Sunday, February 26, 2012

Not Scared Of Monsters

Back in 2004, I started taking triathlon more seriously.  I got a coach.  She made me do tests.  One of the first tests she made me do in the pool was 3 x 300.  I looked back in Training Peaks for my results:

(1) 300 at 4:42
(2) 300 at 4:41
(3) 300 at 4:40

Average is 1:33 per 100.  Heart rate was at 130 after each one- maybe too easy? I have a hard time pushing myself in the pool.

Fast forward to today.  Today is February 2012, 8 years from where I started.  Since then I’ve done a lot of swimming.  And every once in awhile, it’s good to go some place you’ve never gone to breakthrough.  Enter: the monster swim.  Annually, my masters team puts on a monster swim event.  100 x 100 on the 100.  I remember the first time I did it, I did 75 x 75 on 1:40, a little over 5600 yards. 

It felt huge.

The next year I did all 100.  From there it became a challenge that I set for myself – could I swim the first 50 without any pool toys?  Could I do the last 10 as 100 IM?  The last time I did this swim was back in 2010, I was about 16 weeks pregnant with Max.  I did 6000 yards and held mostly around a 1:25 on the 1:40.  It felt like a lot of rest.  To me, 15 seconds is enough time to hop out of the pool, take a pee, make a sandwich and have a conversation with your lanemate.

Give or take a few seconds.

This year I knew if I did the monster swim, I needed a new challenge.  I’ve done all 100 on the 1:40.  What could I do to top that?  The last 10 all fly?  Hold under 1:20?  Hmmm…..Then, I got the registration sheet.

This year we’ll offer a lane for 100 x 100 on the 1:30

I’M IN!

Something has clicked with my swimming recently.  I credit this mostly to my child.  Before having him, I was always punctual.  I’d be on deck 5 minutes early and carefully select my lane.  But a funny thing happens when you have a child.  From that point forward, you are always late.  When you arrive late at masters you have two choices: swim by yourself on the wall or swim in the fast lane.

One day, I just took a swig of my coffee, said a few Hail Mary’s and jumped into the fast lane.  I had no business being there.  But week by week, I got faster.  I just kept putting myself back in there and doing anything to keep up.  Since then I’ve learned a few things: there’s no interval that fins or paddles can’t help you make, coffee sipped throughout practice exponentially increases your odds of keeping pace and depending on who is in your lane, you can indeed fear being lapped on a 50.

When the monster swim rolled around, I announced to Timmy, my new lane husband (yes, sadly I divorced Tom, it’s not you, it’s me for a faster, younger, heavily tattooed guy to draft off of), that I was going to do 100 x 100 on the 1:30.  His reply:

Really?

The night before, I didn’t sleep well.  I had a dream that I ended up in the wrong lane.  I had a dream that I missed the interval.  I showed up on the pool deck with a pit in my stomach and sweaty armpits.  It was like race morning.  I was giddy but nervous, confident but honest with myself.  I knew I could do it but knew how hard it would be.  And I also knew once that clock started there was no turning back.

I checked my lane assignment.

Liz W. 
Lane 9 
100s on the 1:40

WHAT!?

I quickly ran over to Coach Dave and told him there’s been a mistake.  I’m doing the 1:30.  It’s been decided for weeks.  It’s the only reason I’m here.  He tells me the lane will be crowded.  I tell him I’m small, you’ll never notice me. 

We wait on deck.  I stand by lane 1 waiting for the start clock to count down.  It felt like Timberman 2009, I’m standing in knee deep water at the start line with Andy Potts, Simon Lessing, Chrissie Wellington.  Though I know I qualified to be there, I felt like I didn’t belong.  On deck I felt the same way.  And was just about as nervous.

I’m surrounded by what feels like world class swimming company.  There’s Coach Dave who swims 200 back about 30 seconds faster than I swim 200 free.  Christina, one of the fastest girls on the team.  Rich and John who probably swim a 50 faster than I can run it.  Timmy who rattles off all the names of the shots he took last night, Liquid Cocaine, Slippery Nipple, and hungover he will still swim faster than me.  And, Doug, who’s swam the English Channel.  A few times.

WHAT am I doing here?!

The first 10 were easy.  They always are.  We were holding under 1:15 and I was feeling great.  It was just like practice – in my view were nothing but Timmy’s feet.  I have never loved a man’s feet so much.  If I got any more on top of him I literally would have been on top of him, mounted. 

