Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Start Spreading The News!

As promised, a blog about big news!

I have been out of writing not because I was busy or bored, but because I hit an interesting point where I could not write about what was going on.  And when you have big news, you just want to get it out there.  I've lived my life more publicly last year than I ever have in my entire life.  To now be deeply set within my own circle & a bit closed off from the world was quite a change.  In all honesty, I noticed but never really minded - I was quite preoccupied with what was going on anyway.  Triatha-what?

With that, some of my readers will already know exactly what I'm going to write about next.  But some won't, so, that's why I'm writing this.  So let me tell you a little about what life has been like in the last 4 months.

Christmas time:
Ski with friends.  Feel like they're on perfect snow and you're in tar-laced quicksand.  Blame your wax.
Start skiing on your own because you feel the need to start training intensely to ramp up your fitness.
Stop in the middle of your xc ski run and realize you just can't get enough oxygen in.  Then see stars.
Bonk every time you ski - have one good ski, then 3 dreadful ones.
End up so wrecked on one ski that when you come home, you wallop down water and then have a 30 min nap in the sauna - with your sweatpants & a toque on.
Assume this is normal.  Also assume you are not training enough and this is the consequence.

Return to run with friends.  Get your butt kicked on an interval run, end up cramped & doubled over.
Really assume you are out of shape.
Listen to a friend's sage advice, wonder if she's right.

January, next day:
Take this test & get this result.

Go to work in complete daze.  
Try not to get hit on your bike.

January, two days later:
Take this test & get this result.

Realize this test might not be wrong, but assume it is.  
Make doctors appointment for tomorrow.

January, three days later:
Have a chat with your doctor, explain you've been short of breath and training is quite 'off'.
Oh, and you took two of the above tests and that they were both positive.
Then assume stunned look, as in the 'what do I do now' look.
Doctor smiles.  Wait for doctor to ask you if you want to do another one to make sure.
Because you're unsure in your ability to operate such a scientific procedure, you say "yes".
Give a urine sample.  Wonder how in the world urine became your new life predictor.

Get this test back: (yes, each test I took was different for the lack of trust in one brand factor)

Finally take a deep breath & realize you're pregnant.

January, three days & 30 minutes later:
Intercept husband just as he is coming to visit the same doctor.
Think you're going to freak him out.
Tell husband you're pregnant.
Observe husband's happy, semi-calm, shocked & excited response.
Feel what it feels like to be in a totally above the clouds moment in life.

Now, I'm not going to recollect every living moment since then, but I do want to talk about what has been important to me over the past few months of a totally new life experience.

Months 1-3 can really be summed up as follows:  soul-crushing tiredness with a reflux-nausea combo that lasts all day.  And no, this is not an exaggeration.  The tiredness is so frustrating & inescapable.  The nausea the same.  You do feel better that you weren't just getting steadily unfit while training hard.   

One of the greatest gifts of all is that you find out your best friend is pregnant, and you are 4 weeks apart in due dates.  The ability to finally talk to someone apart from your partner is a dream come true - you have so many things to say, questions, complaints, things to laugh about, and you get to share them with your best friend.  A small miracle.

Then you start to change shape.  Hm.  I think in general you're just supposed to accept your body changes (there are many) and love them.  Well, I did not initially.  For some one in what I would call 'reasonably good shape', it's a bit weird to not have that in your control anymore.  Now, I was still running (as long as I didn't give up and just lay on the coach flattened after work), swimming & biking at a much reduced intensity (mostly b/c I felt I was going to chuck my cookies on a minute-ly basis) but getting bigger, and softer - very weird.  Note: I actually never chucked anything, until I got a noro-virus.

Now if we fast forward to now, just about everything gets better.  You can eat salad again.  You can make it past 7pm before going to bed.  You can feel good for a whole day. Even your pee breaks on your runs get better.  That said, you have to pee 3 times before even leaving the house to run.  And that's considered 'success'. 

