Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The half marathon report

Just in time for a last minute registration, my cold seemed to clear up enough that I didn't worry about it affecting my running of Sunday's half marathon. I managed to find a discount code to take $10 off the entry, and figured that was a sign to do it. Jeremy raced a triathlon out at White Sands Missile Range on Saturday, and then we decided to just head down to Cruces to spend the night. It's not so far away really, just about 70 miles to the far side of town, but it was better to not rush Sunday morning and also get in some shopping and eating out. We planned on going to a basketball game to introduce Hunter to his future obsession, but he fell asleep too early.

I realized in planning for Sunday morning that I have no idea how early to get to a running race. What is there to do but warm up and use the bathroom? We stayed at the hotel until 7, when breakfast started, then I shoved down some food and we drove on over to the frigidly cold start. It was like 35 degrees, but it was supposed to warm up by 15-20 just during the race. Our sun really works. I did a little short warm up but spent most of the time making sure Hunter was going to be ok and trying to get him to nurse one last time. He was too excited to be playing in the passenger seat to be bothered.

Lining up with a few hundred others, I got my ipod going. I usually never listen to music in races, but I thought it may be a bit sparse, and I'd need some motivation. The countdown to go started us, and we headed out around the parking lot. I tried to get a sense of a good pace before I looked at my garmin, and I had thought maybe 7:20-7:25 would be a good goal to hit for the first few miles. I was right on: 7:20, 7:20, 7:19. After going through a short 100 yard, but deep and rocky stretch of sand, I hoped I was done with the off road section of the course until the return trip. At around 3.5 miles, I saw two familiar faces cheering for me. Hunter was fascinated with the runners going by, and I think he even recognized me in my speedy blaze by (haha).

I was closing in on a couple of girls. One I recognized from a few triathlons, but we didn't talk much. The other started chatting with me right around the time we hit the real off road stretch, which consisted of very small gravel and dirt. I took out my headphones and got to know my running buddy -- where she was from, her running history, her travels, etc etc -- a nice way to pass the miles -- and I told her about the area, including the dried up river and why I hadn't run a half marathon in 3 years, that is, once we saw him out playing in the grass near the turnaround. Little Hunter looked up at me when I called his name as I ran by, even though playing in the park was probably a highlight of the spectating experience. By this point we had picked up the pace to around 7:10-7:15, even through the dirt, which was in total a bit under 3 miles, I'd estimate. There was a slight headwind on the way back, and I tucked in behind the girls for just a bit. Once back on the pavement, the tri girl picked up the pace, and my buddy said she wasn't going to chase. I kept chatting for a while until the windy mile 10 mark when I checked our split: 7:30. Oops! No talking while racing, Joy! This did make me think of Ironman Gary, who I'd give anything to have talk my ear off in a race again. I picked up the pace at that point, to around 7:00 for the remaining miles, but my buddy didn't.

I was expecting the course to be short, since several mile markers had been .2 mi off, but that 13th one made up for it, and the last tenth was overcompensating. I had to lap my watch when I hit 13.1 , even though I wasn't to the finish line yet (how OCD is that?). I do not claim those extra 25 seconds on my time! So my real time was 1:34:40, even though the official results may say I was just over 1:35. :) I told myself I'd be happy if I ran 1:35 or under, and I was. A few lessons learned from this race are 1) if I'd stop chatting I may be able to run faster, and 2) my legs felt pretty good -- the hip did fine -- and maybe they do remember how to run after all. I might just give this racing thing another try.

Hunter had his fill of spectating this weekend, but he seems ready to take on the training himself. He's not satisfied to be sitting on the sidelines for long. He now officially crawls, although he'd much rather be escorted on foot. He can stand for around 10 seconds at a time not holding on, and pulls up on everything. When he really gets going, he will hold my hands and lean forward, trying his best to run -- usually after a cat.

He knows how to fuel his exercise as well. Never rejecting anything I put in his mouth, he's enjoyed carrots, potatoes, squash, kale, onions -- even raw right out of the garden, beans, asparagus, oatmeal, raspberries, blueberries, and his fair share of puffs. Mama milk is still his favorite though.

He is about to start talking about all this training and eating. While not saying any words yet, he is definitely understanding many. He laughs when you name an object that he knows. Too cute. I can't wait to hear what's on his mind.

Thanksgiving at the cabin

One day we coincidentally had on coordinating outfits. Had to capture that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is Flat Really Faster?

Of course I know the answer to that. It is yes. Right? This is certainly true with cycling and swimming. You just cannot make up the time you spent going up hills on the bike with an equal downhill. And rough water swims -- well, obviously. 

This weekend's half marathon is super flat. Like they must have carved a flat road on purpose for it. Part of it is run on a levee, so yeah, I guess man created the flatness. The website says that the total elevation gain is what I do in my first mile out of my neighborhood. And then also in the second mile. And the third, even though it is half downhill. I am so used to running on false flats up long slow hills for the first few miles of my runs that I am not sure I know how to run on a truly flat road anymore. But the best part is that I'm warmed up and can cruise back home at the end. How much of having a downhill finish is mental? And can I even keep a steady pace on flats anymore? Do my legs work like they used to?

I don't run the other direction from my house due to the boringness. It's pretty, but there's only so long you can stare at the exact same beautiful scenery and feel like you're not going anywhere. It's like a treadmill in front of a window. Like for miles and miles. And this is all you can see.

The rumor is that this flat levee section is dirt, and therefore could feel like uphill both ways. Hopefully since it is run along the ironically named Rio "Grande" there will be some scenery other than dirt. I'm hoping for the best. Of course I haven't actually registered for it yet, and I kind of started "tapering" (not that I had a training plan going) super early due to Thanksgiving travel. Being around many cold germs for the holiday has me overanalyzing my scratchy throat and every sneeze.  But if vitamin C consumption in the form of orange juice has any diminishing effect on it, I'll be good. 

Monday, November 26, 2012


I have so many things to be thankful for this year. Hunter is a big blessing; really, he's very large :) But he wouldn't even be here without Jeremy. And neither would my sanity. Jeremy makes me thankful every day. Just this morning, he was up at 4:30 to run, then did the week's grocery shopping and some baby laundry, all before we woke up. Then he was off to work for a few hours until he brought me lunch and sent me out the door to ride my bike. This wasn't an isolated incident either. Sunday morning he got up at 4 with the baby so I could sleep an hour before he drove to El Paso to pick up a friend at the airport. Then he headed in to work for a while. On a Sunday. He is the best.

He's patient and kind, thoughtful and hard-working, and we love him so much!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The State of the Running Legs

Isn't marathon season always exciting? I don't actually do many open marathons, and I am not training for one now, but the fall is just the perfect time for running, since biking and swimming outdoors is starting to get a little cold and windy. I have been doing a lot of base training-type running for the past, oh, year or so now, and I do feel my running legs coming back very slowly. But a funny pain started a few months ago. When lying on my side in bed, usually while being kept awake by a nursing baby boy, I have had some extreme pain in the hips. I know pregnant women have this problem, but I never did while pregnant. 

