Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to use someone

First, an advertisement for my favorite work-out. Perhaps I am feeling particularly partial to this work-out bc I NAILED it today but this has always been one of my favorites. It's ideal for the runner who is training for 5 km - 1/2 marathon distances. There are 5 intervals in a ladder that work both VO2 max and lactate thresh hold and it goes a little something like this:

1 km @ 5 km pace
2 minute jog
2 km @ 10 km pace (variant 1.6 km @ 10 km pace)
2 minute jog
4 km @ 1/2 marathon pace (variant 3 km @ 1/2 marathon pace)
2 minute jog
2 km @ 10 km pace (variant 1.6 km @ 10 km pace)
2 minute jog
1 km @ 5 km pace

It provides 10 km of quality or 8.2 km for the shorter variant. Today I did the shorter variant and it felt amazing. I managed:

3:43 (18:35 5 km pace admittedly faster than I am capable of right now)
6:25 (39:52 10 km pace, hopefully slightly slower than where I am at right now)
12:37 (1:28:44 1/2 marathon pace, ha! don't think I could run 13.1 miles consecutively right now)
6:21 (39:28, hopefully my 10 km pace)
3:44 (18:40 5 km pace)

This work-out made me feel fabulous and far fitter than my race on Sunday made me feel though of course Sunday's race was "real" whereas this was virtual running on the treadmill (at 0.5%).

Speaking of Sunday's race, I had some more thoughts. First off, there has been discussion on another blog that I frequent regularly regarding the effect of body weight on performance. Well, I have lost 18 pounds since my last 5 km and this seems to have translated into a 6 minute 33 second improvement in my time :).

Here is the difference in (albeit stolen) pictures:


Ironic, my running posture is so much better in the 9 months pregnant photo. You can practically put a chair under my butt in the second one, I am basically sitting.

In case anyone is still reading this incredibly vain post, here is my favorite photo of me from Sunday's race:

 Yes, that is a photo of me! I am sandwiched between runner number 256 and 383. If you look closely, runner 256 has 4 legs, 2 of them are mine. There was a serious headwind and I was drafting off of #256 so hard that I [crude joke omitted]. THAT is how to use someone. Which being me, of course I now feel guilty about. I did take the lead 2/3 into the windy stretch but alas #256 did not come with me. So, thank you runner #256 for your excellent wind blocking services, next time the wind is on me. I promise.

Finally, here are my very favorite photos from Sunday:

You never know where you might find milk so it doesn't hurt to look everywhere!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Race Report: Post Partum 5 km

-Don't go out too fast - DONE
-Sub-19 5 km - MISSED by 1.8 seconds
-Get to la cocotte's swimming lesson on time - DONE
-Not be away from home for more than 2 hours - MISSED by 2 minutes

May I kindly request that anyone who reads this race report does so with the finale to Rossini's William Tell Overture playing in the background. You can find it here. Seriously, click on the link now... this race report was written to be read to this classic tune.

8.15 am: leave home.
8:27 am: arrive race site (yes, although it is making me lazy, I do love having a car! would have taken 45 + minutes on public transit)
8:38 am: begin warming up after finding bathroom and picking up number & chip
9:20 am: final stretches, find a good place on the start line, strip in anticipation of 9.30 am start (need I mention this outing had been timed to the minute)
9.21 am: find out the race will start 10-15 minutes late. Get dressed again. Seriously contemplate leaving, am so stressed out about not being away from home for more than 2 hours and making it to La cocotte's swim lesson on time.
9.22 am: bump into friend have not seen in a long time and who is 4 months pregnant. Commence long chat.
9.28 am: realize everyone seems to have taken their place on the start line. Panic.
9.29 am: realize cannot get sweats off over running shoes and must take off shoes. Shaking fingers cannot untie triple knots I made. Rip shoes off without untie-ing laces. Strip. Cannot get shoes back on.
9.30 am: hand shoes to nearby friends to untie laces for me.
9.31 am: get shoes on. Take place on start line.
9.31:30 am: race starts (lesson: never believe random information heard on start line)
9:31:30 - 9:50:31 am: run race: 3:47, 3:47, 3:58 (huge headwind), 3:51, 3:37, total time = 19:01.8.
9:51 am: get photo taken with first and second place (was third). Actually think, if only I had been fourth, wouldn't have to take this extra time. I am way, way, way too stressed about time.
9:58 am: get in car.
10:17 am: arrive home.
10:17 - 10:30 am: strip. nurse. pump. struggle into swim suit. gather offspring.
10:31 am: back in car.
10:36 am: pull up to YMCA.
10:55 am: swimming lesson! Plenty of time.

