Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recovery Week

You do not need hamstrings for parenting …

And other advice on how to recover from a race and keep up with an 8-month old.

(SPOILER ALERT: you really can’t do this)

The minute I crossed the finish line in Alabama I knew that my legs would be barking for a few days. I could barely descend stairs. I had to use the bar that goes across the porta-potty door to get up from the porta-potty. Which also tells you that I actually had to sit on the porta-potty because my quads could not tolerate squatting.

It was that bad.

And 3 days later, to promote active recovery, I was easy spinning on my bike at 10 miles an hour and 47 watts (yes, it’s possible) when my hamstring cramped. Both of them. Noted, hamstrings. NOTED. I might actually recover if I could just sit down and recover. Unfortunately, my child has other plans.

Here’s the deal. Max has no idea that just 72 hours ago my legs were raging up and down hills. All he knows is that I am here and life goes on like it does every other day. There is crawling, babbling, napping, eating and giggling that must be done. And, he still cannot dress, wipe or feed himself. SIGH. But not surprising for a man, right? This makes for a lot of physical labor. And he’s getting heavy. 18 pounds. Have you any idea how hard it is to descend stairs with a squiggly 18-pound weight? I had to descend one foot, one step at a time. SIDEWAYS.

Keeping up with him has become a workout. He’s mobile, armed and dangerous. Armed with arms. Arms with little grabbing hands. Those are very dangerous things. And what about keeping up with his development? It doesn’t help that the other day I read somewhere that you should bathe your child in the language of 2100 words an hour. That is 35 words a minute. Some hours go by and I realize I’ve said….like three. 50 percent being “NO”.

It makes me think: am I keeping up with parenting? Am I on pace? I believe parenting is done at a pace of 5:17 per mile. Hmm. Maybe if I wear my racing flats around the house? Maybe I need to go back on the coffee. I am not beyond doping-enhanced parenting.

The moment we turnaround, we realize we haven't kept his pace. Today was the day we finally found Max eating kibble. 7 am, to Boss’ chagrin, Max made it to the food bowl first.

Does he have kibble in his mouth?

Sadly, yes.

Later in the day, after having a million fits of tears and screams because it’s much more fun to crawl around with yellow snot streaming from your noise than to just have the damn thing wiped, we had our first household knickknack casualty. Max – 1. Ceramic Teapot – 0.

Newborns sit still. They find great pleasure in laying on mats with colorful dangly things hanging over them. They can do this for long periods of time while you go on with your life. And then the child moves. Then you spend long periods of your time keeping them from putting shoes in their mouth, from eating plants and other mischief.

I’m learning that Max has, er, um, a lot of energy. No idea where that came from. If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you that I ate too many Power Bars during pregnancy. If you ask my mother-in-law, she’ll tell you that he is destined to be smart because of the shape of his forehead (don’t ask). Smart or not, I try to give him as many opportunities as possible to crawl, wiggle and move to get all of that energy out.

Enter: Diaper Dippers.

Every Monday night, Chris and Max do Diaper Dippers. They sing songs, they learn to swim. The first week, I did my swim while they attended class. I caught the end of it, watching Chris walk around the pool with Max on a kick board. It was really cute.

Arrive at this week. My “recovery” week where I’ve done nothing but spin on my bike at under 50 watts (Chris would have to pedal with one foot to accomplish that and his favorite thing to politely remind me of all the time is that he warms up at my threshold wattage. Moments like that I have nothing to throw back at him other than: I gave birth to your child. That should be enough.). With my extra time this week, I went to class to watch them.

Walking on to the pool deck, I noticed the sign with big black block letters that said NO SWIM LESSONS THIS WEEK. Spring break. Chris says he didn’t see the sign. Neither did another dad who showed up with his daughter. The moms out there know that this is something dad would do. Dads don’t see signs. Nor notes. Nor the closet full of hangers begging them to hang up their coat but instead they repeatedly throw it on the floor.

I told Chris they should swim anyways. Meanwhile, I'll sit on deck and take a thousand pictures of my kid. Yeah, I’m one of them.

Max learns to swim with the support of a foam barbell. And you thought they were just for the crazy women who don't want to get their hair wet! I notice he has a weak kick but take no genetic responsibility for that.

Here he is showing off the start of a killer butterfly stroke.

It's never too early to start doing press-ups!

Along with watching Chris and Max, I watched the other father and his little girl. He was probably mid-30s with a spiky hairdo, an arm tattoo and long board shorts. He looked cool. But then I realized at some point, all parents are cool. Somewhere in our teenage years they become uncool and then we spend the rest of our adult life relearning how cool our parents really are after all.

Something struck me though. Not the tattoo. Not the hair. Hmmm....

Board shorts.

I looked at him. I looked at my husband. There was my husband not in a Speedo but in something that you could just call shorty short butt huggers. Shorts designed for swimming speed at masters, not cover me up but keep me fashionable. Now, while my husband certainly has an incredible physique, it occurred to me that perhaps the rest of the general public might not be ready to see this. Better yet, might not need to see this.

