Monday, May 31, 2010

Camp Recap

Camp CHICAgo has come and gone. 13 women, 3 coaches and about 100 percent humidity all weekend long. Add to that 8 months of pregnancy and you get a mighty nasty case of heat rash on your thighs and a set of cankles (true, someone pointed them out on Sunday).

When I planned camp, I wasn’t pregnant. As camp got closer and I got more pregnant, I knew I would need help. So, I brought in Cat from California. Cat and I have synergy, we’re on the same page, she anticipates what I'm thinking before I even say it. Without her help, I would have perished in the heat this weekend and lost my social skills by Saturday at 8 am. I can’t thank her enough for being here. My dog also enjoyed 6 nights of conjugal visits with her. He's smitten.

Friday, the first day of camp, seems so long ago. We started with a welcome dinner at Jen’s house. The women were of all ages and abilities – from beginners to Ironwomen. We handed out a bag of goodies from generous supporters of the camp (thank you to TriSports.com, Recovery Sox, Velotak, Shape, Power Bar) in Lululemon bags. Everyone had to choose a saying from the manifesto that connected to them and tell us about it. Dinner capped off with delicious homemade cookies from The Cookie Drop. If you like cookies – you need to try this level of cookie yum.

Saturday started off with a swim at a lake. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to participate or even instruct in the water. But then I had an idea – using one of my husband’s wetsuits.


I know, it's so sexy that it hurts my eyes to look at it. Honestly, though, it's a good thing I didn't do any butterfly in the lake or else one of the residents would have reported a whale on the loose and the police surely would have kicked us out then. While Jen led half the group around the lake to swim, I led the campers in open water skills and drills – how to handle different race starts, drafting, sighting.

Next up the campers transitioned to a bagel breakfast and then a 60+ mile bike ride. Meanwhile, I was driving the van. You’d think driving the van would be the easy job but I know from Ragbrai that driving the van is actually the hard job. Everyone else is out there having fun on their bike while you’re driving and then waiting. I found a road to sit on about 18 miles out at the intersection of Nowhere and Possibly Hell It Was So Hot. Sure enough, as soon as I got there I needed a bathroom. None around. Not even a tree. I then did my hardest pregnancy workout ever – holding it for 3+ hours.

The campers hit my aid station twice during the ride. Everyone was chipper on the way out. Everyone was not so chipper on the way back. Entire a headwind on the way back with temperatures in the high 80s. But like any successful athlete, when conditions got tough, these women got tougher. It was inspiring.

Back at the lake, they got ready for a transition run. It was hotter than hot at this point and the course was hilly – enthusiasm for this run was not incredibly high but the women got it done. These are the days that you want in training. You want conditions to be tough and uncomfortable so on race day no matter what happens, you have the confidence to deal with it.

A long snack break then yoga followed while Cat and I took a swim back and forth across the lake a few times. The water had warmed up so no wetsuit was required. It was just me, my swimsuit, my big belly and Cat. It was one of those perfect swims where your mind wanders, the water is calm and you are totally at peace, a relaxing way to end a busy day.


After some quick showers at Jennifer’s house, I could sense her food meltdown was approaching as she started talking about needing a “proper” dinner. This is her way of saying “the elderly cannot live on sports food alone.” The entire group went out for a proper dinner at Pinstripes. At dinner I sat next to Molly who was in her 10th Lululemon wardrobe change of the weekend (it’s like she just walked in the store and said “I’ll take one of everything in size extraextrasmall.”). I yelled at Cat for touching the cookies. Molly may have eaten an entire cheesecake. And I think I caught Lauren dozing off across the room.

Sunday morning started in the pool. The day was heating up into the 90s but little did we know it was already 212 degrees on the pool deck. I did some swim analysis while Jennifer led everyone else through a swim workout. Next the group went outside for some small hill repeats then ran back where I led them through running drills. After some lunch, we headed to a park for strength. TRXs hung on soccer goal posts for half the group while the other half did some strength work with me and stretching. If these women weren’t heat acclimated before camp, they are now. We were struggling to find any sliver of shade available out there.

I used to think Kona was hot. Then I stood in a soccer field at 8 months pregnant on a 93-degree day trying to hide in the one inch of shade from a soccer goal post.

The day finished up early. Later that evening, the Multisport Mastery athletes joined me back around my house at the Arboretum for a leisurely ride. Sara and Kristin from New York, Kris and Molly from California. I can proudly say that after about 30 minutes I was dropped by my athletes. I felt like the slow out-of-shape kid chasing them down. When I did catch up, I was able to chat with each of them. It was great! We went back home to find my husband in the lead for the husband of the year award – he had prepared a feast of steaks, grilled vegetables, bread, cupcakes (!) and also assembled a cheese tray that had Cat wanting to steal him back to Los Angeles.

Monday morning, we left the house around 6:20 am and headed up to Elgin. All weekend we have been driving 45 minutes both ways from my house to the camp activities. And, in over 350 miles of driving, it was bound to happen – I got caught by the popo. Turns out you need to follow the posted 45 mph speed limit in a construction zone even though in the past 4 days you have seen not one minute of construction happening. One speeding ticket with double the fine and a mandatory court appearance later…I was back on the way to Elgin.

The campers were set to do a local run race, either a 5K or 10 miler. Cat and I were set to stand on the sidelines and cheer. Yet again it was hot but you could tell a storm was brewing. The campers pulled off some great efforts out there – Sara placed 3rd in her age group, Lauren came within 30 seconds of a PR, Molly and Kris listened to their body and just ran easy, Tiffany had one heck of a finishing kick...there were many other strong performances out there! After a weekend of hard work and many miles – we wrapped up. Just in time because the minute we finished, the skies opened up with a storm.

Nothing gets me more fired up than sharing the sport with others – teaching them from the over 10 years of training lessons, races, successes and failures that I call my experience. But I think what’s most important to share in a camp like this is that whatever they are feeling – whether it’s doubt, fear or fatigue – we’ve all been there. No matter what they learned this weekend, I hope they learned that while we are all at different speeds, chasing different goals or at different levels in the sport – we’re all pretty much the same. And that’s what makes getting together for a weekend of camp so fun. You get to do what you love to do with others, you get to spend a weekend in a place and with people with whom you belong.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Form, Fitness & Fear

This weekend, Jen Harrison and I are hosting an all women's camp north of Chicago. When we asked athletes what they wanted to learn, their responses centered on three things: how to improve form, how to develop stronger fitness and how to overcome fears. Before we set out for the weekend, I thought I would share some ideas on the importance of understanding how form, fitness or fear limit your performance - and how to work on them.

Form

In sport, form leads to efficiency and efficiency precedes speed. If you want to go fast, you have to have good form. To some extent, most of us are limited by form. No athlete ever reaches a point where they master technique. Many athletes overlook the importance of form, finding drill-work boring or slow to show progress. Understand that performance improvement is often boring. If it was exciting or easy, we’d all be top athletes! Progress takes time and ingraining new habits can take at least 3 weeks of consistency. Not only that, but expect a period of decreased performance as you make the change. Trust, though, that the change will help deliver you to that next level of efficiency which in turn leads to more speed.

Swim

Being the most technical of all three sports, improvement in swimming requires a year-round commitment to working on your form. Drills, drills, drills. Often athletes wonder why they go the same speed when they are going easy or fast. As you increase your effort, the errors or inefficiencies in your stroke start to increase exponentially which costs you more in energy and slows you down. When you relax and focus on your form, you have time to correct those errors before they add up. To improve in swimming, look for improved efficiency from drills (which will have a ripple effect on your bike and run) rather than hammering out the yards.


How do you then work on form? Choose a reputable coach or instructor who will tape you, get in the water and work with you. It may help to meet with a coach every 4 weeks for a check-up. From there, a quick revisit with a masters coach or even a friend with a good eye can help you determine if you are progressing.

Developing the strength required to sustain good swim form is also useful. Think of the fundamentals of good swimming; powerful rotation (core), swimming over & catching the water (lats, triceps), supple kick (glutes/lower core). A simple strength program that addresses these areas should be included year-round.

Keep in mind that open water swimming has a set of its own skills and form. You can easily practice open water swim skills in a pool year-round. Turning at the end of the lane like going around a buoy, treading water starts, sighting are all skills you can practice in a pool. However, nothing replaces actual open water swimming. If you find your pool swim speed does not transfer to open water swimming, aim to practice in open water at least once a week. Ask a coach or friend to watch you swim in your wetsuit and to observe where form breaks down.

Bike

It doesn’t seem like there is much to biking other than clipping in and spinning those pedals. Like any sport, there is an art and science to it that can help you progress. Form on the bike relates to how you ride the bike and the bike itself. Practicing handling skills, proper gearing, learning to shift, a bike fit/position suitable for your body (and your goals), functional/clean equipment – these are all things that can limit your bike form and influence your speed.


Start with a professional bike fit and be sure your equipment matches your ability level, goals and race terrain. Gearing is most important as the wrong gearing on a hilly course can be a deal breaker. Remember too that your body is just as important for form. It doesn’t matter how much you practice climbing hills – if you are carrying extra weight it will impact your performance, increase inefficiency and cost you energy.

