Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Long Run

Went out for just shy of 21 miles tonight. Kept a nice easy pace, felt fairly strong until the end. I've noticed that where in previous years it took me about four miles to feel warmed up, it now seems to hit me at about three miles. So that's nice.

I'm feeling confident about my ability to perform at Eastern States this year. I'm not going to be front of the pack or anything, but I may be able to outshine my performances from previous years so that is good.

I gave myself an extra rest day yesterday to just lounge around the house with the wife and child. Little girl is able to look, track our movements now, and is working up to a giggle. It is so thoroughly satisfying to see these "leaps" in development. I can hardly tear myself away to go running.

Big Sur is another story altogether -- looked at plane tickets this weekend, found some to purchase. Finding that I'm nervous about the hills. Not really knowing the course, just knowing it has a lot of climbing I'm going to play cautious, enjoy the run, and not go for a PR or anything.

Made another Strava Climbing goal this month -- climbed a total of 1755m over the course of February. That's two months down towards my goal of covering a climbing goal for six months!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Grey Days and Mental Fortitude

When did the sky turn black? 
And when will the light come back? 
We all suffer but we recover 
Just to discover life where we all are
--Owl City, Beautiful Times

February in New England is usually wall-to-wall grey. The sky is grey, which you think you can picture just by reading it -- but it is a totally different experience of grey than you have ever had if you don't live here. It is like a back lit grey during the daytime, and it is unrelenting. You don't even look out the window in February or March because you know that it will be grey. There is something very defeating about that color, and the bitter cold that accompanies it.

You have to build color into your life, because the monotony can be defeating. The lack of variety can really drive up the depressive feelings. The grey light can be really piercing.

So it is easier to run in the early morning or night, and stare into the headlights of cars, or the champagne colored streetlights around town. When we worked on our kitchen this past summer, my wife picked a bright yellow to paint on our accent wall. I hated it at the time. But, lit up it does make the house feel as if the sun is in the room and that is a relief this time of year.

I'm also lucky in that I can climb some hills in my neighborhood and see straight across the bay to Providence. There are a plethora of twinkling lights, including my favorite red lights on the immense energy-generating windmills we have. It puts me in awe most nights, but especially nights where it is very clear, and offer a contrast to stormy nights or nights of thick fog where there is a wall between me and the capitol city. I love running at night. It can be hard to drag myself out for the miles at night, when I'm tired from a long work day.

But those lights never disappoint.

There is a certain amount of mental toughness that is really necessary to do this thing. I mean, you need a lot of mental toughness to survive all that unrelenting grey I mentioned. But running in the winter conditions and also after dark takes an ability to go to a mental place where you can ignore the temporary discomfort associated with cold. Cold usually doesn't bother me, by the way. I take regular ice baths, go outside barefoot in winter, and have polar-plunged a couple of years in a row. But there is a difference between these temporary outings into cold and a prolonged exposure to these conditions.

Long runs in these conditions are really tough. A couple of weeks ago I ran when the windchill was reportedly down to -25. The temperature had a "feels like" of -3. I actually found the first part of that run (about seven miles or so) to not be so bad, and had some fun with it. Running back home, however for the last miles was painfully unpleasant. The wind was ripping me up, and my balaclava had shifted such that I couldn't get the thing to cover the lower half of my face. When it did cover my face, the vapor from my breath fogged my sunglasses so I had to ditch them. On top of all of that, I realized when I got home that I had worn the lighter of my two pairs of tights. Honestly, I should have worn pants over the tights.

That run put me in a bad place, even though I cut it short at twelve miles (it was supposed to be fourteen.) I didn't want to run the next day -- which was supposed to be even colder, and didn't end up being as cold. I took a rest day and worked the miles in later that I missed. But mentally I was pretty beat.

You have to maintain a high level of focus and composure, because slip ups in form are really dangerous when you're running among snow and ice sheets. Pot holes can be harder to spot. Narrower pedestrian paths mean drivers are even more dangerous than usual (and that is really saying something!) On top of all of that, less focus and composure means less motivation. I'm in the midst of some real quality weeks for the Eastern States and Big Sur. I can't afford to lose mileage at this point in the plan. But, I am so tempted to stay where it is warm and have a beer. The inward struggle is tough.

