Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mrs. Grinch does Christmas

As my relationship with material goods grows ever more tenuous and fraught, I find getting Christmas right with young children challenging. I have reached the point in my life where due to extremely good fortune and 38 years of life experience, very little of what I want, comes from a store anymore. What do I want? More sleep. To be a better mom. To be a better wife. To be a better person. A healthy left knee so I can run again. More hours in the day. To derive more enjoyment from my life and my job. A sunny outcome to this situation and also to another similar though far less dire situation. To make a contribution. Somehow, I find receiving material things an extremely depressing event... (unless they are utilitarian and will help me in my everday life (like the dustbuster and the car snow shovel I got this year)... unless a Precor EFX Elliptical machine shows up at my door... that extremely materialistic object would be welcomed with open arms and a cozy spot in my basement especially now (see desired healthy left knee above). It is obviously not realistic or fair for me to expect La Cocotte to share my dim view of material goods. Her job is to want and our job is both to give and to help her be happy with what she received.

Last year we went overboard on the gifts... so overboard that La Cocotte's joy in receiving them was, I believe, blunted by their sheer number. Confronted with the small mountain of presents, she went into a trance and tore into package after package without being able to process the contents of each. The overall effect was similar to the giant chocolate chicken episode. This year, I was determined to get the "right" number of presents. I also sternly lectured my family members who would be buying presents on the importance of keeping it reasonable and buying small (in number and size) presents for the children. Despite the complaints, my edict was stuck to grudgingly and the result was a contained, reasonable Christmas haul where I feel every present was appreciated and will be remembered. La cocotte said that she liked all of her presents and that she got "beaucoup" (lots) presents but not, however, "assez" (enough) presents. And indeed as I looked at the pile of presents we, her parents, purchased for her, it did seem that the pile was perhaps somewhat modest. Or has my compass just been thrown off by the ridiculous excess in society (again. I refer you to the giant chocolate chicken). So, here is a complete listing of all the presents we got for la cocotte for my future reference and also for judgement against the barometer of the opinion of the internet:

1.  44 key keyboard
2. ballet outfit for her upcoming lessons (tights, slippers and body suit)
3. magic carpet sled
4. slinky
5. bathtub crayons (already used down to stubs)
6. weird stocking stuffer thingy too convoluted to describe

Total cost approximately $160.

In addition to this she received an assortment of other presents from people other than us (Dolls, Mr. Potato Head, puzzle, Snakes and Ladders game and there are more on the way we have been warned). This, in her estimation, is simply not enough presents. I find this somewhat alarming and disheartening but I think ultimately her feeling of not being satiated comes from us not hitting the sweet spot... we did not buy the one toy that is designed to be appeal to her inner princess, you know the one... pink, plastic, child spends hours in front of totally entranced, good for stimulating the imagination and the Chinese economy. Anyway I am curious as to how her haul (just the enumerated one above i.e. the one from us) compares to others...

***begin depressing part of post ... might want to bail out now***

This next part of my train of thought is really a separate thought... really should be a separate post. Also, there is nothing original in these next few thoughts and they are something I am sure every other parent (no, scratch that breeder-centric thinking) person who is relatively comfortable thinks... it just feels obscene to have such luxury against the backdrop of all of those around the globe who go without. Our Christmas, reasonable and contained as I felt it was, would represent luxury beyond the wildest imagination of hundreds of thousands of children (again, scratch that) people around the world. Inequity is always present and, indeed, we don't have to look to iconic images of extreme deprivation in impoverished countries to find it. God knows it exists right here in my city, in my neighbourhood... but somehow inequity is particularly poignant at this time of year (which is ridiculous right? bc people go without regardless of whether I have heaps of presents under my tree and heaps of food on my table). So I make the donations which I do with a nauseating feeling of power... $10 for a mosquito net to prevent malaria, $20 for immunizations for a family, $100 for clean water for a family, $1000 for a one-room schoolhouse for village, $200 for a cow for a family... I guess there are no easy answers and I don't really have a point. I am just having a hard time reconciling all of these images and numbers this time around.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the giant, drooling mouth

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nanosecond before chaos

Photographing infnats and toddlers is probably not unlike to trying to capture images of wildlife on the African serengeti in terms of the complete obliviousness and hence lack of cooperation of the subjects. How many times have I witnessed the picture perfect moment, whipped out the camera only to have the infant look away, the toddler look away, the toddler take the infant away, my thumb over the lens, or, most often, the moment simply end in the seconds between focussing and the shutter actually closing. Frustrating. Last night though the lions, giraffes, wildebeests and all the stars lined up and I managed to accidentally snap a photo which tells a complete story through the expressions on Thing 1 (intense concentration and focus) and Thing 2 (obliviousness and innocence). Without further bragging or explanation, I present my chef d'oeuvre which I call "Nanosecond Before Chaos":






Saturday, December 15, 2012

Race Report: 3000 m indoors

"OMG, this was so much fun. Seriously! I loved it. Racing is fun."
-Mmmmonyka

Yeah, what she said. This was the most satisfying and heck, flat out fun race I have done in awhile. Things fell into place like layers of hair after a really expensive cut at a salon (or so I've heard). In the days leading up to the meet, the coach of the club I now run for told me I had the choice of being the slowest in the fast heat or the fastest in the slow heat and he would adjust my seed time accordingly depending on what I wanted. The fastest seed time was 9.55, the slowest 14.00. I figured if the stars lined up I could just barely avoid being lapped in the fast heat but would definitely do some lapping in the slow heat so I opted for being the turtle in the fast heat. So he obligingly adjusted my seed time from a conservative 10.50 to a still realistic 10.44 thus leap frogging me over the 5 girls seeded at 10.45 and ensuring me a spot in the faster heat. I really did not know what I was capable of having not run anything shorter than 5 km since this race. I had been having trouble running even 600 m repeats at 10.45 pace so I thought that 10.45 was at the improbable edge of possible.

Ahead of time I memorized all 15 of the splits I would need to run 10.45. I told myself that the two biggest mistakes I could make would be to go out too fast or to waste energy elbowing for space out in lane 2 or 3 especially given that there were 10 girls seeded between 10.30 and 10.45 in the heat (plus another two girls at 9.55). So, when the gun sounded, I hesitated a split second to allow everyone to get ahead of me and positioned myself at the very back of the pack right on the rail. I reminded myself that inevitably people go out too aggressively in track and bided my time at the back. It was a full 600 m before I passed anyone. After that, it seemed I was slowly and steadily passing runners throughout but honestly I barely noticed. All I was thinking about was the next split I needed to hit and how the gap between splits I was actually running and the split I needed to run was steadily increasing (i.e. I was running under 10.45 pace). I have never felt so a) focussed and b) free of physical distress before in a race. I was completely in the zone. (Ok, I did spend a bit of mntal energy whining about paste-mouth that comes with running at an indoor track...so dry!). But really, this race was an absolute blast and it was so empowering to move slowly and steadily through the pack.

With a km to go, I was essentially deciding when to kick.  Finally, I realized if I could run a sub-80 last 400 m, I would break 10.30... at that point I heard the one-lap-to-go bell ring for the first place woman (who was trying to break 10.00). I decided I did not want to be lapped and took off. I managed a 77 second last 400 m good for a 10.28 final time. Just missed getting second place by 0.04 seconds. So here, as best I recall, are my splits:

.43
1.25
2.09
2.51
3.34 (1 km)
4.16
4.58
5.41 (1 mile)
6.23
7.05 (2 km, second km run in 3:31)
7.48
8.29
9.10
9.50
10.28 (last km in 3:23)

Honestly, I would not have thought I could run a 3.23 km period right now, let alone at the end of a 3 km race. Amazing what the adrenaline of a race and rested legs can produce. Makes me want more!

Oh... and Mmmonyka, this part is for you - except for one other woman born in 1980 (who finished 0.04 seconds ahead of me) I was the oldest athlete by 14 years!! Almost everyone else was born in the 1990s. I was a whopping 24 years older than the youngest runners in the race. Quite a different scene that road racing!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ring the bells that still can ring

As I've written about before, I am not really into music all that much. I know that for some people that is akin to saying "eh, oxygen, I can take it or leave it." I enjoy music but it never really occurs to me to put it on so yeah, I guess I can generally take it or leave it. That being said, there have always been three bands/artists to see in concert on my bucket list: 1. Bob Dylan (done, Bell Center, Montreal, 2007(?) ). 2. Leonard Cohen and 3. U2.

