Friday, February 29, 2008

Shower Power

We have a new tradition developing at our house—the family shower. No, it’s not as NC-17 as it may sound as Jack has yet to jump in. Just me and the kids so far.

It started a few Saturdays ago after I went rowing. I leave for my boathouse before anyone else in the house is up, so when I walk in the door, the kiddies are very excited to see me. There’s no escaping them. When I stepped into the shower, John and Daphne, both 2.5 years, clamored to join me. How could I deny them—they are too darn cute! Once big-sis Phoebe saw them in there with me, she wanted to join the party, so she stripped down and came in. Lucky for me, the shower in our master bathroom has two showerheads! While it didn’t make for a very relaxing post-workout shower, I’ll admit it was fun having so many naked little bodies dancing around under the spray.

The next day, after a 10-mile run, there were the frisky kidlets, begging for another mommy-and-me (and –me and –me!) shower. Who knows if the custom will continue this weekend. For now I’m not complaining—I know there will come a day, sooner rather than later, that my kids won’t even let me see them naked, let alone bathe together. Scrub-a-dub-dub!


Friday, February 22, 2008

Raising a Good Sport

As a preschooler, my older daughter, Phoebe, was lousy at losing. She’d get huffy and pouty when her dad uncovered more pairs playing the Dora the Explorer matching game (think Concentration, but matching Princess Dora or Swiper cards instead of the seven of clubs or ace of spades). Phoebe would quickly get frustrated trying to jump rope after seeing her friend Piper excel at it.

Yet they now must teach good sportsmanship in kindergarten along with reading and math. Suddenly Phoebe is Little Miss Magnanimous when it comes to games and sports. Case in point: Last weekend our whole family went to the playground. As we walked across a faded 100-meter-dash outline on the blacktop, Phoebe suddenly asked me if I wanted to race her. Me specifically, not her dad, Jack. As she headed toward the starting line, I whispered to Jack, “should I let her beat me?” He told me to just see how it went, implying she might legitimately beat me. (Ain’t gonna happen I thought—I’ve got a ton of 400s and 800s under this marathoner’s belt!)

Phoebe and I both got a good jump off the start, but I fired up the afterburners and cruised across the line several seconds ahead of her. After Phoebe finished, I looked down at her face, fearful tears would be welling or a frown appearing. But to my surprise—and my delight and pride—Phoebe broke into a huge grin, and exclaimed, “I wanted you to win, Momma! Now you can tell everybody you won a running race!”


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A different kind of finish line

Instead of getting up at the crack of to swim with the master's team at 5:30, this morning, I got to sleep until 5:45 so I could head up to Denver, where my sister and marathon partner, Sarah, lives. Yesterday, Sarah learned that Bailey, her 15-ish year old hound, would have to have a cancerous leg removed to continue her life. That scenario was too much even for Miss B., who has had more lives than a houseful of cats. Sarah's very gracious and generous vet, who had a day off today, came by her house at 8:30 a.m. to help Bailey drift off to her next adventures.

For all her faults--halitosis and gas that could knock you into Nebraska; glassy marbles for eyes since cataracts had taken them over years ago; the firm idea that any flat surface, be it wood floor inside or grass outside, constituted the perfect bathroom; a shed rate so high, Sarah could have made bucks making dog fur coats, if her fur had been soft, not stiff--Bailey was a love. She wasn't necessarily a running dog--her why-exercise-when-you-can-sleep demeanor always overruled her Kenyan-esque frame--but she's the kind of dog that you want to come home to after a long day, a bad workout, a fight with a boyfriend. (Actually, all dogs fit that bill.) She loved and licked unconditionally and always had a wag, albeit one that left a trail of fur, for friends or strangers.

Before she headed to the greenest pastures, where fresh hamburger meat is never in short supply, where dogs off all kinds co-mingle and gossip ("Did you see how she sniffed his butt? Dude, she's looking to have a litter!"), where there's always a pack up for a good romp, Bailey got to leave this world with her head resting on the lap of the person who loved her best.

We should all be so lucky to have that be the last finish line we cross.

Rest from your journey, then run as hard as you want--on all four, healthy legs--Sweet Bailey Jane.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

A not-so-dreadful treadmill workout

Today, I had a choice: run outside in the blowing snow and heavy winds or run at the Y. So really, my choice was this: do nothing or run at the Y. I reluctantly chose the latter.

I was staring down a 55-minute run--I have a coach right now through Carmichael Training Systems, because I'm taking their power cycling class--with no plan except to survive it. Ten minutes into it, I composed a workout simply because 45 more minutes of the same pace, same incline and same tedium might have sent me toppling over the back of the 'mill, mentally. I'm a big believer in breaking things up: to get to point E from point A, think B, then C, then D, then E. If I only focus on E, I can get discouraged embarrassingly quickly and quit.

So enough rationale: here's the workout.
10 minute warm-up (you knew that part). Set a base pace (BP) and base incline (BI) during the warm-up. This should be a comfortable, I can run for an-hour-straight, no-prob pace. For me, that was 6.2 mph and 2% incline.