This last week I made almost every scheduled run happen -- my speedwork was lacking in quality because of the cold, but I did get it in. The recovery miles from my speed ended up being pushed off a day. Being that I live in New England we have started this week off with some really unseasonable warmth -- I was even able to run in shorts and a t-shirt this past Sunday, but being that I've been running after dark more often I'm still in my tights and jacket. It gets cold at night.

Having a goal also helps. Thinking about an upcoming race, thinking about the end of the week, or the end of the workout. You do what you gotta do to get through a tough situation.

I'm optimistic about Eastern States and Big Sur. I feel like this winter has gone better for me than past years. I put up about 51 miles last week -- quite a few miles for me especially at this time of year. I'm planning another 45-50 miles again this week, but I'm taking it day by day and trying to really take it easy on my lighter days. Want to make sure I have the strength to really build my endurance on my long runs.

On the parenting front we've started to hit our stride, I think. At least as far as the general welfare and household management goes -- this past week I was finding it easier to keep up with things and not get overwhelmed. We also had more of a chance to spend time together -- and I still got eight hours of running in -- and that was really good on both fronts. I also have been getting a better quality of sleep which helps with my all around sanity, and my wife's postpartum anxiety and depression have been much better with treatment. She is a really strong woman, and I admire deeply her ability to not only seek out and work towards help, but also to refuse to allow the stigma surrounding this mood disorder to change how she sees herself.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Long Run

Got in a good 18 miles today. The weather was pretty variable, as it often is in New England, so I went out with tights and jean shorts, a long sleeved shirt and my Brooks MCM Jacket. Decided to wear my Vibram KMDs, because it has been awhile and there is no snow on the ground anymore.

Felt pretty good through the first miles -- a bit slow and tired but since I ran five yesterday I expected a bit of that to carry over to today. Had to lose the jacket around mile two, but ended up needing it back around mile twelve because of the wind. Ended up coming home around three hours later.

I like long runs. I like them more when I have content to listen to on my phone, or maybe a good audio book. For a good chunk of today's run I actually shed the headphones for a bit and just listened to what was around me. It was fun. Putting one foot in front of the other and plodding along.

Got in about 44 miles for the week, which is pretty good. Quite a bit more volume than I have done in awhile. Moving slower, on average, but I am chalking some of that up to the colder weather, and my generally lower quality of sleep. Hoping that the slower pace (and lower heart rates) will actually mean good performance at my spring races.

Next week is another build week -- with a nineteen or twenty mile long run next Saturday. Should be close to fifty miles for the week. I am very hopeful about taking it day by day next week, and hopefully getting some good twenty milers in before Eastern States. I usually don't have many under my belt this time of year because of the cold. If things keep up, and given my new winter gear, I hopefully can handle whatever comes up.

These quality weeks are really important to me, so I'm taking a "day by day" approach to seeing that the runs get done for this next week.

Happy two month birthday to my daughter. She gave us plenty of smiles today as we hung out, and seems to be feeling better (no soreness) after her first round of vaccinations last week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

This Week So Far

20 miles into this week (which I hope to end at about 40 miles.) Started off very cold, so I had to switch a couple of days around. Then it got really warm, and wet. Started off running through sub 0 wind chills, now there's almost no snow left.

I've still been running in my spikes, if only because they are coated in rubber so they keep my feet dry. I have a normal non-spiked set of Tabi boots but they aren't rubber coated, and also they are white. I like the look of them in white, but in these conditions they would be mud brown after one run so I'm waiting until it dries out more to run in them.

Lots of doctors appointments this week, as well as tours of day cares. I've been impressed with the day care programs we have seen so far.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Importance of the Tribe

Humans are a tribal species. Being an endurance athlete and lover of minimalism, born to run, and the running man theory I love the idea of humans in tight tribal groups roaming the earth and surviving off hunter gatherer skills. Evolving to an agrarian society where farming sustained us was an obvious next step with our higher order thinking skills, but it is interesting to me that we kept family and tribal units in place. Back in college a concept that was communicated to me by some folks was this idea that true human strength comes from not having to rely on others.

The idea goes that there are degrees of self reliance, and the people I spoke to on the subject seemed to think that the greatest amount of self reliance (needing no people at all, not even for social purpose.) also were the strongest. In this sense, considering the ability to be alone not for long stretches -- but completely -- to be a true virtue.