I have had pain in the general hip region on and off for years, which jumps around from hamstring, to gluteus medius area, maybe some piriformis pain thrown in there, and even bouts with niggling hip flexors. Last year I spent some time going to physical therapy for it all. He was stretching me by bringing my knee up and across my body, and it hurt, and not in a good, stretchy-type of way. When I exclaimed, he said, hmmm, kind of seems like a labral tear. I didn't really think much about that at the time, and then last week it hit me: I have a tear in my hip labrum! I started doing some googling and I had another epiphany. Back in 2008, I think I was training for Boston (when you didn't have 5 minutes to sign up). I ran my best half marathon, then continued with my sister another 7 or so miles of her marathon relay leg. Afterward I could barely walk from hip flexor pain. I went to a doctor who said I did not have a femoral neck fracture, thankfully, and that it must just be my soft tissue. Now I conclude that this was probably referred pain from my labral tear as well. Just wish I had been diagnosed then.

As nice as it is to now have a "diagnosis" (can't I diagnose myself?), I am not planning on having anything done to it surgically. I might not even go through the whole rigmarole of going to the clinic to get a referral for an orthopedist to look at it then being told to go to PT, then months later when that doesn't help, having an MRI to confirm. I will just look up some strengthening exercises and rely on PTs (Damie, please!) to tell me what to do to minimize the pain -- unless it gets really excruciating. I am having a lot of sacroiliac joint pain in the same leg lately that I am now suspecting is related. Hrmph. Stupid right hip! Stupid right hamstring! You have always been the fatter, less muscular one (a DEXA told me that). Having something specific to blame my crazy hips on at least gives me a good excuse to skip a few miles here and there.

Strange as it sounds coming from a girl, one area I have found to be lacking lately is my backside. Despite my pregnancy efforts to put on some muscle as part of my weight gain, I have found that my previously large gluteus maximus area is not quite as maximus as it used to be (not that my pants are complaining). Ah ha! That's where the 2 or 3 pounds I've dipped under pre-pregnancy weight came from. This is probably due in part to the weekly mileage of my bike rides being about what my running is, but I need to start making an effort to strengthen that area, as well as my lower back. The latter takes a beating in daily baby walking; the bending over to hold little hands is a back breaker. It could be my floor sitting posture as well. Hunter has the straightest little back when he sits; he is setting a good example. Surely strengthening here can't hurt the hip problem.

Another target area is the abs, which have been deceiving me. They have definition, with a little extra separation going on, but they are still lacking their pre-pregnancy strength. And I know know know how important these muscles are in those oh-so-minor things like keeping my upper body upright. I am so glad I did not hear before I had a c-section that nobody ever has a flat stomach again (it is not true, btw), or I would probably have been too depressed to ever try. And while I do find them too relaxed, I also still find it kind of icky to work on my transverse abdominus. I mean, I see the scar on my skin from the incision and can only imagine what the inside of me looks like.

I really had expectations of coming back to running quickly after having a baby. I based this off my crazy sister and her epic hill running starting when her baby was 10 days old. That was my idea of a normal return to running. Apparently when you are cut wide open, expectations go out the window. Since I was not even standing up straight for a week after the surgery, much less walking around the block, returning to running took a little while. I had to slowly increase my walking from 2/3 mi per day around 10 days out up to 25 miles a week at 3 weeks. Then when the baby was 4 weeks old, I got up my courage, headed out with the stroller, and ran 3 miles straight. If you can call 11 minute miles "running." I still had pain and an uncomfortable stretching feeling in the incision area for a while, but at least my legs felt great. It was a lot harder than I expected. Of course, I never expected a c-section!

It has been good for me to have this last year plus to do steady paced runs and really enjoy every workout. But now do my legs remember how to pace a race? I keep looking at the website for a nearby half marathon in a couple of weeks, but I have NO idea how to run one anymore. It's been almost 3 years! I guess I should get back to it sometime, and as they say, there is no time like the present.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

News of November

We started the month out in Fort Worth for Jonathan and Colleen's wedding, which was Hunter's first nuptial ceremony to attend. Truth be told, he skipped the actual ceremony in favor of a nap, but hit the rehearsal dinner, where he rode a longhorn bull,

and made it out way past his bedtime for the reception, to which he wore his baseball socks in support of the groom. Besides the happy couple, he also got to meet Laura for the first time, and he could tell right away that she is an older sister of two brothers.

(sorry for the fuzzy faded pics!)

The weekend trip to Texas wouldn't have been complete without shopping at Trader Joe's. Our cart was filled with just the essentials that we could pack back home: coffee, wine, cookies, and to make us look healthy, quinoa (it's super cheap there). When we were wished "a blessed evening" before noon, we realized we've been in the southwest so long, we forgot some of our beloved southernisms.

Onto our big (expensive) news! We bought a house. Yes, we have about six more months here in the rural desert, but over the summer when we were in Little Rock, we found the most perfect house, and Jeremy found a great group of pediatricians who offered him a job. The house is about a third of a mile up a monster hill from my sister and brother-in-law and their three children, and it's a new build. We will have about twice as much room in it as this current rental we are in, and since we are exploding at the seams (with baby and bike stuff), it'll be a welcome expansion. The backyard backs up onto a small strip of green space, and the lot on one side is owned but there aren't any immediate plans to build on it, so it's somewhat private. Since we are at the top of the hill, we plan on riding our bikes down to the cousins', and then having them drive us back up. Plus, it's apparently the big sledding hill of the neighborhood when it snows, and we are a short (and flat) walk to the pool and playground.

Probably my favorite room in the house

Whew, November is not even half over and it's been a big month. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learning the first sport

I suppose eating is called a sport by some, but I'm going to stick with Olympic events in my definition of "sport." Hunter and I watched some Olympic walking this summer, and that is currently the sport he is so intent on learning. Apparently he is all too eager to skip right over crawling like his daddy did. That's for babies, y'all. Or it could be my fault. I either grant his request to be supported in his wobbly gait, or I give him what he wants when he makes it known, which he is really good at communicating. 

It's really quite interesting to watch him learn new skills. How does a baby figure out how to move the appropriate limb at the right time? I've tried to give verbal instructions and even demonstrations of crawling, but he's just not interested. He knows that his hands are free and he is fast while being assisted in walking, so why would he want to scuff up those soft fat knees? But he has learned to hold objects in his mouth, which could come in handy  crawling.

Even having a good understanding of the English language, some people have trouble taking verbal instructions or even demonstrations of movements and applying them effectively. Let's take swimming as an example--hypothetical, of course. You can tell someone, lets say me, to keep my elbows high all day, or possibly for 5 years straight, and I still may not get it. One day it might click that "high elbows" means during the pull -- but maybe not. Some of us just don't have the kinesthetic awareness that others, like maybe our husbands, have. 

