Sunday, January 18, 2015

And then my treadmill broke

I've known for awhile that I am terrible at making decisions but I always secretly thought that everyone was indecisive and that I fit in right in the middle of the pack as a washy-washy, flip-flopping, indecisive, avoidant decision maker. But as my life has worn on and decisions have piled up I realize I am somewhat beyond the normal of indecisive and perhaps flirting with pathologically indecisive. I had a blinding realization recently during the cold snap we have been having. Every single morning, when I got up to run I would agonize and fritter away precious minutes (at 4.45 am) deciding whether to run on the treadmill in our basement or put on my big girl panties (and tights and wind pants and compression socks, and hoodie and jacket and mitts and neck warmer and hat) suck it up and run outside. Literally on some mornings I would dress and undress three times torn between the two very inconsequential options; frustrating because I don't wake up at 4.45 am to dither, I wake up at 4.45 am to log some miles dammit.

And then my treadmill broke.  And suddenly my mornings were so... much... better. No dithering, no agonizing, I just sucked it up, got dressed and went outside to do the thing I had woken up at 4.45 am to do. No choice, no decision making. And honestly I like it so much better that way. And I am loving running outside in these frigid temperatures. I realize now that my strength is not and never will be in making decisions... My strength is in enjoying the situation I am in and making it work.

This, I realize, is why I was almost paralyzed last year when, against all odds and common sense, I found myself with three simultaneous job offers. This is why, well into January, my husband and I (who is about on par with me in decision making abilities) have not only not booked our spring break. We are now questioning whether we should even go despite the fact that we agreed we would and set aside the money. I don't do well with options and choices and if that sounds horribly spoiled that's only because, well, it probably is. In a weird way, I was probably meant to live in communist Russia with my future pre-determined for me ( and if that sounds horribly ignorant, well see previous comment). And I understand why I get so frustrated now when I finally DO manage to make a decision and my husband starts saying "well, have you thought about x" and "I don't think you're thinking about y" and "are you sure you don't want to do a" as he always always seems when I make a decision because for me, making a decision is like climbing Everest and I feel like he is standing the at the top and when I finally summit, the questioning gives me a shove and BOOM, I back down on the North Col (or insert proper place on Mount Everest here and please forgive the horribly over-dramatic analogy).

Anyway that was my mental vomit for the day after months and months of silence. Perhaps as I continue to get in shape I will return to some kind of blogging...

Monday, September 22, 2014

The hidden side of disengagement

Employee engagement is said to be a good thing. More than any skill set, degree, certification, employers look for people who will be actively engaged in their work, or, in plainer, crosser terms: really give a shit about their job. It is seemingly good from the worker's perspective too; as we all are too keenly aware, we spend more waking hours at work with the random assortment of people we did not specifically chose to spend our lives with than we do outside of work, with the people we chose, the people we gave birth to, the people in our social circles. So, given that, wouldn't we rather be engaged i.e. actively interested in our job?

I worked for 12 years at a job where engagement didn't begin to describe my feelings towards it. I was engaged, married and actively intimate with my job. I was knee and elbow deep in every way possible with the company where I worked. I loved what I did. I felt recognized, rewarded in almost every way (financially being the exception). My co-workers were great; I could not have been more "engaged". But here is the hidden side to engagement... When something goes wrong (and in software companies something goes wrong all the freaking time) that feeling of engagement and involvement transforms into obsession, worry, sleepless nights wondering, thinking about which line of code is crapping out, why it is working on my machine but not on theirs, tossing and turning, driving into the office at 2 am to try out one potential solution RIGHT NOW. Oh yes, engagement has its downside.

Disengagement in work, on the other hand, means one spends a large chunk of one's life pursuing something without much personal meaning. Being disengaged in my work feels like everything is sort of happening in a bubble somewhere "over there". I hear talk of hugely impacting bugs or massive looming deadlines bugs and my thought is "oh wow, that sounds really bad. Oh look, it's 5 pm - time to go home! What are we having for dinner tonight?" I work hard. I care. I do my best. Between 9 am - 5 pm. All work related thoughts simply evaporate from my head the moment I walk out the door. It's rather liberating but also a little sad. Recently someone asked me what I do as a job and I really struggled to provide a meaningful description.

