Saturday, October 30, 2010

Race Report: Provincial Cross Country Championships

Today was XC Provincial Championships. This is actually the 3rd XC Championship race I run this year if I count the two I did in Italy in February. Kind of ironic for a runner who dislikes XC. But today was a special event. Every year, satellite, erstwhile members of my running club band together and form senior women's team. This team consists of working women in their 30s and 40s with children. Lots of children. Today, the 7 of us toeing the start line on my team, had 8 children among us, We have been doing this for almost a decade, though I cannot claim to have participated in nearly that many. We rarely see each other all together outside of this race so there is truly a feeling of reunion and comradeship surrounding this event.

This is also an occasion for me to catch up with various people who have been in my running life for upwards of 20 years now. In particular one of my first coaches was there (in all, six of my former coaches were there). I had a really wonderful chat with him. I think he must be pushing 80 but just as enthusiastic if slightly less energetic than he used to be. He was lamenting how much thinner the fields are than they used to be among the young'ins. In the cadet boys category, a team consists of only three runners, the federation had to limit it to 3 in order to have a reasonable number of teams in the field. Where have all the young'ins gone? If they are off playing soccer or hockey or just out playing in the streets and parks instead of running, that`s fine but I suspect that is probably not the case. And I find that sad...

This race also acts as Quebec University Championships. As I jogged along the course to warm up, the university teams in their brightly coloured warm-ups, face paint and hair ribbons were unmistakeable. I was once one of those brightly coloured people too. Filled with nervous energy and lost in the importance of the moment. Now, as I warm-up chatting about working and children and life with my cohorts, it strikes me how very liberating it is to be in the situation where truly no one really cares about my performance but me. Also to have a whole three hours to go to a cross country meet is a rare treat and it makes me appreciate the occasion whereas in the past the delight of the event might have been lost in the nervousness of the moment.

My goals for today were somewhat arbitrary. But isn't that cross country in a nutshell: somewhat arbitrary? My goals were to first, to not finish lower than 3rd on any of the university teams in other words I did not want more than 2 members of a single team ahead of me. Second, brace yourself for the extreme cheesiness of it all, to have fun. I have been emotionally struggling with something enormous over the past few weeks and I wanted 5 kilometers of mud, sweat, heavy breathing, golden leaves and flying spikes as an outlet.

In pursuit of the second goal, I decided to go our very conservatively since fun = passing dozens of girls in the last 2. km, conversely fun does not = dying 3 km into a 5 km race. About 75 m into the race I remembered why going out conservatively is not an optimum strategy in  XC - 100 spike-wearing women converging onto a  6 foot wide course. So it went that I found myself in the last 15% of the pack about 500 m into the race with limited opportunities for passing. I told myself to be patient, that opportunities would present themselves to move up.

The course was fairly tough, an honest XC course with long, gradual uphills that inevitably bring a runner to her knees followed by very short, very steep downhills. The kind of downhills that are too steep to use as recovery. The kind of downhills that I descend with windmilling arms and the mantra "stay upright or be trampled" running through my head.

By the end of the first loop I had moved up into the top 40% (ish) of the field but I was also no longer feeling like I had really gone out all that conservatively after all. The second lap consisted of slowly picking off women one by one. With 1 km to go I was in extremis. My 15 minute timer went off to remind me that there was less than 5 minutes of running left and that I needed to find more bodies to pass... but instead all i could think was "don't let more than 5 people pass you between now and the finish." Ugh. Not the most uplifting end-race thought. But in fact I'm proud to day that after about the 2 km mark no one passed me.  Despite the fact that I was barely going backwards over the last km, no one went by me. I got through it in 100 m sections, looking up finding a landmark to run to and just concentrating on getting to that landmark and thinking of nothing else. It was ugly. I am sure I got no points for style but no one passed me. I also tried to remind myself that this was normal hurt and everyone else was hurting as well.

I had no kick, no grace, not much of anything in the finishing shute. I came home in 19:09. 7th woman in the non-university category and since 5 university women finished ahead of me I finished 12th overall. I feel that both of my pre-race goals were achieved. Lots of wonderful people to catch up with. The smell and sound of autumn leaves crunching under my spikes... a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Race Report: The out of the blue 5 km

So I spent a week not eating much, running too much, not sleeping much and being extremely stressed.
I had a 5 km race planned, which I had done a prediction work-out for (predicted 17:44), but could not wrap my mind around running it. I jogged 5 minutes towards the start line and then walked home.
Then I spent a week not running, eating some more, trying to be less panicked. Out of nowhere I decided to pop off a 5 km off and see what this situation (which looked somewhat like a large taper) would produce. 17:50.
I don't recommend this type of lead up to a race and plan never to repeat it however I am very pleased with the race itself and the time. I was incredibly mentally focussed which I absolutely did not expect. My marathon legs could not go out too fast as I usually do in a 5 km and as a result my first 2 km were actually the slowest (3:36, 3:40) then I actually ran 10:35 for the last 3 km. I had set my timer to go off 15 minutes into the race and I told myself that when the timer went off I would have less than 3 minutes to run and I needed to leave everything on the road. It worked. It really worked. I have never worked so hard in the last 500 m of a race. I want to feel that feeling again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My little space

