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!)
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.