Unexpected reminders

What’s happened in Boston this week has defied explanation and reason.  The images that came out of the city were horrific.  Through the uncertainty there is one thing that is clear, we are runners and we will prevail.  One act of cowardice, will not keep us down or afraid to take our next steps.  If anything, it has made us more resolute.

There is one image from Boston, though, that has stayed in my mind above all.  This picture has stayed with me since first seeing it on Monday and it has given me hope and happiness during a time when there seems like there should be none. 

It’s taken on Saturday, in the calm days before the marathon at the race expo.  A friend and amazing Momthlete, Margaret, was in Boston to run the marathon.  Her husband and three kids were there with her to cheer her on.  In the picture were Margaret’s two young daughters each holding their own autographed poster featuring Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher and these girls were beaming.  In the poster, Shalane and Kara are standing, strong and proud, with a quote printed that reads, “We train together to make each other great.”

At once, I felt moved by so many things in this photo.

I love how happy these girls looked.  They looked completely starstruck by the experience….and it wasn’t from meeting a member of the latest boy band or from getting the autograph of the hottest Hollywood starlet.  It was from meeting their running icons, strong, fast, successful female runners.  It’s just so refreshing to see young women idolizing women who are actually worthy of their respect. 

I was also completely struck by the quote.  “We train together to make each other great.”  It’s so moving to me.  I have found that women in triathlon, especially, can be very catty with each other and immediately suspicious and hostile to other women who they view as competitive.  I am not proud, but I have fallen into this same trap myself.

I know I’ve said, mostly joking, “who is that Bitch?”, when I’ve seen another fast woman on the trail riding or at a trainer session.  I have seen friendships tested and broken under the pressure of competitiveness.  And this is just among weekend warriors.  The most I could possibly gain from a great triathlon performance is a glamorous No Expenses Paid trip to Hawaii or Vegas.  On the flip side, here are two women whose livelihoods are at stake, where the difference between 1st and 2nd place is $75,000.  Yet, they still realize that by training together, pushing each other, supporting each other, their own chances of winning and being successful are greater. 

It’s just a great reminder of how it’s possible to conduct yourself.  It’s a reminder that being competitive and being supportive of other women are not mutually exclusive characteristics.  This lesson goes well beyond running as well.  It can be applied to business, to running, to politics, virtually every facet of life. 

It’s a reminder to learn to be successful because of each other, not at the expense of each other.

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Nice days and questionable decisions

Yesterday the workout gods and the weather gods cooperated with me.  I had an easy paced run on my schedule and the weather was the perfect introduction to spring.  It was the ideal combination for taking my sidekick out with me in the jogging stroller.  She had been feeling under the weather and running a fever for a few days, but I thought the nice day and fresh air would be good for us both.

I was supposed to run 11 miles, which I had never come close to with the stroller, but I thought it would be okay since the pace was easy.

8 miles, as it turns out, is the limit of both of our comfort levels with the stroller.  For my part, it was one of those days where you actually catch a headwind both ways.  Which, is especially fun with a parachute of a jogging stroller.

As for her,  I didn’t hear a peep out of her until the 8 mile mark and even after she was only mildly grumbling here and there.  Now, to be fair, at some point along our adventure she had crapped her pants.  Which is strange, because I nearly did as well.  This probably had to do with both of our 8 mile expirations.  But, we made it the full 11 miles without incident.

The run was not without entertainment.  I passed a few burly male landscapers doing some work on a house.  I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were listening to the radio and it was the luck of the draw, but when I passed them it was timed perfectly with them working along to the chorus of Whitney Houston’s,  I’m Every Woman.  Yes, yes you are Mr. Landscaper.

At any rate, it was a great run and I’m glad I had her with me.  I feel so much less lonely when I’m running with her.  Like she really is my little running partner.

We met up with Ryan for our last mile.  He pushed her briefly and it was amazing how much easier my running felt.  Having her with me is good for both of us, I think.  She loves riding along and I’m getting the benefit of adding some resistance to my runs.  We’ll both be better for it.

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The Sidekick and I post run.
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This baby’s recovery fueled by First Endurance Ultragen. (She did not actually drink any. Please don’t call CPS.)

