Thursday, October 28, 2010
After waking up from my Ironman mattress, weighing myself on my Ironman scale (it STILL lies), drinking Ironman coffee from my Ironman mug, feeding my dog kibble from the Ironman dog bowl, making myself breakfast and then taking my iron supplement, I sat down and gave this a good thinking.
True, the idea smells as wretched as Ironman perfume but I can think of a lot of things at a race worth paying $1600 for. And remember, it’s $1000 to get a better shot at spending $600 on the race itself. That seems like a hefty sum of money but honestly it’s just a branch from the money tree I planted in my backyard which, incidentally, in the past year has yielded me $175,000 just like all of my other triathlete friends.
Though it is obvious that Ironman knows what we as consumer triathletes need and like, I thought I’d put together a list of what I’d like for $1600 – just in case there is any confusion out there:
1) All open water to be heated to a comfortable and wetsuit legal 71 degrees.
2) Permission to wear a wetsuit with at least 10 millimeters of neoprene covering my entire body with the exception of three openings – 2 eyes, 1 mouth.
3) Acceptable to also use a pull buoy and fins if I feel like my wetsuit is not enough to save my life out there.
4) Personal kayak leading me in a straight line from buoy to buoy.
5) Permission to swim only half the swim course because that should be good enough
6) Guaranteed swim cancel if it's choppy, windy, wavy - bottom line, swim: OPTIONAL.
7) Hot tub in the changing tent.
8) No time penalty should I choose to spend 30 minutes in that tub.
9) Hot celebrity of my choice assisting me in the changing tent.
10) Option to pretend like I cannot dress myself should I need his assistance.
11) Pancake buffet before I start the bike. With real maple syrup thank you.
12) My own lead vehicle on the bike. At predictable intervals, this vehicle may pull alongside me and offer a mussette bag filled with whatever I demand you to pack it with.
13) Coffee bar at the halfway point with bike-thru window. I want my drink waiting for me when I arrive.
14) Personal bike mechanic willing to change tires, fix dropped chains, tighten cables and simply ride the bike for me should I get tired or just not feel like pedaling anymore.
15) Contract with god to shift winds to all tailwind, both ways.
16) No rain on the bike – ever. If rain happens, helicopter to hover over me with tarp.
17) Newly repaved line to ride on the course OR someone to lift me and my bike over the potholes should they be on course.
18) Fresh shorts at mile 80.
19) Someone from the WTC required to sniff my dirty shorts at mile 81.
20) It goes without saying that I expect to not only be allowed to draft, but it will be highly encouraged.
21) No draft marshals. I know they don’t do anything anyways but I just wanted to clear up that I still don’t expect them to be there doing anything.
22) Penalty tent? PARTY TENT! Free beer stop!
23) Permission to throw trash anywhere I want on course. For $1600 surely you can afford someone to clean up after me.
24) Sport drink of my preference in pre-chilled bottles at every aid station.
25) Option to skip miles 60 to 90 on the bike just ‘cuz.
26) Showers in T2. With pretty smelling soap and a loofah. And hot celebrity from T1 changing tent.
27) 30 minutes to take a nap in a private tent before I have to start running; bed will be rolled down & pillow fluffed before I arrive.
28) Snack shop on run course that only accepts VIP Access cards for payment; special request that snack shop carry CheezIts.
29) For each portapotty I enter on the race course, it will actually subtract 1 minute from my overall time; I never thought it was fair to get penalized for being born with the need to poop more than once a day.
30) VIP porta potty that only opens upon swipe of my VIP Access card. This porta potty should have indoor plumbing, breathmints and someone to wipe my ass with triple ply Charmin (I’ll never get stuck wiping mine with cardboard roll again!).
31) If the volunteers could pour cold water on me but not get me wet (blisters, chafing - no thanks!) – that would be great.
32) One of those fans blowing cold water from a firetruck hose following me from mile to mile.
33) Foot massage and pedi at mile 13. I want to look fabulous (!) when I cross the finish line.
34) Permission to skip miles 18 to 24 on the run because they hurt and I really don’t want this to hurt.
35) Marching band playing motivational song of my choice while following me on run.
36) Which reminds me – I need to wear my headphones on the bike. How the hell else am I supposed to make it through 112 miles!
37) Someone to lead me by bike on the run course (after that many hours you expect me to know where I'm going!?) with option to hop on that bike for a ride should my legs get tired.
38) Personal Iron Sherpa who will not only complete the race with me but will provide up to the minute status updates and tweets for my social media accounts.
39) Pulitzer Prize winning author willing to ghostwrite my race report.
40) Which brings up my next request – if they’re going to write about it, why don’t they just do it for me?
41) Coaching from Ironman world champion of my choice. If they could also just do the training for me that would save me a lot of time. Uh, I'm really busy.
42) Mike Reilly to create a sense of anticipation and intrigue about my arrival to the finish line at least 30 minutes before I get there.
43) Special finishing chute where I can run across the line with my chihuahua, my kid, my husband, my mailman, my 3rd grade teacher – actually just send the invites out to anyone who has come into contact with me for my entire life.
44) Guaranteed finishing time under 10 hours pre-engraved on medal.
45) Personal catcher, hot celebrity of my choice, who should also be willing to carry me across the line. Wait - scratch that. I'd like an employee of the WTC to carry me across the line. And then lick my salty ass!
46) Sponge bath from hot celebrity.
47) Smorgasboard of my food requests waiting for me after bath – ironically, none of which include one lousy piece of pizza. Huh.
48) Would it kill you to have a cold beer waiting?
49) Edible medals – I request peanut butter chocolate chip. If not edible, I will settle for gold.
50) Option to sit the day out in a VIP section of finish line bleachers if I don’t feel like racing. Call me to cross the line at 10 hours, ok?
51) Bragging rights. $1600 worth!
52) Someone to pee into cup for me when I cross the finish line. Not because I’m doping but because I really don’t like to wait.
53) A check for $1600 as soon as I cross the finish line.
54) Just mail the finishers gear to my house before I leave for the race. Size small.
55) Option to choose splits I’d like next to my name no matter what times I did.
56) Digital retouch including slimming, blemish removal, airbrushing 6-pack abs, etc to all race photos.
57) For an extra 10 bucks I can choose celebrity hot body of my choice to attach to my head on all race photos. OH WHAT’S ANOTHER TEN BUCKS ANYWAYS?
58) Permission to register for Kona because I am a celebrity. In my own mind that is.
59) Personal finish line parade with elves, unicorns, balloons, floats, a marching band - must be different band from #35 - and a red carpet.
60) At the awards ceremony, I reserve the right to be declared the winner of something. And I want a t-shirt that says so!
61) Automatic re-entry with 30 minute-PR for same race next year.
