Thursday, June 23, 2016

Finally. A Happy Run.

I had my first "good" run in probably 8 months this morning.  It was so refreshing to finally have a mentally and physically satisfying morning.  It was such comfort- like coming home to something that I love.

For a long time now, I have really struggled with all workouts.  Swimming with Gil was not progressing like we thought it should, and like history had shown us it could.  The bike, of course, has just felt awful.

Running was also taking a huge nosedive.  Normally, though, if I will just take the time to do a lot of easy running, my legs will strengthen up and things will start to feel easy again.  But for some reason, that didn't work this time.  My HR was through the roof.  Even when I made sure I kept it down and my pace was incredibly slow, I didn't feel good and couldn't get in more than a few miles.  I started to doubt myself.  Did I need to throw in some fast running and reset my system?  But how could fast running be the answer when I couldn't really do 5 easy miles.  ???

I decided this morning to try go back to my roots...the good old trails.  Pun intended :)  I woke up before dawn and drove to Audubon park to my old stomping grounds.  I typically run the 2 mile loop trail on the outside of the park.  It is shaded and rooty.  I was determined to have a nice run.  I don't care what my pace is.  I just don't want my knees to feel awful anymore.  I just don't want runs to be miserable.  So, I made sure I had a little food in me, water bottle strapped on with gels, and a cute running outfit.  (a little secret of mine:  decades ago one of my best guy friends told me that "good players look good."  I was wearing a ratty outfit to soccer practice, and he went up to his room and brought me down a better outfit.  I thought, who cares?  It is soccer practice!  I am there to play!!!  I am not into looks!!!  But his point was that the best players in the world show up with nice, matching clothes...looking and feeling good...ready to play like a professional.  I immediately went home and opened up my Soccer USA magazine and ordered new shorts and shirts.  His words still stick with me.  Now, when I want to have a good training session, I make sure I look the part.  Fake it till you make it, you know?  And, that friend went on to play in several professional leagues.  He knew what he was talking about.)

And for some reason this morning, even though I was running really slowly, I felt really good.  I enjoyed my run.  My HR stayed where it should.  I had water.  I took a gel.  Yes, on an 8 mile run, I took a gel.  I have run so much with pure runners for the past year.  I think they believe that water and calories in a run is a sign of weakness, because they do everything they can to starve their runs.  This morning, I decided whatever made me feel better, I was doing it.  I have to get past this initial bump, no matter what it takes.  And I just can't worry about low carb, no sugar, yada yada right now.  I need to just do some training that is successful.

And it worked.  8 trail miles done.  Felt good.  Had fun.

This has been a hard plateau for me.  It is hard to stay positive and not give up.  It is hard to keep getting out there and feeling terrible.  It is hard to be a shadow of my former self and not seeming to be able to break out.  I keep telling myself the story of the rock and the water.  Over time, the rock will crack with the water pressure.  I have to stay patient.

Some things I am currently using to keep myself motivated for the future of racing in my 40s, because I think that is really when I will be able to best apply myself after having young kids in the house.

1.  I never had my best race.  My best Olympic distance race was done in thunderstorm/hail lightening, with a flat tire at mile 20 that I had to soft pedal in, and a run course that was .5 miles too long.  My best half ironman was done on a super hard/hilly and extremely hot course.  And my best ironman was done in 90 degree heat on a shoulder injury that kept me out of the pool for 2 months prior.  None of these are my best.  I still haven't tapped into my best.

2.  Then I think...maybe it is too late for my best?  Maybe my best/fastest was in my 30s.  I should just let it go.  But I see so many women still racing well in their 40s.  So, racing in my 40s is there for me if I choose to go for it.  Fast times can still happen.  Thank you, to all of you women still racing that motivate me to keep bettering myself!

Here's to more happy miles and a great week!

 Outdoor baths are the way to go!  Knock it all out with fun sprinkler time followed by a good washing :)  Time saver and fun!
Isla is already in the spirit of Nola.  She picks out "twirly skirts/dresses" any time we go listen to music.  She is a festival girl already!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Backing Up Parenting

Ahhh parenting: the art of backing yourself when you really just don't know.

I am having lots of parenting questions and struggles right now.  Having a family unit that has been separated for 2.5 months is not helping the situation, and I am counting down the days when Dave comes home and we can all live under the same roof again.

My big parenting issues with an almost 3-year-old:

1.  Nap.  I have had a poor sleeper from day 1 in the hospital.  "Oh, we have never seen a baby this alert! wow!"  That seems liked a compliment, and I heard it for weeks on end at doctors'  appointments.  But what it really meant was that I would have a baby that would sleep only a fraction of the time other babies would sleep.

Here was are a few years later, and sleep issues still run our day.  In case you are wondering, yes...we still sleep with our child at night.  Dave and I switch off who sleeps with her.  (although for 3 months it has been solely me.  Get ready to make up some time, dad!).  She has been a regular napper, thank you to daycare and some handwork by our parenting unit.  It is not easy, and she fights the process, but we get them in.