Beyond that, your cadence is the most crucial factor for cycling efficiency. Favoring big gears at a lower cadence might initially get you more power or speed but getting off the bike to run won’t be pretty. Remember, lower gears require you to apply more force with each pedal stroke. More force is more power and power is energy. Generally a cadence over 80 rpms will help you have a better run off the bike (but there are factors beyond this too). It takes quite a bit of practice to teach your body to adapt to a higher cadence. Keeping easy rides over 90 rpms or including short bursts at 100 rpms will help achieve this adaptation. At first your heart rate may go up with a higher cadence – but it should become easier over time.

Run

Running seems like the most intuitive of all three sports; one foot in front of the other! Actually, it is one foot falling close to your body, pushing off strong with the least contact time on the ground that makes a fast runner. Run form is run economy and run economy comes before speed. When I see an athlete who can run fast for a short distance (ie., 400 – 1600m) but then significantly slows beyond that the problem is usually run economy. In this case, no amount of speedwork or high intensity training will get this athlete faster. Their form does not permit. Time is better spent working on drills, plyometrics (word of caution: this is not for larger or injury-prone athletes) and strength involved in the run stride (hip flexors, glutes, core). Keep in mind that drills will increase your heart rate and feel difficult at first. In time, they will integrate into your form and feel more natural.

Adult-onset runners often make the fundamental error of running like they walk. Walking is a heel to toe activity and translates to running as overstriding and heel striking. This is a very inefficient and slow way to run; essentially your body needs to decelerate with every step as your foot falls in front of the body and then must wait for you to bring your entire body over that point before pushing forward again. Knee or ITB problems may result. Instead, think of running as a midfoot activity with a strong push off. Like cycling, running also has an optimal cadence over 175 to 200 steps per minute. Cadence higher than that is typically a sign of low knee drive or injury protection. Another common error is too much bounce or vertical movement. Running is a movement that requires forward propulsion – moving your body forward in space and not up/down. One last error is too much float time (which also comes along with bouncing). This causes a tremendous impact when each foot lands which can lead to bone or knee injury.

You can also improve run form with the nature of your run training itself. Often I hear athletes express interest in training for a marathon to improve their running. In my experience, this causes the opposite reaction of what you are seeking. Marathon training teaches you to lock in that steady state pace. To keep your heart rate low enough to sustain the marathon at an aerobic pace, you need to go relatively slow. Long slow running leads to long slow runners. This is why athletes who complete marathons or Ironmans year after year tend to have a hard time shaking themselves from “monotone” running which lacks snap or speed. A running program with a variety of shorter distances races, fartlek training and hill work will provide you with the speed, power and intensity it takes to produce faster running. Skip that winter marathon and take on some autumn 5ks or 10ks instead.

Remember too that your body is just as important for form. If you are carrying extra weight it will impact your performance especially since running is an impact sport. With each step, your body absorbs 3.5 times your body weight. Do the math and you will see how losing one pound can lead to a one percent decrease in run times.

Fitness

Fitness is efficiency. A fit athlete is one that can perform increasing demands with efficiency. In time you want to be able to go faster with less effort, expending less energy. Form is one way to achieve this. The other way is by developing your fitness.

In triathlon, we are mostly concerned with aerobic fitness or efficiency. It is so easy to develop yet so many go about it too hard and get it wrong. Many athletes either self-coach, participate in too much intense training or train inconsistently. In any case, while these athletes can do the work – they may not do it with efficiency.

How do you know if fitness is your weakness? Are you stuck at the same pace? Have you reached a plateau? Do you produce the same stale – if not worse – results with increased time in the sport? If so, you may benefit from working on your fitness. Athletes that often train at the same stale pace never go easy enough or hard enough to make any fitness changes.

The easiest way to gain fitness? Especially at the start of a training program or the early part of the season, it is using a heart rate monitor. Testing heart rate with a reliable protocol, generating suitable heart rate zones (and then retesting in a timely manner) is a good way to improve an athlete’s fitness. Essentially you need to teach their heart to behave. In other words, take that same amount of work and do it with less effort. That is efficiency. This means going easy enough on easy days which will then allow you to push harder on hard days. Often you do not need a HRM to get an athlete to run hard – you need one to get the athlete to go easy enough so they can actually go hard enough on their hard day to make a difference (or else they are too fatigued to go hard and all work defers to a moderate pace and causes them to stagnate).

An organized training plan that includes quality work, sufficient rest and a timely approach will help the athlete make gains in fitness. Most athletes know the right work to do – it’s a matter of getting them to do the right work at the right time. Timing is everything in creating fitness. Fitness also requires the right balance of work and recovery. Remember, it is in recovery that you actually make fitness gains. Too much intensity, too little rest and you will again cause the opposite reaction to what you are seeking and possible overtraining (which then leads to a period of required rest, deconditioning & fitness loss).

Fear

Fear is the what if, the unknown, the little voice in our head that says you can’t. Maybe it’s an open water fear, maybe it’s a fear of blowing up, maybe it’s a fear of descending that big hill. In any case, being honest with yourself (and your coach) about your fears is the only way to face them and create an action plan to work around them.

Fear can often be fixed through experience. The more you practice as you plan to race – in the setting you plan to race – the more you mind is able to create a reliable map of this is where I’m going and this is how to deal. Facing your fears with a friend or coach is a good way to work through them. You can also prepare yourself by writing out a plan of action, creating a mantra or using visualization. Visualizing yourself successfully getting into the water, while chanting “relax” with each stroke is one way to work through your fear of open water even when not swimming.

Fear can also come from the meanings we attach to different numbers and experiences. Every so often it is helpful to train “naked” without numbers or technology. If you know a 7-minute mile is your hard pace, you might become fearful when you see it on the GPS. You may think to yourself – I’m this close to explode! Maybe you’re just breaking through to that next level. Give yourself permission to get there! From time to time, take that GPS off or cover it up with tape until you get back home. Do a workout where you just focus on the work without evaluating the numbers. If the workout calls for running hard, leave the GPS at home so you can connect to what “hard” feels and sounds like.

Fear also faces us in the form of “what if I blow up.” Honestly ask yourself, then answer. What would be the worst that happens? You have to walk home? You end a workout early? The brain is a complex and smart organ that will – in most cases – prevent you from hurting yourself. If you are doing something that will harm you, it will stop you or shut down. Blow ups are valuable lessons where you learn your limits. It’s not a place you want to go often but when you get there, take the time to reflect on the how and why rather than beating yourself up because you feel like you've failed.

This weekend, our goal is to help our participants improve form, get a meaningful boost in their fitness and overcome fears. 13 women, 3 days, 9 workouts. By the end we hope they'll have a better understanding of what limits their performance; form, fitness or fear, and how to work on it.


You might not be at camp but you can ask yourself today - what limits you the most? Is it form, fitness, fear? Then, commit to working on it!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Notes From Week 32

I think I’m getting back fat.

When I not only told this to Chris but also pointed out the area under question, he said to me....

STOP IT.

I know, I know. I’m pregnant. I’m supposed to get back fat, puffy legs and hemorrhoids. I get it. But every once in awhile can’t I just be the girl who is genuinely not too thrilled about getting back fat even if it’s all for the good of the baby?

Seems like as I approach the last 8 weeks of pregnancy, the only things getting bigger on me are the belly and the legs. The boobs – completely at a standstill. And to be honest, I’m a little disappointed. Here I was thinking I’d be well into a D-cup by now and….sadly, not the case. The only thing that might soon need a girdle would be my thighs. And what is the biological purpose of bigger pregnant thighs? Is Max going to nurse off my thighs? Will I need to pump them too?

As you can tell, week 32 of pregnancy is off to a good start. I’m feeling good – except for feeling like a marshmellow – but still wouldn’t mind if Max decided to come a few days early. A few weeks early. All right, kid, how important are these last 8 weeks. Isn’t this something we could cover outside of the womb? Aren’t you tired of being underwater already?

Max’s movements have completely changed in the past 2 weeks. It goes from feeling like flutters to feeling like pops to feeling like a drum beating to feeling something scraping against your insides. I feel activity throughout the day, every 3 hours or so, and it’s a lot of movement. When I asked Chris what he thought Max might be doing in there, he said probably rearranging the furniture. He just seems really restless and wiggly (can’t imagine where he got that from). I feel his little heels rubbing against my belly. They feel so small but they are strong! Sometimes he moves so much that my entire stomach moves with him.

As you approach the end of pregnancy, you get mixed reactions from everyone else. Some people stare at you like you’re a sideshow. Like they’ve never seen a pregnant woman before. Others can’t help but give you free advice about…..insert anything. At the gym, I get a lot of don’t work too hard or you’ll give birth right here from the old men. Is that all it takes? Then watch me work harder. The good news is that I’ve finally reached that point in pregnancy where people no longer ask me how I’m feeling. FINALLY! I guess they just assume at this point that I feel big and uncomfortable.

(which I am)

But of course they have something else to say. So now they are asking me:

I bet you’re ready to be done.

