I’ve done a lot of things at races; knocked on someone’s door to ask if I could use their bathroom, stopped to fix someone’s flat, crashed into another competitor but on Sunday I did something that in over 10 years of racing I’ve never done before…
I breastfed at mile 1 of the Chicago Triathlon.
Today Max and I spectated our first Olympic distance triathlon. Let me start by saying that spectating a sprint triathlon a few weeks ago was hard enough. It might have been a 59 minute race but in terms of watching that race with an infant – it was an Ironman. We were up at 4:30 am, watching athletes exit the swim at 7 am, having an I won’t take a bottle of breastmilk from mommy meltdown at 7:08 am, watching the finish at 8 am and still waiting for awards with a very, very squirrely infant at 11 am.
All this for a SPRINT triathlon? How do people do this for half Ironmans? And, how much are they being paid!? I had new respect for spouses who watch races with their families. You might think that racing is hard. But try entertaining a child, meeting their needs, heck meeting your own needs (question: how do you use a porta potty when you are with an infant; answer: you don’t) all while trying to navigate a race course in the summer heat.
Racing is much, much easier!
This weekend was the Chicago Triathlon. For whatever reason – lack of sleep, temporary insanity, devout love for my husband, I decided to try spectating again. With the infant. 27 miles from home in Chicago. And a forecast of 90 degrees.
And, no, I was not being paid to do this.
The Chicago Triathlon is a classic. It’s one of the biggest pain in the ass races to do – an entry fee of over 100 dollars, transition closes (yes, closes) at 5:45 am, the run from the swim to the bike is over 400 meters long (making it a race with what feels like two runs), no swim warm ups, a bike along Lake Shore Drive with potholes large enough to swallow a baby and a run with not an ounce of shade that looks flat but feels uphill all the way. Yet you finish it thinking to yourself – I freakin’ love this race! Maybe it’s something about the feel of the lake, being out there with thousands of other triathletes or having it all set against the spectacular skyline of the city but this race gets under your skin. It’s kind of like how we feel about the city of Chicago itself. The government is corrupt, construction is a nightmare, the winters are ridiculous yet we often find ourselves in the middle of a sunny summer day thinking – I freakin’ love this place!
Chris and Patrick headed down to the race at 4:15 on Sunday morning. I got up, fed Max, got myself ready and drove down to the city. I’ve driven around town with Max but yet to drive alone for more than a few miles. While I understand the purpose of rear-facing seats, that doesn’t mean I like it. Because I spent all 27 miles on the highway wondering if he was ok/breathing/alive/choking/crying. When I did hear him coughing, I was convinced that he was choking and I would arrive in the city with an infant who stopped breathing 10 miles ago. OH MY GOD! I felt like psychoparentoftheyear. And, yes, I was reaching my arm back to shake the carseat just to get him to move around so I could hear him just to be sure he was still breathing.
We parked in the Grant Street garage which was a fine idea except for the fact that the only way out of there was by stairs. Lately I've learend how damn unstrolleraccessible the world is. When I finally did find an elevator (after circling the garage a few times, walking up a car ramp and cursing the city of Chicago), I got into it and pressed the button, door closed then…
NOTHING. I mean, nothing. I imagined myself and Max stuck in this ghetto elevator that smelled like piss. Which might have been from the hobos but more likely from the dozens of suburbanites who ventured into the city with their strollers only to get stuck in this elevator which scared the piss right out of them. But then I came to my senses, pressed the Open Door button and got out. Screw the broken elevator. I had to take the stairs. The small problem being – how do you get up the stairs with a stroller?
You don’t. Instead, you walk around looking for help while continuing to curse the city of Chicago. Until you find another woman with a stroller and hope that you are kindred spirits in how the hell do you get out of this garage. She carried my carseat up the stairs, I carried the stroller.
I booked it over to the race to park myself at mile 1 of the run. The day was already heating up and about 20 minutes into it, Max was too. Meaning that he was working up to a MUST BE FED NOW moment. And I did what any momma would do. I pulled out my I’m-not-bat-shit-crazy-I’m-just-breastfeeding cape and sat under a tree. I thought to myself, I’ve done a lot of crazy things at races. But this takes the cake. Or the milk. And if anyone is in need of milk, I was just a short distance from the aid station.