Watching H learn how his fingers work when he picks up tiny puffs and successfully places them in his mouth, or when he grabs for a block too aggressively and it flies out of reach, is so fascinating. I took an entire class in grad school on motor learning, but having real life demonstrations by baby H is far more interesting. 

In case you haven't thought about it lately, I want to remind you of the importance the laws of physics have on walking in addition to the coordination it takes. Occasionally Hunter's confidence trumps his understanding of these laws and it can result in a teeter or tumble. Like when he decides he can walk while only holding one of my hands. But sometimes he just suddenly figures things out. He was sitting next to our dresser one night, grabbed a handle in each hand, and pulled himself right up to standing. He did it the next day on a toy. Now he thinks he can do it one-handed. 

Practice makes perfect they say, and just like running more miles makes you a more economical runner, the more steps you practice, the sooner you'll walk. Right now H tends to take a giant step, almost a lunge, with his left foot, leaving the right one to catch up.  We walk in circles sometimes. I suppose this teaches me that practice of techniques in swimming should be a bit more frequent. Eventually I'll learn.

With H's first Olympic sport to be conquered soon,  next we will move on to the real money sport: basketball. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

What? More Dopers?

Does anyone else feel relieved by news of cyclists, and now Kenyan runners, doping? It makes you feel like tons of the top athletes in many sports are doing it, which says to me one thing: I don't suck as bad as I thought. All these superfast times and huge power outputs that seem so so unattainable (I mean, even a small percentage seems unattainable to me) can be at least partly attributed to blood doping, EPO, steroids, and hgh. Hallelujah. I just got a tiny bit faster in comparison.

If I really think about all the disadvantages I'm giving myself, it's really no wonder I'm not a better athlete. Not only do I not take anything that can be perceived of as performance enhancing, but I also put a lot of stuff in me that can't be helping. All the Halloween candy, Nutella by the spoonful, ice cream, pie, brownies, "sips" of Jeremy's coke, cupcakes from the new place in town-- that's kind of the opposite of doping. On top of that I only sleep in 45-60 minute naps this week, lift 21 pounds over and over with my lower back every day, and carry that load mostly on one hip for hours a day.

I cut myself a break yesterday on the bike when I was struggling again with that mark of 4 watts/kg (what a well trained cyclist "should" do for 40 mins), because after all, who sets these power standards? It certainly wasn't set by nursing mother of a high energy 7 month old who never really sleeps! But if that's you, and you think that's an easy mark, please don't tell me.

 Happy Halloween y'all!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Running in the Dark

That title sounds like a great metaphor for something. But it's really not. I just get up well before dawn lately to get my running in. I realize that it's not noteworthy for most people, especially the endurance types, but I have always always valued my sleep over everything except maybe food. Really delicious food only. In the past I've rolled out of bed 10 minutes before 5:30 a.m. master's, maybe 15 minutes before my 4:55 a.m. meet up with Nancy on the bike, and super early before the only thing that I'm always on time to-- races.

Since a certain someone was born, I've found that if the running isn't done before the husband goes to work, it's not going to happen. I'm still working on (contemplating) fitting the cycling back in on weekdays since the sun only rises after 7. But for now I'm enjoying my very dark runs. This town has some sort of ban on street lights-- something about the solar observatory nearby? that doesn't really make sense-- so there is ONE on my half mile long street. It doesn't get brighter from there, so unless the full moon is out, my headlamp, wrapped around my arm for easy button access, is necessary.

Running up in the coyote's neighborhood has me a little paranoid, and hearing the hissing of a sprinkler might have made me jump a few times (I swear it sounds just like a rattlesnake), and I may have startled and shined my superbright light in a guy's face since HE wasn't even wearing reflective clothing and was running right at me. I tend to turn the light off when I can make out the edge of the road and there are no cars nearby. It's quiet and cool and I can watch the sky over the mountains get lighter and lighter. And there are millions of stars!

There is an unfortunate new blemish in my route: a huge yellow concrete wall surrounding a developing neighborhood of crappy little houses. It completely blocks the mountain view that I had along the path for about a quarter mile. In some spots it's easily 10 feet tall, and it's so prison-like I'm completely expecting glass shards and razor wire to be added to the top soon. At least on my way out it is so dark I don't miss the view as much. I keep dreaming of ways to make it go away, all of which are unfortunately illegal. Darn.

Since running has been such a nice way to start the day, I'm having a hard time doing any type of intensity other than relaxed. It's just so nice to switch my brain off and enjoy myself. There isn't a lot of opportunity in my day otherwise. But thankfully my steady pace has gotten a bit faster lately, since I'm trying to convince myself to race again soon. Occasionally I cheat and call my downhill pickups intervals just for fun.

I realized the other day that I've been running for 20 years now. TWENTY! More than half my life! I started cross country my sophomore year in high school, and unlike naturally talented runners, I was thrilled to do the 3 miles in under 30 minutes. I ran because my sister started running, and i joined the team because a friend convinced me to go with her. I think my first practice was run in Keds, and someone lent me a rubber band for my hair since I'd shown up without one. I slowly improved, and my coach told me I'd "run a minute faster without all that hair." (I had long long, dare I say frizzy, hair.) By senior year I made Best of the Preps, which about 15 girls across the county were honored with, and it made my year. Of course I still wasn't fast! I'm not now either, but it really is amazing just how much running has directed my life. I can't imagine much would be the same had I not started all those years ago!

So off each morning I go to see what's around the next corner for me. Again, not a metaphor. :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

PRs and validation

Let me start with the most important news here lately. My husband is the proud owner of a new half Ironman PR and the current household record holder. Yep, he beat my old PR by a minute with his 4:48 in Augusta. Damn him. I mean, congrats, sweetie! If he hadn't taken so well to swimming with his massive paddle-like hands and Michael Phelps-like physique, I might still have the title of faster half Ironmaner. I'm so jealous of his super fast swimming on 5000m/week, it's ridiculous. Oh, haha. Did I say jealous? I meant proud. After all, I am mostly responsible for making him correct that stroke.

All of my PRs are getting pretty old these days, so it's really high time I earned some new ones. I guess you really need to race to do that. But you see I'm in no PR shape these days. Apparently I just tried too hard back in the day (just kidding) and those times seem unreachable right now. I know I didn't always shy away from races when I wasn't confident in a PR, or even a decent race, so why do I now? What, am I scared of people finding out how slow I am via athlinks? I put it all out there in this blog, so I must not be too shy about it. Really, I'm just not wanting to disappoint myself or confirm what I'm afraid of: I'm slow.

Everybody needs a little external validation now and then. Some need it at any cost. I read the most fascinating article in the New Yorker (here) about this guy, Kip Litton. It seems that he has not only cheated in dozens of marathons by somehow cutting the course (and wearing different outfits in the start and finish pics-- he really pays attention to details), but he has also created his own race, race website, fake runners, and athlinks profiles for those fake runners! If that doesn't scream sociopathy I don't know what does. 