62) Free entry into the Fast Pass program which will allow me to register early for the 2012 Access program.
That should about cover it. But if you want to make another 400 bucks, give me access to adding to this list as needed on race day.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Maybe, just maybe, Max isn’t sleeping because he’s not eating enough. Now I know that breastfed babies supposedly eat what they want and no more but what if he wanted to eat more and wasn’t getting it? What if there wasn’t enough milk to completely knock him out for 6, maybe 7, oh let’s say 10 hours of straight sleep?
Before you tell me that I’m hoping for the impossible, let me assure you – it’s possible. How do I know? The woman who sits next to me in baby yoga told me a magical tale of her son sleeping the night before from 7 pm to 6 am.
When you, as a mother, hear things like that your first feeling is an overwhelming urge to tackle that woman to the ground and shake her silly while shouting things like DAMN YOU WOMAN I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN 12 WEEKS! After that urge passes, you realize that a much safer (and legal) way to approach this is to ask her…
HOW did you do that?
There are no secrets in training but let me tell you – there are secrets in parenting. There has to be. Otherwise, how are people getting their kids to sleep through the night? She tells me her son drinks 7 ounces of milk before bed.
The light bulb appears.
A HA! Yes, yes, THAT is it! He needs more milk!
I’m willing to try anything. If you told me I had to wear Newton’s, compression socks and a power meter attached to my breasts in order to get my child to sleep through the night let me be the first to admit – I’d do it. I spent all of Friday pumping. That’s what it felt like. Breastfeeding can feel like a full-time job if you feed and pump. I pumped after every feeding until I had accumulated 5 ounces of milk.
Friday seemed like a neverending day of not enough naps. I was convinced that lack of naps combined with more milk would be a powerful drug cocktail that Max would not resist. At 7:30 pm, Max faked us out by falling asleep in the pack ‘n play. Dammit! You never ever EVER move a sleeping baby (don’t try, unless you want a woken up baby) so we let him be. And we waited….
9 pm he woke up. I gave Chris the bottle and told him to start there. See if he drinks all of it. Since you have no idea how much a breastfed baby drinks (there is no predictable flow rate of a boob, yes I know this, my husband asked the doctor), I figured 5 ounces would be a good place to start. Meanwhile, I started pumping. Max tore through the 5 ounces then we gave him 2 more. When he tore through that, we gave him 2 more. Then, he laid there, eyes glazed over with a belly full of 9 ounces of milk and what had to be a massive shit brewing.
(and one that would hopefully stay put until at least 6 am)
By 9:30, he was in his crib. Sleeping.
That night I stood brushing my teeth and thinking to myself – this is it, the night I’m finally going to get sleep. It was like the feeling of Christmas morning, your wedding day, a feeling of happiness that would soon come to be.
At 9:45 pm, I was in bed.
It took me 30 minutes to fall asleep.
(how is that fair?)
At midnight, I heard something. At first I didn’t believe it. What is that? Why is the dog crying? Wait, is that the…baby!? How can he be up? He can’t possibly be hungry! I go into his room to realize the diaper is full. Dammit! We need bigger diapers. Changed the diaper and he fell right back to sleep.
At 2:14 am, he woke up again.
Seriously? This isn’t happening. What now? This time he was hungry. Is there a hole in him that only leaks milk? So I fed him, changed him and 20 minutes later, he was back to sleep. This had to be it! I’m free until the morning. Please!
Except I couldn’t fall asleep for another 30 minutes.
At 3:19 am, he woke up again. WHAT NOW! He wasn’t hungry. No, his diaper leaked. And now his pajamas were wet. New diaper, new pajamas, zipped into sleep sack. Done.
GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!
At 4:20 am, he was up. Again. ON FOR THE LOVE OF A SLEEPLESS GOD! I cursed. I thought to myself – why do I even try to go to sleep!? And, how can this kid not need sleep? He napped once during the way. He’s got to be exhausted? What did I do to make him this way?
(if you ask my mom, she’ll tell you that I ate too many Power Bars during pregnancy)
He was hungry, so I fed him again and put him back to sleep.
At 5:29 am, guess what happened. He woke up. AGAIN! I took myself off the clock. I ignored the cries and admitted defeat. I let him cry until Chris got him.
Chris brought him into the bedroom.
What does he want?
(I always ask this like the answer will ever be anything different than food)
I have no idea what happened between the hours of 5:39 and 8:39 am because that is when I finally slept.
Later in the morning, Chris and I meet in the upstairs hallway. I looked tired. He had bad bedhead. We both look at the line of 6 diapers on the landing when he says:
YOU’RE TELLING ME!
Our plan did not only backfire but it caused the opposite of what we were looking for. I am still not sure how that was possible. Some say growth spurt, others say too many Power Bars but the real answer, I know, is that the kid does not have a clock. He will eat and sleep when he wants, as he wants. No matter what I do in between.
The next few days, Max slept better. Why? FOR NO DISCERNIBLE REASON AT ALL. I’ve made a science experiment of my child’s sleep for so many nights (sleep sack vs swaddle, fan on vs fan off, footie pajamas vs open toed…YES I was willing to consider anything!) and after careful calculations and a Chi-squared test for statistical significance, my hypothesis has been refuted over and over again.
There is no pattern. No correlation. No relationships. He is an enigma who sometimes just does not need to sleep.
If you are a new or soon to be parent, heed my warning – don’t bother making charts or plotting data because it won’t tell you a damn thing. Like I learned from Facebook, sure, we can all pretend like we’ll sleep again. Maybe in 18 years. Until then, get out your best bottle of foundation, hide those lines and convince yourself that only the weak need sleep.
And really old people.
How soon until I'm really old?
Monday, October 18, 2010
(I’m either making you very hungry or feeling close to barf)
And, more importantly, the fall is for 5Ks!
I never thought I would be one of those people who writes a race report about a 5K. But since I haven’t raced in the past year because of oh….being a large pregnant mammal (closely related to the whale but with no blow hole unless you count my piehole which you have every right to kindly ask me to shut sometimes), I just want to yap on and on about racing now that I can so here goes, I deliver unto you…
The 5K Race Report
My goal is for this blog to take me less time to write than it took for me to run the 5K. And since this wasn’t my fastest 5K ever, I’ve got some time to kill.
Let’s start at the beginning. That would be the night before the race. You’re supposed to sleep, right? My child cooperated. My body did not. How is it that in a state of constantly lacking sleep I CAN NEVER FALL ASLEEP! It was so bad that I actually purchased an ‘app’ for the iPhone of sounds that are supposed to make you fall asleep. That explains the symphony of crickets piped in through my bedroom last night.
It didn’t work.
