Monday, June 28, 2010

Time Keeps On Ticking

I’m writing to you from the cold confines of my basement. Actually from my comfy chair which was cleverly planted in my basement earlier this year and that’s a good thing. Because the basement is the only room in the house that my overheated pregnant body finds comfortable right now.

It’s hot. I think we’ve covered that but just in case I haven’t made my point, I’ll say it again. IT IS HOT. I like the heat. I do well in the heat. Small people dissipate heat well so I choose my race courses hot, ugly and hilly. But this year, I have learned a valuable lesson in heat management. Pregnancy puts an off switch on any heat management you may have once had. It’s like being swaddled in a wool blanket. No glass of water is cold enough, no breeze is refreshing enough and I’m convinced only place my sweat glands are working right now is in between my very pregnant ass cheeks.


Other than suffocating in my own body heat this past weekend, I also did some race spectating. I know, just when you think it can’t get any better I spectated yet ANOTHER race. I’m becoming that spectator – defiant to the volunteers (I’ll walk past that cone, don’t tell me to stand behind that cone sister because I’m pregnant and I’ve been spectating races now for OVER A YEAR and I will damn well cross that cone if I want to) and likely to jump in to become pseudo volunteer when the volunteer on duty is failing at their post (ie., politely asking athletes to mount in the street is not the same as shouting at them MOUNT AFTER THE LINE and then calling the guy who mounted about 50 feet early a cheater).

I really need to get back to racing.

Chris and I got up in the morning to drive to the race. He’s been having some trouble sleeping before races (read: he does not sleep before races) and this race – even though in his own bed - he did not sleep again. He’s tried everything from Bendaryl to Tylenol PM to shots of Bourbon. Any suggestions out there on how to sleep before a race? Right as I finally fell asleep he woke me up which woke the baby up and then the baby got hiccups and then….

I just has a flash forward of the next 18 years of my life. I will be woken up by men – young and old. I will never sleep again!

This was yet another race that involved something called “remote parking” which is really just code for things you can do to make the spectators really angry. I know it’s inconvenient for us to park close to the race site but we spectators are not a fit crowd. Have you seen us? We are the pregnant, the wheeling around double strollers full of small children, the older parents who don’t quite get which order the swim-bike-run is in. Go easy on us. At least give us some closer parking. And quit making us ride school busses!

I cannot be the only one who has very traumatic memories of riding the school bus.

By the time the race started I had visited the porta potty about a dozen times and let me just say there is a big difference between going in there as a racer versus as a spectator. You go in as a racer and think to yourself – ah, that is the smell of pre-race anxiety. You go in there as a spectator and you are like – what the hell did these people eat last night? I for one would like to vote for a spectator only porta potty.

With priority seating for pregnant women!

Spectating is a lot of waiting and watching and waiting and watching. Also a lot of math. All these different waves and the race had a sprint and Olympic distance going on at the same time. It was exhausting! But also entertaining. I would describe all of the entertaining things I saw while watching transition and bike out but the bottom line is that those people, as long as their transitions were, no matter how many rode into the fence trying to put their shoes on with feet on top of pedals….those people were racing and I was not. They win today and I envied them in all of their forget to buckle their helmet glory.

I walked out to the run course and watched everyone run. Sigh. I’d really like to run right now. I’ve even had to stop walking at a moderate pace because the pain in my lower legs when I do anything faster than leisurely shuffle is becoming unbearable. I watched so many of the runners out there with headphones on and it frustrated me. Sure, it’s cheating but it’s also cheating yourself. Is there anything better than hearing the huffing and puffing of your hard work than when you’re out there on the run? The sound of your feet pushing off strong. The voice in your head that says this hurts while another voice overrides it by saying shut up and run harder. Are we scared of that or are we so used to being distracted that we don’t know how to be alone with the voices in our head any more.

Not sure.

While watching everyone out there racing, I started thinking about next year. With racing season in full swing, I’ve had ideas stewing in my head, little notes I keep making about races, goals, etc. It’s been a long time since I’ve set a goal and achieved it. I realize that in the next few months my main goal will be just adapting to life with a baby but there can be other things too. There should be. You can’t give yourself entirely away to another person. That’s not healthy.

One of the hardest things about mixing an athlete with pregnancy is that you just do a bunch of fitness stuff with no goal. I ride my bike. I swim. I do the elliptical. I keep doing it but….it doesn’t get me any faster. Know what I mean? Usually you put the time and work in and you get faster or fitter or stronger. I’m getting none of that. I just keep getting bigger! Of course I do it because I enjoy it which at this point is the only explanation for how I can be out there pedaling so slow on a bike that looks so ridiculous. If I didn’t love it, that bike would be in the garage and my ass would be permanently planted in the comfy chair.

That is also not healthy.

I was at masters the other day and working hard to hold a pace that was my old rest interval PLUS 10 seconds (yikes!) and all signs pointed to oh my god will I ever EVER feel good or fast again. Will I ever swim my old times. Will I ever get back into my old lane. And I’ll be honest – I got so damn fired up with the idea of working hard to get there that I just wanted to get a head start right now. Of course my body would not cooperate even if I tried but you get the point. If someone doesn’t let me out of the cage soon my stomach is going to blow open and this kid will explode out and I will not be held responsible for where he lands! I will not! I just want to focus and work hard again – I need that outlet. I have my work, I will have my child but I need my outlet. Without it I find myself racing through the grocery store (my record is TEN MINUTES, one week’s worth of groceries) or spectating at races calling those who improperly mounted a cheater.

I’d apologize but…rules are rules.

I was talking to another athlete today and she said that her pregnancy happened at the right time. She was so burned out that it allowed her enough time to step back and regroup herself. She came back and had the next best two seasons of her life. I got what she was saying. When something is taken away from you, if it was something you once enjoyed, you find your fire for it again. If you don’t, it didn’t mean that much to you. If you do, you find yourself envisioning when you can finally return to it again.

Will I be good at it again? If so, how long will it take me? It doesn’t matter. All I want to do is try. Tick tock tick tock tick tock. There’s 4 more weeks to go, another 2 if this kid is really tenacious and who knows how long after that. But I just can’t wait to work hard again towards a goal. Even if the goal is just running my 3 mile neighborhood loop without walking. I’m going to give myself a gold star the day I achieve that. And then set the next goal. And before you know it, I’ll be one my way to whatever I set out to achieve.

I just need to give birth first. COME ON KID!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Week 36: Are We There Yet?

I just rode into week 36 of pregnancy. At a blistering 11.6 mph....

Right now on Slowtwitch they’re talking about how my seat is too high and my stack and reach is way out of whack.

And I don’t give a damn! I’m just happy that I can still get my expanding ass on to the bike seat. And it’s not easy. After week 32 I started noticing that the good old Selle Italia seat is not meant for wide loads.

Have I mentioned that I’m over being pregnant? Yes, I’ve reached the point of now just laughing at myself. I’ve also reached the point where my husband laughs at myself. He was looking at my belly last night and said:

I don’t know how it’s going to get any bigger.

I KNOW! But I also know that it will get bigger and that is what scares me.

Speaking of bigger, warning here to all of the pregnant woman: do not under any circumstances attempt to put on a piece of clothing from your previous life once you pass week 32. It goes without saying that it won’t fit. But there is no need to add insult to injury by discovering just how much it doesn’t fit.

The valuable lesson I learned is that my old running shorts don’t fit because of my hips. I have hips? Is this what they mean when they talk about birthing hips? Do these hips go away? Because I can’t afford a whole new wardrobe of running clothes.

So I’m big and over it. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk about something else.

Today I entered week 36. I was at the quarry the other night, swimming lovely 50 long course meter laps at a lovely pace that used to be the interval I sent off on with 30 seconds rest when it hit me that I only have 4 to 5 weeks left. I’m almost done. I get to go back to being me. It’s hard to believe it. Like one of those I’ll believe it when I see it scenarios.

Or when I don’t see it. I’d really not like to see my stomach jutting out every time I look down.

I’ll be honest with you. As excited as I am about this being over, I am also a little scared. Because I’ve made the mistake of reading some birthing stories and let me tell you – there are things you don’t need to know. It’s kind of like reading a race report which should educate you but just ends up scaring the shit out you and leaves you questioning whether you are ready or whether you ever could be ready for something as EPIC as….childbirth.

