May 12, 2010

Turning into my (grand) mother

They say that a woman's worst nightmare is to turn into her mother. Well, I am not sure whether it better or worse (not that I think it would be such a bad thing to be like my mother anyway,  bar the fact she prefers playing tennis to going running. Oh well), but I think I am about to turn into my grand mother.

The doubt had been creeping in my head since I became a mum 8 months and a half months ago, but I got official confirmation this week.

This week will be remembered as The Week When Malo Who Was In No Rush Of Having His First Tooth Suddenly Decided To Get Two In One Go. Concomitantly, he straight out refused to eat both his 4pm and his evening meal two days in a row, and did not do much better the third one. This coming from a baby who has always eaten liek there is no tomorrow and is so round that, when seeing Martin, Malo and I together, people think we either adopted, or stole the little devil, because there is no way the two of us could have produced such a plump little one.

Obviously, as mums do (especially when they double up with being congenitally worried), I freaked out. Immediately a picture of Petite Boule so skinny that he would need to be renamed, built up in my mind. Nothing would deter me from feeling devastated at the sight of my son refusing to eat. Not Martin reminding me Malo had two little hams in place of legs and could handle two days with only 2 meals.  Not my own mum saying that, obviously, his teeth were bothering him and surely things would shortly get back in order (and reminding me she spent all my childhood trying to convince me eating is not overrated).

This not eating episode also brought back memories of the only day, when Malo was only 2 month old, where I briefly thought I had not enough milk to breastfeed him properly. At the time tough, a call to  My Hero (ie the wonderful midwife who listened to, and assisted me with the list of my worries and failures as a mum in the first weeks post partum) sorted everything out: this was normal, I should not worry, nurse my baby as often as necessary to stimulate lactation, and things would quickly get back to normal, which they did.

This time tough, things are different. I don't have the comfort of telling me milk will soon be back in stock, or that, if worse come to worst, I can always bottle feed him, since he does not want to eat.

And here comes my grand mother. Mamie, my grand mother, comes from a generation for which being fed properly was not always a given. She lived in poor Brittany with 9 siblings and her Dad a sailor cruising the oecean to bring back home a tiny amount of money. A young adult, she experienced the war, food shortage and vouchers. She then worked hard to provide for her two daughters. Putting good food on the table was a matter of pride. And love.

As kids, spending the holiday with her, we would be treated to pancakes, cakes, French fries, or whatever else she knew we kids loved. The more butter involved in preparing those treats, the better. Growing into a weight conscious teenager, I became fussy and was asking for my vegs steamed, and she would reply that "vegs without a bit of butter, are tasteless, just like water". I guess the main problem was that, to this day, we have a very different opinion on which quantity of butter is involved when talking about "a bit". 

Unlike Mamie, food does not have a huge importance in my life. I like eating, and, as an athlete, care about eating healthily (oh, and before you ask, I'll justify my huge daily chocolate allowance by that fact that I seem to lack magnesium these days). But the only time when I made an effort trying to come up with fancy receipes was when Martin and I started seeing each other and I felt the need to impress.  This stopped as soon as we both felt we had found "the one", which was about three days after our first meeting.

But it looks that this may have changed with Malo's arrival in my life. In the very few weeks he did not sleep through the night, I enjoyed waking up, taking him against me to nurse him, and feeling him fall asleep a moment leter, satiated and content (granted, 6 weeks after he was born, I also enjoy immensly not having to wake up at night any longer, and have not been looking back since then).

I breastfed until a few days ago,  because I liked so much the sensation and because it was such a great feeling to think he  was growing thanks to what my body produced for him. This coming from somebody who, two days after she gave birth, thought she would only nurse for a couple of months because she felt she should, and was telling her husband she did not want to feel like a "milking cow" for too long.

I also worry if he seems not to be eating as much as he normally does. I am pleased to tell people he is such a great eater, and bore anybody who cares to listen about how many pieces of vegetables went into his purée.