I’m glad we are both enjoying our runs together now because I am registered for the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall.  I’d like to train for a nice, fast race.  It will be nice to be able to bring her along for some of the easy training. 

And as long as I’m registered for the Marine Corps, I figured what the hell, let’s just get crazy.  So, just today I mailed off an application for the JFK 50 ultra marathon.  Did you ever have one of those seasons that just spiraled out of control?  Like, okay, I’m registered for a half ironman.  I’ll have a nice base of fitness, let me register for a marathon.  Well, as long as I’m registered for a marathon, I may as well do a 50 miler a few weeks after that.  Before you know it, your nice easy fall has turned into quite the adventure.  Yeh, that kind of happened to me.  Three weeks ago I didn’t have anything on my fall schedule.  Now, I have a marathon and, hopefully, an ultra.  JFK is tough to get into, so I won’t know if I made it in for a week or so, but keep your fingers crossed for me…..I think.

I suffer from the worst case of sport amnesia.  I’ve done a 50 miler before.  I’m pretty sure as I was crossing the finish line in part shuffle, part crawl I made Ryan promise me that he’d never let me register for another one again.  Yet, somehow, now all I remember is that it was a nice jog through the woods that involved unicorns drinking out of a babbling brook.  Oh well.  It’s this same amnesia, I guess, that makes women want more kids.

The best thing about JFK is that it is the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I am already planning on how much stuffing I get to cram in my pie hole, guilt free.  The table won’t be able to hold it all. 

We better get a trough.

The lucky JFK envelope?  I'm committed now.  Let's hope I get in.
The lucky JFK envelope? I’m committed now. Let’s hope I get in.

Momthlete

I have spent the last few years of my life idolizing women who I see balancing the role of Mom and Athlete. Moms with young kiddos who train for Ironman. Moms who are holding their kids while accepting an award at the podium. Moms who I see out crushing a run while their little one rides their bike just ahead of them on the trail. These women have been my heroes. I’ve observed them with admiration, respect and awe. I’ve dreamt of being just like them, of being able to return to being the athlete that I was while also being a mom. A good mom.

As the weather turns nicer now and I’ve started taking my workouts outside, it’s been so strange to see myself tiptoeing into the role of Momthlete. I’ve daydreamed about it for so many years that i find it so strange to be standing squarely in it. At times, I feel like I’m an actor auditioning for the role of Momthlete. There’s a part of it that just seems so foreign to me. I remember what I felt like as an athlete, before becoming pregnant. During these winter and spring months, since Koa was born I’ve grown into my role as Mom. But, as the racing season starts, I’m just learning what these two positions feel like together….and I have loved it.  I love everything about being a Momthlete.

I love the juxtaposition of the roles, the hard and the soft. I love the aggression of pushing through the pain of the last few miles of a half marathon, feeling my muscles strain and the pounding of my breathing in my chest and then getting to the finish line and immediately thinking of my girl and feeling gentle again. I love dropping into aero and hammering a stretch of road, feeling strong, and then coming home to her and spending the afternoon holding her, nursing and watching her breath as she naps. Mostly, though, i just love coming home to her. I love feeling good about a workout, muscles burning, and then walking in the door to my daughter.  I have experienced nothing in my life more fulfilling.

She has made me a better person already. Because of the softness that she’s created in me, I feel more balanced than I ever used to feel. I can be aggressive when I need to be aggressive and then come home to her, bury my face in her soft, little neck, breathe her in and feel centered and calm again.

Remind me of this all, please, when she learns to say the word, “No”.

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Enjoying a post-long ride nap with my sidekick.

Back at it

It’s been almost two months since we had Koa.  It is unreal that that much time has passed.  It’s like a crazy time warp.  On one hand, I can’t believe she’s already almost two months old, on the other, I feel like I’ve never been without her.

We’ve come through the initial stage of trying to figure each other out and have entered into a really comfortable time of just enjoying being together. This sense of comfort with where we are has allowed me to start getting back into training and dreaming about what the future holds for the 2013 race season.

