Sunday, July 10, 2011

Beer Has Sustained Me

Some things in life are truly paradoxical. For example, why in nature, would the hardest part of the human body be in direct contact with the softest part of the human body, fully capable of doing severe damage? Anyone who has ever bitten their tongue knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Most of the runners that I know represent a similar oxymoron. ( No, an oxymoron is not a dumb person with zits.) To casual observers, we are a picture of good health and good living. We run, therefore we probably eat fresh fruits and vegetables all day long, drink nothing but sparkling water, and wouldn’t go near red meat with a ten foot pole. I don’t know about you, but rabbit food just doesn’t cut it for me.

It is true that we do share some common health beliefs. Rarely do I see a runner smoking before a race, but it’s not unheard of. One of the nicest things about post race parties is that they are smoke free, a fact appreciated by all. But to see what food disappears first at those post race gatherings is the window to the soul of the runner.

I was at a race recently where post race refreshments included pizza, sub sandwiches, assorted cookies, and bananas. I saw people walk off with three pieces of pizza, and then return for more when their stash was gone. I saw people hoarding down handfuls of cookies without caloric guilt or remorse. People were crowded around the sub table to the point where you couldn’t nudge through to see what was left. Thanks to the sponsors who provided the feast. There was plenty of everything for everyone.

One table was practically ignored. The bananas. I didn’t see anyone look both ways and then grab a bunch of bananas when nobody was looking. There was no need for a sign that said “Please limit yourself to one banana only.” Most people were limiting themselves to no bananas. Curious, I thought that these health conscious people would bypass the obvious choice in favor of fat and empty calories.
As I thought about this, I realized that the five pieces of pizza I had just eaten had made me extremely thirsty. Boy, I could go for a beer right now. Beer. The one universal drink of the runner. Is there a runner alive who is not also a beer lover? Just give me my Samuel Adams after a training run and it truly doesn’t get any better than this.

I am an analytical thinker and try to make sense out of everything. So, of course, I started wondering why good running seemed to go hand in hand with bad eating and beer drinking. Well, I think I have figured out the answer in a way that at least I can understand. It’s really quite simple if you do the math. Let’s start with the facts.

3500 calories will always equal one pound. This is a simple mathematical equation.
Each mile you run burns approximately 100 calories.
Each beer you drink adds about 150 calories.
Personally, I maintain a steady weight of about 150 pounds, which remains steady from year to year. I average about 120 miles of running per month. At 100 calories per mile, that means that each month, I burn about 12,000 calories running.
120 miles X 100 calories = 12,000.
12,000 calories = 3.42 pounds. That’s how much weight I lose each month by running.

In order to stay even, I need to intake an equivalent number of calories from beer.

12,000 divided by 150 (calories per beer) = 80 beers per month, or 2.66 beers per day. I willingly do this to maintain the balance of nature. The first 2 beers are easy, but the last .66 is a bit harder. I haven’t yet figured out how to keep the carbonation going from one day to the next once the bottle is opened.
Simple math again tells me that I cannot stop drinking beer even if I wanted to (which, thank goodness, I don’t.) Here’s why.

Suppose I stopped drinking beer today and changed nothing else about my lifestyle. I’d still run my 120 miles a month, and I’d lose 3.42 pounds in the process. In only one year, I would lose 41.1 pounds. My weight would drop to under 110 pounds and I’d have to listen for high wind advisories before going outside. In only three short years, I will have lost 123.3 pounds, bringing my weight down to 26.7 pounds. I could get a job as a wind sock at the airport. In less than four years, I wouldn’t even be here any more. I would be totally gone.

Quit drinking beer? How can I? I am forced to drink in self defense. I take comfort in the fact that health experts now say that a beer a day may be better for you than total abstinence. So I figure you can never get too much of a good thing. I’m probably guaranteed good health through the year 2072 by now. Besides, we all have to do our part to contribute to the balance of nature (and the bathroom scale.) So bring on the pizza, sub sandwiches, cookies, and, most importantly, keep drinking beer.

And save the bananas for the monkeys.

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