I have been followed & advised by a great medical team who has allowed me to continue living the life that brings me the life rewards I'm so familiar with.  After the first trimester, when I was feeling better and less anxious about the fragility of life, I was able to discuss increasing effort of exercise in pregnancy with my doctor.  And mostly what I found out is very little is actually known on what is safe and not safe in pregnancy.  It is an ethical issue.  Basically, you can't ask pregnant women to put their embryos/fetuses at risk.  

So, there is a lot we don't know.  And there are a lot of misconceptions about what is safe & not safe.  And I'm not here to tell people what to do, because I firmly believe every person has to make these decisions for themselves.  But what we found is that because my baseline fitness pre-pregnancy was quite high, as long as I wasn't increasing my training, and followed a few parameters with a heads up for listening to signs of your body needing to slow down or stop.  So without too much explanation, my parameters for those who are curious (and something I think more women athletes should know more about) were as follows: follow a 'lactate threshold" or less effort for ventilation, pay attention to heart rate but know that even 81% of max has been studied & considered safe in gold standard research, pay attention to hydration & blood sugar needs (my doctor knows my history with occasional bonks in training), and interestingly, above all in terms of importance - do not overheat while training.  But there are no rules - these are my choices.

I was able to go back to running fast - after 3 months of slow 10-12 km runs, doing 1 minute pick ups was exhilarating.  Never mind the fact my hip & SI joints felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz.  But the more I did them (which was now dictated by 'do I feel like it'?), the better they felt.  I was able to start doing tempo runs again.  Was it a little hard that my new 'hard' pace was probably at my old marathon pace?  You bet.  But your mindset starts to shift as you progress in pregnancy.  I went from being hard on myself for being so slow (maybe I was still in semi-denial about the pregnancy), to starting to be proud of myself for getting out and running when it felt hard, running through some of the aches & pains.  I still think the longest run I've done is around 18km (and left me with fierce chafing of my new found chub rub :) - but it was worth it.  I felt tough again.  I was me again.  Just a new kind of me.

And now, this new me has this little tiny human growing at an astonishing rate.  We've just reached a milestone where we can feel (and see) it kick.  It's an amazing feeling.  And let the unnecessary bragging about your child start - it is an active baby!  It makes me feel sad for anyone who doesn't get to feel this feeling.  Mind you, I definitely feel I deserve it after putting in the hard miles for the first few months.  

I have a belly, whether it is tiny or otherwise it's hard to say - but to me, it's a dramatic change.  Some days I walk around and am transported into my old body, the one I knew so well, the one I had a very strong bond with, and then I'm surprised to look down or into a mirror & realize I'm different.  The nice thing is, I only feel like I'm getting stronger.  And tougher.  If I can train with the tiny human weighing me down in the 20lb+ category, with about half of the lung volume available to me, with constant aches, while constantly needing to pee, and being unable to race & rediscovering how much you truly miss the sport you just got started in, it makes me excited for my future. 

More than anything, I'm excited for this tiny human to grow & maintain a healthy pregnancy.  And if I can sit with myself & enjoy feeling these tiny kicks & get more excited about that than running, that's growth for myself as well.  The nice thing about pregnancy is that your baby is not the only one growing.

So if you see me running out on the roads or trails, don't be surprised if I look like I'm carrying home a cantaloupe home from the produce store.  And for interest's sake, I'll give you a snap shot of 3 weeks of pregnancy.  Not that I have been one to flaunt my abs, so what the heck, here they are in stretched out only to be stretched out more version.  You're going to see it when I hit Kits pool in a month or so anyways :)

 18 weeks

19 weeks 

20 weeks

So there's my little bump that accompanies me on my runs, my swims & rides.  They come to sleep with me, work with me, goes for rides on the seaplane with me and eats all my food (I think).

And there's the update, the breaking of the silence after so many months.  It has been great to be able to talk about it with my friends & family and feel so supported from all the people I care about.  It's especially nice to have the support & mentorship from so many amazing athlete moms as well - I feel so  lucky to be surrounded by such a positive environment.  

From here, it's full speed ahead learning and growing in more ways than one.  Stay tuned for updates :)

And one last thing - the irony is in the due date.  Initially set for Sept 1st, it was hinted to me that perhaps the tiny human and I are a few days ahead of schedule - which would land me pretty close to, oh, say a day like August 25th.  And what else is happening that day?  Oh, just a little 'Challenge' and an 'Ironman'.  It would seem appropriate to line up for another endurance event that day.  A theme of "9 hours and 46 minutes or less"?

