Pain and Birth and 2000 Meters

My freshman year in college, a former rower stopped by our boathouse following the birth of her first child. At that point in my life, and in the lives of all the women I rowed with, a 2000 meter race was the most intense pain any of us had experienced. We were quite certain nothing could top it, though some workouts and erg tests came close. So of course our first question as we huddled around her: "Was it as painful as a 2000 meter sprint?" I'll admit I was pretty sure she was going to say no.

She replied it was much worse.

Worse?! You could just see the fear on everyone's face, the quick dashing of plans for children in that very moment.

In the years that followed I carried that information with me, along with memories of rowing pain. There were times in some races where I was quite certain I would die, right there, on the spot, and fall out of the boat. I remember thinking, "I guess I'll keep rowing because everyone else is still going, and I don't want to let them down and if I die, I'll just die. And then I'll be done rowing." And that thought seemed pleasant.

Tufts Crew

Over the ensuing years I've done physically grueling things: hikes, weight training, intense spin classes, swims in a rough ocean, even a marathon. Nothing comes close to the pain of rowing. Nothing.

So when I got pregnant with Ollie I knew I wanted a natural childbirth with no epidural. After all these years, I'd be able to see how something could possibly be more painful that rowing! Because Ollie was overdue, I was induced and I managed 13 hours on Pitocin, all through the night, in agony, before I succumbed (in tears) to an epidural. Ollie was born two hours later.

With Minna I was determined to avoid that situation, and worked with a midwife throughout my pregnancy and planned for a home birth. I labored in my living room, watching the Giants vs Cowboys, then paced, breathing and counting. The counting's a holdover from rowing, when we'd do "10s" for power, or technique, and you'd just do ten strokes to focus on pulling ahead of another boat. I do 10s when I run, or whenever I face a physical challenge. I count through the pain.

Jason filled the birthing tub and after a few hours I decided to get in. Instantly the contractions slowed and the water felt fantastic. The midwife had arrived and the three of us actually just hung out and chatted, and I'd pause to do some deep breaths when a contraction arrived. Since Ollie's birth had taken so long, I assumed I had hours to go in the tub when suddenly I felt the baby and needed to push. I gave two excruciating pushes. My midwife checked the progress.

"Do you think it's five more pushes?" I asked her, hopefully.

"Oh I'd say two, maybe three." she replied.

My heart leapt!

"Well I can do five!" I said, in some kind of crazy counting birthing delirium.

I didn't need to. Minna popped out after two.

In my list of pain, it currently stands:

1. Minna crowning. Intense but very brief.
2. Ollie labor on Pitocin. Hours of long immobilizing agony.
3. Crew race of 2000 meters. Intense. Horrific. Still the worst concentrated seven-to-eight minutes of my life.

Way way down that list, everything else.

In rowing we used to always throw around the saying, "Pain is temporary, pride is forever." I get to look at my two great kids every day. In a box in the closet is my gold medal from the 1992 New England Rowing Championships. If it wouldn't be weird to wear it around, I probably would.

The best running shoe shop in NYC

New running sneakersNow for something not food related! Yesterday I went to Jack Rabbit Sports, a sport store that recently opened near Union Square in Manhattan. (They've also got a Brooklyn location that's been open for a while.) It was far and away the best shoe store experience I've ever had, and I don't think I'll ever buy a pair of sneakers anyplace else again.

First step: evaluating your foot and watching you run. They put you on a treadmill in the shop and watch the way you run and how your foot strikes. Then they start bringing out shoes for you to try, and each time you get back the treadmill and test out the shoe. The guy we worked with was knowledgeable and very helpful, and sent me out the door with the first pair of non-Asics running shoes I've owned in twenty years!

They also offer classes, custom bike fitting, and 10% everything you purchase after your first purchase. They had clothes too, but I was so excited about the sneakers that I didn't even look at anything else. I [heart] Jack Rabbit Sports!