Finally I fell asleep, woke up at 2:30 am and thought to myself – why hasn’t the baby woken up yet? (this coming off of the previous night where he was up nearly EVERY HOUR). You know I went into his room to be sure he was breathing. First I hovered near the crib, then I dangled my head over the crib. Then I tried to put my ear to his nose but the crib cut off circulation to my stomach so then I just resorted to touching him.
Which woke him up.
Good thing, because I was already awake!
The next stop was 5 am, my alarm! The day greeted me with a bowl of oatmeal and currants which can only mean one thing….RACING!
It’s time to assess where my running is at. I’ve been back at running now for about 6 weeks. Getting back into it, building up my endurance again, doing a few short speedy pick ups, running 3 times a week. The 5K was going to be a baseline of where my run fitness is at – heart rate, pace. Trust me, the last thing I want to document right now is how slow I am with running. But to make progress, you first have to accept the current version of yourself.
And then plot like a mofo for how to get your speed back.
The race was chock full of kids, families and dogs. Very few serious-looking runners (and what qualifies you as serious is a man with shorty-shorts, a singlet and hairy legs or a woman wearing racing flats and one of those headbands that covers your ears because…really, WHOSE ears get cold when it’s 58 degrees out!?).
This race hosted a 5K, 3K, kids race and a mutt strut (that explains all the dogs). I warmed up then headed to the start to find it swamped with kids. There were 1700 people at this race and at least 1680 were kids. Now if you've ever been at a 5K start line with kids you know that they have balls out speed for about…100 yards. And then they fade. Then you’re left to run through the fall out.
(as much as I love kids because I have a kid, as Chris and I realized the other morning at the bagel shop, it does not mean I have to love other people’s kids, especially when they are screaming I DON’T WANT TO EAT THAT as their father tries to force feed them a bagel)
At the start line, I looked around. I’m surrounded by grade schoolers. And as much as I didn’t want to have to run around (or over) them, I found myself thinking….
FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER: I’m one of the tallest people here!
It was an incredible feeling of these are my people. THIS IS MY TRIBE!
Back to the race. All of the kids were talking – loudly – and I could not hear any of the announcements. All I know is that a bullhorn was raised, a few kids bolted and then it blew.
Yeah, their timing was a little off!
And, as predicted, the kids bolted the first 100 yards and then it was about 15 of us in the front.
Me, making my way through some of the kids (notice how tall I am compared to the two on my right).
My plan for the 5K was simple: GO HARD FROM THE GET GO. You see, you don’t have time to build into a 5K. You just go. Hard. And then hang on. It’s over before you know it. If you do it right, you don’t even have time to realize that it even started.
I quickly found myself running in third position. The other two women were right ahead of me. I felt controlled, strong. I had the Garmin but shoved it into my jog bra. You can’t be in the race – racing it – if you’re always look at your wrist to see what pace you’re running. You’re either ahead or behind. In both cases, RUN HARDER.
Feeling good, I decided to make a move into second place. And hung behind the top woman for awhile. But I could still hear the other woman behind me. Dangling. Now, I knew that I probably wasn’t the fittest woman out there but I knew I could race smarter. The course had about a dozen turns, so I tried surging out of every turn, surging on the downhills. I had a million excuses why I could have given up, let women pass me but I found myself thinking – NO. I am here to fight today. No matter how bad this hurts! I had a small human ripped out of my stomach 12 weeks ago. Nothing will hurt worse today!
Here I am not hurting.
I found myself at the first mile at a pace about 45 seconds faster than my ‘all out mile’ that I did 4 weeks ago – WOW! Now all I have to do is sustain it. OUCH! Somewhere in the second mile another girl passed me. I got pissed! But I knew I was in the good place. I could still see first place up ahead. But then the other woman passed me. Come on legs, come on lungs! I hit the next mile about 15 seconds slower than the first. Hold it, just hold it! Sitting now in fourth, I saw the third woman right in front of me. Make a move…NOW! I surged past her and dammit – she was still right there. We turned a corner and I knew – now or never – GO! Finally – dropped her a bit and then the race joined up with the 3K. All of a sudden the course was littered with small kids, strollers, leisurely joggers. I ran toward the finish line and thought I had a good lead but with 100 meters to go all of a sudden a flash of long legs and white cotton race shirt flies by me….she outkicked me!
(but it’s safe to say I had no kick anyways)
At the finish line: outkicked but I got this free bottle of high fructose corn syrup which makes me feel like it was all worth it.
Now, I crossed the line in a time that was nearly 2 minutes slower than the 5K I did about a year ago. I’m not pitying myself for that – but want to show women who come back from pregnancy what to expect. There’s a timeline of coming back that I hope to track in this blog as I get back into racing. Since last year, I’ve lost about 30 seconds per mile. But in that year, I’ve gained many pounds, lost most of it, didn’t run for 5 months, had major surgery and also carried a person inside of me. I can go on but I won’t. All of that is behind me – and all that matters now is what lies ahead.
I knew how I did but part of the fun of racing is waiting for results to confirm, right? Though the announcer asked everyone not to rush the bulletin board, I grabbed the baby and told Chris I was going to bumrush the poor man posting results. Chris looked at me like stop and I said, no one is going to question a woman with a baby! Seriously this baby is my golden ticket to socially unacceptable behavior anywhere! Results are in: I finished 5th overall, 1st in my age group, 1st in the most adorable baby division and best performance by a lactating mother.
In case you're wondering (or training), this is what 1st place in Under3months-ADORABLE-division looks like:
I’m going to revisit the 5K in a few weeks to continue to track my progress. And like a newbie again, progress right now is easy to come by. Today I was nearly 30 seconds per mile faster than I was at the sprint triathlon 3 weeks ago. Wow! If I didn’t know any better, I’d ask the WADA to check my blood.
But all they’d find is lots of estrogen, some baby spit up and (decaf) coffee.
It’s coming back, the pipes and legs are coming together. And when they finally click…I’m going to be busting out that 16 minute 5K in no time.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
(enter sound of heavenly music during which a bright halo of light shines down on my running shorts)
Did you hear that world?
MY OLD RUNNING SHORTS FIT AGAIN.
Balance has been restored in the universe.
Here I am 12 weeks post-partum. The running shorts are truly a milestone. For the first few weeks after giving birth I found myself lamenting over the body I once had wondering if it would ever return. Not because I’m vain but because I just wanted to feel like myself. Nothing feels better than feeling like yourself. As athletes we are very in tune with how we feel. “Feel” is important. Imagine not feeling like you for many weeks. You begin to wonder if that feeling will ever come back.