It’s not even a question. More of a statement they make after looking at my big belly. Really it’s just a reminder that I’m almost done but not really done. Thank you for reminding me. There are still over 8 weeks to go, trust me I’ve done the math and know that it’s still a long time.

The real problem is that I have 8 weeks to go and it is ALREADY 90 DEGREES IN CHICAGO. I thought I might be able to sneak through most of this without experiencing full-on summer while pregnant. I’ve survived a lot of hot things – Ragbrai, Kona – but I have a feeling summer pregnancy will be even hotter.

At temperatures above 90 degrees, the pregnant woman becomes uncomfortable in her habitat. Not only did I have instant cankles today but it’s grown to full blow thankles. The epidemic is spreading from my ankles to my thighs until all I can see is one entire stump of swollen thick leg.

Which, in case you were wondering, is very sexy.

I got myself out of the car today and actually had to peel my thankles off the leather seats. I might need to start applying Body Glide to the back of my legs if I wear shorts into the car again.

For the first time I ever I walked on to the pool deck today and declared it too hot. I actually got into the water without any fussing, without saying “it’s cold cold cold” or without jumping up and down while flapping my arms (because that warms you up…right). Instead I started swimming right away, it felt so refreshing but within 50 yards I was hot.

I’ve recharged my spirit about swimming this week because I decided the other day that I am now “in training”. I want to do the Big Shoulders 2.5K swim on Labor Day weekend. I got all fired up to start swimming consistently and with purpose again. But as I got into my swim today I realized the event will be about 4 weeks after giving birth so would I really be able to fit into my wetsuit again? I almost abandoned the idea altogether but realized this is how you give up on your goals and settle for being less than yourself. I might as well try. If I have to use a shoe horn to stuff my post-pregnant remnants into the wetsuit then so be it. I’ve got to try.

After swimming, I got out of the pool and bent over to pick up my pool toys. Chris was standing right behind me when he said your butt is dropping.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all. I figured this was yet another side effect of pregnancy – like, the baby dropped or your boobs sagged. But I didn’t think I’d hear it from my husband. I stood back up, gave him that WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY look when he said:

If you want some feedback, your butt is dropping when you swim.

Here I was thinking he was telling me that my ass was becoming one continent of back fat and blubber now migrating toward the floor when it turns out I’m actually getting a swim lesson. I’m sinking. Which doesn’t surprise me – I have a small human in my belly. I can barely kick enough to keep my own body afloat let alone his too. I'm not sure who these women are that feel more buoyant in the water when pregnant. Do they carry the baby in their ass?

Chris told me not to take too long to get ready after swimming. As I stood in the shower, I laughed. Everything takes me long these days. Pulling a workout shirt over my head takes me a long time. Putting on my shoes takes a long time. Making one more pitstop in the bathroom before I leave takes a long time. And….oh my god. MY EYES! MY EYES! …..

All of a sudden I’m moving really fast. Quickest pregnancy transition ever. I walk out of the locker room to find Chris.

I was just very VERY traumatized.

Why?

I saw the water aerobics teacher naked.

We both shudder.

Switching to a more pleasant topic, I had my baby shower on Sunday. It was a lovely event that my mom put together for about 50 family and friends. Let it be known that I wore a dress and even had on heels - for all of 10 seconds before I said out loud to myself fuck these shoes and put on flip flops. Normally I find high heels to be in the category of stupid things women do to themselves for no reason at all but decided when you are carrying 25+ extra pounds it becomes incredibly stupid – and painful. I spent the rest of the day walking around my mom’s house barefoot and pregnant. Literally.

Your baby shower is kind of like getting married except instead of being told you look beautiful, you’re either told that you look great (lie) or you look huge (truth). By the end of the day, I felt huge, I was exhausted and definitely had eaten too much cake.

I actually woke up in the middle of the night still tasting cake and had the urge to barf. I decided just to pee instead.

When we got home from the shower, I told Chris to leave everything in the car partly because if it’s in the car I don’t have to deal with it but he insisted on being the world’s most helpful husband and brought all of the stuff upstairs. I had to close the door to Max's bedroom because I couldn’t handle looking at all of it. I have no idea what most of it is for or when to use it or how much more stuff I actually need. I’m not panicking yet but I am sending out antsy emails to friends asking them how many EXACTLY how many bottles do I need. I need to know. And what about pacifiers. What about nipples. What else. WHAT ELSE!?!? All I know is that I have now gotten about 100 (adorable, all adorable) blankets which I am thinking I will hide in a very cold corner of the house and cover myself up with until July 28th.

Chris has been experiencing some type of nesting that involves freakish productivity and cooperation. There is nothing lately that I ask him to do that he won’t do. Plus he insists on doing everything. He raced on Saturday and then on Sunday willingly submitted himself to becoming my mother’s baby shower slave for the day. Not only that but his mother was there giving orders too. He took it, all of it, with a beer and a smile. Mind you, this role involved standing outside, shirtless, in 90 degree heat, frying homemade eggrolls in a Fry Daddy, being bossed around by my mom in her teacher voice, washing about 100 dishes all while being surrounded by women (not really a fantasy when you are related to 50 percent of them).


This morning, stranger things were afoot. He was up at 5 am assembling the stroller. It is now stored in the basement bike rack along with the high chair. Yes, things are changing at the Waterstraat house. Let it be known that something has taken the place of a bike. I never thought I would see the day.

It is now around 9 pm and right on cue – Max is awake and kicking. He actually has the hiccups. When the pops in your belly pulse at the same rate – you got hiccups in there. I made Chris come over and feel it happening. I’m sure at this point he thinks – woman, I’ve felt your stomach 293902340 times, enough already. I don’t know why but each time I feel him move it fascinates me more. Maybe because I know that it’s a feeling you could never replicate or maybe even something I’ll never feel again after this is all over.

5 minutes have gone by and he’s still hiccupping. I’m still fascinated. I decide to keep my hand on my belly for awhile and just enjoy it. Only 8 more weeks of this.


Best enjoy it while I can.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wheels Spinning

Entering week 31, another doctor’s appointment.

The nurse comes into the waiting room.

Can you give me urine?


Are you kidding me? I’m 30 weeks pregnant! I’ve been sitting in this office waiting room for the past 20 minutes fighting the urge; a bipolar urge that swings from I can wait to MUST GO NOW as Max uses my bladder as a trampoline.

OF COURSE I can give you urine!

I’m in the third trimester now and that means doctor visits every 2 weeks. I guess so they can keep an eye on me. In case I get too pregnant. The nurse takes my blood pressure and it’s the lowest I’ve ever seen it in my life; 90/54. I ask the doctor why it keeps going down and she tells me it’s because I’m in really good shape. Finally all of this swimming, biking, walking and ellipticizing is getting me somewhere.

Because it ain’t keeping me skinny.

As far as workouts go, in the third trimester I’ve had more energy than ever. I keep waiting for the big blanket of fatigue to hit me – the one that everyone says is coming – but so far I feel energetic and zippy. I’ve been working out longer but I think that’s because the workouts now are at a lower intensity. Not that any workout in pregnancy is intense but when you are approaching size HUGE you really don’t move as nimbly as you used to.

Every day I do something. Trust me, there are many excuses and reasons why you shouldn’t move in pregnancy – I’m tired, I feel off, I would rather eat, I’m going to gain weight anyways but there is something empowering about choosing to move and keeping the commitment with yourself.

STICK WITH IT.

Right now, I’m walking, ellipticizing, biking, swimming and strength training. I’ve actually been enjoying workouts more in this trimester because I’ve started to mix them up. I’ve spent nearly 8 months doing the same things – slower and slower. Time for variety.

One day I did a gym brick where I did a different machine every 15 minutes for an hour. It was just short enough that by the time I got bored of the machine, I got to switch. I’ve also become better friends with the elliptical. I put it on the random setting and chug away for up to 60 minutes. I’ve tried the rowing machine, the stair master, even – gasp – the spin bike. It’s reminded me that you don’t have to strictly move in the swim, bike or run. There are many ways to move.

I’ve changed up my strength training to include more weights. I also do a lot of single-legged moves. I figure if I can single-legged squat on an upside Bosu at nearly 30 pounds heavier, that has GOT to count for extra leg strength when I get out of pregnancy. For core, I do a lot of standing rotational moves; holding a medicine ball while twisting back and forth; holding a pilates ball overhead while moving side to side; holding kettlebells while stretching my side up and down. Ball squats are also important; put the stability ball against the wall and squat or hold isometrically for as long as you can.

Back in week 25 my sports doctor suggested I stop running before I hurt myself. In his words, “you’re too pregnant.” How frustrating. I wanted to be one of those women who ran through the entire pregnancy. But it wasn’t in the cards for me. So, I let it go and switched to walking instead to keep up an impact activity (which is important for bone health). I head over to the Arboretum and walk for up to 90 minutes. On these walks, I completely disconnect – no phone, no headphones, just me getting lost in my own thoughts. Don’t write off the power of a walk until you try it – it’s energizing and helps me reset myself.

