Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two pregnancies and life in general

No one who reads my blog quasi-regularly will be surprised to learn that I weigh myself every day when pregnant and plot my weight gain. I even confess to trying to fit a model to the weight gain data in order to predict my total gain at 40 weeks. But my gain is so flat in the first 8 weeks and in the last 6-8 weeks that it is hard to predict.

Knowing how much time I spent googling weight gain, pregnancy, athlete, distance runner during my first pregnancy, I thought I would put my stats out there for fellow quantitatively-obsessed, pregnant, athletic googlers:



I seem to be following the same pattern of weight gain with The General (#2) as I did with The Governor (#1) a.k.a. la cocotte, though the General is tracking consistently 2-3 pounds lighter (this may be due in part to la cocotte who, as I have gotten visibly and heavily pregnant, has conveniently forgotten how to walk and demandsto be carried everywhere especially up the three flights of stair to our apartment). I also note that (n=1) I really don't gain much weight after 32 weeks but between 10 and 32 weeks, weight gain is fairly steady and linear at about 0.9 pounds per week. It took 51 days post birth to come back down to my pre-pregnancy weight though the last 5 pounds took 30 of those days.

I have exercised and run appreciably less during this pregnancy, due to life stress (running after toddler, buying new house, selling current house) and dealing with injury. The plot below shows kilometers per week where some of those kilometers per week are REM (running equivalent mileage i.e. 5 minutes elliptical = 1 km, even though my running pace is far slower than 5 minutes per km now):

The biggest difference in my exercise though is probably in the intensity. I am being less conservative this time and am doing work-outs in which I go to a track and alternate between running faster and waddling. I am still doing km and mile repeats at 30 weeks but my pace has dropped from 3:30/5:50 (when I was in the best shape of my entire life) to 5:00/8:12 (30 weeks pregnant). My easy running pace is now 5:50 per km. 

Finally, to save me typing a thousand more words, here are the two respective pregnancies at 30 weeks:

I think what this picture illustrates probably best is that I am less focused this time and have even messier hair  but other than that, 30 weeks the second time around looks awfully like 30 weeks the first time around.

And other than running... how does it all feel? Well besides welling up in tears all the time for moments joyful, melancholy and mundane... it all feels very familiar and happy. Having la cocotte around, visibly excited about the baby is very moving and makes me feel incredibly fortunate. She is beyond excited about these babies. 

Babies. Yes, for some reason she is convinced there are two, a girl and a boy. I hope this isn't one of those weirdo phenomenon like dogs sensing when there is going to be an earthquake... toddlers sensing that there will be twins. I do feel very, very rich and blessed but I don't think I am ready to be that blessed! Lately though there is a tinge of territoriality entering her manor. Lots of declarations of: "c'est MON papa.", "c'est MON maman" (yes her possessive pronouns to not yet agree with the noun), "c'est MON cadeau.", "c'est MON maison." I think that last one is more related to our impending move and the hordes of potential buyers who have been trampling through our current home. I have tried to explain to her that we are moving and why it will be a good thing, our conversation went something like this (sorry only work in french):

maman: Cocotte, sais tu qu'on a acheter une nouvelle maison?
la cocotte: Une autre maison?
maman: Oui, on vas quitter cette maison.
la cocotte: C'est MON maison.
maman: oui, pour l'instant, mais on déménage dans une autre maison.
la cocotte: on peut nager dans l'autre maison?
maman (to herself): oh, crap.
maman: no, pas nager. mais l'autre maison a une balancoir.
la cocotte: balançoir?
maman: oui!
la cocotte: pour la cocotte?
maman: oui.
la cocotte: seulement pour la cocotte?
maman: oui.
la cocotte: balançoir qui ne dort pas pendant l'hiver?
maman: oui.

So, I think we have brokered a deal with her wherein we can move on the condition that there is a balancoir present in the new house for her exclusive use that does not go to sleep during the winter (like the swings in the city parks tend to).

Finally here was one of the sweeter moments from our Christmas holiday. I, of course, was crying too much to take a decent picture but Santa's photographer was more than happy to oblige:


Joyeux Fêtes et Bonne Année!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Exit strategy

My circle of friends includes a surprising number of women who have given birth naturally without any pain relief whatsoever. Surprising especially when I consider that statistically 95% women who deliver where I delivered la cocotte and will deliver cocotte's sibling opt for an epidural. Perhaps I know so many drug-free laboring women because my circle of friends is dominated by runners... runners have high pain thresholds, good endurance, good musculature, make smaller babies, so the thinking goes and are therefore more likely to tolerate a drug-free delivery.

I have listened to my friends describe the experience of drug-free birthing in complete astonishment. Having had a c-section the first time around, a drug-free birth was not really an option. (Even the mentally toughest of runners generally does not submit to being cut through multiple layers of tissue without some form of anesthesia.) One of my friends described the contractions as pain equal to bones being broken separated by complete, glorious numbness. She told me about pushing and the ring of fire. She said she felt connected to the generations of women before her who had given birth in pain and that it had been so important to her to have that experience and to feel every sensation from start to finish. The way she described it was moving and poetic. I am so happy for her that she had that experience. That being said, I cannot think of anything I would ever want LESS for myself.

All around me women seem intent on de-medicalizing the birthing process. Women seem united in their desire to give birth at home, naturally, with a midwife. And to those women I say, in all sincerity, you go girls! I don't understand their desire but do admire their courage and ability to endure. As for me? I want bright lights, stainless steel, white, institutionalized sheets, bad food, hissing, aging radiators and pipes, a cramped room, a harried, overwrought nurse and everything that else that reassures me that I am in a hospital with a wide array of glorious, glorious drugs at hand. If I had my choice, I would start the epidural in the parking lot. But before I started the epidural in the parking lot I would get a hit of something else to make the epidural ITSELF less painful.

I am probably biased by my first birthing experience. Without going into the gories... I was late (41 weeks), la cocotte's growth had slowed, I was not even slightly dilated, la cocotte was nowhere near the "set" position but it was decided that an induction was the best course of action. The first 6 hours were fine, drug-free (except for the pitocin of course). Felt nothing. Then a pinch, a stronger pinch, I asked a doctor for a tylenol... I told him a tylenol would be enough for the amount of pain I was experiencing. I had this brief fantasy that maybe I was one of those remarkable women for whom labor was simply not painful or... even better, that this level of pain was what other women described as unbearable and I was just some sort of superwoman with an insanely high pain threshold. My water broke. 10 minutes later I was puking and screaming for an epidural (which due to logistics I had to wait about 2 hours for... I know, not long compared to some). There was no gradual build-up of pain. No acclimatization. It was zero to 10 on the someone-kill-me scale in ten minutes. Far worse, there was no respite between contractions, there was no wonderful lack-of-sensation to slip into, there was simply a valley of pain (and not a very deep valley either) between towering peaks of pain. Got the Epiural. Bliss. Many more hours passed. No progress. La cocotte's heart rate was dropping with every contraction. C-section decided on. La cocotte born with an apgar of 10 (and no, I am not mis-remembering that. It was 10 immediately after birth and 10 ten minutes later. It is written in her health booklet so I am not romanticizing after the fact. And while I know it is totally obnoxious to brag about one's offpring's apgar score, I do so only to counter the notion that epidurals are bad for baby. Though yes, I realize la cocotte is only an n=1).

So here I am, 2 years and 4 months later,almost 7 months pregnant. I need to decide on an exit strategy at some point in the near(ish) future. My ob is essentially leaving it totally up to me until such time as a given strategy is clearly medically indicated. So I weigh the paths in front of me: VBAC, scheduled c-section, trial of labor following by either VBAC or unscheduled c-section and wonder what to do... what to do. Ideally I would like to NOT push out a baby but also NOT have to recover from surgery. My research so far indicates that this is not currently medically possible. There's not really a ton of choice when one gets down to it. Simply put, there really aren't many exits to choose from. I remain undecided. I still have time to ponder but only a finite amount.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Early Conversations

At two years and 4 months of age, la cocotte is really coming into her own conversationally. Now that she can express her thoughts verbally, it's fascinating (to her adoring parents anyway) to see what it is that she invests in expressing. Actually even biased parent factor aside, it is an inherently fascinating thing to watch what it is that a new speaker decides to express of the her internal world and the world around her. It turns out to be mostly observational, instructional and re-iterative.