There were 7 of us doing the 1:30.  We split the lane, some of us starting on one end, some on the other.  Do the math.  If Coach Dave leaves the other end of the pool swimming around a 1:05 pace, and Liz leaves the other end swimming around a 1:15 pace, when will these two trains collide?  The answer is if Liz swims any slower than a 1:20 pace.  With each 25 I could see Coach Dave chasing me like a hungry shark.  I was swimming scared.  It quickly became apparent that I had to swim the entire set under 1:20.  I’d never even done that on the 1:40.  Around 15, another lanemate asks me how I’m doing:

I haven’t been caught yet.

We coasted through the first 20.  Then 30.  I found a phenomenal rhythm from 30 to 40 where I felt invincible.  I could hold this pace all day.  In between sips of coffee and Power Gels, my blood was running sugar, caffeine and confidence. 

And then I hit 47. 

Which was about the time the bear jumped on top of me.

We took a 5 minute break at the 50.  Catch your breath, take a pee, refill coffee.  I had set the goal to swim the first 50 “naked” – no pull buoy, no fins, no paddles.  I did it.  I never exceeded 1:17.   I drafted 3 amazingly fast men with their fancy dolphin kicks off of perfect flip turns.  I open turned.  I never got caught by Coach Dave from the other end.

After the break, I figured why not do the next 10 without toys.  I felt recharged.  I had more coffee.  Around 5500 yards a man stood by the diving block talking to me.  25 yards later, I realized that man was my husband.  I was in that zone where I noticed nothing but swimming.  Focus on the feet, the feet – STAY WITH THEM!  I stayed right on Timmy’s feet through 60.  And then Marty jumped in.  So I stayed on Marty’s feet.  I put on fins until 70.  Pulled with paddles through 78.

Then, at 7800 yards into it, I entered a very dark place. 

A very, VERY dark place.

It wasn’t a bonk nor a meltdown, it was just that moment that my body finally caught up, pressed the panic button and sent the message to my mind with sirens, bells, buzzers, whistles of pain, in other words, the message of:

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING TO ME!?

Every endurance athlete knows this place.  You can see the way out but until then it might as well be 1000 miles away.  My back ached like nothing I ever felt.  My triceps hurt.  No, scratch that, my biceps hurt.  My biceps, triceps and delts hurt.  I think Coach Dave jumped on to my back.  With the bear.  How am I going to get through this?  Why does this hurt so much?  I tried gel.  I tried coffee.  None of it pulled me out what felt like 23923478924 yards ahead of me (though I only had over 20 to go).

Then a brilliant moment: 

I’ll put on fins! 

Wait a minute…

I’M ALREADY WEARING THEM! 

I tried mixing up my strokes.  And somewhere around 8200 yards, on my back doing backstroke, I looked up at the lights.  Are you there God, it's me, ELF.  I didn’t see God but it was close.  I thought about the few times in life that I have physically been to this place.  The start of back pain in labor.  Fatigue in the last 10K of of Ironman.  Sometimes I think we chase experiences (and races) that bring us here.  The place where you have to accept the pain and then IGNORE IT.  It’s rare and raw but once you are there – you truly learn things about yourself that you can learn no place else.  I realized two things:

1 – No one goes through _____ forever because the time will pass, it always does. 
2 – I can do this.

From 85 to 90, I became like a machine.  Swim 4 lengths, stop for 12 seconds, repeat.   At 92, Timmy picked up the pace.  1:11, sub 1:10.  At 98, I took off all toys.  At 99, Timmy dropped a 1:04.  Seriously?  And after 100….

I stopped swimming. 

Well, I was all done – what did you expect?

My back throbbed.  My arms ached.  My mouth tasted like Kona Punch and coffee.  It was not a good taste.  I was hot but cold, I was tired but energized, I had just swum 10K.

I’ve done a lot of things as an athlete.  I’ve got some great PRs, awards, memories.  But this one is up there.  This might have been more fulfilling than Ironman.  You see, you just have to finish an Ironman.  There’s no time constraint.  Sure, you have a time goal and a placement goal but if you can’t/don’t do it – you still get to say you’ve done an Ironman.  But when you set out to do 100 of something on a time constraint – you either do it or you don’t.  The interval keeps you real.  And when you finally do it, well…

It feels honest and amazing.

