Tuesday, September 8, 2009

These Boots Are Made For...

Ever have one of those moments that just completely throws you off track?

You know, the kind that knocks you down a few pegs, makes you totally question yourself and your abilities and really hits you square in the teeth?

I had one of those moments on Saturday, as I shopped for new riding boots for my upcoming horse show.

I was admittedly a little nervous about the show in general. Although horse shows were a routine part of my life growing up, it has been years (more than I'd like to admit, actually!) since I'd suited up and entered the ring.

At the urging of my riding instructor, I signed up a few classes as a fun-show at the barn where I ride. Why not, right?

Then I was faced with the reality that I really didn't have any of the necessary gear or clothing to actually look respectable in the show ring. You can be a great rider, but if you don't show up with the basics, you might as well not bother.

My instructor was more than supportive and helpful, lending me her helmet, tracking down a show jacket and letting me use her tack. I had the gloves, the breeches and could easily get a shirt.

Boots? Now that was a challenge.

I have a pretty normal-sized foot -- measuring in at an average 8 1/2 -- and I could suffer through a size on either side of that for a class or two. Turns out, it wasn't my foot that was the problem.

It was my seemingly gigantic, unusually huge, bigger-than-any-boots calves. Calves that couldn't be stuffed, shoved or even greased into any pair of boots around the barn or at the tack shop. Believe me, I tried.

I know I don't have the greatest legs. I certainly don't have that rail-thin marathoner's body. My legs (and really my entire lower body) are an ongoing source of frustration for me.

But I never imagined they would be so abnormally big that I couldn't find a simple pair of boots.

I've certainly developed my quads and calf muscles with all my running. (Words like solid or sturdy come to mind, not necessarily words any lady wants associated with her legs.) Despite the miles I put in, somehow the muscles continue to be hidden by that pesky layer of fat. And recently, it seems that no matter how much I run, it just hangs on. Maybe even getting worse.

I'm not alone.

While running our 18-miler the other day, Shawnna commented in passing about her frustration with gaining a couple of pounds, despite the hours and hours of running we've been doing. We burn way more calories than almost anyone else we know, runner-friends aside.

So how is it mathematically possible to gain weight while training for a marathon?

Turns out, it's pretty common. Great, just great.

Couldn't we sleep in late on the weekends, eat ice cream and pizza all day long and get that same effect?

Before you urge me not to pay attention to the scale and to consider the muscle mass I'm building, let me add that it's not only the numbers. I've noticed my once-loose and comfortable pants getting slightly more snug. I've found myself almost subconsciously taking some out of the normal rotation.
Increasingly frustrated, I ventured to the computer. The online explanations ranged from water weight because of the extra fluids being taken in on an ongoing basis to simple you-eat-more-because-you're-really-hungry reasoning.

The most scientific one -- and seemingly the most popular -- explained that marathon training also teaches the body to burn fuel (like carbs and sugars) more slowly. On race day or days with lots of miles, that's a good thing. Day to day, not so much.

The good news is that, according to the online gurus, the body has a tendency to lose the pounds quickly after the training is done. (Although I am more than a little scared that the pounds will actually pack on after the long runs stop.)

In the meantime, adding a few speed workouts should help keep the body's metabolism on track. And of course, watching what and how much I eat is always recommended.

I've been a little hesitant to cut down on the food too much while training. (I don't feel like I eat an extraordinary amount anyway, but I could be wrong.) I don't want to starve my body when I know it needs fuel.

Maybe I just need to be smarter about it, a little more conscious of it.

In the end, the boot saga ended up with just a few tears (and more bonus points to TC for putting up with my quirks) and me getting the second-best option -- a black pair of half-chaps.

Oh yeah, they were size XL. Yes, XL. I don't own anything with those letters on them. And I'm not exactly happy about having something with that label now.

But from a distance, the half-chaps passed the test and looked enough like show boots to get by.

They'd do. And they did. I came away with a couple of blue ribbons, a champion-of-the-day award and a trophy. And overall, even if I wouldn't have won any classes or gotten a trophy, a really good experience.

So I guess giant calves aren't the end of the world after all. But I'd still like a pair of boots, like normal people. Maybe sometime after November 1.


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