On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, May 2, 2016

I'm back in America.

I’m just going to skip the part where I apologize for not blogging sooner or say something cutesy like, “testing… testing… is this thing still on?”

There’s been so much of interest going on in the running world lately - which I still follow, believe it or not, even though I don’t post on my blog and barely tweet these days.

For instance, the NYTimes has some crucial advice for any non-runners interested in starting to run. Step one: PICK A RACE! Really? Before anything else? Next steps: check out your form and then do a run-walk program. A couple of steps later they have you buying a Garming.

I know that I’m old school about running, and I do believe that whatever gets you out the door is the best thing for you - whether it’s donuts waiting when you get back, training for a race, or needing to actually use the Garmin you just spent several hundred dollars on. But whatever happened to, you know, just running? No expensive races, no special gear, no special attention to your form?

This shouldn’t surprise me, as I’m not really a fan of the Times’ running coverage. It’s a lot of everyman-type stuff about average runners plodding through their day-to-day. Not as aspirational as I would look for in the Gray Lady, a paper of record. Would that their coverage of professional athletes rivaled their coverage of midpackers dispensing “advice.” (With an exception for this story about a kick-ass 100 year old record setter that everyone should read since she’s awesome.)

Or how about the woman who couldn’t run Boston, so she innocently gave her bib to a friend, and that friend ran a Boston qualifier, which the blogger then innocently used to re-qualify for Boston the following year? And now she’s banned, and upset about it. But she’s a mom, guys. Cut her slack! The only part I don’t understand is why her friend wasn’t also banned from Boston.

But enough general news… What’s new with my life? Well…. Kind of a lot. And some of it has bearing on running, too! This is going to get a little long, so feel free to close your browser window now if you don’t care for too many details about my personal life.

After a longish hiatus of spin classes and not running very much, I finally sucked it up and joined a running group. They’re ubiquitous in Brazil, and I’d avoided them because they’re also hilarious and cheesy. You meet three times a week in a group with several coaches, who guide you through stretching, a workout, and then more stretching. And you all wear matching t-shirts and run in a pack.

The matching t-shirts thing was hilarious to me (ours were a rather aggressive neon yellow), but it started to make sense the first night I ran with the group. The one easy place to run in Sao Paulo, Ibirapuera Park, is PACKED at night and the only way your coaches can identify you as you run by is by your matching t-shirts. I was skeptical about the set workouts, but the coaches were actually great and I liked it way more than I expected to.

And then I got engaged. Like, to be married. Yay, right? Yay! Shortly after I got engaged, we started talking about kids. I’ve never really wanted them, but he did, badly, and frankly, a child seemed like the least I could offer after he agreed to leave his career and his family and the only country/culture he’s ever known to follow me around the world. So I went to the doctor.

My doctor… or should I say, my former doctor,* told me that if I wanted to get pregnant, my age was a concern, as was my weight. (Brazilians are OBSESSED with weight - my average American weight basically made me a grotesque, obese monster in her eyes.) She said that I should start trying now because it would probably take me a year, possibly two, to get pregnant - if I could get pregnant at all.

You see where this is going. That was early September; I’m due in June.

*She became my former doctor after she told my husband that he needed to put me on a diet during my first trimester to actively try to lose weight, and also after she showed WAY more interest in advising me on what brand of stretch mark cream I should use rather than, you know, the health of my fetus. But most crucially, and most damaging for me, she told me that all running was out. All spinning was out. Anything that would contract my ab muscles at all was out. She told me that I could do water aerobics, only. Period. That I would have a miscarriage if I exercised, but not to worry if that happened because 30-40% of pregnancies end in miscarriage anyway (shrug).

Common sense told me she was wrong, but I was naive, and also I was sleeping 12-14 hours a day and feeling sick during the awake hours. So I quit my running group, stopped going to my spinning studio, and spent a lot of time napping on the couch. Problem being, by the time I switched doctors during my second trimester and found out that I could actually exercise, I was awkwardly shaped and short of breath. And also trying to plan my exit out of Brazil because of zika, which I finally did in early March. (I never planned on having kids, but if I’m going to do this thing, I may as well not fuck it up with a mosquito bite.)

Some people have easy pregnancies, and some people are me. I haven’t had any bad problems, per se - no gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia or any of those words that I don’t really understand that fall under “complications.” And my zika test was negative. Pregnancy has just been super hard. I’m always tired, I have so much pain in such weird places, breathing is difficult, sleeping is even harder. I had nausea all through my second trimester and any “glow” I may have had was drained away by trying to manage the logistics of planning an international move, including getting my now husband an immigrant visa and starting a new (temporary) assignment in DC.

I see so many cute pregnant women galloping through their runs (I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way to them, but it looks that way to me) and I’m full of bitterness. I want to run, but at 33 weeks pregnant and coming out of an 8 month running hiatus, it would just be stupid. So I’ll have to wait another few months and pray that my post-partum incontinence is mild enough that black running skirts will hide it.