I’ve also started biking more. Outside. I realize that it’s risky to ride outside. It is also risky to drive a car and walk across the street to check the mail. There is risk everywhere. Heck, I’ve nearly sent myself stomach first into the kitchen floor while tripping over my own two feet. Enough said. Chris put some high bars on my mountain bike and I’ve been riding for up to 90 minutes on the local paths. No cars, no streets to cross – mostly it’s just me and my bike. Of course I carry a phone and wear my Road ID. I realized, though, that it’s missing the most important condition – pregnancy. I considered writing PREGNANT across my belly in black Sharpie (BODY MARKING!) but figured at this point if someone can’t tell – they won’t be much help to me anyways.

At this point I have to wear Chris’ cycling jerseys and the only ones that ever seem to be clean are the Kona finisher jerseys. Perfect. I can only imagine how ridiculous it looks to see a woman 8 months pregnant riding a Mary Poppins-style mountain bike in an Ironman jersey. Really, I think my mountain bike cried when Chris installed those bars. Insult to injury – he still hasn’t sawed off the extra length on the bars so the bar grips stop about 2 inches short. I realized how bad it was as I was riding toward the latrines and got stuck behind some girl wearing a tank top, no helmet, running shorts, headphones and riding a bike with similar handlebars…that’s when I admitted to myself…these are my people now. I might as well be wearing run shorts, pedaling at 8 mph and talking on my cell phone.

I still swim. I can’t say that my motivation for getting to the pool has been high because it’s been so nice outside. I swim for up to 75 minutes at a time. I’m tired of freestyle so I mix up the strokes as much as possible. Masters is on break so mostly I swim solo. I don’t look at the pace clock and I don’t swim intervals. There will be plenty of time for that again in the future.

Most of my workouts are alone. It’s my slice of time during the day that I get to escape from work, even escape from pregnancy. When I’m moving and doing what I like to do – I feel like myself. If you are pregnant, don’t give that up. You owe it to yourself to keep doing what you love to do. Don’t think of it as how much you can’t do, rather look for all that you can do and then do it. Sure, I would rather be running but….let it go. Actually, it’s something that everyone can learn from. If you are injured or pregnant – if you can’t do something, rather than lamenting over it and dragging everyone else down into your pity party of “I can’t”, press your reset button and get over yourself. There are so many other ways to move out there.


I have no idea how many hours I work out each week. I don’t keep track. I really don’t care and I don’t think it matters. I’m growing, the baby is growing. That’s all that counts. In pregnancy you can feel like there are limits or restrictions but…no one really knows. No one knows what is too much for you or too hard or too fast. Your body will let you know. Pregnancy is the ultimate exercise in learning to listen to yourself. And after years of becoming increasingly obsessed with pace, power, miles, what does all the data mean…honestly, it’s refreshing to just listen to my body again.

And right now my body is saying BABY IS KICKING! Little pulses in my belly, I think Max is getting a sugar high from the honey and almond butter sandwich I ate before my appointment.


Feeling any movement? the doctor asks.

Yes, lots. Max is constantly on the move. He is most active when I lay down at night. She feels around my stomach and shows me where his back is. Right now he is face down with his back against my stomach which explains why I feel all sorts of head butts to the cervix, punches to the belly button and kicks to the ribs. And the other night around 11 pm he had the hiccups, rhythmic beats in my belly that were accompanied by angry make this stop right now mommy flailing arms.

He had the hiccups the other night.

She tells me that is a sign of fetal well-being. Then, she scans my chart.

So, you’ve gained some weight since last time.

I blame the kid.

Yeah, I think I’ve gained 3 pounds.

On the doctor scale. Which is never right. EVERY woman knows that.

She doesn’t say anything else, instead leaves me in a confusion of is that an acceptable weight gain or should I slap a jumbo sticker on my ass. But, honestly, at this point do I even care? Here’s the thing – in pregnancy you gain weight. I work out every day. I eat very well. I’ve gained 25 pounds.

Life goes on. Get over it.


Your ankles look good, no swelling.

I’ve been trying really hard to avoid the cankles. Trust me – it’s not a good look and one that creeps up easily when pregnant. I keep my legs elevated when I work and I get lots of exercise. I’m not sure that’s the magic formula but so far, so good.

The visit is over and I set another appointment in 2 weeks. Which will be 2 weeks closer to my final ultrasound. And 4 weeks closer to the weekly visits. And 8 weeks closer to….BIRTH!

Until then, I’m going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing because I can, because it feels good, because I'm healthy and because I think Max likes it. The only time he kicks me while moving is when I’m biking. Maybe it’s because sometimes when I’m out there on the path I become not only the crazy pregnant lady in the Ironman jersey but the crazy pregnant lady talking to myself.

Do you hear that Max? (and yes, at this point he can hear everything) That is my favorite sound in the world – the sound of wheels spinning.

Max kicks.

And I take that as a sign that one day he will have strong like daddy legs, a freakishly high power to weight ratio, and time trial his way to victory in some very important stage.

A mother can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Strolling Along

The other night I was sitting in the bathroom.

(when pregnant, I’ve found it’s just best to stay there)

I had just peed for the 499308508th time that day and figured I might as well linger a little longer this time just in case. In case I needed to go as soon as I stood up again (I swear, it happens).

I was having one of those days where I didn’t feel great. The third trimester is like the first trimester revisited. You get tired, irritable, bloated, emotional, full of headache. I was also feeling a little stressed. I’ve been working like crazy to get ahead. Sometimes I get so distracted by work that I forget I’m having a baby, that in less than 10 weeks I’ll be working even harder to take care of a little person, a little person who will need me and nothing but me.

And other times, it hits me. At the most unpredictable moment, like when I’m sitting on the toilet.

There’s a little person in me, I said to Chris.

I started to picture a little person in my stomach, the person who is kicking all day long, who has some body part that scrapes by my belly button throughout the day. A living thing. A human. Breathing in me. Moving. Oh my god. The more I picture it, the more I start to freak out.

There’s a little thing living inside of me, I say again, a little more anxiety in my voice.

Chris doesn’t say anything.

THERE IS A LITTLE ALIEN IN MY BELLY.

I finally got his attention. Chris pops his head into the door:

Think of it like that alien is a little version of me.

That isn’t helping.

Finally I get up. About 5 minutes later I have to pee again but at this point we are on our way to BuyBuyBaby. I convinced Chris that if he didn’t go with me to choose an infant car seat and stroller I would….probably just bug him about it for the next few weeks. I’m getting a little antsy about the car seat. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m getting a little antsy about…oh, EVERYTHING. But the car seat right now has priority. See, you can get by without all of the other stuff. But you cannot even get out of the hospital with the baby without a car seat installed.

Now here’s where it gets tricky. Actually I don’t even know where to begin. But let me put it this way – buying a stroller is like buying a bike. They all have wheels but they are not all the same.

How is that possible?

You need only take a walk into BuyBuyBaby to see what I am talking about. There has to be roughly 100 different types of strollers, car seats, infant seats, umbrella strollers, jogging strollers, double strollers. I went there one night by myself and after a few glances my head was spinning like a stroller wheel. When I asked a clerk for help, she showed me a few strollers. The kicker was when she couldn’t figure out how to close the Graco. It was a sign – if she, who works here, can’t figure out it, how the heck will I do it?

Turns out no one that worked there actually knew anything about strollers.

Awesome.


I decided to never go about that alone again so this trip to the store, I took Chris. Actually, I’m more worried about what he thinks of the stroller than what I’ll think. I know I’ll be doing most of the pushing but even if it’s a piece of highly unmaneuverable crap, I’ll get by. I just spent 10 months in a highly unmaneuverable body. Chris on the other hand has the world’s shortest fuse when it comes to things that don’t work the way they should. Given enough frustration, he very well could send the stroller airborne across a parking lot.

In 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of things take flight.

On this night, I almost watched the Graco get thrown across the store. It’s not that he couldn’t fold it up, it’s that he couldn’t get past the whole idea of why you would need or want to positions for the handle. He puts the handle forward then moves it back. Forward and back. And then he didn’t like how the infant seat didn’t snap in right away. To express this, he demonstrated how it wouldn’t snap about 10 times just to be sure I got the point. I told him he could move on to a different stroller. To make his point he showed me again how it DID NOT work.

NOTED. Now please – move – on.

We spent some time playing around with a Chicco stroller and both really liked it. It was easy to use, easy to fold and intuitively it’s design made sense. I was test strolling it up and down the aisles, making quick stops and sharp turns when I noticed Chris by a much more expensive stroller, the UppaBaby.

I FIGURED OUT HOW TO DUMP THE BABY OUT, he shouts.

Oh dear. I wheel myself and the stroller over to Chris and find him in a tussle with the Uppa Baby bassinet. He’s trying to figure out how to detach it from the stroller itself, pulling at it, clearly getting frustrated when he finally stood up and said:

We are not getting this.

That’s ok, I didn’t think we needed to spend 800 dollars on a stroller anyways.

AND WHAT IS WITH THE STUPID FOOT REST?

At this point, the clerk checked in on us to see if we were doing ok. We’re fine, just testing these things out. She hovered close and I couldn’t blame her. We were touching everything and bound to break something. I just hope we break something cheaper than the Uppa Baby.