It's been 6 months now. I no longer fear I will be fired every single day. I no longer fear I will run away screaming every day. I have developed a deeper understanding of how I can be useful and what skills I will have to develop in myself in order to succeed. I am taking a night class to develop my skill set. I am well paid. I don't call in sick when I am not. I get along with people. On the surface everything seems ok. And maybe is just how it into work in a larger company. Maybe what I am describing is the norm, but still I struggle to find any meaning on a day to day basis. Something doesn't fit quite right. It has been six months. It feels like it is taking a long time to break these shoes in!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Chair of Calm

Not surprisingly as Big has started kindergarten I find myself surrounded by friends & offspring who have done the same in the past week. As we all navigate these alien landscapes and compare notes, definitely my favourite facet of kindergarten life is: the Chair of Calm. One of my friend's sons comes home every day and reports to her who was sent to the Chair of Calm. In my mind it is a very high chair, possibly requiring 3 or 4 steps to reach the seat, lined with pillows in navy blue and has a built in massaging function. Personally I would love to be sent to the Chair of Calm. As I led a meeting with 7 extremely pissed off people today (not pissed off at me per sey but perhaps peripherally pissed off at me) And I could feel my hands grow clammy and my heart pound, I thought about how very uncalming my chair was and wishes for a strict but kind kindergarten teacher to appear and order me into the Chair of Calm.

Kindergarten is perplexing to say the least. There are so many confusing rules to follow that I just cannot seem to keep straight in my head. To rattle off a few:
-the lunch bag cannot be in the backpack
-the morning snack must be in the backpack NOT the lunch bag
-the morning snack can consist only of fruit, vegetable or cheese I.e. ONE of those items, no mixing and nothing not included on that last so, for example, crackers and cheese would be twice verboten once for having two different types of food items and twice for the crackers which are not fruit, veg or cheese.

And I understand. Believe me I do. I know and appreciate that each kindergarten teacher is in charge of a pack of 18-20 wild animals with very little back up or assistance, very little funding and they are making do with the very barebones of just about everything so if they want the snack in the backpack then I will cheerfully oblige... Except when I don't out of sheer confusion, fatigue, disorganization.... I really hope that I don't screw the pooch on this kindergarten bureaucracy. I don't want to be the problem parent and also I genuinely do want to amaze life as easy as possible for the woman who will hopefully teaching Big a couple of useful things this year.

But I remain confused and always on the cusp of screwing up. I have about 5,000 questions to ask of the daycare, the teacher, the lunch people, the after school people (note these are all different entities to add to the confusion) but I don't want to overwhelm anyone with my ignorance so I am kind of dolling them out one at a time, slowly filling in the gaping holes in our knowledge. The onus is really on me; we chose French school which means that I am charged with all understanding and communicating. 

Big has taken to school with aplomb. She marches off each morning with out a backwards glance and marches out at the end of the day with her lunch bag empty, backpack full brimming with forms to be filled out and hand-outs to be understood and head completely empty of ANYTHING that transpired during the day enter the conversation I am sure every parent has with their kindergartener:

What did you do?
I don't know.
What was your favourite part?
What did you learn?
Nothing (actually to be fair today she said "helping others")
Who did you play with?
I don't remember.

