Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 48 of 365: Proportions

Somehow, I finally hit double digits in my running. I ran 10.3 miles in a little under 1 hour, 45 minutes. This is music to my ears, as my goal is to run the Ashland Half Marathon in 2:30 or under. If I can keep up that pace, I can run the 13.1 miles in 2:15 or less. And that's factoring in a slowly declining pace.

It wasn't easy. The first 4 or 5 miles were simple enough: a nagging voice that went away by mile 2, a lot of zoning out, obsessive-compulsive sips of water. I found my stride and started knocking down the miles like I was Mike Tyson.

And then came Mile 7.

A funny thing happens when you burn up all the calories in your body. For those who fell asleep during anatomy & physiology, this fun phenomena is known at ketosis. Since you've burnt up all your ready-made fuel, your body starts burning fat. Great, right? Yeah, except for the part where it's a lot harder to burn fat than it is to burn calories. The result? You hit the wall. And not the, "oh my legs are tired/I'm bored" wall. But the, "I feel like I'm running through molasses no matter how much I try to move my legs" wall. It sucks. It slows your pace to a crawl and every step becomes murder.

This is why Heartbreak Hill is called Heartbreak Hill: not because running uphill is heartbreaking, but because these series of hills are located at Mile 21 in the Boston Marathon -- a time when most runners have hit ketosis.

But I powered on. My nine-minute miles dropped to 11+. It truly felt like I was slushing through snow instead of running on a warm, clear day. I ran up my own version of Heartbreak Hill and nearly cried when my running app told me that I had finally hit 10 miles. I finished out at 10.3 miles, hobbled inside, guzzled half a liter of water, and slowly made my way upstairs to shower away all the runner guck on my skin (which is what I lovingly call the layers of dried sweat that only running for over an hour can provide).

I had no idea what I had weighed before I went running (as I find weight to be an arbitrary measurement of "healthy" and I stopped weighing myself when I started putting on pounds of muscle), but I hovered between 150-155, so I decided to weigh myself.


That means, at best, I lost nearly 5 pounds during my run. I know I hadn't magically dropped weight before my run, as I have been eating fatty barbecue food for the last week (and a whole ton of takeout the week before that). Most likely, I was closer towards 155. So that mean I had lost a good 7 or 8 pounds just from running.

So, as is my modus operandi, I took a screenshot of my running app and told the world via Instagram/Twitter that I had lost 5-8 pounds on my run. This, of course, resulted in one friend messaging me, telling me how they couldn't believe I was ~150 lbs.

This happens all the time. I've had conversations with now-former co-workers about modeling, and how there is very little work for models who are 150 at 5'11", save for catalogue and plus-size work. Instead of gawking at the idea of a size 6 girl at 5'11" being considered "plus size" (especially since the Supermodels of the 80s and early 90s had my exact measurements), they gawked at me being 150 lbs. I had on co-worker -- who was probably 5'4" on their taller days -- tell me how there was no way I was 150 because they were 140 and didn't look skinnier than me.

It's funny how much emphasis people put on weight. People obsess so much over a little number that they give the number itself an intrinsic value, independent of height, built, and muscle definition. A man who is 6'7" can be 250 pounds and look lean. A girl can be 4'9" and 90 pounds and look average. I'm 5'11", with leg muscles so defined that my thighs actually curve out (if my description is lacking, Google Benson Henderson and look at his legs. While mine are not nearly as muscular as his, his legs give a good idea as to the "bump" in your upper thighs). I have biceps and triceps and lats and shoulder muscles. I have abs that, on a good day, can be seen pretty clearly (not necessarily a 6-pack, but a light 4-pack). All those muscles -- muscles that I've accrued because of yoga and tai chi and running and packing/unpacking -- are heavy. Sometimes I'm shocked that I didn't shoot up to 170 because of them.

And, lastly, what "150" looks on someone who is 5'1" is going to look completely different than "150" at 5'11". The biggest I've ever been was 175 (my second semester freshman year), which, while not necessarily "chubby" on someone who is nearly 6', is definitely on the larger side of "healthy". On the flipside, the smallest I've ever been was 135 pounds. I've been there twice: once, during, interestingly enough, my first semester freshman year, and once right before my wedding. I ended up putting back a few pounds before my actual wedding (which I attribute to quitting a toxic job and finishing up my classes), but I was still incredibly skinny.

In fact, I look back on some pictures and I'm shocked with how thin I am. One of my favorite pictures of my husband and myself was taken at our rehearsal dinner. It's a candid shot, where I had turned to look at my then-fiancé. He was making a silly face while I was staring at him with adoration. It is such a beloved picture that I actually have it framed and on my kitchen windowsill. And while I love gazing at it while I'm washing dishes or preparing food, I can't help but marvel at how skinny I am. And that's me after gaining 5 more pounds. Me at 140 is tiny. Me at 135 is frighteningly tiny. I am skin and bones at that point. And, ironically, to be industry standard, I would have had to lose an additional 10 pounds, to just be on the outer edges of acceptable fashion model size.

It's just so unhealthy to be so focused on one little number. It's what will keep people from properly working out because the muscle is making them "gain weight". It's why someone at 5'4" -- who is in perfectly fine shape -- laments being 140 when someone who is 7 inches taller than them and 10 pounds heavier but somehow "skinnier". It's this single-minded mentality that makes people go back to fad diets and "cleanses" that do nothing but hurt your immune system. It's stupid and unhealthy and there's really nothing else to say about that.

Besides, as any runner who has had to fight through ketosis can tell you, sometimes fat burning is a son of a bitch.

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