The way my life is right now I would have expected it far more likely that I would see Barney in concert (does he tour??) before getting to numbers 2 and 3 on my list. Nonetheless there I was in the Bell Center on November 29 seeing Leonard Cohen live for the first time. My love affair with Leonard goes back to my teen years when my BFF and I were equally obsessed with the dark poet. I recall one summer night coming home around 11 pm from the lab where I was doing my masters at the time to an excited voice mail from BFF saying "I'm on Saint Laurent and he's here. Leonard. Leonard! He's at the corner on Saint Laurent and Marie Anne headed northbound. It's 6.45 pm so if you get this message soon head over this way and call me on my cell phone." Who knows what would have transpired had four hours not gone by before I heard the message. Perhaps it would not have been 15 years before I got to see Leonard in person.

So yeah, I don't know much about music. Or poetry. And let's face it, Leonard is just as much about poetry as he is about music. But this concert exceeded my greatest hopes. Almost 2 weeks later, I am still lingering over the lasting mental images and enjoying them and trying to figure out what was so magical about the experience. (you know PPC, if it's worth doing, it's worth analyzing into oblivion).
First, he is a generous performer. He started at 8 pm (no one opened for him, bonus) and he played until just past 11.30 pm with only one brief (and punctual intermission). He had what seemed like a ten piece emsemble with him which resulted in rich and varied sounds. Again, know nothing about music, but I think he had a bass (that's the cello but bigger right?), harp, piano-organ, drums, violin (fiddle? are they the same?), 12 string guitar, other guitar, three back up vocalists and I am sure I am forgetting some. Every musician got a solo (and I guess that is par for the course) but during the solos Leonard turned to the musician and took off his hat to them and really drew attention towards them. Even the drummer got a solo and if you're not familiar with Leonard's stuff then you'll have to take my word that it is not exactly drum solo kind of music.

The other thing that struck me about this concert is that it truly was all about the music. The set was minimal, it consisted of an oriental carpet. The lighting was basic and served only to highlight the soloists and Leonard himself. The back-up singers (all women) were dressed in staid black suits, nothing sexy, distracting or provocative...they were treated as artists. There were no crazy costume changes and only very minimalistic dancing. The star of the show was without question the music and lyrics, Ironically Justin Beaver played in the same venue a few nights prior; I can't imagine there was any overlap in the audience!

It was fascinating to watch Leonard move. At 78 years old, he can still do a shuffle and a soulful kneel with the best of them. He had three or four basic moves which he used very effectively to express the music. When he closes and eyes and kneels, you really believe it is because he is so engrossed in the words melody. Finally he was unexpectedly humorous and self effacing. Upon returning from intermission he looked out at the audience and said "thanks for not going home. I really appreciate it." and while I am sure he has said this at every concert he has been forced to do since he was swindled out of his life savings (oh, yes... read about it here) it came across as genuine astonishment.

Finally, I would not have thought it possible but he found a song more appropriate than "closing time" on which to ehd the show.

Here are some links to some of the highlights of the show: Hallelujah, Closing Time, Everybody Knows.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wings part 2

Some years have gone by since I last wrote about flying with hubby and la cocotte. In the interim la cocotte has gone from infant to pre-schooler and another infant has arrived making flying en famille more challenging rewarding. Last week-end, we had a mission to not only take a flight as a family but more importantly to have la cocotte sit up front as co-pilot next to baba. Although somewhat nervous about the prospect of la cocotte near the controls of an airplane (for the uninitiated, there are a separate set of controls in front of both the pilot and "co-pilot" in a Cesna, heck perhaps in all airplanes, I really don't know... count me among the uninitiated), I had the mental image of her strapped tightly into her car seat and therefore unable to manipulate the environment around her. My image also included me, sitting directly behind her, at the ready to pin her down if necessary.

Fast forward to hubby taxiing to the runway for takeoff, la cocotte seated not entirely serenely beside him held in place only by a standard seatbelt, her car seat having proved too large for the cesna. Then there's me, sitting behind her not at the ready to pin her down should occasion arise but rather with two very occupied arms nursing an infant who rejected outright the confinement of her carseat. And as we taxied to the runway, I stopped chewing on the fact that la cocotte had not gone pee before boarding and moved on to far graver concerns. I was struck with a vision of a full-on, mid-flight temper tantrum by a largely unrestrained cocotte... door being flung open, controls being kicked, infant being tossed aside as I tackled la cocotte (as much as anyone can tackle anything inside a cesna). Please, I thought, oh please don't let this turn into one of those you-tube-esque what-the-fuck-were-they-thinking spectacular parenting fails.

A word about my hubby. There are certain, specific areas in which I truly question his judgement; appropriate officewear for women  ("honey, that's not a dress, it's a shirt"), the health of a given meal ("that was pretty healthy" he'll happily say after we've consumed a meal that included exactly none of the four food groups).  However there are other areas where I trust him absolutely and these include the safety of our children and all things pilot/flying-related. On these, I trust his judgement and his fairly conservative nature. So I reminded myself of this, took a deep breath and settled in for the ride.

Which was amazingly smooth thanks to our skilled pilot and the beautiful day. Once my lap-held infant fell asleep, I even managed to get a few shots off though the scenery around Montreal sadly pales in comparison to the scenery that some of you may have seen on another blog. I also got to take in some ATC chatter which I always enjoy. La cocotte held her own very nicely and other than peppering the pilot with a thousand "pourquois" (usually right as he was queuing the mic to speak with ATC or another pilot) and occasionally tugging on his arm, she was an incredibly well behaved passenger.

It was right around the time that we turned to head back west that things on board started to go south. It began with an innocuous request for an on-board snack of peanuts. Obviously, I should have brought peanuts as they are, after all, the classic in-flight snack. Very unfortunately I had only brought cheese which was roundly rejected. Then la cocotte decided she wanted to use the controls and was denied by the pilot. Things escalated as they will with threenagers and before we knew it, flailing, screaming temper tantrum complete with kicking the yoke. Yup. Kicking the yoke... the doohickey thingy that the pilot pulls on to climb and pushes to descend. As it turns out, kicking the yoke with a winter boot clad foot will also cause the plane to descend. Our excellent pilot-in-command immediately took us out of the resulting dive and the mother in command quickly re-wrote and implemented a new rule regarding pacifier use. Pacifier may only be used when toddler is in bed at a time of day when sleep is imminent (previous) OR when toddler is putting all of our lives at risk (addendum).  Popped the pacifier into the toddler and, well, the pacifier lived up to its name exceptionally well.

Anyway, no regrets. It was a memorable family day and a great treat to see hubby doing something he loves.

back to front: Mont Royal, Montreal skyline, St Lawrence River, south shore
Mont St. Gregoire (a "mountain" formed by an igneous intrusion into the surrounding sedimentary rock 125 million years ago, since that time the surrounding sedimentary rock has eroded leaving behind the igneous formation - Mount Royal above has the same origin... hubby's day job is in geology)
 
Eastern Townships
Birds on Chambly Basin
Pilot and co-pilot
Sleeping lap-held infant

 Sleeping after the yoke incident, those pacifiers are genius!
Ear protectors must match one's shirt, always.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eight Months

At eight months the Poopa Loopa's motor skills are exploding. She is intent on learning to walk and constantly pulling up and cruising, typically around the circumference of the often-open dishwasher. The only thing that can distract her from her daily dishwasher patrol is her delight in finding a dirty knife to play with. She also covers a fair amount of ground on all fours covering "her" beat with clockwork regularity. The beat begins in the living room where she'll have a quick glance around to see if any choking hazards have been left out for her to play with. She then starts the long crawl down the hallway towards the kitchen where the rest of us are invariably hanging out. Without fail she'll detour into the bathroom to check out what is available in the way of used tissues in the waste paper basket. Used tissues... mmm so yummy. Almost as good to chew on as a urine-soaked diaper if she can get her paws on one. I spend much of my days fishing slobbery strings of chewed upon paper products out of her gum rings. After exhausting the bathroom waste paper basket, she will typically spend some quality time fingering her favorite light socket before finally arriving in the kitchen. At this point she is often whisked up off the floor by her older sister and returned to her starting point and so she, like the indefatiguable Sisyphus begins again.