That idea may really work for some, but it isn't an idea that I can even really fathom completely. I rely so much on other people throughout my everyday life. I have a strong network of friends and family who offer all sorts of support, as I do for them. My work colleagues are some of the most reliable and supportive people I know, and with varying degrees of resilience I know I have people in my social circle who can help me out with any one thing.

This is part of the reason I think the secular god parents were so important. Any situation my child finds herself in, I want her to have people to turn to who have experienced similar things. People who can offer perspective. I'll offer a couple of anecdotes to back this up. This isn't a science blog, so anecdotal evidence will have to suffice.

My wife and I have thrown a thanksgiving party for our friends for about nine years now. We typically buy and prepare all the food and do the entire event as a family thanksgiving. "Friendsgivings" are pretty common events now, but they weren't as ubiquitous when we were younger, so as much of a hipster as it makes me I feel like we got to that party early. It was a good one to set. It has always been a really good time. It has more closely resembled a family thanksgiving over the last couple of years especially, as some friends move to other parts of the country and make the trek back to catch up. These people are really important to me. They're a family I chose, and I would do anything for them. I didn't realize how much that was reciprocated until this year (2015.)

In 2015 we decided to do the event pot-luck because with my wife being seven months pregnant we didn't feel we could do all of the work ourselves. I prepped and made the turkey still (which I don't eat, but that's another thing altogether) and got things set up so folks could use whatever they wanted of our kitchen equipment. People arrived early, spent a lot of time catching up, preparing food, helping to lay out the table decorations. It was a great time.

We sat down at the table, and I gave a brief toast. I don't usually do those. In my head I build them up to be these big sentimental things, and I'll go out on my long runs and write and re-write versions of the toast where I tell my friends how much they mean to me. Ultimately when the time comes I can't imagine burdening the event with that kind of solemnity and somberness and nostalgia so I usually make a couple of quick jokes say "cheers" and we dig into the meal and social stimulation.

This time was a little different in that I did thank everyone for their help not only with the meal but their support as we started this new chapter of our lives. It was sappy, no doubt, but also brief.

Once the actual dinner was over a few folks waved my wife into the living room, where she sat down in a big chair. Before she knew it most everyone was in the living room or dining room sitting around, talking and catching up. All the dish washing, putting away leftovers, storing decorations, moving furniture to its original spots, had all been divided up and thoroughly conquered.

The next day a friend came back over to help me put up our Christmas tree. It took us a couple of hours with the decorating and such, but it was such a tremendous help. This same friends came over a week after the New Year started to help me break down the tree. I was so sleep deprived at that point that I had gone to take a nap, my wife had the baby, and when I woke up said friend had packed the entire tree, all the decorations, and was vacuuming the floor of my living room.

It is hard to explain the immense feeling of gratitude in that situation.

Humans are a really tribal species. Back in the day we had tribes, grouped ourselves by common ancestors, resource needs, whatever. Now we group ourselves based on social compatibility, shared interest and cultural similarity. I actually really like having a diverse group of people around me, so I'm not so sure about cultural similarity. But culture is complicated, so I guess whatever works. My friends are people I met mostly through school, music, or maybe video game interests. Some of them I've known for a very long time, and some of them it feels like I've known for a very long time. We have a million variables in our existence which allow us to find compatibility with any number of people.

Running proves this to me time and time again. The number of times I've been in a race, running along someone and not talking -- just adding power to the pack. Instinctually, we fall into a rhythm where our form tightens up to match one another. I don't say, "Mind if I run with you?" I'm self-conscious. I would never want to assume my performance equal or greater than someone else's. We fall into form, begin shuffling through the course.

By the time we are three quarters through the race -- if the field has thinned down and I'm running with one person -- by that point I usually know their name, a few other races they've run, and sometimes we even share strategy and begin acting as pack hunters. Sometimes we don't speak the same language, and that makes things really interesting. But generally there is a sense of trenches camaraderie, and a desire to help each other through.