It does. It is coming back. It’s taken some time but if you are about to give birth, trust me – you’re in there and you’ll come back again. You just have to give it time and, like anything worthwhile in life - work for it! (both during and after pregnancy)
It’s been about 6 weeks since I started back on a structured training program. It wasn’t until then that I started to notice change in my body. When I started doing what I used to do, I started feeling and looking like I used to. In fact, just today when I walked into the pool, the body reflecting back at me in the windows looked like mine. Those are my legs. I turned to the side and realized – that is my stomach. It’s not flat but at least I no longer look 5 months pregnant. Finally, I look more like me.
(though I still have not lost much weight - I've accepted that in the scale relationship, it's not me, it's you, scale, IT'S YOU)
I was very active in pregnancy (up to 90 minutes a day, yes my HR went over 140 bpm, yes I gained weight - plenty! - yes I made a healthy baby). I wasn’t going very far or very fast but the physical activity felt so good – and I think it played a big role in my recovery and return to sport. At times I felt like a whale in the pool and by the end I was walking so slow it felt backwards. But I kept moving. You’ve got to keep moving in pregnancy.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about how it takes forever to come back after a pregnancy. You read horror stories about it taking 2 years to lose the weight or you’ll never have time to workout again. Who are these people? If you want something bad enough, you’ll work to make it happen. I know many athletes wonder (and worry) about what will happen after the baby. Will they ever get fit again, will they ever feel fast. I don’t know the answer for sure but if I can reassure you – the answer is that as long as you stay active during pregnancy, you will regain your shape and fitness much quicker than you think.
When I started a structured program at 6 weeks post-partum, I was able to actually jump back into “real” training. Real training in that I didn’t have to teach myself how to swim bike or run again. If you can maintain some semblance of all three sports, you won’t have to waste time re-learning them. You can go right back into base training. In fact, pregnancy is like an extended period of base training. At times it was boring yet I told myself that pregnancy was an opportunity I might never get again – 40-plus weeks to focus on form and base fitness, technique and strength.
I kept up with activity until birth then took about 4 weeks of recovery where I just walked. At that point, I was itchy, so itchy to get back into a routine. I knew that was exactly where I wanted to be. At the junction of I can’t wait and I get to do this! Talk about fire in the belly! But honestly at the same time as I got back into training, I got a little scared about how slow I would be. So I didn’t measure anything. No Garmin, no power meter, no heart rate monitor. I left it all at home so I could learn to reconnect with feel and just focus on feeling good out there.
But all good things come to an end and at some point there had to be tests. Not because I was going to set personal records but because accepting your baseline is an important step in setting realistic goals, committing to your improvement and knowing exactly what you need to do!
A few weeks ago I talked about my swim test. It went much better than I thought it would. Considering I was swimming nearly 30 seconds per 100 slower in the last trimester, I was expecting a pace much slower than I tested at. I ended up only 2 seconds slower per 100 than my best test ever. Since then, swimming has been coming back slowly but surely. Each time I get into the pool, I’m able to sustain a faster pace for longer. To me, the challenge of swimming is just a matter of learning how to take your top end pace and string it together for one more 25, then another, then another. Right now I can sustain a fast pace for 200 then it falls off. The good news is that I have all winter to work at it.
Last week I did a bike test. I forgot how much fun those are! KIDDING! There is no hiding during this test. You have to go into it rested, ready and with a strategy. If not, you’ll blow up in the first 5 minutes and then see your watts fall for the next 15. I had my strategy and I nailed it. And then I reflected on the result. Sure, I’m a few pounds more right now but my watts were only 2 lower than they were at my last test. 2 watts! I might have done the happy dance in my basement after that!
Running is coming back, too. Around week 8, I was told to run one mile at an all out pace and did so at a pace about over 1-minute slower than what I used to do. But I didn’t run for 5 months. I knew I would need to just give it time. I’ve also heard that running is the slowest to come back after pregnancy. I always thought after pregnancy that running would feel huffy puffy hard. Instead, it feels biomechanically hard. Inside I’ve got the pipes but my biomechanics cannot keep up with me. I’m relearning how to run the right way – to get that snap back in my step. I keep working and waiting for my pipes and my biomechanics to work together again. When they do, I know that’s when running will go back to feeling fast and effortless. In the meantime, I’ve got a 5K coming up to assess where I’m at.
What I’m really working hard at right now is strength. Each week, Kate finds a way to make me more sore than the week before (and I’ve learned if you tell her you weren’t sore last time, she’ll find a way to make you sore the next time). At times I want to whine and tell her a weight is too heavy or a lunge is too deep but then I remind myself that it’s not supposed to be easy. No one ever said it would be and if it was – everyone would be strong and winning. If you want to get there, you’ve got to work for it. The 60 minutes I spend with her is some of the hardest work I do all week.
Fitting in the workouts is getting a little more challenging because we’re running out of daylight. Each day, Chris and I have to sit down to figure out a way to make it work. Some nights he walks in the door, I hand off the baby and head out on my bike. Other days he rides to work. He runs at lunch. And other mornings I’m up at 5:15 am heading to the pool.
In the past week, I started using the daycare at the gym while swimming. The first time, Chris and I headed to the pool after his work day and decided to test out the daycare center. I almost couldn’t do it. We walked in to find one girl who looked about 12 years old holding a screaming baby with 5 other small children surrounding her. We left Max in his carseat, in the corner and she assured us he would be ok. We walked out, spied in the windows to see all of the children now standing around Max’s carseat. Breathing on him. Maybe touching him. I don’t think I’ve ever swam 3000 yards so fast in my life. The next time, I went alone and checked on Max between swimming and strength training. I am sure the staff thinks I’m crazy.
My body has changed, my speed has changed – well, a lot of me has changed. Some changes are good, others I’ll learn to accept. But the best change has been that I go into workouts now so excited, healthy and fresh. On top of that I have this incredible little person in my life now who makes me appreciate every day. Every day he does something new or teaches me something more about myself. Today I learned how special it feels to have someone who just wants to be held by you. My arms are the most comforting place he knows right now. I never imagined I could be that important to someone. It’s a pretty powerful feeling.
Some people will try to convince you that you need to do a specific workout, follow a particular diet, wear a Garmin, use a certain coach, etcetera to achieve success. I don’t know. What I’m learning is that being healthy and happy is a lot more important than any of that. Healthy makes your body able. Happy keeps your mind in the right place. Of course the success I achieve is to be determined. But each day that I’m stronger, faster….convinces me that if I want to go there, I’ll get there. It’s just a matter of figuring out where my 2011 destination will be.
Friday, October 08, 2010
Happy fifth anniversary to Chris and I! We’ve known each other for ten years, finally convinced him to shit or get off the pot four years later and a year after that we were married. Our wedding day took place on an overcast and chilly October day that ended in far too many grasshopper drinks on the dance floor.
And I really don’t dance. Unless you keep pushing grasshopper drinks at me.