In the category of epic things, I lasted 55 minutes yesterday on the elliptical. I wore my heart rate monitor for kicks and giggles. These days my heart rate just hangs in the 130s. The only way it really goes up is if I go into a porta potty on a very hot day. I discovered that while walking last week. I made my usual every 20 minutes trip to the porta potty to find my heart rate climbed from the 110s to 142. I thought to myself why the hell am I wasting my time walking 8 miles with my heart rate around 110 when I can just sit in the porta potty for half the time at 142?

I’ve been walking. And also riding. I also got Chris to recently re-pimp my ride. Even with the flip up handlebars on my mountain bike, I now need to be higher. The end result – something so ridiculous that I refuse to post pictures. I almost refused to ride it. But then I saw some guy riding down the street with a bike built just like mine and a basket on front (no joke) and thought – hell, if he can do it on State Route 56, I can do it on the privacy of the path.

As you can tell from the picture above, the other night I had to ride my time trial bike indoors. As I spun along at a wattage I used to think you could only hold by spinning by your pedals backwards, I had this great idea that maybe I could increase my speed by getting a little more aerodynamic. Reduce my frontal drag. Strap on an aero helmet. It didn’t work. I was maintaining 12.7 mph. I’m thinking about uploading my power file into WKO+ just to be sure I can quantify the training stress I produced with that ride before I find myself in a hole of overpregnancyovertraining.

I was riding indoors because it was storming balls outside. The safest place to be in a whogotgodreallypissed storm is on your trainer in the basement. Apparently the tornado sirens were going off but we didn’t know. I was too busy pedaling and talking to Chris as he rode next to me. It was like old times. About 30 minutes earlier I had to rescue him from the track. He rode over to the track before the storm blew in and I found him in the middle of a 1600 with ominous clouds impending from the north and lightning bolts crackling all around him. He told me I was a good wife to come and get him, I just knew that if I didn’t pull out the shepherd’s hook and take him off the track, I might find him like a cartoon skeleton burnt into the track from lightning.

And how would I explain that to Max?

The weather here, as you can tell, has been glorious. The other day it was a 100 degree heat index and so I did not leave the house. The next day it was about 100 percent less humidity but still 88 degrees and the only time I left the house was to walk Boss. I happened to walk him by the house of The Man With A Thousand Dogs. The man literally has something like a thousand dogs that he walks on one of those multi-leash systems, a dog in each size that dogs come in. He himself is a large man with a loud, nasal voice that likes to shout at each of his 1000 dogs.

Anyways, I noticed that he has a pool in his backyard. And a few times have noticed him lying next to it –and this was a disturbing sight. But today as I walked Boss by his house, I realized I am missing a golden opportunity here. It’s hot outside, the pool is cold, I’m large, he’s large and we could both lay together, large, next to the pool while shouting at our 1001 dogs.

Unfortunately, he was not laying outside so I could not propose this offer to him.

At this point in pregnancy and heat (I’m not in heat, it’s just hot outside), the only thing that sounds good is ice cream. I’ve tried to refrain for eating it because if I ate ice cream every time it sounded good I would be larger than the man with 1000 dogs. But I’m at the point where no food sounds good, no food sits well and my stomach has very little room for it anyways. I don’t understand how women gain 60+ pounds in pregnancy. Where do they put all of the food?

I’m still not at Ironman weight. I keep getting on the scale waiting for it to crack 140 and … nothing. I’m stuck at 139.4 lbs. I think when I finally hit 140.6 pounds I will celebrate by swimming 2.4 miles since that is the only Ironman-type thing I can do right now. I also realized that I am now closer to my husband’s weight than my own weight when I started. That scares me a little. We were riding on the path the other day when I was struggling with a hill – and that term is relative, it was more like a false flat but in pregnancy all those false flats are true hills – and told him to just go ahead, not to wait for me. Out of pity, he waited and justified my slowness. He told me I was not only hauling myself at about 140 pounds but roughly 30 pounds of mountain bike (probably more like 25 but add on another 5 pounds of spacers and those ridiculous handlebars!) . So, I am now hauling around 170 pounds. Which means that my legs are going to be strong as steel when all of this is done.

By my calculations, since I’m hauling around something bigger than my husband it’s safe to say that next year I will be stronger than him too. You see, there are benefits to pregnancy.

Part of my workout plan also includes family walks. That would be me, Chris, Boss and Max. Somehow I get the short end of the stick carrying around 50 percent of the family but …. Tonight we went to Herrick Lake. I got a preview of Chris’ parenting skills. We were walking around the lake and Chris was letting Boss walk on the rocks. Not the safest thing, if you ask me, but Chris assured me that Boss needed freedom to explore the world. Sure.

Almost on cue, Boss takes a wrong step off one of the rocks and lands himself in the lake. Imagine my 10 pound Mexican Barking Cat completely covered in duckweed and strings of milfoil from that nasty lake while trying to doggie paddle himself back to the rocks. He looked like a little green monster! Somehow I managed not to piss myself at this sight while also thinking wow, Boss, with a swim stroke like that you’d most certainly make the Ironman cut off. You always hear about dogs being able to swim and I always thought it was mostly bullshit but he was really doing it. It’s like we have the next Phelps here.

But all we really had was a very wet, mucky Chihuahua who needed a second bath for the week.

After the walk we went for dinner. I confessed to Chris that I was starting to get scared about giving birth. His response, what are you scared about? Hmm…let me see…


To which he responded, how bad can it hurt?

Easy for he without a uterus to say.

It’s kind of like a race. I know I’m prepared and I trust that I am capable of handling whatever is thrown my way but that doesn’t negate the fact that this is going to hurt like hell. And I’m going to have to grit my teeth, dig deep into my reserves and gut it out.

Or, ask for the very powerful drugs.

So, to wrap up, I’m big, I’m scared and I’m riding a bike that rivals what your grandma is riding around town. I might as well be wearing my aero helmet backwards.

Did I mention how much I’m enjoying these last few weeks of pregnancy?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Counting Down

This weekend I reached a turning point. I started counting down the days. Not weeks, days. I have 37 more days of being pregnant.

Give or take

About two weeks ago, I made a rule with myself – no more maternity clothes. Then I got bigger. With 37 days left, it’s hard to justify yet another round of oversized clothing. I’ve gotten many suggestions to wear my husband clothes. NO THANK YOU! I feel frumpy enough as it is. The last thing I want to see is myself walking around – huge – in a race t-shirt from yesteryear. I can’t even stand when Chris wears those damn shirts. Do people really need to know you did Ironhorse in 2001? That race isn’t even around anymore!

But not only did I get huger (word?), it also got hotter. Really hotter. We’re talking consistent days of 90 degrees with over 90 percent humidity. This is not the zone of tolerance for E.L.F. That zone exists indoors around 72 climate-controlled degrees right now. If my husband wasn’t such a nancy, I’d crank that air down to 68. In the heat, all I want to do is walk around naked. But you don’t want to see that. Sometimes my own reflection makes me think I don’t want to see that. So, I’d settle for just wearing shorts. However, the very thought of maternity shorts is about as appealing to me as wearing a race t-shirt.

And so, I found a much better solution. The dress. Forget the maternity dress. Why pay twice as much for something that makes you feel twice as big. I bought a bunch of clothes from Old Navy with built in air conditioning. Meaning – no legs, it’s a dress! Cool breeze to the crotch which I swear exists at about 212 degrees Farenheit when you are pregnant.

NOT KIDDING, fire in the hole takes on a whole new meaning.

Despite a fabulous new wardrobe that I get to wear for a whopping 37 days before setting it on fire in my backyard, I still feel enormous and uncomfortable. You know you’re getting very very VERY pregnant when your husband is now tying your shoes for you. He’s two years older than me so I’m pretty sure one day I’ll be wiping his ass so what’s fair is fair. But still, I’d like to bend over without getting a foot into my rib or feel like I might just capsize from my own front-loaded baby weight.

I’m starting to think about life after pregnancy. It’s closer than I think. There is so much that I haven’t done for the past 8 ½ months. Knowing that I can do some of it again is like knowing that I can unwrap dozens of presents on Christmas Day. It will happen. I just have to wait until it gets here.

Chris and I went for an after dinner walk last night. When he headed out the door holding a water bottle and turning on the Garmin, I had to remind him it was an after dinner walk. We don’t need to download this one into Training Peaks. He wanted to see how fast we were going. He needs to spend some time pregnant. I’m thinking – must we confirm how slow we are going?

While blistering along at a 17:12 mile, I realized we were walking my old neighborhood standby run route. You know, the route you run in the winter when you don’t want to drive in the snow, the route you run at 5:30 in the morning when you just want to get the run done, the route you run at lunch for your easy run. That route. I’ve ran it so many times in the past 5 years that I’ve grown to hate it – it’s boring! It’s all pavement! It’s that same damn route I’ve always done!