At that moment, I realized how out of place this was. How terribly inappropriate and borderline perverse. My husband, in butt huggers, in the kiddie pool. Not only that, but what on earth must this other dad be thinking. He probably goes home to his wife to tell the tale of a father who showed up at the pool in something one degree away from a Tangerine Speedo.

Please get me a towel….la la la la.

Later that night, we had a talk.

Chris.

What.

(this is how every conversation opens up)

We need to talk about your shorts.

What about them.

You gotta get yourself a real swimsuit.

What do you mean.

Board shorts. You need some board shorts to wear into the pool because those shorty shorts that make you swim really fast for swim team are really inappropriate in the rest of the world.

Now my husband is the master of functionality. He has the side pocket of his gym bag labeled “FOO”. That means FOO-D (he lost the “D”) is in that pocket. It’s ok to laugh. I do, often. So to him, the suit he wears is a swimsuit and they are swimming. I explained to him the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way. Right now, you’re like the guy who shows up to masters with the really worn out soon that is baggy in all the wrong places.

The next day, Chris came home with a Target bag containing blue hibiscus board shorts. I won’t get into how dorky it is that he and Max have matching suits. I’m just glad he took the initiative to cover those butt cheeks up.

Turns out, my most difficult workout this week was not squatting on the pool deck to take incessant pictures of Chris and Max. Though that really hurt. It was not running on the elliptical for 45 minutes to give my crampy hamstrings some rest. It was story time on Thursday.

I’m convinced that some moms use story time as their workout. As if trying to figure out the mystery of how oats, peas, beans, and barley grow wasn't enough (do you know, does anyone know, because this freakin’ question is raised every single week and if I don’t get an answer soon I’m going to have to stop going to story time as the suspense is KILLING me), we do all sorts of rhymes and songs that require lifting the child up and down. Wobbling the child back and forth. Then we do this rhyme that involves the child bouncing up and down on our quads like riding a horse. At different speeds – jiggity jog, prance and a-gallop. I almost yiped during a-gallop as Max pounded my quads double tempo. I almost yelped as my right quad winced in pain when I had to get up from the floor while holding him.

I can’t say that parenting an on the go 8-month old is good for recovery but I’ve heard it could be worse. He could be walking. Which means I would be chasing. I’ve got at least another 2 months before that happens. Until then, it's compression socks, gentle stretching, taking straight up shots of whey protein powder after every race. After then, I might need a full body compression sleeve, a protein powder IV and a scooter to keep up.

Here’s to recovery!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting Warmer

This weekend was another whirlwind 36 hour travel-race-travel adventure.

Powerman Alabama

The next time I sign up for a long course duathlon, someone please pound my quads with a meat hammer and jump on my feet. Might be less painful. I’ve done Powerman once before, 5 years ago, in its kinder, gentler 8K/53K/8K format at the old venue. Now Powerman is true long course format, 10K/60K/10K, at a venue that shall be described as hilly.

Ridiculously, painfully, relentlessly hilly, that is.

Now, I previewed the race course by way of course maps, profiles and a race report. But when we actually drove the course I was a little confused. I either need to learn how to read a map or redefine what I considered hilly. I was expecting a rolling run and a hilly bike. What I found was a rolling bike and a very, very hilly run. Turns out that they changed the course. And that is why it’s good to always preview the course the day before the race!

I woke up race morning ready to go. I was excited. Months ago when I saw that this race was extra long and the long course duathlon national championship, I knew I wanted to do it. I love hills. I love long course. I love the challenge. I went to this race not because I needed to race – after all, no one needs to race something this long this early in the season - but because I needed to remember how hard it is to race. More on that later.

By the time we left, I had consumed roughly one quart of coffee and it was showing. I was edgy. You might say punchy. I think Chris was ready to leave me on the side of the road. We were running late. He wasn’t driving fast enough. Then he was driving too fast. They stopped us at the park guardhouse. They charged us a fee. I got lippy. I told him to put my bike together as fast as possible. He did and then commanded me to transition, ASAP. I didn’t blame him.

In my hurry, I walked past my rack in transition, then in a brilliant move, put my bike in reverse and walked backwards with it. I am many things on race morning, but I am not nimble. I tripped over the wheel and fell on top of my bike. Not only did I give myself a nice set of shin bruises, but I did this in front of the head referee. He picked up my bike and asked if I was ok. I probably should have been disqualified on account of being overcaffeinated and too impaired to ride a bike. How do you get road rash before the race?

I got body marked for the third time ever as F35-39. I’m not sure how I feel about that. In a southern drawl, the guy with the black Sharpie asked me my number. 20. Then in his southern charm he asked “is that also your age?” The proper response to that: I love you.

I warmed up and then made what felt like 100 trips to the porta potty. I think this is nervous? Finally, I had a talk with myself. There was no need to be nervous because I was confident. I knew what I could do. I knew my training, my goals. I had traveled all this way, left Max for a weekend, juggled life/work/workouts. In moments of weakness all we can see sometimes is our flaws and failures:I’m still carrying an extra 4 pounds, I’ve ridden outside twice since September. Believe in yourself, Liz. Yes you can.