But maybe this deep need for validation from other athletes is more common than we think. Just this week while traveling I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler about Ironman and triathlons. He gave me lots of his times and stats, told me his impressive marathon PR, bike split averages, and that he'd walked onto the basketball team at a big D1 school. He even told me his kids' 5k times. A few things struck me as odd, like how short he was for a basketball player, how he claimed to be a really great runner but prided himself on not drinking or eating anything for his 30 mile training runs. My bullshit detector started going off. His triathlon times weren't all that impressive, and you'd think if you're going to make up times, you'd make them really good, right? And these days, who hasn't heard of athlinks and online race results? So like any doubter, I looked him up. His Ironman times suddenly became 90 minutes slower, and he must've meant his PR of 2:40 was for one of those "mini" marathons. I then felt really bad for a guy that he had to try to impress me with achievements. But why?

Of course, you could accuse me of making up my less than stellar 5k PR. With all the data on the internet for every race that I might've done in the last dozen years, why can my best 5k not be found? I've searched for that 2003 Gibson Guitar 5k result everywhere (does a PR still count if it's in the same decade?). I learned that over the years I'd given myself 4 seconds when I found my training log from 2003 recently. "Gibson Guitar 5k, 19:11, 2nd OAF." Wait what? I've had 19:07 in my head for years! Doesn't that just sound sooo much slower? 

Not having an "official" recording of that race is disappointing for my athlinks 5k stats, but I'm somewhat consoled by the fact that my horrendous marathon about a year and a half ago is also strangely missing. I'm not even listed in the results. It's like it was just all a bad dream. 

So my lack of a real 5k PR on athlinks means it's time for a new one, right? Or maybe I'll just make something up. 

While Jeremy was off PRing, we visited the cousins. Jackson: "It's a wrestling match! Hunter is winning!" :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Half of a Year

What a half-year it has been! Overall quite amazing, with such a newness about everything. Of course it has been hard at times, and quite an adjustment, but pretty awesome nonetheless. Just six months ago we were eagerly awaiting this little bundle of baby, and now here he is growing so fast!

Just in the past three weeks we've seen some big changes. Hunter has a tooth and a half! We gave him his first (somewhat) solid food -- mashed butterbeans. He wasn't overly impressed. He's had small samples of a couple of other veggies since then -- and a few pieces of paper sneaked in there somehow. So I continue to be his sole source of nutrition; I am now breastfeeding a growing 20 pounds (and no frozen breast milk in a bottle for him - no thank you!). He had been sitting right on the 95th percentile line in weight and holding well over it in height until his 5 month weigh in that showed slower weight gain, and this month when he only grew taller by a quarter inch, but he still only slipped on the chart a little. I have to be thankful for that; I dreamed that he was already 6 feet tall and I couldn't carry him in the Bjorn anymore.

He wants to be going all the time now. There will be no sitting in the jumper seat, walker, or staycation (exersaucer, whatever, I keep forgetting the name of it) long enough for me to get lunch, or heaven forbid, use the bathroom. If we hold him standing those little feet start going, supporting that weight, so he's essentially walking with help now. If he could have it his way, and he lets us know his way, he would already be walking by himself -- running really -- around the house and outside and on the mountain trails. I love that he's so excited to learn about the world and to go out and do things.

Baby laughter is the best sound in the world, and we get to hear lots of it. I think I'm pulling ahead for funniest right now. But of course I'm also head of the complaints department. Jeremy is head of transportation. Hunter is so interested in Daddy now, that he tries to get his attention when he is not looking. They get to hang out in the early mornings when I run, and what's a better way to wake up than a cooing, smiling baby?

Last week we had a visit from Nana and Granddaddy, my parents. They brought new toys and taught Hunter new games and songs, and he had a blast. When he woke up from his nap after they had left to go home, he looked all over for them immediately. The days were so much more exciting with them here, and we sure miss them (and their delicious food and dishwashing skills).

Hunter gets more and more fun every day, and as much as I loved him the day he was born, I love him more every day. How could you not smile seeing this face?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just a little Saturday morning workout

I can't call myself a prompt person, but I've had too many nightmares about being late to races to let myself procrastinate on race mornings. Hunter, on the other hand, seems to have zero sense of urgency when it comes to my racing (although when it comes to eating it's quite a different story). So after a week of waking up before 5am, he decided to sleep in on Saturday morning. I only have one rule (HIMYM fans), and that is never wake a sleeping baby. So we left for our 45 minute drive around 6, when lazy-pants finally decided to roll out of bed. The race start was scheduled for 7:30, so I already knew there would be little chance for warm up.

Nobody in the desert thinks about things like weather forecasts, unless they just want to calm their fears about the wind (which is always worse than predicted). The sun is pretty predictable: it will be out. So it was somewhat of a surprise to me that it rained the whole drive over. And here's the short report: it kept raining. I realized a few months ago how accustomed I am to perpetual sunshine when I told my sister that it rained and rained and rained -- for like 30 minutes straight! Apparently that is not a lot. Well the race day rain was a lot, so much that the second half of the bike course was too flooded to ride on. It is either the fact that the soil doesn't absorb any water or the road builders don't fully understand the physics of road water drainage, I don't know, but flooding is a big issue out here. The result of this was the bike course being cut in half -- hooray! We also had a 20 minute delay, which I could've used to nurse, or even warm up, had I been forewarned. Instead, my warm up had consisted of running from the car to transition and back many times to get all the equipment I kept forgetting. What a total newbie. Hunter was too busy learning to drive the car to nurse; he was so obviously annoyed that I tried to take him away from the fun!

So I stood at the prerace meeting chatting with my friend Dave about how we are better runners after the bike, which is a much underutilized skill in the reverse races. I somehow managed to be at the starting line on time despite a couple more forgotten items. Starting out slow is my thing, especially when I don't warm up, but I wasn't expecting a woman to still be ahead of me half a mile in. And then she started pulling away. It was surprisingly easy to talk myself out of hanging with her, and next thing I knew she was 100 yards ahead. So I splashed through the ankle deep water all by my lonesome, thinking of things like how I need a dress for an upcoming wedding, my parents' visit and what mom would fix us for supper, you know, the usual race thoughts. Then I came upon the 2k mark, such a standard first marker, and of course I had to utilize all brain power to calculate what 8:45 would be in minutes per mile. It took me a while, since, although I love my numbers, the most basic equations escape me while running. Just as I was figuring out my pace, we turned a corner into the wind and driving rain, which pelted my face despite turning my visored head downward. Taking my eyes off her did little for my motivation, and she pulled further ahead. There was nobody near me to block the wind or chase, but I did manage to pick up a little speed and I do believe I negative split the 8k. I have no proof since I had to forgo the garmin. Rain and my finicky bezel don't mix.

