Monday, January 30, 2012

A perfect run

Truly this morning's run was perfect, in all ways. Let's start with la cocotte who woke me up at 3.49 am because she had lost her nounou a.k.a. nuk a.k.a. pacifier. After dealing with that situation, I realized I actually felt wide awake and rested. I had planned on waking up at 5 am to run but I figured if I went immediately I could actually, for the first time in months, go for a run where the length of the run was dictated entirely by my desire. It was my first opportunity since the birth of la cocotte to go for a run without any time limits. Perfect.

I slid out of bed and into my running clothes (which I leave in a pile by the front door the night before so as not to disturb my sleeping household). I drank a cold shot of espresso (prepared the night before hence cold) and I was on the road by 4.14 am. Although it was cold (-17 C or 1.4 F) it was utterly wind still and in a rare fit of insight, the outfit I had chosen was optimally suited to the conditions, the result being that I was completely comfortable. Not too sweaty from overheating, not too icy from, well, running in Montreal in January before sunrise. Perfect.

The Tim Horton's that I regularly pass 12 minutes into my run just as my bladder always seems to wake up was open and crowded so I was able to slip unnoticed into their toilet (honestly I don't think they really care but I always feel badly peeing without buying despite the fact that I have spent enough at Timmy's in my life to finance a franchise). Although I am not taking walking breaks during my runs this time around, I do seem to be on a 15 minute run, 10 second pee schedule. Every time I got to the point where I was altering my stride to avoid peeing my pants, I seemed to pass another park or dark, secluded corner (granted dark secluded corners are not hard to find at 4 am). Perfect.

I bought new shoes yesterday. Normally I try on at least 4 if not 5 pairs when I buy shoes and do a fair amount of running in each of them to compare. Yesterday I had la cocotte with me and she was having none of it. I tried on my first pair, they fit, felt very neutral, lightweight but at the same time well cushioned and were on sale. I started to say "I like these but what else do you have" but as la cocotte moved one from trying on all  the swim goggles, to un-hangering a display of running bras to trying to climb the mannequin in their window, I found myself saying "I'll take them." Despite the fact that they were new, relatively untested shoes, I didn't even notice them on my feet on their maiden voyage this morning (a higher endorsement of a running shoe, there is not!) and my (still) injured foot did not hurt at all. Perfect.

Best of all I was really able to relax and enjoy. I found a pace that was comfortable, easy but made me work suitably hard (suitably for being 32 weeks pregnant). I got to a place where I was able to enjoy again the visceral sensation of running. I was also empowered by the secret knowledge of early morning in my city that I gather as I run around the darkened streets of a sleeping city. I love observing the early morning hours in cross section of my hometown. The van that drives slowly by in residential neighborhoods as newspapers fly out in tangent from the window always hitting their mark on the correct doorstep. The youngsters on their way home from their night of revelry; we tend to stare at each other in mutual disbelief and awe. The office buildings downtown with the random light still on and a slumped figure in silhouette slumped in exhaustion over a computer presumably after an all-nighter. The drivers brazenly running red lights, driving the wrong way down one-way streets without any consequences. The odoriferous  tail-end offerings of a greasy spoon. The pungent delight of the first pot of coffee of the day being brewed in the neighborhood coffee shop. It`s nothing spectacular. Nothing out of the ordinary but I adore bearing witness to it and revel in the knowledge that, but for me, many of these snippets of life would go unwitnessed.

An hour and thirty-six minutes and 17 kilometers later I was done. Truth be told, I was over-done but it was delicious to be finishing a run because I was simply out of desire not time. Best of all, when I arrived home around 6 am, the household was still asleep so I had missed nothing. Zero guilt factor. Truly, a perfect run.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Big-busted, anorexic, blond-haired bimbo