How did I feel about my race? So, I know I am supposed to say, well, I just gave birth 6 weeks ago so I have to be happy with 19:01.8 but yeah, I'm not. I'm thrilled I got to race. I'm thrilled I have been able to train as much as I have over the past 6 weeks. It was wonderful to be out racing again even on a decidedly blustery, cold day. I am overjoyed we made it to swimming on time, I would have felt terrible to have compromised la cocotte's lesson. But 19:01.8... not thrilled. I know it's greedy and unrealistic but darn it... I WANTED an 18 in front of my time. On the other hand I am happy with the execution. I went out conservatively (well I guess I didn't actually given my final time but I didn't go out too fast). I found someone to hide behind during the crazy windy kilometer (yeah, that would be the 3:58). I deliberately decided to run slower in that km to have some shelter rather than going it alone and it was a good decision even though I was barely breathing during that whole km. I rallied in the final two km and made up a ton of ground on second place. I have to be happy with a 3:37 final km... but, as superficial as it is, I wish I had found those 1.8 seconds. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

A disappointing work-out, a weird work-out and a lesson learned

Disappointing work-out: after doing a triumphant 5 X 1 km work-out in 3:45 last week-end and feeling cocky about breaking 19:00 in next week's 5 km, I had a really disappointing work-out this week-end. I was going to do 4 X 1200m at 5 km pace but it fell apart after the first two, both of which were slower than target pace of 4:30: 4:33, 4:37... I knew I would not be able to finish a 3rd anywhere near my target pace. I felt very flat after little sleep the night before and extremely wheezy from whatever tree was flowering around the track. I decided to run a km in whatever time I could manage: 4:02. ouch. That brought the total to 3.4 km of intervals. In the old days, I would have packed it in, jogged 30-40 minute easy, called it a day with the thought of doing the work-out a few days later once the pollen had cleared the air. In my current life, when a window of opportunity opens to do a work-out outside, the work-out is done. No hesitations and no matter how slowly I have to run it. So, I called upon my oxygen deprived brain to puzzle out what would be the best thing to do with my rapidly dwindling remaining time. I figured I could run a tempo-ish pace without collapsing in an asthmatic heap so I set out to run 2 km. I managed to pull off 4:16, 4:01 - good for 8:17 total.

Lesson learned: I will carry this into my race next week. now I know that if the chips are down and I am feeling terrible, I can still run sub-4:10 kms so if the trees do not cooperate next week-end or Squeaker and La Cocotte do not permit pre-race sleep, I can still go out and bag a sub-21:00. And would I rather run a sub-21:00 than not run this race? Why yes, yes I would.

Weird Work-out: was today. It wasn't a work-out, just a treadmill run. 9 miles at 8 min/mile. At 7.5 miles I suddenly started sweating profusely. Granted I was sweating before but this was a marked change, like when you go from being able to drive with your windshield wipers on intermittent to having to pull over to the side of the road because buckets of rain are seemingly being thrown at your windshield. I suddenly got extremely hot, sweating bullets and shaky. I jumped off the treadmill and ran to get an orange thinking I needed sugar. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn't peel it. I actually bit into it, through the peel. It was like I was possessed... I HAD to get sugar into my body. I have never felt anything like it. I can't really explain it. I have been eating well (though trying to lose the rest of my pregnancy weight so maybe slightly fewer calories but honestly not excessively fewer). I had a large breakfast beforehand, drank lots, I am only running 50-65 km per week far less than when I was in my third trimester!! Well heck, I blame everything else on hormones, must have been those pesky hormones. I do remember from my last pregnancy though the feeling of constantly being on the edge while exclusively breastfeeding i.e. going from being slightly hungry to ravenous in the course of 20 minutes. Anyway, weird, not going to worry about it unless it happens again.
And yes, I did finish the last 1.5 miles once I got some sugar and liquid into me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Musings on giant chocolate chickens and excess

This story begins, as any compelling story must, with an absurdly large chocolate chicken. Specifically, THE absurdly large chocolate chicken that arrived in our home on Easter Sunday as a gift from one of the 18 (18!!) people invited. Let me elaborate on the sheer enormity of this chicken. The box in which the chicken arrived was large enough that, once the chicken was evicted, it (the box) easily housed la cocotte along with a 10 year old boy. Here is a picture of the chicken with an accidental wine bottle and Magnum PI DVD boxset for scale:

You will note that the chicken resides in a basket, also chocolate. Note also the dazzling selection of candies and chocolates around the base of the chocolate chicken and bear in mind that this mountain is what was left AFTER 5 five children had attacked. In brief, the chicken and its environment constituted an appreciable amount of chocolate. Chocolate that was unexpected and  in addition to that which I had purchased for the egg hunt. Just to give you a feeling for what I consider to be a reasonable amount of chocolate, I had purchased the following for each child to find: a 100 g bunny, two fist-sized hollow eggs, five solid thumb-sized chocolate eggs (the classic foil-wrapped ones). I put lots of thought and attention into choosing the chocolate, both the quality and the quantity so you can imagine my horror when the chicken was presented.

I put the chocolate chicken out of sight initially. We had a fun egg hunt, a relatively peaceful dinner. The toddlers had a ball getting tricycle rides up and down the hallway from the older kids. Then it came time for desert. I was dreading bringing out the chicken but there was no avoiding it. The guest who had brought it asked me pointedly when I was going to bring it out. So, I gritted my teeth and put it out on the desert buffet.

There is a classic type of fable that comes to mind. It goes something like this: there is a village in which everyone is content. No one is particularly rich but everyone has what they need, there is equality and cooperation and the villagers lead lives of quiet contentment. Then one day a mystical source of wealth enters the scene. Let's say, for the sake of argument, it's a pot of gold that magically refills itself. This "gift" which ostensibly should bring prosperity and greater happiness is inevitably the village's downfall. It causes conflict, chaos, jealousy, greed. The village splinters into factions and is brought to the brink of total destruction when the pot of gold is destroyed and gradually peace is restored to the valley; an important lesson learned.

Let me tell you, absurdly large chocolate chickens and magically replenishing pots of gold have much in common. Up until the chocolate chicken was unveiled, the evening was going well. When I brought it out, the scene that unfolded was so deeply disturbing that I am having trouble shaking it. The toddlers started cramming chocolate into their mouths without even stopping to chew. They fought each other for the spots closest to the chicken and tried to prevent others from having access. There was enough chocolate to satisfy a platoon of toddlers but yet there was fighting and tears and such ugly, naked greed. I know I am being over-sensitive about this (and I know I am in a bit of a dark, post-partum place) but honestly it was a glimpse of ugly, dark humanity that really shook me. I want to be clear on this... I am not criticizing the toddlers or blaming them or even inferring anything negative about them. They were just acting like the two year olds they are. The blame lies with the guest who brought the chicken and the mom (me) who managed it badly.

The other aspect I noted about the chicken was that I don`t think it actually made la cocotte happy; excess of any sort does not make people happy in the long run. Any joy brought by the chicken (and honestly I don`t think there was joy, just the stimulation of base instinct) was more than offset by her displeasure, confusion and sense of injustice triggered by the abrupt withdrawal of the chicken by her horrified mother.

I want to raise a happy little girl who grows into a contented, caring teenager and adult. People are poisoned by excess of material goods. My growing concern, as a mom, is that we are increasingly living in a society where excess is the norm. I do not want my cocotte growing up to think of foot tall chocolate chickens are normal or god forbid, expected. I know the people in our lives are well meaning and have good hearts but we are drowning in games and toys and largess. I don`t want her expecting a present every time she sees someone. I want la cocotte to be happy to see the person... not the item they are bringing. It is my responsibility to raise her this way mostly because this is the path to her happiness. I look at our toy room filled with forgotten toys; pieces long scattered, plastic without purpose and I genuinely feel ill. I want simpler giftsfor her, the gift of time, the gift of attention and, occasionally, the gift of ONE, SMALL, high quality piece of chocolate.

To end this post on a lighter note, some material objects did find their way into our lives today which warmed my heart. I appreciate them for their inherent utility, the fact that they are used and therefore imbibed with the experiences of other happy babies and parents, the fact that they will be transient in our lives and then passed on down the great assembly line of babies and, as an added bonus, they are NOT pink! So, thank you Sea Legs Girl, Fast bastard, The Lorax and El Guapo:

Where I am at fitness wise

Work-out: 5 X 1 km on 90 seconds recovery.

Can I just say I find that recovery brutally short however I asked one of my friends how long the recovery on 5 X 1 km can be and still allow the work-out to be predictive of 5 km performance and 90 seconds was his firm answer.

