Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A once-off weekly update

So recently, Julie at A Case of the Runs cheekily posted one of those week-by-week pregnancy surveys that are pretty dull to anyone who is not the surveyee - only she filled out the answers nearly a year after giving birth! In the same spirit, I'm finally getting around to filling out one of these things. 

How far along? Almost 6 months. Postpartum. 

Total weight gain/loss: 0 lbs (from average pre-pregnancy).While pregnant I did put on 30lbs of baby + placenta + water + ...I don't know, matter. And then it all went away again. Where does it come from? If I produce a 7.5-lb baby and a pound of placenta and a couple pounds of water, where on earth does the rest all go? Hey cosmologists, I've solved your dark matter mystery. The answer is PREGNANT PEOPLE. 

Shape change, however, is a whole nother story; my entire substance seems to have been redistributed. The middle is softer, the hips are wider, the butt is flatter, and let's not even talk about fitting back into pre-pregnancy bras. This amuses me greatly, but it is also a little frustrating simply because my old clothes look frumpy. 

Sleep: Sleep??? Remind me what that is, again? Last week, baby began crawling, sitting up, and pulling up to kneel all at one go, which means that at least once a night he wants to practice these thrilling new skills. For an hour. Hello coffee, come to mama. 

Constant. Motion.

Other times, baby just eats and conks back out. I don't begrudge him these little night wakeups - hell, I wake up hungry and thirsty in the middle of the night, why shouldn't he? 

Best moment this week: Mr GCA is away for two weeks for work, so it's just me and baby. On Sunday morning we decided to go out for a walk and randomly bumped into a neighbour and her two kids. (We live in grad student family housing, so this isn't quite as serendipitous as it sounds.) We walked to a cafe, went grocery shopping, picked up batteries at the MicroCenter, had some conversation that wasn't just us talking to ourselves in high-pitched tones, and then baby and I went over to her place for dinner that night. 

Movement: All of the movement, all of the time. Crawling, sitting, pulling up, you name it. I half expect the little squirt to start skiing this winter. Maybe doggy-paddling. 

Food cravings: Not cravings exactly - but these are the snacks I go through on an average day: string cheese, an egg, almonds, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, a couple pieces of leftover Halloween candy, an apple, some crackers, some trail mix, plus regular meals. 

Baby woke up visibly fatter and longer the other day. I guess I know where it all goes. 

Anything making you queasy or sick: A lack of sleep; some diapers after several days of not pooping. 

Leakage: Me or baby? 

Belly Button in or out? I had to check (in, mostly); there is no time for navel-gazing these days! 

Wedding rings on or off? On, but everything is loose. 

Happy or Moody most of the time: Wild swings between ridiculously happy and energetic and amused by my offspring (most mornings) and 'I can't do this any more' (re: solo parenting). 

Weekly Wisdom: I don't know about weekly, but this thought occurred to me and was originally composed as a comment on Fit and Feminist:
"A six-hour training weekend and a teething baby are both equally valid reasons to be exhausted. Once you get into the life choices comparison game, it’s all over; you just have to own your life choices. (Aside: I would love to go for a two-hour run or a long bike ride. The weather is beautiful and perfect. And it’s not happening. Instead I’m pushing 30lbs of stroller and baby for three very slow miles on six months of accumulated sleep debt… it is what it is! And you know what’s hardest? Every. Single. Day on that three-mile slog, I see the big Citgo sign and think of all the things that might never be.)"

There are so many things I love about parenting, but when you're deep in the trenches of being a parent of a really small baby, you might look up now and then...And there, twinkling in the fast-encroaching winter night, is the damn Citgo sign, as if to symbolise everything that's just out of reach. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hello again world

Hello everyone! I'm still running; it's just that the blogging is on hold. Here's what happens: I'll have a week of great runs, then come down with a cold from lack of sleep, or the husband will be away for work, or I'll have a science writers' group meeting that night, or something. You know. Two steps forward, one step back. Last week, work was appalling, sleep was worse, and the weather -- well, until Friday we were expecting to be battered by a hurricane. But I got a new haircut. New haircut!! I AM UNSTOPPABLE.

Anyway, here are some reviews of books we've (collectively) read recently:

Mem Fox, Steve Jenkins - Hello Baby!
This is one of those lovely books for a very small baby, with gorgeous cut-paper illustrations, a subtle rhyme, and the perfect opportunity to sneak up and tickle the baby at the end. I'm beginning to appreciate a good illustrator even more.

Deborah Guarino, Steven Kellogg - Is Your Mama a Llama? 
Rhymes have always lodged in my head; as a kid, I thought "I had a Hippopotamus" was completely uproarious. After reading this one a few times, I know it by heart. " 'Is your mama a llama?' I asked my friend Dave. 'No, she is not,' is the answer Dave gave..." The mark of an excellent baby book is its Earworm Quotient.

My very first book of Tractors and trucks 
This was a book so terrible, the author and illustrator aren't even credited. Sure, my little urban baby might want to recognise a garbage truck, a tow truck, or a big rig on the highway. But you don't get to put 'giant tractor', 'tractor' and 'small tractor' on different pages like they're different vehicles. And can we say product placement? You might as well put a footnote inside the cover: "This book sponsored by John Deere". No. Just no.

David Adam - The Man Who Couldn't Stop 
OCD: it's not just about repeated handwashing, or having a counting compulsion. David Adam, an acclaimed science journalist who just happens to have OCD, uses his condition as a way to explore the various facets of the disease. I highly recommend this one.

Also, one thing about parenthood: it only expands the list of social causes and concerns that are on my radar. Gender equality: boys can wear pink too. Saying no to the parenting wars. Making sure all children start out on a level playing field. Child literacy. Not that these weren't important to me before - it's just that they're WAY more personal now.

