Twinkies and Marathons. And more Twinkies.

On November 21, 2012, I thought the world was nearing its end.  A tragedy so catastrophic occurred, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my overwhelming grief.

Twinkies, “The Golden Spongecake With Creamy Filling,” had stopped production due to manufacturer bankruptcy.  It hurts to my core to even type this.

Yes, I did immediately drop whatever I was doing to head to the store to fight off other dedicated souls and nab what boxes were left on shelves.  Yes, I did freeze a box and planned to have it indefinitely; it gave me comfort to look at it every time I cracked open the freezer.  And yes, I did lose my S##T when I heard that Twinkies made a comeback (appropriately dubbed “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever”) a few months later.

If it’s not clear yet, I do appreciate my Twinkies.

And I’ve managed to fold the epic Twinkie into my running.  It’s been a tradition since my first marathon nearly a decade ago to consume an entire box of them post-race.  I can’t think of a better way to truly celebrate slogging through 26.2 miles.  They go down easy, their taste unmatched, and probably provide a few critical grams of protein (maybe 1 per Twinkie) that aid recovery.

You want proof?  Boom, here’s a slideshow of a few pics of me and Twinkies.

On a more semi-serious note, we’ve all got our reasons to train and race.  And it’s kinda cool to have a tradition or two to celebrate.  Whether it’s getting a massage, enjoying a cold one, or eating a fine cut of red meat, we’ve gotta celebrate the hard work put in.  Regardless of the result, you had the courage to start your race.  And finish it.

So cheers to celebrating our racing triumphs.  And here’s to Twinkies, the greatest snack cake known to mankind.

 

30 days. 30 steaks. Multiple PRs.

Let’s start with a very important disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not advocating any diet changes for anyone. This is just a little account about how a (odd? actually, most definitely yes, odd!) change in my eating habits led me to multiple marathon successes. You should see your doctor before making any diet changes. But I didn’t. Oh well.

For all of you who hung onto my every word from part 1 of this blog series (Twinkies, Steaks, and Marathon PRs), I ask for your patience as I re-hash bits of it. Below is a graph of my marathon times, with highlights of my major successes (see steaks).

 

graph

There’s a blog entry to be written about the first steak marker in 2010, but I’ll focus on the two most recent marathons (sequential personal records).

 

Over a period of a few years (2010-2013), my marathon times hit a plateau.  My fastest was around 3 hours and 15 minutes, and I could do no better.  I did what had led to earlier success: I did my speed work and I dominated my long runs.  I truly thought I was getting stronger and faster, yet with each new marathon, I simply couldn’t break through.  It was frustrating, and I was about to accept that I did what I could do in marathoning.

At the beginning of 2014, I came back from a South American trip with some awesome memories, cool souvenirs, and … a few pounds tucked into my midsection (damn you, empanadas, damn you).  So I figured I’d try some diet to trim up, and decided to dust off this book, The Four Hour Body, I had sitting around.  It’s a diet / lifestyle “guidebook” written by Tim Ferriss, the man who brought us The Four Hour Workweek.  I’m a huge fan of his work, although many complain he’s a self-absorbed douchebag.

4hourbody

In the book, there’s a diet plan that can be summed up as “Atkins (kinda) with a cheat day”.  Six days a week, you eat nothing but protein, vegetables, and legumes (lots of black beans).  On day seven, aka Cheat Day (aka heaven?), you go ape-$#iT.  Dozen donuts?  Sure.  Whole pizza?  Game on.  Pint of ice cream?  Just stick it into my vein.  I’ll spare you the nuances, but I can say that I would eat lots of red meat (which is allowed) on non-cheat days.  There was a streak where I ate 30 steaks in 30 days.  And yes, I documented this on Facebook and developed a mass of steak followers.  The diet (now my lifestyle) worked.  I lost 15 pounds, felt great, and I even lowered my cholesterol.

health

And what does this have to do with running?  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even taking running seriously at the time.  I started the diet in January and had a race in May.  I kinda went through the motions and my mid-week runs were *awful*.  Having limited carbohydrates during the week was tough on my runs, and they often were well above 8 minutes per mile (I usually did these in the mid to lower 7’s).

But something happened on my long runs. 

I timed these runs after my cheat (high carbohydrate) days.  And my body responded really, really well.  While I couldn’t really run quickly mid-week, my long runs were the exact opposite: extremely fast.  Armed with boat-loads of sugar from the day before, I felt like a god out there.  I tore up my long runs (faster than I had ever run them before), and set personal records in my next two races (went from 3:15, to 3:11, to 3:07).

This isn’t science.  It’s my n = 1 data point.  But I can say being lighter helped me tremendously.  Having a diet that facilitated this was key.  I also believe the carbohydrate depletion effect helped as well — and there are many that will back up this theory.

All of this typing has made me hungry.  Gonna fire up myself a juicy ribeye.

Happy running (and eating!).

steak

[Many steaks were eaten in the course of this writing. Please eat responsibly. But not birds. Thank you, the management.]

Twinkies, Steaks, and Marathon PRs


I started running in 2002, a year before I went to college.  I signed up for the Chicago Marathon, my hometown race.  As a graduation gift, my brother gave me the book “4 months to a 4 Hour Marathon.”  I opened up the first page and it read:

Oprah Winfrey ran her first marathon in under four hours, without stopping.

Damn.

I did break 4 hours, and I’ve been running ever since.  And here’s a graph to prove it.

graph

I’m not your prototypical runner.  I’m built like a fire hydrant.  My body fat percentage is probably in the upper teens (on a good day).  But I’ve become a better runner with experience.

The graph above shows all of my marathon times.  While showing this to girls at bars hasn’t resulted in any phone numbers, there is something telling about it.  I’ve highlighted 3 races in particular, where I made pretty significant strides in a short period of time.

How?

Twinkies and Steaks.  Of course.

steak

Mmm. I’ll elaborate more, next time…