Category Archives: Baby

Posts about baby things related or unrelated to my particular baby.

Strider bike world championships 2017

My Kid Raced World’s — Strider Bike World Championships 2017

My 4-year-old just raced in the Strider Bike World Championship.

Everyone always thinks that my husband and I are going to push our kids because we’re athletes. Honestly, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact last year, when the Strider Bike World Cup came to Salt Lake, we signed her up for fun, and she finished dead last. I think. I really don’t know, but it was super fun and she loved her purple jersey. If you don’t know about the Strider bike, they are no-pedal balance bikes that have replaced training wheels as a first bike. Click here for more info.

strider bike world championships 2017

Pre-race snack time in the race wagon

Since her debut, she has raced bikes exactly zero times, but she has gotten much smoother at her run-run-run-coast. She’s no longer dismounting for cracks in the sidewalk, so that’s impressive.

At some point I always feel like I failed her a little. Some of her local peers have already pedaled into year four and left the Strider behind. I haven’t taken her to the pump track (I am going to). But she loves riding her little green bike, and when she doesn’t, we do something else. At first, she didn’t want to ride it at all. I said nothing. Over time she has really picked it up, and now it’s usually her first transportation choice.

strider bike world championships 2017

Under the rainbow, heading for the finish

When Strider announced they would be holding the World Championships in Salt Lake—and that there was no qualification—we figured, “hey, why not!”

Serious Strider Bike Racing

This year’s event was serious. There was no day-of registration. Packet pickup was the night before, and there was…bike inspection. Ten years racing on the road, cyclocross, and mountain, and the only place I ever had a bike inspection was racing a crit in Canada.

strider bike world championships 2017

Serious business at the start line

We scored a nice one-hour street spot in downtown Salt Lake on Friday and I lugged both kids, two Striders and a wagon over to check-in. I was a little nervous—after all, we accidentally smashed her bike last week and I spent nap time on Thursday moving her old parts to a new frame. Once a dirt bag bike racer, always a dirt bag bike racer—it’s easier to sell new parts. Much like IKEA, the whole thing requires a 10mm crescent and a 5mm allen wrench, aka the two tools you could always find in my shop apron in the 90’s. I just hoped I had tightened it all down just right.

It turns out the inspection was more about making sure the bikes were Striders and not modified beyond the rules. Yup, you should have seen some of these bikes. I think I saw the winner of the 5-year-old class had deep dish carbon rims—I’m not joking. Strider makes aluminum stock frames, and with that there are numerous nice parts you can use. The bikes come with solid rubber tires, and I’m sure the upgraded pneumatic rubber takes corners better. But alas, we’re just getting to the point of coasting, so we’re good.

Race Day

We rolled up on race day with a decent breakfast in her belly. For her. As in, when she attempted to eat an actual cup of sugar I didn’t let her. I am in no way exaggerating this—it happened. She was very excited that this year’s jersey colors included pink, and that there was a fountain nearby she could jump in after the race.

strider bike world championships 2017

They’re off! It was a clean race

Over 400 toddlers and preschoolers, ages 2-5, race a heat and a main event depending on their heat finish. Now I’ve been around to some bike races, and I even did a handful of road and cyclocross World Cups. The Strider toddler races are easily some of the best-run events I have ever seen. Last year was good, this year was unreal. The heats were listed on a big LCD screen. Within minutes of each heat, they had results and seeds set up for the main races. Miss M. rode across the finish line and back to the start, where they had her next race seed set up.

Before her start, she rode a couple of parade laps. There was a pretty big downhill ramp on the course that she initially didn’t ride, but after another lap she figured it out. Those are the times I am most proud—not at the finish or about results, but seeing her take a calculated risk after assessing the situation.

strider bike world championships 2017

Lined up for the D Main, game face on

When she lined up for her first race, she was pretty enamored with the helmet on the kid next to her. It had owls on it. She also made some polite start line conversation. “Your bike is blue. Mine’s green,” and, “I’m 4, how old are you?” But when they said go, it actually looked like bike racing—albeit a little slower and with more smiles. The serious contenders were off in seconds, but the rest were running their little legs off too.

As professional as it was, every Strider representative I came across was all about fun. The starter gave high-fives and knucks down the row every race. The announcer managed to pronounce every name—all 400+ kids, many from Utah—as they came through the final stretch. In our case, he even included her nickname.

Strider Bike Racing

After the first heats, every 1st place finisher moves to the A Main event. Those are the kids racing for the overall championship. They run a main for each placing, and M made the D main this year. That means she finished in about the top half of 100 4-year-olds. For us, that’s a win. After all, last year she was just about last. Both years though, she was smiling, because in a bike race it isn’t “winner” and “loser” because there aren’t just two teams.

strider bike world championships 2017

Between race hot laps of the park, game face still on

The course is part grass, part pavement, with some obstacles like ramps, grates, tunnels, etc. Nothing super scary. We didn’t sign up our 2-year-old because blades of grass or sprinklers sidetrack him. It turns out the same goes for half the kids. While the winner of that race could probably have given the 4-year-olds a run for their money, there were many who had to be gently redirected back to the course by one of the many Strider race crew on course.

International Competition

The competition was fierce, and most of it came from Japan, where Strider racing is huge. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when discussing an international competition among at least twelve countries that includes the two to five age group is, “gross.” At least that’s what I say about most kids’ athletics.

Believe me when I say that aside from reminding M how the start goes, we don’t “train” or “practice”. It’s clearly a very serious activity in Japan, and the matching jerseys, tricked out bikes, and utter speed of these kids was nothing short of amazing. But kids are kids. I watched the eventual third-place boy hit the deck so hard warming up…full superman. He got up and was crying, and there was his mom, with a tissue and a hug. Like most 4-year-olds, he was off again in two minutes.