Okay, fine, here is another photo. Om nom nom pacifier.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dear yesterday me,

Dear yesterday me,

What the heck, woman? Do you not listen to yourself? Ya execute that race plan in reverse or something?

Just look at this:
Somerville Road Runners Race to the Row 5K
9.35am, Sunday August 23

Measurement by my Garmin - 5.11km, 28:09 (chip and gun results)
Mile 1: 8:44:23
Mile 2: 9:06:35
Mile 3: 8:58:66
Final 0.21 miles: 1:19:57
Pace: 5:30/km or 8:51/mile

So here's how it went down:

On Saturday night, this baby of ours woke up too many times. After the too-manyeth time, it was only 6.30am and we were all up for the day, so we sat around entertaining him until it was time to leave the house. Seven hours of very interrupted sleep does not a restful night make.

The race site was the redeveloped and expanded Assembly Square Mall, now called Assembly Row. We didn't explore it (we are not huge mall people, or huge-mall people) but I am told there is a Stride Rite for when that becomes necessary.

It was cool and muggy when we got there around 9am. I picked up my bib with time to spare, and went to the bathroom with no time to spare. (Peeing before trying to run at all is very, very important around here.)

Half my fan club was already asleep before it started. I knew this wasn't going to be the most thrilling race but that was fast, fan club.

I tried to rein it in on the first mile, which was a short out-and-back and part loop around the square. I really did. My legs were not having it. I have no idea how that turned out to be an 8:44 mile. NOT how I wanted to do it. (Later on I read this. Turns out going out fast in a 5K may not be a complete disaster after all?)

Things went much more according to plan on mile 2 (the rest of the square, plus another out-and-back, plus a bit more of the square). I was working a little, but wasn't exhausted. 9:07.

Mile 3 (remainder of the square with yet another out-and-back lollipop turn) hit and I focused on increasing my cadence. That usually seems to work to up the pace and my effort. 8:59.

When my watch beeped for the third mile I - well, I wouldn't say I sprinted, because we are not capable of anything resembling sprinting over here, but I certainly stood up a little taller and turned my short stubby legs over a little faster and passed a few people on the way to the finish line, where I doubled over and turned slightly blue and caught my breath. 1:20.

Overall, 28:09 and 5.11km on the GPS (I am terrible at paying attention to tangents and a few extra metres never killed anyone). For my current level of fitness, I'm happy with that benchmark, and uhh...the execution was fine but not the greatest.

Breath caught.
But I enjoyed my chocolate chip ice cream and slice of pizza and banana at the end, thank you very much. A workout and brunch? Why sure!

I even remembered to take photos before it melted.

The Somerville Road Runners Race to the Row is $25 early registration, $35 regular and $40 day-of. Proceeds benefit community organisation East Somerville Main Streets, and Somerville public school track.
First 300 entrants get swag. There were about 500 runners this year.
There is also a $5 Fast Mile and a free 200m kids' fun run before the main event, for those who are so inclined or age-eligible (9 and under).
Post-race food is excellent and non-runners can pay $10 to partake, may be worthwhile for the beer and cider alone. Did you know Harpoon Brewery makes craft cider? I didn't. Not till yesterday.
I would say the route needs a little work! 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dear tomorrow me,

Dear tomorrow me,

At 9.25am today you will be lining up for your first 5K in 1.5 years. It'll be your first road race back since giving birth, so it's a very important benchmarking run. I've seen that course, and it is a loony double loop-the-loop with more hairpin turns than a ballerina's bun. So, I want you to read this and listen to me, back when cooler heads prevailed...

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go out too fast! You will run the first mile conservatively - let's say 10:00 pace. The second at 9:whatever it is you can muster. The third quite hard (for now, let's pretend that is high 8s or low 9s, but feel free to do it differently as long as you do it hard). And then you can sprint through to the finish. 0.1 mile is less than a minute and you can do anything for one minute.

I want you to be satisfied not only with your benchmark 5K time, but also and more importantly, your effort. I don't want you to feel, as you nearly always do at the end of a 5K, that you could have gone harder.

And then I want you to come back here and tell us exactly what it is that you did. Promise? Promise.

Enjoy the ice cream at the end! And geez, take some photos for once!


Getting a head start

The last time I did a triathlon, I was quite literally in a very different place in life.

I lived in a different country, in a different apartment, had a different job, and that baby I have wasn't even a twinkle in his parents' eye. (Except of course he already existed - see 'that time I did a triathlon while unwittingly four weeks pregnant').

It's been nearly a year since then. Right now, the only triathlons I do involve the delicate juggling act of feed-nap-mom-goes-for-a-run, I would have a hard time swimming a mile, and I currently don't actually own a bike, which I hear is a prerequisite for doing a tri.

But baby D seems intent on prepping me for one.

The other night, I'd brought him into bed with us after the last feed of the night - really the very early morning after I'm mostly awake for the day. And then I fell back into a light snooze, and had some crazy dreams. I dreamt that I was doing the swim leg of a sprint tri. This being a sprint, it was fast and frenzied, and I dreamt that people were kicking me the entire way.

And then I woke up - and baby was indeed snuggled up next to me and kicking me in the side.

I think I'm going to register him for the local kids' swim team this year. What do you think? 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I live in the library

Not really. I just read a lot. I have a lot of downtime while feeding this little hungry monster baby, and we don't have a TV... so here are some very brief reviews of about half the things I've read in the last three months. (The other half are junky crime novels not really worth reviewing.)

Dan Savage, The Kid - Love and sex columnist Dan Savage describes the process of two gay dads (himself and his partner Terry) going through with an open adoption in the late 1990s. Very funny, slightly dated (this was the late 1990s, after all). Their insecurities and worries about societal judgement do not come to pass. Every parent, regardless of gender or orientation, can relate to this one! Spoiler: Kid turns out just fine.