The women started before the men. There weren’t many women but there were a few who I knew would be excellent competition. The first run started up a gradual hill then descended into a series of small ups and downs. My plan was to go out controlled and I did. There were three women ahead of me but I just stayed in control. Around mile 2, I found a good rhythm. My splits were good, my breathing was controlled. And we were about to approach the hill. Scratch that, the mountain.

When a race is staged in a park with “mountain” as part of its name – be warned. It is not flat. It may include a 1.5 mile segment that is entirely uphill at a not so nice grade. It took me 8 minutes, 11 seconds to climb that mile. I descended it two minutes faster. Going down chewed up my quads and would eventually spit them out just in time for a 37 mile bike. I was hanging in 3rd place until another woman ran the last ½ mile with me. She beat me to transition but I figured – this is a long day. Any race that takes over 3 hours requires patience. Give it time.

Lesson #1 of trying to get back to the top of age group racing: When you’re in the top 3 and someone makes a move, you don’t have time. If you’re there, and they’re there, you’re both good. You need to go with them.

The bike course went two directions: up or down. The hills were long yet subtle. Two of them required the small ring but otherwise you could power up them and then hang on for a fast descent. Up one of the first climbs, I overshot my gears and dropped my chain. I couldn’t get the chain back on so I had to dismount (it’s like I’ve never ridden a bike before, I swear), put the chain on while letting loose a series of cuss words before trying to mount on the hill to get going again. That error cost me nearly 2 minutes. When I hit the first turnaround, 2nd and 3rd place were 2 minutes ahead.

Lesson #2 of trying to get back to the top of age group racing: it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. If you’re going to race at this level, you need to be 100% on with no mistakes.

At each turnaround I knew where I stood. Sometimes I was gaining on the top 3 women, sometimes I was losing ground. I just couldn’t find that extra gear to power on towards them. It will come. In time. Until then, I keep chasing. I give it my best effort. I keep the pressure on myself.

Eventually, just about 30 minutes shy of what felt like forever, I got off my bike and my legs felt great. I was ready to run. I knew the next woman was about 3 minutes ahead of me and another was 3 minutes behind me. Lesson #3 of top age group racing: know your competition. Know where they are and what you need to do to get with them. 3 minutes seems like a lot but if this was a half Ironman, that’s less than 15 seconds per mile. Could you do that? Why not try? On this particular course, I very well could outrun someone by 30 seconds per mile and someone could outrun me by 30 seconds per mile. I was in a position that could go either way.

Climbing the hills the second time around wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I just had to stay strong. Right now I know I’m not the fastest one out there but I know that I’m strong – whether from past experience or life in general, right now my strength is my strength. I was strong but so was the woman behind me who kept gaining on me. I had a lot of conversations in my head to keep myself honest out there – can you give it a little more, are you willing to give up 4th place. More often than not, the answer was to pick it up the pace.

I went to this race with the goal of being top 3 in my age group. I finished 2nd. My stretch goal was to finish top 3 overall. I was 4th. One place closer than my last race. I’m getting warmer. Most of all, I held faster paces in both 10Ks than I did in the 5Ks a month ago. Progress. It is never, ever fast enough but as long as it keeps going in a forward direction, you’re on track.

But here’s what I learned: I forgot how hard it truly is to race. To compete, not complete. This year I’ve chosen challenging races because that’s who I want to race against. I know what I need to be able to do. And it is not easy. Will I get there? The exciting part about this year is that I will give it 110 percent to find out. I leave no stone unturned. Because I know that painstakingly turning over every goddamn stone IS how you get there. It’s not magical.

What does it take to get there? It’s not just fitness or equipment or consistency or efficient form or work ethic or mental fortitude or impeccable eating habits or excellent recovery – it’s all of that. All of that, all of the time and then putting it together in a race where you are 100 percent on. I don’t think many athletes appreciate how truly hard that is – reaching your goal is like a convergence of a million little things you did in hoping that they would all merge on race day for one big thing. That is why we only peak two to three times a season.

Today, I’m pleased. I get to check off another goal set and accomplished. Each check, each breakthrough training session gives me faith that yes I can. Confidence. Without confidence, there is no sense in even beginning the chase to the top. That’s what I’m also realizing. You need to first be sold on yourself to achieve big things. Confidence doesn’t come from your coach, your spouse, comments on Facebook, blogs or data. It comes from within. And when you start over again – after being out of the sport, after having setbacks, or babies or injuries – it’s not fitness that is hard to gain. It’s your confidence. It is very easy to get discouraged because you’re out there racing as a different version of the self. You have to convince yourself that though you have known defeat or failure, that those things do not define you. You have control over becoming who you want to become today no matter what has been your experience.

At some point this year, all of the pieces will come together. I know where and when I want that to be and also know I must be patient. I cannot accelerate my fitness but I can keep doing the little things that add up big. I’m willing to wait but more importantly, willing to work for it. Time for some recovery now and then it’s back to the training.

But even before that, I need to figure out how I’m going get up and down the stairs all week while holding an 18-pound weight. Considering I have to descend sideways one leg at a time right now, this is not an easy task!

Thanks so much for your continued support: TriSports.com, Recovery e21, Power Bar. Huge thank you to Meredith and Kevin for watching Max. And thanks to everyone for reading.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adventures

Two blogs in one week.