With the Chicago Marathon coming up this weekend and our anniversary, I thought I would share the story of a young couple – in love – who decided to run the marathon. Together.
(warning: if you are young and in love do not attempt this)
Chris convinced me that I needed to run the marathon with him. Understand that while I’ve always been a runner, my longest run had been 1 hour. I started triathlons in 1999 and did nothing longer an Olympic distance race. So, in 2001, when Chris encouraged (begged) me to do the marathon with him, I thought to myself:
Why the heck would someone want to run that far?
(sometimes I still think that)
Anyhow, Chris had a goal going into the race – he wanted to break 4 hours. Previously he had run the marathon in 4:30. Now, Chris is a very strong athlete. But distance running is not his thing. Sure, he has a history of ripping out a 1:20ish half marathon but double the distance and you get more than double trouble. What you get is a grown man laying on the Queen K curled up next to a traffic cone at mile 23 telling me that he just wanted to take a nap.
At the time we were young and – like most young people in sport – prone to doing very, VERY stupid things. For example, starting a marathon training program approximately 6 weeks prior to the race. You read that right: we started training for the marathon with 6 weeks to go.
At most. It could have been 5!
Chris was the mastermind behind this training plan: we ran long two days a week, Monday and Wednesday. That would be Monday and Wednesday of the same week. Basically we were running over 40 miles within 2 days. And doing a shorter run on the weekend.
The only thing that saved us from injury was that we did the running on a crushed limestone path. That, and youth. Every Monday and Wednesday we would head out to Herrick Lake, run up to 2 hours and 45 minutes and then stumble home to eat a lot. I remember running in the woods late into the night, one night the sky was so clear and the moon was so bright.
I will never forget that run.
But perhaps I’ll never forget it because how can you forget the time you went running with no water, no gel for over 20 miles. And how can you do this for every single long run? Better yet, how did we not perish out there?! How? Because I was 24 years old. At that age, you can do all sorts of stupid shit to your body. And do it again the next day.
The marathon rolled around. No taper, no nutrition plan. Clearly things were bound to go well. We had no idea what pace we trained at because back then we had no Garmins (back in my day we just ran by feel – GASP!) but we knew we wanted to break 4 hours.
It was like all the pieces were falling right into place.
I remember standing at the start line and thinking – all these people want to run 26.2 miles. And I am one of them!? What the hell am I doing here? But I was there for Chris. Oh Chris. Someone should have told him that running a marathon on a warm October day in a black shirt is not really the best idea. But what did I know. I was wearing long sleeves!
It took us about 10 minutes to cross the timing mat. And once we did it was like a sea of legs moving up and down on the pavement. Legs attached to bodies of all ages, shapes, sizes. Triathlon is sexy. Marathoning is downright ugly. I’m sorry if this offends anyone. But there is nothing sexy about shorty shorts on a man and unshaved legs.
The Chicago Marathon is a classic. You wind through all different neighborhoods in the city, the cultures literally coming alive on the street. The most distinct memory being the dragons roaming the streets in Chinatown. The crowds were vibrant, the runners were fresh. Things were going well – we were feeling good and on pace through the half marathon.
And then, here’s the surprise you didn’t see coming...something happened. The static energy from the earlier miles faded into a hush and drone of legs shuffling, barely moving forward. Each set of eyes read the pain of underpreparation, overpacing and improper fuel plan.
Sure enough, it was around mile 18 when Chris started falling apart. He didn’t hit the wall, he ran full speed right into it like a cartoon character going splat and sliding down.
Which meant I stopped.
I can’t go any further.
There we were standing on the sidewalk at mile 18. Off the race course, with Chris complaining about his quads. He was cramping. Which I can only imagine was from the impeccable fuel plan that we were following:
We might have had a gel. Somewhere along the way.
I was feeling fine. I didn’t find the marathon hard just a really long way to run. Can’t we just get this over with? Who wants to run long and slow? What fun is that? And now that Chris was sitting on the sidewalk the fun factor went down even further.
To add insult to injury, just as Chris said would happen at some point during the day, grandma in a purple jogging suit cruised right past me.
Seeing Chris stopped, defeated, I did what any supportive girlfriend would do. I told him to get walking. We walked a little then ran a little until mile 20 when I had enough. The thought of 6 more miles of walk/run/walk/run was only prolonging the misery. And that’s when I said something to this effect:
You have got to get your ass moving because I am not going to be out here all day walking.
I don’t remember what happened from there but I remember getting to mile 26 and thinking to myself amen sweet jesus the finish line! The last .2 miles Chris found some steam to pick it up through the finish line. And when he tried to grab my hand at the finish line all I could think was stop messing around and let’s get this thing done already!
By some miracle, with all that walking, we crossed the line in 3:59.
Chris met his goal. And I vowed to never run a marathon again (unless, of course, 5 years later it was preceded by a 112 mile bike ride).
Nine years later, here I am finally asking Chris what happened in that race.
I wore different socks on race day. I got blisters and it really slowed me down.
I don’t know but the coach in me wonders….maybe it was the fact that we only trained for 6 weeks, had no taper, no fuel plan and trained at god only knows what pace maybe just MAYBE all of that was it and not the damn socks!
Then I asked if he remembered anything else.
Yes, my ass was hurting.
And, you were so angry at me.
Ah, the truth comes out. I ask him if he remembers anything I said.
You said I was boring you, that you had enough of waiting for me. You kept saying ‘let’s go.’
And though I don’t remember it, I can say with certainty that I am guilty of that. All of that.
Since then, we have covered many miles together. Five years ago today I remember the morning of our wedding we went for a run. Yes, it was on my workout schedule. It said to run 50 minutes any way I wanted. And I wanted to run with my to-be husband. We ran at the Arboretum, in tights and gloves and me with my purple fleece hat. I looked back in my log to see if there was anything notable about the run. No comments, just an entry that we covered 7 miles in 52 minutes. The next day, the day after our wedding and about 100 drinks later, I was scheduled to do an hour of whatever I wanted. My comments read took the day off!
I suppose I was enjoying the first day of life as Mrs. Waterstraat. Or nursing a pretty wicked hangover.
The only PR I hold in the house is the marathon. Everything else is owned by Chris. And I like it that way. My dad once told me that any man was going to have to do a lot of running to catch up to me. Well, I found a runner. And he’s not only caught up to me, but caught me and since then I’ve been chasing him.
So here’s to many more miles together! Can’t say that I wish any more of them will be in a marathon but maybe when I’m 70 I’ll put on my purple jogging suit and join him.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
A baby sleeping through the night is yet another one of those myths of motherhood like “breastfeeding makes you lose weight.”