Claudia Rankine, Citizen - I read this about a year after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and as the Sandra Bland case erupted into the media, so this book really hit home. The hard-hitting ?poems? in this book by Pomona College professor, poet and playwright Rankine make it clear that racism isn't just the distant evil of lynchings and Klans, but the everyday lived experience of so many people. Racism by neglect, if you will. Racism by assumption or ignorance or simply failing to stand up for what's right. It's a real thing.

Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone - So there's this girl in the Ozarks. Acts as mum and dad and older sister to her two younger brothers. Her deadbeat meth-cooking dad goes missing one day so she goes off in midwinter to find him and drag him home lest they lose the house to the bail bondsman. As I was reading this I thought "this would make a great movie". And so it did.

Mark Kurlansky, The Food of a Younger Land - Once upon a time, during the Great Depression, the US government actually paid writers and artists to go out and create stuff. Can you imagine?! Among those projects was one to chronicle the nation's culinary habits and traditions.
Kurlansky digs up the old project archives from the Works Progress Administration, containing everything from squirrel stew recipes to New York luncheonette slang ("one on a pillow" is a hamburger, "bellywash" is soup, "Southern swine" is Virginia ham). I thought this one was going to be great, because I really liked Kurlansky's 'Cod', but it turned out to be largely lists and essays lifted from the WPA's archives - I was expecting more commentary. Still, a pretty fascinating peek at actual American cuisine before industrial food took over. Also useful if you need a good recipe for squirrel stew.

Dennis Lehane, Live By Night - I thought I should read a quintessential Boston writer. You might know Lehane from Mystic River and Shutter Island and Gone, Baby, Gone. Well, Live By Night is all of Lehane's strengths at once: Boston and Prohibition and dangerous women and gangster double-crossing. Great read. There's a sequel!

Wednesday Martin, Primates of Park Avenue - Perhaps you've heard of the 'wife bonus' - the lump sum doled out to the stay-at-home wives of high-powered Manhattan executive types based on that year's bonus. Perhaps you were outraged or you couldn't care less about the nontroversy (rich people do things that are totally removed from the everyday lives of ordinary people - wait, what?). This memoir is the source of that 'wife bonus' rumour. Too bad so much of it is factually inaccurate, because it's pretty entertaining - she should've just written it as fiction. Caveat (no spoilers): it should come with a @(#%&* trigger warning for new mums.

Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road - This is one of those depressing 1950s repressed-adults-caught-between-duty-and-ambition novels, in the illustrious tradition of Madame Bovary, Hedda Gabler, and Death of a Salesman. But it's good. But depressing. But good.

Phil Klay, Redeployment - Back in 2004 I took a creative writing class with Phil, who was a couple of years ahead of me at the time. Back then, he was already a pretty darn good fiction writer. Then after graduation he signed on with the Marines and went to Anbar as a public affairs officer and came back and got his MFA and became a great writer and this collection of short stories about modern warfare rather deservedly won the National Book Award last year (and what have you done with your life, GCA?).
My favourites in this collection were the longest ('Prayer in the Furnace') and shortest pieces ('OIF' - read in full here). Especially the latter. If you're a civilian, the military jargon cluttering this story is complete alphabet soup that you don't understand - but you don't have to understand anything until the last sentence when everything becomes crystal clear. That last sentence though. That last sentence.

Apparently it is Almost All White Almost All Male Reading Quarter 2015, I guess? I shall work on this.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Two months in, maternity leave has so far involved a lot of physical labour but very little adult company. As it turns out, babies are terrible conversationalists! Who knew?* Every day I'm left with a brainful of fleeting micro-thoughts and no hands free to put them on Twitter, which is what one would ordinarily do with a bunch of inane, fleeting micro-thoughts.

So I'm saving them up, and you're getting treated to them over here. (I was inspired by Meggie over at The Thinks I Can Think who has taken this approach recently in her sleep-deprived residency state.) Please excuse me if not everything is grammatically correct or can even be parsed as a sentence; I'm a little sleep-deprived myself.

Last week I got myself a new pair of Mizuno Hitogamis from zulily, which is a discount flash-sale site. Normally I hate those sites, and the rest of the stuff on there appears to be hideous, but running shoes for $39 was too great a deal to pass up. Note - they were $39 because they've been replaced with a new edition, the Hitogami 2.
Also, my other two pairs of running shoes (my old Hitogamis and my Kinvara 5s - not my favourite, but I have yet to find a better alternative) are 1.5 years old and 1 year old respectively. While I haven't put a whole lot of miles on those, I can feel them going flat.

Training is extremely boring. The thing about new parent schedules is that you have to plan and coordinate with your other half pretty much down to the hour (and if you are a nursing mum, also plan around feeding and pumping). And that's how I run on Monday nights, Wednesday mornings, and Saturday mornings. Without fail. If the weather sucks I take a podcast and run on the treadmill. If you have the flexibility in your day to actually decide to go out for a run in the middle of the day, be grateful!
Mondays are track workouts. This past week we did three mile repeats: 8:33, 8:30, 8:40 (supposed to be 5K pace, fell apart slightly at the end). That's the first time I've seen an 8 on the front end of anything in a very long time.
Wednesdays are 'tempo' days, AKA "I will drag myself out of bed and run three to five miles without looking at my watch because I only got two consecutive hours of sleep at a time last night".
Saturdays are 'long' run days. I haven't made it to six miles yet - probably next weekend though, I have a nice route all planned out. And then, in a few months... we'll be able to run with baby!
I'm hoping that consistency will do *something*. I'm going for the long slow grind, emphasis on the slow.

As for sports bras - I settled on the Moving Comfort Urban X-Over (C/D) and the Moving Comfort Jubralee. The Urban is a souped-up version of the ironing-board A/B model I already own. The velcro straps on the Jubralee, however, have given me a little chafing - just FYI. Probably nothing a bit of Bodyglide can't fix.