The race went on, I cheered, then I moved on to the last mile. Max needed to eat again so I fed him again. I’m glad SOMEONE is eating out here. Can someone feed me? I had time to throw down a nectarine and two eggs this morning. Not exactly a breakfast of specathlon champions and did anyone else notice I was missing COFFEE!?!
Next we moved on to the finish line. My athletes came through and then I waited while Chris and Pat went to retrieve their items from transition. Meanwhile, I sat in a chair in some shade. Rocked the stroller back and forth. Next to me, was (and I say this politely but then again who am I kidding) the white trash version of those two old Muppets that sit in the balcony. Sitting in lawn chairs, drinking some “tea” from a cooler, smoking. Didn’t exactly look like triathletes so I was curious why they were there. A little eavesdropping later, I heard them commenting as every woman that walked by….
She looks like Jennifer Love Hewitt (sadly, I realized they were not talking about me)
Did you see her right boob was bigger than her left one? (ok, now they very well could be talking about me)
This went on for about 30 minutes. Until they started talking to me.
It’s too damn hot for a newborn.
Parenting 101 from an unlikely source. Thanks. But, Bubba was right. Bubba was also missing a few teeth. Indeed, it was hot for a newborn. But if he lived for 39 weeks inside of me, surely he can exist for another hour in this heat. The man started talking more – telling me about his children, his wife’s post-partum depression and his morphine bag. No joke, he lifted up his shirt to reveal a fatty pouch under the skin of his stomach that he told me was filled with a bag of morphine that dripped into his spine after some accident.
Please put your shirt down.
I wasn’t sure if he was half crazy or he was just half baked (from the heat, from his tea) but told myself I will never scoff at my post-partum stomach again. I was just visually assaulted by something much, much worse (and makes me wonder if I should just explain the what feels permanent bloat in my stomach as a morphine bag).
After that intimate revelation (who lifts up their shirt to a stranger?), I felt comfortable enough asking him what he was doing at the race. Are you spectating? No. Are you people watching? No. He was watching the large balloon with a sponsor logo inflated behind him. Because someone might walk away with a 20 foot balloon. All I know is that he was making 10 bucks an hour to sit in front of an inflatable balloon and boobie watch. In fact, he came out to the city all the way from Joliet to do that.
Say no more. That explains EVERYTHING.
Just as the conversation was getting interesting, Max saved me by needing to feed again so I took him under a tree and donned the cape again. It felt like my superhero cape. My superhero power is the ability to lactate at the sound of small children talking baby talk to their dogs (true, it happened the other day at the dog park). After feeding, it was getting ridiculously hot so I laid Max on a blanket on the ground in the tiny bit of a breeze that blew by every 6 minutes for about 20 seconds. He looked perfectly content though. On the ground next to beer bottle caps and a short distance from the porta potties.
WHAT KIND OF MOTHER AM I?!
A very hot one. Literally. I was baking in my black shirt so I took it off to sit there in a jog bra. I might have cared that my stomach still looks like I’m pregnant or that I still have that damn linea nigra but if anyone had commented about it – I would just ask Bubba to show them his morphine bag.
That really left me feeling violated.
Chris and Pat picked up their awards and then I headed back to the suburbs. I was – again – exhausted. We got home 6 hours after we left. I was covered in milk, sweat and hadn’t eaten since 7 am. Max had gone through 3 feedings, 3 diapers and had spent a lot of time laying on the ground (YES ON A BLANKET!) in Grant Park on top of god only knows what (and let's keep it a secret, ok?). But all that matters is for the ride home he did not say a peep (which kind of made me wonder – is he still breathing?). And then we walked into the house right on cue he started wailing.
It’s easy when you have an infant to sit trapped inside your house, staying away from doing what you love to do because it’s too hot, inconvenient, time consuming, etc….but I told myself we won’t be that way. Yes, it’s true what everyone says – when you have a baby, life changes. But life also goes on. We continue to do what we like to do, and the only change is that Max becomes a part of it.
And I think he likes it! He made all sorts of happy baby sounds on the ground. I think I’m also starting to see a future champion emerge. My little man survived spectating the world’s largest triathlon on what felt like the world’s hottest and most humid day in the big city.
And this just in: you took first place in the infant spectathlete division!
(there was another infant there who was the same age as Max and though he had significantly more hair we felt our baby was much, MUCH cuter giving Max the natural advantage to slide in for the division win)