My C-Section Birth

My c-section birth

Today was definitely full of learning.

The birth of my first daughter was a failed attempt at natural birth due to a fused pelvis post-fracture. I could feel exactly what was happening in the c-section although it didn’t hurt. This freaked me out more than a little going into c-section number 2.

There’s a blessing in not knowing when the baby’s coming. Trust me. I hardly slept a wink last night – covering every possible scenario in my head. Every possible one… outside of the smooth and relatively painless delivery of a perfectly healthy girl.

I was doing some light reading, as I do, on labour and delivery outcomes in the United States. It’s a decently well known fact that maternal and infant deaths are on the rise in hospital settings and that their track record is comparable to the better performing countries in the developing world.

Few people though realize that infant and maternal mortality are also on the rise in home births.

Though quality of care and existence if unnecessary intervention is obviously a huge part of the problem, I think it’s pretty clear from the statistics that there is a third factor.

Maternal health and fitness.

One of the major factors leading to a Caesarian birth is maternal obesity.

It would be interesting to look at the outcomes for natural and medical births for women who are healthy and fit. Everyone always assumes that “healthy” ladies pop a baby out natural in twenty minutes and then go for a jog. But in reality this is not always the case.

Fit women still have difficult births and face difficult situations. They are just better prepared to handle them.

I’d be dead right now if not for medical intervention. I’d probably have survived the crash that broke my pelvis – and just ended up very very disabled. But I’d never have survived childbirth… and neither would my two beautiful children.

My big epiphany today, if you can call it that… is to be grateful to modern medicine but never take it for granted. You never know what tomorrow brings, so be in the best form you can to confront it.

The freezing worked much better this time. No pain or sensations until the doctor started pulling the baby out. I couldn’t figure out how I could hear her crying since they didn’t cut a hole.

Which leads me to my second thought if the day: healthy moms make healthy babies. Even if birth did go sideways I’d hope she’d be better prepared to take it on.

The Last 10k

The Last 10k

This is about how I’m feeling these days. I can’t even sneak out of bed without waking my daughter lately. There is just no sneak left in me.

I am 36 weeks pregnant: and as a marathon runner, there is something oddly familiar about the feelings that I am going through.

Oh my god. It’s the last 10k of a marathon.

The last one that I ran was Boston. Just like every marathon I have ever ran, for 32.2k, I loved it. But something switches instantly when I pass the 10k to go sign. Something terrible.

I have found some similarities in the last month of pregnancy and the last 10k of a marathon… which I will share with you.

At first I love all the people cheering, saying nice things, high fiving me, yelling “Go Canada!” – they’re so enthusiastic. But at the end, as much as I love them, I resent them and everyone they know. And pretty much everyone who is not running a marathon.

Muscles that I never knew I had ache. I’m a big fan of anatomy but there are certainly less painful and crippling ways to learn it.

I can’t eat anymore. I’m done. Not another gel, not another chew. Nothing. It just takes too much energy.

I’m so profoundly tired and heavy feeling that I can’t hardly lift my feet. Why does anyone run? Ever? I want to eat some chocolate and watch Dumb and Dumber.

But it’s also when the finish line draws near. It’s where you know you will get to the end and things will likely be successful. And it’s a pretty darn exciting time too… if you had muster up the energy to realize it.

It isn’t always easy but it’s always worth it

It isn't always easy but it's always worth it

I didn’t feel like running today. It was one of those “haul your butt out of the car and get moving at whatever pace your legs will take you kind of days.”

After a week of being sick, I have been chomping at the bit to workout – and with the gorgeous sunny fall weather, outdoors. But for some reason, when time came to put stroller rubber to road, the enthusiasm waned.

It wasn’t the best run, but it’s done and I feel just awesome having finished it.

What do you tell yourself to get through a tough workout and is it always worth it in the end?

Thanks. Really. Thanks.

Thanks. Really. Thanks.

It’s impossible not to notice. Summer is gone. I spent it in a whirlwind of renovations and first trimester pregnancy blah. Hence, my blog writing frequency has been less than stellar.

But I find myself compelled to write with the changing of the seasons and the not-too-distant arrival of 2014 and all the joys it promises.

The first being my daughter turning 3. The second being the arrival of my second child in February.