OH I REGISTERED FOR A THING: the Tufts Health Plan 10K in October...wish me luck.

* - Books for babies, however, are a trip. Who writes these things and what are they smoking? I mean, take Goldilocks for example. She knocks on the door of a random house in the forest and when no one answers, she walks in and eats their food. What kind of behaviour is that?
I've also been thinking about what I like in baby books: a) big simple pictures, b) good stories, because I have to sit through them as well, and/ or c) rhymes and rhythms, the jauntier and noisier the better. Simple illustrations are great - we have long involved conversations about them. For instance, yesterday I had a very long involved conversation with baby D, in other words with myself, about bees and how they make honey and do the waggle dance to talk to each other.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Back in the saddle

Look at that pace. (That translates to a 10:32 mile pace. Not much, but the average in all my previous runs in 2015 has started with an 11.)

And then by Jen's request - lookit this face.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Odds and ends, post-partum

From the department of products that need to exist, baby-industrial complex edition: 
Camelbak nursing vest to alleviate nursing-induced thirst. Has room for boobs, comes with changing pad, pockets for diapers and burp cloths. Put this on and you're never more than a bite valve away from your water.
Strap-on burp cloths for all-day wear, much like a sweatband.
Ice-cooled baby carrier for summer adventures, like those compression sleeves with the pockets for ice packs. Prevents heat rash and miserable sweaty babies.

The truth about postpartum running:
- I'm about two minutes a mile slower than my normal pace...gahhh! My goal for group runs is simply to keep up. And there is, invariably, some sort of leakage. It's a good thing I now have a remarkably decreased squeamishness about any and all bodily excretions and functions. (I pushed a baby out of where?) Hang on, you say. Runners are already less squeamish about bodily excretions than your average normal person.
Exactly. So this is a step up (/down).
- Time for strength work? What time for strength work? HAHAHA. I'll take sleep for $200, Alex.

The theory of why 35-39 and 40-44 AG women are so terrifying: 
Fit and Feminist mentions in passing on Facebook her theory of AG competitiveness: the 35-39 women are all like 'I pushed a baby out of my vagina and then went without sleep for two years! A 70.3? Psh that's nothing.'
The other segment of 35-39/ 40-44 women, the ones who don't have children - they're probably also relatively settled in their jobs and have their love lives figured out and thus have way, way more focus in training.
And that's why those are the scariest age groups in non-professional racing. Truth.
I want to be one of those ladies when I grow up.

From the department of butchered song lyrics, or what to sing to an infant when you don't remember any children's songs:
a) To the tune of 'Everything is Awesome' (LEGO Movie)
Everything is messy
Everything is messy when you have a baby

b) To the tune of 'Part Of Your World' (The Little Mermaid)
I've got diapers and onesies aplenty
Jammies and mittens galore
You want burp cloths? I've got twenty!
Oh but wait, you spit up, I want more...

Edit: And one more thing I forgot to ask:
Please, please give me your recommendations for completely bombproof sports bras, kplsthx. As a former member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee I find myself in unfamiliar territory. But greater support is now necessary. What do you suggest? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Race report: the one with the best finisher souvenir ever

A few weeks back, I did say that expecting a baby was like training for a marathon... and you don't even get a medal at the end. Last week, the marathon organisers got their act together and fired the starting gun. It wasn't especially well-organised, there definitely weren't enough portaloos, and I still didn't get a finisher medal (technically, I won't be sure I've finished for another 18 years) - but I got something even better: this guy.

Meet baby D, 7.5lbs and 19.25 inches at birth - that's 3.4 kg and 49cm for those of us thinking in metric. Champion pooper and thumb-sucker extraordinaire, but he's still getting the whole eating thing figured out. He enjoys sunshine, a good burp, Rockabye Baby music, and being IN CHARGE.

Speaking of the eating thing, we live in a studio apartment, so visitors are...um...tricky. I put a sign on the door that says: "CAUTION: Breastfeeding mom, crabby baby, and stressed dad within. Visitors may make themselves useful or leave."

So how did the 'race' go? Well - as you all know, nothing ever really goes according to plan. At the same time, it wasn't one of those races where you are all-out miserable and hot and exhausted from the word go.

On Saturday night, I started having cramps and contractions which were irregular...all the way till Tuesday. In all I think I was in early labour for nearly four days. By the time I got to the hospital on Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning, I was 7cm dilated, in active labour, and thoroughly fed up - so asked for an epidural. (I'd been wavering on getting one, but it makes the difference between doing an ultramarathon with a support crew vs without a support crew.) After that, I was in labour for another 8 hoursincluding 3 hours of pushing  (I did say ultra).

The upside is that early labour pains weren't that bad for me, much like bad period cramps. I finally called and went to hospital because I'd started bleeding and was worried it might be a placental abruption or something, but it turned out to be perfectly normal. And with an epidural, you don't feel a thing when they stitch you up afterwards. However, your lady bits have still undergone massive trauma, with all the horrors that entails. Though I feel the alternative - major surgery - is probably worse.

We are totally in love with the little fellow, especially his hair!

It's all about the gas, bout the gas, no bubble.

Right now, baby has a little bit of jaundice. To flush out the bilirubin, we have to feed him quite aggressively, giving him a little formula or pumped milk through a tube setup to supplement what he's eating, while he latches and nurses. EVERY TWO HOURS. It's a juggling act... I wish it were just a little bit warmer out so we could sit out in the sunshine with him.

A few lessons:

- Proper fuelling is essential to a happy, healthy marathon. I didn't really have time to eat as much as I would have liked before getting that epidural, and after that they didn't allow me anything but water and ice chips. I'm convinced I had to push for three hours because I ran out of energy, and I ran out of energy because I had to push for three hours - it's kind of a vicious circle.

