I've written before about how I laugh at the people who are VERY strict about thier diet, especially in the weeks or months leading up to a race. I've said that I discovered many years ago (after being one of those people for some time) that I could eat ice cream or chocolate before a race and still achieve my goals and that life is too short to deny yourself some simple pleasures.
I would not really change much about my eating habits before a race or in the taper. I just made sure I was well-hydrated during race week and that I had my share of carbs for three days prior to the big day. I also did try and cut down on the portion size somewhat but it rarely was enough to matter. I eat well at meals but too much of a good thing....
After pretty much any race I did whether it be a sprint tri or half marathon, I would gorge myself afterwards on coke (which I never drink), maybe chips (Hint of Lime Tostitos), and for sure, ice cream in reward of my good time or placing at the race. So in essence I was "going overboard" for a day or two and then settling down to the normal amount of chocolate and ice cream.
It finally hit me after Ironman Canada this year, after again not really watching what I ate or how much in the months before the race, that how can I justify this bad habit of eating just for indulging in under ten hours of exercise? That's what I call this year's Ironman now because it was basically to me a long training day. I wasn't needing a reward, say, for abstaining from eating any kind of junk food for two months before the race and looking forward to it the whole time once I completed the race. It wasn't a carrot anymore that I dangled in front of me to try and achieve my goal. When I had a five hour bike followed by a one and a half hour run during training, I didn't go and pig out becuase I "deserved" it after such a big effort. Why did I feel the need to do this at the end of any race this year?
With this information firmly at hand, and the fact I had gained about four pounds in the month leading up to Haney to Harisson, I decided to try something different. Even with the Halloween candy in the house prior to the race and unlike the previous two years, I stayed away from it for two and a half weeks before the run. I didn't buy ice cream and therefore could not be tempted. I cut down on my size of meals. At the firehall I did the same, usually dividing my meal in half and eating it later or the next day. I even passed on ice cream at work. At work!!! A staple in every firefighter's diet. As it turned out I didn't go to the gym all this time so therefore couldn't get progress checks on how I was doing. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know. Then the day came, two days before the run to be exact, that I went to see what I weighed in at. This was in the evening, after dinner, so I had an excuse if I didn't lose any pounds - it was the meal still sitting inside of me of course. It ended up I went from 175 to 171.8 lbs. It had actually worked. So now I was determined to be even more proud of myself and went the next morning to do a thirty minute treadmill run. I got to the gym wearing only shorts and a dry-fit shirt, no shoes. I was a happy 170.2 lbs. After the run with only a little water I ended up at 169.2. I can't remember the last time I was sub-170. This was awesome.
The fact that my shin splint pain flared up for the first time all year in the week before Haney also was a kick to my butt in thinking that a few less pounds may help that as well. Funny though I felt nothing during H2H or in the days after that would indicate they are coming back or that I have another stress fracture. I will alter my training somewhat before Texas though, only one short road run a week, long stuff in the trails, and either treadmill or eliptical workouts. Maybe even the dreaded water running once a week.
I think if this experiment had gone the other way or I hadn't seen much in the way of movement in the scale, it could have had disastrous effects in that I may have kept eating the same way as before. I wasn't a total angel during my seventeen days or so, I think I had two regular and two small servings of ice cream, a few Halloween goodies (okay, a lot on Halloween night but they were right in front of me, what could I do?), and some of my niece's birthday cake. Other than that, junk food was pretty much absent. Since I had all this will power before the run I now know I can do it again and will for races if not all the time.
I now feel okay having been rewarding myself this week for that "long" period of abstinance.