And now that he is weaned and eating "real" food, I actually enjoy preparing his daily meals, and before you ask, no, I am not talking about putting formula milk in a bottle. I am talking  carefully selecting organic vegetables, trying to offer a different mix each day, caring about him discovering new tastes. I even bought and cooked fennel for the first time in my life, for crying out loud. Granted, I stole the idea of the receipe for a young mum friend of mine, but still, buying fennel for the first time in my 36 years on this planete, doesn't that say something about how much I care? How much I love him?

 Satiated and content...

Because that was it is about.  Love. Showing it with cuddles, kisses, shared laughs, time together, sharing daily runs. And food. Why, I can't really explain. And probably neither could my grand mother.

May 05, 2010

A Present for SeaLegsGirl: my running song of the day (OK, 2, actually)

OK, this is not truly speaking my running song of the day, because I don't do music when I run (too busy listening the sound of my own inner voice, or, more often than not, trying to make that inner voice shut up).

But because I have something to be forgiven for by SLG, here is my attempt at bribing her... And at giving the others some motivation for 4-or-so extra minutes of running, while I am at it.  Oh, and at being forgiven by everybody for my horrendously long last post (which Piccola was probably the only one to have read anyway, adding a annoying-blog-reading PB to her 1/2 marathon one, the former being probably even more impressive than the latter).

"Running up that hill"... can't beat the title, hey?! And it does not hurt the song is pretty cool, too...

And there is a more "meditative" version for those, like me, who use running as their daily (or not quite daily these days) meditation...

Maybe I should try it myself, in case it helps shutting up the annoying innner voices...

May 03, 2010

Why? (A race report - or a psychoanalysis. You choose)

- "Well, I guess it will bring me luck", I say as as I am getting ready for the race and as I watch my now-dirty running socks, on which Malo has just decided to throw up part of his breakfast.

This is my first race since Malo was born. The last one I did with him in my belly, 5 weeks pregnant., but this time, he will be supporting with his dad, from the comfort of his Chariot.  And because chosing a local race would be too simple, I have signed up for a  21km trail race in the mountain part of Provence, four hours from home. We've planned to spend four days there, staying at a local campsite, racing (me), climbing (Martin),  mountain biking with the Chariot in tow (both of us) and wondering what the hell the parents think they are doing (Malo). As a result of this fun programme, the first challenge of the weekend was to try and load the car with two bikes, a Chariot, climbing gear, running shoes, cycling shoes, climbing shoes, Malo's folding bed and his rucksack. More often than not, it feels like having a truck instead of a car would be a smarter choice for us.

I leave Martin deal with a marathon of his own, i.e. making sure Malo's milk, organic courgettes, clean nappies, spare clothes, hat, sunglasses and whatever-else-he-fancies-stocking-up-at-the-bottom-of-the-Chariot, are ready in 15min, so that they can ride, Tour de France style, up the first uphill I'll have to run, and cheer me.

As for me, I get a ride to the start from our campsite neighbour. Last evening, Mister Neighbour looked at Martin in disbelief when Martin said that he was not racing, his wife was, and he would be looking after the baby.  Today, he quickly goes on to telling me he's hoping for a top 15 finish.  I guess the take-away message is: "I am so, SO good".  As for me, my only claim to fame is to have given birth less than 8 months ago, and altough the delivery was a marathon of some kind , I suspect it is one which is unlikely to tremendously help me today.  Well, I tell myself, the hills may be steep today, but at least I won't have to push the Chariot up them (I get comfort any way I can, as pre-race stress is building up).

Soon after, we start. I have signed up for the short race: 21 kms and 850m positive elevation gain.   Not that the long one did not appeal to me (I am a mountain masochist after all, or at least claiming to be, but after my ordeal of a few years ago, I must remind myself that I-am-running-less-than-I-wished is better than this-time-my-ankle-is-f***-for-good-and-I'll-never-be-able-to-run-again).