She made her appearance in our lives this week. Since the birth of la cocotte I had been protecting my family and mostly my impressionable child against her poisonous presence but this week I came home from work and there she was... the big-busted, anorexic, blond-haired bimbo. There are lots of reasons to hate her but let's start with: she was in my house when I had made it clear she is NOT welcome. Hubby did not think it was a big deal and la cocotte was immediately enchanted by her making it impossible to throw her out. So after 2 years and 6 months of successful avoidance, she is here, seemingly permanently, driving a wedge in my marriage and poisoning my child. Normally I respect people's privacy and only give personal details about myself and la cocotte... I wouldn't even normally give hubby's reaction to an event on this blog but I am so steamed my all of this that I am posting her picture. Here she is... the big busted, anorexic, blond haired bimbo who has moved in:

Why do I hate Barbie? There are so many compelling reasons to chose from. But I'll start by saying that I have now witnessed first hand how immediate and encompassing her appeal is to little girls. By the time I got home (too late) la cocotte was wandering around Barbie clutched in her arms saying "mon princess, mon princess". She insisted on sleeping with Barbie, going to daycare with Barbie and last night we (la cocotte and I) attended a track meet (as spectators) with freakin Barbie. When I pry Barbie out of her arms at night so that she's not the first thing la cocotte sees when she wakes up, la cocotte immediately wakes up and demands her back. So clearly this Barbie is adored by my toddler (and toddlers and children everywhere from what I understand). So why hate Barbie? Let's start with the fact (thanks Wikipedia):

1. One of the most common criticisms of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic idea of body image for a young woman, leading to a risk that girls who attempt to emulate her will become anorexic. A standard Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall, giving a height of 5 feet 9 inches at 1/6 scale. Barbie's vital statistics have been estimated at 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips). At 5'9" tall and weighing 110 lbs, Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the weight criteria for anorexia. According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate.[14] In 1963, the outfit "Barbie Baby-Sits" came with a book entitled How to Lose Weight which advised: "Don't eat!."[15] The same book was included in another ensemble called "Slumber Party" in 1965 along with a pink bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs.,[15] which would be around 35 lbs. underweight for a woman 5 feet 9 inches tall.[16]

2. In 1997, Barbie's body mold was redesigned and given a wider waist, with Mattel saying that this would make the doll better suited to contemporary fashion designs.[17][18] However, the Silkstone Barbie line introduced in 2000 as well as the Model Muse Barbie body mold introduced in 2004 feature Barbie dolls with dimensions similar to those Barbies manufactured prior to 1997. The Model Muse Barbie has a very small waist, defined abs, a collarbone, defined ankles and even cleavage. The fashion of Barbies created before 1997 will fit both Silkstone dolls and the Model Muse body sculpt, but fashions created after 1997 do not fit either of these Barbie types.

3. In July 1992, Mattel released Teen Talk Barbie, which spoke a number of phrases including "Will we ever have enough clothes?", "I love shopping!", and "Wanna have a pizza party?" Each doll was programmed to say four out of 270 possible phrases, so that no two dolls were likely to be the same. One of these 270 phrases was "Math class is tough!" (often misquoted as "Math is hard"). Although only about 1.5% of all the dolls sold said the phrase, it led to criticism from the American Association of University Women. In October 1992 Mattel announced that Teen Talk Barbie would no longer say the phrase, and offered a swap to anyone who owned a doll that did.[22]

Okay, so I guess I have to let the shit that happened in 1963 go... it was almost half a century ago BUT I cannot forgive or accept the unhealthy and unrealistic proportions of even today's Barbie nor do I feel at ease with my toddler worshiping a scantily clad, heavily made up girl-women. And maybe I am over-thinking or being too sensitive but I hear the unspoken message to my toddler at 2.5 years of age - THIS is beauty, THIS is what you should be. Give me 100 Dora dolls in their clashing outfits, annoying back-packs and constant repetition but their healthy child-like proportions with even a hint of baby belly any day over plastic Barbie.

I know some of this is personal and has to do with my own history. Of COURSE I struggled with body issues and unhealthy eating patterns/weight loss... honestly if there is a woman who ran collegiate track & field who has been consistently healthy in her body, body image & eating habits, please introduce me to her! Still to this day I spend an alarming amount of energy worrying about my weight and body fat (as this blog shows) and I want freedom from all of that superficial and sometimes dangerous crap for my daughter!