But out there walking it, I realized I missed it. I had dozens of memories on this route that started coming back to me. The first time I ever did a BIG week of training. I remember I was one 30 minute easy run away from being done with that when the day got away from me and I had to go to a dinner for Chinese New Year. I got back home in the dark, stuffed full of egg rolls, rice and other Chinese delights, when I learned a very valuable lesson – come egg rolls, darkness or dead of winter, I will finish those 30 minutes. I almost yakked up rice but at least I hit my BIG week mark. I remember running this route one cold winter morning at 5:30 am when I learned that at 5:30 am, anyone’s backyard can (and will) become your portable bathroom. I remember hitting the turnaround point at a speedy pace once and thinking – new personal record for the neighborhood route. I WIN!

As I was walking last night, it struck me. I cannot wait to run this stupid route again.

And then more things started hitting me. An entire list of things I want to do again. Things I took for granted, things I never realized how much I enjoyed. When these things are temporarily gone or you have been doing them – for nearly 40 weeks! – you find yourself longing for them (or longing for them to go away already).

I want to eat sushi - lots. Boston rolls to be specific. I want to eat them for a week straight until my blood runs mercury.

Wine. I just want a glass of Malbec. Why? Because it’s Saturday or because it’s Sunday or because I’ve been up with a baby for 24 hours straight. There need not be a reason. Any time will be wine time. I’ll become the master of pump and dump.

I’d like to linger in the hot tub. This might be an impossibility given that I’ll barely have time to swim once baby arrives but I’d like to just sit in the hot tub without worrying about cooking my unborn child. Instead, I’ll just worry about catching staph or something yummy like that.

Running. I cannot wait to run. I don’t care if I run 17:12 miles, I just want to run again.

I want a new bike. In exchange for carrying around 30+ pounds of weight, I want to really treat myself. Fuck spa day I want a new bike. I want a Cervelo P3 with fancy new wheels. I’ve spent nearly 10 months with bike envy for every new bike that has rolled in front of my eyes in Tuesday night class and it’s my turn dammit. MY TURN!

Coffee. I drink maybe 6 ounces of real coffee a week – on Saturdays with bagels. Aside from that, I do decaf, sometimes. Lately, though, I’ve been craving real coffee again. I know I don’t need it – and trust me, after two days of laying off the coffee you feel totally normal, don’t let coffee fool you – but I just like it. I’m still undecided about whether I’ll go back to regular but I’d like the option more often.

I almost said sleeping through the night without taking a potty break but then I remember I’m having a baby who will probably be up 10 times a night taking his own potty breaks.

I want to sleep on my back. This is one of those little things you think won’t matter until you are confined to your side. As you get bigger you keep waking yourself every time you flip to the other side. My mother in law told me she got so big she had to ask her husband flip her over. You become a pancake.

I want to eat a large meal again. I just want to enjoy eating again. As you get more pregnant your stomach shrinks. Or really your uterus grows. You can’t fit that much food in your stomach. And most of it comes back up as indigestion. I’d also like to crave food again. I’m at that point where I’m sick of eating (because it doesn’t feel good anyways) and nothing sounds good except…not kidding…Power Bars. There’s something wrong when you open the pantry and the only thing that jumps out at you is a Triple Threat.

I’d like to not poop 3 times a day thank you. After week 30, I went from famine to feast in that department. That’s all I’m going to say. The only other time I can claim this amazing feat is during Ironman training.

I want to be at the gym without feeling like Sideshow Bob. Some man walked up to me the other day and said has anyone ever walked up to you and touched your belly? I gave him that look like old man if you so much as get one inch closer to my belly I will throw a medicine ball at you. I also heard that a few old biddies at the front desk were yapping about me. Did you see that pregnant girl? She was working too hard, what was she thinking? This also brings me to my next point – I’d like the rest of the world to stop thinking or telling me what they know about me while pregnant. So, you know when I’m working too hard? Funny as I was hen-pecking out emails on my iPhone on the elliptical it didn’t feel all that hard to me. Or how about people who tell me that what might be my small baby (since when is 7 pounds small!?!) is going to be small because I run too much (I haven’t run more than 2 miles in 12 weeks!). I’d like to say that I can’t wait for the unsolicited advice to stop but I know that with parenthood, it has only just begun.

How about wearing running shorts without the pocket of flub flub sticking out over the edge. This is a late pregnancy thing, I believe yet another place where your body stores fat for what lies ahead. Oh my god – is this what people mean when they talk about muffin top?

I’d like to stop peeing so much in public. I’m not saying when I bike or run – that’s expected. But when I go for an after dinner walk, I’d like to not water a tree by the office building. Or walk into a store and the first thing I look for is a bathroom.

Finally, I’d like to stop wondering what Max will look like and meet him already. It is the most exciting feeling in the world knowing that you get to meet this little person that you made. One of my friends told me she never thought she could love something as much as she loves her daughter. I can sense that already. I’m sure it will be challenging and I won’t love when he takes a green crayon and writes across our living room wall but…I’d still look at him and think – I made that mess.

(note to self, buy washable crayons)

I’m sure there are other things I’ve missed but there’s a lot more I get to look forward to. A lifetime of helping this little person become whatever he wants to be! Scary, yes! Exciting – even more so! So I’m counting down. Only 37 more days!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week 35 Begins

On Wednesday, I had my 34 week appointment.

This is it – the last appointment before I begin weekly appointments. The last big ultrasound. The last time I will enter this office without someone sticking their hand up my….let’s just say it’s getting close to the end. That’s all you need to know.

I started with an ultrasound. It’s been 4 weeks since I last watched Max via ultrasound. The good news: he's still in there.

The technician measures the fluid. Then takes snapshots of vital organs. She measures his femurs (little bones on the screen – so cute!). She keep struggling to get a clear shot of his head. That is because at this point he has migrated south. Very far south. In fact, she kept commenting how far down his head is right now.

He looks like he’s ready to go.

What do you know….all of this telepathic – GET OUT OF ME – bullshit is working!

She tries to measure his brain but tells me he’s in an awkward position, too far down, not turning, not moving.

He’s not cooperating.

Let me assure you of this: his brain is large. He’s gonna be smarts one day. And I apologize, on his behalf, that he does not want to cooperate with you. I guess defiance to authority starts at a young age.


She measures his abdomen to estimate his weight. He measures right on schedule and comes in at a whopping 4 pounds 12 ounces which puts him in the 44th percentile. Everything else measures right on schedule except…his head. His head is a full two weeks ahead of him. This kid has a big noggin. My cervix shudders. Pushing that head out is not going to be the fun part.

Then again, none of it will be the fun part until…how soon until he is 18? Better yet – 21?

Next I meet with the doctor. She asks if the technician gave me the scoop about my ultrasound.

You are on track to have a baby that is 7 pounds and 0 ounces.

AMEN! That is the best news my cervix and I have heard in a long time. I was scared that I might be cranking out a 10 pound kid because in case no one else has noticed I’ve gained OVER THIRTY POUNDS! Can someone please tell me where it all is because it obviously is NOT in the 4 pound kid.

She then tells me there is a 20 percent margin of error but their ultrasound technician is usually pretty good at making predictions. Ok, whatever that means, but 20 percent could mean he weighs 8 ½ pounds or 5 ½ pounds. So what you’re saying is all you can guarantee is that I will have a baby.


The doctor gets ready to measure me and says that I look like a runner type. I am! Well, I used to be. I will be again! I actually did run the other day. I was on the treadmill walking and got in a cumulative 20 minutes of running at…wait for this…a 15:00 per mile pace. No, I didn’t run 15 miles, I ran FIFTEEN MINUTE MILES.

Yes, you can still run at that pace.

The doctor wraps things up by warning me that only 5 percent of women deliver on their due date. It’s like a moving finish line. Imagine two people standing across the road holding a finish line tape. And they keep moving it forward, back, what if they move it up the road 2 miles when you’re already spent and ready to be done. What then?

It’s safe to say that if I have not yet given birth, no one should communicate with me between July 29 and August 11.

And that closes the chapter of 34 weeks. Here I go into week 35. I know, I’m almost there! I can’t say that I’m tapering yet (mustn’t start the taper too soon lest I peak too early) but I assume that at week 36 I will start tapering. And like any good taper, I will probably start feeling really fat and sassy then. When I say tapering, I mean doing taper things like putting things in baggies, nesting, making lists. All that crazy shit you do when tapering for Ironman. I’m guessing that tapering for the due date is the same. I’ll put together my special needs bag for the hospital and probably bring along some Power Bars in case they don’t have any on the course. As for other quirky tapering behavior, to be determined. But I remember finding my husband in the kitchen, naked, looking for shower cleaner so he could clean the showers when he was tapering for Ironman so who knows...