CONTAIN YOURSELF.

The other day I had another adventure in parenting.

Oh get your compression panties out of a bunch! This one is (remotely) about triathlon. Duathlon. Whatever. On Tuesday, I had a run-bike-run brick. Usually for workouts that involve a fuel plan, I call in the babysitter. Unfortunately, the babysitter was sick. Chris took the morning workout slot and I work in the city when he comes home from work. I only had the day.

Now, most of my days with Max have a routine. He wakes up, he eats, he poops, within one hour he goes back to bed for an hour. After that, he wakes up, eats, poops. See a pattern here? He then stays awake for about 3 hours. If I time it right, he will eat again and then take an afternoon nap of up to 3 hours before waking up to eat, poop, eat, take a bath and go to bed.

Sometimes he spends 16 hours of the day sleeping. It sounds like a lot. But when it’s combined with your sleep, your day, your meals, your work, your life, it turns out to never feel like enough at the right time. He goes to bed at 6:30 pm. I don’t. He wakes up at 6:30 am. I wish I didn’t. And all of this sleep rests on the delicate balance that I time it exactly right with other things. Things being: the FedEx guy doesn’t ring the doorbell. The dog doesn’t bark. I don’t accidentally drop a fork. Any good sleep requires a lot of quiet. During that time I don’t leave the kitchen table. Not even if I have to pee.

That is a small price to pay for alone time. Trust me.

In order to arrive at that afternoon nap absolutely exhausted and needing to sleep for – oh, say, 3 hours – I knew I needed to wear Max out. So, soon after second breakfast, we left the house for Lil’ Monkey Business.

Lil’ Monkey Business has to be the brainchild of some parent who lived through winter with a few squirrely kids climbing all over the house while screaming for no good reason at all. Which is usually the only reason kids scream. It’s an indoor playground of sorts, with climbing structures, slides, rope swings, a moon jump. You pay 5 bucks to get in, your kid plays, they are happy, you are happy.

But here’s where it gets brilliant: it’s a coffee shop. This is where Chuck E. Cheese gets it very wrong. The last thing I want to do is go to some crazy kid crack house where you have to continually feed machines tokens, eat lousy pizza and watch a bunch of life-sized scary as shit puppets sing bad songs. That might be fun for the kids, but its absolute hell for parents. At Monkey Business, there are no puppets, no tokens, no skeeball machines. There is coffee. Good coffee. We’re talking Seattle’s Best.

The front half of it looks like a totally normal this used to be my adult life coffee shop with tables, a barista, free WiFi. Yet a few yards away it’s complete pandemonium with kids running everywhere. I watched a few moms come in, unleash their kids into the play area then sit down themselves at the table with hot coffee and their laptop. I thought one thing:

This is stay at home/work at home Mommy Shangri-La.

Being our first time there, I was a little skeptical that Max would enjoy it. But then I took a lot around and noticed a separate baby area with about a dozen new things Max could put in him mouth. Perfect. Here’s my 5 bucks. And I’d like a medium decaf Americano. We’re in.

Max busied himself crawling and “building immunity” (mouthing everything within reach). Meanwhile, I look around; moms, my people, standing around with other moms. Moms with babies attached to themselves in harnesses, hanging off their arms, dangling at what looks like near death but every mom knows you can hold your kid like this for hours. Without dropping them. Some moms are playing with their kids, some are just talking to other moms. Others are sitting on benches drinking coffee and looking at their iPhones.


The half-walls surrounding the play area like a miniature prison wall were a graveyard of I’ll be back coffee cups. This is the only way you drink coffee as a mom. I’ll be back, coffee. You’ll be cold, but I’LL BE BACK.

I feel a strange sense of belonging, though I know no one. I realize I’m not alone. I’m not the only one wearing black yoga pants and a half zip top. I’m not the only one who finds my kid incredibly interesting yet at times I want to zone out into the adult land of my iPhone. I’m not the only one who considers going out for coffee an acceptable outing for the day.

We spend well over an hour there. Max gets whiny about 30 minutes into it but I tell him we’re going all the way. Pushing it to the limit. Tap into that genetically killer endurance, kid. I’m going to wear you out until you can’t help but fall asleep for 3 hours. So for the next 30 minutes, I put him in a plastic car and push him around until he either vomits or gets exhausted from the stimulation.


Max, "building immunity"

Back at home, it is time. Bottle and then sleep. For me, it’s two bottles for a run-bike-run. Then, by what had to be divine intervention combined with impeccable timing on my part, he falls right asleep. A moment later, I’m on the treadmill.

There have been times like this I’ve timed everything right only to have Max wake up – for no reason at all – during a set of intervals. I used to keep the swing by my bike for days like that, days where I’d bring him downstairs so he could see me and then sing to keep him happy while grinding out hard intervals. That’s not easy to do but it’s got to build lung capacity. There were days I got off the bike so many times I wondered what was the point. So I convinced myself it was like riding outside on a route with a lot of stoplights. I’ve ran at tempo pace while making funny noises, turned the swing to face the television to see if he too would be entertained by Keeping up with the Kardashians (answer: no) and done so many silly things to juggle my workouts and Max that I realized I have to be either totally committed or crazy to keep doing this. And then I realize what most people call crazy, I just call commitment these days. People say – how do you have the time. I say – if you want to do something badly enough, you find time. No matter what happens during the day, we always find a way. If you want it to get done – it will.