She proudly sports 6 teeth. The two bottom front teeth appeared shortly before the 6 month mark (right on cue according to all the baby books) and the top four incisors are simultaneously emerging which began shortly after 7 months.  Her vocalizations are in the vein of mamamamama and gagagagaga. She is not a big talker nor a big crier. We can reliably get a smile out of her by holding her upside down.

She is the only girl in her daycare possee of five which likely garners her some extra attention. Without fail she comes home with a single ponytail in her wispy baby hair. She has the advantage of being more mobile than her colleagues at daycare and any bottle or cookie left unattended (or attended only by another baby) will rapidly be swiped by her.

The breast feeding continues apace but it is a distant cousin to the breastfeedings of months past. It is an active pursuit complete with hair pulling (mine), nose twisting (mine), nipple twisting (ouch frickety ouch). She pops off the breast at the slightest distraction and has a look around before plunging back in. The teeth come into play more often than I would like (let's be clear, once is more often than I would like). Because of the struggles we have had with older sister and her pacifier (including an epic battle just this morning) we have not offered a pacifier to the Poopa Loopa and although she somes enviously fingers older sister's, so far it has not been an issue so maybe, perhaps there will be one less battle to fight on that front.

She still has a delicious pot belly and wonderous thighs but her joy in her mobility is steadily wearing the layers of chub away and soon Chumba Wumba will have to be dropped from the roster of many nicknames.

Eight months is wonderful. It is coos and babbles and smiles. It is not completely different from having a family dog. It is, as the cliche goes, all going by far too quickly.

I call this one: "Honey have you seen the baby?"
 
Making the dishwasher rounds
 
 
 Breast is best. But beer ain't bad.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A taste of my own medicine

First, I wanted to thank everyone for their warm, supportive thoughts on my last post - both in comments and by e-mail. I apologize for the enigmatic post... I needed an outlet but feel I cannot divulge details that concern someone other than myself in a public forum so I will leave it at that. But I do thank you all for your thoughts.

So, I tried to get my head together for a work-out today. Not surpringly, my running has been lackluster and random as of late. My streak ended the day after I wrote the post about my streak. I found that commiting to running every day made running so chore-like and unpleasant that I grew to dislike it. Not a good thing to say the least. Also I was having trouble keeping the hard days hard and the easy days easy because on those days when I was running the minimum just to say I had run, I would tend to do it as fast as possible just to get it over with so my "easy days" were a 6 km tempo. All in all, 17 days. Took one day off and felt immediately rejuvenated.

Today I actually e-mailed one of my running buddies to tell them what work-out I was doing just so I would feel accountable to someone (there are disadvantages to being self-coached). She kindly suggested I test her after every interval with my time. While I felt someone pathetic to need this kind of monitoring, the gesture on her part really got me to commit and I so much appreciated her observance. Amazing how having an observer can make a difference...

So this post is called a taste of my own medicine because I have been recommending this work-out to various people in the past few years but I have not done it myself for a long time. The concept is that one does a warm-up followed by a tempo run to increase the workload a bit before the intervals so that each interval is "worth" a little bit more. Mmmmonyka has done many of these in the past few years but I had not done one in probably over five years (do as I say...). Anyway I planned:

20 minute warm-up
3 km tempo
5-6 X 800 m
cool-down

I actually did:

20 minute warm-up
3 km tempo in 12:06 (tempo pace used to be 3:50... sigh)
7 X 800 m (was super pleased I got in an extra interval, after four my friend texted me and said "commit to doing 7 so you can bow out at 6" and so I committed to doing 7... and actually did them). Times were not stellar but better than anything lately: 2:52, 2:49, 2:48, 2:47, 2:46, 2:52, 2:48.

Based on this, I think I am probably in about 10:45 shape for 3000 m which might be my next race depending on what kind of mental state I am in on race day. On the other hand, I also found this random marathon on the web the other day. It looks like everything a marathon should not be: cold, windy, monotonous course, no spectators, not enough runners to make a decent pack (typically fewer than 100 finishers). I'm thinking of going... I could actually get up super early (4.30 am), drive to Albany (NY) run the marathon and be back the same day. It would be exhausting but definitely memory making... we'll see.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Anatomy of bad news

I hear the news and there is extreme fatigue. I despertately need to escape into sleep.
Shame. Shame that I ever thought I had experienced bad news before. I listen to a fellow mom discuss behavioral problems of her toddler and wonder how she can possibly think this is a real problem. I think of this post and cringe. I wonder how I will ever again be empathetic towards the daily problems of others; this has raised the bar permanently. Relativism. It has come to chew my ass off, big time.

It takes a long time to process this news. I digest it in small, bite-sized pieces as I do what must be done: change the baby, clothe the toddler, make baby purree, argue over how much halloween may be consumed per day. The ragged edge of the news is slowly worn smooth by the normalcy of the never-ending, daily needs of our household. With the normalcy returns the ablility to take a deep breath, to run up a hill without my throat constricting, to actually hear what others are saying but then, with the normalcy comes panic. Panic and guilt. Life should NOT be normal because with normalcy comes acceptance and we cannot accept. We must fight. Fight? Can this be fought? We don't know.

The news marches in incrementally; a piece of concrete information provided, some tenuous research done. My brain frantically seeks the silver lining. I find a few "but, at leasts". I wonder how real these fragments of silver lining are. Can this be fought? Of course it can. How do we fight? By being supportive without stripping independence. By showing love. By seeking out all the information available. By being a team. By sharing optimism. By creating safe space to allow whatever needs to be said to be said. By being creative. By being very present.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Streaking

Given my readership, I am sure no one thought of this sort of streaking when they read the title:

 
Undoubtedly everyone's minds immediately jumped to running streak i.e. the practice of running every day for an undetermined number of days in a row where a run must conform to a minimum distance or time determined by the "streaker". If I am not mistaken there is an official society for streakers and I believe their minimum is a mile (too lazy to google).

It may surprise some that prior to this "streak" (I put it in quotes because I am only on day 16 which some people would not even consider a "streak" but rather just a regular block of training), anyway prior to this "streak" the most days I had ever run in a row was 6. I am a big believer in the hard/easy principle. I run my hard days very hard and my easy days are necessarily very easy and off in order to allow for the hard days to be hard. With the goals I have had over the past few years i.e. run as fast as possible over distances between 3 km - marathon, rest days to the tune of 1-2 per week are essential, this is even more true at 38 than it was 10 years ago.

Streaking, I think, accomplishes one goal only and that is that is allows the streaker to run many consecutive days in a row. In other words it is a means to its own end and is not conducive allowing runners to reach other more constructive goals. It can lead to bad decisions and obsessive compulsive behavior. Nonetheless, I am trying it for a few reasons. First, I have no serious competitive goals for the next little while. I may do two indoor 3000 m races in December but with no serious ambitions. Also, I have never streaked before so I am curious to see how long I can go and what effects it has one my person and my body. The last reason is personal and in the category of things that I don't blog about but let's say even an amateur psychologist would realize that in the face of a serious, bad thing that I cannot control it is soothing to have something fairly benign over which I do have control.

So here I am on day 16 of my streak. My rule is that for a run to count it must be at least 30 minutes or 6 km.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Too stunned to speak

Conversation between me and an acquaintance (also on maternity leave) yesterday via text:

her: Stevie starts daycare today, only for 2 hours. How am I going to kill two hours?
me: (assuming sarcasm) ha ha ha
her: no really, what am I supposed to do for two hours?
me: (assuming she is unfamiliar with daycare process) do you mean are you supposed to stay with Stevie at daycare?
her: no, I am supposed to leave. What do I do for two hours?

I was too stunned and disturbed to respond. Nevermind the mental imagine of "killing" two hours (as opposed to living, enjoying, relishing, making use of) but the thought that an adult could not find a way to make use of two hours was so very disturbing to me. I don't think I know a single person (okay, except her I guess) who, if gifted (yes GIFTED) two free hours IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, would not immediately think of three dozen amazing things to do and probably waste the first 20 minutes in a delirious daze wondering where to begin. This is true of everyone (ok,almost everyone) I know, parents and the child-free, runners and the more sedentary, educated and not.... what adult would not somersault backwards with joy if granted two free daytime hours?