If you see me naked in the kitchen after week 36, you are warned to cover your eyes.

Workouts continue. When I tell people I am still working out, they look at me like I am crazy or brave. I am neither. I am just doing what feels good and normal to me. I didn’t say comfortable because as pregnancy moves along you start feeling less and less comfortable. Especially now that my bladder has turned completely against me. The other day on a walk, I stopped to pee 4 times in the first 25 minutes. Then every 20 minutes from there. You think I’m kidding. The side of the road of a local park knows I am not. I have watered every tree out there. And you know what – I’m not the only one. I ducked behind a tree to pee and realized there was an old dude a little bit ahead of me sprinkling on a tree. We were like kindred spirits out there. His creaky prostate, my pregnant bladder.

A few days later, I wanted to ride my bike so I put all of my gear into the car and drove to the forest preserve. I got there and realized I had everything but…my bike. A few hours later, I tried again, this time putting the bike in the car. I got half way to the forest preserve and realized I forgot my helmet. I read about pregnancy brain but didn’t believe it until I started finding myself upstairs looking blankly at the closet/mirror/bedroom thinking to myself….what the hell am I up here for?

I made a third attempt at riding that day, this time with my bike and helmet. And sure enough 20 minutes into the ride I had to pee. So, I rode down an offshoot of the path to find a shady spot to take what had to be the best pee ever (note that every pee you take when pregnant is the BEST pee).

No sooner do I stand up to pull up my shorts than a man starts riding towards me.

Perfect timing.

It’s not that I felt embarrassed. Heck, I’ve crapped and pissed all over the woods of DuPage County. I just felt sorry for the man. Picture this: ridiculous man-sized Ironman finisher bike jersey covering a very pregnant belly, helmet, tri shorts that I probably should have retired 30 pounds ago. Disturbing, I agree. If you’ve ever tried to pull up your shorts on your sweaty pregnant body, you know that it’s not easy and it takes some time. I’m pretty sure I was standing there ass naked for a good 20 seconds before I got the shorts in place. And he comes buzzing along. I wanted to say to him, listen, I’m 35 weeks pregnant and I cannot be held responsible for whatever you just saw because I haven’t seen it in over 12 weeks.

I wanted to apologize for violating him but instead I stood there frozen and all I could say was: I really had to go.

He laughed.

I find myself counting down now. Five more Saturdays of eating bagels and drinking coffee with just Chris and me, five more Mondays swimming in the quarry where I don’t have to worry about getting engorged, five more weeks until life changes forever.

Are we ready? Well, heck, if you aren’t ready after spending over 35 weeks waiting, thinking and preparing then you probably never will be. So, we’re about as ready as we’re going to be.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Getting Pumped

We’ve been making the final preparations for Max. Getting organized, assembling baby things, and, honestly figuring out just how the hell half this shit works.

The first challenge: the Baby Bjorn carrier. Purchased by my mom. Who spent about an hour walking around BuyBuyBaby calling it the Baby B-Jorn until I told her they don’t have f-jords in Norway, they are fjords and so it is Bjorn.

Turns out the carrier is as complicated as pronouncing the name. Anything that requires reading and following directions, I immediately defer to Chris. He has a savant skill for understanding directions. Some call it “patience.” I call it years of putting things together and taking them apart. He straps the carrier to himself and in a few pulls, clicks and tugs – he is walking around with Boss attached to his body by way of Baby Bjorn.

Boss – not so thrj-illed.

The next challenge was the vibrating chair. Sounds sexy, eh? Get your mind out of the gutter! We’re talking about baby here which is – from what I’ve heard – the anti-sex. The vibrating chair is a comfort chair that vibrates and plays music. We passed on the swing because those damn swings take up the same amount of space as a bike. And if we have to choose bike vs. swing…sorry, kid, no swing. The chair barfed out of the box in a dozen pieces and zip ties. Yet another job for Chris. He quickly assembled the chair like he was born to put vibrating chairs together.

I wanted to put Boss in the chair to see how it worked but unfortunately, we do not have the 200 double A batteries that it requires to operate.

We also need to figure out how the baby monitor works. Not surprisingly, this was a gift from Popo. No, not the “popo” but the Popo, his grandmother. A most fitting gift. Popo might be approaching 90 but she is vigilant, tenacious and obsessed with safety. Wash the clothes before the baby wears them. Did you wash the clothes yet? You need to wash the clothes. What is it with old people and washing things? She also asks 100 times before you eat the fruit if you washed the fruit and if you washed your hands. Anyhow, something that involves safety, watching and spying….sounded like the perfect gift from her.

Baby monitors can get pretty high tech. We chose the Summer monitor with a small portable monitor. Popo suggested (demanded) the one that came with a 12 inch screen too. I don’t even watch our large screen television in the living room. What are the odds that I’m going to stare at a screen where the programming is even less exciting? The hand-held monitor will do. Besides, you know I’m going to be checking in on that kid 100 times a day just to be sure he’s breathing.

Like every first mom.

I still need to figure out how to fold and unfold the stroller. I’m a little scared, fearing that the stroller will become like a man trap on wheels. The man trap was on Ragbrai one year. It was a lawn chair that literally folded up while you were still sitting on it, become a man-eating chair or … the man trap. My biggest fear is that the stroller will be like a little man trap, with one wrong press of a button or tug on a handle that results in the stroller consuming Max whole. Gone, lost in the bowels of the stroller forever.

With me to blame.

I am even more scared of the breast pump. Knowing that I will have no time to learn how to use it after birth, I opened it up on Monday night. Chris was sitting in the baby glider, rocking himself to sleep, when I told him it was time to learn how to use the breast pump. I gave him fair warning, get out or you might see something that will forever change the way you view the breast.

He stayed.

My mother-in-law gave me a Medela Pump In Style Advanced breast pump. I read and heard a lot of great feedback about this pump. It’s like the 2010 Cervelo P2 SL with Dura Ace…top of the line.

Top of the line except….no instructions.

I looked at it – a sporty looking bag with some hoses, plugs, bottles and two things that look like bull horns. I press one and half expect it to make that obnoxious horn sound that you hear when the Blackhawks score a goal. I try putting a hose into the pump but I fail. Though he doesn’t have functional breasts and will never need to pump, Chris takes one look at all of the accessories and knows exactly what to do.

It’s assembled but now what? Should I really do this – like a dress rehearshal, attach the horn to my boob and pump away? What if it hurts. What if it sucks my boob right into the bottle. They’re still not that big! It could happen! What if….what if I start lactating!?!?

I’m scared.

For whatever reason (devotion, love, speed goggles), Chris is (usually) willing to do anything for me. If I say I want ice cream, he drives out to the store and buys me ice cream. If I say I don’t want to walk the dog, he walks Boss. If I say I don’t know how to do it, he helps me figure it out.

Give me the pump, says Chris from the glider.

He takes the pump and then does something that qualifies as either the most hilarious or most disturbing thing I have ever seen:

He attempts to milk himself.

(entire silence as I am, for once, utterly speechless)

Look at this, he says.

I look, and I see nothing. Then, I look closer and realize the pump is actually milking Chris as it pulses on minimum speed.


And so I did what any wife would do….I turned that pump up to maximum speed!

The good news is that Chris did not start expressing any milk. The even better news is that he used the pump on the appropriate body part. The bad news is that my brand new pump has been violated by Chris’ man boob.

I, being the competitive I can do anything you can do better little wife, take the pump and decide to give it a whirl. After all, it’s now or never. I am going to have to do this eventually. I will spare you the details but as I sat there with a pulsing bull horn on my boob I said, at least I now know what it will feel like.

Speaking of the chest (sorry, guys), when Molly saw me a few weeks ago she admitted that she was just not that impressed. I agree. You have these visions of voluptuous 38Es residing on your body for 40 weeks and realize all you got was a set of floppy Bs. Yay. Someone blow a freakin' party horn for me. I was starting to lose hope for 38E until the other day at masters practice.

If you recall, I use to swim in a lane with another pregnant woman. Together we would sometimes accept a man into our lane who arrived late, warning him there was a good chance our collective estrogen might impregnate him. She left and then it was just me with half my estrogen charged power. Well, she gave birth about 7 weeks ago. Me, still pregnant and swimming in the wall lane (which is like saying: bowling in the lane with bumpers), looked up on Saturday to notice a woman. Maybe it was her rainbow swimsuit but more likely it was her tiny waist with what had to be the most giant out of place boobs I have ever seen.