By some miracle, I finished the entire workout without a peep. I go upstairs and eat lunch. Not a peep. I take a shower, open the door – nothing. Blow dry my hair. Not a word. I even put on make up. Crickets. And then it occurs to me –

I should check to see if he’s breathing.

He is. And still sleeping. For over 3 hours. Work can wait. I take a rest. I think this is called “recovering”? Where you can eat, shower, and sit down after a workout without having to throw a Power Bar recovery bar and half the packet of Recovery e21* into your mouth before rushing to feed someone who is hanging by the threads of starvation if they have to wait one second longer.

Or at least that’s how the tears make it sound.

Eventually, he wakes up and starts chit chatting to himself. I go in there and the best part is that no matter what sort of ugliness I’ve done during his nap – big watts, tempo descends - I go into his room and it’s totally peaceful. He’s always thrilled to see me with a huge smile on his face. I see that smile and its instant relaxation. That is what I call recovery.

The next day, I had a hard run to do. Lucky for me, Chris came home at lunchtime. He gave me a 30 minute warning to get ready because the minute he walked in the door, I needed to be ready to bolt out to start my first interval. I may have warmed up doing crazy laps in the house. While waiting, I put on everything for running including my Fuel Belt. As I fed Max, I thought to myself – it’s totally normal to feed your baby while wearing a Fuel Belt, right?

Right?

No sooner did I finish my run than Chris went right back to work and I spent the next few hours in my run clothes (some days I just stew in my own squalor) while being mom. There was no post-workout ice bath, nap, recovery smoothie. I put a scoop of whey protein into a glass of water and shot it down. I would have much rather taken a shot of tequila straight up. For many reasons (taste, pain management, to make the rest of the day that much more exciting). But I haven’t read any research supporting the use of post workout tequila. Yet.

I should be my own test subject.

The day was over when Max went to bed but an important part of my day had just begun. I do a lot of work between the hours of 7 and 10 pm. I’d love to stay up later but by 6:30 am, it happens all over again. Some call it life, I call it a daily adventure in parenting. It’s certainly not the hardest job in the world (I mean, I’m not fishing for crabs in Alaska, that’s tough shit) and I only have one child so all of this is relative (the woman next to me at story time with the 5 kids said the kid in her lap doesn’t nap – EVER). But it feels like a solid adventure that bumps up against my threshold from time to time.

Like any good training!

Right now, Recovery e21 is having a great special, get 3 for the price of 1. Click here!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mom Of The Year

I’m in the running for mom of the year.

Trust me, it’s very competitive.

Some of these moms out there take this shit seriously. They might even hire coaches. I don’t know. They have pictures of their kids in a plastic button on their oversized Louis Vitton purse. Which costs a fraction of what I paid for my Lululemon hoodie. They name their kids names like Bella and Beau and Baron.

Scream it out the back door, 100 times. If you can stand the way it sounds, you should name your kid that. I could not shout Beau out the back of my door repeatedly without it coming out like BOBO which to me sounds like the name of a clown.

These moms are out for blood! All that pent up I used to have a career, a corner office with a door, a closet full of business attire and now all I’ve got are these yoga pants and this fleece vest that I’ve worn for ONE WEEK STRAIGHT. In other words, they are moms who approach their momhood with the same competitive business savvy that once fueled their careers. They are merciless. Fearless! Whatever it will take to get themselves, no wait – their kids, ahead.

And, I’ve met them. At the Arboretum on a sunny day. Rookie parenting mistake #343: going to the Arboretum on the first sunny and over 60 degree day in March. WHAT WAS I THINKING? Found myself joined by about 50 dozen other holed up in their house all winter moms with their kids and strollers. My Chicco was no match for some of the tanks I was encountering – double strollers designed to hold two kids, a dog, a weeks’ worth of groceries, one Starbucks and mom’s giant purse. Did they drive that thing here? Does it make a noise when it backs up?


It was there that I experienced my first incident of stroller rage. There is a narrow line in which you order and then wait for your coffee, pinned against the pastry display and one of those velvet ropes designed to keep you in place. Oh it kept me. Standing behind my stroller, I had nowhere else to go. This is called “waiting”. Alas, some people do not like to wait. Behind me, a woman pushing what had to be 20 feet of stroller is trying to get by. In a space that was about 6 inches wide.

Excuse me.

Listen, I hear your cry but in case you can’t tell I have NOWHERE ELSE TO GO. You and your – for crying out loud, how many kids do you have strapped on to that thing !? – can wait so give them each a bite of cookie and then shut your own piehole. I am not moving.

Excuse me.

I looked behind me and the front seat of the stroller is now at the edge of feet. I look at her. She looks at me with the look of MOVE OR ELSE I UNBUCKLE THE YOUNGEST ONE ON TO YOU in her eyes.