"We can drop a few of these people on the next climb. Just need to hold strength over the rise so we don't get overtaken on the other side,"

So now you're in a situation where you are really in a pack in the race, even if it is just a pack of two. Suddenly you feel like a different animal -- not a loner -- an animal with a pack and a sense of purpose. Maybe you started off unsure of where you'd place, or how you would perform, but in this moment having someone to talk to can distract you or even offer an acknowledgement that it is OK to be where you are. Knowing someone in a race can change the entire experience for the better.

We evolved to be with each other. We evolved to support each other, share strategy, and grow together. It is an idea I find tremendously comforting -- even among a crowd of complete strangers, you are never completely alone.

Asking for help is something that can be really hard. I never really appreciated that until a couple of months ago. Things started to really pile up on us, with my wife running on very little sleep, and with me trying to handle everything in the house as well as feeling the pressure to take care of my wife and child. Our families have not come through for us with regards to the support. I guess it isn't really possible to the level that we expected, but it ended up being far less support than we expected.

I ended up reaching out to multiple friends on the Sunday of MLK weekend and saying, "I'm calling in all my favors. If I ever did anything for you, I need you to do something for me now,"

My friends are incredible. They agreed to take a night of the week to come by and help me with the chores. In exchange I'll plan to have some crock pot meals going to that they can eat. Honestly, though, just having help to tidy the house, run the dishwasher, change the laundry all makes a huge difference. It means my wife and I can focus on our dear girl. My wife can focus on getting some sleep (and the postpartum mood issues make that difficult enough, more on that in later posts.) I can focus on getting in a run, getting some dinner in me, and then getting to sleep so I can relieve my wife in the early hours of the morning.

I find that I'm battling the drive to clean my house on days that my friends are coming over to do that -- I know that sounds silly. I'm conditioned to clean my house when we're having company. My wife has to remind me to sit down and chill when it is one of those evenings. No sense in burning myself out. Additionally, the time I spend doing chores is time I spend away from my wife, and we need to be together to aid in her recovery.

I am very grateful for the support of my friends. They have been incredible. If I do actually survive training through this winter, my performance at Big Sur will be dedicated to them.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day

Oh holy cow. It is cold outside. -8 with the windchill. I muscled through my long run yesterday (cutting it short by two miles) but I think I'm going to take today off to avoid the frostbite. I have good gear for running in cold weather, but given how long it took me to recover from yesterday's run I'm not sure it is a good call to go out again today. Tomorrow should be up to 31 (wind chill of -1) so it will be much more comfortable.

By Tuesday we're back into the 50s, because this weather is stupid.

Making dinner and a layer cake tonight for my wife. We'll have dinner late (I imagine with the baby strapped to my chest, or if we can, with her napping in the rock and play.) Otherwise it will be a day filled with chores and I may even get some video games in!

If you're in New England, I hope you stay warm and get to spend some time with loved ones today!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Winter Running (Follow-up)

Today I went out for my long run, which I had planned for about 14 miles. Being that the windchill had it feeling like -3 I cut the run a little short, stopping at just over 12 miles.

The wind was really biting, and man, thank goodness I have some really good winter running gear. I ended up hugging the bike path for the little shelter that the trees lining it offer from the wind. Running headfirst into the burts of wind and over the sheets of ice on the bike path I definitely worked as hard as I would on a longer run in ideal conditions.

I am feeling it right now.

If you are a New Englander I hope you are taking care if you head out to train in these conditions. We are a hearty people, and humans are capable of a lot, but I still worry about my own well being when it is this cold.

Hopefully the arctic vortex passes soon and I'll be able to run as planned this next week. I've finally registered for the Eastern States, and I can't wait to run it for a third time!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Winter Running

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again. 

--Robert Louis Stevenson, Windy Nights

I have written here before about the anticipation and slight fear I feel before going out in long races. I have a similar sort of concern about the weather, and a lot of it is tied to the season. I very rarely am concerned about going out for runs in the fall or spring, in the very hot season of summer, or the bitter cold and wet of winter I get very preoccupied not with the run, but instead with my safety.

Over the years of reading about endurance athletes who work in similar or harsher climates I have come to realize that the human body is capable of enduring a lot more than we think it is. It is just hard for me to build up a trust in myself about preparing for those conditions. This means that I have headed out into the winter under-dressed. I've headed out onto the ice sheets New Englanders call roads before with no spikes on (lesson learned: wear spikes.) Conversely, I have run the Eastern States 20 miler two years in a row overdressed, and it slowed me down incredibly.