It's the most worried I have been about someone in awhile.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Race Report: 2 of 2

As it turns out, I'm not 20 anymore and need more than 24 hours to recover between races. I felt every spike clad kilometer of yesterday's XC race in my hams, quads, calves and gluts as I warmed up this morning. Aside: how is it that swimmers can swim a half dozen events in a single day let alone week-end and do them all well without, it seems, there being any cummulative fatigue effects? Missy Franklin swam a heat of one event in the Olympics and came back twenty minutes later to win the gold medal in a final of another... at the Olympics! And while I really don't mean to compare myself to a world class athlete, I am really curious about the differences between the two sports. Swimmers can get away with doubles, triples, quadruples... they are the fertility clinic of sporting events. Why can't runners do that? I don't think there is a middle distance runner in the world who could run heats of a 1500 m and then come back 20 minutes later and win an 800 m at a world class event. Is it the lack of impact in swimming? Is it that swimmers heart rates are typically lower than runner's heart rates? Is is the duration of the events? I don't think even runners who do sprints could get away with running as many events as a typical world class swimmer swims.

Anyhow needless to say 24 hours was not enough for me to begin recovering from yesterday's effort and I found myself rapidly revising my goal during the warm-up from "break 38" to "break 40". I actually offered to run with Thing 1 to give hubby a break and to make it clear to myself that I could not really race but there were bouncy castles at this race so Thing 1 was sooooo not interested in being strapped into the Bob for 40 minutes.

It was a weird race body wise because for once my breathing was not a factor... the rate limiting stuff was all going on muscularly in the legs, they simply could not turn over and I felt like my nervous system was not firing properly. The splits tell the story, despite always feeling like I was expending the same effort on a windstill, flat course, they were all over the map:

4:03 (slowest km of the race)
3:38 (fastest km of the race)
4:03
3:54
3:43 (seriously, no change in perceived effort) - 19:22 at 5 km
3:57
3:53
3:43
3:56
3:49 - total time 38:41.

So I am officially raced out. I am good. No need to rouse the family out of bed on a week-end morning again anytime soon. No more racing until Oct. 14.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Race Report: 1 of 2

This week-end was supposed to be my attempt to re-break 38:00 in the 10 km and by break, I mean decimate but then I got an e-mail from the coach of my club telling me he was one woman short of a competitive team at a cross country race this week-end, and our exchange went somewhat like this:

me: I can't, I'm running a 10 km.
him: Bah!
me: I already paid.
him: Can't you do both?
me: I can race twice but I can't leave hubby wrangling the kids two  mornings of the week-end.
him: My wife will babysit.
me: I'll see you Saturday.

Which is how I wound up in the playground next to the cross country course at 8.30 am this morning with Thing 2 sleeping in the marsupial around my neck while Thing 1 handed me spikes to screw into my seldom used cross country spikes (because really nothing screams "I'm a great mother" like letting one's toddler handle brand new, razor sharp, 9 mm cross country spikes). Despite my documented dislike of racing cross country, anticipating the race summoned long forgotten feelings of team and togetherness though I would be meeting many of my teammates for the first time on the start line.

I used to run cross country for Mc.Gill U.nivers.ity and have raced several times on this particular, brutal 4 km cross country course which is laid out on the flanks of Mount Royal. As I walked over to the appointed meeting spot with hordes of thin, fit uni girls, their calves, temporarily tattooed flashing in the gleaming sunlight and school colours twirling in their hair who were, on average, 18 years younger than me, I couldn't help but feel way too old to be doing this again. It's hard not to feel out of place at a predominantly university cross country meet with an infant in a marsupial sucking on your boob and a toddler in a stroller.

After an argument about going to the bathroom (Thing 1 wouldn't), eating some cheese (same) and having a cookie (done!) I left Thing 1 with the gracious babysitters and headed out to warm-up with Thing 2 in the Bob. On the course I felt the ghost of myself past wooshing by me on her too-fast warm-up in a herd of identically dressed, equally frenzied girls.

After a too-strenuous warm-up (Bob in cross country course, 'nuff said) I checked back with Thing 1, donned my spikes and realized oh... my feet DID get bigger during my last pregnancy. Socks on? Socks off? Minutes ticked by... start in less than 8 minutes with the start line a solid 700 m away, uphill. Finally I left all the offspring behind and ran for it to avoid making one of my recurring anxiety dreams (missing the start of a race while I fiddle around with logistics) come true.

I met the women on my team at the start line. They were all extremely friendly, one of them also had offspring hanging out on the course (with mine in fact). We did a team cheer (team cheer... so fun!) and it was only then that I started to become cognisant of the fact that I was lined up with approximately 180 women all wearing presumably razor clad spikes all of whom would shortly be bearing down on the same 90 degree turn about 100 m in front of us. Cross country is freaking scary. So off we went, I chose a pace that was a compromise between not going out too fast and not being in the middle of a tangle of women trying to negotiate the corner.

I honestly barely remember anything else about the race. First off, 4 km is short and painful and I spent a lot of time trying not to step in a hole, trying not to get spiked and always questioning my effort and pace. I probably went out too hard (7:22 for the first 2 km) and then just tried to maintain my position in the second lap which despite slowing significantly (7:43 for the second 2 km) I managed to do. In the last 500 m I made a conscious decision to shut it down. I could see I was surrounded only by girls from two teams who were clearly going to beat us and likely by their "B" teams whose scores wouldn't even count. I promised myself I would not let more than 3 people pass me in the last 500 m. Normally no one passes me in the last 500 m of a race (and if that sounds arrogant it's only because it is) but I wanted to avoid lactic acid and give myself a small chance of running fast tomorrow.

So I finished up 23 out of 180 girls, 4th on my team running 15:07 for 4 km on a tough course. Our team placed third out of 13 teams and I think I was able to contribute a small part to that result so very satisfying. I don't think I will be running more cross country anytime soon, about which I can only say thank god! but it was a fun albeit somewhat terrifying experience. Onwards to sub-38 tomorrow!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Age of Id

Only after the ink had dried on Thing 2's birth certificate was it pointed out to us that we had unwittingly given both of our daughters names from the phoenetic alphabet. This was completely unintentional on our part but I like the feel of it; individuals that are part of a larger set. Hubby likes the finality of it. There are no more girls names to be had in the phoenetic alphabet unless one runs to weirdo, flaky celebrity baby names (no offence intended to any readers who may have named their girls Foxtrot or Golf... though I suppose India has potential so perhaps I am being too narrow minded). I guess I have de-facto given away the names of Thing 1 and Thing 2 but I have, over the years, come to feel pretty safe among my tens of readers.

Siblings share, on average, 25% of their DNA. The sharing of DNA between parent and child is fixed at exactly 50% (yes, we are doomed to become our mothers and fathers) however siblings can vary theoretically from 0 - 50% shared DNA bc the DNA a sib inherits from parent is random. With Thing 2 still being so young it is difficult to know how similar in temperament she will be to Thing 1 though photographic evidence shows that they are very clearly related:

Maybe this is the expression shared by all babies when they are plucked from the warm, whooshy womb and dumped on the cold stainless steel scale:

 
I call this one "She has more hair, I have more chins but we share the same straight jacket":
 
 
Not really pertinent, just a gratuitous inclusion of this picture (hint: the bald ones aren't real):
 
 
 

But I sit on the edge of my seat wondering if Thing 2's toddlerhood will resemble Thing 1's. Time for the standard parental disclaimer: I love my child blah blah blah, best thing that ever happened to me blah blah blah, wouldn't change anything for the world blah blah blah (ok yes, I actually do mean these things but OMIGOD do parents realize how overplayed they sound when they preface their complaints with The Disclaimer??). So, that probably makes it somewhat obvious that I find myself struggling with toddlerhood. And by struggling I mean morphing into a yelling, impatient, red-faced, strident, irritating monsther (cross between mother and monster).

Back when Thing 1 was a smiley, drooling infant I decided to get ahead of the curve and started reading "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" by "the brilliant" Dr. Karp (really, he's brilliant, there are pages and pages and pages of anecdotes talking about how brilliant he is... in fact if you skip the "I'm brilliant" content the book shrinks from about 300 pages to 10 pages of rather good advice). He advocates child rearing approaches based on the toddler's particular temperament and neatly divides toddler temperaments into three broad categories: shy, easy and spirited. Unsure as to what temperament your child has, just do this simple test. Go to a crowded mall and let go of your child's hand and pretend you are not paying attention. The easy toddler will hang out near you, the shy toddler will cling to your leg and hide his face and the spirited toddler will be gone in a flash. I remember looking at my still immobile, speechless infant wondering what flavour I had. By the time Thing 1 was mobile enough to run the test, it was a moot point given that I spent most of my days 10 feet behind her fast retreating behind yelling and pleading and cajoling and generally being thankful I am a fit runner.