It's that time of year

View of Sugarbush from the windowYes, it's 18° outside, but that only means one thing to me: the snow isn't melting! After a slow and a later-than-normal (skiing) start, we're heading over to Mad River for our first ski day of the season. Hopefully the old legs still have it! Ok, no more blogging, on to skiing!

No gold for your subjective criteria

Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins give US skiers Bode Miller and Darren Rahlves a hard time in her column, U.S. skiers 'Best in the World'? Not a chance, for not 'podiuming' (that's what the snowboarders call it, dude!) in Sunday's men's downhill event.

Miller skied with more abandon, actually leading the race after the first time interval before he inexplicably let time leak away in the lower section of the course. But afterward he was vague and esoteric, suggesting that he skied to some purer, invisible, inner standard of excellence.

"I feel I skied the way I hoped would reflect a positive objective end result," he said. "But when there's a discrepancy there, you have a moment of confusion and disappointment. But after that, what can you do? My subjective criteria was satisfied. Subjectively is how I ski."

Maybe I'm too dense to appreciate the subtleties of Miller's subjective goals. I thought the point was to ski faster than everyone else. The trouble with Miller's articulacy is, sometimes it sounds like excuse making.

Usually I hate the focus on winning a medal at the Games, especially the "quest for gold" bs that consumes the US broadcasters every Olympics. But this time I think Jenkins may have a valid point. Rahlves and Miller both had the fastest training runs. And then before the event there was all this crazy last-minute changing of equipment, with Miller skiing on some new factory-fresh pair of skis, and Rahlves planning to and then switching back to his old skis only minutes before his run. That just struck me as odd.

Then the races themselves. Both guys looked fine out there, but not aggressive. Not like they wanted to win. Sure it's important to be satisfied. And sure, you don't want to beat yourself up when, as Rahlves said, "I did what I could, and that's how it turned out." But come on! It's the Olympics! You gotta want it! Enough with this new-age touchy-feely satisfaction of some inner criteria, bring home the hardware!!!

A little skiing video featuring me

Speaking of wanting can watch me "go for gold" in a little video Jason's posted to his site: Skiing videos. It's the bottom one, and it's small and blurry. But it's still kind of fun, I think, though decidedly less exciting than watching the men's downhill. Oh well...

Picabo Street's got a blog

Former US ski team member, and gold medalist, Picabo Street has a blog! You may remember her from the 1998 games in Nagano. She won the gold in the Super G. She's in Torino now as a special correspondent for NBC. While there, she's keeping a blog on the Torino experience, especially now that she's getting to enjoy the Games as a spectator rather than a competitor. Neat.

Red Sox lose their GM

Barely behind us, it seems the dark days of tragic losses for Red Sox Nation might again return: Red Sox General Manager Ends a Memorable Run. Is the "Curse of the Epsteino" in our future?

Barefoot in Central Park

A really interesting article in today's New York Times, Kick Off Your Shoes and Run Awhile, discusses a developing trend: running barefoot.

During the past decade two barefoot-style training methods for runners have been developed based on the same principle: that legs, not shoes, are the best shock absorbers. That is, you land on your forefoot, instead of your heel, and paw back.

Many people now think that structured running shoes are leading to "lazy feet", that is feet that have under-developed muscles and are therefore more prone to injury. Running barefoot, or with new less structured shoes, may help strengthen feet and eventually lead to less injury. I'm curious about the claim, though not entirely convinced. The article says a lot of things that make sense to me.


What would Johnny Damon do? Apparently, it's leave the Sox for the *@!&**&%!! Yankees. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy has the sad details today in For Sox, a little off the top. If it's not the Curse of the Epsteino that's bringing this down upon the Nation, perhaps it's a Curse of the Queer Eyes. Of the five Sox who appeared on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," (Kevin Millar, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Tim Wakefield, and Doug Mirabelli), only Wakefield and Varitek now remain.

Yay Patriots!

Last night's Super Bowl was pretty good, especially once the Pats started playing better in the second half. To show our support for the team, we made 'Teddy Bruschettas' -- one set topped with chopped mushrooms sauteed in butter with garlic and dried sage and the other with warmed tomatoes, basil, and garlic cooked in olive oil. Both types were delicious, and I'm sure supported not just Teddy Bruschi but all the Patriots! Aside from burning the first batch of toasts so badly that flames were shooting out the oven, it was pretty successful. I recommend Teddy Bruschettas for all your Patriots game dining needs.

