August 31, 2010

Beginning of a new adventure

Almost a year to the day after Malo was born, we are about to embark on a new adventure.

No, I am not talking about Malo's little brother (who in any case will be a girl if Martin has it his way). If anything, our new adventure will delay the brother/sister for a while, since I am about to start a new job.

Fast rewind 32 months back. We had just moved to France, leaving London for a life in the Alps, full of running, climbing, cycling and other fun "ing" things (including, for Martin, learning French, although at the time I am not sure he found it that fun). I had ditched my banker's job and decided to give me a few months to try and find the holy graal: a job as interesting as the old one, but not involving my working nights and weekends, and leaving me with enough free time to make the most of the mountains around. Nine months later, I had the perfect offer. Promptly  (and probably no so legally) withdrawn when it became clear the crisis was here, and here to stay. Add two months to that, and I was pregnant with Malo, and under no illusions I would find a job "in my condition". 

As much as I had been saying, "before", that I so could not see myself as a staying at home mum, that I needed the intellectual stimulation that work brings, that there was no way I could spend all day with a baby or toddler and stay sane, etc, etc, etc... it became obvious this was all nonsense the minute I got to held Petite Boule in my arms. And that was not even because of novelty or because I had yet to experience the sleepless nights.  On the contrary, the strength of that feeling actually grew in perfect correlation with that the size and weight of my son.

Then reality kicked in: I needed to work. Not so much for the intellectual stimulation (which I got from my daily and long conversation monologues with Petite Boule), not so much for the social interaction (thank God for the crisis and the French welfare system: there were plenty of friends around with new-borns and on extended maternity leave). But for the money, oh, yes. It is, I guess, one of the drawbacks of living in a cool place with a lake, some mountains, and 40 kms away from Switzerland (where salaries are three times as high as here): life is here is a bloody expensive bliss. 

I won't go through the ordeal it was to leave Malo in day care once a week to free up time to look for a job: that would take a whole day of describing, and my posts are long enough as they are.  Let 's just say that, while I did not feel guilty for leaving him with a baby-sitter once in a while on a Saturday morning to go running or cycling with Martin (the way I see it, I come back relax and happy, so that's good for him, too), leaving him in the middle of 15 other crying babies was another story, because I am a mother hen, and because I knew that, sooner or later, he would have to be there five days a week, 47 weeks a year. 

Now the time has come. I have found a job, starting in... nine hours.

It took longer than expected (but what exactly did I expect, with only 8 hours a week where work related calls could not be interrupted by a baby requiring food, clean nappies, or simply a cuddle from his mum), which generated quite some stress, but which I am also very grateful for, since it means I got to spend a full year home with Malo. Him getting bigger and clearly enjoying the contact with other kids has not eased my feeling a tremendous guilt at knowing he will spend 50 hours a week in day care, and my missing in anticipation all these fantastic moments with him, his daily progess which will be witnessed by somebody else, his outburst of love. In a nutshell, the life with a one-year old lovely little devil.

Sure, it may actually be easier when I am in the job, busy getting up to speed, discovering a new working environment, meeting new colleagues. Sure, I think I chose the right option: a job not very well paid, for which I am over-qualified, but which seems interesting. I will be managing internal organisation projects, which surely has to be the perfect job for an anal-retentive such as myself. It also has the distinct advantage of being located 15 minutes from home and day-care, and comes with 10 weeks vacation (which, even for France, is a pretty good deal!).

There should also be numerous advantages to being back at work, aside from getting a monthly pay slip, or or so am I at least trying to convince myself.

- As Petite Boule is close to turning from a crawling ball to a walking one, and already using anything he finds on his way to stand up, I am glad I won't be the one witnessing his falls and bruises live, because this currently breaks my heart everytime it happens.

- After 10 hours away, his mum should be more than ever the star of his life, right? (if not right, please do not tell me, I need all the comfort I can get, and will shamelessly resort to lies if that does the job).