So we have without a doubt a spirited toddler, spirited being a highly euphemistic term. I struggle with the 30 pounds of id that IS Thing 1. (As as aside, I stole the "30 pounds of id" line from this article which, if you have ever had to fly with a toddler you MUST read because it is pee your pants hilarious). I do realize that my impatience and frustration with the id-ness of Thing 1 is really a reflection on ME and not at all on her... she is exactly what toddlers are supposed to be: self-centered, limit-testing, danger-seeking, noise-making agents of chaos. Toddlers can be thought of as sub-civilized aliens... they have a code but it is not one that is generally appreciated by the rest of society. The role of parent is to be the toddler's ambassador to the world. Parents exist to act as buffer between the toddler's frustrations and the world and the world's annoyance and the toddler. I know this. Things with Thing 1 are exactly as they are supposed to be but OH do I find it frustrating.

Frustrating that she has twenty thousand toys (give or take) but if Thing 2 receives one toy she must immediately claim and monopolize it because she must have All Of The Things All Of The Time. Frustrating that we can spend the whole morning pleasing her with trips to the park, loads of focussed attention, little treats but she cannot let us have five minutes to listen to a song we want to hear because "Moi aime PAS ca" and if MOI doesn't like a certain thing than that thing MUST cease to exist. Frustrating that we cajole her to try to go to the bathroom and she adamantly refuses, throws a temper tantrum telling us "Moi n'as PAS de pipi" and then she goes and pees in the bouncy castle causing it to be shut down for cleaning for the next hour (And yes, I offered to clean it and was refused given instead the humiliating job of guarding the entrance and turning everyone away. And since when did "it's closed" become not enough information??? I swear every toddler jonesing for the bouncy castle AND their parent NEEDED to know WHY). Frustrating that she cannot share with anyone, ever... not even say a seat on the bus with me... kind random dude gives up his seat, Thing 1 takes it, won't move over to share and mom is left hanging onto the pole with one pinky while trying desperately to keep Thing 2, stroller and daycare bag from poking people's vital organs.

And I say all of this is normal but a small part of me wonders as I guess ultimately all parents do... IS this normal? Parents OWE it to society to raise conscientious, thoughtful, confident, polite children. It is against all of our interests to have entitled, spoiled brats roaming around because although it may be normal at age 3, it starts to wear thin when the same behaviour is exhibited in say the workplace. So like all parents I want to release a kind, thoughtful person upon the world not only because it is my duty to society and but because kind, thoughtful people are happier than spoiled brats and more than anything else, parents want happiness for their children. And I am trying... but at age 3, the age of ID it is so hard to see around the corner and know if things are going to turn out okay. And in case it isn't obvious... I welcome the chorus of "it's normal" and "listen to what my child does"... please tell me I am not alone.

Friday, September 7, 2012

All the gifts that are granted

This post could more accurately be titled "Squeaker at Six Months" since that is the ground breaking topic I would like to address today but I wanted a post title to book-end the rather whiny post I wrote last time.

So Miss Baby of Many Names has lived outside the womb for 6 months tomorrow. During her short six months she has gone through many names: Squeaker - which was phased out when her vocalizations could no longer accurately be characterized as Squeaks. Question Mark - because really who is this little, toothless person who is suddenly sharing our house? Confusion - a companion name to Chaos which her older sister was branded as in, you got it, Chaos and Confusion. Thing 2 - a la Dr. Seuss, should require no explanation, and yes, her sister was branded Thing 1. Finally Loopa which is the current nom de plume she uses.

Th progress she has made is clearly illustrated in the monthly photos featuring baby and perspective-giving wine bottle:

Month 1 - slightly afraid of the wine bottle
 

 
Month 2 - fairly zen about the wine bottle
 
 
Month 3 - temporary switch to port when mom & dad had a fun evening and forgot to replenish the supply.
 
 
Month 4 - Oh, those thighs.... they're so delicious.
 
 
Month 5 - Me likey the bottle of wine.
 
 
Month 6 - no longer a fall down drunk.
 
 
 
Currently Thing 2's bag of tricks consists of sitting upright, rocking back and forth on all fours, locomoting...somehow. I am really not sure how she is doing it because she isn't crawling yet though she spends a lot of time on all fours and, strangely, in the plank position, yet I put her down in a spot and before long she is making a suicide run for the edge of the bed. She is adept at hair pulling, pinching, cooing and other vocalizations. Other vocalizations... when she is pissed she sounds remarkably like gollum only less intelligible. She growls something to the effect of: "awwwwrrrrrarrrrraawwwwawwwwaarrrr" and my sleep deprived brain imagines she is saying: "a curse be upon you! You who woke me up and is slow with the milkers... your crops will wither... the fields will lie fallow...the plagues will descend." Hmmm but maybe that's just my imagination :)
 
She is absolutely desparate to eat. I am getting to the point where I cannot eat in front of her, partially from the guilt as her eyes track my every bite from plate to mouth and partly because of the interference. When she sits in my lap at mealtime she will grab my fork on its way to my mouth and re-direct towards hers. The guilt... Ohhh the guilt. Her older sister meanwhile, not having yet developed a sense of guilt, will cheerfully make a list of all the things that Thing 2 is not allowed to eat (that would be everything not falling into the mush food group). We have started feeding her; it is a two spoon job. Much like a dog who will not relinquish his ball until it is replaced with another, she grasps her spoon in a death grip long after it is empty until another spoon is offered. At this point I would say the absorption rate when feeding is about 15%.
 
Thing 2 is not interested in a pacifier for which we are extremely grateful still being in the position of trying to wean Thing 1 from hers... at age 3! On the other hand, in the great tradition of the Toothless People, she is not adverse to having all manner of Dangerous Object in her mouth. Despite the $30 Sofia the Giraffe I recently purchased specifically for teething (yup, that would be thirty dollars for a plastic giraffe and despite the sales clerk's earnest assurance that the rubber was "all natural" - (what rubber ISN'T all natural anyway??) I am starting to question the sanity of spending $30 on a lump of rubber. Chalk it up to another moronic purchase made while sleep deprived), her taste runs to remote controls, telephones and dirty socks.
 
Yeah, Sofia is okay. But not as good to chew on as a mom's finger or a battery.
 
 
 
 
Luckily for us she is still lacking object permanence so when she does Houdini her way past all the obstacles and reach the dangerous Object of Desire we can whisk it out of her hand and she simply assumes it doesn't exist anymore so... no complaints. Similarly there have been no complaints the few times I have left her with other people. At this stage it seems that any warm, friendly set of arms will do and if the milkers aren't available than a bottle is just fine. Then again perhaps any warm set of arms is a welcome change from Cranky Mom.
 
So as was the case with Thing 1, Thing 2 must sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and read our well worn copy of "What to Expect in the First Year" because she is nailing all her milestones with military precision. Rolling, cooing, crawling, teething and yes, learning to drive:
 
 
 
And, of course to ride a giant blue dog:
 
 
 
 

 
 

Monday, September 3, 2012

All that you leave behind

I'm always surprised when people say, about having children, that they didn't realize how much their lives would change. Maybe it's because I was so uncertain for so very long about whether I wanted to have children that I spent ample time, too much time in fact pondering what life would be like if/when/once I had children. I tried to visualize in great detail the sacrifices, the sleep deprivation, the love, the responsibility... the responsibility... the unrelenting, never ending responsibility  (she types as her infant squirms next to her swallowing tissue after tissue from a box). I had children late, after probably almost a decade of fairly serious contemplation, periods of ambivalence, moments of paralyzing fear that all melted unambiguously into a deep, inexplicable yearning. But my point is, I had thought about it. Oh had I thought about it and as a result, I was not surprised by how much my life changed. It was and is as I expected.