20 minutes of climbing intervals:
4 minutes at 4% at BP, then 4 minutes recovery at BP + BI
3 minutes at 5% at BP, then 3 minutes recovery at BP +BI
2 minutes at 6% at BP, then 2 minutes recovery at BP + BI
1 minute at 7% at BP (this one is hard!), then one minute recovery at BP + BI

(Note: 30 minutes already done! More than half-way through the workout!)

20 or 22 minutes of speed intervals (for this, I lowered my BI to 1.5% and kept it there for the duration)
4 minutes at 6.7 mph, then 4 minutes recovery at BP + BI
3 minutes at 6.9 mph, then 3 minutes recovery at BP + BI
2 minutes at 7.1 mph, then 2 minutes recovery at BP + BI
1 minute at 7.3 mph, then 1 minute recovery at BP + BI (while doing this one, marvel that this is slower than the pace of a recovery run for an elite marathoner)
Bonus: 1 minute at 7.5 mph, then 1 minute recovery at BP + BI

(Note: this part was much easier than increasing the incline, so it's kind of fun to do it second and see how fast you can go.)

3-5 minutes of cool down and wham-mo: I was done! It still felt long at parts, but getting through four minutes mentally is cake compared to thinking about laboring through 55.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Blossoming Daphne

If you are a regular reader of Marathon Moms, you might feel like you almost know my older daughter through my many Phoebe-centric postings. Yet I rarely mention my younger daughter. Dear Daphne, 2.5 years, is John’s twin sister, yet she is very much her own independent, unique child. Like every mom, I think all my children are special. However, while I see many similarities between big sis Phoebe and John, Daphne is truly one of a kind.

Daphne is going to be our athlete. In most instances, she’s more physical and active than her twin brother. But more than that, she just radiates an inner athlete. When I’m out on long runs, and I let my mind drift to my kids, it’s always an image of Daphne that springs into my head in clear focus.

And Daphne is already attuned to the fact that Sunday is a day of running. On Sunday morning, I took John and Daphne on a stroll around the block. John, my darling momma’s boy, was content to have me carry him most of the way. But Daphne had to literally run ahead on her own, tearing down the block. Then whenever she got about six houses ahead of us, she’d turn around and dash toward us, always yelling, “Love you, too, Momma! Love you, too!” She’d crash into my legs, giving me a huge hug as she laughed and laughed. Later on, when she and John were doing their favorite—dancing naked in their room—Daphne suddenly changed tact and announced, “I go running!” She ran around and around in a big circle, the most gorgeous streaker ever.

Give her a few years—and a few adidas outfits—and she’ll be running alongside of me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Flat tires: How do you deal?

So here's the deal: I'm a strong athlete, own a really nice bike and yet, I prefer to ride it indoors instead of out. Why? I'm terrified of getting a flat tire. The idea of being helpless, possibly tens of miles from home (and even worse, out of cell range), with only my very meager mechanical skills to rely upon to get me home is terrifying. Yes, I do know how to change a tire, but I'm far, far from proficient at it, and even if I do get it on right--a very slight possibility--there's always the chance I'll flat again.

I've been assigned an essay by a major magazine to write about this situation, and wonder if I'm alone. I hope not. I know this blog is mostly devoted to running, but if you're a cyclist (or think you'd like to be one) who is as frightened by the "psssst" sound of a emptying tube as I am, I'd love to hear from you. Tell me a funny story about when you flatted or how you're overcoming your fear of flatting or a tip about how to make the changing process more efficient or why I'm such a stereotypical girl. In other words, tell me anything about flat tires. I may use it in the story. You can either post a comment here, or e-mail me at dimitymdavis at yahoo dot com.

Thanks in advance--

Thursday, February 7, 2008


So I throw out a not-so-clever kicker in the last entry--under/overs on Thursday--and guess what? Karma comes back to bite me in my already zapped quads. Very funny. Tonight the ratio was supposedly a little easier--6 minutes in the steady state zone before 4 in the nearly impossible climbing repeat zone--but the effort was way harder than Tuesday, mostly because I was working with licorice legs and a mind that wasn't willing to endure the still-too-fresh, imminent misery.

So as I huffed and puffed and still couldn't get my prescribed numbers, I thought of a few other tasks I'd rather be doing. None, it should be noted, are particularly easy.

1. Clean my children from head to toe: wash their hair, excavate their noses, cut all 40 nails.

2. Learn the intricacies of the voting process: differences between caucus and primaries (and why some states are one way, some another); how the delegates work; the difference between winning states and delegates, and which matters more; why Republicans have winner-take-all states, but Democrats are, well, much more democratic in how they doll out delegates. (I think I can infer the answer to the last point.)

3. Organize our toys: put all legos with legos (and not have random pieces scattered from laundry baskets to my purse); put plastic spatulas and pretend fried eggs in the pretend kitchen (rescue them from our bath toys); put tiny ballet slippers with newborn bibs and miniature pj's (grab them out of the dress up box); find all the balls that fit with basketball hoops, hammer games and tunnels that I always come across when a child isn't begging for them and place them in their rightful spot.