The atmosphere around the Strider bike races covers the entire spectrum—from international super stars of the sport to kids having a blast on two wheels. Strider makes larger bikes for kids with special needs who don’t move to pedal bikes right at five, and they have a race for those kids too. It’s inclusive, it’s positive, and it’s fun.

strider bike world championships 2017

Trophies only went to the top three, but everyone got a medal

Miss M made her way around the course in about the middle of the pack. She didn’t fall, need redirection, or chop anyone. When you think about it, for most bike racers, that’s considered a pretty good day. She had a cheering section of three grandparents, two awesome friends and their baby, Mom, Dad, and little brother. And when it was all over, after a quick bite of a PB and J, she got to ride right through that fountain, little green Strider, pink jersey, and all.

 

 

 

 

 

The Skiing Toddler

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I often find myself writing the article I was trying to find on the Internet but couldn’t. Under “skiing toddler” there was some information, but I was having a hard time nailing it down. So we got some tiny skis, dressed M in her winter finery and jumped in with both feet. And now, here’s that piece I was looking for.

Background

M turned two in mid-November. She weighs about twenty pounds and is just over two feet tall, coming in at barely the single digits in percentile for her age. So, just like mommy, finding sports gear is a bit of a challenge. Luckily there are some people crazier than us who start kids even younger, so we were able to find some gear.

Since she started walking late (17 months), I had some doubt as to how liberally to use the word “skiing” for what we might accomplish this season, so we entered into the adventure with the attitude that we would be introducing some fun new gear and playing in the snow.

Supplies

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What gets packed to go up the hill.

Obviously the kid needs warm clothes, and there are so many wonderful things to choose from at the Patagonia outlet that will never, ever wear out before they are outgrown. We also got lucky through www.sierratradingpost.com, Costco and REI as well as a local second hand ski store in Salt Lake called 2nd Track Sports. They have an eBay store as well. Level Nine Sports is another great option for new, but very reasonably priced baby gear.

Long underwear: Hers is probably nicer than mine. Patagonia capilene. She still fits in her 12 month sized onsie and pants. Messes just bounce off these. It’s her second pair since infanthood and they are baby-proof. REI also has some synthetic long underwear sets for kids that are really nice.

Pants: We opted for an inexpensive pair of black insulated bibs. She is not potty trained yet, so this is feasible. It would be difficult if she were potty training and perhaps we would have looked for pants. (We’re waiting until after ski season to work that in).

Jacket: Her go-to winter coat is a Patagonia Down Sweater. It isn’t super heavy and isn’t appropriate for wet conditions, but then again, taking a toddler skiing in a wet storm isn’t really appropriate (or fun) either.

Mittens: Surprisingly we found an awesome pair of Head brand mittens at Costco. They have zippers up the side and are really long. We put them on before the coat and they never come off. The side zippers are such a huge bonus for squeezing little uncooperative hands into mittens. Don’t worry about the thumbs.

Buff: I got her an adult-sized Buff. It reaches from under her chin to over her head easily and creates a nice transition from jacket to helmet.

Helmet: This was an internal debate for me. On one hand, skiing with the level of supervision I anticipated, it really didn’t seem necessary yet. On the other hand, I wanted to create the habit immediately. I ended up finding a used Giro, who start their sizes at an XS to fit the smallest kids. The idea of a used helmet was a second debate, but after inspecting it I decided that it was barely used. As she gets older I will likely only buy new ones.

Goggles: Seems silly, but honestly, it is more comfortable and she can see better. There was a tiny pair of Smith’s used next to the goggles and I got them. They have been a popular item with her.

Socks: REI has excellent ski socks for toddlers. They are thick and come in fun colors long

Size 16.5, one size bigger than the smallest available.

Size 16.5, one size bigger than the smallest available.

enough for the boots.

Poles: No way am I giving ski poles to a toddler!

Boots: Here’s where I started to have trouble finding information, so I’m giving it up here. The smallest size that seems to be available is a 15.5 mondo. That’s approximately a 15.5 cm long foot. Here’s a mondo chart with toddler shoe sizes. The boots I found were 16.5 and a bit big. What I found is, they are so stiff and proportionally tall, you can get away with them being slightly big. Also, it’s really hard to get a toddler to tell you how a boot fits. You could probably take the liner out and size them, but honestly, if a boot were to fit the kid correctly today, chances are it won’t next week. We found some at 2nd Tracks, and Level 9 had an excellent selection. Fischer and Dalbello are the two brands that seem to make lots of tiny boots.

Skis. 70cm, smallest available. Ernie and Elmo stickers to use as a teaching tool later.

Skis. 70cm, smallest available. Ernie and Elmo stickers to use as a teaching tool later.

Skis: The shortest skis on the market are 70cm. While it’s one thing to buy the boots a little big, opt for the shortest possible skis. Here’s why: The longer the ski, the more surface area on the snow, and the faster they go. It would be far better for a kid to ski a “too small” ski as they grow, than for them to be skiing giant skis at first. The bindings can even be re-drilled for a bigger boot if you want to get a little more use. We also found these at a second hand store, never used once.

Wedge-ease: Those little clips that keep the tips together and keep the skis in a wedge. There are a bunch of brands out there – I found some from Lucky Bums on Amazon that work well. An added side benefit of this product is that they keep the skis together for the inevitable, unpredictable tantrum with kicking legs that undoubtedly will happen. This is your warning. They give no additional warning. The clips also save you the trouble of going back down for the ski they kick off on the chairlift (I speak from experience).