Two choices: move or she will plow over me leaving Max alone for the rest of his life, mom victim of stroller rage incident. FINE. I move. Where? And just as I move a few inches forward now blocking the hot water urn, another mom – with a stroller – says excuse me, can I get to the hot water.

It’s like being in open water when the person behind you keeps grabbing at your foot and just as you shake them off the guy next to you decides he wants to mount you from the side.

GET AWAY FROM ME!

These are not my people. I know I’m competitive but this is why I do sports. So I don’t become THAT mom who is psychocrazy about her kids, pushing them around at dangerous speeds in a stroller worth as much as one of my bikes.

Before I tell you why I’m possibly going to be crowned Mom of the Year – and there better be a damn crown involved in all of us or at least some diamonds (HINT) - I should tell you that this is – yet – another post that is not about triathlon. Someone should revoke my USAT card. You see, I could write about triathlon but it’s just training. Day in, day out, getting the work done. I swim, I bike, I run. Sometimes I do two sports in one day. I know, riveting training secret there. Sometimes I do none and go wine tasting. Though I’m convinced spending 45 minutes at a ridiculously low cadence and high power is easier than waking up the day after declaring Black Muscat, Malbec and Chambourcin all my favorite wines. That was a rough one. I could tell you stories about how I now pull Tugboat Tom in the pool. Yes, his dream came true - I am now fast enough to be the lane leader. Well, fast compared to Tom (who one day told me his 500 PR is 4:48 – about 100 pounds ago). I could tell you stories about how I rode my trainer for 3 hours with no music, no television. You call that crazy, I call that quiet. I could tell you how I thought I was having a killer run off the bike one day when some guy ran by me like I was standing still. I felt sorry for myself for about 30 seconds, then I ran faster. It’s just training, you know?

So, for better or for worse, this is about my skills as a mother. If I spent as much time teaching myself to be a better mother as I did working on my swim stroke I might not be in the running for mom of the year. How do you get elected? Let’s see…

You find your child with cord to your laptop in his mouth. My house is like safety town. On a really unsafe day.

You find yourself slightly disgusted by your child’s boogers. I know he came out of me but…this is someone else’s snot. Think about that.

You find yourself letting them crawl around your bathroom for 30 minutes with a poop-filled diaper because you need those 30 minutes to get ready. Yeah, he crawls around a lot with poop but when you know he’s doing it – it’s totally different.

Mom of the Year is not only skilled like that but crafty. You say, he’s on the floor with a pie pan, a loaf pan and a wooden spoon. I call that making music. You say, he’s crawling around on the floor naked. I call that freedom. You say, he's playing with the liquor bottles in the pantry. I say, those bottles aren't open. Yet. You say, he woke up from his nap and he’s been talking to himself for 20 minutes aren’t you going to get him? I call it alone time. It’s good for him. Good for everyone.

So maybe I’m a little more lax with my child because I’m with him ALL – DAY – LONG and if I freaked out about everything he did I would convince myself he needed a crash helmet and a mouth guard. Instead I let him put a lot of things in his mouth – except the laptop cord, that was just downright scary – and when he hits his head I scream BOOM! It’s a trick I learned from my brother. If you make a big fuss every time they hit their head, they will make a big fuss. Babies clunk their heads a lot. I say BOOM a lot. Boom is fun. Come here what did you do are you ok is emotionally neurotic.

I just remembered the other reason I should be mom of the year. Max and I were taking a walk when we stopped at a bench. We were on our second outing of the day because he was being fussy. More so than usual. My attitude is that when he’s fussy – get out of the house and share the love with other people. Let them experience my child in all of his fussy bliss. Really, though, sound dissipates a lot better outside than it does in my house. Leaving the house is for survival (mine).

I was looking at Max when I noticed something in his mouth. Two perfectly little ridged-white lines running across his lower gums.

Teeth.

My kid has teeth.

Wait.

My kid has teeth?

WHEN DID HE GET TEETH? I think they weren’t there yesterday. Now they are….there? I’m his mom. I should KNOW these things. If teeth are arriving, SOMEONE should have told me. Did I choose the shipping option? Because this week is a BAD week for teeth. I’m tired and I’m sore. I’m in no mood for teeth!

Dammit - TEETH! Yet another thing to research on the internet: Google: How long do teeth take to grow? If only there was a list of every search phrase I have typed into Google. “Baby projectile vomiting at 2 am after breastfeeding.” That was a fun one. Back to the teeth: I heard somewhere that they get teeth for the better part of two years. Then they lose their teeth. Then they grow new teeth. Then they need braces on those new teeth. And by the time they leave for college you *might* get a reprieve from needing to worry about their damn teeth.

Until they get a cavity.

Aside from having no idea how to care for teeth (oh shut up that I have teeth – it’s not the same!), I felt an odd sense of helplessness. Like things are happening to him and I have no control over it. It made me realize that he is his own being and will one day do things that I have no control over. He will continue grow. He will form opinions. He will voice them to me. Teeth are just a small step in that direction. First teeth, then walking, then talking, then he’s asking for the keys, then…they grow up really fast, don’t they.