The rain continued on the bike, and I admit I was a little scared of how slick the road was. My racing flats were light on the traction, and I kept picturing skidding out on the bike. I've gotten wimpy in rain! The first half was a nice downhill with a tailwind, so I was preparing myself for the return trip. As soon as I hit the turnaround my speed dropped by 10mph and my watts increased. I did decide to take the power tap along, and luckily it is waterproof. While I'm not as close to 4W/kg as I'd like, but it wasn't as bad as I half expected. I never caught the girl ahead of me, and being able to see miles up the road, I could tell there wasn't much chance. My speed kept dropping a little bit lower every few miles, and it took me 10 minutes longer to do the back half of the 14 mile course than the front. Ouch.

While the temperature wasn't super cold, the rain had a chill. I was a little stiff coming off the bike but the pool water was nice and warm. I immediately passed a man who jumped in just before me and get this, did flip turns on every other wall the whole way. Never before have I flipped in a race, probably due to panic. My arms literally got a warm feeling and not long after somebody attached that darn vice grip to them and I drug lead weights around for 400yds. The last few hundred, when breathing toward the end wall, I could see my sweet husband holding my precious sleeping baby near the finish. It was so cute; it made me really happy.

So I ended up 2nd female but of course was a bit disappointed in my effort. There are just so many new things to think about when planning for and racing now, that I forgot to pack my motivation. Adding to that was the rain-- I mean, rain? This was the wettest triathlon I've probably ever done, and it took place in the desert.

I'll give this racing thing one more shot this fall, but I'll try to leave complacency at home.

Solid grayness. Where's my blue sky?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Power in the Legs

Back in Memphis, we did many a workout up and down good ole Watkins Street, in good ole shady North Memphis. As a side note, I guess it kind of helped your average speed when you got caught in the neighborhoods on the way home at dusk. Anyway, one of my favorites was the Power in Leg drills (pronounced powwah in leg). The name is a tribute to some of our German riding buddies. Right at 20 minutes into the ride, we'd hit Watkins, and it was on. We clicked up to our hardest gear, and smashed up and down the rollers. I miss that.

Now that I have the power tap up and running, I sure wish I'd had it back when I was racing (really racing, not what I pretend to do now). It's just fun. I haven't gotten obsessed with it yet, like in the sense that I'm disappointed if I don't hit certain numbers. For one thing, the first 5 or so rides I did with it in my jersey pocket, since we hadn't attached it to my bike yet. I kept pulling it out on hills or between those light posts where I always sprint. 

The best part of it so far is that I finally get some credit for the slow grinding uphills and the wind! All I used to see was that I was going 12 mph. Now I see that actually I'm working pretty darn hard. Validation!

I feel pretty good about myself until I get home and see that I'm not really that good after all. Those Tour de France riders -- yeah I know they're the top professionals in the sport, but whatever -- they can produce around 7 watts per kilogram during some of those 30 minute mountaintop climb finishes. The sportsscientists don't believe this is physiologically possible without a little, uh, help, though (see here). But they do believe a decent, trained cyclist should be capable of 40 mins at 4W/kg. I'm pretty sure I'm not capable of that, but I'm going to keep that number in my head: 203W. Maybe in the past I usetocould maintain that, but the legs need some retraining.

Maybe it started in my grad school days, my excitement over numbers. Or I guess I was always a number person. Mom says she used to keep me occupied at church suppers when I was about 4 by giving me math problems on the paper tablecloth. I like the objectiveness of it, which makes me wonder why I got my bachelor's in psychology with all of the paper writing it involved. Anyway, I'm giddy over all the data I come home with after each ride. It records every second, so after  just an hour ride I have 3600 "records, " which can show me my best average power over many time increments. Having taught so so many weight loss classes in my life, I also can't help but notice my energy expenditure. It tells me the kJ that I've used during the entire ride, and by assuming a very awesome 25% efficiency (Lance is around 23%, so I'm being very conservative on kcal expenditure), I can calculate calories burned.

All this data is just sitting on the computer waiting to be pored over, since naptime is one of the few times I have to devote to this. And naps can't be predicted or projected in this house! I also feel like I need a bit more data to analyze before I start making specific workouts for myself. I'm racing again on Saturday, and I'm thinking of riding the PowerTap wheel. It's a bit heavier, but the course should be mostly flat. Any votes?

Update: In my last post, I commented that I'd yet to see Jeremy's coyote. The very next morning on my run, just before the sun came over the mountain, a coyote nonchalantly crossed the somewhat busy road between me and a man walking a few dozen yards in front of me. Maybe not so coincidentally, I had seen a roadrunner in the vicinity just before.

 Now for the required fat baby picture. Speaking of power in legs, these fat thighs are getting strong enough to hold up 19+ pounds of baby for short intervals. He'd be able to escape the Bumbo seat if they weren't so chunky that they get stuck in the little slots. It takes some work getting him in and out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Last of the Season

Somebody hit fast forward in the Harwood household around the beginning of July. Time has flown unbelievably fast. It's funny that some moments and hours drag by while overall the weeks fly by. I guess that's what happens when you watch a baby get bigger and fatter every day while learning new tricks.

Since July 4th we have taken three trips: one to Memphis, then to Vail for a week, and last week was spent in Little Rock. We're counting down the days 'til we get to move back to a real city (some of us more literally than others), and being in Little Rock reminded us again of what we are missing. Specifically, family, restaurants, Target, people who don't drive massive trucks, bodies of water like in actual rivers, tall trees, green things -- just to name a few. 

I've realized this is my last triathlon season in New Mexico, and while I'll miss a few things, there are some things I won't miss about training and racing around here: the wind, the dust storms, the completely wrong order of triathlons, the lack of races to choose from, the lack of oxygen to breathe, the lack of moisture in my mouth while riding leading to the inability of my tongue to work, the lack of people to train with or who know what a triathlon is, the darn gravel all over the roads, the endless chip seal, and "puncture weed." But really I know I'll be sentimental when we do move; this was the first home to Hunter, and the first place Jeremy and I lived together for longer than a few months. I miss the water, but love that I have only been caught on my bike in the rain twice in two years, and only a couple times have I skipped an outdoor ride because of it. The mountains are right out our back door, and to get to the top and some excellent riding and trail running, it's less than a 30 minute drive. The scenery is just gorgeous, and the sky is really actually blue. I get to see things like roadrunners, jackrabbits, and rattlesnakes regularly while riding and running (still looking for Jeremy's coyote), and we have some fantastic Mexican food for post workout recovery.

My schedule didn't allow me to do every local-ish race I wanted to do this year, but I think I'll round out the season with a couple of military base races. I have raced both before, and both are backward-- run first, swim last -- but you can't win 'em all. I mean, I'd like to win, of course.