The third, and they say everything comes in threes, is the return of race season. I live to race. And 2014 looks like it will bring a lot of livin’.

I plan on focusing on my new love – obstacle racing – in the coming year with some supplemental trail and road racing. I am pretty sure I live in the best place on the planet to train: wet, mountainous and beautiful. And that leaves me feeling… thankful.

I wonder how easy breezy it must be for other athletes to decide their race goals. No diapers, no naps, no preschool, no packing the entire family into a plane or car to get to races, no breast feeding mid-run. I wonder how I am going to compete at the level I want to be competing at next year with the constraints I have.

But even my worries leave me feeling thankful. What a predicament to be in to be trying to balance two things that I love so dearly. Honestly, as much as I live to race, if I had to choose between having my family or a career in racing, hands down, my family would win. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose.

Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Iron and the female athlete

Iron and the Female Athlete

Iron is a major deal for female athletes. Not only do athletes require more iron than the general population – but being female multiplies those needs. Being an endurance athlete is hard work and requires increased dietary iron. Every time your foot hits the ground, blood cells are damaged. Iron is lost through sweat. Red blood cells and blood vessels are constantly being turnover. And then you have a monthly blood loss on top of that. Yikes.

Low iron or iron anemia can cause fatigue, fogginess, frequent injury or illness, loss of power or endurance, high exertional heart rate, pale skin, cold hands, headaches and irritability. It also drags your performance down. Not only for the above mentioned symptomatic problems, but for the fact that iron builds the hemoglobin that carries oxygen to your working muscles and carbon dioxide away. Pretty big deal in endurance athletics.

There are two types of iron found in food. Non-Heme iron is found in plant foods and absorbed at about 2-20%. Good sources are lentils, beans, molasses, raisins and dark leafy greens. Heme iron is found in red and dark meat and absorbed at about 15-35%. Liver is an especially good source. Crazy good.

As with any vitamin or mineral, more is definitely not better. Supplementing iron causes a whole list of gastric upset from nausea to diarrhea. It is best to get iron from whole foods, and any good doctor will encourage those with slightly low iron profiles to eat better. If you do feel like you need to supplement, I would advise getting your levels tested beforehand by your GP with a simple blood test. Outside of some very unpleasant side effects, iron supplementation has been shown to be a contributor to heart disease and cancer in some studies. This is due to the potential for iron overload when popping pills.

The other trick is to always eat your high iron food with a good source of vitamin C since it increases absorption. A bowl of oatmeal sweetened with molasses and blueberries for breakfast will certainly start the day off right. And yum! Just try to take your latte later on or well in advance, as the caffeine in coffee and calcium in milk reduces the effect. Cooking in cast iron also helps – especially if you are cooking acidic foods.

Regular: Female athletes with regular periods should look at getting over 18 milligrams per day.

Pregnant: You may be training less intensely and not loosing iron each month but making a new person and nearly doubling your blood volume takes a lot of iron. Aim for at least 27 milligrams each day.

Postpartum: Iron is one of those minerals that is passed in very small quantities in breast milk. However, it has been shown that babies can use over 50% of the iron found in breast milk as compared to the less than 12% that they can extract from infant formula. Therefore, if breast feeding, you should ensure that you eat rich sources of iron to make it as available as possible to your baby. At least 10 milligrams per day is recommended, 5-10 milligrams than that more if you are also menstruating. Don’t worry though… babies are born with an iron store that lasts 5-6 months… I am sure no coincidence that this is also when their bodies become ready to process food.

Of course, there are other factors. For instance, vitamin K helps mobilize iron from their stores. You may have a malapsorption disorder or issue.

I feel like the big reason that 30% of the world’s population may have iron deficiency anemia (WHO) is the prevalence of low nutrient, high calorie food that has flooded our lives. Nature in all her wisdom has provided us with everything we need to thrive. Thrive on.

Eating, Naturally.

Eating, Naturally.

Of all things, I want to raise a happy child who becomes a happy adult. Sounds simple. Of course, it isn’t.

Nobody knows what really creates happiness. All we know is that it’s a complex interaction between various things.

And the recipe is different for everyone.

I can tell you what doesn’t bring you closer to it. Easy sailing.

In the good old days, you’d have to forage for every bit of food, and work for every tool you had. It must have been some satisfaction to have killed an antelope or carved an arrowhead out of rock. True appreciation. These days we have so much and enjoy so little.

