September 26, 2012

PW - The Unfailing Recipe

Look at the best way to get a PB (Personal Best, for the non-runner reader who somehow would have by some mysterious way landed on this blog) and you’ll find dozens of books, articles, websites, blog posts, coaches, dietitians, pseudo-gurus telling you how to do it (and ideally charging you a hefty fee for it).

Look now at how to get a Personal Worst, or PW, and you are left figuring it out all on your own. There is no way round it, when it really does matter, people are selfish and keep their secrets for themselves. Well, since I have today become a (admittedly self proclaimed) expert on the topic, I thought I would be a sport (ah ah) and share my newly acquired wisdom. For free - that’s how cool I am.

The first, almost unavoidable thing is that you need to have kid(s). One is OK, several is much better. Then you need at least one, but again, ideally several, of the following ingredients:

- Your kid starting school and being not quite ok yet with the idea. As a result, he will wake up several times a night, because he wants to pee, or the wolf is trying to eat his belly, or a truck has waken him up, or he wants to see the stars, or he just wants you to sleep next to him, or him next to you (the order does matter, as the result will be the same: you won’t sleep). Since he will wake up several times a night, so will you. The main difference between you and him is that he will (most of the time) quickly get back to sleep (until he wakes up again, that is), but you won’t. 

- That’s when having a second kid comes handy. Should N°1 fail to throw a tantrum in the middle of the night, N°2 will volunteer to help and decide to wake up, say, around 3am, when you find it most difficult to fall asleep again, and ideally the night before the race. If, like our N°2, she usually never wakes up at night, even better: it adds mental destabilization to your feeling of immense physical tiredness.

- Make sure you choose children whose weak point is ENT. That way N°1 has a runny nose after half a day of school despite the fact he has not been ill for the past two (spent at home) months, N°2 follows two days later, and dutifully makes sure you end up ill as well. Except that, unlike your children who seem to get better in less than a week, you end up, three weeks later and on the eve of the race, still ill, still not able to breathe properly, which –isn’t that weird - is less than optimal for running. 

- Oh, and make sure you’re still breastfeeding too, so that you can’t take any medicine to help getting rid of that cold. And by “not any”, I mean just that. The nose spray the pediatrician gave N°2, which you (clearly naively) thought made it safe for you to take (if she inhales it directly, it should be ok to get a micron of it in breast milk, right?), reads on the notice : “avoid taking while breastfeeding”. Homeopathy? Shame that what is most efficient for colds is also what works best if ever you want to dry her only source of food, your boobs, out…

For good measure, start your business at the same time kids are starting school and day care and are ill. That way, even if you had a bit of time and energy left for any training runs, you’ll make sure these are the shortest runs and best junk miles you’ve ever done.

Also, do NOT do any specific training such as speed work, intervals or tempo runs. And to make sure you stick to this plan even though you may be tempted to train properly, make sure that you almost only have time for runs after the kids are in bed and it is pitch black outside and you live in the countryside with no street lighting but plenty of crazy drivers. If you can live somewhere mountainous with no flat stretch longer than a few yards, even better : it is the worst terrain to train for a flat 10K.
Of course, you can try for a PW even if you’re child-free. But let’s face it, sticking to the plan will be harder. You may for instance try to go out every single night for three weeks prior to the race to make sure you’re a wreck. You may lock your running shoes for the same period so that you don’t get any proper training done in the hope your legs will feel like lead on race day. But let’s face it, you’re very likely to cave in to the runner’s most basic instincts, and sooner rather than later start getting enough sleep, eat healthily again and start lacing up your running shoes to sneak one in every other day. That’s where having kids comes handy, as a kid is the best – as in, toughest - personal trainer, who will show no pity and unlimited personal commitment when it comes to helping you achieving your goal of a PW. 

Still doubtful? Still in need of some evidence the recipe works? Wait until the next episode, where, strictly for the benefit of science, I put the method to test…

September 15, 2012

It Is a Tough World Out There

Shame they don’t tell you before you have kids how the first days (weeks? Years?) of school are going to be like, because I would have enrolled on a training camp to toughen up. Or, better still, decide to hibernate, leave the husband deal with it, and wake up when it is time for summer holiday again. I may not have opted for the smartest thing to do when one is so bad at handling the drama involved, namely not to have a kid at all, but that’s only because I am not wise enough. 

To cut a (few days) long story short, things have not gone too well, school-wise, so far.

We did everything right, that is, before school effectively started and everything went pear shape. The list of things to bring had been carefully read, stuff bought and items crossed. Clothes had been tagged (admittedly in the night prior to the first day of school, but tagged anyhow). Cheerful comments about how big a boy N°1 now was and how excited it was that he would now be going to school. Visit to the hairdresser done. We even managed a shot of the four of us by the house, cheerfully leaving home for school on that first day.

and also a shot of the two of us looking relax and happy (I am the queen of faking)

A few minutes later, "cheerful" was a word which had been crossed out of our home dictionary.

I am lying a tiny bit since first school-day was actually OK (ish), but that's not saying much since the first day was actually one hour, half of which I spent at school with n°1.

On day 2, The Dad called me after having dropped Kid n°1 at school, to let me know n°1 was crying his head off when he left, and had said, unprompted, on the way to school that “really, he did not mind being left by himself at school”. If something should have raised the flag, I guess that was it.

On day 3 and 4, I took n°1 to school, and both mornings he tried to dive from the teacher’s assistant’s arms, through the glass door and in my arms, and I could hear him shout from the end of the corridor that he wanted to go home with me.

In between, I’ve had n°1 telling me he did not want me to start working again, as if I did not manage to build up enough guilt on my own.  He’s also been waking us up up to four times a night, something none of our kids has ever done, not even when they were only a few days old, or when n°2 was born, or when we moved home (I knew we would pay for that luck, sooner or later). And if you ever wondered whether sleep deprivation helps seeing things in a brighter light, I can ensure you, it does not. And what to reply to a little boy who is telling you he is “a bit scared” because there are “too many children” at school? “Wait, you’ve only met 28 of them out of 350”?

I know it’ll get better. At least I hope it will. In the meantime, the silver lining of this drama (if I really must come up with one) is that his sister is meanwhile starting day-care, all smiles and cute, funny noises, and I don’t even have time to realise that, starting next week when she’ll go to day-care three days a week, I will miss 42% of those smiles and cute, funny noises.

In the midst of all this, I have decided to sign up for my first 10K in... ages. I may not do too well, but at least, I now have "sleep deprivation" and "unlimited stress" to add to "lack of specific training" on my list of excuses when it is time to justify my appalling performance.