I’m always thinking about the next big thing.  How can I top this?  Maybe next time I’ll do 75 without toys, maybe next time I’ll do the last 10 as IM or maybe next time I’ll shoot for 100 x 100 on the 1:20.

In that case, I might look up and NEED to see God.

Why talk about these events or these paces?  Certainly not because I am a great swimmer.  I swim with guys who are dropping their 100s in the low 50s.  That's FIFTY SECONDS.  But I want athletes to see that you can start some place and with hard work, consistency and patience (those are my "secrets") you can end up some place else - faster!  I look back at where I was 8 years ago – holding 1:33 at a hard pace.  Some of you might be thinking – 8 years, that’s a really long time!  Athletically speaking, 8 years is nothing.  It takes years to create progress.  And the faster you are or more experienced you get, the harder you have to bust your ass for each second.  Sports are not instantly gratifying when it comes to numerical progress.  You can work an entire year and gain 1 second on your swim test or 1 watt on your bike test.  But it’s still progress.

And if you’re not seeing progress – break out of your comfort zone and do something a little scary.  Sometimes all you need is a shake up.  Swim in a meet, run a 5K, do an indoor time trial.  The longer you’ve been in the sport, the more you have to change the stimulus to get change.  Progress becomes a matter of continually raising the bar for yourself.

How high will you set it? 

Decide that and then DO IT!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Divided

I stand corrected.  

According to this guy, a certain world champion is taking time off to "recharge her life force.”  Sounds exactly like what I do every morning.  It’s called coffee, dark roast, about 20 ounces.  Leaves me beaming with life force until about 3 pm when I’m ready to fall asleep at my desk.  But never fear, that’s when a rush of cortisol jolts me awake as my child wakes up from his nap wailing because he just realized he’s knee deep in his own crap in a dark room with the door closed. 

Again.

Moving on - you’ve probably seen all of those sh*t ____ say videos lately.  I’ve been trying to put together a Shit Parents Say.  Working really hard on it.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

No.

NO.

NO NO NO NO NO.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

NO!

So that’s going well.

Right now I’m having one of those days in parenting where if the gypsies showed up at my door, I’d push him towards them and say: YOURS, FREE.  It’s just a phase, right?  The throwing food all over the place, eventually they stop doing that.  Don’t they?  The dog is thinking this is the best phase ever.  I’m thinking I need to get knee pads.  I spend most of my day on the floor cleaning things up.  And I didn’t realize how much I did that until my child began imitating me.  He goes to the cabinet under the sink.  Gets out the spray bottle of wood floor cleaner.  Grabs a rag and….cleans.  ON HIS HANDS AND KNEES!  At first it was cute.  Now it’s got me thinking…

He’s watching me.  Closely.  And he’ll do what I do and when he outrgrows speaking alien, he will say what I say.

My biggest fear?  That he thinks his name is Hold On, Wait A Minute, I’ll Be Right Back.  Why are we so busy?  Are all mothers this way?  Feeling like you’re pulled in so many different directions that unless you’re kid is strapped in the carseat behind you, you’re never going in the same direction? 

On days like this, when I fight existential struggles of motherhood in my head as well as clean up the 249283th Cheerio off the floor, I like to escape.  Being that it’s winter, there’s few places to escape around here but one of our favorites is the library.  One of my favorite things to do at the library to relieve a little disgruntled pressure is to bring my child into the adult section.  At our library, the adult section takes up an entire floor. I wheel my stroller through the doors and immediately notice the signs that say Please turn off your cell phone.  I look at my child.

He doesn’t have an off button.

Secretly I smile about this.  First I wheel him through the CD section.  While I look at CDs, he flings them out of the drawers.  Then I wheel him by the books just within reach so he can pull a few off the shelf.  Then, if it’s been a really bad day, I wheel him through the quiet study section which coincides with just about the time he decides to announce to me – and the library – LOUDLY – that HE DOESN’T WANT TO BE THERE.

At that point, my mission is complete and I go downstairs to the children’s section and let him play with the water fountain for an hour.

Anyhow, I’m not pregnant.

Thank you for the vote of confidence in my ovaries but I’m convinced I may have left one alongside the Queen K in October.  You think I’m kidding. I thought so too until I made that joke to Dr. Nuts who said “well, I suppose with the decreased blood flow for hours it could happen.”

Holy shit, Nuts, I was just kidding?  Chalk that up as one more potential casualty of Kona – along with my race flats (deceased), the skin on my lower back (still have the tan line from Kona 2007) and the second toenail on my right foot (gone – still has not come back).  