4. Keep the toys organized for more than 20 minutes.

5. Have a family dinner during which at least two of the four things happen: Amelia happily takes one no-thank-you bite from a foreign food; Ben doesn't doll out his helpings to the dogs; I don't lose my temper and wonder aloud, "Why do I try to do this?" as I slurp down white wine; and everybody is happy with plain strawberries for dessert.

Maybe the under/overs aren't as tough as I thought.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Under, Over, Kaput

Usually I exercise until the endorphins flow, and either keep it steady at that easy-to-hold pace or wind it down. Even though I know (and have written countless times about) the value of intervals and speedwork and tempo runs--a higher aerobic capacity, the ability to run faster for longer, blah, blah, blah--I hate working hard. A 30-minute workout where you push your heart rate up into the clouds and hang on for dear life? I'd rather run for three hours at a conversational pace.

That said, I love the benefits of those brief-but-oh-so-painful workouts. (Who wouldn't? It's basically free speed.) So to keep myself honest this winter, I signed up for the power training classes at Carmichael Training Systems, which is about 5 minutes from my house. An eight-week block, two times a week. Think spin class, but for bike geeks: everybody uses their own bikes, whose back wheels spin on an indoor trainer and are hooked up to power tap meters, which chart precisely how hard you're working. There is no perky instructor with a Madonna-esque microphone up front rah-rahing you on, but rather three very qualified coaches who roam around the stark warehouse we're all sweating in and yell at us to crank it up, go harder, realize that pain is our friend. The classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on those days, I get a pit of nausea forming in my stomach around 2 p.m., just anticipating how difficult the workout will be at 6 p.m. that evening. I can't eat, although I know I should since I'll need the energy. Usually I just grab two sheets of graham crackers as I walk out the door and choke them down.

Last night, the sense of dread was more than justified. The workout is a signature one of CTS' called under/overs, during which you spend five minutes in a steady state range (for me, this is a heart rate of about 165-170) then five minutes in the considerably harder climbing range (my heart rate rockets to nearly 180). Take five minutes of recovery, then repeat the whole cycle two more times. In other words, 30 minutes of really, really hard work. (And hard work, it should be noted, that you have to be accountable for: the coaches download the power meters after class, so there's no hiding from big bicycle brother.)

The workout pattern supposedly raises your lactate threshold, or the point at which the cramp-inducing acid creeps into your muscles. By two minutes into the first interval, my legs already were feeling the burn (this was the first tough workout I've done since mostly kicking the sinus infection), and it took every ounce of discipline I had not to tank. "Hang on for 30 more seconds," I'd tell myself. Or, if there were four minutes left. "O.k., Dimity, that's 12 sets of 20 seconds." Or I'd use the alphabet: every time my right foot went down, I'd mentally say a letter. Do A-Z three times on one foot, and that would almost be a full minute. I somehow slogged through it all, but didn't consistently hit the power numbers prescribed for me.

On the way home, though, I wondered why I was doing this to myself. I haven't signed up for a spring triathlon yet. I don't really have a training plan with any goal in mind, other than not hurting my IT band again. I'll never be a great cyclist; it's just not one of my goals. And I'm definitely not looking to befriend pain in this lifetime.

The best I could come up with is that, as masochistic as it seems, taking classes like this gives me confidence and a sense of pride I have trouble finding anywhere outside of athletics--but translates easily to everywhere else in my life. I take on most projects, personalities and temper tantrums because I know I have the physical ability and mental discipline to see them through (or in the case of tantrums, defuse them). In other words, suffering through why-am-I-doing-this workouts makes me prepared for what the world throws at me.

Except maybe another under/over workout on Thursday.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Political Parent

Super Bowl, Schmoooper Bowl: That’s not the super event that has me jazzed. It’s Super Tuesday. I am so excited to see the results, I can barely sit still. Like a child awaiting Christmas, I’ve been counting down the days until this important political temperature-taking. And oh-how-I-wish I lived in one of the 20+ states that gets to have a voice tomorrow (Oregon’s contest isn’t until May 20—give me a break!). I won’t get on a soapbox to convince you to vote for my candidate, other than to say if that person ran 26.2 miles, she too could be a Marathon Mom….

This is not newfound political fervor: I was political before I was athletic. Before I became hooked on exercising, before I ran my first marathon, or before I won my first rowing medal, I co-managed Gary Hart’s campaign headquarters in my Connecticut hometown and shook Senator Hart’s hand. The Bush dynasty queered me on politics, but now I am amped up once again. (It’s almost too perfect that it’s also a Summer Olympics year!) And I am delighted that my zeal is rubbing off on Phoebe, my older daughter who just turned 6 last month.

An intuitive, observant child, Phoebe quickly realized I wasn’t idly watching CNN on primary or caucus nights. (Gee, ya think maybe it was my hoots, hollers, and shouts of “right on!” that gave her a clue?!?) She asked if she could watch return coverage and debates with me, and now we are both glued to the TV on important nights. It’s like how she’s already talking about the runs we’ll do together once the weather turns warmer. I’m not sure which I’m more pleased about—that I’m raising a potential athlete or a political animal. For now, you know where we'll be tomorrow night.