Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mistakes of a first time gardener

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Um, oh yeah, except I do.

Monday, June 25, 2012

An elegant solution

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seeking Opinions

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

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

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

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

PPC - the lazy researcher :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In which I get my butt kicked

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Race Report: A triumph of hope over experience

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why I can break 18:30 tomorrow

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

I can beak 18:30 tomorrow because:

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