Interestingly, I was given the okay to workout by my midwives three days before this years Ironman World Championships.  This race in Kona last year was the last triathlon I’ve done.  I would be lying if I said this wasn’t emotional for me.  It seemed like every step of the process reminded me that I’m not the same athlete I was.  My running clothes are snug,  I have to Body Glide my thighs to keep from getting chub rub and the Garmin pace data doesn’t lie either.  I saw the photos online of friends who were at this years Kona.  I remembered standing in the same places and experiencing the same things.  It was an interesting flurry of emotions in those first days back to training.  Obviously, I am so grateful for where I am in my life right now, but I couldn’t help to mourn a little for the body and fitness that I had worked so hard to achieve. 

Triathlon is not something that has come easy to me.  I was a mediocre high school athlete, at best.  In college, I started running casually, but I wasn’t breaking any speed records.  When Ryan suggested we do our first tri in 2007, I hadn’t been on a bike in years and didn’t know how to swim.  It wasn’t exactly the makings of a triathlon success story.  It’s been a long, hard road.  I’m really proud of how far I have come, but I’m also terrified of never getting it back.  It’s this fear that made getting back into working out so emotional.  Triathlon has become such a huge part of how I identify myself.  I’ve been afraid of losing that.

When the morning of Kona dawned, I had prepared myself for an emotional day.  I didn’t really know what to expect.   I got up and picked up Koa from her crib and hugged her, she snuggled against me and there was nothing but happiness in my  heart.  No sadness.  No regret.  Just pure happiness.

Having a daughter has also changed my perspective on fitness and training.  When I am tired and really don’t feel like getting a workout in or I’m sore, I realize I’m not just doing it for me anymore.  I know I am at my best when I am exercising and fit.  Koa deserves that.  She deserves a mom who feels good about herself and is proud of her own accomplishments.  How else is she going to learn to feel that way for herself as she gets older?  I want her to learn these things from me.

So, with a joyful heart and a sense of responsibility, I’ve gotten back into training.  The body is an amazing thing.  After a few slow workouts under my belt, the fitness started to come back around.  My run paces have started to creep down.  My wattage on the trainer has been surprisingly solid.  My first swim back was slow as hell, so, yeh, back to normal.  Ha. 

The signs of quick progress have been encouraging and have given me permission to get excited about what the 2013 race season could hold.  I’ve reached out to my coach about getting things started again and the race stalking of my competitors is in full swing.  So, it appears, I won’t be exactly my old self.  I’ll be a better, mommier version.

1 Month down

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Koa: 1 month old

I just cannot believe that one month has passed since Koa came into our lives.  I just can’t believe it.  I don’t actually even remember what life was like before her.  I don’t want to. 

Each day that has passed has been its own new adventure.  Each day she does something different.  Each day she grows a little more.  Each day I learn something new about myself because of her. 

It’s been a month, but still I’m in shock.  At least once a day I look at her and just whisper to Ryan, “That’s our daughter.  I have a daughter.”  It boggles my mind anew every time it occurs to me.

It’s been mostly a very smooth month.  Despite the inauspicious start she had, spending a few days in the NICU, she is growing into a very strong, alert and lively baby.

She’s a mover and a shaker for sure.  It’s funny, when she was in the NICU one of the nurses came in and told me that she was kicking like she was riding a bicycle.  Ryan and I laughed.  Yep.  That must be our daughter.  She does love her nap time, but, man.  When she is up, she is moving.  Her arms and legs are constantly flailing like she’s a little baby windmill. 

She eats like a champ.  She was such a small little thing when she was born, 6lbs, 9.8 ounces.  Her weight had dropped to 6lbs, 1 once after 4 days, which is normal.    Once we got breastfeeding up and going I was so afraid she wasn’t getting enough.  You can’t, obviously, measure what they’re eating.  We had a follow up appointment 8 days later.  They say the goal is to gain an ounce a day.  Well, in those 8 days Koa had put on 13 ounces.  The weight gain has continued, as evidenced by the fact that every day her clothes get noticeably smaller.  She only has a few more days, I’d guess, in her newborn clothes.  She’s a lean, long baby.  I’m not sure whose child she is, actually.