I paid to do this to myself? 

The other day, I got a phone call.

Angela?

No, this is Elizabeth.

Angela, we got your test results back from this morning.  Your prolactin is normal, so is your TSH but you’re going to need a hysterosonogram and a biopsy.  We’ll have your ovarian reserve back in 7 days.

So much for HIPPA?

The good news is that I’m not Angela.  The bad news is that I was waiting for test results.  The other day, I had some bloodwork done with my RE.  If you don’t know what an RE is and you are over 34 and planning to have children, look it up.  You might need one.  Once you hit your 35th year, the quality of your eggs goes from shelf life to expired – quick.  Safe to say if you get within 10 feet of me, I might smell sulfuric. 

Rotten eggs.

My RE is like a coach for my hormones and ovaries.  He comes up with a plan to make sure everything is doing what it needs to do.  Given some problems I’ve had in the past, the RE suggested some tests if we wanted to expand our family.  The purpose of the tests were to see if I “lost” anything after having Max.  Lost something?  Like what?  Some estrogen, a fallopian tube?  Please don’t tell the doctor that in between having Max and now not only did I get two years older, but I also did an Ironman.  Who knows what I could have lost out there.  Two toenails.  A few years off my life.  My marbles.  Maybe a dozen or so eggs.

Now, I went to an RE before I got pregnant with Max.  Max wasn’t drug-induced but he was drug-supported.  You need progesterone to sustain a pregnancy.  With Max, my progesterone kept dropping so I started supplementing.  Shot a 1.5 inch nightly needle of progesterone into alternating butt cheeks for 12 weeks straight.  Love is when your husband agrees to do this to you.  Love is not returned when you suggest you give him the shot so he can get a better idea of the pain involved and the side effects. 

I thought it was a fair trade.

The other day I went in for another meeting with the RE.  The babysitter was not available.  Which meant I had to bring my son.  Parental nightmare – bringing your child to an adult appointment.  The only thing worse would be bringing him to the hair salon.  I’d jerk out of the seat so many times I’d probably end up with a 75 dollar mutt cut.  That’s why I only go to the hairdresser at night.  But the RE doesn’t have night hours so it was 9:30 in the morning.

You’d think an office that predominantly exists to help people make children would be a little more child friendly.  As in – not have about 200 magazines stacked on every single table.  Instant child magnet.  That which is neatly stacked MUST BE KNOCKED DOWN WITH GREAT FORCE!  And he did.  That is how I spent half the time waiting on the floor picking things up.

We waited 30 minutes in the front office only to be escorted to the doctor’s office to wait another 30 minutes.  At least in the front office he had about 300 more square feet to run crazy around.  Once confined in the doctor’s office, he became instantly obsessed with a plastic model of the female reproductive system.  Part of me wanted to grab it off the doctor’s desk and let my kid run around with a set of plastic ovaries.  The doctor would have walked in, I would have said your fault for leaving it on the desk.  But I didn’t let him have it.  Instead I let him eat his snack which he threw all over the floor which is how YET AGAIN I was on the floor picking up things. 

70 minutes after my appointment, the doctor comes in.  Moments earlier, my child was commando crawling under the doctor’s desk, screaming.  The moment the doctor walks in, Max is seated in my lap like he is the most perfect child in the world.  Listening to the doctor talk about reproduction like it was a lullaby.  The doctor calls him cute, darling.  I’m thinking – I’ve spent 70 minutes entertaining him with a leather couch, a bag of Cheerios and reading him a People magazine.  This is Demi Moore, she’s crazy.  He lost the cute factor about 68 minutes ago.  

The RE’s plan of action for me?  Testing for everything.  It’s a list so long that it makes me wonder how any of us can be here, healthy.  How did we get so lucky?  With so many things that can go wrong, it seems truly amazing when anything in reproduction goes right.

The doctor leaves to write up my 3-page action plan (can it be uploaded into Training Peaks – please?), in the meantime Max knocks over a giant bongo drum, feigns interest in looking out the window when only he wanted to grab the blinds wildly, knocks over two frames on a table until finally I tell the nurse that I’ll be in the waiting room because my kid is LOSING IT.  Her reply?  “The doctor will be back in a minute, are you sure you can’t wait?”

If you see an 18-month old running down the hall carrying a plastic set of ovaries, I’m not going after him. 