It makes me want to take advantage of every moment with him while he’s this age. Enter the mom guilt. Dammit! Like growing up Catholic wasn’t guilt-ridden enough. I feel like every moment is a moment I should maybe read him a book, play with him, sing to him, talk to him, teach him how to say bye bye – why won’t he say bye bye yet? – hold him, connect with him, look at him, talk to him – did I say that already – read to him. There is so much I should be doing to stimulate his growth, every moment we have together is a learning opportunity, right? RIGHT!?

Obviously, I feel like I don’t do enough. And just when you think you’re doing enough, you sit next to a woman at story time who tells you the child in her lap is the youngest. Of five. It’s like telling someone you ran a marathon and they’ve done an ultra. Totally different things.

She then told me Max’s nose was running because he was getting teeth. I didn’t believe her. Lesson learned: always believe the woman who has 5 kids.

You find yourself wondering – am I doing it right? I didn’t notice he had teeth. What else does he have that I don’t know about. Because if it’s not in the diaper, it doesn’t seem to get my attention. And speaking of the teeth – do I have to brush them? If that’s anything like trying to brush Boss’ teeth – count me out. Not even poultry-flavored toothpaste could save that task.

Yes, there is a tremendous pressure in being a parent of wondering if you’re doing it right. Because if you get it wrong – you could end up with…Charlie Sheen.

I just got the shivers.

I don’t know if I’m doing it right. I’m not sure anyone knows. Parenting is like any competitive sport. It’s more than winning or losing, doing the right thing or wrong thing. No one really knows the right way. There isn’t a formula. There’s many ways to arrive at success. You just go with your gut, keep trying things and eventually settle on doing what feels right. You can read books or take advice but just like training, there is no single source that has all the answers.

Am I winning? I don’t know. I’m sure if you asked the moms at the Arboretum who observed my child there without a hat (which by the way is how they catch a cold, along with keeping your house at 68 degrees), they’d tell you that I should have my mom card revoked (along with the USAT card, I promise, this week I’ll get back to talking about triathlon). But if you ask Max, he’d say I’m mom of the year. At least, that’s what I gather because he screams – excitement or fear, your call - every time I leave the room.

Which, according to my sources, might be the start of separation anxiety.

It’s just a phase, right?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Hard Way

Never stick your hand down the back of a diaper to see if it’s dirty.

I’m full of wisdom like that. And it’s free.

Some days you just learn the hard way.
And end up with a poop-covered hand.

In parenting, you learn lessons like this every day. Leaving the child unattended near the dog’s water bowl means that water will be all over the floor as soon as you turn your back. The minute you take a sleeping baby out of their carseat, they will wake up. The moment you finally decide to check on them after they’ve been fighting their nap for 20 minutes was the moment they were just about to fall asleep – and you just set them off all over again. The hard way – you learn it by living it. It’s kind of like dropping your fuel plan on the bike and not going back to get it. You learn that lesson once.


The hard way.

Some days it seems like the only way is the hard day. The day you scheduled a phone call during nap time is the day he doesn’t nap. The day you need to finish the last 30 minutes of your 3 hour bike ride – and you’ve timed it perfectly with the baby sitter, is the day he wakes up 30 minutes early from the nap. The day you didn’t bring an extra outfit with you is the day he craps out the diaper and up his back.

I don’t know much about gravity but I’m pretty sure that defies it.

When you least need it, the hard way becomes the only way. And it’s the way you have to do things over and over again. You find yourself thinking: there has got to be an easier way. But then you realize who you are dealing with. They are small but don’t let their size fool you into thing they don’t have the stronghold on your life. No matter how many times you say “NO” as they approach the plant, though they will turn and look at you, they will then move even quicker toward that plant. Scooting themselves by way of right elbow and a forceful push from what I call his left peg leg pirate move.

Again and again and again.

The hard way is also how you end up with the dog eating dinner off the floor.


Or a soon to be broken spoke.


Or letting them prove to themselves that they can feed themselves. Sure. Go ahead. Take the spoon. Let me know how that works out for you.


Another case in point, “the hard way”: every day the child needs to get dressed. They are small. Their clothes are small. How hard could this be? Well, while my completely naked child army crawls his way faster than the speed of lightning out of his room and down the hall – you tell me. I’ve completely abandoned strength training. I see no need – if I have to lug that carseat around AND wrestle the child every time I get him dressed or change his diaper – it counts as a full upper body workout.

I am not beyond logging this into Training Peaks.

I now understand why our friends with a 20 month old gave us a Baby Einstein Music toy. The card read something like:

It’s for changing time.

Trust us.

It also doesn’t help that every article of clothing seems to be designed to make the task as difficult as possible. Ever feel like the manufacturers of baby clothes never actually took the time to dress a baby? If they did, they’d quickly realize that anything with snaps, a tight hole for the head or any pair of pants is nearly impossible to put on. Let’s take pants. Getting pants on to Max is sometimes a two person ordeal. One to hold him down so he doesn’t roll over mid-dress. And the other to get both legs in to two different legs at the same time. It sounds as hard as it is. I’ve had two legs in one leg and my favorite – one leg in a leg and the other folded up by his belly.