- One thing I've learnt from first aid and outdoor risk management classes is "make sure the scene is safe". In other words, you don't want to be the next casualty while trying to rescue your first aid patient. Likewise for being a new parent: you will be much better at your job if you have brushed your teeth, taken a shower, stayed hydrated and fed, got some sleep, had some coffee, (for breastfeeding mums) put nipple cream on, and generally feel more human.

Future race goals:

- Our apartment overlooks a little playground and I always see the kids out there. I am really looking forward to having a toddler or preschooler, because three-year-olds are hilarious.

- I loved growing up with my sister and loads of cousins always around, and I really wish we were geographically closer to baby D's cousins. We have a niece (on my side, directly, plus another six of my cousins' children) and a niece and nephew on the husband's side. They're all pretty close in age and I'm looking forward to spending time with them.

- We'll see how this parenting thing goes, but I'd really love to start actually running again by about late June and do a few more fun runs this summer. I'm really eyeing the 7-mile Falmouth Road Race in August...though I'm not certain I'll be in shape to enjoy 7 miles. And then I'll probably train for the Tufts Health Plan 10K as a goal race in October to sort of see what kind of shape I am actually in.

The lowdown:

Finishing time (stage 1): 13 hours from hospital admission.
Race date: May 13
Entering this race is free, but there are a number of participant fees to pay along the way, and it's totally a personal decision.
Race experience: ups, downs, pretty euphoric. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Running Boston for charity?

Happy Marathon Monday! Right now I'm grouchily watching the livestream of the Boston Marathon while doing work, because I have a ton of work to do before book club meeting tonight. 

Over at Salty Running today, the question came up of what people think of Boston charity runners. Does letting in charity runners diminish the prestige of the race? 

Personally, I would not run Boston as a charity runner without ever qualifying...and I speak as someone for whom it's more likely than not that charity running is the only way I will ever be able to run Boston. (Note for the uninitiated or people who can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that there is a world of difference between me running a lot and me running fast: I would need to complete a marathon in 3 hours 35 minutes or less to qualify.) I just...wouldn't. BQing and running Boston means more to me than just getting the experience of running Boston; I feel like there's too much history and tradition there for me to not give the race the respect it deserves. 

I don't really mind if someone wants to run it for charity, as long as they respect the marathon distance and train properly for it. (And many people do!)

HOWEVER: The perceived prestige of Boston is precisely what enables the race to raise so much for charity. The bar to get in as a charity runner at Boston is much higher than getting in as a charity runner for just any old marathon, and thus the dollar amount a charity runner needs to raise is that much more, which enables charities to raise tens of millions for their various causes. In a single year. In an ideal situation, the number of charity spots would be limited for exactly this reason: scarcity enables charities to raise more per runner. 

(Tangentially: I would feel better about entering as a charity runner if I knew I was able to qualify/ had already legitimately qualified. Does that make any sense?) 

Friday, April 3, 2015

And here we are

And here we are at 34 weeks gestation and counting. It's exactly like training for a marathon, except the race organisers might suddenly spring a new start date on you that is either later or earlier than planned, you don't know where the start line might be, there are no medals at the end, and you definitely don't get rest days during training. So...ok, not exactly like training for a marathon.

I pretty much stopped running a week or two ago. I miss it, but it's just not that comfortable right now. After the New England Winter That Never Ends, we're finally (!!!) getting some nicer weather. I would go outside and walk but then I'd find myself resenting all the people running down by the river! Fortunately I'm not one of those superwomen who is going to run straight through pregnancy and do laps of the hospital parking lot - oh, who am I kidding, I don't even have anything to prove or appearances to keep up. I'm not a healthy living blogger. Heck, there's maple syrup and cream on my oatmeal, and there aren't even pictures of it. Plenty of walking to and from errands, and 40 minutes walking on the treadmill/ elliptical every couple of days does it for me.

(And then there is my nutty friend who just ran the LA Marathon, four months postpartum...)

What else have I been up to?

- Finishing up several work projects and not taking on major new ones to wind down for maternity leave (or the freelance equivalent of maternity leave)

- Reading: I got myself a public library card after securing some proof-of-residence documents. It's fantabulous! Some highlights that I've enjoyed:

Rachel Maddow, Drift - about the runaway expansion of the American military; she argues that America should return to its sound founding principles of avoiding war as far as possible.
Robert Harris, An Officer and a Spy - Robert Harris does these great historical fictionalisations of real events; he's tackled WWII code-breakers (Enigma), Roman senators (Pompeii), and now in An Officer and a Spy he writes about the Dreyfus Affair.
Pamela Druckerman, Bringing Up Bebe - An American parent in Paris uncovers the mysteries of French parenting and why French children seem so well-behaved (spoiler: French parents are firm with their children - no really does mean no - and far more chill about leaping up to tend to baby's every need). Methinks - as with parenting books everywhere - this is exaggerated a bit for book sale purposes, but there is a seed of truth in there somewhere.

- Attended this conference as a little professional splurge (you bet I will be taking that tax write-off next year); lots of discussion on where the media world is headed, as well as the nuts and bolts of telling better stories, and some lovely conversations about press freedom.

- A friend and I hit up the Harvard Museum of Natural History - which is free on Sunday mornings for local residents!! There was so much to see that we got through about three rooms of incredibly lifelike and exquisite glass flowers, iridescent bugs, giant isopods, massive fossils (my favourite was a huge fossil turtle. Its family name? Stupendymys!), and other stuff before we got hungry and decided to call it a day. I'll post some of my favourite pics later when my phone and my computer are in agreement, but we're definitely going back. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

A few snapshots

Here are a couple from my final hike and breakfast with friends at MacRitchie Reservoir. 

Drowsy toddler was lulled back to sleep.

It's quite a contrast to walking around outside in freezing temperatures! 

Here's one from just after my last outdoor run...