Look for me on the streets of NYC

my marathon outfit

So if you're going to be cheering tomorrow, here's what I'll be wearing. I'm in the orange start group, which means I'll be running up the left side of Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. I'm going to stick on the left-hand side of the street (my left) and try and stay out of the middle, so if you're looking for me, that's where I hope to be. I'm going to run something between a 10 - 11 minute/mile, so I should be coming into Manhattan around 1 PM or so, depending on how long it takes to get across the start.

My bib number is 31139 so if you're watching from home, you should be able to track my progress online. I don't have the link, but check the ING New York City Marathon site for tracking information. Also, I am going to try and post some photos from my phone as I run. If I do, you'll be able to see them on here in my Flickr photo album.

Reflections on the marathon

It's a little less than 72 hours since the marathon ended and my body is close to recovered. My legs are still a little sore, but nothing that keeps me from zipping up and down the stairs -- unlike Monday and yesterday. I'm planning on going for my first post-marathon run tomorrow, and can't wait. The excitement and high of the marathon has yet to abate. In fact, I'd venture to say a sort of "marathon insanity" has set in. Evidence to support my diagnosis:

1. When I think back to the actual running of the marathon, it wasn't that hard. My pace for nearly 21 miles was slower than I'd actually trained because I ran with friends. It was great to share the experience with others, and it was only around the 14 mile mark that I started to feel some tightness in my legs. I think that was due to the slower than usual pace, which affected my stride. Once I sped up, the tightness dissipated. That was in the Bronx, where I sped up and ran the last five miles alone. I felt strong and fast those last five miles, managed to hold my form together, and because I had so much gas in my tank, I passed people left and right. I have to say, there's something awesome about heading past the mile 24 marker, weaving through the crowd, and speeding towards the finish. There was no point during the race where I really thought, "I can't do this!" Towards the end I felt tired, but it was just a matter of perseverance. I'd actually thought it would be harder and I'd have to battle myself to complete the race.

2. Now I'm all hopped up and ready to run another marathon, and to try and run faster! My net time was 5:09:04, and I know I can go quite a bit faster, so my goal for my next marathon is 4:30. Which leads to further proof of my marathon insanity: I've signed up for the 2005 Paris Marathon next spring! Check out the course map, doesn't that look great? What a tour of the city! So my training begins in early December.

3. Further evidence of my marathon mania is my hope to run the NYC Marathon again next fall. If I can get in a few more NYC Road Runner races before the end of the year, I'll automatically qualify for next year's race. I'd love to run it again, the experience of seeing all those various parts of the city, and all the crowds, was unforgettable. The NYC Marathon is something I'd recommend everyone do once in their life. I'm sure you're thinking, "Ha! There's no way I could ever run a marathon" but you'd be surprised. With some training and dedication, anyone can run a marathon. The course was filled with people walking, with people of all sizes and shapes and ages, people just out there to enjoy the day and the experience and the challenge. I highly recommend it. Honest.

So I think those three points make it official: I am marathon crazy. Running crazy. Or maybe just plain crazy!

Watching the Pats in style

If you find yourself on Nantucket, wandering about trying to find a good spot to watch the Patriots game, you would do well to wander yourself to the Gaslight Theater on North Union Street in Town. (Note: it may have a different name now, but I can't remember if it does, or what its new name would be. Update: it's now called the Starlight.) It was there last night that my friend Sarah and I partook of the Patriots glorious victory over the Colts in their season opener, watching the game on the movie screen! With a waitress delivering beers to those unwilling or unable to move from their movie seats, and a raucous crowd of New England fans, it was a great start to the season.

Go Sox!