- Now that I have a good reason not to be able to do clean up the flat (apparently "I do not enjoy it and do not consider it a good use of my time" did not seem to qualify), we'll at last probably get a cleaning person (other that Malo, who is usually doing the job by crawling on the floor with a freshly washed white shirt).

- I may not have any longer to spend an entire evening, as it recently happened, having to try and convince the guys present that it is not because I am "not working" that I don't have a brain and have read the manual on how to use it (and by the way, regarding the "not working" bit: for what it is worth, I happen to find it much strenous, if pleasant, work looking after a baby full time than going to work five days a week).

- Although, as I said, I am not missing too much yet the intellectual stimulation provided by work, it could be that, in the longer term, my brain would have started to slowly die off, limited to reading about Babar and Elmer and speaking in 4-word-at-the-most sentences.

- My osteopath bills should significantly reduce, now that I won't have to carry Malo several hours a day, lift him from his bed three times daily, and spend what would have been a growing amount of time bent in two because he has decided it is cooler to walk rather than crawl through the flat, but need his mum's supporting hands to do so (and even if I am a bit of a dwarf, I am still more - although not that much more -  than twice his height, meaning that's a lof of bending over).

- Now that my work-outs will have to take place during lunchbreak instead of with Malo in his Chariot, I should be able to fit speed work, intervals and what-have-you in (not that I like them so much, but again, I need to find ways to get excited).

- Working barely a 10 minute run from my usual mountain trails means I may even be able to squeeze a short mountain run from time to time (now, I am getting close to not even having to pretend getting excited).

Of course, these advantages identified and acknowledged, a lot of questions still remain to be answered, which no doubt will have a great influence of whether I will like this job or not.

Starting with a pretty fundamental one: will there be showers at work?

August 26, 2010

The Birthday Boy and the Sappy Mum

In most areas of my life, including on this blog, talking about the very, very, serious topic of running, I tend to be ironic, even caustic on a good day. It does not mean to hurt anybody, it is mostly directed at myself, like a shell, and my way to try and stay distanciated, and pretend I am the tough cookie I am not.

Today, celebrating Malo first birthday, I must come clean: there is one area in which I must admit I totally fail to show distance, objectivity, or my trademark dry sense of humour. When it comes to talking about being a mum, think of a cliché, then that'll be me. I am just standing on a little cloud, unable to believe my luck at having such a perfect (in all objectivity) little thing into my life.

I swear I have tried.

I have tried to pretend I don't like changing dirty napppies. Or having to get up at 7am every morning including weekends (on this one, yes, I know, most mums would consider that very late anyway). Or dealing with teething problems. Or not being able to have a remotely intellectual conversation (or making sentences consisting of more than 4 words for that matter) until Martin comes back from work. Or being unable to have one single minute of "me" time as soon as the little devil is awake.Or hating to have to go to the playground.

I wish I could be, at least for the sake of pretending, like these cool mums who make me laugh when reading their comments about forgetting their kids at the supermarket, missing their life from "before", or feeding their kids ready-made meals intead of home-made organic food cooked with love.

But the truth is, I am not. I just love being a mum. All of it. So much that I don't even want to pretend I don't enjoy it as much as I do.

I loved when, a tiny baby, Malo would fall asleep on my belly.

I loved the feeling of perfect peace that went through me thinking that I could make him happy by just being there.

I loved the first "real" smile he gave me (and could give you the exact date, time and location), that will stay in my mind for ever.

I loved his first laugh, too, and  the fact there has been so many since then.

I love when I go and pick him up at daycare, and he sees me, and start sprint crawling towards me faster than I could run, with a massive smile on his face.

I love getting ready to go for a run with Malo in the Chariot, and see the smile on his face when he realises we're getting out and going running.

I love when he takes my hands to indicate he wants to use me as stablizer-in-chief to get up. Gets up. Sit  down. Takes my hands again. Repeats process 100 times.