She loves to observe and report the facts of her little world. She will proudly tell her daycare no teacher: "Maman bebe la bedaine. No bebe baba." (Mama baby in belly. No baby baba [daddy]). Almost everyday we get a count of how many lulus (ponytails) she and everyone else she sees has. Daddy has a constant count of zero.

She will constantly re-iterate the facts of her world. "No souliers [dans la] maison!" (no shoes [in the] house). "Nounou pas dans la bouche, seulement la main." (No pacifier in the mouth, only in the hand). This one stems from one of our very few rules. We have weaned her down to having the pacifier only in bed, in the stroller and the car seat. At other times she can hold it in her hand but not put it in her mouth; at which point she carries it around constantly looking at it, bringing it near her mouth or will sometimes turn away from us for a moment so her face is hidden and avidly suck away since we can't see her and therefore ostensibly don't know what she is doing. It is very reminiscent of a smoker craving for and sneaking a fix; an obvious but discomfitting analogy.

She will instruct. Given that she is surrounded by order-issuing adults all day long it is not surprising that she likes to issue her own. In fact one of her first complete(ish) sentences was an order. On our way back from the park one day, she clearly stated "Maison la cocotte jouer avec baba. Seulement Baba. No maman." ([At the] house la cocotte [will] play with baba. Only baba. No mama.) Ouch. But honest. Not intended to hurt. Just an honest statement of preference. And yes, she does call herself la cocotte. Direct article and all.

There is not yet any discussion of feelings. Feelings are expressed directly i.e showing visible fear when Swiper appears during her Dora the Explorer video. Crying when displeased. Smiling and hugging when happy or affectionate. There is also no interpretation. It's all: just the facts ma'am. In other words there is are none of the constructs that muddy the waters of adult conversation. No manipulations, no subterfuge, no subtlety. She just tells it like it is. To converse with her is to drink ice cold, pure, unfiltered spring water after a long run on a humid day. Pure refreshment. Total satisfaction. Uncomplicated.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is getting a little ridiculous

I have never been much of a crier. I cry for personal griefs and misfortunes, hurt feelings, the pain of loved ones, great societal injustices, yes, I cry. But heart tugging long distance telephone commercials, movies, tears of joy... never my thing. These pregnancy hormones are driving me crazy. I distinctly remember watching the Su.sa.n Boy.le audition on youtube (which for anyone living under a rock as I was until a close friend made me aware of it about a year after it surfaced, you can see it here) before getting knocked up and thinking, 'cool, underdog makes good! You go girl!' But that was about it. Now I cannot watch the sucker without full-on tear tracks and runny nose. But it gets even worse... I cannot read the poem below without crying... it's not even sad... or even that moving...


Bed in Summer
Robert Louis Stevenson


IN winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Yes, I know... I KNOW!! Nothing to cry over. I cried just now copying and pasting the sucker. I suppose it makes me think of la cocotte. How little she is in contrast to how big her toddler tragedies feel to her. How the little injustices she feels now will pale in comparison to hardships and bumps along the road she will inevitably encounter. How she will grow up so quickly and however much I try to drink in all the time I can with her now, I will inevitably wish I had held her more tightly, snuggled more often, buried my nose in her hair, stayed awake to watch her sleep, protected her more fiercely and though it feels impossible somehow loved her better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A fair share of exercise

I read the phrase, "fair share of exercise" in mapp's blog this week, more precisely she wrote:

"it is not that often we get to meet people who do as much sports as us, and even less often (bordering on : never) that we meet parents of young children still getting their fair share of exercising (although, if you ask us, we're far from getting a share we would describe as "fair")"


The phraseology and the whole concept of a "fair share of exercise" really stuck in my brain. What is, indeed, a fair share of exercise? Is there a point at which exercising becomes selfish? What is a reasonable amount of time for a person on whom multiple people depend to devote to sweating? Finally, how do people work exercise into their lives in a manageable way.

Let me start at the end. How do I work exercise into my day without it becoming too burdensome on my family? Let's take this past week as an example though because I cannot run-commute right now since that necessitates running on pavement which my foot will not tolerate, this week is somewhat anomlaous. Anyway the point is not to examine the  work-outs I did, but rather at how they fit into the day:

Monday - off (that was easy)
Tuesday - got up at 5.45 am, out the door at 6 am for a 70 minute run, back at 7.10 am to shower, take over parenting duties from hubby and get la cocotte ready for daycare, out the door by 8 am.
Wednesday - asked hubby if I could work late and was genuinely planning to but got kicked out of office at 6 pm and so ran 20 minutes to the gym and did 50 minutes elliptical rather than heading home to help out with dinner and parenting. Got home by 7.30 pm, early enough to help with bedtime.
Thursday - Went to the gym after la cocotte had gone to bed. Completely exhausted. Only managed 32 minutes on the elliptical. Almost fell asleep on the locker room bench while trying to change.
Friday - Had a 9 am pre-natal appointment, Dropped la cocotte at daycare earlier than usual (7.45 am) and went for 75 minute run before appointment.
Saturday - as described in previous post, exceptionally went to a gym with daycare, did 40 minute spin class.
Sunday - got up at 5.45, ran to track, did mile repeats, ran home. Was home by 8 am to help out with parenting/breakfast etc.

Other ways I routinely get runs in - lunchtime runs (how cool is it that I have a) a gravel path that starts 50 m from my office and b) a shower at work??), run commuting, run-everywhere - to doctor's appointments, to grandmother's house, baby jogging during la cocotte's nap, running without la cocotte during her nap (therefore burden free for hubby).

So, looking just at this week, three of my six days of exercise this week placed burden on hubby (Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday) and five of them placed burden on la cocotte (if you can call my absence a burden, most people call it a delight). And I realize as I write this that mostly I manage to get my exercise in by getting up early which means it is either at the expense of sleep or else at the expense of adult conversation after la cocotte goes to bed at 8 pm because I, completely exhausted, usually go to bed not long after. Though much of my exercise also comes at the expense of leaving hubby alone to get la cocotte ready for the day in the morning which he is totally capable of doing (more on this below), I don't mean to imply that without my presence things fall apart but it is certainly the case that in the morning chaos, a 2:1 adult to toddler ratio is more favorable than a 1:1, even if it does mean that there are two people competing for the bathroom instead of one (not being toilet trained yet, la cocotte doesn't enter the bathroom fray except as a friendly observer).

[As an aside: nothing leaves me more speechless than when people ask me if hubby "helps out" a lot at home. I truly don't know how to answer this question. Hubby does approximately 50% of the housework and child rearing. Is that "helping out"? I find the phrase super irritating and offensive to both me and him. Offensive because it implies that home making and child rearing is my responsibility but if I am lucky hubby will sometimes lend a hand. Offensive to him because, well actually for pretty much the same reasons.]

The amount of "burden" imposed by this week's worth of exercise seems to be at the limit of what is palatable for our family. To get anymore exercise than this really means more working out after la cocotte's bedtime which is the only time that is burden free or getting up obscenely early.

How do I feel about this amount of exercise? Actually, having worked out 6 times this week for a total of close to 80 kilometers of running equivalent kilometers feels probably like a bit more than my "fair share" of exercise. It is less than I would ideally like to train but given the givens, and the givens are: two parents with demanding jobs working full-time outside the home, currently spending massive amounts of time house hunting, 2 year old attention demanding toddler (wonderful but attention demanding) and oh yes, being six months pregnant, 80 kilometers per week over 6 days does seem somewhat, um, greedy for lack of a better word. Though it must be said that this week has been my best week for a long time, I have hardly broken 70 km per week throughout this pregnancy so I am trying not to feel too guilty about this week's indulgence.

What is fair? I guess it depends partially on what one's partner and offspring (if any) will tolerate in the way of absence. Exercise is draining on the couple not only for the actual time it takes but for constant fatigue it engenders. [Another aside, I have never really understood people who say that exercise gives them so much energy. Huh? No really... HUH?? It generally leaves me exhausted and mostly comatose I guess it's all a matter of dose]. The burden is probably even greater in a couple where one partner is not an athlete, as is our case. Most weeks, when I am not injured, I get in about 65-75 km of running - much of this is done in the form of run-commuting, the ultimate burden-free way to get exercise in. It is less than I want but I think a good compromise between my desires and being present (and not completely flaked out) for my family.
I know things will only get more difficult to manage when the second cocotte is born (note to self: need to figure out girl name, boy name AND nickname for number two).