Also in this week's news: I've...joined a local running group. (Now THIS is more my speed...well, figuratively.) It's a somewhat counter-intuitive thing to do while 31 weeks pregnant, but I really missed group workouts and having company. They do a speed workout at the indoor track on Monday nights, and the set was 3(1000, 400, 400) - so I simply ran for about the same length of time it would've taken me to do those distances before, which worked out to 3(4:45, 1:50, 1:50). I don't know how much more running there is in my near future, but I'm fine with that. 

Now it's springtime so everything is rainy and soggy. And I've only got one pair of running shoes here...the rest are on their way over in cartons! (Previous cartons held things like, oh, summer dresses and sandals. Totally useful, I know.) So yesterday it was off to stroll on the treadmill in my building's basement... expansion and increased blood flow mean even strolling is quite aerobic at this point. 

The last time I lived in this climate, I wasn't really a regular runner, and would perpetually overdress (tank top, long-sleeved shirt, fleece, woolly neck thing, hat, gloves, long underwear, shorts, wool socks) so I have to re-learn how to layer up in the cold. Trouble is, I'm certainly not going at anything approaching my usual speed right now, so I have to adjust for that (as well as the inevitable walk breaks). 

Oh yeah, and friends who run in cold climates: How often do you wash the outer layers? (eg fleece, hat, long-sleeved shirt you're wearing over a tank top)

Friday, March 6, 2015

In which we put the 'climate' in 'acclimatising'

For an entire week now I've done absolutely nothing resembling exercise. Instead I've been felled by a combination of an appalling cold, intercontinental travel, and jetlag. On Tuesday I arrived in Boston after travelling for 24 hours starting on...Tuesday, so my Tuesday was 1.5 times the normal length. (Life hack for arid plane travel: if you wear one of those little face masks, it looks dorky, but you get your very own humidity and temperature-controlled pod for your nose and mouth. No more coughing fits, no more dry throat! The Japanese and Taiwanese are on to something.) 

On Wednesday morning I even made it to a 'new and expectant mums' meetup group in our grad student housing community. ('When did you get here?' they asked. 'Last night,' I mumbled, and then was semi-conscious the rest of the day.) Actual thing someone said: cook a lot and freeze it before you deliver...or teach your husband to cook. I had to laugh; I think I'm already winning on that front. Not only does the husband cook, he has planned dinner for the week (it's my turn next week, and there will probably be curry). 

Yesterday I hit the no-longer-dripping-but-now-merely-coughing-up-yellow-crap phase of the cold, and felt well enough to walk a grand total of 40 minutes - including 15 minutes to and from the gym. It's below freezing around here, so the outdoor walk was faster than the indoor one. Oh, and it took me till the end of my treadmill segment to figure out how fast 3.5 mph is in km per hour -- not fast, but it's what I needed.

Don't panic, US readers! This is in Celsius. 

I have 10 weeks to go and I'm not sure how much running there'll be for the rest of this pregnancy; until the temperature is consistently above freezing (ok, maybe quite a lot more above freezing), there might not be a whole lot more outdoor running. I need to acclimatise properly, and I am not running fast enough to get warm!  

Today we're running a whole bunch of those moving-to-a-new-city-type errands, including getting a phone SIM card, some bank stuff, some transport stuff, and some visiting of potential childcare centres. I also want a Fitbit to see how many steps all this errand-running gets me... 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Boston, here I come!

And it's not even marathon-related*.

It's better.


See you soon.

* We're living there for five years. Can I defeat the cramps and chip away at my marathon times soon enough? I bet you'd like to find out, but you'll have to keep reading this blog for at least five years. Maybe more. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What not to wear, pregnancy edition

Ok, here's a frivolous little post. What do you wear to a friend's very large, rather posh wedding dinner...
...when you are 6 months pregnant...
...and have shipped most of your clothing anyway? 

Last night I ended up disguising a casual maxi dress by dressing it up with low heels, a necklace, and a cardigan. The wedding dinner was at the end of a very long day of successive social engagements - I am an incorrigible introvert and any single ONE of the fun things yesterday would have wiped me out, and there were FOUR. I know my emotional and mental exhaustion definitely affected my mood. So by the time dinner rolled around, I was already heartily sick of the dress and the heels, and in the first place I am not a massive fan of dresses and heels to begin with. Why isn't there more of a market for maternity trouser suits? Maternity tuxedos? If a penguin suit and cummerbund can accommodate Pavarotti's belly WHY NOT MINE? 

On a more routine basis, the bump expansion means that my shorts, capris, shirts and singlets don't fit quite like they used to when I work out. I can't do the old steal-your-husband's-pants trick as he's not around for me to steal them...

...so here is a quick guide to my workout wear, pregnancy edition. 

For running, I wear: 
- my Brooks Epiphany stretch shorts, but these are slowly getting tighter at the waist. Even worn under the bump, the bunched fabric at the waist irritates me after a while, but they're tolerable for 3 miles or less. 
- my Oiselle roga shorts, worn under bump. I have three pairs of these and the best thing is the wide, smooth waistband - I imagine any other style with a similar waistband would be comfortable, eg Moving Comfort. Likewise, my Brooks running skirts. 
- my beloved Under Armour tank tops. These have loads of stretch and have been comfortable throughout 
- baggy old technical-not-really-technical fabric race shirts; they're not the most breathable fabric but again, they're tolerable for 3 poky miles 
- I wish I hadn't tossed out my ratty old old-school nylon running shorts a year or two ago (I'd had them since high school, and they were about $10 a pair! Those were the days) but they really were ratty and getting loose and baggy and the elastic was utterly dead. 
- I did acquire four new sports bras, 1-2 sizes up, all from the local Nike outlet store. I am fond of Moving Comfort Alexis bras, but fairly sports-bra-agnostic when I need them urgently. 