I love, love, love, going to the playground with him, and laughing his heart out on the swing. And here, let's face it, I would love going anyway, but, at 37 in two days, I feel less stupid doing so with a toddler and pretending I am going for his sake.

I love when I tell him off and he looks at me, with a massive smile than makes his eyes shine, and I can't tell whether he does not have a clue I am being serious-mum-who-is-telling-him-off now, or whether he on the contrary knows it all too well and has already mastered the way to make me melt.

I love having to tidy up the living room every single night of the week, because Malo has himself done so for the entire day, except he and I do not strictly have the same idea on where things should be.

I love, LOVE, LOVE when my one-year old son, in one of his frequent  "love attacks", suddenly and hurriedly takes my head between his little hands, and give me a big, wet kiss, unfortunately still very often involving very sharp teeths, but given with so much love for such a little person that it is impossible to pretend that you're mad at him or even to let it show that it hurts like hell.

And above all, I love that his love for me is so simple. He doesn't not care whether I am cute, rich, a fast runner, smart, a fast chick on the bike, or a good cook (although given his voracious appetite, he may beg to differ on that one). I am his mum, and that's enough.

So that's me then. Less than 2 years ago an ex-banker who would not take crap from anybody and was not sure she ever wanted kids because she thought she may not "have it in her". Now a mum who regularly ,at night, when the little one has been put to bed, cries, of joy, overwhelmed by how powerful this love for and from Malo is.

Bon Anniversaire Malo!

August 22, 2010

Winter running

"Is breaking one's leg good enough a reason to come back home late?", I ask Martin as we try and negotiate the super sleep, super slippery, first downhill section of our run, a single track which torrential rain has made look suspiciously like a waterfall.

We are spending two weeks in Austria visiting Martin's family, and have only today, almost a week into our stay,  managed our first trail run together, since Malo's Austrian grand-mother, unlike his French one, is not too keen on playing baby sitter. Still, she has agreed today to look after Malo for two hours, and, Martin having failed with his slick (but clearly not slick enough) attempt at getting 30 minutes more, we've set off feeling a bit under pressure.

The flipside of having a pretty small window for a run is that one is pushed into running hard. Which we are, except there is not much we can do about the fact that the rain and the fog are slowing us down quite a bit.

Yes, this is August. Yes, I really mean Austria, which, unlike Australia, is not in the Southern hemisphere. And therefore, yes, you're right, it should not feel like we are running in the middle of winter. But the fact and the matter is, we are. In fact, I am beginning to think I have fallen victim of a conspiracy: the only time I have ever seen Austria with beautiful sunshine and warm weather is before Martin was mad enough to propose and I was mad enough to say yes.  Which, of course, I may have thought about twice, had I known this beautiful country never see the sun.

We soon get to our turning point, an  inviting hut.  This, I am told, offers amazing views on the Dachstein range, the local highest mountain. Not that I could confirm, since the fog at that point limits our vision to our feet... and maybe even that is only  because I am vertically challenged and therefore with my eyes naturally pretty close to my feet.

Under normal circumstances we would stop at for a radler,which is beer with Almdudler, the local lemonade, only it is much, much better than lemonade (this is slightly off topic and not crucial to the understanding of this post, but Almdudler being the national pride, I feel it is my duty, as the wife of a proud Austrian national, to mention it), since, as Martin tells me, it is very rude to stop at a hut and not get something to drink.   In any case, no such luck this time since we are running (literally) short of time, and the only thing we get to do which respects the local customs is to run carrying logs from the last clearing to the hut... not, jugding from the look on the owner's face, that doing that last one running is the most common way to comply...

 The next day, I get to make up a bit for the frustration of having not done what is, in my book, a proper trail run (I mean, I got the steep hills, the getting-lost in the fog, the going-down waterfall style tracks, the coming-back looking barely human and covered in mud, but come on, two hours...).