We settle on the Chicco. Next up was finding the infant car seat base. You thought buying a bike was expensive? Just wait until you piece out a stroller. There’s the stroller itself which may or may not turn into something you can use beyond when the child is 32 pounds. Then there’s the infant seat which you need for when they are below 32 pounds. Sometimes it comes with the stroller, sometimes not. Then, there’s the base you need to go into the car. When all is said and done, you can expect to pay upwards of 400 dollars.

And that is for an inexpensive one!

Getting the infant seat into the base was easy. Getting it out – was a mystery. We pressed every orange button and pulled at every latch until finally Chris took the entire system over to the clerk who simply pulled at a handle and released it.

We found the one clerk this time who actually knew something.

Before we made our final decision, we had one very important thing left to consider.

Is the basket below the stroller big enough for Boss?

Yes.

SOLD.

Driving home, Boss jumps into Chris’ lap. Yes, we drive around with our dog in the car. He loves it. Anyways, I tell Chris to please keep Boss in his lap that way we even out the distribution of living things. He’s got one in his lap and so do I. At this point, Max is kicking my belly button again. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels awkward. Imagine someone scraping the inside of your stomach.

And then it hits me…..

I think we should duct tape Boss to your stomach for a day so you can see what pregnancy feels like.

Boss, who absolutely adores Chris, looks at me with oh boy can we, can we, huh, can we I really like Chris and really want to be as close to Chris as possible please oh please tape me to Chris! While Chris looks at me like…

No way.

Speaking of Boss, to prepare him for life with Max we took him out for a stroll the other night. A friend gave us an Ironman jogging stroller and we got the infant adaptor for it. We went out to Herrick Lane, brought the stroller and put Boss in the basket below it. Yes, we wheeled an empty stroller with a dog in the bottom of it around the lake. I ran a few steps to see how it rolled and I really liked it. Boss hung out in the bottom literally hanging his head out and looking at everything pass by.

I think we’re ready. Or getting closer to ready which is good because I’m one week closer to giving birth to this little alien…9 more weeks go to!

Friday, May 14, 2010

That Bag

I’ve started to assemble things for my hospital bag.

The hospital bag is that bag your husband grabs in a moment of OH SHIT THE BABY IS COMING as you waddle and contraction your way to the car wondering what the hell is taking him so long.

That bag.

I’ve heard that you should have this bag ready to go around week 36. Well, I’m a little bit of an organizer, a planner and since my world is about to be turned completely upside down I would like to at least maintain the illusion of being prepared by having the freakin’ bag ready.


The other night, I made a trip to Target to gather some things for the bag.

I didn’t get very far.

Only because I didn’t really know where to start. I remember reading a few things in books and the only things that stood out to me were: chapstick and toothpaste.

Have you tried buying chapstick lately? Don’t. It’s the paradox of choice. There were so many choices I just wanted to not choose at all. In the end, I picked the purple stuff. Because I like purple which is always the best reason.

The toiletries were next. I couldn’t decide which soap would make me the happiest so I picked three different kinds. I like things to be clean (yes, I know, that with a baby in my world I’m going to be….screwed) so I admit I have a soap problem. I also know that if I have to wash my hands with hospital soap I will spend the entire time smelling my hands in medicinal horror and probably won’t be able to deliver the child because how can I welcome him into the world with these hands!?

I cruised down the aisle of feminine hygiene. There’s an oxymoron when we’re talking about delivery. I have a feeling I’m going to see things come out of me that I wish I didn’t. I’ve heard those things keep coming out of you for much longer than you want long after delivery. So I grabbed a package of the most absorbant giant pads I could find. These will be a party in my pants.

(though I’ve since learned that Depends makes pregnancy diapers – I might be getting them)

And what to put those pads in? You guessed it. Those hip hugging wretched granny underwear. I have no shame, I bought them from Target. I’m not about to spend any more than 3 bucks on something I’ll probably wear once and ruin. And if I don’t ruin them, after this whole experience I will be burning them along with my maternity pants.

Everyone keeps telling me to bring sweatpants but I don’t own a pair. I just can’t. Something about sweatpants screams middle-aged man wearing white Reeboks to me. I settle on pajama pants but I have to confess – none of mine fit. And the only pair that Target had was bright pink with tea kettles on it.

I almost bought it knowing that I’ll need some comic relief. Me + pink + tea kettles….THNK ABOUT IT.

When I got home I realized that I didn’t get very far with packing my bag. So, I did what anyone does when they are seeking valuable advice – I posted the question on Facebook. What do I need to pack in the bag that I bring to the hospital. Immediately I got oodles of responses from the once pregnant, now pregnant and never been pregnant but always have something to say.

But the most brilliant was from a man: “BRING CHRIS!”

I had to laugh when someone suggested we bring the XBox. I’ll give Chris the choice – either he OR the Xbox can come to the hospital. Not both. I cannot stand the XBox. It never used to bother me because he had it in the basement and I don’t really care what goes on in the man cave. It’s his subterranean hangout where he can drink beer, get chain grease on the walls, bring out his electronic level or play XBox. Then one day I came home and found it in the living room.

What is that doing here?

Turns out he needed to be near the internet so he could play a game connected to the rest of the world. And this explains why I found my husband on the couch, wearing a headset talking to other grown adult men about a….video game.

This went on for weeks. Every night. He would occasionally say something to the guy. I got used to the sounds of him shooting, the sound of the video game man talking, the sound of the game ending every time he died. And I realized he was dying a lot.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.

You really suck at that game.

I KNOW!

Then why do you keep playing it?

I DON'T KNOW! I need to turn it off.

Went on like this for weeks.

Back to packing my bag. It occurred to me that I needed to make a list: bring comfortable clothes, clothes for baby, blanket for baby, toiletries, books, nightgown…wait a minute…nightgown (?) (this is what happens when your mom is on Facebook), laptop, make up, the Boppy, lollipops, socks, snacks, your own pillow, a much larger than you think you’ll need nursing bra, snacks, cell phone charger, slippers and lanolin.

After reading all of the things I needed to bring, I realized that I didn’t need a bag, I needed one of those giant suitcases with wheels. A few of them. And a large burly man to carry them.


What about clothes for me? I’ve heard that you still look 5 months pregnant after delivery. What the heck am I going to wear? What will fit me? Forget me – what about the baby!?! Now we already have a going home outfit for Max but then I thought to myself – what if it doesn’t fit? What if he doesn’t like it? Should I bring something else? Then I worried I didn’t have enough swaddling blankets. What if he poops through one of them? What if I don’t get to do laundry for weeks? What then? I added more blankets to my list.

Then I made a list of things I need in the house – frozen peas to ice the hooha (please, if you ever come to my house DO NOT EAT THE FROZEN PEAS), ibuprofen, birth control for the next 18 years, baby toiletries. Oh my god – what kind of toiletries do babies need? What if Max has my obsession with soap? How am I going to afford two soap freaks in the house?!

Of course all of this is me thinking and worrying ahead. And why not. It’s getting damn close. Still far away but here’s the deal about babies…they can come at any time. I have this fear of him deciding at 36 weeks that enough is enough. If he’s anything like me, he’ll get bored with waiting and take action for himself. Tunnel his way out of the cervix and shout to the world: I’M READY. The other night at 11:17 pm he started kicking me like he wanted out (and in my half sleepy state I had this fear of what if he kicks his way out!)

So…I’m not really sleeping much lately.

There are times in pregnancy when you start thinking ahead. You realize this is not something that lasts forever. Assembling the hospital bag is one of those times. It has to be done. Which means this will come to an end. It’s almost easier to be pregnant. The baby has everything it needs inside of you. And you can maintain some semblance of normal life. But as it gets closer, it gets more real. As it gets more real, I get more scared. But that’s a good thing. A little fear keeps us honest and present.

But just in case I probably should pack my confident eyes and my big girl pants.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Week 30 Is Here

It’s official.

The towels at the gym no longer fit around me.

Welcome to week 30 of pregnancy.



Here I am from the front. At first glance, I have you fooled. I’m not pregnant. Except for the fact that my legs have grown 10x their original size.

Then I turn to the side.


There’s no mistaking. I am very very pregnant.

On Monday night I was walking into the pool with Chris after having a particularly pregnant day. In pregnancy there are days you forget you are pregnant (rare), days you feel mostly pregnant (frequent) and days you feel superbly pregnant (increasing in number now that I have reached the third trimester). I couldn’t breathe (oh who needs to breathe anyways), I haven’t crapped in three days (nothing spells FUN like constipation!) and earlier that day it occurred to me that soon I might need to call in back up for some help with wiping.

I realize that’s a little over the top of me to say that but I am sure most have-been or currently-are pregnant women can agree. I could use some GoGo Gadget arms right now.

The cure for all of that? Giving birth. Unfortunately, I have 10 weeks left. The next best cure – swimming.

In the locker room, I get into my swimsuit. I am at the point where the suit easily goes up to my belly. But getting it up and over the belly requires a deep breath and a lot of pulling. I’ve even considered asking someone else for help. Everything takes so much longer when pregnant. Putting things away, putting things on. Plus you never feel fully put together. I always feel like something is missing or sticking out. Whether it is a chunk of ass, a rogue boob or….I walk past the mirror.