It was the once pregnant woman.

HOLY CRAP, I said to her, you look great! She really did. I’m not just saying that as a bunch of I’ve heard it so many times I just say it randomly people to now bullshit. This was her second child, yet she still had time to walk and swim her way through pregnancy which obviously paid off. She had a teeny tiny flat stomach and looked like her old self. The crazy part – she had a C-section so she has only been back to swimming for the past week.

HOPE IS ALIVE! I will one day look like myself again!

She smiled a little and then must have noticed my eyes on her boobs.

This is what you have to look forward too, she said pointing to them.

HUGE. They are HUGE! As excited as I am about finally having the boobs that some women (really?) pay for, I think to myself – I have a feeling pumping those is going to be a whole different ballgame.

I'll admit, I feel a little more prepared after all of these preparations. Which means right now I feel roughly…33 percent prepared. A big part of the missing preparation is from the baby’s room. I would call it finished except that would actually require the furniture store to finish delivering our furniture. So much for ordering it back in February. The last I called, I got a story about how New Jersey was detaining our dresser and nightstand at their port.

Hey, New Jersey, would you let my furniture go already?

Allegedly, it will be here next week. That is what they said two weeks ago. And that is after it was supposed to be here in April. Lesson learned for moms-to-be: it is never too early to order your baby’s furniture.

Until it arrives, I’m putting the baby’s room on lockdown. The last thing I need is my husband trying to milk the dog while holding it in the Baby Bjorn carrier. Or running around the house naked wearing my breast-feeding cape (he's already told me that when Max is old enough to run naked laps, he's joining him).

I probably shouldn’t give him ideas like that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Baby Care

While the rest of your were carbo-loading, tapering, racing or ice bathing on Saturday, Chris and I were attending a class called Baby Care.

I can feel the jealousy oozing in through my computer.

This was it. The last class that would certify us as officially prepared to be parents. Who are we kidding. I mean, who is ever prepared for parenthood? And just when you feel prepared you talk to someone who is a parent and they say to you:


It’s a riveting piece of advice that everyone feels compelled to tell you like you’ve never heard (or thought) it before. Consider it heard. Loud and clear. Again and again.

Do I also look great? Am I also almost there?

(and yes, there is a connection between weeks in pregnancy and high sass-o-meter readings)

Baby care was taught by a labor and delivery nurse whom I just could not take seriously. She used the word like, like, about something like 100 times in like every sentence. And, she had a freakish obsession with coffee that scared even me. But she had years of experience that she shared with us about all things baby.

Every adult class starts with a round of introductions. For this one, we had to tell one interesting fact about ourselves. Our fact was that before class we were at swim team practice, the same team where we met about 10 years ago.


We got a lot of blank stares and silence from the instructor. I am not sure why. But I will just say that the guy at the end of the table - his interesting fact was "I drive a Chevy."


Class finally starts. Let’s start talking about baby baths. Who knew that getting something clean could be so…hard? Can it be any more difficult than bathing my small dog? You get out a bacon bone. You put Boss in the laundry room basin. You turn on the water. You pour water over his head at which point he sits defeated with floppy wet ears and tail between his legs. You dry him off. You give him the bacon bone. I guess babies don’t do that. They are squiggly at best and they have all kinds of bathing needs. No baths for two weeks after birth, no soap, no baby powder, no baby oil, no leaving them unattended for even a split second, no fragrances, no lotions.

Without all of that stuff how can I call this kid clean?

The nurse kept assuring us that babies don’t get dirty (how can something that poops itself multiple times a day not get dirty) and that you can get clean with just water and a washcloth (please do NOT tell my husband that, it’s bad enough when the water runs for 2 minutes and I have to ask…did you really use soap, really?).

We talked a lot about feeding. Breastfeed up to 6 months, 12 months is better. The pros and cons of formula vs breast-feeding became clear. Boobs are cheap. Formula is not. Boobs are convenient. Formula is not. Breast-fed babies tend to eat what they need. Formula-fed babies tend to overeat because sucking on a bottle is so much easier than a breast. That last statement sounded totally sexual until you realize that the post-partum breast is utilitarian. It is not sexy. True, not everyone has the luxury of breast-feeding but even if you can do it a little, she suggested a little is better than nothing.

Did we not cover this in breastfeeding class? I’m bored. I look over to my husband, he is posting pictures to Facebook of our Mini-Baby for learning infant CPR. I’m twiddling my thumbs, he is Facebooking. Why do I sense we’re going to get more than a few notes sent home from teacher about Max not paying attention in class?

More about feeding! Expect 10 to 12 feedings a day. That is feeding every 2 hours or so and each feeding can last 5 to 45 minutes. I’ll never leave the house. I’ll never even have time to feed myself! And you should keep track of those feedings because the doctor will ask you about them. I’ve got to keep charts on this kid? More math? It’s bad enough adding up all those swim workouts each week – and my athletes know how bad I can be at that! But here’s a helpful hint, there is an iPhone app called Baby Connect where you can keep track of all feedings and diaperings.

For $4.99, it’s worth it.

We must have spent an hour talking about how to dress the baby. Herein lies my problem with taking classes: other people. You would think that making the baby requires a small degree of common sense. Not so. I have never heard so many ridiculous questions about how to dress a baby. Is it really that hard? If it’s hot out, they wear less. Cold out, wear more. Enter the woman to my left who keeps probing the instructor for a specific temperature where you would make the cut off for long sleeves vs. short sleeves. OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD IT IS A BABY! Considering you can change them up to 18 times a day, they’ll spend half the time naked. In between, just wrap them in a blanket or something.

Next we talked about rectal thermometers. Yet another brilliant question:

How far so you push the thermometer in.

Well, duh, until it comes out of the baby’s mouth. Just be sure to first lubricate it.

Then we heard a lot of rules and facts. Unless your baby has a diaper rash, no ointment. No unnecessary visitors in the first few weeks. No pacifiers past 4 months unless you want a lifetime of bad teeth. No blankets in the crib! No bumpers, no stuffed animals. No Motrin before 6 months. No Bundle Me on the car seat, no hanging toys on the carseat. Did you know if I was hit while driving 30 mph, my unbelted 10 pound chihuahua would hit you with 300 pounds of force and do you have any idea what that can do to a baby!? ONLY PUT THEM TO SLEEP ON THEIR BACK! No cords from blinds. No magnets, children like to eat magnets! Beware of drains and pools. Gate your stairs. Lock up your cleaning supplies. Do not leave your house until week 3. Only controlled environments until week 6.

Wait, am I a parent or a prisoner?

Don’t answer that.

The discussion on car seats was like a whole new journey into why did you just ask that.

Bottom line: back seat, rear facing until they are up to 2 years old.

But what if I disable my front air bag, can I put them in the front seat?

What do you not understand about back seat rear facing?

I know, I’m going to put them in the backseat but what if I disabled the air bag, could I put them in the front seat?


(Chris is now texting me this is why I hated school, other people’s dumb questions)

Time to make out with the Mini-Baby Infant CPR Mannequin. Imagine a baby blow up doll with an opening in its mouth so air can pass through.

(Chris posts a picture to Facebook that says, this is what happens when you get a blow up doll pregnant)

2 breaths, 30 compressions, 2 breaths, 30 compressions.

Then, what to do when the baby is choking.

Excuse me, how hard should you hit the baby between their shoulder blades?

Hard enough to knock their head off? WHO KNOWS! As hard as you need to hit until the object flies out. How can the instructor quantify that? No wonder she drinks so much coffee. She probably has to keep her mouth full to prevent her from blurting out I’ll show you how hard and then wacking the question asker in the back.

Diapering! We got to practice. Actually, I made Chris practice. First test – identify the two characters on the diaper. He pauses for a moment, then pulls this out:

That is the Snuffleupagus and the other one is Big Bird.

SCORE! Wait….Chris was raised by wolves in a cold barn with no television (true, he’ll tell you that himself). How did he know that? Now, diaper the kid.

After trying to steal the baby doll next to us because it had Asian eyes, Chris reluctantly prepares to diaper our blue-eyed Caucasian baby (this cannot be our baby) doll. First, he peels off the old diaper.

Looks like our son has not been circumsized.

We already signed the waiver. Now put the clean diaper on him.

He gets it correct. All right! Now, get ready to repeat that up to 18 times a day!