It's a black box this kindergarten experience. I put her in in the morning and she emerges at the end of the day, fed, tired, hopefully slightly more knowledgeable and perhaps having spent some quality time in the chair of calm.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning to swim by barely avoiding drowning

Growing up I was allowed to chose from the normal array of activities that are typically available to the middle class child: various forms of dancing and art and gymnastics and skating and on and on and on. There were only 3 things that were mandatory: learning to speak French, learning to play the piano and learning to swim. None of these were negotiable but the last was particularly not. Without even really thinking about it, I have adopted two of these skills, speaking French and swimming, as mandatory for Big and Little. Rationale being: we live in Quebec and humans breathe oxygen (where those two things are independent of each other) therefore French and swimming required. Coincidentally or not, they are also two of the skills I have not outsourced to other people. As a parent whose children are in daycare and in a myriad of activities, I find myself constantly amazed by what they knows and often dismayed that it was not I who had the opportunity to teach it to them. While it is wonderful to see them acquire this array of knowledge and skills, I have firmly staked out French and swimming as mine to teach them.

So on a semi-regular basis I find myself at the public pool mostly patiently but sometimes not instructing Big in kicking and thrashing and generally not sinking. It both helps and hinders that she is utterly without fear and bursting with over-confidence. She will jump into the deep end, thrash her way towards the side, come within what appears to be inches of drowning when I grab her arm to support her, react with extreme frustration that I am not letting her do it herself. So it is left to me to discern with my professional eye (yes, I spent many years lifeguarding) whether she is drowning or swimming. She does make forward progress though it is by no means efficient, she keeps her nostrils barely above water and usually reaches the wall without my help. It truly is, learning to swim by barely avoiding drowning.

It is an excellent metaphor for how I feel we are living our lives right now as a family. I don't mean to be overdramatic and I recognize that if I screw up one of my many responsibilities the consequences are not going to be dire (just embarrassing, costly, career ending or childhood wrecking depending on which responsibility we are talking about) but no one is going to die, thousands of lives will not be affected so I think I have good perspective on this but nonetheless I do feel now (especially with Big in school instead of daycare and the multiple logistical challenges that entails) that we go about our days swimming by barely avoiding drowning. Getting the report due at work in just on time, running out at 11 pm to the store to get the extra stuff needed for lunch, sliding into home base just before the ball slams into the catcher's glove with the school supplies and the 10,000 forms needed by the school filled out. Getting the child picked up JUsT before the daycare closes. Now to make life more chaotic, we are adding to all of this a night class (mine), skating lessons (Big's), potentially a new job (mine - I'll find out tomorrow if the multiple interviews I did last week on top of everything else bore fruit) and yes, we are treading water while someone hands us brick after brick after brick.

But, and I don't say or think this nearly often enough, I have a really wonderful family to run this crazy obstacle course with. Hang on tight, autumn is here! Chaotic but hopefully fun times ahead.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Race Report: Just as out of shape as I thought

You know how sometimes you race and it is a magical experience in which you effortlessly run far faster than any recent work-out indicated was feasible? Yesterday was not that day. Yesterday had more of the feel of opening a credit card bill, knowing I owe a lot and the balance being every bit as bad as I feared or stepping on the scale after the Christmas holidays knowing I way over-indulged, hoping that my metabolism magically sped up and took care of it all but knowing it is going to be bad, and it is.

Yesterday was a 1:38:41 half marathon raced all out. That is a Whopping 18 minutes slower than 4 years ago, 11 minutes slower than even last year. 18 minutes! I can shower, dress, make our lunches, load up the kids and be off to work in 18 minutes. That is a mind boggling chunk of time. But it was not really a shock to run that time, it kind of makes sense given the larger context and I find myself strangely happy for having run it. Also happy that I am happy about it (if that makes any sense). Both happy AND happy to be happy. It's like I am channeling the seven dwarves over here

It was a bit of  an unusual race in that it was logistically tacked onto an ironman and half ironman so the start time of the marathon was 5.30 pm and start of the half marathon was 7 pm which personally suits me much better than dreadful morning races. It also meant that there was a lot of comraderie on the course. The course itself was a 5.275 km loop run 4 X for the half marathoners. The start/finish was on a track which, by the end of my race, was under the lights. Personally I love loop courses and I love running on the track at night so two points in my favour. There were no km markers on the course which I found irritating especially after paying an entry fee that was so exorbitant I am embarrassed to write it here. There were only about 70 people in the half marathon but btwn all the other events going on concurrently, it didn't matter - there was always someone else to chase.

