Rude Awakening

This morning a new running friend, a middle-aged marathoner like myself, told me what she ate while she was training for a race. Ugh. It was the second time this week that I’ve been hit in the face with the inescapable fact that I EAT TOO MUCH.

Now, I’m a normal size. Some people would call me small, especially for my age. However, that’s normal size for a non-runner — I’m a bit “robust” for someone who wants to get her marathon time under four hours. In fact, according to Matt Fitzgerald’s website Racing Weight (, I am about 10-15 pounds over my optimal racing weight, depending on the week and how active you want to say that I am. (You can read his entire book “Racing Weight: How to get Lean for Peak Performance (The Racing Weight Series)” if you want more information.)

So I’ve known this for a while but have just thrown my hands up in the air with “Well, geez, I eat pretty healthy, I don’t know what else to do.” Now healthy for me means that I don’t eat fast food, and I don’t have “real” dessert every day. I mean, an ice cream bar at night isn’t a real dessert, is it? That’s practically a fruit. And of course, on my long runs, I’m eating whatever I want because I just ran 16 miles, OK!?! OK?!? Get off my back!!

So this is what I tell myself, and I wonder why I keep that extra 10-15 lbs. Well, you know that feeling when you first see what a real serving size of almond butter looks like? Yeah, that’s what happened to me this week. Twice.

My new running buddy S, who is svelte and runs about 35-40 miles per week plus cross-training, told me her average daily carb intake: a half cup of rice at lunch and a quarter of a potato at dinner. WTF?!? I got anxious just listening to this. (Of course she eats more than that after her long run.)

Prior to this, I had just read ultrarunner Pam Smith’s food intake on her blog. I saw Pam at AC100 last August, and I’m going to conservatively guess that she runs between 60-70 miles per week. You’d think she’d be someone who’s packing away the carbs, right? Nah. Here’s what Pam ate on a typical day:

“This is what my food intake looked like today:
Post workout: recovery drink
Breakfast: two eggs plus red peppers and onions sauteed in coconut oil and half and avocado
Lunch: Braised cabbage with carrot puree, a small halibut fillet, and a small handful of cashews
Dinner: Quinoa salad with half a chicken breast. No dessert tonight since tomorrow is an easy workout (and I don’t need as many carbs to get through it)”

She has pictures of what her plates look like, and let me tell you, those look like tapas servings to me.

So on the one hand this is a real bummer. If I really want to take off the extra 10-15, I will have to be diligent about my carb and sugar intake. I can’t give myself a gold medal just because I didn’t eat the chocolate cake at the office on any given day. Or because I inhaled two pieces of pizza instead of four.

On the other hand, this is good news. I mean, if I was really eating super clean and just.couldn’, well, that’d be frustrating. But now I know: If I want to get to that optimal racing weight, which will hopefully help me reach my goal of a sub-4:00 marathon, it’s doable with some sacrifice. To be honest, I’m just not sure I’m there yet, but at least I can’t lie to myself about it any more.

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