So, the current struggle:   I recently had to turn down my number 1 daycare/school pick because they don't nap at 3-years-old.  And every day I am beating myself up.  Did I make the right decision?  Kids usually outgrow naps between 3-4, according to the internet, which is such an expert, right?  The internet knows everything :)  How do I know when Isla is ready to stop napping?  Do I force her to stop at 3 because I want her to go to a certain school?   I couldn't find the answer.  I wanted someone to make the decision for me, and no one took the bait.  In the end, I decided to find another program where 3-year-olds still nap.  As an athlete, we talk about sleep and rest all of the time, and how important it is for our health.  I followed this line of decision making, and boy I hope it was right.  I hated giving up a slot at such a good school (no more slots left).  And how do I know really what is best?  Let's hope I chose wisely.  And it sounds crazy to say I am choosing schools that nap.  But I guess I would also choose a school that had recess over one that didn't, so maybe it is not that crazy.

And lately it is taking me in at least 1 get Isla down for her nap.  So, I question myself time and time again.  Maybe she is ready to give them up?  Maybe I was wrong to cross out schools that didn't nap!  But then, she has a day with no nap and it is a nightmare for me OR she tries to fall asleep in the car on an errand at 4pm.  And then I think I am right.  This kid still needs to nap.  It is important.

If you don't have kids yet, just WAIT for the sleep struggles!  Better yet, sleep as much as you can right now.  Make every kid-free moment count!

2.  The general parenting issue I have is following my gut, my plan, and my desires for my family.   This move to Nola has given everyone permission to take a huge interest in my work life.  If people haven't decided who I should work for, they have at least decided how often I should work....which is all of the time.  Something about the generation above us- I can't quite put my finger on it.  Staying at home with kids was just not cool and being able to label yourself with a profession was the thing to do.

Every day.  At least once but usually more, I am asked what I am doing for work.  What is my J.O.B.

So, my general plan since having Isla has been to work, bring income to my family, and stay in touch with my profession as much as is needed, but not every day or every available hour.  Lower stress> more money. Mom+Isla> Isla in daycare.  Small house/used car> Better house/new car/financial stress.  You get the picture.  And because Dave is not in a working position for me to be a stay-at-home mom, I work.  But never has my desire been to work full days and then parenting for only 3-4 hours when not at work.  I worked full time up until having Isla.  I mean, like most of us, I have worked pretty much my whole available working life.  Since having Isla, I have oscillated between more and less hours, trying to find the sweet spot.  What I have found is a solid part time schedule, with flexibility to back off but the opportunity to take on more work, works best with my family.  When we need more $$$, I work more.  When we need me taking care of family needs, I can shift some time over to the family while still working.

The compromise is that I get more time with Isla versus a better car.  It is a no-brainer for me.

Nothing makes me feel like a lazier POS than to have conversations about how I am not seeking full time, life-sucking, no vacation because I work in health care, no benefits employment.  I feel like a criminal when I try to explain that I don't want to work 40-50 hours in a hospital and let daycare raise my child.  "But moms do it all of the time."  Yes, yes they do.  And that is great.  It is not for me.  Yes, I am trying to make ends meet with the ...gasp....part time/PRN track.  I try to tell people that I want my afternoon with my daughter.  I want to pick her up from school.  I want to take her to activities.  I want to have energy for her.   And yes, I want this more than I want a certain house, a car note, or socialite school.  No, I don't want her to go to daycare from 7:30-4:30 every day.  When did this become unacceptable for a mother?

Not doing it.

I am not lazy, although lately I wonder if people think that about me. I just love my kid and my family.  I actually like to work to work.  I love providing for my family. I just also love being around for my kid.  I don't get these years back.  As a 38-year-old mother, I just have to take the perspective I have and do my best.  I just have to back myself and do the best parenting I can do.  I would rather be upset with myself later on than to try to fit someone else's parenting ideals and feel regret if it wasn't right for me.  

The point of all of this is, no one can tell me if naps are important or how much time I should spend with her.  I GET to make that decision.  That is parenting.  No one gets to walk up to me and tell me how to do it.  And I am just now grasping that concept.  It is powerful.  I am finally feeling the power of having my own family and having some responsibility for its health, wealth, and general well-being.  It is a crazy concept, but important.  We are brought up to be critical, independent thinkers.  Then we become parents and there is so much criticism it can really shut you down.  It seems like you have to struggle for your independence as a parent at times, but really, you don't.  You just have to tune out the noise and be you.

Beach week!!!!  Isla and Virginia in their annual matching bathing suits.  

Virginia and Isla, playing it cool in their glasses.  

My sweet, almost 3-year-old, looking like a big girl! 

My beach partner!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

First Week Back

We have arrived.  After a couple of months separated as a family, we have rejoined in New Orleans, ready to start down a new path on our journey.  My first week has passed, and it was mostly pretty darn good on all fronts.  