She’s mostly a pretty darn pleasant baby to be around.  I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it’s about what I was expecting.  We were really spoiled in the first week.  She didn’t cry.  Like, at all.  It was actually making me nervous.  All she did was make these small squeaks.  That’s her nickname now.  I think I might call her Squeak more than anything else.  On day 6 she cried for the first time.  By two weeks she had mastered it.  She’s a quick learner.  She still doesn’t cry too, too much, but she has her moments.  Mostly, those moments occur every night between 9pm and midnight.  Good grief, does this girl hate bedtime.  The whole bedtime process lasts at least three hours every night.  The good news is that that is Ryan’s shift.  Ha.  Otherwise, when she gets fussy, she is easy to soothe.  It really comes down to her one true love.  Boob.  It’s the answer to all her life’s problems.  In my head I imagine she just really loves her Mama and wants to be with her all the time.  In reality, I know she is just using me for my jugs. 

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A contented post boob siesta

The breast feeding thing makes for an interesting dynamic between Koa and Ryan.  Ryan is such an affection guy.  You might not realize this about Ryan, but he is a lover.  He expresses it frequently and needs it in return.  He was SO excited to be a Dad.  I don’t think either of us realized just how little a baby would interact with its Dad early on.  Ryan changes diapers like a champ, but, otherwise, there isn’t too much he can do.  Koa is too young to “play”.  Really, all she wants is to eat and sleep.  Ryan can’t really help with either of those.  The poor guy tries to hold her, but she just ends up trying to latch on to his neck and screaming when it doesn’t get her what she is looking for.  It’s a no win for everyone involved.  I know it can be rough on him sometimes.  I remind him that right now is my time.  I’m absolutely positive that before I know it, she’ll be a total and complete Daddy’s girl.  I’m going to enjoy my time with her now before the inevitable happens.

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The other member of our family, the Rooster, is just the most fabulous big sister.  I seriously could not be more thrilled with how she is adjusting.  The first day we brought Koa home was a little nerve wracking.  Roo was really inquisitive.  Couple this with the fact that she is about as gentle as a bull, I was on high alert.  Each day since, she has gotten better and better.  Really, within a week Koa was already part of Roo’s pack.  When Roo comes in after being outside, she frantically runs around looking for Koa.  Once she finds her and sees that everything is okay, she goes about her business.  She has to know where her baby is.  She also loves to marinate Koa in dog saliva.  She licks her feet and her hands.  Her favorite is to kiss her little face, especially if there happens to be milk dribble.  The best thing Roo does, though, is to alert us when Koa needs a diaper change.  She’ll walk across the room, sniff Koa’s butt and then look at me like, “Um.  Are you going to do something about that?”  It’s a very helpful feature.

Play time with Roo Roo

 

All in all, we are all adjusting really, really well.  Not a day goes by that I don’t realize how lucky we are and give thanks for it.  It hits me most at some of my favorite times with Koa.  Like, when I get glimpses of her “smile”.  She’s too young to smile in reaction to things, but she is doing practice smiles now.  It’s like her face just starts to randomly go through a bunch of different expressions in order to practice them.  In our quiet time together, when she smiles I just cannot think of anything I’d rather be doing or any place I’d rather be.

I am in absolutely no hurry to rush these first months away.  She, literally, is getting bigger before our eyes.  I’m excited to watch her hit different milestones, but, at the same time, the thought of time passing by makes me really, really sad.  I thoroughly enjoyed her first month, but please, Time, slow down.

update: 8/21/2012 @ 2:37am

Koa is already off all oxygen and doing great. We had our first chance to nurse and despite her rough day, she did really well. She really is a warrior….and judging by her volume, her pipes are in perfect working order. Ryan had his first chance to hold her and she went from crying to peacefully looking at her Daddy in a split second. She’s already got him wrapped around her finger.  We took lots of pics.  More to follow.

Koa Rose

8/20/2012:
Koa Rose, our little girl, came into the world earlier this afternoon. She appears to have swallowed some meconium and is going to need to be in the nicu for a few days, but in her few hours there, she is living up to her name and doing re…
ally well. Koa is Hawaiian for warrior and she has certainly been that. They are gradually reducing her oxygen and she is responding really well. I know I’m biased, but I think she is beautiful. Introducing, our sweet girl….