I went out in 1:32:30 pace for the first loop which I knew was probably optimistic but I was hoping not by too much. At 3 km I passed  a woman who I would eventually beat by 10 minutes which I mention only because of what happened next. I passed her and she immediately threw in a huge surge. So,  I ignored her, continued running at my pace and about a minute later I caught her again and slowly started to pass. Surge. Again. Repeat same sequence. The third time I caught back up to her she threw a surge and an elbow! Seriously at the 4 km mark of a tiny, community half marathon with absolutely NOTHING in the way of prizes. Throughout all of this, she was breathing HARD, like middle distance hard and we still had 17 km to go. This time I lost my temper and said "you are being so stupid." (Am not at my most active while self-propelling at more than 13 kph.) She was wearing headphones so who knows if she heard. This time I dropped it to about 4/km which I hoped I could hold for a minute without wrecking my own race and lost her for good. From then on I entertained myself by seeing how much I had built up my lead on her on every lap and was pleased to see that with every lap I put 2-3 minutes on her. I wished I hadn't lost my temper but it was irritating.

Anyway things were okay until about 12 km and then the body just started falling apart. Aerobically I was fine. Injury wise I was fine (hallelujah!!!) but quite simply my body just hasn't run many kilometres lately and it was not ready to deal with 21 consecutive kilometres. My hip flexors were so tight, I thought they were going to just walk off my legs in protest. It felt like my hamstrings were going to peel off the back of my legs. My quads ... Oh the quads! I could feel every single insertion point. I have definitely felt far better at the end of most of the marathons I have run. In other words, it felt like I was running a half marathon on about 40-60 km of running per week and no long runs at all. I told myself to just get to an hour and 5 minutes of running (arbitrary time) and then I could have a (45 second) walking break as a reward. I could tell by timing someone I had been running with that I only lost 20 seconds by doing this so I essentially repeated this every 10-12 minutes until I finally got to finish under the lights at the track.

So, no longer injured (yay), asthma under control (yay), very out of shape especially muscular endurance (booooo) but this can be fixed (yay) and surely I can only get faster from here???
And yes, I did beat the crazy surging lady ... Actually I won which was kind of fun also though I would take a faster time over a win any day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Blogging like so many other things is easy to just stop doing. We all go through life with a set of priorities, for me it goes like this: family, work, running - nothing else happens until those priorities have been satisfied and typically once I reach the third item on the list, it is time to go back to the first item without ever moving further down the list at all. It also turns out that starting a brand new job with two kids is noticeably more hectic than working at the same job for the past decade and having two kids. Who knew? Anyway once I had stopped blogging for a week, then two, then a month, then five, it was markedly easier to not blog than to blog. And always the challenge is, when you start up again, where do you start? And finally the answer came just start with something.... Any old thing.

So here is my something.

I have been going through a symphony of injuries. I like the word symphony because of its implication that these injuries were all playing together to create a whole greater than the sum of parts which is definitely how I experienced them. It began in late May when I offered to pace a friend for part of her marathon. She was in sub-3 shape and I was kind of well, in excellent donut eating shape by that point. But I figured with my experience, muscle memory, blah blah blah I could pull it off! And I did! To the tune of 14 km at 3:05 pace (my friend did go on to PB though due to various factors did not break 3) but back to the symphony of injuries, I actually wound up winning 32 km that day when all was said and done. This might not be particularly far in absolute terms but it happened to be about 18 km further than I had recently run. Enter injury number 1 - joint pain in the toes for which I immediately took 18 days off.

