Monday, August 17, 2009

A different kind of PR

This is a little bit off-topic (not really, though), but it is a milestone to me. This morning I weighed two pounds less than my previous lowest weight as an adult!* This was truly exciting to me. Over the last few months I have successfully lost some weight that I gained over the winter (and, as it turned out, over the last year or two), but there has always been a barrier that I could not break under.

That barrier included a BMI of 25, which is the dividing point between "normal" and "overweight." Let me say I have little confidence in the significance of BMI, because obviously people with more muscle weight (like me, dare I say?) are going to have a higher BMI—but still, it's symbolic.**

The other caveat, I guess, is that this was my weight after running, which includes a bit of sweating and, um, two bathroom stops along the way. However, my hydration level was still over 60%, which means I wasn't squeezed out like a sponge or anything. I fully expect to be a couple pounds more tomorrow, because that is always the case on non-running versus running days. Still, I am thrilled!

So why is this important, other than bragging on myself and basking in the glow of (relative) thin-ness? Well, I believe, and others do as well, that you can improve your running performance by shedding excess weight. It's a no-brainer, really. You wouldn't expect to run as fast carrying a couple of hand weights or wearing a weighted vest, as you would without them, right? Excess pounds undoubtedly create some of the same hindrance.

This article in Runner's World (periodically cited in various other blog entries), explains some of the science between weight and speed. Even more intriguingly, the author (Amby Burfoot) asserts that every pound lost can shave about two seconds off each mile. A handy little chart illustrates the theory for 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon distances.

So it's pretty obvious to me that gaining a few pounds contributed (in part) to my slowing speeds over the winter, and losing the weight contributed (in part) to my renaissance this spring. I say "in part" in both situations, because I think there are other factors that slowed me down over the winter, and I am sure that other things also helped me speed up. Not the least being concentrated efforts at speed work!

Although I didn't weigh myself until I got home from running this morning, I did feel exceptionally light on my feet, especially for a Monday morning. I started out with my warmup mile at 9:55, then sped up to 9:21 pace in the next half mile. I was in that state where you can't even feel your legs as you glide along effortlessly.

Unfortunately, though, although my legs were feeling no pain things weren't so copacetic northward. While my legs told me to fly, my intestines threatened severe bodily harm. Even after a timely bathroom stop, my gut continued to pester me with achy cramps. I even briefly wondered if I would have to abandon the run and go home, if things continued to get worse.

Luckily they did not get worse, and the cramps subsided and yielded to my legs, which still felt fine.*** Fine enough that I kept running south for a bit when I would have normally turned around toward home, and ended up finishing eight miles instead of the usual weekday six or so.

My splits were quite acceptable: 9:55, half a mile at 9:21, 9:29, 9:20, 9:14, 9:06, 8:49, 8:22, and the last half mile at 9:23.

*Since my other low at the age of 18, graduating from high school. I was at that weight for about five minutes, then went off to college, and... well, you can imagine.

**I only went to 24.6, and if I round down on the half inch in my height I'm back over 25, but I'll stick with rounding up and be happy!

***Although a second stop was necessary later on.

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