Cord care. All you need to know is that it is going to fall off and you won’t be able to find it when it does. And if you have a dog, they will probably be found playing with it.


Other things I didn’t know – put the car seat in the center seat, when it comes to Chicco vs. Graco – the Chicco wins for ease of strap adjustment and fit, you’ll be using a carseat until your child’s 8th birthday, the nurse will not help you put the baby into the car seat at the hospital due to liability, and you have to have the baby in the carseat before you leave due to liability, you also will take a ride in a wheelchair with that carseat as you leave the hospital due to liability.

The class ended with an informative video about why babies cry, fuss, why they are the way they are. It was based on the book The Happiest Baby on the Block. I’m not sure if I buy it all – that will be left to when the baby arrives and I try it – but the theory is that when babies are born they are still fetuses. They only get born because they start getting too big to be in womb so much of their development continues outside the womb. The first 3 months are therefore the fourth trimester. During this time, the baby needs to be treated like a fetus; swaddled to mimic the tight space in womb, jiggled a little to mimic the movements it felt during pregnancy, shushed with white noise just like they heard in the womb (ie, hair dryer, vacuum, your shushing) and put on their side (just like when they were in the womb too).

All of a sudden, I get worried.

I’m always on the move, jiggling him – do you think Max has gotten used to that?

Probably. Which means he’ll probably never sit still or pay attention in class or get the best grades. He’ll probably be dreaming of recess during math class and squiggle when he gets a bath. But … that’s ok. Because I’m thinking that common sense and a pair of fast legs will take him much further in life.

We finished the class feeling like we learned a few things we didn’t already know but a lot more confident in what we do already know. What we know is that we’ll figure it out. We don’t need to read 1,000 books, call the pediatrician every day, second guess ourselves, baby proof the house/yard/world until it is 101 percent safe. Like most things in life, we don’t need to be totally prepared. We just need to have the common sense and intuition to figure things out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week 34 & Waiting

I am officially done with being pregnant.


Technically I still have 6 weeks to go but for mental health purposes I am calling myself done and allowing myself to become the disgruntled, large, and very uncomfortable pregnant woman.

At this point, you start to get urges. Aside from the very, very, very frequent urge to urinate (didn’t I just go?) or urge to coax the baby out (I know you can hear me in there, I’ll buy you anything you want for the next two years if you just GET OUT already), you get the urge to just start speaking and acting out your mind (which in my case could be a very dangerous thing). I walked into the dog park the other day when I heard this:

Well, there’s no question now, you look very, very pregnant.

Right then, I had the urge to slap the woman and tell her to shut her piehole.

Up until this point, I’ve been good. I’ve put up a good fight. Telling people I FEEL GREAT (extra emphasis on great). Trying to stay positive. And then it turned into summer. Summer is hot. A friend told me that her mother got through pregnancy in the summer by laying in a lounge chair, eating ice chips and scratching her belly. When I heard that, I thought to myself oh my god is that going to be me?

I’ve been thinking that filling my jog bra with some ice chips every time I pass the freezer is the best idea I've had in a long time.

I was feeling GREAT until about a week ago. That would be the point at which every time I went to the bathroom (roughly every 20 minutes), I felt like I might also poop the baby out. Maybe he is starting his descent into my pelvis. Maybe I need to lay off the flax seed. Maybe I literally will be the first woman ever to shit a baby out.

Honestly, I still feel mostly good (as good as you can feel when you’ve added nearly 30 percent of your starting body weight) but I’d just like to be done. I’m getting bored. Books warned me about this. A sense of boredom with the pregnancy. I know that life will get very “un”boring very soon here and I’m not saying I want to be up all night with a small mammal attached to my boob but…you also get this sense of … put me in coach, I’m ready. I can’t wait any more. We have everything we need, everything we don’t need and if I have to go to BuyBuyBaby one more time to look for things I still might need but don’t have I just might go monkey shit in the stroller section.

Tick tock.

I know what you're thinking: hang in there, the end is near. But that’s like telling someone at mile 18 of the Ironman marathon you’re almost there.


No, I’m not. I still have 8 miles to go. Sure I’ve already gone 132 miles but these last 8 miles are going to tick along painfully slow. The same with pregnancy. A brave and honest woman actually told me the other day that the last 4 weeks are the worst. They go by really, really slow.

Thank you for not bullshitting me.

It just occurred to me that somewhere in the next few weeks I will pass the Ironman mark in weight. I have now gained 30 pounds, putting me at … drumroll … 138 pounds. I’m willing to accept bets on when I pass the 140.2 mark.

I’m also willing to eat ice cream until that happens in order to cool my core temperature down.

Someone asked me how I was sleeping. Not at all. I know I’m in bed and the lights are out but I’m not sleeping. I’m just closing my eyes between being awake at 12:41 am, 3:41 am, 4:54 am for no reason at all. Sometimes I have to pee. Sometimes I’m hot. Pretty much that can sum up the way I feel: I’ve got to pee and I’m hot.

You think I’m exaggerating. Just wait…you’ll see.

Exactly 6 weeks from two days ago, on July 28th, Max is due to arrive. I’ve decided that for the sake of just being pregnant and grateful, I will prohibit myself from being miserable (remember, right now I’m just disgruntled) until…July 29th. If he does not make his exit on time, I am allowed to throw myself into full misery and eat nothing but ice cream until he comes.

I’ve heard that many first-time mothers deliver late so I might as well start stocking my freezer now.

I thought maybe I was alone in the way I was feeling. I mean, isn’t every other pregnant woman out there just head over heels giddy about the whole thing and loving life large and walking around in a cute matching maternity ensemble that looks frickin’ amazing with her adorable painted toenails and perfectly styled hair?

The answer is…no.

A very pregnant friend posted something on my Facebook wall today.



I’m still working out. Unless I am chained to my bed, it’s safe to say I will be working out every day until I give birth. At this point, the object in motion will stay in motion. As a pregnant woman, you want to be in motion. Sloth feels like hell. Don’t give in to it. Some days I have freakish energy, perhaps this is nesting, and rather than cleaning out a closet (they’re all clean), I channel that energy into a workout. I’ve been doing two workouts a day through most of pregnancy (as long as your doctor hasn’t restricted your activity, don’t be afraid of the double) and I’m still doing that or making my one workout longer.

I’ve been walking some long walks of 2 hours or so. I find the hilliest course I can and just walk out and back. Oddly, the time passes much quicker walking than it ever did running. I also take a lot of leisurely walks with Chris. I have a crazy theory that if I can walk as much as I used to run in a week, I will transition better back to running.

Though I also sense that my first run back will feel like death.

And as for running, I actually did string together 30 minutes of running the other day as 2 minutes walking, 2 minutes running. I brought Boss along and wish I had a picture of myself (large) running with Boss (very small). He lasted 18 minutes before he laid down and protested. Who knew my 15-minute per mile pace would shut him down.

Biking has been going well. I’m still on the path riding my mountain bike with NO BASKET OR LITTLE DOG thankyouverymuch. I will say that my biggest risk on the path is dogs on retractable leashes. Complete hazard. Almost clotheslined myself with one the other day. Another hazard – small children on bikes. They ride like they’re drunk and chances are they can’t see because their helmet is covering their eyes. Approach with caution.

I’ve been swimming more because it’s open water season! I used the wetsuit once but didn’t so much enjoy it. It is possible to be too buoyant. When I found myself swimming along and kicking on top of the water in air, I knew that next time I would not be wearing a wetsuit.

Strength training continues, too. Bosu, TRX, weights. Lots of glute strength, pelvic exercises and of course – arms. All I want is to maintain some semblance of definition in my arms since everything else seems to have been swallowed up by baby fat and water retention.

Wait, can you retain water in your arms?

I’d like to think my belly is so big because I’m retaining water in there. But I think I’m just retaining baby. Here is the latest belly shot.

Trust me, I’m as tired of hauling that belly around as you are of looking at it. The belly has literally exploded in baby. By now, the books say that Max is 5 pounds and 18 inches long. 5 pounds. I look around my house for other things that weigh 5 pounds and find a bag of unopened whole wheat flour.

That entire bag is in my belly, I think to myself. Along with 2 extra pounds of blood, 2 pounds of boob, 1.5 pounds of womb, 7 pounds of fat, 1.5 pounds of placenta, 2 pounds of amniotic fluid and 4 pounds of retained water.

I’d like to argue that last value as grossly underestimated.