I am rekindling my friendship with my bike.  I am not lying when I say I had ridden maybe 4 times between March and May.  No, I am not being a sandbagger or closet trainer.  When it came time to move my bike, I had my race wheels on it from the only race I have done this year at the beginning of April, and they were, flat.  I have talked about it on my blog for the past few years, but cycling has just been a sore spot for me.  After 3 years of my slowest bike splits ever, decreased ability to join in with groups, a couple of bike fits that made me more and more uncomfortable, and one bike malfunction after another, I was just not loving it anymore.  I didn't understand it, and I still don't, really.  How could my favorite discipline and my strength just fall to pieces?  How did my ability to ride tons of miles turn somehow disintegrate into not being able to ride 20?  

But for some reason, I am ready to get back on it.  Forcing it was not working, so I didn't force it.  I scheduled nothing.  I didn't ride.   And then I moved down here and the first thing I wanted to do was get back on my bike.  So far I have ridden 3 times in the 1 week I have been here.  They are nothing big...just 20-25 mile rides.  There is not a lot of riding ground where I live now, so I will eventually have to find a way to drive about an hour to meet up with friends on the North Shore, but I am going to give it a few months before I try to take it to the next place.  For now, I am just happy I care to ride again.

A view from the levee by my house- across the river is St Peter's Cathedral and the French Quarter.  I have a little loop I can do here without worrying about cars.  

I think some simple things that need to happen over the next couple of years are :
1.  I need a new bike.  It is time.  8 years on my trusty Cannonade...surely it is time?  I have put some miles on that baby.
2.  I need a new bike saddle.  I love my ISM saddles.  I have had great success with the Road, but for some reason this one has just never felt quite right.  Searching for the perfect saddle is tedious because it affects your overall fit, and that makes it tough to start throwing on new saddles.
3.  I need a bike fit that works for me.  I have tried since I have had Isla.  I really have.  I have been fit by 3 different people.  I am still not there.  I gave up for a while, but giving up has gotten me no where as well.  Time to dig around New Orleans.

The trickier thing that I need to nail down is...has my Epstein Barr Virus re-activated?  All the symptoms have been there since last fall, especially.  My running friends were the first to comment that they noticed the change, and it didn't seem to be training related.   (My running group has full access to my training log.  Oddly enough, it is just such a great group, we have access to each other's training and it never feels weird or competitive.  It is insanely supportive).   I have felt pretty decent since I have had Isla, until this fall.  I have never felt as good as I used to feel, and I am not sure that I ever will.  But, I have felt good enough to have some good racing.  But when I feel bad, I just feel bad.  I can barely soft pedal a bike for 30 minutes or run 1-2 miles at my worst.  For about 8 months I have felt that something is not right.  It came right around the time I had a "strange viral bronchitis infection" that wouldn't go away.  That was exactly how the last round of this all started.  It doesn't seem to matter if I lighten my training load or even sit out completely.  It is not a "rest" issue.  I did get my blood panel checked when this all started, but my PCP (not the doc that helped me figure out what was wrong initially) just checked the normal iron, hormones, etc.  I told him that would all be fine, and I was right.  All was in order!  I begged him to check EBV, but he wouldn't, citing some insurance yada yada junk.  Now that I am in Nola,  I just need to find a new doctor here, go in, run the test, get the numbers, make some sense of them, and see what's up.

So, that is where I am.  I want to race again.  I really want to be training.  I look back at the past few years and think that they have been such a struggle.  For most of the time, I thought it was because I was a mom and raising Isla was just plain hard.  But now, I think more that it has just been tough for me health wise, and when you aren't healthy, nothing is fun.  The thing is, I got All-American last year.  It wasn't a bad year on paper.  But I felt awful the whole year.  I never had a good race- not one single triathlon where I felt some satisfaction or felt like maybe I was really able to push myself.  I have tried the "race for fun" thing.  But, even that wasn't fun.  Part of what makes triathlon fun for me is pushing my body and my mind.  When that is not available to me, I just don't have that much fun going through the motions of swim-bike-run.

That was a long way of saying that I still do love this, and I am glad to see I am enjoying the bike.  I hope I can stoke the fire enough to turn this into some real training with some good physiological responses.  I would still love, love, love to get back into road racing and TT racing.

And some pictures of my first week back In Nola :) I think we are going to love this chapter in our lives and our new environment.
The lazy river

Spending time with Mema

Future dog walker :)
Setting up the stage for Wednesdays on the Point- a free jazz fest on the levee just a few hundred yards from my house...every Wednesday all summer long.  It is insane the amount of awesome, free music in this city.  They just make up excuses to have festivals here after work.  
I have swam a whopping 1500 yards since we moved here.  This is not a big swim community, so I can only swim laps 3 x week at certain times.  Of course when I went I was the only person there, too.  So my swim training now takes place in the splash pad with Isla.