I hope they have health food in Dublin
And strawberry apricot pie
If they don’t have those things in Dublin
We’ll probably die
— the Roches
I was just reading a story in the Fake New York Times about cross-country skiers in the Olympics. It contends skiing isn’t the hardest part. The real challenge is the constant effort to shovel in enough calories to keep going, about 8,000 calories a day.
I can relate to this story. I’m living it.
I’m in the middle of heavy training in the Year of Fleshman running season. This will sound crazy, but I’m running THREE MILES A DAY. No, that’s not a typo. NOT three miles a week, but three miles EVERY DAY. This creates a caloric need that becomes an all-day chore, leaving me time for little but running, working, eating, sleeping and watching endless old MASH episodes. Because there aren’t new MASH episodes. Spoiler alert: The Korean War hasn’t ended by the time the series is over, or in real life, although I increasingly suspect it will end soon in a way Alan Alda wouldn’t have written. Can you imagine if MASH were currently being filmed in the days of the #MeToo movement? Nurse Kelly would have some tales to tell. But I digress.
The morning begins in the morning. I wake up hungry. I’m always so, so hungry. I eat a bowl of oatmeal (an entire half cup, since that all my bowl will hold.) I add some milk-like product and a spoon of sugar. I know I should limit my sugar, but my body is a pot-belly furnace. It demands food. Always more food. So it’s barely 10 a.m., and I’ve already shoveled in 230 calories. Crazy, I know.
I then go to run. It’s an icy day, barely above 60, but I’m a Serious Runner, so I gut it out. The track is empty except for a couple of guys stealing our benches. I don’t need a bench anyhow, because I’m a Serious Runner. I might have mentioned that already. I run a Gumbo 5K, which makes me wish I had gumbo, although I’ve never had it and have no idea what it is. Maybe it’s like chili? I hope real gumbo doesn’t have beans.
One of the enduring images of the long-distance cross-country events is the sight of athletes collapsing at the finish line because they’e run out of fuel, the NYT article notes. I can relate to this because I drag my feet when I run, causing me to trip a lot. Or maybe it’s the lack of calories. But not today. The run is uneventful. Time for More Food.
Like the Olympic cross-country skier, I eat constantly because I must. The body demands calories, dammit, always more calories. I make a cheese sandwich for lunch. Gluten-free bread, Tillamook cheese. My calorie tracker lectures me on my dietary selection. I scoff. You do what you have to do. Bill Rodgers ate cold pizza with mayo on it during his day. I add some mayo just in case. 510 calories.
After all that, there’s barely time to get ready for work. I stuff my backpack full of food for work. An Amy’s organic burrito. Yes, it’s hard to carry all this food to work, but I figure it will be bonus training as I hike with the load from the parking lot to the newspaper.
But as I leave, I realize I’M STILL HUNGRY. I stop for a Hershey bar. With nuts, of course, because you have to be nuts to do this. Another 210 calories.
I edit papers while shoveling down food. The burrito is a ridiculous 240 calories. I try to imagine eating this much if I weren’t in Serious Training Mode. But eating is essential for running at this level.
And so is water. I drink a FULL EIGHT OUNCES of water over the course of the shift. I once toyed with drinking more, but it made me pee, so I figured what’s the point. The NYT article doesn’t address fluid intake, so I figure I’m safe.
“It’s breakfast, training, lunch, rest, eating, training, eating and rest and eating,” said Swedish cross-country skier Daniel Rickardsson. “It’s what we do.”
It’s what I do, too. Unable to face hacking another editorial about Trump’s gun policy, I go home. I watch a MASH episode where they’re burning down the camp, and I realize: DEAR GOD I’M STILL HUNGRY. I eat two slices of gluten-free toast. Another 180 calories. I add butter (did I mention I like margarine?) and don’t figure in the calories, since I’m thinking at this point it really doesn’t matter.
Before I go to bed, I check my total. 1,500 CALORIES. IN ONE DAY.
I realize it’s insane to eat this much. But it’s what you have to do to perform at the elite level I have chosen. I go to sleep, dreaming of more oatmeal and a country where we don’t think it’s OK to kill kids with AR-15s because it might impair the ability of a crazy guy in Montana to build up his arsenal.
I’m looking forward to relaxing and not training so much,” said cross-country skier Martin Moller of Denmark. “And I’ll eat a lot less.” But not yet. We still have miles to go, and calories to burn.
Another day. The cycle continues. Well, actually, running. No cycling. Cyclists are sissies.
I wake up. I’m hungry. Oatmeal awaits. I hope we have strawberry apricot pie …