I told myself I wouldn’t change who I am or what I do while we go through this process of testing en route to trying to expand our family -  wherever it may lead.  I signed up for races.  I am most definitely training.  But at the same time, it’s hard to have one foot in the world of TTC and the other in the world of triathlon.  I want to be competitive, fast, fit!  But I also want to be a mother again.  When I start thinking too hard about this I feel an overwhelming combination of emotions which makes me want to do like Max does when I catch him walking around with something he’s not supposed to have (ie., the cheese grater):

Throw my up arms, drop everything and run the other way. 

But it’s not over until sperm meets egg and it sticks, folks.  And for all I know, years of endurance sport have turned my husband’s super swimmers into that guy wearing a surfing wetsuit and doing backstroke in the local sprint triathlon.  This could take awhile.  But don’t tell him that.  Suggesting his former national class swimmers might need water wings is as popular as me suggesting he has hit the age where we might need to start checking for ear hair.

THAT conversation went well.

As I have a foot on both paths all I know is that both of them end in a very good place – either a second child or attainment of a goal on my “bucket list” of sports-related accomplishments.  Yes, I’ve set my sights high for 2012, in many ways.  No matter where I end this year – either in triathlon or in my fat pants (again), I will consider the year a success. 

And if I can get through all of these appointments and tests without having to chase after my child when he darts out of an examining room while I’m wearing nothing but a paper sheet around my waist? 

Definitely a success.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Things You Don't Know

And now to completely shift gears.

Did anyone else notice a few weeks ago when a certain world champion in our sport announced her sabbatical from triathlon?  I read through the announcement about the things she wanted to do and people she wanted to inspire and couldn’t help but think one thing:

When a woman in her mid to late 30s announces a sabbatical from anything – triathlon, coffee, wine – I suspect one explanation for it.

Baby

Now, if it turns out she isn’t going to have a baby – meaning, she goes forth this year to inspire boatloads of Britons to take up triathlon then I’m no clairvoyant, I’m just wrong.  But if she is going to try to make the baby then I figured I would use this blog as a platform to help a sister out.  CW, dear, there’s things you need to know about parenting.  More importantly, about pregnancy. 

First things first, getting pregnant is not just about having sex.  That’s only the case for teenagers and only because they are young.  For the rest of us, who have waited until maternally geriatric age (meaning: over 34) to get pregnant, our fertility is as predictable as your stomach in the last few miles of the Ironman marathon.  There are actually books on how to get pregnant which sounds as ridiculous as directions on the side of a box of Pop-Tarts but trust me, you’ll need them. 

Hey, you weren’t really going to put that dangerously hot Pop-Tart in your mouth, were you?  

Here’s the deal.  You’ve spent the last 20+ years trying hard, very hard, like zone 5 effort, to not get pregnant.  What they didn’t tell you when you were 10 years old, sitting in your 5th grade classroom, boys separated from girls, while you watched some awkward film about getting your period and were told from that point forward anytime you so much think of a penis you risk pregnancy, what they didn’t tell you is that it’s not that easy to make the baby.  It’s actually really hard – the older you the get, the harder it is, so hard you wonder how someone can make it happen at all.  Let alone that woman who’s been pregnant over 20 times. 

Does she ever leave the bedroom?

Unlike triathlon training – which we know is not rocket science – I’m telling you making the baby is.  Even if you think you know, there are things you don’t know.  So from this point forward consider yourself a student of the sport TTC (trying to conceive).  Instead of spending countless late night hours on triathlon forums (admit it, everyone lurks!), you will spend those hours on TTC forums.  And I suggest you put those letters, TTC, into your vocabulary along with 2ww (two week wait), DH (darling husband) and BD (babydance).  Know that if you are TTC, you want to BD with your DH approximately 1 day before you ovulate.  After that…

You wait.

And wait.

And wait what feels like 14 days short of FOREVER.

About 8 DPO (days past ovulation) you start peeing on sticks (POAS).  Each cycle your patience wears thinner and thinner to the point where you start peeing on a stick every day, multiple times each day.  You have your husband pee on a stick, then your dog just to see if the damn sticks measure anything!  Honestly, the 2ww is more nerve wracking than the start line of Kona.  Time slows to zone 1 pace.    