Ski harness: Also a Lucky Bums. I didn’t think we’d use it this year, but I got it because I wanted an extra handle to use to contain her. It turns out we are using it lots, and our backs are so very thankful.

A word on rentals: There are two ways to rent skis for kids. If you live in a ski town, there are

Ski harness. Cute factor of 10 for the small backpack, usefulness factor "goes to 11."

Ski harness. Cute factor of 10 for the small backpack, usefulness factor “goes to 11.”

often places that have deals where they will sell you a kid’s package of rentals, and each year they will trade them for bigger sizes. There are also deals where you buy skis and they will accept them for sale towards your next purchase. These are excellent options that we considered, and would have looked harder had we not found really good deals. We also know we’re having another kid, so we’ll hand them down.

The second way to rent is a standard rental. The shops in ski resorts do have the tiny sizes (Alta and Snowbird both have really nice stuff). However, they rent for a half-day at the least. Although I am thrilled to pieces by our current ski progress, there hasn’t been a single outing that has lasted longer than about an hour. We considered trying this to see if she was interested, but then we decided that one day of disinterest doesn’t mean anything with a toddler. If your skiing experience will be a week of vacation and that’s it, a weeklong rental might actually be a better option, because then they don’t need to be transported and they will be available for use the entire trip.

The First Day

Neat treats. Won't melt in your mouth OR your hands. Or your pocket, or their goggles, face and hands.

Neat treats. Won’t melt in your mouth OR your hands. Or your pocket, or their goggles, face and hands.

I loaded a bag of mini marshmallows into my pocket. Why? She’s not a dog, but I thought maybe a treat could be useful. These are less messy than MnM’s (again, I speak from experience).

Remember your first day on skis? I sure do. I was twelve, it was ski club at a tiny resort in Cleveland, and I stood in line and picked up my rentals. Life was rough in the 80’s, and you had to reach down and put your bindings on. And the stuff was heavy – disproportionally so for a smaller than average kid. Now imagine your stuff weighed half of you. That’s what it’s like to be two. So when I left the house (alone, with my toddler and pregnant), I didn’t even know if we would set foot on the ski slope. It was entirely possible we wouldn’t make it out of the car.

I left her strapped in while I put on my own gear. This is the ski equivalent to “secure your own

Bluebird days, ski buddies, selfies...we did it all our first day! Even Mr. Monkey came skiing.

Bluebird days, ski buddies, selfies…we did it all our first day! Even Mr. Monkey came skiing.

mask before helping others”. Because that timer starts the very second the child can’t move in all that stuff, so you’d better be ready to move. Think Randy from Christmas Story. I got her pants, gloves (before jacket), jacket, buff, boots, helmet and goggles on in that order. Fast. You must work quickly. I got a great parking spot within a few feet of the top of Chickadee at Snowbird and had already trucked our skis over the snow mound. I scooped her up and went.

First of all, those boots are very awkward. Remember that first time? Now imagine having just learned to walk. She wasn’t sure what to make of the boots, the snow, the chairlift…so we played in the snow a bit until she declared loudly, “I want to ride the chairlift.” Oops. I really hadn’t counted on that. Remember, I thought we’d maybe not leave the car. I had already tried to put her skis on, but she kicked and yelled, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was THAT MOM, so I let her be. But now she insisted on riding that chair. She agreed to the skis when I told her that was the only way to the bottom.

Tip #1. There will be yelling about putting on the skis. You’re not a bad parent for putting on the skis. If the yelling stops, there you go. If not, maybe take them off and try again later.

So there we were, with M between my legs, me bending over and slowly snowplowing, while suddenly she’s yelling “whee” and “skiing”! I stopped because I thought she was upset. It turns out that stopping makes her angry, so off we went.

The first day they are not skiing. You are skiing. They are dangling. Your back is killing you. But they catch on fast!

The first day they are not skiing. You are skiing. They are dangling. Your back is killing you. But they catch on fast!

The whole way down the hill, which is at least three times longer than my first ski run was at twelve, I was wondering how I was going to get back up. The thought of putting this possibly kicking and screaming toddler on a real chairlift was scary. Really scary. I had strapped on the little ski harness, giving me some hope that I could do this, but I was really considering walking back up the hill.

Tip #2: Just carry them onto the chair the first time. And if you ask ahead, the nice lift attendant will probably slow the chair down for you. If you’re skiing in a designated beginner area they are used to it, and it is actually better to ask ahead than cause an unplanned stop.

I hopped on with M, skis on the seat, holding her very tightly. I brought down the safety bar

Just like that, they're all grown up and skiing on their own. Not quite, but after two or three ski days our backs were in a much better place.

Just like that, they’re all grown up and skiing on their own. Not quite, but after two or three ski days our backs were in a much better place.

voluntarily for the first time ever so she wouldn’t push me off the lift. She loved it. In fact she asked to go “down down and ride the chairlift again”.

We took two more runs before my back was going to give out.

Tip #3: The first time, they are not skiing. You are skiing. They are dangling between your legs. Don’t forget to look up. Leave before you die or they freak out.

That was it; there were no tears and very little yelling. She got some mini-marshmallows and played in the snow some more and we left. A week later we went again, and that time she coasted for a few seconds between Daddy and me. She got some MnM’s.

Tip #4: MnM’s do melt in your mouth. If you’re two, mouth extends to “entire face”. See, those goggles were useful. Stick to neat treats.

We went a couple more times, and each time has surpassed our wildest expectations. I mean if you set the bar low, which you really should in this case, you won’t be disappointed. We were ready to leave upon arrival each time. Prepared to remove and replace skis multiple times. Prepared, even, to get that “look” from someone just like us, two years prior, who had never taken a toddler skiing. Instead we got to witness her ski an entire run standing on her skis, ride the magic carpet with assistance, and learn to sit still on the chairlift. And the season isn’t nearly over.