After a family hike about an hour drive from home, Martin suggests I run back home. Which is a great idea, if you forget about the fact I have never been in that part of the region, have a far-from-precise map as my only guide, and cannot really count on the help of an hypothetic local to help me out since I have long understood that my high school German was of stricly no help to understand the local dialect. Anyway, I prefer concentrating on the "good idea" part, since running is involved, and therefore set off.

Fifteen minutes later, I am panting up a killer hill which Martin had previously labelled as "a bit steeper, I think, than the normal path, but I think you'll find it less boring".  Not that the gradient leaves me with enough oxygen to irrigate both my lungs and my brain anyway, therefore saving me from thinking about whether I agree. Arriving on the plateau, jumping on the Bumelzug, the local bus, sounds like a cool idea, if only it went not in the opposite direction as the one I am heading towards...

Forty five minutes later, I am almost lost on the middle of a marsh-like expanse of high grasses, mud up to my knees, thinking that the steep hill was pretty pleasant, after all.

One hour and 10 minutes later, I am lost. Clearly, in the fifteen years since my map was drawn, the locals have decided these mountain forests needed more trails. Or maybe they are just trying to make sure vertically challenged foreigners who tricked the Nation's best men into emigrating to other parts of the Alps don´t deserve ever finding their way back home.  In any case, since I am quite keen on seeing Malo - and one of the Nation's best men - again, I bet on the left trail being the right one (ah, ah), which gets confirmed half an hour later, when I get to get a glimpse of the Hallstätter See, the local lake.

From then, it is an hour and a half of uneventfull running before reaching home, and my two men.

Ah, August running in Austria, the rain, the fog, the mud, the vertical trails. Yet somehow... I love it.

August 21, 2010

Lazy and beautiful

Lazy, that's me. Although I managed to post three times in the first five days of August (how very unlike me), I am still supposed to post an account of my July holiday, since, as one may guess, those did not stop to a few bike rides, no matter how steep.

I will use a trick, since (OK, let's start with the lame excuses now) 1. we are already August  21 and therefore July sounds a bit like something out of the Middle Age, 2. I am writing - well, trying to to be precise - from Austria, on an Austrian keyboard, which is nothing like the English nor the French ones and has all the letters in the wrong places and I am starting to feel very annoyed (but maybe should I instead be grateful, to have, this time, have an excuse for typos), 3. I am also already behind on telling about the August break.

That's where the beautiful comes handy. Pictures of beautiful mountains, that´s all you'll get. Oh, and a runner struggling up it for good measure, as we did not hike, just ran this year, since we figured that was the perfect way to spend time in the mountains doing something we liked while spending time with Malo. Like we needed an excuse to run where most people would find it difficult enough to walk AND breath...

Steep uphill running,

 Which will soon be followed by steep downhills...
... very fun indeed, if less friendly for the knees.
Sky running, wearing a skirt, but I felt I was going strong enough to pull it!

One can guess the trail behind what you will admit is a very handsome male
model, doubling, lucky me, as my husband.

Another day, another trail...
... the shortest way is a straight line. Up.

Forget the basics of photography: the important stuff here
is... the background.

Same comment
(and that's lucky actually: so much as foreground that it is not even on the picture
was a much narrower, very airy trail, bordered by a vertical backdrop, which I had to run
because I found it less scary than walking.

Could somebody please tell well meaning hikers thinking of themselves as photographers that
one should not cut people's feet when taking a shot of them, especially if they are RUNNERS.

Martin "icing" his knees after our 4 hour run.

On the way to our target, a 3000m+ summit at the border with Italy. That run/hike could also
have doubled as a sort of recce run, since a race is taking place here, which we would quite like to do...

 Running? Skiing? Skunning?

On our way down, happy bunnies marmots.

Back home, getting comforted if there was any need,
and then assisting Malo with some sporty activity of his own:


Adrenaline sports

And finally getting used to waving to the crowd like a champion
(of what is what still needs to be decided).