Sacrifice, even the most uninitiated among us, knows sacrifice comes part and parcel with parenthood. We all leave things behind. And parents wind up missing the obvious and the more obscure. One of my friends who gave birth vaginally twice once told me, in the most mournful tone imagine-able, that she leaks urine whenever she laughs or coughs despite dozens of daily kegels. "I used to be able to stop the flow on a dime! On a dime!" she lamented. Others mourn the loss of a regular sex life. In a book once lent to me (unsolicited) parents were interviewed loosely on the topic of parenting and sacrifice, one of the fathers said: "It's never having sex anymore that gets me. I can handle everything else, the shitty diapers, the lack of sleep, never having time to myself, being broke but I cannot, CANNOT handle not having regular sex." I know tons of parents who mourn the loss of time to exercise. Others still just miss something as simple as going to the bathroom alone or being able to fly with carry on luggage only.

For me it is hands down, without question, the sleep deprivation. I expected it. Visualized it. And in the end, it is every bit as terrible as I feared and expecting it does not make it any less dreadful. I cannot handle the not sleeping. I prioritize sleep. Fantasize about it. Strategize over how to get some. I probably put as much thought and effort into getting sleep as a crackhead does over getting his fix. Still it eludes me. Is ripped away from me. Is denied to me. And I hate it. A few weeks ago I heard about Ca.sey An.thon.y for the first time. If you are living as much under a rock as I am, you can google it. There are tons of things to despise about this woman not the least of which is that she allegedly used to chloroform her baby so that she could go out clubbing with the assurance that her baby would not wake up while she was gone. After I got past the initial horror and disgust... I actually started fantasizing about using some chloroform, let me make this crystal clear, NOT ON MY KIDS... I fantasized about using chloroform on myself so I could finally, finally get some uninterrupted sleep. I'm joking, though not by much. I also regularly fantasize about needing surgery with a general anesthetic or having a condition that requires me to be placed into a medically induced comma. I'm not trying to escape my life... I just want 10-12 hours of uninterrupted unconsciousness.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Race Report: On the steep part of the curve

Quick report for those not interested in wading through my verbiage to get the scoop:
18:09! (18 second improvement over last race). 5th woman.

So people say that 5 months post partum is a key time for feeling back to normal, losing weight, improving running performance and all of this has been true for me. My weight is down to 58 kg which I attribute to Squeaker's intense nutritional demands. We are probably at the peak right now of her caloric demands from me bc soon she will be starting on solids and then it won't be all on me. Training wise, everything is just clicking. I am making improvements in my interval times that cannot be attributed to just getting fitter. I feel that my body is re-shaping itself and "remembering" how things used to be. That combined with some core work and some speed work allowed me to step it up on race day.

Watching youtube videos of some of M.o Fa.rah's distance track races was the other crucial aspect to yesterday's success. I found excellent youtube videos of his 2011 world championship races over 10,000 and 5,000 m. So first off, watching these videos allowed me to figure out where SteveQ's briefly lived blog header photo came from (such a great picture that was, I was sorry to see it go). It was M.o Far.ah crossing the finish line of the 5,000 in Deagu and now I understand the expression on his face... he wasn't saying "Oh, no, I didn't!"... he was raising his hands to his lips to blow a kiss. Anyhow the real benefit of watching these videos was it got me to thinking about how hard a runner can kick at the end of a 5 or 10,000 m race.
[Aside:, the other youtube video I found yesterday was of Nat.al.ia Rod.rig.uez winning 200.9 Wo.rld Champio.nships 1500 m and then being rightly disqualified for the most egregious display of interference I have ever seen, she basically shoves Bu.rka to the track as she tries to get by on the inside when there is clearly not enough room and then has the nerve to go up and kiss her afterwards... WTF?]

So anyway there I was having gone through the first 4 km in 3:36, 3:43, 3:37, 3:40. I had one km left to go, was feeling pretty sorry for myself, thinking about jogging it in. There were 3 women visible in front of me. I knew I should care bc passing them would make a huge difference in my series standing but I was feeling the effects of having gone through 3 km in 10:57, 4 km in 14:38 and thinking 'even if I jog this in in 4 minutes, I will still run 18:38 and that's a solid time'. Then I thought about how 4 people had really been put out so that I could have the chance to run this race and I better finish it in good faith putting my best effort forward.

I got to 400 m to go and thought of those M.o Fa.rah videos and thought: it IS possible to run a really fast quarter after after running 4.6 km at 5 km pace because sprinting taxes a different physiologic system. My aerobic system might be completely taxed but I can run the last 400 m anaerobically so my aerobic fatigue is COMPLETELY IRRLEVANT bc I am not going to use the part of me that is tired. So I squeezed out a 78 second last quarter at the end of a 5 km and passed 2 out of the 3 women. Now somehow I think my logic is somewhat flawed, the pace at which one has run the first 4..6 km must have some bearing on one's ability to kick at the end of a 5 km but as long as the runner has kept things aerobic up to that point, they should be relatively independent (true or false steve?). Certainly as I kicked in that 400 m I felt like I was taxing myself in a completely different way. (btw M.o Fa.rah ran his later quarter of the 5000 m at World Champs in 53 seconds).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Race Report: Running to my fitness

Long story short, I finally ran to my level of fitness or at least my fabulous Lulu Lemon shorts did and carried me along for the ride. The shorts and I crossed the line in 18:27 after running: 3:38, 3:43, 3:43, 3:47, 3:36. It hurt. It was hard. But it felt so, so good.

I'll save you the excruciatingly boring details of complicated race day logistics because everyone, parents and otherwise, have complicated stuff going on. But I will say, getting to the start line this morning was especially challenging and, indeed, very much in doubt until about 5 minutes before the race. My warm-up was far from ideal and happened long before the race to accommodate La Cocotte's 1 km race (8:55 !!). Then there was last minute nursing and escaping toddlers and, oh yes, I said I'd spare you. I was standing near the start line trying to decide whether to race (because it seemed like it was not going to be an easy 19 minutes for hubby) when the organizers started announcing the elites. They brought them out one by one. Clearly they had warmed up properly and were focused. They got to start at the front of the pack. They were mostly women with whom I race all the time, sometimes I beat them, sometimes they beat me. But today the focus was on them. I was just the random mom seemingly on the sidelines who was still nursing seconds before the start, had carried her toddler during the 1 km, and who appeared frazzled.

It hit me. I run better this way. I run better unnoticed. As soon as I have any sort of attention or pressure, sadly, I choke. I was never a championship runner in university. I was a great time trial runner. I have been one of those elite, invited athletes with the free entry and introduction and inevitably I run far slower than the times I ran previously which garnered me the invitation in the first place. I don't run well when things are perfect. When I have the perfect sleep, the perfect warm-up, the perfect conditions... choke. Give me complicated logistics and obscurity and I will shine. Today I beat all of the elites except one. I am sure I would have had a very different outcome had a been one of them. So I`ll pay the expensive entry fee (it`s peanuts compared to what I paid for the Lulu Lemon shorts anyway). It`s well worth it to finally break 18:30 again.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why I can break 19:00 this week-end revisited

I do have other things going on in my life besides running but their either fall into the category of things-that-shall-not-be-blogged-about or I lack the eloquence to do justice to the topic so here we go... another self indulgent post on running.

Why I can break 19:00:

-I am running 3:45/km repeats effortlessly. Seriously, EFFORTLESSLY and while this could be that the treadmill I am running on at the YMCA is mis-calibrated, I do have the incline at 2% to compensate. Hmmm 3:45/km at 2%, yup, definitely mis-calibrated. Whatever. I am definitely fitter than before.

-I FINALLY broke 60! 60 kilos that is... wow, took me so much longer to get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight this time. In fact, I am not there yet but I am finally under 60 Kg, 59.6 kg to be exact and, in the strangest mixing of imperial and metric ever, 2 pounds to go to my pre-pregnancy weight. (Aside: there was one day a few weeks ago when I weighed in at 60.0 kg, La cocotte weighed in at 12.0 kg and Squeaker weighed in at 6.0 kg. Being the numbers geek that i am, I found it intrinsically pleasing that I was 5X the weight of the big one, 10X the weight of the small one and the big one was double the small one.

-I have actually been doing a small amount of core strengthening.

-I am going to be smart this time. I will NOT, NOT, NOT go through 2 km faster than 7:36. If I feel good at that point I will GRADUALLY pick it up. 16:30 into the race I will put the hammer down and give it everything I've got. Maybe not the best strategy for running the fastest possible race but hopefully a guaranteed sub-19.