After the start in the village's centre, we're soon up the first hill.  Only 3kms done, and 18kms to go, but I am feeling good, and can see the regular Mountain Masochist uphill training should pay off.  Martin and Malo are here to cheer me, although Martin almost misses me, later claiming that, because I am so short, he did not see me, hidden as I was in the middle of a pack of normal-size runners.

First downhill, and trouble starts: a stitch. Oh, no. I blame it on pregnancy, not having got my abs back, and feeling like my organs are playing the mambo-jumbo inside my belly. But I need not worry because soon enough, it's uphill again, and, if there should be only one good thing about it, it is that the stitch goes away.

Or is it that the stitch has gone away because I AM BLOODY WALKING.  So that my pride does not get hurt unduly, let say straight away this walking situation (at that point at least) NOT of my own volition. I just happen to be stuck behind some runners clearly shocked that they could be so many steep hills ,on a trail run, in the Alps. Shocked, and breathless, and with lactic acid up to their eyeballs.  Hence the walking. Hence my being stuck. With no possibilty to overtake, as the single trail is indeed very "single" , and bordered on  each side by dense vegetation.  And as I am looking at my feet to kill time, I realise I am about to lose the time chip, which would be a bummer.  After all, at this pace, I am set to cross the finish line in about 2 or 3 days, and that would be a shame not to have it made official, wouldn't it?

By the time the trail is finally (a tiny little bit) wider, allowing me to overtake, I realise I find it super hard  to get back in motion and find my rythm again.  Then I spot Martin and Malo waiting for me, and stop to give the little devil (the big one too, actually) a kiss.

 WHAT?... Is that what motherhood does to you? Stopping, on a 21km race, when you don't have to? When you should be sprinting taking advantage of a few hundreds metres of not-so-steep dirt road? After a couple of minutes (ie just the time for Malo to wonder who is this stinking alien with sunglasses,  funny socks on, and a big, black number on her t-shirt), I am off again. But the fact remains: I have stopped .  During a race. And not even because I was about to die, just because I felt like it. Can't one get jailed for this?

Starting again, I enjoy a few hundreds metres of flatter terrain, with stunning views onto Mont Ventoux, which I will ride up to as soon as I get the chance (it is long, it is windy, it makes you wonder why you  thought you had to leave your car at the bottom, what not to like about it?).  The road-runner in me wakes up: no more heavy breathing, no more stop-and-go, the legs are just flowing. But a few hundreds meters are a bit short to get in the Zone, and soon enough, we're running up a steep countryside road again.

Unfortunately, by then, whatever killer instinct I may have had in me has gone. I decide I don't like uphills (even tough I have done rather well on them while training - sometimes being light and short has some advantages) , I don't like roads (not very credible either for somebody who spend the first ten years of her running life pounding the pavement), and I don't like the idea of the 18-20% climb waiting for me after the water station, at km 14. Looking at the race's profile the previous week, the upcoming climb, the steepest of the race, looked 3.5-4km long, i.e. more than long enough to make sure it will hurt big time.  I figure there is no point then to rush up that road now, knowing what comes later.  And so I walk. Again.

Of course, the thought that I have RUN (as in: NOT WALKED) steeper stuff when training with Martin, does cross my mind at this point... no explanation there: I guess I am just a wimp.  A wimp not used to to running with hundreds of people, and to sometimes having to adapt my pace to theirs, because I am stuck on a bloody single, very single indeed, trail.

That's when a guy who has been running next to me for a few minutes starts talking to me.
- "you're the wife of the guy who has been cycling up all that dirt roads with the Chariot. Whoa, that's quite a challenge, and I should know, we have a Chariot too, and we never got it anywehere else than flat land: too hard." Was I complaining about not having any decent claim to faim? Well, here you go: I may be the one running up that gruelling climb, but what I'll be remember as is "the wife of the guy cycling up with the Chariot". Oh well.