At the end of August, even around here where it stays warm for a long time, I start thinking about fall and running in the cool weather. But also I think about how I'll miss my new found friend, the outdoor rec center pool, when they bubble it for the winter. It's so nice to need sunscreen while swimming a workout. Backstroke gets neglected due to the bright sun, and my clear lensed goggles have been fogging an extraordinary amount, but when I can see around me, the scenery, again, is fantastic. To one side are the mountains, and to the other is a row of palm trees. My sweet husband has been coming home at lunch on Mondays so I can sneak away for a swim, and one of these weekends I'm in town, I'm going to double my yardage.

Hunter couldn't get enough of the neighborhood pool in Little Rock. He had a ball, so we found a baby pool in the end-of-summer clearance section. It's not quite the same as having Ethan to splash with, but it'll do for now. We sure miss those cousins already; our house is so quiet and boring! We just wish little Annie could've come too.

It's gotten dark in the mornings here-- the mountain shades us from the sunrise for a while-- so my early bike rides may be coming to an end, just like the summer season. I try to drag it out as long as possible, hanging on to every last daylight moment. But with every end comes a new beginning, sure to be exciting.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

the home front

It's a regular nursery around here. We have FIVE baby squirrels living in our back wall, and at least 3 tiny baby quail who live in some bush in the yard. And then we have a baby human who mostly lives inside. The squirrel babies roam around in the garden and surprisingly don't pick the cherry tomatoes that peek out from between the chicken wire cages. I have no idea what quail babies eat, but I can barely even see their cute little fluffy heads over the fresh cut grass. The human baby eats milk, and lots of it. I'm not  having much luck growing my veggies in the garden this year. The tomatoes are ok, the serrano peppers, which are supposed to be 6 inches long, max out at the size of Hunter's little finger. My yellow and red peppers are similarly dwarfish. We planted the okra late, so we've yet to see about that. But the weeds are growing well. At least I can grow weeds and babies. 

I don't even know how to eat these

I was hoping this year as well as last, to be part of a CSA. The deal was last year that you had to work on the farm for your food after the joining fee, but I was never told when to work, even after practically begging. I'm thinking a lot about food lately since Hunter will be getting to sample some in about a month. If he only knew how excited he should be!

Next week he will be 5 months old. He's checking off the boxes too. Interested in grabbing everything, check. Putting it all in his mouth, check. Sitting up with help, check. Rolling over when he feels like it and drooling massive amounts, check and check. He also sleeps through the night (he nurses a few times I think. But who knows, really --Mommy's a little groggy in the middle of the night). Now if he'd just start liking naps more! I mean, whose kid is this anyway? I'm a champion sleeper. But I also have to remember that everything is temporary with babies.

As far as my training is going, I'm just not really worrying about it right now. I still get up every morning to do an early ride or run, but they're pretty short. I've run out of local races except for one in October on base, so I'm just doing it all for fun and to stay in some sort of shape. When talking to Laura the other day, I said I don't feel much mommy guilt for training. But I realized that's why I don't do longer rides or more swimming. Hunter does not like missing meals, and only once has he taken a bottle of milk. (Jeremy said he kept looking at the bottle, then looking at J, then the bottle -- very confusing that this takes just like mama milk!) I hate leaving him for long periods, and I keep thinking that he'll only be this little once. He'll only need me this much for such a short time. There will be other times to do long bike rides and swim more than once a week.
I do love coming home to him. Many times he's in the Bjorn with Daddy, his favorite place, and gives me a huge excited smile when he sees me. Now that's the way to end a training session.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thinner Air

We took a vacation to Vail last week -- actually Jeremy had a conference to go to, and Hunter and I tagged along. I've never been to that area in the summer and it looks completely different than wintertime. It was cool and green and beautiful. Walking a few blocks to the coffee shop to get breakfast every morning in our pajamas, hiking in the creek, taking the gondola to the top of the mountain, and walking the streets just to see the sights are some things we will definitely miss back at home. We miss Charlie too, since we got to see him while we were there. Funny how you can meet up with a friend from 1000 miles away when you're 500 miles from home in a different direction. 

Jeremy found me a race on Monday night about 10 miles away that included one or two times a half mile swim, racer's choice, then a 5k. It's a series, and this was the fourth of five, so I saw in the results from weeks ago that a certain world champion Xterra pro had done the run plus transition in the high 23s. So I wasn't expecting to be speedy. I had  a few concerns about swimming in an unfamiliar lake, since I tend to panic if the water is too deep, too dark, too murky, too clear, there are too many other people, too few other people, etc. The water was nice and cool in the 60s -- warm for them -- and the perfect combination of murky and light colored for me. I didn't really warm up, since I had things like Hunter baby to tend to (nurse) beforehand. But I got in the water with time enough to stick my head under, realize my ring was too loose, run back to Jeremy to give him the ring, and line up again. 

I think there were about 50 of us, and I was to the outside near the back, so I didn't get too many punches in the gut. However, the new combination of a heavy duty sports bra and a larger chest in the same small wetsuit meant I couldn't breathe. Usually I panic for some reason, then get short of breath, then panic more, repeat. But this time I only started panicking when I couldn't breathe to begin with. We went straight into the sun for a while, and my goggles fogged bad enough that I had to stop and wipe them several times. So it went like this: stroke stroke breathe breaststroke try-to-sight breaststroke gasp stroke breathe... for almost the whole lap. By 2/3 of the way through, having not calmed down much at all, and still unable to get a full breath, I decided that I was most certainly not doing the second lap. I really didn't want to be the last one out there. As it turned out there were several people behind me, but they didn't do the second loop either.

This is my "that was the worst experience of my triathlon life" face

Onto the run, I was very upset with myself for being such a bad swimmer, and I kept thinking about how I won't get many, if any, opportunities to do open water swimming again before that half ironman I've signed up for next spring, which will take place in the Pacific Ocean. I felt like I ran ok considering that I was at a higher elevation and had nobody to catch except a random few racers and some joggers out on the paved path by the river. I enjoyed the sights and was impressed that the Westin had a ski lift coming right out from the lobby going straight up the mountain. Very nice. I ran just under 7:20 pace for a little over 5k. It seemed to be one of the faster runs (transition time is included in the results), and I wasn't too far off the pro's time :). 

With that out of the way, I ran every other day we were there. There was a path along Gore Creek going both ways from town, so I alternated. 

The scenery wasn't too bad along the trail

The last day, I found an off road trail on my way back, which of course I had to follow for a bit. I was surprised at my legs and lungs doing well and letting me run relatively fast for being up in the mountains. 

Hunter loves being in the Bjorn these days, so we spent a lot of time hiking and walking. We could definitely feel the thin air when carrying him up stairs and hills. 

We took the gondola up to the top of the mountain, and two of us hiked while one of us slept. 

We did a little swimming in the pool, which Hunter has realized is what he's been training for in the little bathtub all this time; he loves to kick and splash. We're trying to make him watch lots of Olympic swimming.

It was hard to come home to the hot, dry, boring neighborhood where we can't walk anywhere fun, but it's also nice to be home in familiar surroundings. Hunter seems to recognize his things already.