I know where conventional meat comes from for instance, so I don’t eat it. Many consumers are unaware or have suppressed their natural horrors at what we as a society do to animals. I don’t take meat for granted.

I did realize over the weekend at a workshop at Jivala Culinary Institute however, that I disrespect the other foods in my plant based diet. We probably all do.

How many times have I polished off nearly an entire pineapple half in one sitting? That pineapple took 2-3 years to grow. And I ate it over two snacks exchanging emails in front of my laptop. Not only is that hard on the digestive system, but it’s hardly necessary. Your body can only use so many micronutrients at one time. And as for enjoyment, well, the poor pineapple died for a full tummy.

I was also introduced to the philosophy that nature provides best in the ideal amounts. Leafy greens would be most easy to grow and come by (which can be confirmed by anyone who has ever planted them in a garden), therefore should have a central role in the diet. Fruits, grains, legumes and meat would be far more difficult and energy depleting to obtain… therefore would be eaten less frequently. Someone living off the land would be more likely to plant seeds than eat them, so they share a similar spot on the natural plate. It’s then really easy to see that although most natural foods are healthy, eating them in the portions that we are intended to process them in is easily as important.

Fitness lessons from your toddler

Fitness lessons from your toddler

My two year old is an exceptional athlete. She’s not making any Olympic teams, but she an exceptional athlete in the way a Crossfitter is. All the way around. Yesterday my little peanut completed the 48 flights of stairs in the Climb for Clean Air. I didn’t think she would make it, but she did. Her 20 minute time might not have been the fastest of the day, but she, along with hundreds of other people, made it. It scares me that someone (barring the severely sick or disabled) wouldn’t. Yeah it might be hard, but it’s a serious red flag if it’s undoable for you. The latest ideas in fitness are all about looking back to look forward. So I am making a list of the things that I think all people can learn from their children.

1. Walk. Run. Jump. Ama, at 25 months, routinely jumps out of the stroller and walks for 2-3 hours. Just cause. And when she feels like running she runs (and makes me run too). She makes a game out of it and just enjoys moving her body. I wish we’d all do that. Movement is life… and life is to be enjoyed.

2. Squat to your heels people. It’s unnatural not to be able to sit in a deep squat. Ama squats down at every opportunity… and she had taught me that I should too.

3. Mobility before stability before strength. That’s how Ama did it. If you lack mobility, you cannot dynamically stabilize, and you’ll never be able to produce real world strength.

4. You are the sum of those around you. Ama is always copying my husband and me. For better or for worse. Darn did I really just say that to the dog again? People always ask me how I encourage such a young person to be so active. I don’t. It would be way more convenient to me if I could just stuff her in her stroller all day and go about my business. But I don’t sit in a stroller all day, so neither does Ama. It’s made me realize how much we all emulate our immediate circle. So choose wisely.

My new dietary (life) approach

My new dietary (life) approach

My husband has started a blog about my foray into a plant-based diet and how it has affected him. It’s a funny outlook from someone who has been raised to feel that meat is the ultimate food. With my new dietary outlook, he has also taken an interest in different nutrition plans. He came home yesterday laughing about the Paleo Zone diet. You know, just like how our caveman ancestors balanced their macronutrient intake to be a perfect 30/30/40 ratio in the Paleolithic era. Of course, being a Crossfitter and having lots of Crossfitter friends who are doing either Paleo or Paleo Zone, I didn’t think much of it. You know, Zone crossed with Paleo makes Paleo Zone. It was hilarious to me to see it from the eyes of my bag of bagels for lunch husband.

I took Ama to the doctor yesterday for her routine check-up. The doctor asked about food, and I said she eats well but that I supplement with DHA and Vitamin D just to be sure. He noted that as long as she eats lots of leafy greens and nuts, she should be fine for even calcium, iron, calories and healthy fats. He had just read a study where “vegan” kids only required B12 supplementation, and were found to be much healthier than their “non-vegan” counterparts… with larger head circumferences. He reiterated what a vegan was several times. I told him I was on a plant-based diet so I knew the term. I don’t use it though. I am not a vegan. It’s too strong a term for me. It’s a term that invited scrutiny of everything you are eating and everything you are not eating.