Anyway, feeling sociable today (which makes me a sociable walking wimp), we start talking about kids, Chariots, running, life in a nutshell. If anything, that helps passing time, and a little while later, we at last reach the water station. Again with the hellish climb ahead in mind, I figure a couple of minute stop won't make a huge difference now, and given that I have not been able to eat much  in the morning, I desperately need to eat something anyway.

Then, as I am refilling my camelbak, one of the girls at the station cheerfully announces that respite is soon there and we have only 1.5kms more to climb.  WHAT? I don't know how I got things so wrong, but in any case, it suddenly, it feels very, very stupid indeed to have stopped to refuel with only such a short uphill portion to go. Plus, a girl who is being paced by her boyfriend has just passed without stopping, and that, cannot stay unpunished (I just don't approve of pacers). 

So here am I, running full of energy again... only to have to stop a few hunderds metres further, because the climb may be shorter  than I thought at this point, but flatter it is not, and again, I am stucked behind this long queue of runners. Frustrating, but nothing to do about it, and partly my own fault anyway.

I eventually reach the top of the climb, and soon after, start the descent towards the village and the finish line. It is a super narrow, super steep, super technical, this is where I thought I would waste time, and I am flying.  WHOA, THIS IS FUN! The last km is run on the road, and again, the road-runner in me wakes up: I am picking up the pace again, things are feeling smooth. I sprint to the finish line with a huge smile on my face, and soon Malo in my arms.

I finish 16th woman, and 10th in my age group (nothing glorious here: it just means that 6 Vets were actually faster than me).  Not bad, given I have done only 3 trail races before (one of them pregnant) and most of all given what a poor race I did in view of my training. Maybe that's my claim to fame then: "the girl who is the wife of the guy cycling up with the Chariot AND runs much better and faster when she is training than on actual race day".

Then, as the awards ceremony gets started, the organiser announces that he wants to apologise, the course has been modified at the last minute, and he forgot to mention it at the pre-race briefing. The course was 1050m of elevation gain instead of the stated 850m, the water station had been moved further. than initially  intented, and instead of rollinh hills, we got a solid 10km-or-so climb. So the climbs were as  steep and long as they feel then. Well, that's a relief, for my mind if not for my legs. And my strategy of stopping for refuel would have been the right one had the station not been moved.  Still not  an impressive performance I gave, and still does not justify the walking, but it makes me feel marginally better about my run.

As I am walking back to the campsite later that day, I can't help wondering why I raced, and whether I did enjoy it. After all, there is no shortage of super nice trails on which to run back home, and more importantly, on which NOT to get stuck behing other runners.  And I don't need  races to push myself so I did not do it  either because I needed some kind of goal to train.  Instead, I feel rather frustrated with myself:  I finish in a decent time and at a decent place, but definitely not by pushing hard enough, which means I should have finish in a better time, at a better place.

But then... I have somehow enjoyed the race too...  I enjoyed the superb scenery (granted, I spent more time looking at my feet in an attempt to avoid the falls than admiring the mountains, but I am sure there were amazing). The friendly chats (even though they made me feel like the "wife of", and did not do any good to my speed). The bliss of managing to see my husband and son on no less than 4 points of the race (even though one should never waste time by stopping to kiss people - even ones son - on a race).  Oh, and I enjoyed the strategies devised post-race to improve my performance at the next race.

Oh yeah, because I have signed up for another one. Which means that if I walk the uphill sections of this one too, I will end up walking the entire race, because it will be a 23kms, 1500m elevation, climb, no flats, no downhills. Go figure.

Did I say Masochist?

PS - I think I have just managed a PB of some sort: that of the longest, most boring post. Actually, cross that out: nothing that long and rambling could be called a post. 
Self-inflicted flagellation maybe.
Or an online psycho-analysis.
Or a probably very successful attempt at using once and for good my few readers.
Or all of the above.
End of "post".