Writing all of this I know I am extremely fortunate. I have a happy, healthy toddler. An amazing, affordable daycare. A demanding but fulfilling job so I really don't mean this as a whinge-session. But I am really curious to know how other people manage exercise and, well, life. Has anyone found an extra 3-4 hours in a day that I don't know about? Seriously... are there tricks I am missing?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Working out in the lap of luxury

The gym is called The Sa.nctua.ry. The name itself probably suffices to convey this health club's poshness inherent. Smiling staff, understated decor, soft jazz tones playing throughout (except in the spinning studio but I'll come to that... will I EVER come to that), flattering lighting, row upon row of gleaming equipment ostensibly never having been sweat upon despite the impossibly-thin, spandex clad bodies gyrating upon them proving otherwise. Indoor track (255 m), endless, fluffy towels, restaurant with complicated menu, daycare with reams of toys, large showers with ample hot water and amazing water pressure and a selection of hair and skin care products... quintessential lap of work-out luxury. I was invited for the day by a friend who is a member (who also kindly gave me a two week pass), I didn't looking into pricing, let's just say that my vague and unresearched understanding is that there is a 3-figure fee just to sign up, then the obscene monthly fee plus one's left kidney if you break your contract early. I didn't bother to ask because I know I am not willing to pay.

I have worked out in probably upwards of 30 work-out facilities in my 25+ years as a quasi-serious athlete. This was a totally novel experience. This place is so posh, I am surprised you cannot hire someone to go and do your work-out for you! Let's start with spin class, novel experience heaped upon novel experience. My first spin class ever. The pounding music and flashing lights could not have contrasted anymore with the zen-like feeling of the rest of "The Sanc.tua.ry". How do I describe it? Let's start with, and I realize that the following says way more about me and my self-absorption than it does about the gym but here we go, I was the fattest person in the room. My ego is SO not used to that. I am not talking fat as in my 6 months of pregnant belly fat... I am talking PPC not pregnant still would have been the fattest person in the room. I am not fat. When not pregnant I weight btwn 125-130 lbs (5'8"). I have some arm flab, a little roll on my tummy and yes, cellulite and sure, I would prefer that cellulite to not be there but that cellulite was along for the ride on a 2:54 Boston Marathon, that cellulite clung to my thighs as they ran 17:30 for 5 km. It's pretty functional cellulite. The bodies in that spin room were... perfect. Male bodies, female bodies, teenage bodies, not-so-teenage bodies... all uniformly lean, toned and beautiful. Like I say, I am not used to being the fattest person in the room, it was a little strange and yes, I hate to admit it, ego bruising. Then the clothes and the gear... oh the gear... I was definitely the only luddite actually checking their pulse using something as dated as the index-finger-to-the-carotoid method. And somehow I managed to be under-dressed... in a spin class. I am trying to figure out how that is even possible.

The work-out itself. Wow. I have not worked that hard on a bike since... ever. I have never worked that hard on a bike before. I think the ambiance of the room is precisely designed to cut one off from all biofeedback (perhaps that is why everyone around me has heart rate measuring capabilities) the pounding music made it impossible to hear the sound of my own breathing, the dark, cool, small room combined with the night club flashing lighting somehow divorced my nervous system from the sensation of exertion. Every time I checked my pulse I was shocked to find it over 160. Definitely over my comfort zone for 6 months pregnant but I felt somehow blind and deaf to my own efforts. An effective technique for getting people to work harder though probably not ideal for the pregnant woman. The enthusiastic instructor with the booming voice who said things like "Climb this hill for 10 seconds more... 10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 3.... 3.... 3... 2... 2... 2... etc. etc" and the quasi-tribal yells just did nothing for me. I can see how it create a groove for a good work-out but after too many years of being yelled at by and trying to respond to many an over zealous coach I have reached the point where I self-motivate. It`s always nice to have people cheering for me at races or maybe the occasional work-out but generally I am either working as hard as I can or should be and yelling has no no discernible impact on the outcome. I guess I am not meant for fitness classes.

So definitely an amazing treat. Truly a work-out in the lap of luxury. La cocotte seemed to have a good time in the daycare. She had a whale of a time on the track afterwards (255 m in 2:45... (PPC did NOT time her daughter's lap around the track did she??? Oh yes,she did!) and an even better time in the swimming pool. Inspired by the sight of my friend's 1 year old cheerfully dunking her head under water, la cocotte was willing to go "en dessous l'eau" for the first time ever and even asked repeatedly for "encore... encore" afterwards - a real breakthrough. As I say, the whole experience was a real treat... how can one not love a gym with a 255 m banked indoor track?? The surprisingly affordable daycare makes working out possible for harried parents which is fabulous. However, even with the daycare convenience and without the presumably steep price tag, I will still take the gravel trail on Mount Royal, the sound of my increasingly heavy footsteps and ragged breathing and my scratchy towels after a quick, piss poor shower at work over the Sa.nct.uary any day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My stew fest

Yes, I am still stewing... I guess that's an improvement over steaming. Fast Bastard asked for an update on the slap-in-the-face situation which I hadn't really planned on blogging any more about. Any meaningful update takes me into territory that is over the boundary of things I am willing to blog about. Leaving out details becomes so abstract that it is uninteresting and impossible to follow (yes, I know, uninteresting and impossible to follow is kind of par for the course on my blog).

So here is what I can offer. Since la incident, I have spent one night awake crying, one night awake wondering if what X said was true and a few days as a walking sleep-deprived zombie. Then I called Mother Risk to ask about the safety of diphen.hydra.mine during pregnancy (the active ingredient in most over the counter sleeping pills) and found out that unlike almost all other drugs, it has actually been extremely well studied during pregnancy and approved for use. So I bought myself some Sle.ep-ez.e and got two excellent nights of sleep. So I guess the update there is that I am literally no longer losing sleep over the incident but only thanks to modern chemistry not to any kind of closure.

I did tell X what I heard. X apologized. I told X that there was no need to apologize for feeling that I am [insult omitted]. Heck, if that's how X feels, it's how X feels. It hurts like hell but I have to accept that those are the feelings. I have the responsibility to figure out what part of  [insult omitted] is really true of me and what part comes from X and the filter through which X sees the world. I need to change what I decide I can and should and let the rest of it go.

However I did also tell X is that I found it completely reprehensible that these feelings were shared with another person in my life with whom I am close and have an excellent relationship and whom, as far as I know, enjoys a mutual high regard with me (this was the person in the room X was talking to I alluded to last time). That part was pretty shitty. Well the whole thing was shitty but as I keep saying I can't blame X for feeling these feelings (though I am hurt and confused by it) but I certainly do blame X for back-stabbing me.

Blah blah blah... just writing about this is making me tired. I am ready to move onto something else, stop being a drama queen, get some real sleep. Perhaps instead of taking more Sl.ee.p-E.ze, I`ll just go re-read some of my blog, that oughta do it.

That be my update.
This be me moving on.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My slap in the face

Emotional pain is when someone close and important in your life leaves you a voicemail, "hangs up", only they don't hang up completely... they continue to talk to someone in the room. About you. Saying gut-wrenchingly, ugly things.


EMBARASSMENT is... when the above happens AT WORK causing you to BURST INTO TEARS at your desk and then have to return each and every one your colleagues cheery "Good Mornings" as they file past your desk one by one.

HUMILIATION is when trembling, flustered fingers cause you to FORWARD it to a distribution group that goes to 8 people while you are trying to delete it.

I wish I was one of those self possessed people who could just laugh it off and say "oh X is a critical person who finds fault with everyone." but because I am me, I have to evaluate every statement for the truth and because I am me and so freakin eager to always find fault in myself, I find myself agreeing.

Sometimes I really have a really low opinion of myself. And after today, I know X does also.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Race Report: 5 km @ 20 weeks

Goals (in order of importance):

1. To be guilt and worry free afterwards regarding the effort I exerted and possible negative effects on baby.
2. Place top 10 in the 20-30 category (which would assure me second place overall in the series and win a great prize).
3. Get in 18 km of running for the day.
4. Run a pregnancy PB (faster than 21:03).