(if you believe that, I have a 10 pound Mexican barking cat I’d like to sell you)
In fact, I’m starting to think they don’t sleep through the night until high school. Then you spend 4 years telling them to wake their lazy ass up and get out of bed at an ungodly hour of the morning because you’re up so they should be up. And why wouldn’t you be up at that time. You’ve spent the last 16 years conditioning your body to exist on little to no sleep so of course you’re up before 6 am!
But back to baby anti-sleeping thing. They say wait six weeks (and if I ever meet “they” I’m going to launch myself all apeshit crazy at them, tackle them to the ground and hold them there for six weeks). Six weeks arrives and you’re still getting up twice a night. Wait until they’re 10 pounds when their stomach can hold more milk. We coasted right through 10 pounds with no long stretches of sleep. Wait until 3 months, that’s when they really sleep through the night. 3 months. 3 MONTHS!?! I have not slept for more than 5 hours at a time in the past 11 weeks and now you’re telling me I have to wait 2 more weeks!
As you can tell, I’m having a little problem with the whole constantly interrupted sleep thing. We were beginning to see the light at the end of the dark, very dark, tunnel and even had that night where baby got 10 hours of sleep. But since then we’ve gone backwards. Max has been waking up every 3 to 4 hours. Refusing to nap during the day. Demanding to be attached to my shoulder when not refusing the nap.
This does not go well with increased yardage in swimming.
Last night he was up every two hours. Every – TWO – hours. I woke up at 3:26 am thinking to myself: I thought we were past this. Weren’t we?
I’m tough. I am. I can handle this. But sometimes...I just need a little break. Chris leaves for work around 7:30 am and usually doesn’t get home until after 6 pm. In between it’s just me and the baby (and the dog). There are times when I am envious that he gets to go to work. Not because I want to do his job or don’t have enough of my own job to do – but because he gets to leave the house. It’s mostly quiet where he goes. He doesn’t have to spend the day as someone’s source of nutrition, entertainment and sanitation.
And that’s just for the dog!
On Tuesday, Max finally seemed like he was going to take a nap. I put him in the bassinet and I’m telling you when have a baby only then do you realize how damn noisy the world is. Must the garbage man throw the cans on to the ground? Does the dog have to bark every time a delivery truck drives by? And why don’t we just live on the runway of O’Hare because I swear to god a plane goes by every minute anyways. He would fall asleep, wake up, fall asleep, wake up until finally he just gave up and said MOM I’M AWAKE!
(well, it was a little noisier than that)
Max spent the rest of the day crying, fussing and setting all new poop PRs. Not only did he soil his own outfit but it leaked right through to mine. At that point I just gave up and put on pajamas pants, spilled my fruit smoothie all over them and realized there was absolutely no point in me walking around the house in anything other than a giant absorbent towel. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I cried uncle, or – grandma – and asked my mom to come over to watch Max so I could ride my bike outside (imagine that!) for 75 minutes.
Max cried the entire time.
By Wednesday I had enough. So I called the doctor. I was convinced that he was not eating enough. He is constantly wanting to feed during the day. He is frequently sucking on his hands. And I feel like I’m just not making enough milk any more. It took me 15 minutes to pump 3 ounces last night (which is a lot of time for a little milk) – and then I spilled the bottle. I ALMOST CRIED! I had visions that I was starving my poor little baby. I worried that I would need to start supplementing with formula. I have nothing against formula but at this point I’ve survived 11 weeks of breastfeeding and I’m not giving up. MY NIPPLES BLED FOR THIS. I will not DNF breastfeeding.
And that is how I found myself today in the doctor’s waiting room. And we waited. Nothing like waiting 30 minutes with a fussy baby. Except maybe when a woman I will just call all sorts of crazy sat down next to me with her two crazier kids. There had to be 20 seats open in the waiting room and she sits herself RIGHT.NEXT.TO.ME.
Her 3-year old is tearing apart the office in a mess of grabbed flyers, magazines and crawling under chairs (the empty chairs, any chair – she could have had ANY chair, why next to me?). Her 7-month old was sitting on her lap. She was having a conversation to me. Not with me because I was too busy trying to inch myself and my child to the far reaches of the right side of the chair that still left me within 2 feet of this woman practically breathing on me.
BREATHING ON ME.
She’s talking to me like we’ve known each other for years. Girl, good luck with that baby. I got 3 boys. Did you want a girl. I did and got 3 boys. Good luck with him. In between she is yelling at her 3-year old for doing what 3-years old – run around, make noise, disregard obedience. Things that make you wish you had two more kids.
Oh wait, she did.
She continues to talk to me while setting her overstuffed purse on the ground. I half expect a crazy woman crack pipe to fall out when instead out rolls a canister of Enfamil formula. I had a moment of this-is-a-sign-from-god. Without stating my position on god I do believe from time to time messages like this fall out of the sky (or someone's purse) to warn you about things. In this case, that message being if you feed your baby formula he will be crawling under the chairs at the doctor’s office in no time. Or sitting on his mother’s lap spitting up something so white and nasty that I wanted to ask for a Haz Mat suit for my own safety.
Before the scene got any worse, I was called into the office.
THANK YOU GOD!
The nurse took some vitals on Max and then weighed him. 12 pounds 1 ounce. Now I thought two weeks ago he was 12 pounds 6 ounces but according to her charts he was recorded at 11 pounds 12 ounces. Am I really that sleep deprived? Am I imagining things? The answer: YES. She asked me some questions about his feeding and sleeping. I gave her the answers. As I did I realized I was slowly filling the role of THAT crazy first time mother who brings her baby to the doctor every time he has a booger in his nose (for the record, he does right now and I’m a little worried). I was hoping that he would have not gained any weight to support my theories but it seems that even data cannot save me.
The doctor visits us a short while later and gives Max a thorough exam. He doesn’t have a hernia, a fever, an ear infection, he’s not teething and his soft spot isn’t sunken. In other words there is nothing wrong with him. Diagnosis: crazy mother who thinks that she cannot possibly have a fussy baby.
And so I was given a handout. Yes, 3 pages of this just cost you a co-pay so next time just diagnose yourself on the internet. The handout was all about colic. Of course I don’t think Max is colicky, he’s just going through a rough patch right now. Kind of like miles 60 to 90 at Ironman. You’re still moving forward but bound to either puke, cry or curse the world for 30 miles. Then they pass. And you’re back to laughing and singing again.
Am I the only one who sang myself through most of Ironman?
I walked out of the office feeling a little embarrassed. Like I had been labeled. They will red flag my chart with overly concerned mother with utterly adorable baby, approach with caution and a colic handout. And wouldn't you know as soon as we got into the car, Max started sucking on his hand and crying.