Then of course there is what Barbie represents... as much as she tells my daughter about beauty and what a woman should be - she heartlessly tells me that ultimately I have very little control over my daughter`s environment and influence; she is gleeful in her assertion that she & her message WILL weasel her way into my daughter's conscious despite my preferences and efforts (quite an impressive message for a $19.95 hunk of plastic eh?).

So I know that maybe I am making too big of a deal out of this. I don't blame hubby for allowing Barbie into the house. She came as a gift from an acquaintance who barely knows us and who is from a different time. As much as I LOATHE what she chose, I do recognize the intended kindness of this woman who only wanted to make la cocotte happy. By the time the gift was opened, it was too late to do anything about it; it was love at first sight. And I know that if it hadn't been now with Barbie than it would have been something else and soon. I know that next week she will lie forgotten at the bottom of the toy box if I play my cards right. But I am upset. I`m upset because I feel that my concerns are being disregarded. I`m upset because I of all the crap I did not want in our lives Barbie was probably number 1. And I am dismayed by how taken la cocotte is with this ideal of beauty.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I'm not sure all these people understand.
It's not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
Of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
Replaced by everyday.

So go the lyrics to REM's Nightswimming. Generally I tend to be a moron when it comes to, well most things actually, but particularly understanding lyrics and poetry. In fact, while I am on the topic, if anyone out there has a few hours to spare and would like to explain the lyrics of my favorite Bob Dylan song to me: "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" I would be grateful. I love that song, not just for the gravel of Dylan's voice as he barely sings it, it's simple melody, it's sheer length but because I know, KNOW it is packed with meaning and allegory even if the meaning and allegory escape me ("she was thinking about her father whom she very rarely saw" ... what does that MEAN?). 

All that aside, I am pretty sure I know what the lyrics in Nightswimming are getting at. It's a song about how a moment can be so wondrous when we are young, but as we age, repetition of experience and world weariness scour away the brilliance of discovery in mundane moments and rob them of their former magic. Sadly, all too many happenings that were once anticipated with wide-eyed excitement have lost their glow for me... writing on blank loose-leak with a freshly sharpened pencil on an early September morning,  the first hint of colour in the trees or autumnal crispness in the air, the first snowfall, Christmas Day, air travel ... having children, of course, brings back the magic of many of these things, I get the observe the joy in la cocotte as she breathes in these experiences and in some ways that is even sweeter. But this post in not about having children. It is about running.

Running is the one thing that still fills me with the same excited giddiness as it did when I first strapped a pair of spikes to my feet and stepped out onto 8 lanes of rubber track to compete in an 800 m race. I still feel a catch in my breath when I overfly an unfamiliar cityscape and spy the un-mistakeable orange scar of track. I still have that cherry-blossoms against the full moon of a summer night sky feeling when I am rested and tapered and ready to run a long anticipated marathon. When I manage to carve out a precious 70-80 minutes to exert my body, now more than ever due to scarcity of free-time in my life, my excitement in the run parallels that of my youth. The joy is made even more profound by the inevitable, accompanying gratitude which, in my youth, I wasn't wise enough to have. Gratitude that I am healthy enough to run and I have been granted this swatch of time in which to do so.

Likewise, after living in Montreal for the bulk of my life (I've moved back to Montreal fully five times now) there are still certain routes and loops that are so strongly associated with running fit and fast, with training arduously towards a major goal that I literally cannot go there without getting excited and, without running well. Summit is one of those places. It is a loop of road at the top of Westmount which is the rich anglophone community in Montreal; Outremont (literally "Other Mountain") is the rich francophone community in Montreal. There are the expected wonderful views of the island, and on a clear day, the Adirondaks, the Green Mountains and the Laurentians. There are laughably big houses that seem to be in frozen competition with each other for sheer ridiculousness of size and pretentiousness of trimmings (the one with the two lions on either side of the front walk wins hands down in my opinion). There are surprisingly cracked and pot-holed roads proving that suspension- destroying asphalt knows no economic boundaries in our crumbling city. There is a bird sanctuary in the middle of the loop which is as pretty as one might expect from a bird sanctuary in the middle of the city. In short, it is the attractive neighbourhood as one would expect that affluence and good positioning can produce.

