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.