August 05, 2010


There are so many things I don't like about the French (and, since I am one myself, I am fully entitled to b*** about them), I won't even try to start a list. However, you have to handle it to them, they know how to do things in style. Food, fashion, they are hard to bit. But what I myself did not know, which I discovered earlier this weekend, is that their fashion sense extends to running, too. Now, you tell men how stylish is that:

Now, I thought the guy was so classy that I had to overcome my shyness and walk accross the street to ask if I could take a photo. So here was I, standing on the pavement next to him, wearing only my swimsuit given we were about to go for our swimming session in the lake, standing next to Mr Top Class. And wondering whether, given that the classiest top I wear to go running may indeed be black but is nothing else than a technical t-shirt, I was at risk of losing my citizenship.  Or maybe, I went on thinking,  Ishould I try to emulate him, and give my banker's suits a new life, maybe adding a Hermès scarf as headband for an added French touch... 

Now, I know I will shatter all your illusions (as I sadly did mine, that day), but it actually turned out that Mr Top Class was going to a party. A hochicbachoc party. Although I have regained most of my French over the past two years, this did not mean anything to me until several hours later (must have been the cold water freezing my already not so numerous brain cells), when I woke Martin up: "hey, I got it now, he meant: "haut chic, bas choc", which would roughly translate into "chic top, in-your-face/unexpected bottom",. Athough clearly, with such a not-punchy translation, one may not want to have and organise the same party accross the pond. Which will I guess confirm my point: stylish running... you can only get it in France...

August 03, 2010


- "I think I may have forgotten my wallet at home", says Martin sheepishly.
- "but I did ask you minutes before we left if you had it and you said yes", I  say shout. " I mean, it is not like we often go out, this is silly."

This was us, a few days ago, getting annoyed, Martin with himself and me with Martin.

Fast rewind. For the past two summers, we did the most of the Annecy Lake. Last year, with Martin in full training for the Annecy triathlon and me expecting Malo and entering the last trimester, we were in the lake days in days out pretty much until Malo was born.  Martin discovered that, with training, he was actually more than decent at it (not a mean feat coming from somebody who was pretty much going backwards when we started swim training back in our London days). I discovered I enjoyed it, which is saying something coming from somebody known to have what we may call a slight bias towards running and cycling when it comes to endurance sports.

Full of beginners' enthousiasm, we vouched to carry on swim training in the pool during winter, and to start swimming in the lake as soon as weather would allow this year, and to act on it, two days after Malo's was born, I received a brand new wetsuit for my birthday. 

The swimsuit got used twice before I needed to store it because the lake had become too cold. Then any plans we had had of training at the pool got binned. We tried to keep evenings as a family time. Martin was working during the day. As for me, running and cycling were things I could do during the day with Malo, but swimming was not. Not that I was desperate to go anyway, as I find swimming in a pool akin to running on a treadmill, ie: dreadful.

Then summer arrived and we got all motivated again, except that, with Malo to be fed and put to sleep by 7.30pm, that did not seem to work.

Then last week we had a great idea: just as we occasionally do on Saturday mornings, we would splash out on a baby sitter some evenings during summer, bath and feed Malo, put him to bed then go swimming for an hour, and maybe even go for a pizza afterwards, like inthe good ol' times. That way, we would not have to give up spending time with our Petite Boule, would not have to feel guilty leaving him when he is awake, and would still get to swim and enjoy the lake.

So a few days ago, we got into action. We booked a baby sitter, I got our swimming stuff ready, Martin took the evening bath with Malo, I gave him dinner, and the minute we were sure he was asleep, we were on our bikes heading to the lake.

Then Martin realised he had forgotten his wallet at home. Oh well, no after-swim pizza then. Shame because, in all honestly, that may have had helped with my motivation to dive into the lake. 

We got into our wetsuits (not that it was cold enough to truly need them, but because we figured we could do with the added buoyancy).