-It's 84 seconds slower than my lifetime best. Come on! Surely I am fit to within 84 seconds of my personal best??

-Secret weapon. Ok, this is going to sound really superficial, but that's only because it IS really superficial. I went into Lulu Lemon this week. This is significant because I have long harbored a ridiculous snobbishness towards the Lemon. Their clothing, I decided, was not worn by serious athletes. Everyone knows that serious athletes don't wear trendy clothes. Serious athletes wear super ugly, beat up running shorts that have seen thousands of miles and clash with their shorts and shoes. I have since read the blogs of two women (here and here), both of whom faster than me, who are Lemon wearers which was the end of that snobbish notion of mine. So, with the phrase "Lulu Lemon craps suburban mom money" (credit Angela) echoing in my ears, I went in and tried on a pair of shorts. Oh...my...god. It was trans-formative. In an instant I went from feeling chubby and post-partumy to feeling thin, fit and, I'll say it, sexy. Clothing, athletic and otherwise, is usually off my radar as a source of hedonistic pleasure. I have never EVER had my self image transformed in a second by putting on a garment. These shorts are magic I tell you and I have a feeling that they will simply refuse to run slower than 19:00 for 5 km. They will fall off my body in protest before crossing the line slower than 19:00.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Does anyone else ever feel

like a smoker sneaking around trying to get their fix when they leave for their run?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mistakes of a first time gardener

As mentioned previously, I planted my very first garden this year. Being a utilitarian at heart, I planted only things that are edible. Zero interest in decorative flowers over here. Now that things have started to come up, I can kick back, relax and indulge in my second favorite passtime: criticizing my work. From left to right, I planted: lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, swiss chard & spinach (one row) and pumpkin.
Most problematic is that fact that I probably planted three times the number of things this bed can realistically hold. Exhibit A: the cucumbers plotting their vegetable bed dominance. The cucumbers successfully shaded out the eggplant, which were planted from seed, as not a single one of them made even a token appearance. You cannot really see it but over by the fence there is a bell pepper being slowed pulled down by cucumber tendrils, here is a close up of the action:

Actually the cucumbers are the primary problem. I did not realize how much they would spread out or want to climb. Sometimes when I am weeding I swear I can almost watch their tendrils extending. I am leery of leaving Squeaker alone with them. Can I cut them back? Pick off some of their leaves? Should I give them something to climb on so they leave everyone else alone?

Meanwhile on the other side of the bed, we have the lettuce problem. Lettuce needs sun but dislikes heat. I planted them on the end which gets early morning sun but is in the shade by about 11 am. I guess it's just not enough because the lettuce is not happy and is looking like it is ready to bolt:

Hard to see, but there are in fact two sorry rows of lettuce to the left of the thriving tomatoes. They are shaded on one side by a bush and on the other by the tomatoes. Not the best of planting decisions. I also am never sure how to harvest leafy vegetables like lettuce, chard and spinach. Does one just take the whole plant and it is game over for the season or just a few leaves so that the plant regenerates itself? And once the plant starts bolting, which my spinach always does, what's a gardener supposed to do?

Finally I have a problem lurking in the wings, a pumpkin problem. I wanted to put in a pumpkin because I thought it would be fun for la cocotte to watch it grow. I even had fantasies of growing a milk-fed pumpkin like in Little House in the Prairie. Actually, I had fantasies of being the granola-i-est granola in our granola neighbourhood and growing a breast milk fed pumpkin (because really how mother-of-the-earth would I be then???) until hubby pointed out that no one would eat it. Anyhow... my in-laws, who are avid gardeners, warned me that pumpkins are very aggressive (side note: I had no such warning about the cucumbers) and that I should keep them separate from the rest of the bed or they would take over. However I was so doubtful that ANYTHING would actually grow that I paid them no heed and put them right into the bed (skepticism about my gardening skills also explains why I planted way too much). So the pumpkin did sprout and now looks poised to duke it out to the death with the cucumbers, do I just keep cutting it back or will that stop is from producing??


So tons of mistakes, tons of dumb questions but whatever, it's not like I have a masters in botany.*


*Um, oh yeah, except I do.

Monday, June 25, 2012

An elegant solution

Exciting stuff happening at the US Olympic Track & Field trials. Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh tied for third in the women's 100 m final. This is significant for a number of reasons. It is the first time in the history of the trials that such a situation has arisen. The top three women go (actually it is a bit more complex than that, there are standards involved) but in this case presumably all the women involved had the standard and so the top three women in this race were to be selected to represent the US in the women's 100 m. Had there been a tie for any other position, it would not have mattered. A tie for first would have resulted in the two first place women and the third going. Similarly a tie for second would not have created problems but a tie for third means only one of the two women can go; there is not room for both. Adding further human interest to the story is the fact that both athletes are coached by Bobby Kersee who has asked that the decision be postponed until the 200 m is over in which both athletes in question are participating.

Lacking a precedent, or apparently a contigency plan for this eventuality, the USATF had to devise a mechanism for selecting between these two women. They have come up with what I believe is an extremely elegant solution. Essentially they decided they are two ways to select between the athletes either by running them off against each other or by simply flipping a coin. The choice is, in part, in the hands of the athletes. Each athlete will state her preference. If both athletes have the same preferred solution, the officials will respect their wishes. If the athletes do not have the same preferred solution, they will run off. If neither athlete has a preference, they will flip a coin. It's quite elegant.

It's a fascinating situation because it adds a layer of complexity to our typically straight forward sport. I have always loved the simplicity of track and field. If you jump or throw the furthest or highest, you win. Period. If you get there first, you win. Period.  I do this story compelling because it shows how our sport can deviate from the normal and require some creativity of the officiants. It also makes me wonder how this situation would be handled in other events. It seems reasonable to propose a run-off in the sprints, up to say, 400 m. When does it become unreasonable? How would this situation be handled in the marathon? It would not be reasonable to ask the athletes to run off. It seems hideously painful to make or break someone's dream solely on the toss of a coin or some such. One could look at the athletes' season best but then what of the athlete who has perfectly timed their peak for the trials and has no other eggs in their basket so to speak?

I am extremely curious to find out what these athletes will chose and how they will perform in the 200 m.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seeking Opinions

I am debating whether to buy a double running stroller and am seeking opinions:

1. Which double running stroller, if any, do you have? Why do you (dis)like it? Which double stroller running stroller have you heard good things about or wish you HAD bought?

2. Can the same infant car seat adapter be used in a single stroller or in a double? I know it probably depends on the model but while I am being lazy and asking rather than looking up information, I thought I would find out other people's experience with this.

2. Does anyone know when exactly it is safe to RUN (not walk) with an infant in a stroller in their car seat (with car seat adapter)? Does anyone know when it is safe to run with an infant in an running stroller in the lie flat position? Where did you get your information? (Yes, i will research this myself too but thought I'd throw it out there).

Thanks!
PPC - the lazy researcher :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In which I get my butt kicked

So I joined the YMCA. They had a summer special and they offer babysitting so I plunked down my $122 tax included and became a member. This is my first experience with using a babysitting service at a gym (except for the guest pass I got to the luxury gym a few months back). So I was pretty shocked when the babysitting coordinator told me I could sign up for 3 blocks per week, one hour maximum. Period. That's it. Wow. I mean really, what does one do with 3 one hour blocks of work-out time?? By the time I drop her, change, sign up for a machine, change machines mid-work-out (bc they all have a 30 minute maximum), clean the machine and get back to the daycare, I get about 50 minutes of work-out time in. When I asked if there was any possibility of leaving her longer I got the quintessential, judgmental LOOK. You know, the: wow-do-you-ever-have-questionable-parenting-skills-comma-don`t-you-even-love-your-baby look. Which pissed me off. Because of COURSE I love my baby... just not as much as I love working out. No, seriously, even with 75 minutes I could get a reasonable work-out in. But honestly, 3 - 60 minute blocks? Is that satisfying for anyone or are my exercise needs horribly distorted?? Or am I out of touch with the babysitting at the gym thing... is this a normal restriction?