Keep moving! Even if it means playing in the snow. Remember, skiing is fun! Leave before it isn't.

Keep moving! Even if it means playing in the snow. Remember, skiing is fun! Leave before it isn’t.

Tip#5: Always leave the party while it’s still fun. Obvs. In fact, we normally leave about a week between outings and believe me, she doesn’t forget anything.

All told, the toddler skiing experience has been amazing. Would she learn just as fast if we waited until she was five? Likely. Is she learning to turn and stop? Probably not this year. What she’s doing is getting familiar with the activity and the equipment and seems to be having fun. And seeing her have fun skiing is enough to make any ski mom or dad’s heart full of joy; enough that I actually gave up a bluebird powder day to ski two runs with my sweet M and I didn’t mind one bit.

 

 

 

 

Training While Pregnant

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We’ve all heard about the lady who ran the Boston and then went to the hospital and had a baby. I didn’t do that… So let me get all opportunities for hate mail squared away right off the top. I trained within a new set of limits while pregnant, but I did not compete. I am also neither a doctor, nor a certified personal trainer, nor do I have any official background on the subject.  My qualifications are: I was pregnant and I had over 20 years of experience as a self-coached elite endurance athlete and knowledge of my own heart rate zones and patterns.

Hiking "Suicide Chute" in June at 16 weeks.

Hiking “Suicide Chute” in June at 16 weeks.

I became “with child” immediately when the competitive season ended. I was at the highest level of fitness I had been since retiring from full-time bike racing, and perhaps even higher as my heart rates were showing. This was my starting point.

First off, no doctor will ever publicly give an opinion about this because I’m sure someone would do something stupid and sue. My doctor said some things to me, most of them encouraging, but as a very experienced and trained athlete many of the pieces of advice he gave me that he thought were in agreement were very contradictory.

Beautiful trail ride in Grand Junction AKA Fruita. A little puffy.

Beautiful trail ride in Grand Junction AKA Fruita. A little puffy, about four months along.

“Keep your heart rate under 140.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that in 1985 and has since dropped it for a more reasonable (and less concrete) undetermined maximum depending on the person.  Numerous sites and sources hang on to this number for dear life and it might have driven me insane if I hadn’t researched it more. A max of 140 for me would have meant I could not have done this:

“Make sure you get some aerobic exercise, but keep it aerobic.” As in, it has to be a little bit more than 140 bpm in someone with a max of 190 and an aerobic threshold of 160 to actually do any good. The recommendation for pregnant women who have never exercised a day in their life is to start an exercise program. For me, 140 beats would not have qualified as exercise.  I hit 140 getting off the couch to go get a drink. If that’s a problem, it’s not related to being pregnant.

Along with the advice to keep it under 140, I also heard, “heart rates and heart rate monitors don’t work when you’re pregnant because your heart is going to behave differently.”  Ok, now how am I supposed to keep it under 140 if 140 isn’t 140 and my monitor isn’t really going to work?

Downclimbing a rock section. It looks steeper than it is.

Downclimbing a rock section on Suicide. It looks steeper than it is.

Finally, “ride your bike for 3 or 4 hours if you want, just keep it aerobic.” I guess he gave me the benefit of the doubt on knowing about hydration, nutrition and heat since I was riding in the high desert in the middle of summer.

And so I googled. And googled. And did some more googling. But I didn’t Bing, for the record.  And what I found were individual accounts by elite athletes like Dara Torres, who trained at swimming throughout her pregnancy and breastfed her baby in the locker room at the Olympic Trials.  There were a few others.  I won’t claim to be an Olympic caliber athlete, but at one time I almost was, and at the time I became pregnant I was in some of the best shape of my life. I was competing and keeping plenty of data on my performance and heart rates.  I would put myself closer to the top end than the majority of pregnant women.

There is almost no good source of information for the high-level athlete who is pregnant. In all fairness, it is unethical to study this truly scientifically; it has to be voluntary and self-reporting. And if the internet has taught us anything, self-reporting isn’t always very accurate.  After all the searching and plenty of unsolicited crappy advice from acquaintances who are not doctors, I pretty much had to go by a few decent rules that are universally agreed upon:

1. Do activities you are conditioned for already. If you’re not a cliff jumper, don’t start now.

2. If you can still talk in sentences, you’re not going too hard. That’s the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) method for “keeping it aerobic”.  Due to the fact that I don’t want hate mail, I won’t share what my “talk test” heart rate is, but I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t 140.

3. If there are warning signs (there is a list) stop immediately. This is the pregnancy of equivalent of, “Hey doc, it hurts when I do this!” (“Then don’t do it.”)

4. Strength training is great too as long as it is high rep/low weight. Maxing out on your clean and jerk is probably off limits, but weight lifting is acceptable as long as it is moderate and proper form is used. Ceasing to breathe or hyperventilation is not recommended, so again, maximum weight lifting is off the table. Proper technique is really important because your joints soften up and you can get injured pretty easily. I used plenty of bodyweight exercises…and there is an automatic increase in weight as you go.

5. Eat, drink and be merry. You are not really “eating for two”. In fact, you get about 300 calories a day extra for a baby. That’s less than one PB&J. But if you’re exercising lots, you need more. And you need to stay hydrated.

6. Don’t overheat. Don’t cook junior. I spent most of my pregnant exercise time in the summer in Utah, so it was closing in on 100 degrees every day. I worked out at 6 am, inside, or swam.