For me, and many other runners in Montreal it is a wondrous place where the presence of effort and exertion and ghosts of fast runs past is palpable. I have prepared for all three of my sub-3 hour marathons there. My longest run up there was 38 km which required covering the 2.4 km loop, fully 16 times. When I am fit and running long, I tick off the loops between 10:15 and 11:00. My record summit loop is 8:11. On my last run there, which was last week, I was comfortably running between 12:45 - 13:30. I have run up there in 30 degree heat when the humidex pushed perceived temperature to just over 40 deg C; I drank from bottles I stashed in the bird sanctuary. I have run up there in -20 deg C with the windchill making me feel the bite of -30 deg C particularly when I lowered my multiple layers to relieve myself (also in the bird sanctuary). I simply cannot have a bad run up there. Maybe it's because when I run there I am chasing the ghosts of myself who are in turn chasing various PBs and records. Maybe it's simply because it is such a pain in the ass to get to - particularly when one is 34 weeks pregnant, doesn't own a car, it's January and there has been freezing rain. Indeed, perhaps it is nothing more complicated than the sheer effort of getting there means that I only do get there when I am motivated to run well.

I think and hope it is more than that though. I think Summit is sacred to me. Not through anything external and certainly having nothing to do with Montreal's famous Saint Joseph's Oratory which sits imposingly on Summit's shoulder. I think Summit has been made sacred by the exertion and effort I have poured into her roads; made sacred by the memories of pain and pride; made sacred by great races which have come as a result of paying my dues at summit. The result is that even if I am just passing through on an errand or running there completely exhausted on a recovery day, deep inside me is the throb of Christmas Eve anticipating and the overwhelming feeling of simply being somewhere special and wondrous. So finally, as an adult, it seems that repetition of experience in this case has not dulled the brilliance of Summit but rather waxed and polished it. I have found my thing that does not go away, replaced by every day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Time Trial...

Buoyed by my ultrasound results (lots of amniotic fluid, baby in the 40th percentile for weight, no sign of dilation or effacement) and by watching the US Olympic Marathon trials start to finish yesterday (who wouldn't be inspired by this image??)

I decided to do a 5 km treadmill time trial today. Because there's no time like being 33 weeks pregnant to do a 5 km treadmill time trial.  Normally time trial means finishing on my knees, retching into the nearest garbage can and wheezing like a cow in heat; at 33 weeks pregnant time trial means how fast can I run without getting my heart rate over 155, without chafing my inner thighs until they bleed and without peeing all over the treadmill (sorry tmi).

4 km warm-up: 22:06.
5 km: 25:54 (5:11 per km)
6 minutes easy
3 X 1 km: 5:13, 5:12, 5:05
15 minutes cool-down.

In total - 16.2 km in 1 hour 30 minutes.

Heart rate: never above 152
Fluid loss: about 1 pound
Weird looks: none (I swear working out while pregnant has gone mainstream since my last pregnancy)
Chafing: oh... so... terrible

This big baby thing is such a relief. With la cocotte she was tracking always in the 10th percentile or lower and I felt some guilt & anxiety about exercising despite reassurances from my ob that everything was fine. Towards the middle of my third trimester I started having cream on my morning cereal in an attempt to cram in more calories. La cocotte did turn out perfectly healthy and of course had I been living in France (for example) her fetal growth rate and birth weight (6 lbs 7 oz) would not have raised any eyebrows; we just seem to make big babies here in Canada I myself weighed less than 6 pounds at birth, apparently there is an important genetic component in birth weight. But nonetheless, having a "big baby" inside me is a bonus in many ways. I feel much freer to continue exercising and I hate to sound like body image obsessed person (that I am) of course it means less weight for me to lose afterwards (yuck, I can't believe I admitted that). On the other hand, according to la cocotte I am carrying "deux filles, deux garcons, et un crocodile et un monkey" so, if that's the case, the baby(ies) are not actually that big after all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On your marks