For yoga and spin classes, I wear:
- my ancient Danskin capris from when I used to dance; that was in college and a couple kilos worth of free pizza ago. Glad I kept them! These, too, have a broad waistband (yay), but they are also kind of baggy (boo) and I have to roll them up to the knee so they don't get caught. Still, they function. 
- these beautiful, magical maternity capris received as a Christmas gift from my in-laws. INCREDIBLY comfortable and extremely versatile. Every time they're dry, I nick them off the laundry rack to wear them - a good sign they're in heavy rotation. 
- I have caved and ordered a couple more pairs of maternity activewear pants from Target, delivered to husband's place, so that I have something to wear in the Arctic temperatures of Boston in winter, because heck yeah I intend to walk or run. (Winter note: I anticipate being able to carry on using my current long-sleeved tops and fleeces, so the bottoms are the only thing I expect I'll really need.) 

To swim in, I wear: 
- the same Arena two-piece style I've been wearing for about three years now. Initially I liked it because I have a long torso that doesn't fit comfortably in one-piece suits; now I like it because ROOM FOR BELLY. The folks at the pool can go ahead and stare. I can out-swim most of them anyway. 

I've put these in storage: 
- Nike capris and Oiselle capris - too much constriction right at the waistband especially when bending over or seated
- I haven't even tried the Mizuno short tights on in months, the waistband is definitely too narrow 
- all my Nike t-shirts, due to insufficient stretch; they're narrower-cut and while they have room for my shoulders there isn't room for the belly these days so they flap/ ride up. Any shirts like this can go into storage.

Key takeaways:
- At some point style and dignity will both exit your life. Just get used to it.
- Wide waistbands are a godsend.
- So are stretchy, lightweight things - the stretchier the better.
- Do not attempt to squeeze into pre-pregnancy sports bras. Being able to breathe is kind of essential to being able to work out. 
- Beg, borrow or steal (ok, cave and buy) one or two dedicated maternity pieces. Tops are not essential. Bottoms are way more useful and comfortable, and you'll be glad of it. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The great escape: some easy Hong Kong hikes

Day 1 - High Junk Peak

Since December J has been back Stateside to spend Christmas and New Year with his family, and get settled in to his new lab/ grad programme, so I've been flying solo since then while waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waitingggg) for my spouse visa. (Which, frankly, leaves me in a pickle: how do I clean my ceiling fan and change the kitchen light bulb that's on the fritz? I really am not keen on falling off a chair.)

So to get away from it all, I took a quick jaunt to Hong Kong two weeks ago with Holly for some cooler temperatures, gorgeous hikes, and good eating.

Hong Kong is an intense city; everything is taken to extremes. The urban part of Hong Kong is way built-up - from the AirBnB hostel we stayed in, we had a lovely view of...neighbouring blocks' air-con compressors and neon street signs. I was just glad to have a window. On the other hand, because of the city's steep, hilly geography, all the urban area is concentrated in a few spots, with some suburbs perched on hillsides and on the outlying islands, and the trail part of Hong Kong is...well, it's beautiful.

At 23 weeks pregnant I wasn't going to do anything ridiculous, and both of us were lugging along work and deadlines anyway, so we ended up doing probably three of HK's easiest hikes, half a day each or less including travel time. All of these are suitable for a reasonably in-shape beginner walker and I did them in regular old running shoes, with one of those stupid uncomfortable string nylon backpacks - I forgot I'd shipped my usual daypack. If you are a newbie hiker, take it slow and steady with photo/ drink breaks.

Day 1: High Junk Peak, Kowloon

Our flight got in about 6am, and we started the day off with breakfast (not pictured) and a bit of an adventure getting (in)to our hostel*, followed by conking out for a nap.

- Get to security-code-enabled front door at 8am. Ring the number provided. No one picks up. (Repeat 7-8x.)
- Message AirBnB host, who turns out to manage/ own a number of different hostels, each with an on-site property manager. Host is tremendously responsive online, but we still can't get in because the property manager isn't picking up.
- Wait an hour. This preggo lady needs to peeeeeeeee. Look longingly at trash bin in stairwell. (What? I'm a runner. I pee in the woods. Someone who isn't opening the front door despite multiple phone calls arguably may or may not deserve to have their trash bin peed in.)
- A couple of tourists emerges from front door, whereupon we walk in
- And make ourselves at home in one of the empty rooms - they are empty after all, and we have paid. - Wake up from nap and ring property manager again.
- A very drowsy property manager arrives to officially check us in and give us keys and security code.

By now, we were starving. What better to fuel up with than a hearty lunch of roast goose and rice?

And some pretty views, although at the end of the above spit you can just about make out the fancy-pants golf club.

Day 2: Dragon's Back, Hong Kong Island 

Dragon's Back is perhaps one of the most famous hikes in all of Hong Kong, and with good reason - it's lovely! The trail goes up up up for a good half hour, but then is almost flat along a long spiny ridge that goes south-east. 
Above: Looking north-ish towards the city bits of the island. 

Goofing around on the trail. (Not pictured: Holly yoga selfie - newly minted yoga instructor, had to take yoga selfie. I did not follow suit for fear of overbalancing and falling off the hillside.)

The trail ahead

With a chaser of dim sum. This was a mere fraction of the spread we had: fried dumplings, steamed dumplings, steamed rice cake, lotus seed paste and custard buns, baked char siew rolls, congee, and pan-fried rice rolls with sweet sauce and sesame-peanut sauce... 

After running some shopping errands for my mom I had some work to do to make a deadline, so I fairly rolled back to the hostel in a food coma while Holly trundled off to the museum, and we got dinner after she got back. 