Still, there is something I really love about winter running. I like the challenge of it, the feeling that I've really accomplished something different from my "normal" routine. I like the new look on a place that I have grown so accustomed to.

I am also forced to be really creative when it comes to running post-large snowfalls. My little section of my little city becomes impossible to leave, because our neighborhood is surrounded by main roads, and the sidewalks become impossible to traverse. Last year I ended up doing loops on mile long roads to get in my runs -- it was an exercise which built a lot of mental toughness but also helped me with my endurance, because I was forced to turn every workout into a hill workout. As February has become snowy, I've found that having a good set of Tabi boots has really helped me venture out of the neighborhood, even with the built up snow. We will see how long that lasts, though. The problem around here isn't so much that we get snow, but how much we get of it and then where to put all of that snow. It can make for tricky, if not impossible conditions for pedestrians.

Last year Vibram came out with a waterproof version of the shoe that I used to wear by them -- the Bikila. I intended to try that out, but I have been disappointed by my last couple of pairs of Vibrams. The first pair I owned held up to about 1,500 miles on the roads. They broke down at the end of that, but I was so impressed I bought two more pairs to rotate, and those died out on me at about 400 miles. That isn't terrible, but it isn't the same quality I had in the first pair.

Another problem I've had in previous years is finding the correct traction on the ice -- a problem I remedied by using YakTrax running spikes strapped to my Vibrams. This was rough on the shoes, though, and actually ended up holding large chunks of ice between my toes -- not ideal for two hour plus runs. I've also found that the winter in New England is rough on the YakTrax. They're made for running on sheets of ice, a condition we very rarely have here in southern New England. More often we have large expansive pockets of slush with large sections of ice. The spikes are nice for those sections, but over time they get chewed up from the amount of asphalt that they end up striking. I ended up buying two pairs last season and changing out the removable spikes mid-season.

I am still a big time Vibram fan (although I also like running barefoot) but given these QA problems I decided to try some other stuff out for winter. If you have been reading the blog for awhile you know that I've been running in a $40 pair of Tabi spiked boots that have been getting me through this winter well as I train for Big Sur. As of this writing they have 62 miles on them, and they've taken a moderate amount of wear. They don't really need to last me more than February, I figure, but even if I had to re-order, I'd still be spending less than last year's two pairs of YaxTrax and one pair of Vibrams.

I wanted to look into snow-shoe running this winter, too. We had three fairly sizable storms last year, and living very close to the bike path I was frustrated at the three or so months it was completely unusable. If I had some snow shoes it would be easier to get some miles in and really see some neat stuff out on the path.  Between the inconsistent snowfall, and the added expenses of our growing family that is looking unlikely at this point. Besides that, the Tabi I've been wearing are also well waterproofed so I have been able to use the bike path a bit more while staying dry.

If I end up purchasing snow shoes at some future date, I'm sure I will blog about that at length here as well. One of the other advantages it would give me is a change to do some real climbing: the bike path near me has more elevation gain than most of my neighborhood. Could be helpful in training for Big Sur.

We'll see how they hold up, but I'm happy with them. I may even buy a set of normal Jika tabi to try out in the spring!

On the fatherhood front, I am lucky for the snow we get, because it generally means less time at work and more time at home. The baby is now able to focus on our faces, and she smiles and even giggles. It is hard to explain the feeling -- for the first few weeks they don't really interact, and now that she can interact with us more I feel like all the loss of sleep and stress is worth it. So cool.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Once again today we had a snow day. That means I have spend four days at home, and figured an update should be in the works. So, with my napping seven-week-old daughter in her boba wrap on my chest, here is a little update on how things have been at the home front.

My wife had a successful appointment with a doctor to discuss the postpartum depression and anxiety symptoms we had both noticed. It took a full week from the time we spoke to the OB about it to get the referral, and then another week to schedule an appointment. I was distressed at how long this took, and I am here to tell you if you are a parent or new dad in the same situation: harass the doctor's office about it. It is absolutely what they deserve, because OB doctors (at least the ones we have seen) don't seem to take these issues seriously. Since patients of OB doctors are people likely to experience postpartum mood disorders, I find this absurd. Don't feel bad about bugging them for help that you or your partner need.