How is that possible?

Here’s a fun one: After the soothing bath, you enter the bedroom with the lights dimmed low to set the mood that it is nearly bedtime. The child is relaxed. You are relaxed. So why would you go ruin it all by attempting to snap 20 snaps on their pajamas with them wiggling all over the changing table? Like getting both legs into separate legs wasn’t hard enough. The snaps never line up. You always finish with one random snap thinking to yourself – it came with an extra snap? And, by that time, the baby is all riled up and crying again. What happened to zippers. What – they’re choking hazards?

ALL OF A SUDDEN ZIPPERS ARE FLAMMABLE?

I did some googling – very scientific research that is – on why there seems to be a lack of zippers in baby pajamas. I found…nothing. It seems that there seems to be a lack of zippers ONLY in Max’s wardrobe of baby pajamas and so I ask you – all of you who gave me pajamas as baby gifts – WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?! Oh wait, now I get it: this is your evil way of saying heh heh heh, you’ll see.

I did find a manufacturer who made Velcro pajamas. This sounds like a good idea – in theory – until you probably enter your child’s room at night to find that they’ve ripped them open, along with their diaper which is now in their mouth. Yes, I’ve found him on the floor during changing with his diaper in his mouth.

That’s called learning - for him – the hard way. I’m a firm believer in natural consequences. How’s that diaper taste, champ?

Everything goes in his mouth. EVERY-THING. From my hair to Boss’ kibble to the foam padding under the living room carpet. I’m convinced that 10% of his daily intake is foam padding. Chris, my lovely engineer everything has a reason husband asks….why? Why does he have to put my iPhone in his mouth? Hmm…he really likes Angry Birds? I don’t know. So I googled that too. Turns out researchers now say it doesn’t have much to do with child development. Instead, it’s the baby’s way of getting healthier. He mouthes yucky stuff to introduce himself to bacteria. That builds his immunity. So the other day when he dropped his giraffe on the floor and I let him put it right back in his mouth?

I WIN!

Right now, Max is all over his world, busy moving, looking and mouthing everywhere. And so I try to get him out of the house often to look at new things. The other day, we went to the mall.

We went to the usual stops at the mall – Forever 21 (here’s something great about aging, wait around long enough and the clothes that were in style when you were in junior high come back in style and you already have the confidence of knowing that since you looked great in them back then, you’ll look even better in them now). Delia’s (I bought another pair of “these look good on all the moms” jeans – the sad part is that I couldn’t remember the name of the jeans and I had to say to the clerk – last time you sold me a pair of jeans that you said looked good on all the moms. Morgan? Noted). And finally – Von Mauer.

There is a secret clique of old people that spend a lot of time at Von Mauer sitting and listening to the person playing the piano. Von Mauer seems to welcome this as the piano is surrounded by comfy couches and chairs. You go in there on any given weekday and its standing room only. Sure, you can get a seat – if you line up the night before and wait for it. Mostly its old men sitting there in their Member’s Only jackets, white lace up shoes and those light blue jeans that only old people seem to wear. Occasionally, the men are joined by their wives with white hair and colorful jogging suits.

When I am an old woman, I will wear a jogging suit and it will be red and purple – because, dammit, at that point I can wear whatever I want.

Today the old men must have been dropped off by their wives, sat in a chair with a coffee and a pastry. Some of them were reading magazines. Another had dozed off against the backdrop of piano notes. If we have a seat with them it’s guaranteed that one of us would also be napping within 30 minutes.

One of us will also probably return next time wearing a Greek fisherman’s hat.

We found a seat and Max proceeded to gum the seat (ew), pull at my hair, flop around in my lap and finally – fall asleep. Whether it was the music or something Von Mauer is pumping through the air to make the old men drowsy so their wives could shop longer – and spend more money – is left to debate. But once he was asleep, I sat there. Lesson learned (the hard way): never move a sleeping baby. Watching the emails pile up, thinking to myself I really need to be at home, working, but today Max had other plans. Some days are like that. I just roll with it.

This is life. Well, there’s a lot of other things in my life – I work, I train – but THIS is life. This little dude is entirely my life. I spent nearly every day of the week in yoga pants, my hair frizzed back in a headband and at least one food item on my shoulder every single day. It is the opposite of sexy. It is the opposite of what I went to school for. It is not on my “to do” list yet there is nothing I would rather be doing. Pushing the stroller back and forth with my foot, while listening to piano music right now there really is no place I’d rather be.

Maybe that is one lesson in life that I’ve had to learn the hard way – every day, the dressing struggles, the days where he whines NON STOP FOR HOURS, the fact that at 4 months post partum a lot of my hair fell out and now it’s growing back all frazzled and have we talked about boobs lately? Let’s – because I’d like to know how you can finish with something much less than you what you started with and would you please let me know WHEN I will lose the final layer of BACK FAT! Yes, all of this stuff feels hard to me because it’s different, it’s a change. But like anything hard in life – it has a reward. Each day with Max, is a rewarding gift. The back fat, the put your pajamas on now wrestling matches - all worth it for this.


Wait! That's the same hat the old men at the mall are wearing!