So I did everything by the book, time off, rehab, stretching, I even came back on a walk run plan. I WALKED RAN - I was so mature, patient and good and was rewarded with immediate severe Achilles tendinitis which really, I must say, pissed me right off. I rightly felt like I had DONE MY TIME and that if my body was going to spring another injury on me it should have had the common decency to do so while I was rehabbing the first so that I could have taken care of both together -bc we all know that that is how bodies work right? Anyway I then discovered eccentric heel drops (god, I LOVE that name) which studies have shown that 3 x 15 per day can improve Achilles pain in even long term chronic cases. So, of course, I started by doing 100 a day because, apparently, I had used up my dose of intelligence and maturity for this year with the walk-run thing. Anyway that, predictably, led to calf strains in both calves. Then I tried heel inserts to ease the Achilles which led to weird ankle injuries and on and on and on.

In the midst of all of this I really did begin to seriously wonder if I am simply at the end of my lifespan as a runner. Sure, we all hear about the 90 year old who is still running a sub whatever marathon and I always assumed that would be me too, I really have no back up for self fulfillment and am counting on this body to carry me through. In the midst of this symphony however I began to realize that being an octogenarian road runner is not guaranteed. This body came with no guarantees which might seem like kind of an obvious thing to say but really, somehow I thought maybe mine did. So,on the eve of my 40th birthday I began to wonder if this was it, because not only did I seem to be chronically injured but even when not injured I was just running so much slower than I used.... I think I have said this before but my marathon pace seems to have become my half marathon pace And my 10 km pace seems to have become my 3 km pace etc.

So this is where I am now - I am back running, up to 15 km. sometimes I even get a whole 5 km that is pain free but importantly, the number of pain free kilometres seems to be slowly increasing. The acute Achilles issues seems to have dullened back into their old baseline chronic condition ( yay, back to chronic). I am doing regular eccentric heel drops and not being stupid about it. I think that my lifespan as a runners not yet ended though I truly do believe now that I will never run as fast as I used to. But I am starting to be okay with that - truly, if I can continue to run at any speed, I will work to appreciate that. In fact one very run I say out loud: "I appreciate this." How's that for maturity?

And that I guess, is my something.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


So, day 18 at my new job is in the bag. As I have already said (over and over again) this has been a big adjustment for me. I guess I haven't really said why,  and it goes a bit beyond the obvious fact that new jobs are always an adjustment. I was at my last job for 12 years. 12! Long enough to feel very competent, knowledgeable and to have been involved with just about every aspect of the business. Add to that, I was the fifth person hired at the last company I worked for and when I left we were 25 - so, a very small though steadily growing place. My new company, at 120 (?) people feels huge in comparison (though I realize that probably still qualifies it as a small business). The industry is completely different (the common thread is software but other than that I am definitely not in Kansas anymore).

Anyway so yeah, big adjustment, whine whine whine however I have to say that after 13 days, I noticed a small but significant step change in my level of knowledge and comfort in my new position and today, again, I noticed another small but important change in my comfort level. So much so that I have promoted myself from "Useless" to - drum roll - "Mostly Useless". And while being "Mostly Useless" feels pretty shitty at best, it is still heaps above "Useless". Even better, I can see in the not too distant future when I feel very confident I will rise to the level of "Somewhat Useless".
If none of this makes sense, see: Syndrome, Impostor.

On the running front, I ran my second race of 2014 on the week-end. The first one had been a 10 km at altitude while sleep and calorie deprived, jet lagged and dehydrated on loose sand (I DO enjoy lining up those excuses) in which I eked out a 43:50 10 km. I thought that would for sure be my slowest race of the season. Enter the last (god I hope it was the last anyway) blizzard of the season being coincident with my first 5 km of the season and that yielded a 20:57. In the hours after the race I berated myself thinking that the conditions had not been THAT bad and that I am really out of shape etc. etc. but then the race pictures came out and after looking at them I have decided to just Let It Go because really, yes, it was THAT bad:

Otherwise I feel oddly confident in my fitness and training. I am doing some new-style work-outs like 25 X 200 m @ goal 5 km pace on short rest. They are hard but different and that keeps in interesting. My next race is in 2 weeks, another 5 km, and I am really hoping for sub-19.