I was surprised to learn some of the things that had actually been going through my wife's head, although they are thoughts typical for PPD/PPA sufferers. I was very impressed with the way the doctor listened, offered measured, neutral advice as to how to proceed. Ultimately my wife chose to try a pharmaceutical option as well as perinatal therapy. I have noticed a huge change just in the past week -- we are happy together and interacting with our beloved daughter, and things have a greater sense of calm in our home.

Our beloved daughter has also been reacting to our faces and smiling -- and I can't explain the feeling from this. It is something above happy to have her interact with us. Prior to this she would cry when she needed something, but there was so little interaction that it made the extra demands (lack of sleep, lack of time to eat, etc.) really take a toll on us. This addition is... very fulfilling.

She has also been in love with the clock in our bedroom. I had bought this clock a bunch of years ago to hang in my study. It has a pendulum on it that swings back and forth. When I turned the music room into our master bedroom this past fall, I neglected to move it into the basement where my study is now, so it is right over the bed. My wife says she stares at it all day, and smiles and giggles at it. The clock is really comforting to her... for whatever reason.

She also really likes the elephant print we have up in her nursery, right over the changing pad. The whole nursery is elephant themed, and again we had this print for a long time so we decided to hang it up over the dresser. She smiles whenever she sees it, which is every time she gets her diaper changed. I suppose it is better that she associates that with happy things, though.

So today on this second snow day I have spent a lot of time with the baby, wearing her close to my chest and letting her sleep. My wife is getting some rest in. The plan is that in a bit we will make some cookies together, which I am very excited about. Those of you who have read Scott Jurek's Eat and Run will possibly remember the mention of "cookies made with whole wheat flour, peanut butter, and oats". I decided to do some research, looked around and found a lot of mention of them, but no recipe.

After having heard so much about them I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted something similar, and my wife, who is a tremendous baker came up with a recipe. We use really good ingredients -- I usually even splurge for high quality butter. We call them "thunder cookies" after the cookies described in Jurek's book, which come from the Positively 3rd St. Bakery in Duluth, Minnesota. I have no idea if our cookies are anywhere close to the cookies at the bakery, but I like them and find them to be a great joy as I train through the cold winter months.

I will post an update with the recipe for these Thunder Cookies once we have made them! Our recipe is a basic cookie recipe tweaked to get to a place that we really like.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Recovery Sunday

5.4 miles tonight. The tabi spikes are still holding up well -- bossing through the ice and handling the rougher terrain around it well. There are a couple of spikes that have started to wear down, hopefully they will last me through February and March, though. I shouldn't need them much after that, but who knows with how unpredictable the weather has been.

In that same area, I'm planning to move up my post on winter running to this week. We're looking at more snow. I usually have about 10 or so posts out scheduled, so that I can work on them and add things, so look for the post on winter running this week.

Starting to feel really excited for Eastern States, and Big Sur after that.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Long Run

Went out for just over 16 miles today. Planned to cover the time in around 2:30, and came in at 2:35 so very happy with that effort. I had to divert my route in areas because the snow was so thick (with sheets of ice under it) that it just made for a tremendous amount of plodding in the spike boots.

I did decide to run on the uncleared bike path for part of the run, which was just beautiful:

Out tomorrow for a 5 mile recovery run. My plan has this next week as a dial-back, but because I dropped my speedwork this week it will still be a slight build week. That is OK, though. I'm still feeling strong, and I'm hoping taking it easier on my easy runs will keep me in good shape and injury free for the races.

Now time to go roll out my legs, and hit the showers.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Broken Headphones, 7 miles, and a Social Club

Got out for 7 miles tonight before getting together to have a couple of beers and play cards with friends. The miles were labor-some -- I skipped my speedwork this week because of time-consuming doctor's appointments -- but with all the walking and carrying things I'm doing at work it is taking a toll on me.

By mile 4 I'm usually back to a place where the running at least feels easy, though. The 'skip' button on my headphones is shot again. Happens usually after the moisture build up becomes too much for the headphones. For now they still work but I'll need to stick with listening to books or podcasts on long runs as it is really frustrating to not be able to skip songs on shuffle.