I plan to make this blog private either for awhile or permanently. I believe blogger allows me to invite 100 readers. That is probably about 20 X the number of invites I'll need :)
If you would like an invite please either leave me a comment here with the appropriate e-mail address or if you prefer e-mail me at PiccolaPineCone-at-gmail-dot-com. Those of you who already asked, no need to ask again as soon as I make it private again, you'll get your invite.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Involuntary Experiment

First off, SteveQ, if you're reading - I really did not intend to plagiarize your last blog post, I just happen to be experiencing the same symptom at the same time. I lost 6 pounds this week. Unlike SteveQ, I know why I lost them but the "why" is not germane here.
All that to say, on Monday had I run a 5 km I definitely would have broken 18 minutes 17:45-17:55 I think. Now I am 6 pounds lighter, have not run since my prediction work-out on Monday (involuntarily but not related to injury) so here I am, light, tapered and pretty much in shape (at least I was 5 days ago) so - what effect does rapid weight loss have on race performance? Tomorrow I find out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How did that prediction work-out work out?

No one is going to believe that I am as uber busy as I keep whining about if I continue to post this often. But I wanted to write about my prediction work-out because truly I am almost more curious to see how well this works as a prediction work-out than to see how fast I can run 5 km this upcoming Sunday. Here are the figures:

5.5 km warm-up easy
4 km tempo in 15:40, felt very controlled
5 X 1 km:  3:30, 3:33, 3:34, 3:35, 3:31

Total of 5 km times predicts a 17:43 5 km +/- 10 seconds, or so claims my off-the-top-of-my-head "formula".
I wouldn't have thought I was in sub-18 shape right now. I do tend to train better than I race unfortunately. I could believe 18:10, 17:43 seems faster than I can run right now. Interested to see which is correct, my gut or my not-so-scientific prediction work-out.

Monday, October 11, 2010

To have not

I can think of several compelling reasons not to reproduce again. Let’s start with our quality of life. I have commented here before about how incredibly busy I am these days. Some of the craziness is due to a rather intense deadline at work; I was warned before I came back that I would be returning to an intense, high pressure environment. Yup. True. So one could argue that the crazy pace at work is only temporary and that soon the speed on the treadmill of life will be lowered, but we all know it never really works out that way. Life is busy and when one project stops hogging all the time, something else slips in to replace it. Right now everything fits. Barely. I can work my demanding job, hubby can work his demanding job, I can run 80 km per week and write my blog, hubby can pursue his hobbies, we both get to spend quality time with la cocotte though often not together. It fits. Just Barely. It fits though the result is we have little sleep, a messy home, are living on take-out and frozen pizza, have laundry in various stages of doneness scattered constantly… you get the picture. I cannot see how another child fits in that picture without something having to go. Something big. Like running.  I know other people manage. Heck I have friends with four and five children who are runners and triathletes. But to borrow and slightly modify a phrase from any baby owner’s manual worth its salt: “All [parents] are different and develop in their own way.” I don’t know that I could make it work.

Then there’s the fact of me as a mommy. I think I am an okay mommy. I absolutely love the job and sometimes I do it fabulously and sometimes I could be more engaged, more patient, more imaginative, a better problem solver. I had an easy baby who turned into an easy toddler. I just don’t know how I would be with a more difficult baby. Perhaps I have been spoiled by this one. Yes, I had huge doubts about my ability to parent before la cocotte. I thought they would disappear with the appearance of the baby and yet, as I contemplate numero due I find myself with the same doubts and concerns about the role of mommy. But I wouldn’t be Piccola Pine Cone if I didn’t have grave self-doubts peppered with bout of low self esteem. Oh come on, who doesn’t?
Then there’s the exhaustion. I am still breast feeding 1-3 times per night. Last night it was four. I get up at 5.30 am to run. I’m exhausted. Constantly. I know it would only be worse with numero due on board and I don’t honestly know if I could hack it.
Now we come to the part that has nothing to do with me. No, not hubby. Yes, of course he has thoughts and feelings on this too but true to the occasionally bendable rules of this blog, I try not discuss personal stuff about others. No… I am talking about the bigger picture. There are many problems facing our society. Among the biggest – the looming energy crisis a.k.a. peak oil, the looming fresh water crisis particularly in areas dependent upon ground water which is being depleted at rates measures in tens of meters per year in some area, global warming, depletion of rare earth minerals. There’s many terms in which one can think of the problems facing humanity. Many lists of our biggest problems one could make. But here, really, is our biggest problem. Overpopulation. Overpopulation is essentially our only problem. All other problems can be thought of as symptoms of this larger issue. In the face of this, it just doesn’t feel responsible to me to have more children.
So that’s where I am. Perched between the yearning I spoke of previously and the gut feeling that having a second child just does not feel like the right decision.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Prediction Work-out & Fall Race Schedule

I have figured out my fall racing schedule and it goes something like this:

Oct. 10th - 4 km cross country
Oct. 17th - 5 km road race
Oct. 30th - 5 km cross country provincial championships
Nov. 13th - 10 km cross country
Nov. 27th - indoor track race either 1500 m or 3000 m
Dec. 11th - indoor track race either 1500 m or 3000 m