Result: 3:45, 3:45, 3:45, 3:44, 3:47.

Same work-out 8 weeks after last pregnancy: 3:57, 3:57, 3:57, 3:48, 3:45

Fastest I have ever done this work-out in my life: 3:32, 3:34, 3:28, 3:32, 3:26

Conclusion: I am not the fittest I have ever been in my life (duh...) however I am fitter than I was at an equivalent point after birthing la cocotte (the times above are from 8 weeks post partum because I only started running 4 weeks after the c-section). The effort (this time) was all out, disgustingly hard. My legs were dead on the cool-down. Knowing that I tend to train harder than I race, I am guessing this does not mean I can run an 18:45 in two weeks however I am hoping it does mean that I can squeak under 19:00.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Random things that everyone seems to love that leave me cold

1. Jazz. Please don't tell me in pompous tones that it's because I don't understand it. I don't. I have no desire to. It's long, amelodious (yes, I just made that word up) and it hurts my ears. What am I missing? Actually don't answer that. I don't want to be convinced. Please leave me to my dislike.

2. Music in general. Ok, that one is really weird. Granted. How can I not like music? It's not that I don't like it. I'm not just not as into it as other people seem to be. In fact until the birth of my second child (i.e. 3 weeks ago) when I started doing all my running at home on the treadmill and pulled out my ancient mp3 player, I probably had not consciously turned on music to listen to in over 3 months (not counting putting on the Pointer Sisters in the evening to dance to with la cocotte). I probably spend less than an hour a week listening to music. In all honesty, I did not know who Lady Gaga was until my colleague went to her concert a few months ago. The look of shock on her face when her post-concert rundown drew a complete blank from me was impressive. I enjoy music when I hear it but I don't really miss it when it's gone. And when I play music, I am told I have appalling taste. I won't give you a for instance...

3. Other people's children. I feel like a giant, flaming asshole writing that. It's not the sort of thing one is supposed to admit. I have never really been a baby/toddler/young child person. I'm actually quite shy and awkward around them - well I used to be until I had my own and finally figured out how to relate but I am not the natural that many people (including those without children) seem to be. I'm crazy about my own offspring (as this blog hopefully occasionally shows) and I enjoy the offspring of people I know but I don't actively seek out children at social gatherings etc.

4. Gray's Anatomy. Or any hospital drama for that matter. After going through some real-life hospital dramas with loved ones, I find hospital-drama-as-entertainment mildly repugnant at best, offensive at worst.

5. Red Velvet. I don't get it. What's the deal? The cream cheese icing, yum, I'm in. The cake part? It's just a cake, not chocolate, not vanilla, just some indistinct cakey flavour.

6. The Hunger Games. Haven't read it so I don't know for a fact that I don't like it. What I can say is that I cannot stomach dystopian tales ever since I became a mother. An effective tale of dystopia is close enough to our reality that the reader buys that the world being described could come to be. Margaret Atwood did a chilling job in her "Oryx and Crake". I bought it. It terrified and depressed me thinking this was a world I was potentially leaving behind for my childrens. No Hunger Games for me.

7. Raindrops on roses. Well, actually cultivated flowers in general. Brace yourself for the punchline. I have a masters in freaking BOTANY*. I know right?? Gardens should be for growing consumable food! Nothing bores me to tears more than looking at someone's flower garden. I don't get it. It's hours and hours and hours of work, and you can't even eat it! Do I like it when hubby brings me home cut flowers? Of course I LOVE that he thought of me especially when brings my favorite (sunflowers, yes, I don't like cultivated flowers yet I have a favorite) but I can really get by without seeing them growing in someone's backyard. Now wildflowers in a field or shaded forest floor or delicate wetland flowers, that I can appreciate the beauty of even when they are not edible.

8. Whiskers on kittens. And not just the whiskers. The whole kitten. Kittens become cats. Not such a cat person.

9. Almost all poetry. Yawn. yes I know that speaks volumes about me, not about poetry. Well, there you have it.

10. The Big Bang Theory. This wildly popular show bores me to tears. And I don't mean to imply that I am so high brow in my tastes that popular culture does not appeal to me. I can watch Modern Family and The Office (until this season) as well as 30 Rock by the hour. I adored the show Scrubs which is about as low brow as one can get (I know hospital comedy = ok, hospital drama = offensive, a little hypocritical - I guess its because dramas try to elicit emotional investment which I resent).

11. Raisins. Evil, brown wreckers of otherwise perfectly good deserts!