And so it was with that set of guidelines that I set out to try and keep myself in the best shape possible to return to competition after baby.  I wrote a periodized training plan that included very low intensity and slightly higher, but still aerobic intensity.  I also included strength training.

Skiing "Suicide Chute", AKA "Country Lane".

Skiing “Suicide Chute”, AKA “Country Lane”.

For those not in the know, a proper training plan increases in volume and intensity over a set period of time and then contains a rest period before ratcheting up again. When I wrote the plan I had no idea if I would be able to follow it, but for me, it had to be written.  It’s what I have always done, and it was a good way to make sure I had appropriate challenges and proper recovery.

As far as activities, I did what I had been doing with one exception. I took up swimming. I hadn’t really been in a pool since I was a lifeguard in high school 20 years ago, but swimming is universally accepted as the only sport it’s ok to start doing pregnant. And it ended up being a saving grace because I could take my workout to the pool if it was hot or when the weather was crappy in the fall, or finally when the pounding of fast walking was too much around 37 weeks.

Cycling.  My original, all-time go-to sport.  Some folks might be concerned about this one due to

Little Cottonwood Canyon, about 28 weeks. For once I was excited about the road work because of this photo-op.

Little Cottonwood Canyon, about 28 weeks. For once I was excited about the road work because of this photo-op.

the danger of falling off the bike. Certainly this falls under the “don’t take it up for the first time pregnant” category. But remember that I have spent twenty- five years on a bike and I happen to have a pretty good record as far as falling.  I felt perfectly safe riding on the roads and some trails. When I stopped it was because it had gotten too cold, and I was already at about 37 weeks. Many professional and former professional riders stay on their bike through their entire pregnancy.

I borrowed Jonathan’s old shorts and jerseys in order to accommodate the belly, and I had to get used to my knees bumping into it, but other than that I was able to get in many three-hour rides and a couple four-hour rides too.

Roller skiing: At the outset I eliminated this activity due to my single year of experience and how tedious I felt on those things. But I missed it (never thought I would say that).  So one day I tried it very carefully. It turned out that after another year on snow I was much better on these things. I alternated double-poling with no-pole skating. Not only was this safer, but it vastly improved my skating technique.

I vowed that the very first day I felt off-balance on them I would not do it again. I never experienced a moment when my balance felt impaired, but I just had a day when I didn’t feel 100% and I stopped around seven months.

The long hike up Timponogos for some August turns. I was about five months along and feeling pretty great.

The long hike up Timponogos for some August turns. I was about five months along and feeling pretty great.

Nordic Walking: When I gave up roller I walked and jogged with poles. Extra bonus: if your hands tend to swell when walking, walking with poles helps keep blood flowing in and retained water flowing out.

Swimming: First I had to reteach myself swimming. The first day I went I was about 5 months pregnant. Since the maternity suits were so lame (not athletic suits), I bought a size larger Speedo and jumped in. My swimming technique was so bad I barely made it across the pool without going anaerobic.

I googled swimming videos and watched a few, went back to the pool and tried to perfect my stroke. I got some fins, hand fins and a floatie. I did some flipper time to make me feel better, and then some arms only to perfect my stroke.  In a few weeks I had made it 1600 meters and finally 2000 meters.  I took some of my land-based interval training and translated it to the pool. I also learned how to swim easy in between, which was perhaps the most challenging part.

In the end I gained a new lifelong activity. I believe swimming helped me build muscle endurance in my arms for skiing that had lacked in my tyrannosaurus-rex cycling body.

Showing off my bump on Timp. This was obviously more fun than the skiing was, as it was raining.

Showing off my bump on Timp. This was obviously more fun than the skiing was, as it was raining.

Backcountry Skiing: Again, something I was already doing. In fact we had the single most prolific spring of ski mountaineering ever while I was between one and five months along. We bagged some of the most sought-after peaks and lines in the Wasatch by hiking with climbing skins at a very moderate pace and picking smooth lines down.  During the first few months the danger of injuring a baby due to a fall is minimal because it is still hiding behind the pelvic bone. My doc gave me a 100% green light on skiing.

Nordic Skiing: The Monday before M was born, at 38.5 weeks along, we got enough snow to ski. We went out to one of the local groomed tracks and Jonathan had to put on my skis because I couldn’t reach.  I was amazed at the technique improvement I had gained with my summer of careful roller skiing concentrating on technique, and all my strength training. Balance wasn’t a problem. I was just happier than anything to see snow.  We went the next day too. On the Wednesday of that week I was feeling tired, on Thursday the doc induced me due to rising BP which he did not blame on exercising. Friday I had a baby.

Four days before Baby M was born. The balance loss I was promised never really materialized. This was the best ski pic I had ever taken and it was the first day we were on snow.

Four days before Baby M was born. The balance loss I was “promised” never really materialized. This was the best ski pic I had ever taken and it was the first day we were on snow.

Weight lifting and core conditioning: We continued our core strength circuit and weightlifting that we do every year in the base training phase. Although the recommendation is for pregnant women not to do any exercises that involve being on their back after first trimester, my doctor gave me the ok for regular crunches for awhile after that because I was very small and my weight gain was not an impairment.  I did free weights and squats – again with low weight and lots of reps. Good form was always a priority since pregnant joints tend to loosen, but I didn’t feel any pain and made pretty significant gains in this arena.

Expectations: I had few. I wrote out a training plan and followed it because that’s what I do, and expected to have to modify it along the way. I expected to stay active throughout my pregnancy as long as I didn’t have complications. That was just about it – I really didn’t expect much

I also expected to be “morning sick”, but the myth of morning sickness is the morning part; it can happen any time. I felt the worst at night or if I wasn’t eating correctly and I strongly feel that the nausea, at least for me, was tied directly to blood sugar.