I started swinging toward a plant-based diet after sitting in on a session at the Canfitpro Vancouver conference. It was a lecture promoting raw food veganism and I left inspired to give it a go. Not because the presenter, Scott Josephson, was well informed and infectiously passionate about eating raw food. Which he was. He left an important message with me: that it isn’t about diving into a new lifestyle to fit the mold even if that mold doesn’t fit you, it’s about making a healthier you.

He pointed out that you don’t have to eat only raw foods, and that you don’t have to eat only vegan foods. You can just eat more of these foods. And in eating less of these foods, you make a huge impact on the lives of animals, the environment and yourself. I didn’t have to stop eating honey sourced from the interior. I didn’t have to stop wearing silk or throw out all the stuff in my kitchen that had animal derivatives. In fact, he suggested going in slowly. It’s about making positive lifestyle changes that work for you, feeling their wonderful effects, and naturally doing more.

I have started sprouting, dehydrator cooking, making my own coconut yogurt and mostly eliminated animal products in favour of vegetable foods. I feel good. Food digests well, I never feel overly full but always satisfied. I feel like I am making a positive contribution to the world of food choices. Without buying expensive organic grass fed beef, I can buy a lot more non-GMO organic vegetables.

But the take home, is that that’s what feels good to me. It’s all about what feels good to you. Label or no label.

Women’s running in Canada

Women's Running in Canada

Krista Duchene is in many ways your typical busy mom of 3. Typical, in that she does all the stuff someone with a 6, 4 and 1 year-old typically does. Untypical, because she is also at the top of the Canadian marathon scene. While most of us struggle to get dinner on the table, keep the kids happy, and get out for a 5k, Krista manages a grueling training regime on top of it all. She also works as a dietician.

Canada has a poor record for supporting marathon runners at Krista’s level. The IAAF marathon standard is 2:37, but Canada’s standard is a much tougher 2:29:55. Duchene ran 2:32:06 in Rotterdam and appealed to Athletics Canada for a two minute grace period. They denied her. Of course, going to the Olympics doesn’t provide athletes with direct financial incentives, but it does open sponsorship doors and gives athletes experience on the world stage. In most events there is what is called a “rising star” exemption for athletes that come near the standard. Since marathon runners often come from shorter distance events; however, it does not apply. No woman in Canada has ever made our Olympic standard. Ever. It seems to me that’s a good reason to look at how we’re doing things.

The men’s Olympic marathon is only recently getting better. This year we filled all three spots on the team. Dylan Wykes was selected after running the same marathon that Duchene ran in, 7 days before the end of the qualifying period. We have not sent a man to the Olympic marathon for 12 years. It’s no wonder that on now do we send 3 strong runners in, on the cusp of breaking Jerome Draydon’s long standing Canadian record.

Compare the life of a working mother of 3 grinding out hard training on her own with that of the great Paula Radcliffe who has a nanny and a stay at home husband. And it’s still hard. It’s no wonder we can’t make our own seemingly unachievable standard. The difference in earnings for an average NHL player and an average pro marathoner is atrocious. For them, that doesn’t bode well to having a normal life, or a family. For us, that doesn’t bode well to having marathon runners go to the Olympics… particularly females.

Some finger that lack of good coaches and good female role models in the marathon in Canada. Fair enough. Though wouldn’t having some females representing the marathon at the Olympics have really sparked it up?

Paula Radcliffe – World Record Holder in the Marathon – and Super Mom

Paula Radcliffe - World Record Holder in the Marathon - and mom

Paula Radcliffe is not your typical mother. She is the fastest female marathon runner in world history. She is also mother to Isla and Raphael. Paula managed to make comebacks after both births with the help of a team of professionals. How does she manage to care for her children? Luckily, she has a team for that too. Headed by a stay-at-home-dad, they often call on nannies and extended family to pitch in. What advice does this superstar mom have for us regular moms? Just that. Build a team of support. Many of us juggle fitness, careers and family. You can’t do that on your own. “Take the support from the people around you, from your husband, from your partner, from your family so that you can get your time for your training. You talk about the sacrifices athletes make, I never really felt like I made a sacrifice for my career until I came away for a month without my kids. That was really hard, but at the same time, it was a huge motivation to make every second of the training count and make it worthwhile, being away.”