The Numbers
-Number of kilometers: 5
-Fastest km: 3:59 (downhill back to the wind)
-Slowest km: 4:26 (uphill face into the wind)
-Total time: 20:55
-Overall place: 146
-Place among women: 19
-Place in 20-39 category: 12


So, goal #1 achieved, zero guilt and worry afterwards, effort felt very moderate and sustainable throughout.
Goal # 2 FAIL. On the other hand, 20-39 is a HUGE age category... and ten of the women who beat me were in their twenties.... I was the second thirty-something across the line. Darn those quick legged twenty year olds! But I subsequently found out I tied for second place in the series and therefore get my very cool prize (free entries into 6 races next year!).
Goal # 3 - 18.6 km for the day baby! On the other hand I also managed to re-injure my foot. And then... rather than backing off immediately as 25 years of experience as a runner SHOULD have taught me to do, I kept going, now it hurts to stand or to shuffle to the bathroom. Why am I so dumb??
Goal # 4 - done.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Do you want a girl or a boy?

It is the inevitable question posed to those who are visibly pregnant by close friends and random strangers alike. The pregnant woman smiles beatifically and, almost invariably answers, (say it with me) "all I care about is having a healthy baby." Awwww. Such is the politically correct veneer we swathe over the true answer to a question that would perhaps be better unasked. The truth, as is the case with almost all human truths, lies in our actions not our words. The real truth, that rings out from all four corners of the globe is: boy please!

I came across this recently while perusing the ultimate source of ALL truths - wikipedia:



My naive little brain was floored on several fronts. First, globally, whenever there is a gender preference it is for males. There is, apparently, NO COUNTRY ON THE PLANET that prefers female offspring. Second, do you SEE the colour of Canada on this map? Apparently we are practicing gender selection here at significant enough levels to result in abnormal childhood sex ratios.

How do people go about choosing the gender of their offspring? There are various ways and inevitably they are unreliable OR of questionable ethics AND/OR illegal AND/OR just plain wrong. There are various theories on timing intercourse. The Shettles method, for example, relies on the fact that Y-bearing sperm swim faster and X-bearing sperm live longer to suggest that a couple can increase the odds of a female baby by having intercourse several days before ovulation and then abstaining while intercourse very near ovulation can increase the odds of a male baby. According to studies I have read, this method barely has a measurable effect. In the category of more effective but ethically questionable - the rise of fertility clinics has lead to more possibilities for pre-conception gender screening. As I understand it, sperm which is being used for inseminations or for IVF procedures can be sorted by molecular weight in order to select X or Y-bearing sperm. As I said, ethically questionable ( to say the very least) and, illegal in Canada. Then we get to the really ugly... selective abortion after early gender determination. This is clearly a problem in Canada, so much so that it is actually illegal to reveal gender in an ultrasound until AFTER the legal cut-off time for an abortion in the province of British Columbia (contrast Quebec where I nervously told my OB at least three times during my 20 week ultrasound today that I did NOT want to know the gender as she was more than willing, and legally able, to tell me). This law has not stopped people however as mail order kits from various companies are easily available which can be used to provide a maternal blood sample from which they can somehow determine fetal gender. The means of gender selection get even uglier than there...

Why do people care? I mean apart from a whimsical desire to have one of each gender in the mistaken belief that boys and girls are really so different... why do people care? I would argue that people who REALLY care about gender, and by really care, I don't mean a slight preference, curiosity, whimsical desire, I mean people who care enough to take ugly actions are probably having children for the wrong reasons. Or is it simply that my socio-economic reality is so far removed from needing to have a child of a certain gender that I have the luxury not to care??  What are the reasons? Ability to inherit? Desire to carry on the family name? Desire for an offspring with good earning potential? Not having to pay a dowry? I suppose in certain societies the gender of one's offspring can have HUGE bearing on one's well-being and quality of life. But I would hope that Canada is not one of those societies. Why are people in Canada practicing gender selection?

And speaking of differences between girls and boys, do they really exist? Ok, obviously they do. But everyone and their cousin seems to have their own pet theory regarding whether boys or girls are easier to raise. These theories are usually based on one or two difficult children of a given gender that the theorist happens to know. Given individual variability, are the between-gender differences in behaviour and personality really large enough to be significant in the face of within-gender variability? I question whether it is really possible to state definitively whether one gender is "easier" to raise than the other. In fact, I feel certain it is not. As I stood on the sidewalk in the cold, October rain earlier this week watching la cocotte rolling on the ground, pulling off her shoes and coat screaming "No manteau! No manteau! No manteau!" (translation: la cocotte did not wish to wear her coat on that cold, rainy day) I was sure of several two things - this had nothing to do with her being a her and everything to do with her being la cocotte at 2 years of age.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Race Report: Eaaasy there 5km

I'm trying to finish off this local series I have been participating in all year before my belly explodes. I was on track to place very well in the series prior to my foot injury. Now I am on track to, well, waddle on over the finish line. But today, at 16 weeks pregnant, I thought I might have a reasonable 5 km in me.

The night before I decided to brush up on the "rules" for exerting oneself while pregnant by re-reading portions of the bible "Exercising through your pregnancy" by James Clapp. Actually first I did the obligatory googling of "running 5 km" "pregnant", "racing 5 km" " second trimester", "road racing" "pregnant" and got a ton of hits... from my own blog and the blogs that are on my blog roll. So I turned back to Dr. Clapp who, as far as my limited research has taken me, seems to have done the most exhaustive (pun intended) research on exertion in human pregnancy. And I promptly remembered how frustrating I found his book at times during my first pregnancy. All I want are simply, clear rules regarding the maximum possible amount of exertion I can safely undertake during pregnancy. Is that so unreasonable? Um yes, human physiology just does not work that way. The book is full of  "it depends", "generally" and vague qualitative statements about what is and is not safe. In fact in the entire book he only gives two, heavily couched, quantitative guidelines: 1) thermal shifts of up to 1.6 deg C during work-outs are not associated with negative pregnancy outcomes, heating more than this should be avoided 2) the pregnant woman should not lose more than 3 pounds in sweat during a work-out. The latter is interesting - this is pretty basic physiology which I had forgotten or never knew in the first place, but as we lose fluid throughout a work-out our heart rates accelerate to compensate for the greater difficulty the dehydration causes in circulating the blood - apparently this effect is called creep and is to be avoided in the pregnant woman.

So, being the quantitative beast that I am, I greatly appreciated those two guidelines but I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted: do not let your heart rate go above X bpm (where X is hopefully a number >= 180). I know... I know... it is inaccurate to set a safe limit on heart rate in any circumstance because resting heart rate and effect of exercise on heart rate is significantly affected by genetics, in others words my 150 could easily be someone else of equal fitness' 180. So this is where I go off onto one of my Patent Pending Piccola Pinecone sPiels in which I over think something to death and come to a very mundane and obvious conclusion.

{*Begin sPiel*} It occurred to me as I was re-reading Clapp and getting frustrated by the lack of cut and dried rules that ultimately what I wanted was to not have to think for myself and just be given the answer by a leading expert on the topic. In my work, I often have to advise researchers on acceptance criterion for data and the truth is that there is no cut and dried rule, there are guidelines and there are factors to be considered of which I can make them aware however ultimately careful, informed judgement must be applied. But that is not what they want to hear; they want simple rules to follow. I think this is how people want to operate. They want to leave the expertise to the experts and just be told what to do. Or, to be more generous, they want to be expert in their chosen field of interest but in other areas, they just want to be told what to do. But... as we become experts in something one of the first things of which we become aware is that things are rarely straightforward and linear. Typically outcomes are multi-factorial, non-linear, dynamic chaos influenced by many, interconnected factors and careful, informed, critical thought is involved to chose the appropriate course of action. Thomas Edison said something to the effect of there are seemingly no limits to which man will go to avoid the labour of thinking. I know this is often true of me. I think it is probably true of most people. {*/sPiel*}

Anyway as I realized the above, I stopped being annoyed with Clapp. The man is a hero. He pioneered research into exercise in pregnant women and showed us that not only can it be safe but there are benefits to the woman and benefits to the fetus, the infant, the toddler and the child - (aside: in his book he actually claims that his research shows that the 5 year old children of women who exercised during pregnancy perform significantly better on general intelligent tests and on oral language skills (he claims to have controlled for amount of exercise done after pregnancy so he is really looking only at the effect of exercise DURING pregnancy, parental education level, socio-economic status, birth order, parental weight & height, working outside the home, general health, breast feeding etc. etc. etc)). But surprising and difficult to believe research findings aside, the message of Clapp's book is: we don't exactly know how much exercise is safe but we can be sure that some degree of exercise is safe and probably a good deal more than previously thought, enough in fact that a woman can actually improve her level of fitness during pregnancy. However the woman should be followed closely, monitored and pay attention to her body cues and use common sense. Thus ends my little plug for the Clapp book which I re-skimmed right before bed the night before my race.