Someone shout it at me, you're almost there! Clap a little for me and ring a cowbell, please? I know it's a short way to go but it feels like eternity. I looked at my belly tonight and thought - really, how much bigger CAN it get?

(enter the thoughts of over a dozen once pregnant women who are reading this and thinking sister you haven't seen big yet)

Like a pregnant friend said, I can do anything for 6 weeks. No, really, I can. Waiting these next 6 weeks can’t be any worse than finding yourself at mile 80 of a 112 mile ride riding into a 20 mph headwind, watching your baggie of salt tabs take flight out of your hand, breaking up with your bike seat and shortly thereafter getting stung by a bee in your helmet. Sooner than later, I'll be crossing the transition mat and starting the run.

Which will last for the next 18 years of my life!

I'm gonna need more cowbell.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

On Success

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re getting into the thick of racing season. The best time of the year. All of the workouts in the dark, runs in the cold and suffering on the trainer finally unfolds in a display of you’re either ready to bring it on race day or you left it at home. I love watching the races unfold, I love race reports, race plans, splits, results and … I love racing.

This year, I have a unique view of races. I’m on the sidelines. And so, I’ve spent a lot of time studying and watching athletes from the other side – without my own views as an athlete clouding it – and I’ve learned a lot of things. I see the results, I read the race reports. When you’re on the other side – the coaching side – you really get a good sense of what it takes to be successful.

Every athlete has their own measure of success. One persons win is literally a win. Another person’s win is a smile across their face while finishing nearly last in their age group but knowing for them that they absolutely nailed it. Success is totally personal, only defined by the athlete and the meanings they place on what they are doing out there.

While success is highly individual, what brings an athlete to that success is not. Some athletes chase after success elusively because they don’t get it. Others run right into it over and over again because they get it. I’ve coached all types of athletes and the ones that nail their goals have good reason.

Here are some of those reasons:

1 - Success is not about who coaches you, rather it’s about how you choose to be coached. Not all athletes need to be coached. But for the successful who do work with a coach, they truly want to be coached which means they trust and follow the plan. Coaching is not a choose your own adventure. It’s not – I’ll do a little bit of what they say and a little more/less of what I want. You can’t expect anything of the plan if you’re always changing it. If you’re always changing (or doubting) it, ask yourself do you really want to be coached? If so, then get the most out of it by trusting and following it.

2 – Successful athletes are consistent. In general they lose very little time (and therefore fitness) due to injury, illness, low motivation, other life things. This says a lot about their time management, how they attend to their recovery, how they take care of themselves. I coach everyone from students to cardiac surgeons. They all have different demands on their time, yet the successful ones make the time to be consistent with their workouts. Even if it means getting up early, staying up late or saying no to other commitments that will eat up their time. Why? They know that in the end, nothing matters but consistency. Doesn’t matter what equipment you have, which coach you use or how bad you want it – if you can’t consistently do the workouts, you won’t make progress.

3 – Success is about setting goals and then actually doing the work to achieve them. Dreaming up the goal or even writing it down is the easy part. Getting up day after day to do the work – knowing that the work of performance improvement is sometimes boring, uncomfortable, monotonous - is the hard part. You hear this a lot – just do the work. I say it a lot. When you tell someone to just do the work, you tell them what to do and what not to do. Don’t evaluate yourself in a workout, don’t overthink the workout, don’t be your own worst enemy. Just do the work.

4 – Successful athletes know how to set and maintain their own fire. They want it (a PR, a win, those extra 10 watts) – bad. Their fire focuses and motivates them. If they have a bad workout or race, the fire doesn’t go out, it burns hotter. Because of this fire, when they get out there in a key workout or race, they focus, they execute, they (usually) succeed. They use this success to build the fire stronger. Fire makes them fight, fire keeps them pushing through to the finish line no matter how the race is going. It is 100 times easier to give up on yourself and your goals then to keep igniting your own fire. Most athletes take the easy way out. This is why few are successful.

5 – Successful athletes make it look easy but – it’s not. Success hurts! It really hurts to breakthrough. It really hurts to work up to your potential. There is the physical discomfort of pushing but also the mental discomfort of experiencing and then overriding that pain. This is not easy work. The work that goes on in the successful athlete’s head is probably more painful than the work in their legs. Their legs do what their mind tells them to do. Legs will not go if your mind is settled in on how much it hurts, how hot it is, how hilly it is, how it is so hard! Of course it’s hard! If it was easy everyone would be number one.

6 – Successful athletes step up – to the challenge, to the race, to the competition. The race director says no wetsuit, they say no problem. It’s just another obstacle to overcome on race day. They are confident they can overcome anything because they are prepared both mentally and physically. Many athletes show up to race day physically prepared. Few are mentally prepared. Perhaps because they don’t step up in training. It’s raining, I’ll run on the treadmill. So, will the race be on the treadmill too? It’s windy, I’ll ride the trainer. Will they cancel the bike if the wind exceeds 10 mph? Step up so you are physically prepared and so you can learn to be mentally prepared for dealing with whatever is thrown your way.

7 – Successful athletes have perspective. Bad days, bad workouts, off races. We all have them. That’s what makes the good ones so good. The bad ones are just part of being a human animal – our bodies sometimes have an unpredictable rhythm, so be it. No formula can predict performance. And no single bad workout should derail the confidence you gained from months of (consistent) training. Keep it all in perspective. If you swim feels off one day, give it a day to turnaround. If your race goes poorly, look at it, learn from it, and then move forward. And by all means, don’t be surprised when a bad workout or race happens. You can have the best training data in the world but sometimes…it just doesn’t come together on race day. That’s what makes all of this so exciting – no guarantees, you never know. If we did know, there would be no point in racing.

8 – Successful athletes have mastered the basics. They go into workouts hydrated, they eat well throughout the day, they know how to recover with food and sleep. These basics are the building blocks to successful workouts. If you go into workouts underfueled, if you don’t recover by eating well, you will never make progress. Yet it always surprises me how many athletes will keep running into the same brick wall with eating and drinking – how they will waste their time and money with coaching, traveling, training and racing when it all comes down to something as simple as putting the right food/drink into their mouth at the right time. It’s really not that hard but sometimes adults will overcomplicate the easiest and most logical thing because they don’t believe it really can be that simple. It is!

9 – Successful athletes control the controllables. While there are many things in training and racing that we cannot control, there are so many things we can control (our fueling, our preparation, our mindset). Blaming failure or a bad workout on something uncontrollable really doesn’t make sense. Coming back from a race and saying “I didn’t feel like drinking” is like saying “I chose to throw away 3 days of my time, 3 months of training and $1000 in race and travel fees.” Flush. You control you. You make choices out there. No one can control the weather, but you can control your pacing, your hydration or what goes on in your head. When you let yourself get defeated by the uncontrollable, you lose control and … lose the race. You make this choice. The successful athlete never chooses defeat.

10 – Successful athletes are resilient. They bounce back from setbacks, injuries or obstacles. They know that all of this is part of the process of bettering yourself. You cannot find your limit if you never push there and that pushing is a risk. When injury occurs, they do what they can to address it, prevent it and keep looking forward. They look at downtime as an opportunity to work on a weakness or focus their energy elsewhere. They understand their body enough to know when it’s saying rest or when it’s just saying that was hard. They understand because they listen. They let go of the obsessive need to do everything on the schedule because that’s what it says to do in favor of doing what is the best thing for their body based on what it is saying to them.

11 – Successful athletes set realistic expectations. Their goals are grounded in confidence and preparation. In other words, they know the pace or performance they are capable of because they have done it in training. Remember, nothing magical happens on race day. If your 5K pace is 7:45 per mile, don’t expect to hold 8:00s off the bike in a half Ironman. That’s not realistic, that’s delusional. Successful athletes set goals that stretch beyond where they currently are but realize there is a timeline for progress. You don’t magically drop 5 percent body fat nor 1 minute per mile in a month. These athletes also accept how weather, terrain and time of the year will influence their training or racing pace. If it takes a 5:30 half IM to win your age group on a hilly course and you do that, the successful doesn’t lament about it being “slow”. They see (and celebrate) that realistically on that course, on that day, that was a success.

12 – Successful athletes learn lessons. They make mistakes – who doesn’t – but they learn from them. Some athletes run into the same brick walls over and over and over again. Whether it’s pacing, nutritional, it’s like they are addicted to the drama of their failure. The successful athlete reflects on the race, goes through what worked/what didn’t worked, learns their lessons and integrates those lessons into improved performance next time. If you keep making the same mistake, ask yourself why you are choosing not to fix it.