Put swimming caps on. 

Then googles.

Googles? Where are my googles?

-"OH NO, I have forgotten my googles", am I crying to Martin seconds after having telling him off for being so disorganised we would have to skip dinner.

So that's how our first attempt of the year at getting back into swimming and enjoying the lake ended up. Martin swam 10 min  before giving up, feeling he had somehow forgotten how it worked between last year and this summer. I did not get to swim at  all. We both did not get pizza.

Just losers.

Just in case you are crying already, don't, as this story eventually got a happy ending. We booked the baby-sitter again for last night, decided not to cancel although it started pouring, got there with wallets and goggles, got our asses kicked in less time you need to read it, and came home home happy bunnies...

The way things go, Petite Boule, already in training, will soon swim better than his parents.
That's why we wait he's asleep to go training ourselves, pretending we're doing it for his own
good and to respect his sleeping patterns, but actually secrtetly hoping we'll still be a bit
stronger than him for a couple of years...

August 02, 2010

Blond Moment

A few nights ago... Thunder can be heard, clearly getting closer. The sky is between dark blue and grey, nice really. But also clearly promising rain. It is the moment I choose to go running, with Malo and the Chariot. Admittedly not your ideal moment, but I have not had a chance for a run all day, and am getting restless. 

And as one would expect, it starts pouring as soon as Malo, the Chariot and I are ready and getting out of the garage. Not that this, in itself, is a remotely decent reason to stop: I love running in the rain, and I can even be accused of being a bad mother for taking Malo with me, given that he  is comfortably chatting away in the dry comfort of his Chariot.

A while later and I am not feeling so cheerful anymore. Flat tire. To add to the fun, it  is still raining, only it is now a fully-fledged thunderstorm.  Oh, and I have pretty much reached the half way point of  today's route. Turning back or carrying on, it is not going to make any difference: I am far away from home indeed. I can't really think of one single time where I wished I had not gone running, but if such a thing could happen, it would be today.

Not so much because of the rain. Not so much because of the flat tire. More because I am standing in the rain next to a flat tire wearing a skirt.

And ridiculously bright shoes.

Running wearing stupid shoes and a skirt, although admittedly not quite that skirt...

Parenthesis: nobody, I mean, nobody, runs wearing a skirt in France. I only bought mine because, precisely, nobody else does, and because I decided I was fast enough not to be mistaken for a girly jogger (can't decide what's worst, "girly", or "jogger", but in any case, it is a pretty serious insult, isn't it?).  As for the shoes, just to avoid any misunderstanding, I did NOT buy these shoes because I found them cute. I bought them because stupid Asics, a few seasons ago, changed the shape of my dream shoes,and I have now gone through the entire stock of the old models I had so wisely stocked on. And now, the only model whose fit  is somehow close to my old ones is the Asics Noosa Tri. Now that I have mentioned "tri", you'll get the picture: the shoes needed to have the most "in your face" design you can come up with, to go with. And just in case this was not enough, they called the color "Harlequin/Glowing Tiger. Seriously. So now I hope this is clear: I bought these shoes because I HAD NO CHOICE. End of parenthesis.

So here was I, having to WALK, in my skirt and garish shoes, in the rain, back to our flat, more miles away that I would care to. No need to say I kept my fingers crossed the whole way (not that easy when they are simultaneously gripping the handlebar to push the Chariot, but I was desperate) that there would not be anybody else crazy enough to run under his weather and therefore able to see me. Walking. Pushing a Chariot with a flat tire. In my skirt. And ridiculous running shoes. 

From now on, I may still put on the Noosa when it is raining, in the hope that they will quickly get covered in mud (that works pretty fast with the Mountain Masochists, which are now a dull mix of beige and grey replacing their initial baby blue color). As for the skirt, I'll keep it for when I run alone, with no risk of flat tire, and ideally when I am en route for a sub-40 10K... That way I may manage to avoid another blond moment.