Sunday, November 7, 2010

Too much of a good thing?

I am so happy to be running again that each week I am upping my mileage. And, as a friend pointed out, I am also upping my caffeine intake again. I should probably think twice about both.

Since this is considered post-season, or off-season, for me, I should be using the time to rest, relax and maintain a moderate level of fitness. The next race is not until May so I have almost four months before I have to start training again. Instead, I am constantly thinking about training and dreaming about the races I still want to do . . . a Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon, The Outer Banks Marathon, the Savage Half Iron Man, Chesapeake Man or Eagle Man, the Iron Man . . . the list goes on.
Since returning to running in September, I have been steadily increasing my mileage. What I can't figure out is why. Probably, in part, because I can, partly because it's fun, and partly because it allows me to continue eating the foods I love. So, where do I stop? Five miles? Six? My husband, my fellow triathlete and training partner, suggests I aim for two or three runs a week, ranging from three to six miles each, plus a third or fourth short run in the Vibrams. I wonder if this will be enough to satisfy my craving--for running and for coffee, since the two seem to go hand-in-hand these days.
I didn't always drink coffee. There was a time when I didn't even like it, didn't even own a coffee pot. Then there was a trip to Seattle, right before my first child was born, when my husband and I visited the original Starbucks and Seattle's Best Coffee and I was able to sample good coffee. After that, I began drinking coffee socially--after holiday dinners, when friends or family would visit, on special occasions. I had a strict "one cup a day" rule and would plan my day around that cup in the same way that dieters limit calories at lunch if they plan to splurge at dinner. A coffee drinker was born! Before long, I was drinking my "one cup" daily, which soon became two cups or three cups. The caffeine didn't even affect me anymore and coffee became a habit--a problem! I had to have that cuppa; couldn't go anywhere without it. When it became too expensive to buy Starbucks regularly, I started brewing my own at home. I was a coffee junkie. I felt like coffee was ruling my life!
Then, last February, after nearly nine years (gasp!) as a coffee drinker, I embarked on a nutrition program that had a strict no caffeine rule. There were other things I had to give up too, but coffee was one of the hardest to part with. The program did allow for one cup of black decaf per day. ?? And, junkie or no, that was a deal breaker. I couldn't figure out the point of decaf and I couldn't stomach the taste of black coffee--I'd always had mine spiced and frothed and sprinkled--so I could honestly say that if it had to be black decaf, then I'd rather not have it at all.
And I didn't. For almost six months, I didn't have any--not a single cup. I switched to green tea, which was simply unsatisfying and first, but I eventually began to enjoy it and appreciate the extra health benefits I was getting from it. (Well, that was my pep talk and I'm sticking to it!)
After six months on the nutrition program and not getting the results I'd hoped for, I slowly let some of the forbidden items back into my life, like shellfish and chocolate and, yes, coffee. And the first full cup of leaded rocked my world! I was shaking, stammering, having heart palpitations . . . it was eye-opening to see how my body reacted to caffeine after it had been out of my system for so long.
And I realized I could harness that energy! What a great weapon to add to my training and racing arsenal! So, that's what I did. Now, before any long workout, and definitely before a race, I brew a pot, pour a cup, suck it down, and wait for the performance-enhancing effects to kick in. Awesome! I won't race without it.
But my friend has a point--if I start drinking it too much, will I start to lose that kick? Will the effects start to diminish?
In the name of coffee and of running I ask myself . . . how much is too much?

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