I expected to retain a reasonable amount of fitness, provided I wasn’t sent to bed rest. I tried to be realistic and I ended up lucky.

Surprises: I was surprised that I felt good almost every day of the 39 weeks. In the first three months I was tired a lot, but I knew that getting out to do something would actually make me feel better. It did.  After that I felt pretty amazing every day until about 38 ½ weeks.

I was surprised at how much activity I could easily handle. I worked out twice a day many times; sometimes because I lifted and did something aerobic, and sometimes because I really liked swimming outside to cool off.  I was able to do three-hour bike rides very easily and I didn’t bonk because I was on top of my nutrition the whole time.

Another surprise was that I actually gained aerobic capacity and strength. My arms got way

I ordered one set of larger clothing because nobody makes "maternity cycling clothes". And of course a tiny jersey for M.

I ordered one set of larger clothing because nobody makes “maternity cycling clothes”. And of course a tiny jersey for M.

stronger, and I saw myself able to go farther and faster within the same heart rates as the season went on. I expected to maintain and then decline. I maybe hoped to just maintain. I never would have gone into this expecting to improve, but I did.

I was pleased that all of my work made delivering a baby (with full epidural) totally easy. Sure, I had no feeling, but I still had to push out a baby after 24 hours of induced labor. It was far easier than any bike or ski race.

The last surprise was my return to competition.  Eight days after M was born I was back on my Nordic skis.  I could see my feet again, which was awesome, and the first few days were rough. After a total of 11 days off pre and post baby I was back training, and at five weeks I was in my first race. By week six I was back to my race weight and after that I was lower. Seven weeks after baby I found myself sprinting for second in a local series race.  The remaining races were each results I would have been proud of had I never been pregnant.

As I developed a plan for the following season I noted that the bulk of any endurance training, even for non-pregnant people, is still at a very low heart rate. In fact, being forced to slow down may have actually had more far-reaching benefits than I had thought.

Blood Doping: Notice I didn’t say illegal blood doping. You see, I finally found out for real what all the hype was about with Lance and his team, and well, almost every pro cyclist from the 90’s.  When you have a baby your blood volume increases a bunch. Afterwards it sticks around for three months or so.  If you haven’t had your head in the sand for the last year, then you know that extra blood means extra oxygen available to your muscles.  So even though I was completely sleep deprived and missed the most crucial high-end training going into the season, I was racing as if I had trained all the way through.  Seriously – my husband was able to train much harder than I was last summer and he missed the same crucial block around Thanksgiving. I felt great racing and he didn’t. He didn’t have the extra blood volume, just the sleepless nights.

My view 8 days after delivery; I could finally see these again!

My view 8 days after delivery; I could finally see these again!

So my last unexpected result was that I now know the benefit of the cheating that was going on when I was racing bikes. It makes me all the more angry at the cheaters, some of them my competition, who were obviously gaining significantly from extra blood. But that’s a rant for another time.

Partly due to timing, certainly due to motivation and definitely with the help of my family (husband, father-in-law, parents), I managed to have a very healthy baby without missing a single ski season. Certainly it isn’t for everyone, and had there been any indication this was harmful I would have stopped in my tracks. In the end my doctor kept green-lighting me to do what I had been doing because things always looked great (until the very last day).

This is just one perspective, but I know I would have loved to be able to read this when I was pregnant. Hopefully someone else will see that having a baby and maintaining a high level of fitness is a possibility when the right conditions exist.

Stuff I Like (and paid for*)

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*I did pay full retail for this product

Cloth Diapers – The Sane Way

I was taking out the trash about three months ago and I became overwhelmed by the hugeness of the bag of diapers our petite baby churns out in less than a week. I guess I had considered options other than disposables, but time and sleep had escaped me.  When I finally took a breath (and had a solid night’s slumber) I decided to look into the world of cloth diapers.

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Baby M sporting her gDiaper.

To my not-so-surprise, I found out that the Breastfeeding Mafia (militant breastfeeders) overlap with the Cloth Diaper Commies.  There are about a bazillion brands of diapers, most resembling the complexity of a Rubik’s Cube to snap on the baby. Everyone has an opinion. Some are made by WAHM’s (work-at-home-moms, not George and Andrew’s fabulous 80’s pop band, thanks auto-correct), some are “one size fits all” (you haven’t met my baby) and some are, well, seemingly impossible to wrap your head around (or wrap around a squirming baby). And the Cloth Diaper Commies seem to wear these things like a badge—the more difficult the system, the more time consuming the washing and the cheaper they can be obtained, the better. They write about having “six of the Bunnybutts, four Charlie Potatoes, a couple Poo Catchers,” etc. (all names fabricated).  Some of these folks are buying them used. USED!!! It was difficult to do real research. But that’s kind of a sign of the times I guess.

As I looked into costs and environmental impact, I found a bit of seemingly credible information regarding the hidden costs of cloth diapers. You see, these cloth diapers take water and energy to wash. If you have a regular style washer it fills up every time. Now if you go through, say, 18 diapers in two or three days, they won’t come close to being a full washer load. So you either need to own so many cloth diapers that it makes a full load (and store them dirty in between— think about that) or you are wasting a ton of water.  A HE (high efficiency) washer doles out water for small loads, but it still takes water and energy.  I don’t need to explain why you might want to wash diapers by themselves in hot water.

But still, the thought of that huge bag of disposables in the landfill haunted me.  And the “green” disposable diapers inside a plastic garbage bag really didn’t seem like a better solution. Also, they are wicked pricy.