One of the best parts of being back in Massachusetts is that everyone -- well nearly everyone -- who I hang out with is a Sox fan. Our chef even put a TV in the kitchen so we can follow the playoffs, and tomorrow we're opening early at 4 PM so people can come in and watch the game. On the menu? Hot dogs, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks, of course! Should be lots of fun. Let's hope Cornrroyo (my Anaheim friend's attempt to insult tomorrow's starting pitcher is to call Bronson Arroyo, who has cornrows, "Cornrroyo" but I think it's kind of funny so I'm using it in a positive manner) has his stuff and we can wrap this one up at home! Go Boston!

Support the Sox

If you're looking for something that shows you're a Boston fan, but you don't want a traditional MLB shirt, or something that just says "Yankees suck!" check out The Red Seat. The Red Seat makes Red Sox shirts that are different, reasonably priced, and cool. Why?

In retrospect, we think the seeds of "The Red Seat" were sown as early as Game 3 (Zimmer had it coming). Trying to convert a Yankee fan and wanting a souvenir to commemorate the great day of theater, we searched and searched, but to no avail. There was literally nothing around the park that wasn't a lame retread, obscenely priced or just plain obscene.

My favorite? God hates us. Of course, not *this* year. Oh no. This year is different. I hope.

20 miles is a very long distance

My marathon training is entering its final three weeks, and November 7th is fast approaching. I set out today for my final really long run, a 20 miler during which I covered a large portion of the Island. You can see the map of my route. I was going to keep updating this after I put the first 10 miler on, but since then I've been running all my long runs in the same general area, and the lines would have gotten all messy. But since this one was to, 'Sconset, the easternmost point in the United States, I thought I'd redo the map. It was a very long run, but I did it, and I'm getting really excited for the marathon!

Kicking my ass

Apparently this is the part of the marathon training that either kills you or makes you strong enough to run 26.2 miles. After yesterday's 20 miler, my schedule demanded 3 miles from my sore tired legs and feet this morning. I've never run a longer 3 miles in my life. And there's no rest for the weary, tomorrow AM calls for 8 miles. Which means that within 48 hours I'll have run 31 miles! I hope I can survive until Wednesday, which is a rest day. Yay rest day! Right now that's seeming very far off. Right now I can't even go down the stairs unless I take them one at a time, like a child. :(

Once in a lifetime

The Sox come back from 0-3 against the Yankees and I've refrained from posting out of superstition. I've instead watched each game, holding my breath, knocking on wood, and hoping, just hoping. And after game three, I almost even wrote an open letter to the Sox here, but decided against it. Instead, I just lay silent, hoping still. And then last night, a Bellhorn homer. And then tonight, Damon grand slam. And D. Lowe pitching like a freakin' rock star, and not just any rock star, but like Robert Plant or John Lennon, I mean, Rock Star. I did believe. I'll admit that I wavered, but I never faltered. I believed. I take my Sox do or die. And finally, they did! My oh my. World Series. I can hardly wait!!

The most magical day

Red Sox Make History by Beating Yankees:

From Fenway Park to Faneuil Hall, from Boston Common to Beacon Hill, the 11th pennant for the Red Sox, the first since 1986, will be remembered as the best for one reason: Beating New York in Yankee Stadium, site of last year's Game 7 meltdown.

This was for Williams and Pesky, for Yastrzemski and Yawkey, for Fisk and Rice and even Buckner and Nomar, just a few of the hundreds who suffered the pain inflicted by their New York neighbors in a rivalry that has become baseball's best.

None of the previous 25 major league teams to fall behind 3-0 even forced a series to seven games. The wild-card Red Sox became only the third of 239 teams in the four major North American leagues to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series and win...It had been 100 years since Boston last won a pennant in New York on the final possible day, a 3-2 victory in a doubleheader opener at Hilltop Park in 1904.

Indeed it was a very good day.

A new shirt at Red Seat

The Red Seat's got a new shirt to commemorate Wednesday's victory over the Yanks: The Witching Hour. Looks great, and I love that it's black. Also, here's a photo of me sporting my Red Seat Building Character shirt on Wednesday night at work. I'm not smiling so much because this was before the game had begun and I was still very nervous.

Older Entries