Tomorrow is a rest day so I'll take it easy. Additionally the snow may keep us house bound, but I'm still planning to throw on my lovely waterproof spikes and head out for a long run Saturday snow be damned.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

the Egg Drop Project

When I was in middle school we held a big competition in our science classes to see who could construct a safe chamber to protect an egg that was to be dropped off of a ladder, then increasing heights up until the roof of the building. If you are in my age range, you probably did a similar project, because a quick google search shows all sorts of lesson plans, videos, and other resources.

From what I recall, my group managed to do OK. We survived at least one drop. I don't remember much other than the construction process, and the actual dropping. Whatever happened after is a bit of a blur.

It is a lesson on gravity, really. Also it deals with resourcefulness, as you have to construct the chamber with certain materials.

I bring this experiment up because lately I'm feeling like this is rather like this last month and a half of my life. My wife and I have been in various stages of "complete disaster" with the lack of sleep, mood swings from ppd, adjustment to odd new social norms (other people vacuuming my living room has been really tough for me) and for me the addition of going to work and trying to maintain my work commitments and still be present and supportive at home.

We have our good days and bad days, and we have stretches of them where things seem really impossible -- communication starts to break down and we need to slow everything down and reassess.

The baby is perfect, though. She is happy, she babbles and makes all sorts of vocalizations, cries, eats, gets changed, and sleeps in really irregular intervals.

I feel like we are throwing ourselves through a really hard-to-survive gauntlet of social and emotional challenges, all with the goal of protecting and nurturing this perfect little parcel. We are certainly going to come out with some scrapes and bruises. We're going to have our share of battle scars. But we're doing everything we can to protect our child and make sure that she comes through OK. We have learned a lot in this last month and a half.

My wife is a really tough woman. She takes a lot of the responsibility on, and it can be hard to talk her out of that sometimes. This past week I have been trying to prioritize her care as well, though. I know some of the separation anxiety that comes with PPD/PPA is part of that. Hopefully the doctor's appointment she has coming up will help with that. She can just be very strong headed about it at times, and at the very best it means less rest for her -- at the worst it makes me feel like a terrible partner who is incapable of helping.

I understand that these feelings and mood changes aren't her fault, and since we've been talking about that we have been fighting less and working as a team more. Heck, I've noticed my own array of mood swings popping up, and I can only think that that is due to my own history with depression and this new stress combined with the lack of sleep.

Everything I've read on PPD/PPA seems to suggest that communication is the most important part in surviving the condition, so we are continuing to put effort into our communication. We had a really rough weekend, and the days continued to be rough up through today so I'm putting my time into my family and making sure that my wife gets some rest today. I'll cook dinner later and make sure that she is very well prepared for the next couple of days. It is a situation that is really hard to predict, but hopefully if we can get the anxiety sorted she will be able to sleep for more than two hours at a stretch.

My wife's family has stepped up -- tidying up the entire house and nursery yesterday, which really did good things for our mental state. The biggest misconception people have about raising a newborn is this idea that what parents need relief from is the child. This couldn't be further from the truth. Being in this situation my first priority is always to my wife and child, myself and then the pets. I make time to bag and gather trash, but I have found it much harder to run out the door to throw things out. I find it nearly impossible to put things in their right place. So the house gets cluttered fairly quickly. People helping on this matter is really awesome.

Due to a number of really late work commitments my training really suffered last week. I have been telling myself I will really start training seriously in February, so that would be this next week. Given that, taking a few days off won't kill me. I'll still be in good shape to hit the roads. Eastern States is going to count as a long training run in my plan for Big Sur, so I am not terribly worried about the pace for it. I would like to keep it around three hours, but I may try to push it a bit at the end depending on how I am feeling.

I've managed to cover 28 miles in the last four days. A 14 mile long run followed by 7 miles of recovery and 7 miles easy the day after. My easy run last night really felt easy. I felt as if I was gliding up the hills, even if I wasn't cutting the ideal clip.

Today is cross training so I will do some strength and core exercise. I am looking into a stationary mount for my bike -- I don't bike much, but I could put some time in for aerobic cross-training purposes. We'll see how that goes but I'll need to pick up the equipment for the stationary mount sooner than later as the New England winter can hit really hard in February and March.