First rule of TTC: to make a baby you have to have sex.  At first, this is your husband’s/significant others dream come true.  Until the truth becomes obvious.  There is sexy sex and there is baby-making sex.  In other words, business sex.  They are not the same thing. I don’t care how many candles you light or what you’re (not) wearing, sex with a purpose is like low fat ice cream.  It’s the same but not really.  It will become business sex because getting pregnant is a precise (perhaps divine) timing of an LH surge, an egg, a sperm and like any successful race – a little luck. 

And, like any race, just as exhausting.

Like any sport, there is equipment you need to make the baby.  Take thyself to Walgreen’s and pick up an (OPK) ovulation predictor kit.  Here’s something else they didn’t tell you in the fifth grade.  Just because you get a period doesn’t mean you ovulate.  Suddenly you feel jaded.  All those years you thought you could get pregnant?  Some might have been a lie.  All that money you spent on birth control could have been saved for things like shoes, fashion, RACE WHEELS!?

It’s complicated, isn’t it?  And just like in triathlon, people tend to overthink and overcomplicate it.  Spend a few moments online at Baby Center or Just Mommies and you realize people are desperate, crazy, neurotic about babymaking (note: this is NOTHING like triathlon websites).  They read into every sign, symptom, they chart their BBT, they have special thermometers, they talk about it, think about it and when they’re all said and done they probably enter their data into Training Peaks.

Enough about the baby making, when will you make the baby already?  Did you make the baby?  That’s your mother-in-law chiming in.  Fear not, at some point you will get a BFP (big fat POSITIVE).  (maybe)  Once pregnant, you’ll probably be like any other athletic woman who stays athletic because she “doesn’t want to lose any fitness!”  It only takes about 8 weeks of feeling like you’ve been shot in the ass with a tranquilizer every day at 2 pm to realize the oppressive fatigue you feel for the first trimester is no match for your fitness.  You’re going to take a nap and skip that swim.  But the beauty of pregnancy is that everything slows down.  Including time and yourself.  40 weeks feels like forever.  Perhaps this is nature’s way of preparing you for the accelerated speed at which time passes once the child arrives.  Or nature’s way of reminding you to slow down enough to enjoy the journey.

In the final trimester of pregnancy or around the time you’re ready to be done (roughly 20 weeks) people will start saying you’re almost there!  It’s like a spectator on the side of the road about half way through the marathon telling you you’re almost there!  Mathematically, you’re nowhere even close.  And you know that.  Let me assure you, when someone tells you you’re almost there and you’re nowhere close that means you look so bad that they’re not sure what else to say. 

Which leads to the next thing:  you look great!  The third trimester is the beginning of the end of any time in your life when you looked great.  From that point forward you will look tired, ragged and completely at wits end depending on how bad that morning’s blow out/tantrum episode was.  You will notice that with lack of sleep, those little lines on your forehead don’t go away.  Those bags under your eyes are going to need a sherpa to carry them. 

Here’s something that’s more fun than trying to squeeze behind your steering wheel in the final months of pregnancy: registering!  Registering for your baby shower is like registering for an Ironman except everyone else pays your way.  Yet within two trips to BuyBuyBaby, you realize registering is like one of those days on the bike when the wind shifts and all of a sudden you’ve got 60 miles with a 30 mph headwind in your face.  So much for the first 10 miles of tailwind!  You’ll find yourself overwhelmed by shelves stacked high to the ceiling full of baby things; hooded towels, receiving blankets, breast pads.  All of those things are nice but not necessary.  What you actually do need, you cannot register for: patience, humility, perspective and a tongue guard.  To keep you from biting through your tongue every time someone without kids tells you they don’t have time to do _____.  Did you have time to take a crap this morning?  If so, you’ve got time AND you’re winning. 

Giving birth is nothing like a marathon, an Ironman, a double marathon within a double triple Ironman.  Any visions you had of being able to draw upon your mental strength and physical endurance will fail you the moment that baby hits your spinal cord.  Rather than teaching you how to breathe, birthing classes would do you a better service by teaching you 10 new cuss words, how to run angry after your husband while wheeling your IV, how to get your head to turn completely around to complete the exorcism.  Once you ungrit your teeth, the word EPIDURAL will magically roll off your tongue, a very good looking doctor will put a large needle in your back and you will start smiling.  Even at your mother-in-law who, yes, will somehow find her way into the room where you are birthing though you have no idea how she found you and got past front desk nurse security

And a stability ball – unless you plan on doing plank off of it while you’re 4 centimeters dilated – it’s most likely useless during your birth experience.  Along with your husband.  Who knows better than to get within 10 feet of you while you’re in that much pain.