The race itself was fairly uneventful. My mantra was eaaassssy there. I ignored the fact that I needed a good age group placing in order to maintain my standing in the series and focussed instead on my level of exertion and kept it reasonable. So reasonable in fact that I ran a 4:29 first km. Followed by a 4:12, 4:01, 4:15, 4:06 good for 21:03 overall. I made sure I could always sing throughout the race - I figure if I can sing, I am not overdoing it. I kept my HR below 160 as that is what it usually is at when I warm up for work-outs when not pregnant. I steadfastly ignored ALL the other women on the course. I was not tired afterwards. My urine was clear before and immediately following the race. I feel good about the level of exertion. Comfortable with the effort. My biggest fear going in was that I would not be able to dampen my competitive nature and would get carried away but as it is I have no regrets. About this race. Now onto the regrets...

Today la cocotte made her debut as a road racer in the children's 1 km event. I had no idea if she would take to the idea or not. In the end I think the disaster that was her road race debut was largely due to the fact that we were at the race site for three hours prior to her race and during that time she had spent a hard core hour in the playground, a good long while dancing to the finish line music and run probably a mile or so around the grassy fields and parking lot. Let's say by the time I got her to the start line of her race, she had pretty much done the impossible and exhausted the near bottomless toddler energy pack. I was very eager not to soccer-mom her into the race (oops, I mean hockey mom her) but I just wanted her to start... just start and if she didn't like it, we'd stop (that's how hockey moms start isn't it?). So the gun went off and she instinctively knew what to do, okay, I guess it's not really instinct given that 200 kids and toddlers in front of us started running. Anyway she was doing great for about 150 m and then she saw baba (a.k.a. hubby) on the sidelines taking pictures and stopped for a little chat. We got her moving again but at that point the race actually passes by its own finish line which she was bound and determined to cross but the officials were determined to funnel her into the "passing through" lane and not over the finish line. Why? Because the toddler's 1 km was being CHIP TIMED! Yup. Chip timing. For kids and toddlers. Hockey mom indeed. Anyway not being allowed to cross the finish line caused a little temper tantrum which only grew more fierce when the winner of the 1 km who had by this time lapped us crossed the finish line. NOT FAIR! (is what I am sure la cocotte was thinking). So I was ready to call it a day at that point and started moving her towards the car to leave and the temper tantrum grew more fierce. It appeared she wanted to finish the race. So on we went. Some toddling. Lots of carrying. Lots of her yelling "down!" and then "up!" as soon as she had been put down (we were so far beyond nap time at this point it had all but disappeared in the temporal rear-view mirror). We carried her around the course. Our goal at this point was to get her over the finish line before they started the boys' 1 km so she and we would not get trampled. Finally, in sight of the finish line she had so desperately wanted to cross 12 minutes earlier, I put her down thinking for sure she would sprint towards it. Nothing. I carried her 10 feet closer. This time she let her legs go floppy in a ploy I call "broken landing gear" so it is impossible to put her down. It seemed ridiculous not to cross the finish line at this point especially with all the cheering of the patient crowd. I got her to within 5 feet of the finish line and put her down. She sat down. and stayed put. The announcer and photographer had a field day. I dragged her over the finish line feeling exactly like the hockey mom I had been so afraid of being and we got her whopping big finisher's medal. And suddenly everything was all right in the world again.

100 m in, looking good!
Found the rhythm.
Just a little bit of illegal outside assistance.
Toddler says: "No finish line! No! No!"
Mom says: "You MUST cross the finish line so I can re-live my glory days through you" (oh please no!)
Reward!
Even better reward.






Monday, September 5, 2011

I channeled all of you

Thanks everyone so much for your lovely comments and congratulations on my pregnancy. I am thrilled to be pregnant (understatement) and I promised myself that if I got pregnant again, I would not complain about the inevitable side effects of growing a person. So, question: does it constitute complaining if one just states facts without emotion? Example, this pregnancy is causing me to be exhausted all the time. That's not a complaint right? Just a statement of fact. On the other hand: I am so exhausted that I want to sleep 18 hours a day but only have time for 7 and that leaves me too exhausted and nauseated to focus on work done which is piling up in a stomach-churning-stress-headache-inducing way, I don't have energy to play with la cocotte and am running so little that the neighbour's obese cat who is large enough to be Thanksgiving turkey is probably accumulating more mileage than me and, not coincidentally, I am looking more and more like that cat everyday. If I were to utter something that self-indulgent and whiny, THAT would be a complaint.

Long preamble just to say, despite the fact my foot is getting better, my running has been lackluster due to fatigue and compounded by hubby being out of town for 10 days. Essentially my running options were, get myself and la cocotte out the door for daycare 45 minutes early, go for a run with her in the jogger, drop her at daycare and run another 25-40 minutes to work or else run on the treadmill at night after she had gone to sleep; both seemed overwhelming. One morning I got us out the door early and just... could... not... run. So we went to the park instead and then after dropping her at daycare I stood outside for a long while wondering whether I was actually going to walk to the subway in my running clothes and pay $3 to take the subway to work when work is just 5 km from the daycare. Usually I tack on extra kms on Mount Royal, 5 km being just way too short for a run but that day even a lousy, piddling 5 km seemed overwhelming. I started walking slowly to the subway completely discouraged. I turned and started running towards work which begins as a steep uphill. Exhausted I stopped and started walking again towards the subway. I stopped. Stood for another long while telling myself it was 12.5 lousy laps of the track. I mentally screamed at myself to just MAKE A FRICKEN DECISION. Sometimes the indecisive waffling is far more exhausting than the actual run.

I decided. I channeled all of you. I thought of how Mmmonyka would just do the run period. Without thinking about whether she wanted to. Without all the mental anguish. She would just go out and execute the job because it had been assigned to her and would bring her closer to her goals. I thought about how Cherelli would do it and find a thousand subtle ways to enjoy it - the pre-autumnal cool on the mountain, the deepening of the green in the leaves before the burst of colour arrives, the gentle changes in smell of the forest's exhalations at the end of summer that foreshadow autumn. How she would find beauty on a micro and macro scale and run to partake in that. Sea Legs Girl, of course, would  get it done. But it would just be her warm-up before running another 16 km as tempo or intervals and whatever else she could fit in before and after nursing her newborn, working on her thesis, raising money for her latest humanitarian project and organizing a race. Mapp too of course would get it done. Probably more than 5 km, straight uphill, starting at 7,000 feet (or more) ending at 10,000 feet. ("Mount" Royal indeed....). Marathon Mom would get it done between baking fabulous food, grad school, working, being a mommy and coaching. Sugarbloggy would laugh at what we call "Mount Royal" and would get it done in the tough, brutally hot hills around Trieste in between her million commitments. Barefoot Angie Bee is an incredibly accomplished barefoot runner who would get the run done without batting an eye and there are many inspirational things about her. However I have to admit it was not her running I was thinking of in drawing inspiration from her. She is a mother of four... who has sex with her partner every day! To reiterate: 4 kids. Sex every day. In terms of accomplishment, that is a 2:30 marathon RIGHT THERE! If she has energy to raise 4 kids and have sex every day, surely I could eek out 5 km. BAB if you are reading this, I hope you are not offended that I re-posted that info. I was just truly, truly impressed and inspired by that post.  Xapis, soon to be mother of two, would be grateful for the chance to run injury free and wouldn't even think about fatigue, being pregnant, lack of sleep, she would just go and revel in the chance to run unfettered rather than grinding diligently away on the elliptical and bicycle... while raising her son and getting her nursing degree. Fast Bastard would do squeeze it in after his daily commute halfway across Denmark, at 3:30/km pace probably similarly to Mmmonyka without thinking about whether he wanted to. Just get it done. And SteveQ. Well SteveQ would do it on the hottest day of the year, with a broken tibia and an infected lung, on the day his car (and his stashed water) was stolen and he broke up with his girlfriend. And relish the challenge.