Oh no….I didn’t even think to look down there.

This is where it gets graphic. Boys, children under 13, mom, please tune out.

Listen, there is a lot of land mass below the belly that requires maintenance. Know what I mean? You got legs, thighs, things need maintaining. For awhile I could actually see the southern hemisphere. Sure, it involved mirrors and a midget (KIDDING!), but I could at least get the job done. Now there are parts of me that are totally eclipsed and might not be seen again for the next few months. But it’s not like I can just let things go feral. I won’t be THAT woman at the pool.

Let me tell you about shaving when pregnant. It’s sort of like driving a plow into a cornfield with a paper bag over your head. You're not sure where or how much but you know that by the time you're done, SOMETHING is going to be missing.

Any time I go to the gym and don’t want to swim, every lane is empty. Any time I go to the gym and want to swim – every lane is double stacked. Chris plants himself at the end of a lane to pull a move we call “the hover”. You hover at the end of a lane making the person swimming so uncomfortable that they can’t help but rush their workout. Even better, the “double hover” involves two people sitting at the end of the lane waiting. The hover works about 50 percent of the time. The other 50 percent, you are up against your toughest enemy yet – a woman doing breaststroke with a foam noodle for an hour straight.

She has better endurance than you, Ironman. Trust me.

I’m in no mood to pull the double hover tonight so instead I carefully land myself to wait by the edge of the hot tub. Some days this type of landing requires the kind of acrobatics you see in Cirque de Soleil – it’s quite a sight and one that has all eyes in the hot tub watching the very pregnant girl try to sit down. Finally landed, I dangle my feet in the hot water.

No sooner did the mousy looking man on the opposite side of the hot tub come water walking up to me.

Are you about to have a baby?

Of all the things I could say. Of all the things I want to say but I’m just too damn big and tired to pull something witty out of my growing ass so all I can think of is…

Yes.

When is the baby due?

Late July.

Oh late July, it’s going to be summer then and really, really hot. I bet you’ll be really uncomfortable.

I bet in two seconds I’m going to grab a foam noodle from the corner, beat you silly with it and you’ll be uncomfortable. Unfortunately that would require me to stand up and since it took about 2 minutes to get down on the floor like this I’m not about to get up just yet.

I've heard it's uncomfortable.

You don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl?

It's a boy.

Maybe the next one will be a girl.

Maybe you should just….the next one? WHO said anything about the next one!?!

(I just laugh here)

Finally, I decide to throw it back to him. Not because I wanted to talk to him but because I wanted him to stop asking me questions.

Do you have any kids?

No.

So, you, a man with I’m assuming no ovaries, is giving me, a woman with highly functional ovaries, advice on how to give birth from no experience whatsoever, not even osmosis by once pregnancy wife. Brilliant.

But I have nieces and nephews.

Which is clearly the same as giving birth to a child.

I’m not married.

I didn’t ask. But for the record – it doesn’t surprise me.

But one day I will get married and I’ll have a family.

That’s what they all say.

There's someone for everyone.

I won’t go after a married woman, though.

PRESS THE PANIC BUTTON. I’m now convinced, you're f*ckin' crazy! I’m all alone here, unless you count the old woman in the purple suit who might be having intercourse with one of the jets in the hot tub but I stopped looking after the last contortion of her body.

HELP!

No, I think it’s inappropriate to go after a married woman. That’s not a good thing.

I am realizing now, there is something wrong with this man. VERY wrong. And may I say that is it just my gym or do the very wrong people seem to flock to the hot tub like it’s their mothership?

Perhaps my husband heard my psychopathic distress call because he walks over to me. I give him that look like help a pregnant woman up and out of here NOW. He does – and we head out to swim.

I tell Chris to share the lane with the guy doing fly and I’ll share with paddles and pull buoy in the other lane. Chris actually knows them both. By name. He introduces me as his wife and tells them that I’m having a baby. In case they couldn’t see the oh so obvious. They were both so gushing about it.
You’ll love it, that is so great, I bet you’re having the time of your life.

The time of my life? No. Actually, I’m having the indigestion of my life. The time of my life involves a bottle of red wine, perhaps a few cowboys, maybe even some midgets – this, however, is not that time.

I share a lane with one of the guys. He is so accommodating. Will I be in your way? I think the real question is will I be in your way. Look at me. My circumference might cross over the lane line at some point. I then proceed to have what had to be the world’s worst swim. Swims are usually slow but this one went to a whole new level of slowness and discomfort. I had to single-side breathe because I couldn’t breathe. Plus I was swallowing so much water from the other side of the lane that I stopped at the wall hacking so bad a man in the deep well asked if I was ok.

Get the shepherd’s hook, and an assist. It’s going to take two of you to pull me out of here.

3200 yards of stubborn I will finish this later, I take a shower and realize that the gym towels no longer fit around me. Well that’s just great. I’m now that woman revealing what might be badly plowed corn rows to the entire women’s locker room.

How is it that pregnancy can be this sexy?

Back at home I look in the mirror. I am pregnant. Very. And I need a haircut. Badly. I want to cut my hair. It’s grown too long. I read somewhere that you should never get a haircut in pregnancy because you don’t want a new look, you just want to not look pregnant. I’m there. I decide that maybe I should consider myself too pregnant to make decisions so I ask Chris if I should get a haircut.

I like your hair.

WRONG ANSWER! (are you seeing a pattern of asking things of your husband when pregnant – any answer is the wrong answer)

At some point, every pregnant woman gets to this point – you just want to look and feel attractive. Everyone tells you “you look great” but what they mean is that all things considered (ie., 25 pounds of weight gain, swollen ankles, giant belly) – you look great with all of that. Which really means that you look good for looking bad.

Add insult to injury: to confirm how “great” and attractive I look right now, Chris just invited Boss over for a conjugal visit tonight.

(true conversation)

So, Boss, you got a bath today and you’re all clean?

(this is where Boss bats his eye lashes and says yes)

Maybe you can sleep in bed with me tonight. How would you like that?

(this is where Boss heads upstairs and puts on his best lingerie)

Chris and Boss then have one of their bizarre make out sessions on the couch where Boss starts licking Chris and Chris sticks out his tongue over and over again at Boss.

Are you letting Boss lick your mouth? That’s disgusting.

His tongue is cleaner than mine. I saw it on Mythbusters. They proved it.

Well call up Mythbusters and ask them to prove how long it takes until a pregnant woman declares herself too big, too unattractive, too pregnant to deal with the rest of the world. My guess is that it’s somewhere between 32 and 36 weeks (I’m guessing that after week 36 you get almost like the last 6 miles at Ironman – you know you’re going through them but don’t exactly remember them, you just run like hell to the finish line).

As you can tell, I’m adapting well to the third trimester. There’s only 10 weeks left which both relieves me and scares the shit out of me.

(which given my latest bout with constipation is not necessarily a bad thing)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sidelines

Saturday morning, I headed out to a local run race to spectate. Despite the glorious spring we’ve been having, Chicago weather shit upon us a brisk morning of 40-something temperatures and gusting to 35 mph winds. Needless to say, when the alarm went off at 5:30 am I was thinking to myself that I could pull the pregnancy card, lay in bed until Chris gets home from the race and stay warm.

I didn’t play that card. I’m saving it for something really bad – like taking Boss out in the pouring rain or taking the grandma-in-law grocery shopping (three stores for three items, no kidding) or doing anything other than what I want after week 36 of pregnancy.

I’ll admit that being around a race when you can’t race is a little rough. Last year was different – I was so burned out mentally and physically that I didn’t want to race. I was happy to be spectating until Clearwater when I declared myself officially done as a spectathlete. Little did I know at that point I was already pregnant and about to spend another year on the sidelines. Although I have a darn good reason for spectating this year, I feel like I’ve been spectating for two years now, separated from doing what I really want to do. To say that I’m hungry would be an understatement. Frothing at the mouth might describe it better.

There’s something about a running race that makes me want to get out there – no matter how cold or hilly it is – put on a pair of shorts, a jog bra, throwaway gloves, race flats and run like hell. The course was monster hilly which is my favorite type of course. I can’t wait to suffer on hills again. I watched the runners line up at the start line, I could feel the energy. In a few moments, they will be stewing in the lactic acid of likely going out to hard and then flirting with the edge of redline up and down the hills.

Awesome. I want to be there.

A woman starts talking to me. She takes a huge risk in asking if I’m pregnant. I know, I hide it well (have you seen me!??!!). Complete stranger and I now involved in personal discussion about all things pregnancy. I love being pregnant. Anyways, we continue talking until the 1-minute countdown begins. Before she jogs away she says, oh, you’ll come back faster you know.

She says she doesn’t know why or how but you come back faster. Physiologically I know the why. But psychologically I am learning the how. You don’t hold back for 10+ months without getting a little hungry. You don’t stand on the sidelines without feeling something ignite in your legs.

The start gun goes off and just like that – they are gone. All of them, heading out on the first mile towards a monster hill. I consider what to do with myself for the next 10 miles. And realize I need to make another trip to the porta-potty.