Wow, that's a whole lot of cross country for a woman who professes to hate cross country. I was asked by the president of my former club to run on their team again this year. They (we) have won the women's senior title for a gizillion years in a row or something like that. Although the level of competition in senior women's club level XC running is not what one could honestly call cut-throat, in my mind this is an impressive accomplishment because the women who have made this happen are career women in their 30s and 40s with one, two, three,  in one case four and in another case five children... who still manage to don our club's singlet, get into shape and run XC provincials. So yeah, I hate cross country, but this team is a pretty special thing to be a part of and I very much appreciate being asked. Since I made that commitment I decided I better get my cross country legs on by doing one race ahead of time on Oct. 10th. Oh, that was today. Ok, that part didn't happen. Give me a moment to give this another spin... Whatever. So provincials will be my first XC race of the season. Running is running no matter what surface it happens on.

The two indoor track races I included simply because the track is literally 1 block from our apartment. In fact I once timed myself from lying on our bed to being at the start line of the track in 3 minutes and 27 seconds (lots of stairs up to the track). So convenient so why not? Also I am morbidly curious to see if I can still break 5:00 for 1500 m. Me thinks the answer is not so much. Track is a young person's sport in Montreal and for the past decade I have felt distinctly out of place when I have toed the line against other females younger than the ketchup in my fridge and so I have done so less and less. But given the busy, disorganized state of my life, convenience now rules so I cannot give up the chance to race less than a block from home.

Which brings us to the 5km on the roads next week-end. The start line is a mere 3 km from our apartment. This race I am quite excited about because it is flat(ish) and fast(ish) and over a standard distance unlike many of the races I ran in Italy. So I am curious to see where I am at fitness-wise. I am also curious to see if the  prediction work-out I designed will accurately my 5 km time. I will accept +/- 5 seconds as an accurate prediction. Here's the work-out:

Proper warm-up, followed by 4 km tempo (half marathon pace), 3 minutes easy jog. 5 X 1 km with 90-120 seconds easy jog between. The sum of the 1 km repeats should predict my 5 km race time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The elephant in the room (part 1)

 My road to reproduction was not straight forward. For many years (10?) I was completely undecided as to whether I wanted children. For as long as I could remember I felt that far too many people reproduced simply because they could not imagine doing otherwise, a reflexive act or even worse simply because it was expected. I was very ambivalent on the whole topic of having children. But then again it didn't really matter because I was a student, then I was single, then I was a single student... but as time passed I wasn't a student anymore and as more time passed I had a sense of financial security. More time went by and I wasn't single anymore but still I struggled with trying to figure out how I honestly felt about having children. I remained ambivalent and completely frustrated by my ambivalence; I felt that I should have a feeling one way or another.

For 3 years I involuntarily spent time each and every single day trying to figure out if I wanted children; my mind would inevitably wander over to this puzzle and try to reason it out. This decision seemed so obvious to others and yet I could not figure out how I truly felt. Then things shifted, subtly... now when I probed my feelings I realized that I wanted to want to have children. More months passed and I realized that now my want was no longer once removed. I wanted children BUT I couldn't figure out why. And that bothered me. I felt that I should do something as monumental as reproducing unless I had a clear sense of why. I felt I should be able to finish the sentence: 'I want children because..." More time went by. I realized I wanted children in a visceral and instinctual way that could not be boiled down to clear and rational reasons. My "reasons" were mushiness and goo and deep yearning and finally, finally I realized that was OK. Perhaps after all, this huge, life changing decision did not have to be level headed, analyzed and understood... perhaps I could go with the mush and emotion.

So we started trying and started failing. As an aside, it was at this time that I actually read my first blog - an infertility blog. Just as there is a vibrant, supportive community of runners, mommies and running mommies out here in blogosphere, there is an amazing network of infertile people who cheer each other on,commiserate, exchange information and offer virtual hugs. I was truly touched by some of the aching humanity I observed as I lurked on this network of blogs. Back to my own story, eventually with a little help from medical technology, we got pregnant and the result was, of course, La Cocotte.

I've previously declined to write about what a joy and wonderful life change La Cocotte has been because I truly feel it is beyond my limited gift as a writer. While I don't mind not doing justice to a marathon race report or a description of a great running route, it bothers me to fail so miserably to express the fullness in my heart that is La Cocotte. Having her is so very much more wonderful than I ever imagined it would be. My one English nickname for her is Goodness because I look at her and that is exactly how I feel. She is pure, untainted goodness and I will never, ever be finished being grateful for her existence.

The end.

Or is it?

Slowly I can feel the old obsessiveness and indecision creeping back in as I ponder the inevitable question - do we make another?  In the past year I have found myself mulling this over. Now that I am fertile again (took 13 months!!) there is a new layer of perceived urgency to the question. And there is urgency on other fronts as well. There are many factors in my life and philosophical outlook that speak both for and against. I will have to leave this unfinished post here for now - unintentionally symbolic of my current thinking on the topic: unfinished. I'll be back to mull this over more.