So I channeled all of that. It was not unlike getting an iv infusion of red bull and espresso. Pure energy and inspiration. And I got it done. 14 km including a hilly 5 km tempo in 21:00. I was very late for work. But god, it felt amazing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How I got pregnant

If you googled your way over here in the hopes of reading about heaving bosoms and throbbing members and glistening whatever... you're in for massive dissapointment. How did I get pregnant? In the usual way. Which might not sound like it's worth writing about, particularly in the absence of any entertaining details. What makes it worth writing about (I think) is that last time I did not get pregnant in the usual way. Last time, after approximately 18 months of failed attempts, we sought help from medical technology. We were never diagnosed with anything particular but were told that after 18 months of no success, our chances of conceiving on our own were less than 1%. We did a few of rounds of assisted reproduction and on the third attempt it took.

This time, for various reasons, we did not want to go that route. With "less than 1%" echoing in my head, I figured the chances of a sibling for la cocotte were slimmer than an ultramarathon runner. And for 10 months... nothing. Less than 1 % seemed about right. Meanwhile I continued my habitual reading of infertility blogs and came across one women`s story of conception. No diagnosis but no success in reproducing until... she came across a trick. Her writing came across as quite embarassed to have even tried it and definitely she did not attribute her success to this particular trick however she did say that for two years she had no success and the month she tried this trick it worked. Possibly coincidence. Probably coincidence. But she was putting it out there just in case it could help others.

So, on my 11th try, I used her trick. And I`m pregnant. Possible coincidence. Probable coincidence. But I wasn`t pregnant and, well, now I am. And I too am a little bit embarassed and sheepish to advocate this as a "sure fire fertility booster". I really do think it was dumb coincidence BUT if you send me $19.95 in a self addressed envelope, I will mail you back.... ok, totally kidding. Talk about bad karma. Here is the dumb secret that probably did NOT do the trick but now is reponsible for two "documented" pregnancies after months of lack of success... I am still embarassed to actually type this but here goes. Bicycle legs after sex. Legs in the air, supporting the hips from underneath the hipbones so that most of your weight is on your shoulder blades and upper back and bicycle your legs for a few minutes.

You read it on the internet. It MUST be true.

Friday, August 26, 2011

THE question

I haven't written about we.ig.ht wa.tch.er's for awhile. It didn't take. I got derailed by vacation - who wants to be doing we.i.ght wa.tcher's when backpacking carrying 30 lbs at 8000 feet while climbing another 1000 feet? Who NEEDS to be doing we.i.ght wa.tcher's under those conditions??? Then when we got home, I was side tracked by other things. Despite the fact that I am running, it is less than normal because I am slowly coming back from my foot injury and cycling is just not the same. Not surprisingly lately my little belly has sprouted back into place.

The other day I got asked THE question for the first time in my life. One of the other daycare mom's looked VERY pointedly at my midsection and asked: "Are you expecting?". I was stunned. No one is supposed to ask that question... EVER... Doesn't she know the rule? UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY SEE THE HEAD EMERGING FROM BETWEEN HER LEGS - Don't ask a woman if she's pregnant!! ARE YOU CRAZY??? I sat there in stunned silence while she backtracked as much as possible - "oh, well, it's because you're normally thin and..."

But it's okay. It's all okay. One, because this woman is really goodness personified without a mean bone or bad intention in her body. Two, because, I am pregnant. 13 weeks. 13 weeks of secrecy. But I figured if an acquaintance was asking me then it was probably time to come out of the closet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Scenes from a backpacking/camping vacation with a toddler

Death Valley. July. 118 deg F. By chance we drove through there 2 or 3 days after the Badwater Ultramarathoners passed though - race goes from Badwater -282 feet BELOW sea level (lowest point in North America) to Mount Whitney summit 14,497 feet (highest point in the lower 48 states). 135 miles with total elevation gain of 19,000 feet in (see above) temperatures that can exceed 118 deg F. I felt over exerted just walking 100 m out of the car to take this picture!
At the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead at the start of our first backpacking adventure. La cocotte lasted about 10 minutes in the backpack and thereafter spent about 90% of the time on the trail in my arms.
Streamside at our campsite. La cocotte has apparently no nerve endings in her feet. The water could not have been more than about 4 deg C tunneling as it was through a nearby snow pack.

Nestled under our ultralight tarp (no tent to save weight!) amidst our messy gear.
View from campsite - well worth carrying toddler and gear 5 miles in and 2000 feet up.
Noe in Yosemite National Park - Yosemite falls (?) I think... 
Campsite at Cathedral Lakes right before la cocotte strongly indicated her preference for being NOT there and we packed up and raced the waning daylight 5 miles back to the car (yup, we carried 40 pounds of gear for essentially a day hike)

Car camping at Tuolumne Meadows (~8500 feet which explains the down jacket - it's cold at 8500 feet, even in July)
If you go to Yosemite it is essentially mandatory to photograph Half Dome from Olmstead Point. 

Spent the last night in Las Vegas before catching out flight out - always a nice jolt to the nervous system to go from the beauty of the Sierra Nevada, to the starkness of Death Valley to Las Vegas - the epitomy of everything wrong in the North American culture of excess (um, let's start with the concept of building a city where there is NO WATER!)

Just to end on a slightly more positive and instructive note - don't forget to brush kids!
If you're not sure how, ask your local toddler to help!




Monday, August 15, 2011

Bike revisited

It happened! I exhausted myself on the bike this morning. It... was... amazing! I figured out a huge part of the reason I couldn't get my heart rate up on previous work-outs. It's all about the surface. Montreal has a dearth of smooth, bicycle friendly surfaces, which is strange because we have a huge network on bike paths. But even on the bike paths there are inevitably huge cracks and bumps and construction zones and I was forever braking, swerving or standing on the pedals and coasting to avoid punishing me lady bits on a huge pothole. This morning I headed out to Montreal's Formula 1/Nascar racing track, the Gilles Villeneuve Circut,  which is doubles as a training ground for cyclists and roller bladers on Ile Notre Dame in the Saint Laurent River off the island of Montreal. Heaven! Bliss! Smooth as a single malt scotch. 4.38 km of sheer cardio heaven. No bumps, no cracks, no fear for the lady bits.

As I pumped away, turning over as fast as possible I had this strange sensation, like something was wrong with me - I just didn't feel like I normally do on the bike, I felt wonky and uncoordinated and then it hit me - it was the feeling of having gone out too fast and not been able to sustain the pace and slowly bonking. I was exhausting myself ON THE BIKE! Sweating like a pig, heart rate in the high 150s, work-out induced nausea, shaky tired legs, taste of exertion in my mouth, HEAVEN! I managed 5 laps - 9:03, 8:44, 9:10, 8:26, 8:43. Averaged JUST shy of 30 km/hour (29.8 km/hour). Which I have to admit the quantitative beast in me was disappointed in, with all the exertion and effort I thought/hoped maybe I was averaging maybe 32/33 kph but WHATEVER I EXHAUSTED myself on the bike. Yippee!

The track I was riding on is also the site of more races I have run than I can even clearly remember and PiccolaPineCone-on-the-bike also entertained herself by chasing down and squashing the myriad of ghosts of running PPC. Speed is fun. Out of shape PPC on the bike still destroys running PPC. The other wonderful thing about cycling, which I`ve mentioned before, is the sheer range of access it provides to strangely beautiful places I don`t otherwise often get to. Not mountains in California beautiful but urban beautiful and all to myself at 5.30-7.00 am, definitely a unique experience:

Montreal from Ile Jean Drapeau (island next to the island with the track)
Montreal skyline from Ile Notre Dame

Site of expo `67 against Montreal skyline (obviously not taken this morning as indeed none of these were, nor were they taken by me!)
Green scene on Ile Jean Drapeau

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Notes from a backpacking and camping vacation with a toddler

When we decided to take la cocotte on a backpacking, camping vacation, we knew that we were not exactly signing up for a relaxing vacation at Club Med. But backpacking has been an integral part of our couple hood and we were eager to share this particular area of the world with la cocotte. She is, after all, named after an important natural entity in that part of the world. Which, as an aside, made for a strange experience. La cocotte's name is not exactly common. It is not unheard of, people recognize the name when they hear it but there will (hopefully) never be multiple children sharing her name in any of her classes. So although predictable, it was still somewhat of a shock to be in that part of the world - Yosemite and surroundings - and see her name EVERYWHERE. _______Lane, Old _______Highway, The _______Laundromat, _______Inn, Ye Old _______Fish and Tackle Shop, _______ Beer & Booze. In neon lights, fading highway billboards, faux western signs, tourist shops, grocery stores, her name was omnipresent. I also felt embarrassingly cheesy when answering the inevitable "what is her name?" question. I guess it's not so cheesy name a child _______ when you live 5,000 km from _______ but it felt cheesy there. Yes, I realize I am inviting guesses and that's ok. But if I have told you la cocotte's real name in a private e-mail or if you've met her in person, that doesn't count as a guess!