Back at home, I fed him and then the unthinkable happened. He went down for a nap. And despite the dog barking every time a leaf fell off the tree in the front yard (damn you autumn!) or the maintenance crew mowing the lawn (must this be done every week?) or me unrolling a bag of cereal (if you eat second breakfast it’s like pressing the reset button on the day – right?) – he slept.
(that is...until the Fed Ex truck arrived and the delivery guy rang the doorbell. Every day that doorbell rings which sets off a chain reaction of dog barking and baby waking up. In all fairness, I am going to start storing these items in my car until 1 am when I will put them on the doorstep and ring the door bell nonstop until the husband wakes up to collect the small bike shop he is assembling in the basement)
So please, tread lightly and let’s whisper. Don’t wake the baby. Let’s see how long this lasts. Or, better yet, how long I last. I know that relief is only two weeks away when he hits 3 months. At that point he’ll sleep through the night and only poop once a day and I’ll magically be 10 pounds lighter.
By the way, have you seen my Mexican barking cat?
Monday, October 04, 2010
What many fail to realize is that what you do at the end of the season is as important as what you do before and during the season. Allowing your body to recover from a season of training and racing is an important step in building stronger fitness for the next season and staying injury-free.
After a season or training and racing, it pays to take the time to rest. Yet few athletes are patient or trusting enough to do this. As a coach, convincing an athlete to rest is ten times harder than convincing them to do mile repeats on the track. But those who listen and rest are the athletes who break through plateaus and build a higher fitness peak the next year.
Often I see athletes stringing together season to season with no down time. They go from triathlon season to marathon season to winter balls out bike classes to spring running races – it’s an endless cycle of push push push. These athletes are often struggling with an injury – whether it be an injury of the legs or the injury of putting forth the same stale performances over and over again. They burn out by August, get sick frequently or keep hitting the same plateaus.
The body as a whole is like any single muscle. You cannot push it over and over again and expect performance. It needs time to rest. Like the muscle broken down during work, during recovery it grows stronger. After all, this is what training and progress is all about – you applying a little stress, back off, apply more stress, back off. Training is just stress. Fitness is gained in recovery.
Knowing this, why, then, do athletes hesitate to take a break?
Most excuses revolve around the idea of not wanting to lose fitness. Keep in mind that takes 6 full weeks of nothing to decondition yourself. Taking a week or two of unstructured activity at the end of your season will not undo what you’ve done. Certainly you will lose some fitness but that is the point. Sure, you can maintain the same level of fitness year round but as a performance-oriented athlete that is exactly what you do not want! You want to be a little less fit in the winter and work to gain stronger fitness during racing season. You don’t want to putting up personal best times in January. Remember that success in sport is all about timing. Winning in January doesn’t mean a thing unless you’re aiming to be January’s national champion.
So, are you?
The other excuse is that the athlete will gain weight. Gasp! This, along with losing some fitness, is a key component for improving in the next year. Staying at race weight year-round is very draining on your body. Someone once told me that race weight is somewhere that you want to be on race day – not a day earlier. For most of us, attaining race weight requires some restriction in our diet. This type of restriction year-round will drain the body and upset hormonal balance. Not only that but it is psychologically draining to always deprive yourself. Instead, let your guard down and indulge a little. After all, it can’t be all work work work all the time. You’ve got to play and relax. Enjoy some of the delights of the upcoming holidays, just be sensible about it.
Often I find the athletes who refuse the end of season break are using triathlon to fill a hole. That hole might come from an eating disorder, an obsessive drive or an exercise addiction. Yet these are the same athletes who want to set PRs the next year. Know that if you plan to improve next year, you must approach the sport as an athlete – not as an addict. Addicts let their obsession control what they do. The athlete takes control. Rather than filling the hole with triathlon, fill it up with the things that perhaps you’ve neglected this year; take the time to reconnect with family or friends, put in more face time at work, try a new hobby, sleep late, go shopping, clean your house. Disconnect from the sport for a few weeks. It will still be here when you get back.
What is rest? At the end of the season, I suggest two weeks of unstructured activity. This means not waking up to a schedule of “I have to _____” today. Ideally, this is two weeks completely off. The longer your race distances, the more important this rest becomes. Ironman begs for rest. The damage is deep and just because you feel ok does not mean you are fully recovered. For those who did shorter races, I find that during these two weeks it is ok to do some light activity; easy spins, easy swims, walks for 30 to 45 minutes. However, I do suggest no running for two weeks. Running being the most injury-prone of all 3 sports, it pays to take some time off to let everything heal. Whatever the athlete chooses to do during these two weeks – whether it is nothing or light something, the point is to not apply stress. No strength training, no intensity, no tearing the body down. Give it a rest and let the body heal.
Right now many of my athletes are on mandatory break through October. During this time, I release them into the wild and let them be. Coaches need an off season too. There’s only so many ways I can tell someone to spin easy for 30 minutes. And do I really need to be telling someone to do that? Instead, I suggest they do as they wish, when they wish. I encourage them to drink responsibly, eat donuts for breakfast and ignore me. To move a little but keep it all light and un-goal oriented. By all means let the Garmin lose its charge and the Power Tap collect dust. The goal is for them to return to me absolutely ready to embrace the runs in the cold, the long rides on the trainer. Winter training requires a fire that must burn for many months before you see the end result. You have to be physically, psychologically and emotionally fresh to approach it. If not, your fire will burn out soon after your first race.
Two very important qualities in an athlete are longevity and consistency. Both require the athlete to find balance between work and recovery. Look around the sport and you see a few standouts who have lasted for years, if not decades, of being competitive in their age group. Longevity makes keeps you lasting and healthy. Consistency is how you make fitness gains. With minimal interruptions during the season from injury or setback and fitness that builds year to year, the consistency of your work yields progress. If you were to ask these athletes, you would find a definite break at the end of their season where they kicked back, disconnected and indulged a little. Many pros do the same. Recovery is their "secret".
Bottom line it works. But you’ll never know until you trust it enough to try. So ask yourself, why not? You have nothing to lose except a little fitness. And chances are you’ll gain more back in the next year.
Friday, October 01, 2010
Ear wax. Yes, that’s right – ear wax. I looked inside my child’s ear and that is when it hit me: I am responsible for cleaning out someone else’s ear wax.
I agree – of all the things I have to do for Max, the ear wax seems unimportant. After all, I clean up poop all day long. But for some reason the poop seems more funny to me than an actual responsibility. There are days when emails to my husband are composed along these lines:
Max just set an all new poop PR.
PRs can be set in terms of quantity, quality and geographic location. How someone shits forward is beyond me. How someone can shit outside their diaper from the inside is even more amazing.
For whatever reason, the ear wax got me. It just makes me a little creeped out and uncomfortable. It’s kind of like sharing a toothbrush with your spouse. In theory it should be ok. In reality is it wrong that it makes me feel slightly violated? Alas, Max cannot clean out his own ears so the burden is on me.