13 – The successful athlete is their own biggest motivator, cheerleader and fan. We all need a little motivation from time to time but if you need boom boom rah rah every day to do a workout – you’re just not that into it. Successful athletes just have that drive that keeps them into it. They know their purpose, they are excited to do the easy workouts, the hard workouts – and they are just as excited the next day after a bad workout as a good workout. Motivation fluctuates but they don’t have entire weeks of I just didn’t feel like working out. Sure, you can do that but don’t expect to set a personal best at your next event. Go back to consistency. You need it to get anywhere. And to stay consistent you’ve got to be motivated. That comes from within. No matter what a coach, spouse or friend says to you – it’s not going to get you as fired up to get out there as what you say to yourself.

I coach athletes of all different ages and abilities. Some are training for a local sprint, others a marathon, some for Ironman. When I step back and look at the successes, despite all of their differences there are commonalities. Success is less about the workout details, the weekly volume hours, the miles you put in. It’s more about what I’ve listed above. And all of those things come from the athlete – not from the coach. In fact, what I’ve learned, is that the coach is just a mentor who guides the athlete to develop into their own success. The coach themselves does not create the success. Remember, there is no magical wizardy to coaching. It’s the artful application of a little bit of science and a lot of common sense. The athlete makes choices every day on whether or not they will be successful. The coach only has so much to do with this. As you set off into this new week, what are you going to do to be more successful?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

33 Weeks & Rising

And so it has started.

The dreams about childbirth.

It was bound to happen and finally in week 33, as the countdown begins, I am dreaming about birthing. Like any dream, it was a random clutter of images that made absolutely no sense. The worst part – it included communal birthing. Which is about as disturbing to dream as it is to say.

Only 7 weeks left. Though at this point it is hard to imagine not being pregnant. Somewhere around week 20 you start to feel like you’ve been pregnant forever and with 20 weeks left you still have forever to go. Now as I near the end, I can’t imagine life not being pregnant. I’ve made adaptations. From walking differently to exiting the car differently, sleeping on my side to propping my feet up to tie my shoes. I rest my hands on my belly. I take a deep breath when I walk up the stairs. I can’t imagine going through life now without having to do all of that. You mean…I get to return to…normal? I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m convinced I will stay this way forever.

Last night I realized I could start reading the chapters about labor and delivery in the pregnancy book. I read about the baby dropping. It usually occurs 2 to 4 weeks before labor starts in first time mothers. It is the point at which the baby descends into the pelvis. Wait…so, where is the baby right now? You’d think after 8 months of this I’d have a better idea of where the baby is at and my own anatomy. Though considering I can longer see about 50% of my anatomy, I feel like my ignorance is legitimate.

Today I had another appointment with the doctor. Prior to it, I went to masters.

Would you have that baby already, Tugboat Tom says. Ah, it’s good to be back. Masters was on break for about 2 weeks and in those 2 weeks, I got more pregnant and Tom got more sassy. I remind him that in about 8 weeks I will be back. Maybe a few more but sure enough by the end of summer I will be back in the lane getting things on track again. No more generous intervals, slacking off or chit chatting between sets. I’m not really a big fan of more than 10 seconds rest or talking at the wall. Long rest and chit chat is what the hot tub is for.

I swam a little harder than usual. We were doing 50s on an interval which is something I haven’t done in while. I got a little discouraged when I was only making the interval on 5 seconds rest but realized it was only 5 seconds slower than my usual interval so all things considered – like, 27 pounds of weight gain, hauling around another human being and having no lung capacity – I’d say I’m keeping up pretty well.

After masters I did some weight training. I absolutely love being the grotesquely pregnant woman in the weight room. Holding a weighted bar on a Bosu ball while over 8 months pregnant is power. There is nothing namby pamby about my strength training. One thing I learned to detest early on was the delicate flower bullshit that everyone seems to push at you when you enter pregnancy. It’s not a disability, it’s a stage in life that women have gone through for thousands of years. You can do more than jump around in water lifting a foam weight. You can do more than chair aerobics.

After all of this, I walked into the doctor’s office to be greeted with the usual.

Bathroom on the right, leave us urine. The greeting between pregnant woman and nurse is kind of like dogs at the dog park – they walk up to each other, sniff respective poopers which is kind of weird but also totally normal. Next up, the blood pressure. I set an all new personal best as far as blood pressure goes: 86 over 54! It’s like saying I added 5 watts to my functional threshold. I can’t resist getting excited about numbers. It’s the athlete in me.

I’m bending over to untie my shoes when the nurse says to me with just the slightest hint of snarky:

So you’re taking off the running shoes because they weigh 10 pounds?

And I’ll just be filing that under Stupid Shit People Have Said To Me While Pregnant.

No, I’m just trying to be consistent. I take them off at every visit.

I read somewhere that you should try to wear the same thing when you get weighed at the doctor’s office so you can more accurately keep track of your weight gain.

I hop on the scale.

She looks over at my shoes. Well, I guess running shoes probably do weigh about 2 pounds.

Actually, the Asics 2140s weigh about 12 ounces, nearly a pound, which is why I don’t race in my training shoes. The extra weight could tack on at least 2 seconds per 400 which adds up to 8 seconds per mile. Over the course of a half marathon that’s nearly 2 minutes of wasted time and energy.

Now that I’ve gained 27 pounds, I have to laugh at the former version of myself who actually used to rationalize wearing racing flats in order to save about 6 ounces or 8 seconds per mile on my feet.

But back to the scale. The moment of truth. Tell me, dear nurse, what is the weight gain damage…


Oh god. That bad? I mean…I’ll admit that I spent an entire weekend eating the remnants of BOTH of the cakes from my shower and then the following weekend may or may not have lived off a bag of Swedish fish but really…it’s that bad?

You’ve lost a pound.

AMEN! Wait…that’s not a good thing. But I’ve got to be honest with you - after doing nothing but gaining pounds for the last 32 weeks, it’s a little refreshing to hear that I’ve lost something.

The doctor comes in to visit with me. She looks over my chart. She the peppy doctor in the practice with the short blond hair that screams all business no pleasure. She doesn’t say boo about losing a pound. I've also heard that you can lose pounds late in pregnancy or stop gaining. Anyways, she confirms everything with me. That I’ve registered for classes (done), that I’ve found a pediatrician (done), that I’ve taken the blood glucose test (done). Every time it’s the same thing – me telling them that we’ve done all of that, months ago and all we have left to do is HAVE THE DARN BABY ALREADY. Can you help me out with that? Speed things up a bit?

I lift up my shirt so she can measure me.

Oh you just have the cutest belly!

Oh my gosh, I LOVE YOU! That’s about the nicest thing someone has said to me all day. Because everyone else has made me feel like a big tub of boobs, baby and .. all that other stuff in there that I’m going to have to deliver after birth. Even the ladies at the gym entrance desk were asking me haven’t you had that baby already. I tell them I still have 7 weeks to which they say – you still have a long way!

My uterus has now risen a full 31 centimeters. That would be 12.2 inches for my non-Canadian friends. We listen to Max’s heart beat and then she tells me she has nothing to yell at me about.

I feel…relieved?

I ask her question about the hiccups. Max gets the hiccups about 2 to 3 times a day. Sometimes I’m laying in bed at midnight and he starts hiccupping. It feels like someone is knocking on the door of my pooper. Yes, I just said pooper. And if you are or plan to get pregnant, be prepared – strange things happen to your pooper. I’ll just leave it at that.

The doctor tells me that the hiccups are a sign that the baby is functioning properly neurologically. In other words, everything is in working order. Hiccups are good!

She tells me to come back in 2 weeks. And 2 weeks after that, the non-stress tests. Because you are of advanced maternal age.

Thank you for reminding me.

And that is that. I head up to the front desk where the receptionist asks if I’ve made my next visit. I honestly don’t know. I may have. Like everything else right now, I cannot remember. Forget the weight gain, I’d just like my memory back! Sometimes I walk upstairs forgetting what I went up there for. Sometimes verbalizing a coherent sentence is taxing. It’s true – what they say about pregnancy fog in the brain – TRUE! Like a thick blanket laying over the Golden Gate, my head is filled with fog. Or, more likely, a bunch of progesterone and baby things.

Speaking of baby things, here is the baby...

...inside the latest belly picture taken on Monday! Inside that big belly is a little person weighing about 4 ½ pounds and measuring about 19 inches long. That’s like something the size of my dog (but half his weight) in my belly.


Let’s hope that the kid isn’t as furry as my dog. But then again, this kid is part Waterstraat and part Italian. He definitely won’t be a furless breed.