But back to backpacking. We attempted two separate, two night backpacking trips. There are several challenges when backpacking with a toddler most of which we were very much aware of in theory while planning the trip. Hubby and I usually try to go light to ultra light when backpacking. We usually do 7-10 day, 80-130 mile trips and try to keep our packs to 28 lbs or under, this weight includes the 4 pound bear canisters the National Park Service obliged backpackers in Yosemite to carry. To stay light, everything we carry has a purpose if not two or three and nothing we carry is unused (except for some emergency gear - we skimp on comfort but not safety). Toddlers are, from the ultralight backpacking perspective, complete disaster! They require tons of extra gear some of which is actually heavier & more voluminous on the way OUT than on the way IN (used diapers must be packed out). Not only do they necessitate extra weight, they don't even often carry their OWN weight. We carried one backpack and one baby backpack which meant that one of us carried the lion's share of all gear and the other carried baby. And baby's baby because, oh yes, toddlers travel with baby dolls. Talk about insult to the ultralight backpacking aesthetic, we actually carried in her baby doll (which you can see here). Note the eNORmous plastic head which weighs about a pound and complete lack of practical purpose (practical in the backpacking context... clearly it baby had a crucial emotional purpose).

Did I say toddlers travel? I use that term loosely. Which brings us to the next challenge. Toddlers actually do not travel very far or very linearly and rarely in the direction that leads one to the destination for that evening. One of the books we read prior to leaving said that when hiking with toddlers, to forget about miles per hour and think instead in terms of  HOURS per MILE. So, so, so true. And hard for an anal, time-obsessed competitive runner, former serious backpacker to do. So our typical session of "hiking" went something like this:
~coax la cocotte into baby backpack
~walk 10 minutes
~la cocotte starts repeatedly calling "down! down!"
~coax her for another 5 minutes
~realize this is her vacation too and put her down
~complete standstill as she plays with a rock/anthill/leak/horse poop for 10 minutes
~pick her up in my arms and carry her for 100 meters ignoring "down! down!"
~repeat previous 5 steps
~repeat previous 8 steps
~la cocotte falls alseep - walk hike as quickly as possible during her nap not bothering to look at scenery, not stopping to pee, eat, drink etc.

But it was good, mostly good. Once I purged myself of all time and distance goals and realized how much fun the JOURNEY can be, I relaxed and let go. Letting go of past obsessions was probably a healthy exercise for me. And we did, of course, realize ahead of time that "hiking" would proceed very much as described above.

What we were not prepared for was the crying fit when we got to our destination for the night, a pretty lake in a rocky bowl about 5 miles from the trail head. La cocotte would not settle and every time I put her down she made a beeline for her baby carrier and frantically tried to climb in. By this time it was 6 pm and hubby and I were quite exhausted and had barely managed to do all the chores - tarp pitching, water fetching etc.. It was starting to feel a little like the plot of a Hollywood B horror movie: terrified toddler sensing that something wicked this way comes tries to convince exhausted, unpersuaded parents to leave... LEAVE NOW! We were really unsure what to do. It seemed we were trading off the dangers of hiking out, exhausted, in fading daylight against possibly having a terrified toddler on our hands all night. We decided to question her further.

Now normally, when it comes to giving information, our not-quite-yet-two year old toddler is about as reliable as a magic 8 ball (yes! no! maybe! ask again later!). This time though she was quite consistent:
-Do you want to stay? shake.
-Do you want to go back to the car? nod.
-Do you want to sleep here? shake.
-Do you want to sleep in a bed? nod.
-Where is the car? points in the correct direction.

Hmmmmm. Exhausted parents. Fading daylight. Terrified toddler. Hmmmmmm.
Ultimately we decided that there are certain things that she, as a two year old, must do with no negotiation - brush her teeth, share, take her vitamin D, go to daycare. But backpacking is simply not on that list. We decided to not risk scarring our child's psyche and destroying the tranquility of anyone within a mile radius and  bust a move out there.

We broke camp in 21 minutes ( a record) and hiked the 5 miles out in 1 hour 33 minutes (downhill, but a record nonetheless). La cocotte, somehow sensing the need for speed, calmly sat in the baby backpack the entire time and did not request down once. We made it back to the car exhausted but with about 20 minutes to spare before complete darkness.

Other than that we did lots of throwing of rocks into streams, lots of playing on logs and watching of deer. We did small scale activities in a large scale place. Meaning that while Yosemite is a place of grand cliffs, imposing waterfalls, impressive mountains, enormous trees, we would spend hours sitting on a sedge hump in a meadow playing with gravel or just letting la cocotte go in and out of the door of our tent for ages. In the end the scenery and the grandeur of the park was largely lost on her which we mostly expected. But we knew we were there and that she had seen it on some level.

I have to say it was a bit of an achingly uncomfortable situation for me to be in my favorite spot in the world and not be able to take it in physically. Xapis wrote a post awhile back about how running makes her feel connected to a place and I could really relate to that sentiment. Yosemite is overwhelming in her beauty, angles, shadows, spaces, plays of light... it is impossible to take it in. One of the rangers was once asked by a visitor - "what would you see in the park if you only had half a day?" and he answered "if I only had half a day in Yosemite I would go out into that meadow and cry." But running allows me to become intimate with the microscale of one small piece of it. I cannot absorb the whole park but I know, for example, that there is a downed lodgepole pine tree along the Lyle Canyon trail that is home to a Picket Pin and lupines ring the decaying edges of its home. That sort of secret knowledge makes me feel like I have truly experienced something. Not being able to really run or indeed hike very far on this vacation almost made me feel isolated from the park as if I were not truly there. So that took some adjustment but of course the trade off is well, well worth it.

The other thing noteworthy about this vacation was the simple fact of spending 24 hours a day, day after day with la cocotte. It really drove home how much development we miss by being working parents. It happened time after time that she said or did something seemingly out of the blue that we could only guess came from the daycare experience. It was a fascinating yet somehow melancholy sensation to see all these sides of her, or, her bag of tricks so to speak that we just don't get to bear witness to by only spending 4-5 waking hours with her on week-days. Though she learned some new tricks on this trip as well - she learned to nuzzle up to hubby's chest and say, very hopefully, "lait de papa?" (milk from daddy?). She also clearly thinks that hubby and I control the world. Maybe not the world but the wind, rain, wildlife.... time and time again she would see a deer and say "chevreuil!" and then look at us and demand "encore chevreuil!", "encore écureuil", "encore bateau!" or whatever else had captured her fancy. It was pretty hilarious to me that she thought we could control all these entities when we couldn't even successfully get her to wear her hat.

I think ultimately we chose the exactly wrong developmental stage to attempt back packing and hiking. La cocotte is HYPER mobile and therefore resistance to being carried and ANY sort of device but her wonderful little brain is still largely reptilian and impossible to reason, rationalize or negotiate with. Actually she is a GREAT negotiator. Everything gets done her way! All in all it was a wonderful though exhausting vacation. I think, I hope la cocotte had a wonderful time too. Certainly there were moments of swimming, dirt digging, door slamming, rock throwing that were pure pleasure for her. The fact that these moments all could have happened in the park around the corner is perhaps neither here nor there.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tired in a different way

I tried the bike again this morning. Meaning not just to get me to work but actually for a breathing-hard, sweaty work-out. It was... odd. I was pushing as hard as I could (I think) and managed to cover just over 30 km in an hour on a very flat bicycle path which I think is decent(ish)?? I really don't know. My runner's brain was certainly boggling at seeing the kilometers click by in 2 minutes apiece! But it was odd. It took me awhile to figure out what wasn't sitting well (other than my lady bits which, ouch, anyway, enough about that) finally it hit me. My legs were straining and hurting. I was sweating up a storm. But I wasn't breathing hard. At all. Just to make sure I tried an old pregnancy trick of mine - when I was running pregnant I used to try singing sometimes as I was running to make sure that I was not working too hard. I figured if I could sing out loud, I was keeping the effort reasonable. So I belted out the Hallelujah chorus right there on the bicycle which takes more lung power than any other piece I know how to sing and sure enough not breathing hard. I even did both the alto and soprano parts.