I’m ready for the pregnancy diaper. Really, put it on me. Oh they don’t make them? Funny because they make about 2094023984092 different kinds of diapers for babies. Why not us pregnant women? You don’t think we have a need too?

While athletes were out there chasing personal records today, I was setting the personal record for most visits to the porta potty in 60 minutes. I went 6 times. SIX TIMES. I feel like all I do lately is live in between bathroom breaks. You know you’re pregnant if you walk into a store or any building and the first thing you ask – where’s the bathroom. It’s getting ridiculous. And made me think –would a diaper be such a bad thing?

To pass time, I walked along the I&M Canal. It was quiet and desolate with only the sound of the wind and the river rolling by. I thought about running (how I miss it), racing (how I miss it), being able to walk 10 minutes without having to urinate again (also, missed). But I know all of these things will come back soon enough. I am getting to that point in pregnancy where I am starting to look ahead to transitioning back to a normal life. Well, not really “normal” but at least not toting around another person in my belly or taking a deep breath before I tie my shoes.

When I have quiet moments like this, I think about what I want to do next year in sport. I find that something always pops into my head; a goal, a race. I want to get back to racing. There are things I still have left to do. I've won races, been a national champion but I haven’t been a world champion. I find myself saying it out loud: I want to be a world champion. I threw it out there. That’s how it starts. You throw it out in the universe. When something is said, it becomes possible. It might take me 10 years to get there but…I want to try. I don’t care who hears what I’ve just said or what they think. When I started caring, I started overthinking, trying too hard which then led to failing. The best athletes only have tunnel vision. They don’t see the peripheral. Who is next to you or what they are saying/doing/thinking is irrelevant.

Only look ahead.

I store that thought away and know that come late summer, after dozens of thoughts like this, I’ll have a solid idea of what I want to chase next year. I know I’ll be busy and tired and life will change but…I owe it to myself to make the time. It’s easier, of course, to just give up, to throw away the idea at all and settle for the new life. But I look at other women and see that indeed they not only come back faster but more focused, hungrier and driven.

I can now see why.

I go back toward the race and watch the runners cross the 6.25 mile mark. I’m directing them on the course now to make a right turn and it feels good to be back in the mix of the race energy. I see Chris running and recognize his I’m-having-a-good-run form. I see Kara leading the race and know how good it feels to be in complete control and winning. I see Jill proving to herself that she can eat the hills over and over again. It fires me up to watching them winning their own personal race, it fires me up for returning to racing and getting after it out there again.

Only a few more months to go. I’ll get there.

Awhile later, the lead male runner is making his way down the finish lane. It’s straight into the wind and his legs turnover and tear up the pavement. He’s held under a 5:20 pace for the duration of 10 miles of hills and wind. He doesn’t wear a fancy racing kit or the latest greatest in shoe technology. Running races are raw like that. It’s you, your shoes and your legs. No expensive equipment. No complaints about it being too windy – you just run into it. Or the course being long – you just run until the course runs out. Your time is your time. The winner will be he/she who can hurt the hardest from the gun and hang on. That’s what real racing is about.

After the race, Chris and I talk. He did the race today to remember how to hurt. Breaking through hurts. It is easy to forget that. If you’ve come back from injury, spent time away from the sport – when you come back you realize how hard it is to relocate your rhythm of success. Finding flow takes months if not years of discordant pain and thoughts, this is the rhythm of hurt you need to learn before a performance feels “effortless.”

Sometimes you need a race to put you in the position of learning how to hurt again. The biggest risk I see with athletes is the risk of complacency – of always training by themselves and thinking that they are giving it enough. Or, not going over the edge of hurt because it’s hard to convince yourself to go there and...it freakin' hurts! When you get complacent, start racing more. You’ll find out you can always give it more and go faster. You’ll learn, quick.

Chris picked off a few runners in the final miles today. It wasn’t easy but he paced it well and mastered the mental game. He said when you’re in a running race and the guy next to you is driving you nuts because he’s there, he’s breathing, he’s not letting up, rather than focusing on him, look ahead. Look ahead to the next guy or the next mile because that’s where you want your energy to go.

Always look ahead. It’s a metaphor for racing, running, for life, right? I’m sitting here stuck in month 7 of pregnancy feeling sometimes like it’s a sentence. Other times like my life sentence has just begun. Know what I mean? For all of the beauty and excitement of pregnancy, at times it can be filled with fear and I want to go back, NOW. Turn the car around.

Life doesn’t go in reverse. Nor does a race. Remember, when you cross the line it’s doesn't matter the weather, how perfect your training was or what you could have done. All that matters is what’s you did. I could sit here in pregnancy woeing myself for all I can’t do, the 1000 trips to the bathroom every day or I could look ahead and know that when I get out of here, out of this body, I’m going to take 10+ months of fire and train smarter, race stronger and only look ahead.

And of all the things I am looking forward to – not visiting the bathroom every hour, not wearing elastic panel pants - I cannot wait to learn how to hurt again and if it takes months or years to get back to the rhythm of success, I want to get there. That’s what it takes to be a champion. Do I have what it takes? Screw what anyone else thinks or says, I want to find out. I’m not only looking ahead to it but looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

My Baby

The other day, I had my 28-week appointment.

FINALLY! You see, I’ve waited 4-weeks to drink that dayglo orange space juice in a bottle that they gave me at the last appointment. Pure dextrose. Or sugar. Something hyper like that.

According to the instructions, I had to consume it 30 minutes before my appointment. 30 minutes before my appointment I was lifting weights after ellipticizing. Good timing! I need loads of sugar after ellipticzing like a madwoman at 9 mph. Oprah got me all fired up today. Not really but sometimes it’s better to pretend when you’re on a machine that goes NOWHERE.

I drank it. Then I waited for something magical to happen.

Waited. Waited.

Nothing.

I was expecting to run crazy laps at 9 mph around the indoor track. I think I made it 5 minutes at an 11:30 pace. This was NOT the effect I was hoping for!

I headed to the office. My blood pressure keeps getting lower. I’m not sure what that means but I suspect my body has adapted to pregnancy as its now natural habitat. Eviction notice comes 2-weeks post July 28th, body, so get ready to change habitats.


Then I got weighed....

Yikes! I never thought I would see a scale say THAT!

I headed off to the ultrasound technician next. The technician commented that Max was very active and crammed up by my ribs. Which explains why I’ve been feeling something there for the past few days! Get out of my ribs, kid! I can’t swim with you up there.

Max’s head measures 2 weeks bigger than his gestational age. I suspect that means nothing but get a little scared because that big head has to come through my small pelvis. And it’s a one way street – once it starts coming out, there’s no turning back. I hope he grows into his head.


She measured and pointed out everything else – kidneys, bladder, stomach, brain, heart. Is there anything more amazing than watching the four chambers of the heart pulse with the life of your child inside of you? The answer, I think, is no. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been in the world, what you’ve seen. Life living and growing inside of you is something that cannot be matched.

Apparently Max is kicking me like crazy. The tech asks if I can feel it. Honestly, no. Then he gives me a massive dolphin kick to the stomach.

Did you feel that big one?

Yes.

And just as he kicked, she snapped a shot of both feet.




Perfect feet and perfect little profile. Of course, even my baby's poo will be perfect because that's just how parents feel.

Today Max’s heart rate is high – 162 bpm. Maybe it was all the sugar. Maybe Oprah got him all riled up too. He was then measured for weight. He comes in at 2 pounds and 8 ounces, in the 49th percentile.

This means I am not birthing a gorilla. What I have is a very averaged sized baby.

A few profile pictures and he even sticks out his tongue. He’s busy as can be inside. Flipping all over the place. I have a feeling we’re going to have to put Max out in the backyard with Boss to run crazy laps every night. Sitting still already does not seem to be in his vocabulary.

At 28 weeks, you also give blood for a few things. To test the presence of antibodies. Since I already have them, that’s one less vial of blood to give! A gestational diabetes screening. A test for anemia and a blood cell count. As the nurse draws blood, I make myself look at the needle. It’s time to get used to all things bloody, needly and painful. Face it, Liz. In 12 weeks you’re going to have all sorts of things sticking into you and coming out of you.

The doctor came in and talked with me. Remember the depression screening I had to do in week 12? I had to take another one – just in case pregnancy was getting me depressed. Why, there’s nothing depressing about being 25 pound heavier, wearing elastic pants and wondering if you’ll ever run below 10 minute mile again.

I passed the test.

I’m all healthy. I heard the baby’s heart beat, my uterus was 3 inches above my belly button (GO UTERUS!), and my urine is clean. I’m not sure what they were looking for but clean urine, as an athlete, is always a good thing.

The third trimester certainly is a lot of doctor’s visits. I have to go back every 2 weeks to go through this all again? Can’t I just call when my water breaks or something? No. I go back every 2 weeks. As an added bonus, because I am having a geriatric pregnancy (I will be 35 on the due date, good timing), I get to go in weekly starting at week 36 for a stress test. Apparently I get to sit in a big chair while they put a monitor on me for 30 minutes every week to monitor fetal stress. This is something us geriatrics get to look forward to.