Time will tell :)

Mount Washington Blog Post #4: Snow to Surf is Coming!

This race is one of 'those' races.  It's the kind you can sit back & reminisce with friends for years to come.  It has a great sense of team spirit about it, and show cases some of the best sports on the island.  If you haven't done it yet, it's time to start planning a team.  I'll be there next year - and happy to start taking names of who wants on my team!
And p.s., I'll make sure we're Powered by Chocolate Milk!

Mount Washington Blog PostIt's almost that time of year again - a bittersweet time. It's almost end of ski season - and nearing the legendary Snow to Surf Race.
Many of you that read this blog will know what this race is about. Many of you will have participated in one leg or the other. And if you're smart - you've never done the run leg. I have had the honour to do this race 2 times in my lifetime so far, and I guarantee I'll have done it 20+ times by the time I'm too old to do any of the legs of the race. I was even part of the "Turf to Surf" one year, and the other the 25th Anniversary race - both superb!
If you have NEVER heard of this race (where have you been hiding?!), let me summarize. My last time in the race was done as a 'missing members' (not a full squad so some people had to do 2 legs of the race) and was done as a family team - so we were very proud of our day at Snow to Surf - and unbelievably - we won our category! This by far was one of the best races I've ever done on Vancouver Island. And the chocolate medals from Courtenay's Hot Chocolates are amazing!
Here is how it starts. Someone who wants to feel a complete & utter absolute burning of the legs tears up hill in ski boots (how far - far enough to wish you had signed up for the run leg) and then whips down the mountain while trying to feel any sense of legs underneath them. Then, the relay is passed onto a XC skier - this is where I feel the race really shines in it's elite bank of XC skiers. So, you're likely to be passed by men & women much older (& smaller) than you. It's ok - you have many stages to go! Our friend and ex olympian swimmer took on both those legs - like a fish out of water he was (he learned to XC ski the day before), but such a good sport.
Next up, I now hear, is a snowshoe relay to replace one of the run legs. Smart move, Mt Washington. What a great idea to showcase the sport - of which there are races hosted up on Mt Washington, so it's guaranteed to bring some speedsters to that leg.
After that - it's the dreaded run leg. I think it's best reserved for someone that has never done it and considers themselves a good runner. And they will do well - no doubt. They will just wonder why they can't reach the toilet without climbing their hands down the walls beside it after. Pain is temporary - pride is forever! (Ironically getting to the toilet is all pain, no pride, however). Now when we did the race, it was a double run leg, of 17km straight down the mountain, and that was my double segment. Great at the time, and then I couldn't face running downhill for a month afterwards. (Also, see toilet commentary).
Onward, you pass to the mountain biker. It sounds like a heck of a lot of fun - I want to do that someday! From mountain biker to kayaker is a flurry of transitions and off across the lake goes your teammate (in my case, my brother did the double mountain bike-kayak combo - which was a little tricky as he beat us with his mountain bike before we got the kayak to the lake (there are logistics in this race beyond the athletic - which I suppose means we were big on muscle, short on brains). So, after him tromping around in a fury that his kayak wasn't there - we carried it into the water while he jumped in and madly paddled across the lake. Making him mad made him paddle faster, so it was actually a good tactic.
Next up - the road bike. This my (now) husband did with style. My brother & I, along with the ex-olympian, could be called 'ridiculously competitive'. So as we were yelling profanities to said (now) husband, he bravely tromped on with the bike course. Now, unfortunately, he did have a crash with someone part way through - the only damage being the woman involved in said crash was more concerned her bike was ok than she was - and obviously she was fine, as she zoomed past my husband and chicked him to the high hills.
From the bike finish, comes the final transition to the canoe leg. This my Dad & his partner participated in. To set up the 'seriousness' scale of the canoe participants, my Dad did ask the race director if he could take his dog in the canoe with him (director: "no"). So you get a sense of the juxtaposition of competitiveness here. I'm not sure if they packed a picnic for the paddle or not.
In any case, as we sped (unnecessarily really) to the finish line, Shawn (husband) rode on and cheered (actually he yelled at them to pick up the pace) the canoeists along the bay shore. As my Dad & Linda approached, I have a fond memory of one of the 'serious' canoe boats (wrapped up so no water would get in and all muscle & grit upon their faces) just passed our boat happily paddling away (probably looking at birds) only to dump meters before the finish line. Suckers. Not that I'm competitive or anything.
Finally, a race up and out of the boat went Linda, as we watched her run past the finish bell (you must ring it) completely, and she ran on through the parking lot to who knows where. Well, Linda knew where, as she had done this race 25 years ago (it was the 25th anniversary), and the bell was further back in the lot then. But, turned around she came back & rang the bell as it tolls, and we had completed our mission.
A long story, but a fun one. I could relive this race a thousand times and end up in tears of laughter remembering parts along the way (except the end of my legs after the run, that is just straight tears, no laughter). So I highly encourage you to participate, watch, support, drive the gear around, or just come down to the finish line & hang out in the after-party area to hear such stories of tenacity & hilarity.
I can't wait to do it again, and although it will have to wait for me this year, it won't for next year - so it's time to start planning my team!
Anyone want to do the run leg?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mount Washington Blog #3: A tale of two cities