Anyway 3 hours per week it is. Except on Tuesday... on Tuesdays they offer a mommy and baby aerobic class so I can go to that after my hour, nay 50 minutes of cardio. I have not taken any fitness classes in years for various reasons. It seems that regardless of which class I chose, I ALWAYS wind up with a moron in the class who is so inept and uncoordinated that the instructor winds up spending 80% of her time with the loser who can't follow a simple leg-swing-leg-swing-arm-wave-arm-wave combo and the rest of the class is left leg-swinging and arm-waving far longer than any normal person wants to swing their legs and wave their arms while the instructor sorts the moron out. Seriously, this moron follows me everywhere. Yes, I've used this joke before... you all know this moron is me. It's truly amazing to me that I have run a sub-3 hour marathon but I literally cannot do aerobics or the predictable strengthening exercises that are inevitably part of any fitness class. The butt clenches, the one legged squats, the cross body sit-ups, the supermans etc. etc. The only thing I can do is plank and I recently found out this is not a good exercise for me to be doing (thanks a lot SeaLegsGirl!). I have zero core strength and am completely unable to isolate the part of my body that is supposed to be working. Instead, regardless of the exercise, my whole body seems to wobble, lurch and shake as I try to lift my leg, clench my butt, raise my pelvis, do a double pirouette or whatever other random, impossible thing the instructor chooses.

But somehow I thought mom and baby aerobics would be different. I have to admit, I pictured very out of shape women who had not exercised in years coming in with their one or two year olds for some very gentle running on the spot, stretching and perhaps a jumping jack if things got really wild. It turns out that mommy and baby aerobic is really just aerobics with a baby watching. It is every bit as complicated and strenuous as all those classes I used to fail (if they graded aerobics). I wound up in a class of women with 5 week old - 6 month old babies who were hard core focused on getting their pre-pregnancy bodies back (me too! me too!) but who could follow all the exercises and honestly if they didn't already have their pre-pregnancy bodies back they must have been Ironwomen/Miss Universe contestants before pregnancy. Serves me right for being a snob.

So yes, I got my butt kicked by mommy and baby aerobics today and realized that I really am all legs and lungs (um, and boobs right now to be honest). There is nothing holding it all together. I don't know if working on strength and stability and the ability to leg-swing-leg-swing-arm-wave-arm-wave will make me run any faster but maybe I'll look better???

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Race Report: A triumph of hope over experience

I call this a triumph of hope over experience because the hope that I could go out in 3:34 and hold that pace triumphed over 20 years of experience which clearly told me that, based on recent work-outs, I could not.
One should really only go out at 3:34 pace if one is in 17:50 shape. Otherwise even if one deliberately slows down in the second kilometer to 3:50 to try to correct the huge error and manages to scrape together a 3:46 third kilometer, inevitably one will end up dying like the dumb dog she is and barely break 4:00 for each of the last 2 km (3:56, 3:57) to finish off in 19:05. Worse luck, beaten by someone she really should not have been beaten by (which matters because of overall series standing).

This race was a(nother) lesson on how starting out too quickly can have a startling negative effect on performance. It's frustrating because conditions were perfect (almost a wind still 15 deg C), I felt amazing during the warm-up, I was primed to go under 18:30 and just blew it for no good reason. It's frustrating because I know better. Seriously, how many times do I have to re-learn this lesson? It's frustrating because barring a change in plans, I won't be racing again until mid-August. I know why it happened. There was one speedy girl there (she actually finished 2nd overall in 17:11) and her quick, appropriate-to-her-fitness start drew some of the other women and probably many men to go out over their heads. Rather than sitting back confident in the knowledge that many of those people would come back to me, I went with them. Sigh.

This is also part of a disturbing pattern I see present in other parts of my life where I tend to go out like gangbusters and appear to be on this impressive trajectory and then just fizzle. I am doing it with post-partum weight loss. I do it with courses I take. I do it with various hobbies. I do it on some projects. I am a quick starter but lack follow-up. Exhibit a: my post-partum races have been 19:01, 38:46, 40:10 (sick), 19:05 (stupid). Something to chew on.

Speaking of chewing, I am also starting to wonder if there might be something to this controversial article that was published in Time magazine 3 years. It was titled "Why exercise won't make you thin" and essentially argued that the calories burned by aerobic exercise are vastly overcompensated for by additional calories consumed due to the appetite stimulating effects of exercise. Further that the effect of raising baseline metabolism by increasing % lean muscle is trivial. He includes some interesting math to make his point. I can't help notice that in pregnancy number 1 in which I had a c-section and could not really exercise for the first 25 days, I had lost all my pregnancy weight by 30 days. This time, I started running after taking 2 days off and almost 3 months later, I am still 3-5 pounds up.

But whatever. I am healthy, happy, running... I really have nothing to complain about and I will (finally) learn this lesson and come back faster next time.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why I can break 18:30 tomorrow

Tomorrow is my last spring road race for the year. After tomorrow, I don't plan on racing until August 15. It has been a fun little four race comeback (four including tomorrow) but I feel ready to get closer to my pre-pregnancy times. So here is a little psych-me-up post for myself:

I can beak 18:30 tomorrow because:

1. I averaged 3:38.5 in my 5 X 1 km work-out this week.
2. I tapered properly.
3. I am going to bed as soon as I finish writing this so I will get a good night's sleep.
4. I have done it many times before and my body will remember how.
5. I really (really) want to. Desire is worth something right?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Race Report: That dream where you're naked

Short report:
1st woman
6th person (!)
Course record by 2:15
Final Time: 40:12

This race report will read much like last week's except I was sicker, slower and more naked (nakeder?). Hubby continues to be out of town so I hired Ivy to come with me to another race as my mother's day treat to myself. When I woke up on race morning, I was clearly sick but I had spent an hour the day before packing the car for race morning/swim lessons/trip to park/nuclear Armageddon and there was no way I was going to waste that burst of organization.

Getting to the race site was unexpectedly challenging as construction made the directions on the website irrelevant. We parked the car 30 minutes before the gun. By the time we got la cocotte and Squeaker into the school and I picked up my number, I had 12 minutes to warm-up which I used to the utmost. I felt flat, tired and hungry. In fact I felt like I had already run a race. Definitely sick. But I still felt my goals, course record (begging to be broken at 42:20) and age category win for the series points were do-able. I decided on a final pee in the woods prior to the start, had technical difficulties (we'll leave it at that) and found myself sprinting to the start line with 30 seconds to spare... expect it was actually 15:30 to spare because race start was delayed.

The race was much like trying to do advanced calculus with a toddler trying to get one's attention. Divided resources. As in, part of my body was running 10 km and the other part was busy fighting off whatever creeping crud invaded our house in the past few days. I just felt exhausted. Not out of breath exhausted but I-could-lie-down-on-this-nice-suburban-lawn-and-fall-asleep exhausted. I ran a decent 5 km (19:38) and then started playing the game of... "even if I run 4:30 kms to the finish, I'll break the course record" and with every km that went by I was able to raise the per km pace that I could run and still break the course record (does anyone else do this??). At 8 km (32:02) I calculated I could run 5:08/km and still break the course record and felt pretty darn confident that I would get it, creeping crud and all.

So I closed off in 40:11, got my points for the series and the course record (still screaming to be broken). Rounded up the troops and got in the car to get to swim lesson; we should have had tons of time except... I turned out of the parking lot and immediately joined the long line of stationary cars trapped by the ongoing half marathon. Seriously? What is up with runners BLOCKING THE ROADS on a Sunday morning when I have somewhere to be???

Pulled up to the YMCA 5 minutes after swim lesson started, which is a big deal given the lesson only lasts 30 minutes and the instructor boots us out of the pool inexplicably 5 minutes early every time. I was feeling queasy with mother guilt knowing how much la cocotte was looking forward to swimming. We ran inside to the family locker room. Familiar with these? The idea is that a family can change together inside the large changing cubicles. It makes sense when hubby is with us. When he is not I could of course use the girls locker room but the force of habit and lateness propelled me towards the familiar. I ran inside, focused 100% on getting us into the pool ASAP, tore off my running clothes and started rooting for my swimsuit when I heard a tentative and embarrassed sounding "um... excuse me". Fathers. Fathers everywhere (the moms were presumably taking Mother's Day off). I further exacerbated the situation by dropping an "oh shit" in front of all the waiting toddlers. I grabbed la cocotte and ran into a change cubicle.

In the end the lesson actually started 15 minutes late so we did not miss a single minute of swimming. All in all a successful, if not somewhat exhausting and embarrassing morning.