No pants needed when you're g'd.

No pants needed when you’re g’d.

After lots of web surfing I found gDiapers. Now it’s important to understand that this brand kept coming up as the most hated brand by the Cloth Diaper Commies and Breastfeeding Mafia.  It drove my curiosity. And finally my wallet.

I purchased two of the gDiaper gPants, which are the outer layer. They come with a snap-in breathable but waterproof pocket (I call it the poo-catcher) and then your choice of a hemp/fleecy strip of absorbent material or a disposable fiber over stuffing pad. They do a great job describing how it works on their site here. It was the flushable option that really drew me in; these liners are compostable but also flushable. FLUSHABLE! You tear them open and shake out the fuzzy stuff and flush.  We were a little concerned about the fiber outer layer, so we put that in the trash. It is about the same amount of material as a paper towel. But you can flush them if you trust your toilet.

After the MDOD (messy diaper of the day) I put a disposable liner in a gPant and Velcro-ed it to M’s cute bum (ick, I know). When she needed a change I ripped and flushed.  Life was good.  I ordered six more here.

Certainly I was afraid of what every parent would be at this point: POOP!  But the first time poo happened, the poo-catcher caught it all. I bought extras of those and they snap right out and wash. That happens maybe once a day.

Next I tried out the fabric liners. Not to give TMI, but usually I can predict that one MDOD, after which we can switch to the cloth for the day.  When those get wet we rinse and throw in a pail to be washed at a later date. If I wanted to use them full-time, gDiaper makes a disposable sheet that sits on top. We had a successful MDOD on one of those too, no issues.

Easy to organize - snap-in liners, diapers and inserts.

Easy to organize – snap-in liners, diapers and inserts.

We’ve been using these for about three months and have phased out all disposables except at night, and that’s only because we are trying to use up the diapers we bought.  When those are gone we plan to use a disposable liner over a cloth liner at night.  Right now we double diaper at night for “overflow”.

The verdict?  These are awesome and here’s why:

Easy. They Velcro on.  A friend of mine was recently relating a babysitting tale to me about another friend who was using a one-size-fits-all snappy diaper. She didn’t feel that she knew how to close them and would give up and use a disposable when she was watching the kids.  Bottom line: we have been able to use them with all the grandparents with no hassle because they are easy to use. Grandparents even! What’s the point of using cloth if it’s so complicated that people will give up and use disposables?!

Hybrid option. The disposable inserts are the best of both worlds. The outer pants get reused for a day or two without washing because nothing gross touches them. The pocket inside gets reused a few times for wet diapers because you can give them a quick wipe. Or it snaps out and is washable. The disposable liner gets flushed.  A week’s worth of trash for us now looks like what a day’s worth used to. But we aren’t using much extra water and energy because the outer parts can be washed in the regular cold cycle with her clothes (remember, no poo touched them).

Portability. When we leave the house I bring a second assembled diaper. For changes on the go I just take one off and put the other on. I also bring extra disposable liners. If we’re out, they flush in a bathroom or can go in the trash. I know that many cloth diaper folks still rely on disposables out and for babysitting, but with these you don’t have to. We have changed M on the side of a mountain with these. No problem.

An entire week's worth of diaper garbage - with baby for scale. And technically we could have flushed this too.

An entire week’s worth of diaper garbage – with baby for scale. And technically we could have flushed this too.

Cost. No lie, the start-up is more. For about $200 you can have enough parts to diaper with these full time. That includes six pants that come with the snap-in liner, six extra snap-in liners, eighteen cloth liners and a pack of disposables.  The disposables, when bought in the bulk 84-pack, cost about a penny more per use than disposables at Costco. And they are very, very absorbent. In fact, our baby used to fuss the very second wetness touched the disposables. She fusses far less now. I believe the liners are free of chemicals and gels, but they still work great. No rash, no fuss.

Cuteness. You can’t put a price on this one. It’s hot out, and we can just put a t-shirt and one of these on her and go. They come in fun colors and patterns and look like little pants.

Velcro is to the back. I’m not going to dare her, but it would probably be hard(er) for her to, um, free herself with this design than if the closure was to the front.

Fit. I’m not buying the “one-size-fits all” claim. I’ve seen what some of those diapers look like and poor M would have had so much extra material around her she wouldn’t have been able to move.  Not to mention that I’m sure they wouldn’t have held tight on the legs, which of course means the dreaded MDOD might have leaked. gDiapers come in Newborn, S, M, L and XL, and the inner parts come in two sizes; Newborn/S and M/L/XL.

Great customer service.  I realize it isn’t a WAHM company; it’s slightly bigger than that, but still small. They have online chat with educated users who can help you answer questions from their experience.

Auto-ship. You can set up to have the liners auto-shipped at regular intervals. Because even though Babies-R-Us sells them, their display is very small and they don’t seem to stock a ton of product. Or maybe you don’t even live close to one.  The shipping is free and they just show up.

Drawbacks. They are more expensive to use than disposables. I’m thinking of it as an investment in a better world for her later. Also, because there are four sizes you have to buy new outer pants when they outgrow them. However, the Newborn and Small take the same snap-in liner and inner liner as do the M, L and XL. So once you get into M you are set with your liners.

They look great when M is flying her hippy flag!

They look great when M is flying her hippy flag!

We didn’t use these as a newborn, and frankly, I’m not sure how that would go with any cloth system. MDOD is more like MDOH (messy diaper of the hour) with the tiny babies, so who knows. I will say that if I had it to do over I would at least try it. gDiaper recommends using the disposable (flushable compostable) liners for newborns rather than cloth; a much more achievable goal than cloth every ten minutes!