Psst….come in closer.  This next thing is touchy with some women.  It’s ok to not like breastfeeding.  It’s ok to think it’s inconvenient, awkward and time-consuming.  It’s ok to want to throw the breast pump into the middle of a busy lane of traffic.  The goal “I’ll do it for 6 months” will dangle in front of you like a finish line that doesn’t seem to get any closer.  WHERE IS IT ALREADY!?  You will get there but it takes a lot of patience, engorgement and nipple cream.

And this just in: Your body will never be the same. 

No. 

It won’t.

Once the aftermath of your body subsides, you realize that saggy boobs or not – you must press forward with parenting.  In other words, you learn to get over yourself – quick.  Welcome to parenting.  There might be some volunteers waving you in different directions (and by all means, don’t listen to all of them!) but ultimately, you’ve got to know your own course.  And if you get off course, turn yourself around and fix it.  No outside assistance!  Parenting is the ultimate experience in personal responsibility.  This child is entirely yours.  There is no turning in your timing chip.  No DNF.  At times you will want to lay down in the middle of the Queen K and take a nap but it will only last….about 3 minutes.  Before someone starts crying again.  It requires you to accept this is my life now so deal with it – no weakness, no crying, no feeling sorry for yourself.  You got yourself to the start line so get yourself to the finish. 

I was in the coffee shop today and there was a mother with a kid running around her ankles and a baby strapped to her chest while my child had his hand deep in a jar of coffee beans.  She looked at me and said remember when life was easy?  I had no idea who she was but motherhood is like this.  You have an unspoken bond with anyone who owns a Baby Bjorn.  It’s like seeing a 140.6 sticker on someone’s car.  We get it.  We know that getting out of the door was your marathon today.  We know that even though you do 100 squats with a 25-pound child on your hip EVERY DAY – you’re not getting any skinnier.  We know that while you love your child, a small part of you longs for the simplicity and selfishness of your life before.  We know that it’s the little things that make a big difference – an extra long nap (for the child, not you, silly!), enough time to blow dry your hair, going shopping without having to sing the ABCs.

Which brings me to my next point.  You will do anything for your child.  Whether it’s sucking snot out of their nose, waking up to cradle them yet again at 3 am, pushing them down the slide for the 100th time – this little person will tug at your heartstrings like speedwork tugs at your hamstrings.  I never knew I could love something as much as I love my child.  It’s a feeling that nothing replaces – no pet, no other person, no award, no PR….it’s priceless.

Now if all of this has scared you away from having kids, you missed the point of having kids in the first place.  The more something is worth in life, the more you have to work for it, the more you sacrifice.  In giving up yourself, you get someone else.  Remember when you thought giving up chocolate to get to race weight was sacrifice?  Parenting is the ultimate sacrifice and one that us parents know we would do again and again and again.  I never thought something could bring me as much joy as my son, Max. I never thought something could finally make me feel so complete.

You’re probably like everyone else who says they live life with no regrets.  There are no mistakes, just lessons!  Let me tell you the one mistake I made: waiting until I was maternally geriatric to have a child.  I have no idea what I was doing that was so important earlier in my life (triathlon? working?) but in hindsight, it can wait.  Perhaps you’ve heard time ticking like that Timex clock that sits in the van that rides in front of the leader along the Queen K.  Listen to it.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  I always told myself – I’ve got plenty of time!  But I’ve learned in babymaking – there are no guarantees.  Just because you have all the parts, don’t mean they work.  Just because you want something bad enough, doesn’t mean you can get it.  Just because you did great training doesn’t mean you’ll win the race.  Get to this race early before transition closes and it’s too late.

I’m not sure what you’ll be doing on your sabbatical, but let me recommend the event called parenting.  The registration fee is outrageous but at least it’s not (yet!) owned by the WTC.  I haven’t seen the medal and the race t-shirt but I'm guessing it’s covered in something.  And about the course itself?  Hey, where else can you get an experience that starts with your kid sitting in his crib with a sleep sack full of shit and a 24 ounce container of parmesan cheese all before 8 am!  The parallels between racing and parenting are endless.  You’ll want to quit but once you cross the finish line any memory of pain, discomfort or crapping yourself immediately dissolves away.  And you find yourself thinking – maybe I could do (have) another one?

Maybe.

One day?