Hi Everyone - March's Mount Washington Blog is up & running!  The theme - what's in a smile?

Thanks for following along AND...check out the other Mt Washinton blogs at: http://www.mountwashington.ca/mount-washington-blog.html
Mount Washington Blog PostI was out on the nordic trails recently, cruising on my skis, taking my time, poking around a lovely trail called "Far East". Now I'm not great with directions, but I'm pretty sure it heads east. As you come to the turnaround point in the trail you capture a breathtaking vista of snow-filled hills backed by the Johnstone Strait behind it, with the Coast Mountains dusted in snow snugged up at the end of your sight line. It's gorgeous. Something to smile about.
This day though, a rolling series of clouds were coming through and you couldn't see the vista. Fair enough, I've seen it many times & it will be there again. Interestingly though, I noticed, people were still full of smiles every time I passed them on the trails. Now, if all you ever did in your life was cross country ski, I suppose you would think this is normal. I'm here to tell you this is actually something pretty special.
Mount Washington Blog Post
I'm an endurance athlete. I spend a lot of time training and this means I spend a lot of time encountering other people coming in the other direction. Where I live, it would be shocking if someone said hello to you (sometimes people I actually know are too 'in the zone' to recognize & acknowledge each other - and to be fair, I've been guilty of this too). And there's a place for that - when you are training so hard you are using every useful braincell of yours to maintain upright stance & not run into any innocent bystanders, I think you have a pass.
But there are a lot of people that just never acknowledge each other, period. And when I found this abrasive at first, eventually you sink into the pattern, because it's disheartening to always be saying hello only to receive silence in return. But today, and so many other days I've had up the mountain, de rigour is to smile, say hello, make a witty joke about how you meant to stick that pole between your legs so that you would have a chance to practice face planting, etc. It's nice - and it's contagious - once you start, you want to do it more - make more people smile. It's just downright fun.
And if you occasionally end up oxygen deprived, seeing a blur of stars or just wishing you would fall so that you could like down on the nice, cool track, I think it's also fair game for those who can spare the oxygen to speak, to have free commentary, all in good humour. I often reach the top of hills with my great friends that I ski with, only to have them chat about how lovely the view is & how terrific life is, while I hold onto my poles for dear life as I hang over them gasping for air. I love that they're still happily chatting while I'm searching for oxygen.
And if you want to run into some really friendly people, then you have to meet some of the Hosts that patrol & encourage all the nordic skiers in and around many trails at Mount Washington. They are terrific people & they're there to make your day better - so do say hello. You may not have even known that they exist - but they do! And I'm sure they're willing to impart advice on anything you'd like to ask them about (hint hint: I'd ask them about your ski technique as they are great skiers themselves!). They're there to make you smile.
There's a theme here. Miles of smiles.