I have to do this.
The responsibilities of parenthood hit you like that. You get scratched by the baby’s nails and think – dammit, why are their nails so long? Because I HAVE NOT CUT THEM YET! Or they vomit on your shirt, when you’re nowhere near the rest of your wardrobe and even though the smell of vomit is the only thing that can get you to vomit you realize that you’re going to have to wear that shirt for the rest of the day. Gagging. The baby wakes up for the 3rd time in the middle of the night and you’re so so tired, just want to ignore it but know that no one else is going to get it. Wake your ass up.
It’s all day, every day. When the moment is least convenient, the most inconvenient happens.
I went for a run the other night – 60 minutes with hill repeats. It was one of those runs where I just felt off. It was warm outside, I ate too much spinach at lunch, I felt heavy. I got home, sweaty, tired, hungry, I just wanted some water to drink and no sooner did I exit the car than Chris opened up the garage door, pushed the child toward me while saying:
CAN YOU GIVE HIM SOME BOOBIE RIGHT NOW.
It’s not a choice, it’s my duty. The answer is always yes. And you find yourself in situations like this all day long. Which is perhaps the most tiring. There’s no I’m too tired for that or I’m in too much of a bad mood. You find yourself getting over yourself so you can meet someone else’s needs. This happens a lot. I don’t have time to be in a bad mood – I’m too busy trying to keep my kid in a good mood. Know what I mean?
The other morning I was in the pool – yet again – before 5:30 am. I finally figured out why all the people at masters jump into the pool instead of slowly inching one body part at a time from a seated position like I used to do. It’s because they don’t have time to waste. Get in, get over your “it’s too cold” self and get your swim on. At 5:30 am the only way I can get into a pool is feet first. Jumping.
It was one of those swims where I felt like a bear had jumped on my back. Usually I can shake him off after a 1000 yard warm up but not today. He stuck with me, tenacious mammal he is, and had me wondering what the heck was wrong with me. The clock shows me I’m not hitting the times I want. And of course I blame the lane. I switch lanes and realize – it’s not the lane, it’s me. Still slow. Damn you bear.
I got back home, hungry, thirsty, not particularly pleased with swimming like ass but might as well have left it at the door. Because as I walked in, Chris walked out to work and there was Max, all ready to start the day. Ready or not, mom, I’M AWAKE! Forget the recovery window, stretching, or even worrying about intervals (intervals? What intervals? Did I swim this morning?).
The day begins. But didn’t it just end? People keep ask if I’m sleeping. Technically I sleep. But Max still wakes up twice a night. There was a night a few weeks ago where he did the unthinkable – he slept 10 hours straight. I finally woke up at 5:30 am sensing something was wrong because my chest was exploding in milk (yes, this wakes you up, kind of like wetting the bed would wake you up – it just feels wrong). Picked him up, carried him to Chris with eyes wide open when Chris asked what was wrong.
He slept. 10 hours straight.
Those 10 hours never happened again.
There’s the actual responsibility of caring for someone and then the additional responsibility of entertaining them. And that is how I found myself making a special trip to the outlet mall to buy…finger puppets.
When did life become this way?
Finger puppets are at least 5 minutes straight of entertainment. At this entertainment venue, anything is fair game. Silly voices, funny faces, tickles, baby talk and song. Anything can become song. There’s the Give-me-5-more-minutes song and the Do-you-really-need-to-be-crying-right-now ballad. Funny, I spent years teaching children and singing children’s songs. I can’t remember a damn thing. Except Skip To My Lou. And only the first verse. If you are having a baby, start rehearsing your songs now. You’ll need them.
I’ve put blankets on my head, done puppetry through my dog (he was not pleased), blown bubbles with my own spit and when all else falls started to laugh for no reason at all (when he’s crying, it helps to start laughing, it’s contagious). Max is moody, at best. In seconds he swings from tears to giggles. And back again.
As a parent, you ride through each wave. It’s like swimming in rough open water. You relax in the chop and breathe before the next wave. You look for a rhythm because no matter how turbulent the water is, there always is rhythm. I spend the day looking for Max’s rhythm, when he best sleeps, what the different cries mean, how to interpret his body language. I know that when he’s inconsolably fussy he needs to be swaddled and put on the activity mat. I know the difference between the I need you cry and the I am fighting my sleep. I know the poopy face and the happy face. He is like a little ocean of feelings and needs. Makes me appreciate that I know how to swim.
Day after day I realize how complicated it is to make a person. Look at yourself where you are today. Do you know how many fingerplays, shaking rattles and moving your legs like a bicycle it took to get you to that point? That’s obviously not all it takes but in those first few weeks, months, it sure takes a lot of those little things that seem inconsequential but add up to form a safe bond, to develop social skills and make you feel loved.
All of those are very important things.
It makes you appreciate your parents more. You think to yourself – how did they do this? Not just for me but for my siblings? My brother warned me of this. You’ll have new appreciation for how mom did this, and wonder how she did it on her own with two kids.
Point taken. Many times.
The other evening, Max spent 30 minutes in the exersaucer. I assumed he was exersaucing but when I looked closely I realized he was engaged in a very intense conversation with Sophie the giraffe.
First he made eye contact. Then he stared her down. She matched his gaze. He started some empty threats by moving his arms and kicking his legs even though he can't really move anywhere in the exersaucer. Next he started vocalizing. The vocalizations got louder, escalating until he had a case of the full blown I’m overstimulated hiccups. No sooner did he explode into tears and demand to be taken out of the exersaucer. I’m not sure what was said between him and the giraffe but she obviously hurt his feelings.
But that is his work. He explores the world, becomes fixated on a window, a hanging toy, interacts with it to the point of where he gets overwhelmed. It is work he does all day. The same cycle of exploration and exhaustion. Learning about the world is the hardest training you'll ever do. You just don't remember it.
Right now Max is on nap number two for the day. It’s only 11 am. I look at him and cannot believe how much he has grown. This morning I was teaching him how to prop himself up on his elbows and lift his head. In five years it will be how to ride a bicycle. In fifteen years it will be how to drive a car. In twenty-five years. Crap. I’ll be 60 years old!
He’s wearing his lion onesie today and I’m about to experience the post-nap roar. I’ve still got some work to do before the weekend. But for now it waits. It can be done, as I’ve found, at 4 am as well as it can be done at 11 am. But one thing that cannot wait is this child. Every minute he takes in one more thing about his surroundings. So, excuse me while I go put a puppet on my finger, shake a rattle and be a parent for awhile. IThere's a little person waiting to learn about the world.
And more likely a squeaky giraffe waiting for the showdown that will take place at some point today.