I was hoping the altitude training had given me a little boost, but it seems just the opposite from my swim and run. Oh well, time to focus on the bike power anyway :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I'm not racing much lately, and I seem to be spending that extra entry fee money on things I don't really need. But this isn't a habit for me, since I'm actually a very frugal (cheap?) person, although it may be becoming one. I used to only buy large triathlon toys when something got stolen. So that happened a few times with bikes (and swim gear, and some triathlon clothing and shoes...), and my current bike is actually the latest replacement for a stolen. It's getting a little old; it's almost 6 years old now. But it has some new parts. Last year I couldn't pass up a great deal on a friend's Zed Techs. My old Zipps were about 10 years old, and doing just fine, by the way. Then I came across a barely used wetsuit and figured that again, my almost 10-year-old one is probably a little outdated. I try not to read too many of the tech articles about how much better current equipment is when I have my antique stuff still in use. 

This year, being a new mom and hypersensitive to the cat hair that was a second layer of carpet on our floor, I was finally convinced to buy a new vacuum cleaner. And it is awesome. I really never thought I'd love a household cleaning tool so much. It comes in handy to not only get up every last cat hair (and Joy hair -- post-pregnancy hair loss is no joke!!), but it's also become my most trusted baby soother and sleep inducer. I thought that was my big purchase for the year, since I'm not racing much anyway.

Hunter has never been one of those babies that falls asleep in the car. In fact, he seems to dislike the car seat. Since he's getting close to the maximum weight for our infant seat (yes already), I decided to go ahead and splurge on a new plush, cozy, luxury seat. If it makes him comfortable, I'm all for it. We will see today how he likes it.

Next on the upgrade list is something Jeremy has been pushing for for a while. And no,  not the ipad. He got that for his I-finished-my-last-Ironman reward. It's a king sized bed. Since the whole family has been sleeping in the same queen bed for several months now, and at least one of us doesn't have enough room (I'm not saying who (me) ), I caved. Now don't tell anybody that the pediatrician lets the baby sleep with us (but The One Who Feeds gets to decide). We should all be getting a lot more comfortable sleep as soon as that behemoth gets delivered.

I thought that was it for a while. Nothing else new. Then a PowerTap on a 650c wheel opportunity popped up. I'm actually a big numbers person. I like data and statistics and keeping my numbers in a log. This would be surprising if anybody saw how little I even run with a watch these days. But I've always had dreams of a PT in the back of my head. I couldn't resist, so I bought it. It's already here, but I'm anxiously awaiting one little part before it becomes functional. This is something that will get me excited about my bike again. And I'll have a good reason to be a number nerd.

I really haven't done a lot of upgrading in my 16 years of triathlon --I even borrowed a bike for my first 2 seasons -- so I was due for some new stuff, right? Soon I will be recovering from my watt-metered intervals on a spacious king sized bed atop a spotlessly clean carpet.

At least somebody has plenty of room...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Birth Day

I started this blog a long time ago and wasn't even sure I'd ever finish. But I'd really like to remember every detail of my sweet baby's birth, and I might as well post it! So four months later, here it is, the story of how this chunky little monkey got here.

I'd been worried for weeks about the baby being breech and not wanting to turn, but somehow still had faith that he would in time, and I could have a natural birth. I was going to the chiropractor, lying inverted on the ironing board, and doing every exercise and trick in the book (or rather, on the website). The whole pregnancy had gone so well, even considering the awful nausea I had during the weeks from 6-15. I had a couple of temporary setbacks in my running, but generally had very little pain, and only some discomfort when I sat too long in one position or on the couch.

My appointment at 37 weeks and a few days showed I'd lost a little weight (I'd been sick), and the doctor started mentioning dates to do an external cephalic version on the little one. I was mostly sure I wanted to do it, but she let me go home and talk it over with Jeremy. She went ahead and had the operating room blocked at the hospital for the next Tuesday - that's a requirement in case an emergency cesarean is needed. When I got home J and I decided that we did want to try the version. There was a decent chance it would work, and although I'd heard it was excruciating, if it meant I could have a natural birth it would totally be worth it (and probably not all that painful in comparison). The cons included the chance that the baby wouldn't tolerate it well and I'd have to have an emergency cesarean, but I'd be cut open anyway if he didn't flip.

38 weeks - can't believe I was this big!

The next Monday I trekked back up to the doctor for one last visit before the version. I'd been working on him all week trying to ease his head down my left side. It would get to about 3 o'clock, but pop right back up when I changed positions. She checked my cervix to find that I was still about 1cm dilated, but still not effaced. I told her I was all in for the version and we'd see her the next day. I picked up some delicious rellenos at our favorite New Mexican place up in Ruidoso and headed home. I wasn't particularly concerned over getting some cleaning done like I'd planned; instead I just relaxed a good bit of the night. Somewhere around bedtime I remembered I needed to pack a bag just in case we had the baby and stayed in the hospital.

We reported to the hospital at 7:30 the next morning, and were greeted by a nurse that Jeremy knows from the hospital in town. It was nice to have someone almost familiar (at least she knew of me). I got into my gown and hooked up to the fetal monitor -- important in a version, since you need to know how the baby tolerates it. The contraction monitor was interesting to me. Apparently I'd been having some contractions I hadn't noticed. Funny how you can feel them much better when the computer screen is telling you you're having them.

When the doctor came in, she checked my cervix and told me I was 1cm but 90% effaced-- big difference from the day before. She said my contractions were strong enough that I could be starting labor. (I kept thinking, this is nothing compared to some of them I felt while running!) This lead to the discussion that I would probably not be allowed to go home if the version didn't work. The doctor had planned on letting me go into labor on my own, even if the baby was still breech, which I was very thankful for. I have never thought any kind of induction or choosing of my baby's birth day was the right thing for me to do, and the only way to know he is ready is to start labor. But at this point, given my contractions and effacement, she wasn't willing to let me get too far away. I was stressed even more by this; I didn't feel that I was in labor, and things were just not going as planned. I was given terbutaline to relax my uterus to make the version easier, and this, probably along with my anxiety, gave me the shakes. I was praying again that THIS time it would work and he would turn.

They tilted the bed so I was slightly declined, checked him out on the ultrasound, and the doctor started pushing on him as Jeremy stood on the other side of the bed holding my hand. J could see everything going on, from the monitors to the ultrasound, which helped calm me. It was very firm pressure that she was applying at the top of my uterus, the baby's head, and the bottom, around his bottom. I winced a few times, but it really wasn't terrible. After just a short minute or two, she had moved him to about transverse, when she suddenly stopped and asked the nurse to move the ultrasound or something. There was a little chatter going on, but I wasn't sure what they were talking about. She didn't immediately start back with the version, and after a minute or two she said the baby's not tolerating this well and she was going to stop trying. I probably would've lost all color from my face had I not been upside down. This means only one thing: the big C. She said she wanted to go ahead with the c-section right then and asked if that was ok with me. I had to look at Jeremy for his opinion and he concurred that it was the thing to do. I probably asked him 10 times if he was sure we had to do it. Then I started crying. In my head I was throwing a 2-year-old temper tantrum, saying, "This is so NOT FAIR that I have to have this. So many people are practically, if not outright, begging for c-sections, when I have done everything I can to avoid it and I'm stuck with no choice." I had plans to hold out going to the hospital until I was many centimeters dilated (having J check that for me), just so I wasn't put on the clock too soon. I wanted to go without an epidural, and certainly no pitocin, since I know those both increase your risk of surgery.