That was what immediately popped into my head today when my OB, wand in hand, told me that the General was in the head down position facing my spinal cord. He or she is in the on-your-marks position. In fact all systems are go for a VBAC. Baby is much bigger than la cocotte (estimated 4.5 lbs at 33 weeks good for the 40th percentile) which means that it is unlikely my doc will want to "bail out" (as she puts it) early by c-section or induction (in fact we have agreed that any bailing will be done by C not by induction as I do not NOT want a repeat of the induction experience). I have a good amount of fluid. I am not dilated at all (huh... guess all the running doesn't cause premature dilation and labor). So, yes, the stars are lining up for a VBAC attempt. I still cannot imagine actually push a baby out. I really just cannot fathom it. It's this weird mixture of arrogance and lack of self-confidence. I waffle between... "pushing is for other woman, I am exempt" (I know... isn't that completely obnoxious) and thinking I am simply NOT capable of enduring labor and child birth (equally terrible but more in keeping with my personality).

I really do not want to turn this blog into a blow-by-blow of pregnancy, child birth and child rearing but I do find myself overly navel gazing these days (hard not to... the navel is now unavoidable). So, if I can indulge a bit more, this not knowing the gender thing is easier than I thought it would be. Between appointments I find myself not even really curious. Under the wand it is harder to resist asking and even harder to avoid interpreting EVERY minor comment my OB makes. For instance, today she told me to come into her office so we could compare the measurements to those of "my daughter" and somehow that convinced me that this one is a son. But when the wand passed in "the region" I took a good look and did not see anything resembling a penis... then again I don't really see anything resembling a human at any of my ultrasounds. I am still convinced she is showing me images of her son's project on reptiles (though today I saw and FELT a kick at the same time so that was kind of convincing that we were looking at the contents of my uterus).

Speaking of on your marks, no more intervals for me... I figured at 33 weeks it is probably time to give them a rest. Instead I am rekindling my love of the long, slow run. Time management wise I can only get out to exercise 4 (sometimes if I am lucky 5) times per week so I am trying longer (80-100 minutes), slower runs and loving it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Exit Strategy Conclusion

I've decided to push. I say this realizing that it is not necessarily my decision to make BUT I have decided to line things up to try for a VBAC. I will still schedule a c-section for several days after my due date - essentially the longest delay that my OB thinks is safe, or, more practically the first day she is on call after my due date. The hope though is that I go into labor on my own beforehand and go for it! Ultimately in the swirl of pros and cons, I decided that if possible I would like to spare my family the 4-6 weeks of being essentially not being very functional. La cocotte will necessarily be getting less attention after her sibling arrives, if possible I would like to avoid not being able to pick her up or hold her. Hubby will necessarily be getting less sleep and be more stressed after la cocotte's sibling arrives, I would like if possible to participate in the "workload" as much as possible. Very noble sentiments. Almost laughable in their implication that i have some control over what happens. But I can try. What I sense will happen is that I will go into labor on my own, NOT progress and then NOT have the "convenience" of a previously scheduled c-section during the day where my OB does the surgery and we can pre-arrange for care for la cocotte and will ALSO wind up with the inconvenience of the 4-6 week recovery period. But, it's worth a shot.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Exit Strategy Revisited

After 32.5 weeks of being pregnant, it hit me like a Montreal car driver running a very yellow light... 2012 is leap year and I am DUE on March 3, 3 days after February 29 a.k.a. Leap Day. I could exercise my option to have a scheduled cesarean (hope being able to spell it is not a prerequisite for scheduling it) and have a Leap Baby! Seriously how unlikely is it that I would have been due within spitting distance of leap day (I would add how unlikely is it that I ever would have been due again...). We could have a Leap Baby and name him Frederic and apprentice him to pirates until his 21st birthday (or call her Ruth if she's a girl... because Mabel was such a suck).

Ok, so it is probably a wee bit indulgent to schedule a cesarean to have a cool birth date and kiddo would probably HATE having a birthday every four years for the first 20 years of his/her life (but on the flip side would likely grow to appreciate it).

I'm not really going to do it. For one thing I think my ob only does cesareans on Fridays (leap day is Wednesday), hubby is kind of opposed and I am not entirely convinced I want to schedule a c (still looking for that no pushing AND no surgery option).