I’m not sure why there is so much gDiaper hate out there on the message boards, but then again, I’m also not sure why there is so much bad grammar. We’ll never know. What I do know is this: if you’re environmentally concerned and moderately intelligent, the gDiaper is a great option for those who truly want to reduce waste, but don’t want to spend every spare moment of the day dealing with diaper logistics. And did I mention they are cute?

UPDATE—We are now 19 months into baby #2. We are using all of our original gDiaper outers and a combination of original and replaced fabric liners. This time we gDiapered from the time we got home from the hospital. Life is good, expenses are much lower, and many of our diapers have been handed off to a friend for a third life.

Working Out with Baby

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Jonathan and M ascending.

After we had Baby M we were committed to keeping in shape. So committed, in fact, that we did our first race five weeks later, followed by a full cross country ski season with pretty decent results. After the race season we took a couple weeks off and started to think about next year. Unfortunately, even with the generous babysitting by our friend Jessica, we can’t count on the same schedule we have in past years, so we’ve been making do.

This week we’ve been working out with baby. While doing our hour-long weights and plyo sessions can happen during naps, babies don’t always nap as planned. Because the very nature of weightlifting in pairs involves one person waiting for the bench, we devised a perfectly acceptable alternative; one lifts, the other entertains. It’s much more exciting to rest between sets with a smiling baby. Less so with a fussy baby, but you get what you get.

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The resort is closed, so we (meaning Jonathan) had to break trail.

Since not all workouts can be weight workouts we were looking for a bit of cardio. Baby is too little at this point to hook to our bikes (and I’m not sure how I feel about that one right now anyway), so we took her for a ski. Alta is now closed during the week, so touring within the ski boundaries provides us with low-angle cat track to ascend and descend.  We needed to be able to manage avalanche danger, as in we wanted to eliminate it. The route we chose and all terrain that overhangs it is safe and we know it well, so it’s easy to pick a route to the top and back without having to worry. That said, once the resort is closed it isn’t maintained, so route finding is very important.

Proud papa at the turn around.

Proud papa at the turn around.

Jonathan took Chariot duties on the way up. I pushed a little on the steeper stuff, but he lugged M and the trailer most of the way to the summit. For the first time in the history of our ski touring I was the one to blister first, so we called it good about 500 or so feet from the top. There was a nice flat spot where we could switch gear, and it so happened that it was time for M to eat. After all, it’s good to keep a baby on her schedule! I engaged in a little extreme breastfeeding at 9500 ft. She was oblivious to the majesty of her surroundings; all she cared about was that she was warm and getting her afternoon tea.

The feed. Milli gets hers while I eat a Feedzone Portable snack.

The feed. Milli gets hers while I eat a Feedzone Portable snack.

After she pasted my ski pants with spit-up (par for the course) we packed her up and tightened her three-point harness for the rough ride down.

Even though we chose all greens for our up and down tracks, that sled can get going fast. Last time we skied I had her up on one ski, so I decided to be a little more ginger with her since she just ate.

Jonathan grabbed the back and we descended ski-patrol style. The sun-warmed snow was sticky; we had to pole out of a few places, but it was a beautiful day. Mom and Dad got in nearly two hours of outside time and Baby M got a wild ride.

A day for dark glasses.

A day for dark glasses.

 

 

 

 

Beer Window

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I like beer. No, I love beer. Enough to make it with whole grains. Sounds trendy/healthy doesn’t it? Don’t worry, it’s just a better way to homebrew resulting in a more commercial taste.  But brewing methodology isn’t the point of this post; my love of beer is.

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Santoro Brewing Ninja Clown Indian Brown
“He’ll turn that frown upside down or he’ll slice you a new one!”

One can understand how, after almost ten months of “sips”, “tastes” and “samplers” I was ready to plow through pints of my own and others’ barley and hops goodness without a care in the world. Yes it is more than nine months, and yes I was counting.  So imagine my realization that Baby M is going to want to breastfeed hourly.  A beer renders my milk tainted for roughly an hour. Doesn’t take a former math teacher to realize this made beer (wine, margarita, bourbon etc,) impossible EVEN AFTER I WAS DONE BEING PREGNANT.  Why this didn’t cross my mind before, I don’t know.

At first she was willing to take a bottle. Kind of, but not in the appropriate beer-drinking times, like happy hour through the late dinner hour.  Having a beer then would result in momentary bliss (me) followed by a hungry screaming baby who kind of has a bottle but impatiently waits around (without sleeping) for me to be able to get her the white gold right from the tap. And I don’t blame her – one of the most frustrating things about Utah’s utterly stupid liquor laws is that no establishment can carry draft beer above 4% ABV.  But that’s a rant for another time.

Eventually M got on a schedule, and eventually that schedule was feeding less often than every hour.  WooHoo! Along with that came her utter refusal to accept anything but draft.  Boo! Again, I don’t blame her, but MAMA WANTED BEER.

See, I’m not an alcoholic (I know, denial etc.); I gave it up for almost a year without crying (often). But to enjoy that one pint was all I was asking.  See, there is a time of day when it would be “too soon”, like lunch. Or is it? Anyhow, looking for a more acceptable time that I could safely enjoy the beer (as in, not chug it) but still know I wasn’t passing on my “passion” to Baby M, I finally figured out that after the 3:30 pm feeding there is a nap, followed by a 5:30 feeding.  Therefore (again, easy math) I have roughly a half-hour to enjoy the beer followed by an hour to clear it.  Hence, each day’s 3:30 feed is a triathlon of feed, pour, drink.  If I don’t nail the transitions I lose valuable time.  This is my Beer Window and I have to use it wisely.