The nurse was still standing there watching me melt down, and she asked why I was crying -- was it because I was worried about what could happen during surgery? I'm not sure I gave her an answer because at that moment I just wanted her to go away. Obviously she couldn't possibly understand. She's a labor and delivery nurse, so this is no big deal to her. And by the way, no, I completely trusted my doctor. There are just so many negatives to having a c-section, for this baby, me, and my future babies. Jeremy told me that the baby's heart rate had dropped really low and he probably needed to come on out. Later I learned that it had dipped into the 50s and stayed there for minutes. Not good.

Within just a few minutes, the anesthesiologist had come in to talk to me, then they brought the bed in, and let me use the bathroom. I had stopped crying and started to realize that I was going to get to meet my baby soon. I texted my parents and sisters that "I'm about to have a c-section," just before I was wheeled down the short hall to the OR. Thankfully they let J, being a doctor, suit up and come in for almost the entire thing. I sat up and they leaned me over for the spinal, which really didn't hurt. I was mostly worried that I would accidentally move, and those horror stories of paralysis would be realized. Once I was all hooked up and laid back down, I quickly started to feel numb. Part of me was thankful for this, but wen my leg suddenly appeared, bent up in my view, I was a little surprised. It is such a surreal feeling. Everyone in the OR seemed excited and was asking questions about the baby, when I started to feel like I was falling in a hole. I told Jeremy, "I don't feel so good." I know that feeling, since I've passed out before, and it was imminent. After a couple of pleads with a weak little squeaky voice, my doctor noticed and called it to the anesthesiologist's attention. Apparently my blood pressure had dropped to like 70/40, or something close to death. Less than a minute of IV fluid later, I was back to normal.

The curtain came up. I smelled cauterized skin. MY cauterized skin. I kept asking Jeremy what was going on. Without giving specifics, he told me it would be a little longer. Part of me wanted to see what was going on, but like I said, I've passed out before, so the other part didn't. More pictures of my innards would've been entertaining to me, but alas. I had heard I'd feel lots of pressure during the cutting and pulling baby out, but I felt nothing. The minutes dragged on, and finally J got out the camera phone. The doctor found a baby butt and heel, and out he came backwards.

They didn't tell me right away, or maybe they did and I didn't hear, but the cord was around his neck twice. No wonder the poor baby couldn't move to the vertex position. He was stuck with only about 6 inches of slack. I held my breath until I heard his cry. He was taken over to the warming? cleaning? something table, where I could actually see his pink little body and his bright blond hair. I was craning my neck to get every glimpse possible, and finally after an eternity, Jeremy brought him over to me. He was vocal right from the start; he gave me a little speech as soon as he met me. I'm not sure if it was a complaint or just a story telling me what he had been through. But nice to meet you too, little one! My arms were strapped down, so all I could do was kiss his tiny little face.

It's a grainy picture, but exactly how I remember him when I first met him

They said he looked long and skinny, and while I was being sewn back up, they weighed and measured him at a tiny 6lbs, 10oz, and 19 inches long. He was perfectly pink in no time; it didn't bother him that he was at 7000ft of elevation. Something was bothering me, though. I thought it was from craning my neck, but apparently an air bubble got up in my abdominal cavity and caused a terrible pain in my right trapezius muscle. And that was all the pain I had during delivery (afterward was a whole different story).

The doctor, who I am so grateful for, for her knowledge and skill, spent a while actually suturing me, instead of using huge metal staples, as I found is the norm for cesarean closure. Jeremy was following the baby to get the round of tests and whatnot, and I finally got to join them in the recovery room. I was ready to actually hold my little baby for the first time! I got my hands on him and tried immediately to nurse, which proved to be very difficult while lying completely flat in bed. I kept sneaking my bed up just a touch until Jeremy said I would be ok to sit up. For some reason I was dying for a coke. Nothing else, just a coke. I hadn't had anything to eat or drink --ok, I'd sneaked some water before the version -- in probably 15 hours. They don't make you pass gas before eating anymore, thank goodness.

I'm lying so flat I can barely even see him in the recovery room

Eventually we got to our room, and I got to call and text everybody and just sit and hold my baby with Jeremy. Hunter figured out how to nurse quickly, but he was so sleepy, it was hard to stay awake for the effort. The first few hours were wonderful. I had no pain, no reason to move in bed, and I had my new addition right where I wanted him-- in my arms with Jeremy nearby. When I saw the food I was served, Jeremy and I decided that he would venture out for something more palatable and found me the best chicken salad sandwich I'd ever had, plus a smorgasbord of desserts. And another coke.

Night came and things seemed to get more difficult. I became more aware of my complete inability to use my abdominal muscles. I'm honestly not sure exactly what was cut, but from my research it seems the fascia of the rectus abdominus was the real loser. I couldn't feel my legs for hours, and when I was finally able to stand, I stood like a hunchback. I wanted to at least be there for the baby's diaper changes, but standing that long was too hard for me. The night nurse was awesome; she helped me use the actual toilet when my catheter came out. She was right on time with painkillers, and she otherwise left me alone. The lab guy, who put his little toolkit on the baby's bed was a real nightmare. I could've stuck my own veins better than that. And I would've chosen a time other than midnight and 6am to do it.

I kept the baby in my bed most of the night (otherwise he was in Jeremy's arms). J warned me that the nurses wouldn't be ok with that setup if they caught me. They didn't. I just couldn't imagine putting my tiny baby, who just came out of his warm snuggly home of 9 months, into a cold hard plastic box. The next morning, I started to feel real pain once the good painkillers had worn off and the IV was out. But when I was given the option of possibly going home that afternoon, I took it. Nothing quite compares to home, and if the IV was going to be out, what's the point of staying in the hospital? We saw the OB who released me to my doctor husband, and waited around to finish discharging. Thirty hours after he was born, Hunter got to leave the hospital. It's a small hospital, but I still couldn't fathom why, after multiple calls to the nurses station, I couldn't get anyone's attention to come walk me out, like they said was required. So we took off. A nurse chased us down, wanting to walk us out, but never offering poor hobbling, hunching me a wheelchair. I should've had Jeremy carry both me and the baby.

Down the mountain we headed with our tiny little baby, taking him to his first home. And life has not been the same since.