Now, who’s going to help an old woman out of the big chair?

At dinner, Chris and I talked about the appointment and all things pregnancy over chicken and waffles:

I’m getting annoyed with people asking me how I feel. How am I supposed to feel other than pregnant?

I’m getting really annoyed with people asking me how you feel, he said.

Tell them I feel pregnant.

We talked about all of the advice people give about parenting and pregnancy, the comments, the questions. I told him try wearing this costume and see what people say. People see a pregnant belly and feel compelled to say something. Like your life will never be the same. Really? Huh. You think that might be why I’m having a geriatric pregnancy, because I waited all those years I didn’t want life to change. Or how about how do you think your dog will react to the baby. Let me send in the pet psychic to find out. How the hell should I know! It’s a freakin’ dog – he doesn’t talk to me about his feelings!

I know people mean well and that it’s only begun. The real free advice begins after the baby is born when everyone tells me how to care for and raise my baby.

Can’t wait.

And I don’t have to wait much longer. Less than 12 weeks! In the meantime, I’m thinking of administering a depression screening to my dog to see how he feels about the baby. Maybe talk about his true feelings.

Enter: Boss (depressed)



Clearly, I need to send him to doggie psychotherapy to work any issues out. Do a little role play. Ok, Boss, pretend I’m the baby. And then it hits me – like Boss marks everything else in his little doggie world, he will probably mark the baby and say, very clearly…

MY BABY.

Boss also can't wait.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Destination: Maternity Clothes

I need new clothes. New shirts, new pants, new underwear – all of it, new. Pregnancy is hell on your wardrobe. In fact, when you get pregnant, after week 16 take all of your old wardrobe, box it up and pray that you get to see it again. Bury it with a statue of St. Joseph just to be safe.

There is no physical way possible to squeeze into what you used to wear once you are into the third trimester. Oh, I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. I thought, but I’m small, I won’t show that much. Bullshit. Watermelon, snake who ate a goat, waiting for the rest of the planets to orbit around me are all terms that have been used to describe the current state of my belly. Give me 7 months in pregnancy and now I’m convinced that I’m going to get bigger than anyone else because where the hell else is the baby going to go! I’m a frontloaded machine right now. Loaded with about 25 extra pounds of…good god I don’t even know what any more. All I know is that if I don’t buy new clothes I’m going to have to start walking around naked.

Which reminds me – you should also remove all mirrors from your bathroom after week 24.

I’ve joined the flub flub club. There is no place where it doesn’t live on my body right now. It’s there. I showed it all to Chris the other night and rather than giving the correct answer – I don’t see anything – he said, it will come off, you’ll see!

WRONG ANSWER! WRONG!

My old pants go up to about mid thigh when they stop at the major barricade of flub that has settled around my hips. Either that or my pelvis is migrating outside its current zip code. In any case, the old pants no longer fit this new body. What used to be “big” capris on me are now calf sleeves.

...approaching compression calf sleeves.

Speaking of compression, is it possible for your entire body to turn into a cankle? Does Skins sell a whole body compression sock? Something I can crawl into before bed like a sleeping bag that sucks out the 10 pounds of edema that find their way into my thighs by the end of every day?

As you can imagine, just getting dressed every day for ANY thing is now complicated. Pajamas, workout clothes, real life clothes – there’s a lot of stuff in my closet that no longer fits. I realized I was in trouble when my mom asked me if I was going to wear the same pair of pants for the next 3 months. AND WHAT IF I DO! You see, I have two pairs of maternity pants because I’ve been reluctant to go shopping for a maternity wardrobe. Shopping for new clothes, clothes that I might only wear for the next few months, seems so…do I really have to do this?

FINE. I’ll go.

On Saturday night, Chris politely offered (was coerced) to join me at the outlet mall. We were going shopping. For a new summer maternity wardrobe. The most frustrating thing about shopping when pregnant is that you never know. I bought some clothes back in week 20 thinking I would be a certain size. Turns out I am now bigger than that size. And those clothes fit for about 1 week. You just don’t know what size you’ll be or where the extra size will go on your body.

Lucky for me the outlet mall has a maternity store, Destination Maternity. Is this really a destination or more like a state you find yourself in after a night of too much to drinking on a Wednesday night which makes you think THIS is what I get for drinking on a weeknight! THIS! I arrive a destination maternity to find it chock full of all those weird things that pregnant women wear.

May I ask WHO out there is walking around in a t-shirt that reads “I love my bump, my bump, my lovely baby bump.” WHO ARE YOU!?

But all of those weird things – the shirts with the bunched up material sides or empire waists, those are the same things that now fit me. The funny pants with the panel that goes up over your belly. The same panel I looked at during week 16 and thought to myself there is no way I will ever wear that.

I’m wearing it now. And let me say – I highly recommend those pants. It’s like having a little girdle around your belly and holds the belly button in tight.

Let’s talk about maternity pants. YES, we have to! Maternity pants come in four sizes – small, medium, large, extra large. Can you see the irony in that? How can you be huge but still small. And how many babies does it take to put you into an extra large? How can it be that I am a … medium?

I go to try on the pants and see something hanging from the hook on the wall. What on earth is that – a black pillow with Velcro bands. Is this like a pillow you can attach to your hand in case you need to sit down in the dressing room for a nap? I mean, I know we as pregnant women are tired but that sounds….wait a minute….I realize what it is. It is a baby bump. You strap it around your stomach via Velcro bands to see what you’ll look like in a few weeks.

What if the Velcro bands won’t even go around me? What does that mean? Is that how you get into the extra large pants?


Underwear is next. I won’t go into too much detail but let me just say nothing makes you feel more like a wideload than the day you put on your underwear and think to yourself – oh, they must have shrunk in the dryer. Then you remember you line dry your underwear. The only thing shrinking is your….your….there’s nothing that shrinks on you in pregnancy. Let me assure you of that.

BRAS! I grab a size bigger than my old size and think – this will do! I get into the dressing room and can’t get it to fasten around my back. This will not do! The number 36 is now in my vocabulary. I come out of the store and tell Chris my new size and he starts looking for the extra four inches on my back. It’s not back there! Turn me around – those extra four inches are in my chest. And is it possible that my chest is growing into my armpit? Pretty soon I’m going to have those flabby triceps that wave when I wave my arm!

And when I do, will someone please WAVE BACK AT ME & MY TRICEPS!

Last week I also discovered that I need new workout clothes. Actually, someone pointed this out to me. I was in the locker room when my belly popped out from under my shirt and someone said “time for a new shirt?”

How I wish I could walk around the world telling people when THEY need new clothes!

I’ve been holding out on the workout clothes because…they are damn expensive! It’s bad enough that maternity pants can run upwards of $90. Add to that new running shorts, new tops, new jog bras, new swimsuit, that doesn’t even include the cycling gear. Which is the most expensive! You thought the baby was expensive. Try reoutfitting yourself. Every 4 weeks!

Someone suggested I start wearing my husband’s running shorts. There are a lot of things I will share with my husband. Food. A toothbrush. A towel. However I will not share running shorts. First of all, if you are a runner you know that bad things – VERY BAD THINGS – can happen in running shorts. Let me paint the picture: hot day, running low on water, 90 minutes into the run, too many gels, no bathroom in sight. Second of all, need I remind the world that my husband has a “history” with workout shorts?

CLICK HERE

I’ll take my chances with wearing my old shorts until at least 6 inches of crack are exposed thank you.

I bought a new swimsuit the other day. I’ve gone up three sizes. THREE SIZES! I feel most vulnerable in the pool. And the strangest thing is that in the pool everyone seems to be very comfortable with talking about my size. On one hand, you have someone tell you that you look great, cute, not that big! And then 20 minutes later someone else tells you – wow, you went from being really small to really huge. It’s the schizophrenia of feedback that you get from everyone else that totally baffles me about pregnancy. No other condition in life would generate this much talk about how you look. Good or bad.

To sum up, everything is getting better and the only thing getting smaller? My clothes. My hope that I will ever be the person I once was or how I once looked - you get farther away from it and think…will I ever get back there. And, if so, how? Where will I find the time? How about the willpower or even the energy?

A few weeks ago I was swimming with a woman with 5 kids under the age of 8. She’s a few years younger than me. She looks amazing. Seeing her reminded me that if you want to get back, you will get back. I see my friends who are fitter now and faster – if you want to get fit and fast, you’ll get there. If you want something bad enough, you’ll work at, you’ll find the time, your drive for it will be the energy you need.

I’m there. Really. Can we get a head start now? Must we go through the next 11 weeks? I feel like I’m at mile 80 of a 100 mile ride. So close to being done but depending on the wind and the hills – still so far away. Could be less than an hour left of riding. Maybe more. Could end up being overdue which would be like getting to the 100 mile mark and finding out you still have 14 more to go like that one year on Ragbrai where I found myself desperate in a Kum n’ Go with a can of cream soda and peanut butter crackers cursing Iowa for failing in basic math.


And let me just say that if I go past 40 weeks I'm going to need someone to buy me the shirt that says I love my baby bump.

In case I forget.