The first portion of this was up all the way for a good half hour, but it's lots of stairs, nothing crazy. We saw plenty of little old ladies and tourists doing it. Views: definitely more urban skyline than bucolic countryside. The link above says it's 'difficult' and takes 5 hours; I found it relatively smooth sailing and we took about 3.5, I think. (There is a slightly tougher option to actually ascend Lion Rock, but we skipped that to climb Beacon Hill and see the 'lion' from afar on the way down.) There are longish flat sections, and the ascents and descents mostly involve paved steps like these:

City view at a wee pavilion en route, looking south towards the bulk of urban/ residential Kowloon. 

A view of Lion Rock - the tallest peak is the top of its head, and it's looking towards the right, sphinx-like. 

After all these stunning views it was of course time for lunch; we decided to go hunt for Vietnamese food and found some in a basement food court right near the hostel. Pho and pomelo soda! 

In the evening we went down to the Kowloon waterfront, where the Avenue of Stars is (if you are a HK movie/ pop buff, that's where the stars' handprints are, just like Hollywood's Walk of Fame - Tsui Hark, Bruce Lee, Gong Li etc. One day many millennia in the future, aliens will land and wonder if that's where we buried our dead celebrities) but it was kind of hazy and thus really funny to see tourists try to take photos with the blurred neon skyline. 

Later, I went for hot pot with some friends who live in Hong Kong. Good times and lots of laughs. (In the pot: vegetables, pork bones, fish maw, corn, fish paste, sliced shabu-shabu beef, mushrooms, glass noodles, etc etc etc etc, all simmering away to make this rich umami stew-ness.) 

That was the last night of vacation; we flew out at 7.30am the next morning. Feel free to ask me where else/ what else I ate!

And yes, work has been kind of crazy with interviews and deadlines, which is why it's taken me two weeks to post these photos.

What's running like at 23-25 weeks? I am SO SLOW these days, and my runs are peppered with walk breaks. (Sometimes my walks are peppered with run breaks?) It's kind of like an inverse training plan: you get heavier and heavier and slower and slower as things progress. In other words: still not very exciting, sorry guys. The highlight of last week was running a whopping 6km without stopping to walk.

This is me at 23 weeks; there is definitely a bump going on. Said bump has since expanded. 

And I'm trying to cram as much time in as possible with this little squish before I leave for the US (still don't know when, but at least I have a visa interview date). <3 #favouriteniece 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

How to stay motivated when you're not training for anything

I'm not doing a highlights of 2014 post because it's already late - hello, mid-January! hello, all my deadlines! And my highlights are fairly obvious: tackling the adventure, joy and terror of growing a tiny human, learning to drink while riding a bicycle, visiting the husband's Italian relatives and eating our way around parts of Italy, and whale-watching the day before setting an extremely embarrassing new marathon PR

Anyway, I was talking to another runner friend who's expecting, and we agreed that we get a little wistful hearing about all the exciting goals and running adventures that everyone has planned for the year. Running through pregnancy is treating me fine, but it's not the most exciting thing - it just is. And sometimes, whether it's due to pregnancy, getting over an injury, or some other life circumstance, there are phases in the life of a runner when you're healthy but you just aren't training for something. So - how to stay motivated? 

- Know why you're running 
'To keep fit' is not a powerful enough reason. I run with my doctor's blessing because I know that mothers who are in good cardiovascular and musculoskeletal shape tend to have fewer pregnancy discomforts and a lower risk of preterm labour. And I run because I like being outside, because I like the visceral sensation of motion that nothing else replicates, and because I invariably feel better, physically and mentally, after a run than I did before. 

- Do some gym classes 
I work from home and if there's anything that absolutely needs to be done each day I do it in the morning.  So  some days if I don't schedule my run, it just doesn't happen. But if I commit to a class, like the 6.30pm Tuesday spin class or early morning yoga, if I'm going to be there anyway, I might hit up the treadmill for a half-hour  beforehand and then actually stretch afterwards. 

I can't tell you how useful I've found my gym, even though I'm probably about the farthest that anyone can get from gym bunny. When I was focused on running it was a place for things that complemented the running, like strength and yoga classes. When I was training for the triathlon the spin classes kept me accountable before brick workouts, yoga kept me flexible, and then it was also a nice place to stretch and do my glute and TRX exercises. I don't like to go to the gym for the sake of going to the gym, I prefer to go because it fulfills a specific need for me at a specific point in time. If you are in the no-gym camp, if you have space and a DVD player (we have neither), I know folks who swear by workout DVDs.

- Mix it up
Trails. Road. Different routes. The other day I was so bored of doing laps up and down the canal path that I did something I pretty much never do: I drove to a run. I ran through part of the Botanic Gardens, stopped by the track where my team was doing a workout, and did my pseudo-speedwork there with them (1.2km, 800m, and a halfhearted 400, all at the exceedingly zippy pace of 11 minutes a mile). 

- Get social 
And sometimes I meet up with a friend for pancakes. I mean, a short trail run or park run, followed by pancakes. Bonus: I get to hang out with her toddler; we have the same mental age so we get along very well. 

- Bribe yourself 
Monsoon season is just wrapping up around here. Sometimes when it's pouring I go to the gym and get on the treadmill with a podcast, or my tablet and an episode of Gilmore Girls (which I am finally watching. As the world's slowest TV watcher I calculate it will take me approximately 3 years to finish the series.)

- Plotting for the future 
I've mentioned this to a couple of friends, but I think I'll be spending the rest of the year postpartum plus 2016 focusing on the 10K distance. I've had endurance-sport ADHD for too long - triathlons! marathons! half marathons! - and haven't really focused on 10Ks in a while. How long? My PR is from 2012. 10Ks won't take me away from family on half-day training runs, but are still a good challenge and one of my favourite race distances. 

- You don't need to be motivated all the time
Life is too short. Take a snow day or a week off. Enjoy yourself. Bake some cookies, cook a nice meal. Play outside, have coffee with friends, play boardgames, sit on the couch with a book. Then come back refreshed to run again another day.