So I am really not sure what that means. I know for a FACT it does not mean that I am SUCH a kick ass cyclist that I don't even breathe hard and I really don't mean to imply that. My guess is either - it's just normal, cycling is more of a muscular work-out than an aerobic work-out or else I just don't have good enough technique to make myself breathe hard. I did do one nasty 700 foot climb and that definitely got me breathing hard but I just could not get that aerobic effect on the flat. I got off the bike after covering about 48 kilometers total. As I was swinging my leg over the seat I was thinking that it was disappointing that I just couldn't get that dead-tired running feeling. Then suddenly I wasn`t thinking that anymore. Instead I was thinking about how hard the sidewalk was when it hit my ass. Yup my legs just GAVE out when I got off the bike. What a strange, strange sensation. They were tired for the rest of the day. So weird... not breathing hard but so muscularly tired.

It`s not the instant gratification of the high heart rate, out-of-breath-working-hard feeling that I have gotten used to with running. But I appreciate the work-out that it is. What else do I appreciate about cycling? I enjoy how much more I get to see just by virtue of the sheer amount of ground I can cover cycling as opposed to the same time spent running. I got to the end of this (formerly) running (now) cycling path that I have never had to the time to get to on foot. I appreciate all the extra protein I got as 500,000 flies flew directly into my cakehole which I eventually learned to shut. It was fun washing all the dead flies off of me that found their way into my sports bra. I appreciate the fine sensation of NOT having my lady bits pulverized with every bump in the road once I got OFF the bike. Hmm.

Dear Foot,
Get well soon. Please.
Yours,
Rest of Body

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Relativism

Last week-end la cocotte and I were doing some shopping at a baby accessory store. Well she was more shoplifting than shopping. As we were leaving I noticed she had lifted one of the ugly baby dolls that was being used to demonstrate the change table. La cocotte toddled full speed towards the exit as if she would be home free if she could just get out the door with her baby. I caught her, "convinced" her to give up the baby and hustled her out the door. She wailed. And wailed. And wailed. It was clear that her little cocotte heart was breaking. At first I was impatient and annoyed with and by the fuss. Then it occurred to me that relatively speaking, the abrupt withdrawal of her baby was probably as painful to her as it would be to me if someone 5 times my size plucked la cocotte out of my arms with an abrupt: "sorry, you'll have to leave this behind."

This concept of the relativeness of experience is something I have been wrestling with for awhile. Do people experience their disappointments, pain and grief on a relative scale or are they experienced in absolute terms? Let me put this into more concrete terms... imagine a person who leads an extremely charmed and fortunate life in terms of health, wealth, circumstances etc.. This person, who has never experienced what most people would consider to be true hardship, might experience an event like breaking an arm as a true tragedy because in their framework i.e. relative to their daily experience, it is. Now think of a person is heartbreaking circumstances, let me use an example from a poignant book I have been reading lately about NGOs in Afghanistan, picture a women who has been thrown in jail for having "committed the crime" of being raped. Not only is she put in jail, but her children are put in jail with her and held, for years, without any kind of recourse. Could it be that the pain in these two cases is actually experienced in the same way due to the relative circumstances of the two people?

Relativism is a theme that comes up in many discussions. Cultural relativity is often used to make the [ridiculous] argument that certain actions, although reprehensible and heinous by our cultutal standards, are acceptable in other cultures and they should be judged within the cultural context in which they occur. So that although in our culture it is unacceptable to perform female castration or throw women in jail with their children because they were raped, within the cultural context in which they occur these are acceptable and behaviors and practices cannot be viewed in absolute terms. Bullshit I say. There are certain things that can be deemed to be absolutely morally WRONG regardless of the cultural context in which they occur.

But back to the relativity of human pain. How do people experience pain? Is it with an awareness of the absolute range of human experience or is it strictly within the context of what they themselves have experienced? I guess I struggle with this because I often get frustrated even angry with myself for being upset by the small things that go awry in my life when overall I really do have a charmed and fortunate existence. Like, for example, how can I allow myself to be so sad when every month I am NOT pregnant when I have an amazing, happy, healthy toddler whom I love and so many other things that enrich my life? How can I sometimes lose myself in this pain? I am so incredibly lucky and there are so many people who are truly in pain, it feels almost shameful to allow myself room for this pain. But I guess it is human... it is human to allow the pain in but perhaps healthy to always try to maintain a sense of perspective or in other words some kind of balance between the absolute and the relative.

I started reading blogs in the infertility community i.e. the blogs of women who were struggling with fertility issues as they tried to conceive. I read those blogs back when we were struggling to conceive la cocotte. I was often amazed by the warmth, support and humanity I found in the network of these blogs... on the other hand there was also somewhat an element of: no one is allowed to complain but us. I came across many bitter tirades against co-workers, family members, friends etc. of these women who would make the unforgiveable mistake of complaining about how exhausted they were as a result of caring for their children and the message I often found was loud and clear - no one who has conceived has the right to complain about their children or pregnancies after all the hardship I have been through. Which is kind of silly... just because I am having trouble conceiving doesn't make my colleague who has three children any less exhausted after being up for many hours at night with his children... it doesn't make my colleague who recently announced she is pregnant after trying exactly ONCE have any less morning sickness and, besides, all of these problems... not being able to conceive, exhaustion, nausea pale in comparison to the suffering of most.

But I don't mean to make this about infertility or conception, those are just examples. Where am I going with all of this? Not really sure. Just stuff I have been chewing on for awhile. I guess ultimately I think it is human to feel. Human to lose oneself a little in one's own experience and emotions relative to the context of one's own life. It is healthier and perhaps wiser to try to put one's pain in a larger context.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Holy Mother of OUCH!

Let me sum up this morning's outing on my bicycle as follows: the pain in my ass that I now have makes the pain in my foot, which precipitated the ride in the first place, feel like an utter joy in comparison. If running is akin to making love on a summer's night in a grassy field, under the moonlight with one's life partner, long and sweet, climaxing in simultaneous orgasm, than bicycling is a nervous, awkward, unskilled groping session in the backseat of a 1999 Honda Civic with fast food wrappers strewn all around and a foul stench in the air. Though, to continue the painful analogy, there is no passion between cycling and I. Zero interest in a long term relationship. I am just using the bike to breathe hard and sweat. There are no plans for the future, dreams or hopes so perhaps it wasn't realistic to hope for the satisfaction I get from a long, hard, um... run.

Also not realistic was the expectation that I could take my bicycle out after five years of use and actually have it work. Although the tires held pressure very nicely and the brakes functioned well, I had my "choice" of exactly one gear. A very, very easy, tensionless, legs spinning ineffectively gear. I realized the plan of going long and flat would not pan out and so decided instead to climb Montreal's famous Mount Royal along the route used by the World Cup cyclists when that event comes to town: a 400 foot climb over one mile. I did it three times, 9 minutes each, and that worked very well as a work-out. I was definitely breathing and sweating. A humbling new experience to absolutely the slowest person out there. I'm not kidding. I got passed by everyone. Professional looking cyclists in sweet looking gear but also her:


 and her:


I did pass one person when I finished my work-out and I was haplessly spinning in first gear along the flat road to work, but she was wearing high heels and a skirt.

So on the way home I took the bike into a shop for a tune up, I'll have it back in four days but honestly... I think I may be trading a broken foot for a broken ass. I really don't know if I can get back on the saddle again. When I road from work to the bike store I had to stand up the whole way because my hiney was too sore to sit down. I'm hoping that it is an adjustment issue and when I pick up the bike they will help me adjust it properly for me, all I know is that the seat and handlebars theoretically CAN be adjusted but I don't know what the goal in adjusting them should be. Other than that - cushier seat? Padded bikeshorts?