when we train or race, but most of that is water and comes back quickly. When it comes to long-term weight reduction, patience is the key element. Reduced caloric intake, balanced exercise and patience seems to be the magic combination.

As I look at myself, and we would all be different, I can see myself getting down to around 180lb or 82kg. I think I could do that and may be declaring at this point, my intention to try. For me, this looks very reasonable. For the sake of argument I am going to take this as a kind of given and do a little speculating and wondering what it might achieve to go farther.

As I mentioned, I weighed 174lb the day I was married (some 45 years ago). Haven’t seen that weight pretty much ever since. The question seems to be whether or not I could ever reasonably hope to see it again. From time to time, including fairly recently, I will hit 185lb. That is why I figure that 180lb is not unreasonable. When you get right down to it, if I were to shoot for 175lb, we are talking about a maximum of another 10lb below where I’m easily able to get. As you may have already anticipated, I am now going to point out that 10 fewer pounds will not be so simple.  If I work on upper body and core strength in the process of weight reduction I should both find myself carrying less weight from the start to the finish, but having a stronger overall body with which to do it. So, I may find myself able to lose 15 useless pounds while adding maybe 5 ‘power-p0unds’ to better function while running/exercising. It isn’t just going to be carrying 10 fewer pounds. I have no idea how big a deal it may be. I don’t know when it comes to me and absolutely have no idea how it might apply to anybody else.

Another factor that comes into the complex mix of distance running is the matter of how long you can run and at any given pace. As I watched the elites fly through the last few K’s today I once again wondered about the trade-off between speed and time on the road. In 2013 I have been doing the Marathon Maniac thing of lots of volume and less speed. In the last six and a half months I have run five marathons and a 50K ultra. I have operated on the slow but sure approach and all but one of the six has been over five hours. The fastest I ever did was 3:24 and I swear, even though it was a long time ago, I felt better when that was over, than I do now at the end of a slow marathon. How much does running some two extra hours impact that? OK, OK, those aren’t quite the same legs as they were in 1988. Perhaps if a person was able to knock thirty minutes off the total time, the exertion would be that much less. An hour would be even less and it wasn’t that long ago that I could run a marathon an hour faster than a couple of my recent ‘slow and steady’ efforts. Carrying less weight and being stronger could very likely help with such a target. I am not discounting proper training with the long slow run endurance component as well as other ‘quality’ speed, interval, hill type runs. I am just saying that if you do everything to a proper plan, surely packing less absolute weight from Point A to Point B should take less time and sustaining a faster pace (within reason) should make it easier.

Now of course, if I can’t really lose the necessary weight to approach Ed Whitlock’s height/weight ration then the alternative would be to grow to something around 8’4″. That would have a fabulous advantage of an immense stride!

OK. Enough for my musings on comparative running. How about a few high-lights from today?

We have had some great running days the last couple of weeks. The Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon could not have had much better weather and I speak from personal experience on that one. Toronto and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon today looked and sounded from all reports like another ideal day. So many people put their own hopes and goals on the line right from the front with the various records that fell, including the race record being smashed by Deresa Chimsa (ETH), but especially the Canadian Women’s record and on through the to BQ achieved by Team Joshua and Ed Whitlock’s latest Single Age World record.

We’ve seen our Canadian marathoners growing and maturing on a world stage, including Dylan Wykes (second only to Jerome Drayton) and Reid Coolsaet, neither of whom ran in Toronto this day. Today we saw Eric Gillis take the men’s race as first Canadian (5th OA) while second place Canadian (6th OA), Rob Watson laid down a new PB in his fourth marathon this year! This kind of thing is unheard of in elite running. Canadian runners Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene broke the long-standing Canadian Women’s record with Lanni having now pushed that down into the 2:27 range. First time marathoner Natasha Wodak, made her own statement with a fine time of 2:35 and gave notice of her own intentions!

I LOVE running and this is a big reason why!

Editor’s Note: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is available now in e-book format through Trafford Publishing.

1 response to “I LOVE RUNNING, BUT……………TODAY WAS SPECIAL”

  1. RITZadmin
    10.21.2013 - 8:31am

    Angela, glad you found something of interest in this latest post. Congratulations on getting back into running – and by the sounds of it, in a BIG way! Hope you enjoy Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. We had 26 amazing contributors, each with his or her own perspective, all inspirational. There is nothing wrong with ‘just running’ but the competitive spirit lingers on and there are a whole lot of people out there that haven’t got ‘the memo’ yet about taking it easy! Just remember though – it is always about having fun.