Hiking With a Formula-Fed Baby

Before baby, heading out for activity was easy-peasy. For a run of less than 10 miles I only needed my shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather. I often took my iPod and almost always wore a heart rate monitor, but frequently would go without either and just run. If I planned to run more than 10 miles or if it was a stupid hot day, add some water and maybe a gel or 2 to that and I was good to go.

Hiking while pregnant took a little more. I was worried something might go wrong and I was hungry all the time, so I took snacks, more water, basic first aid supplies, and a note stating how far along in my pregnancy I was at the time, emergency contact numbers, and other relevant information.

Getting out of the house for anything at all is a completely different story with a baby. No matter where we’re going or how long we plan to be gone, there’s something. At the bare minimum I have a couple diapers, wipes, and a pacifier. If we’re going to be out more than an hour I also have enough formula to feed her at least once. Longer trips I have all of those plus a blanket, a change of clothes, toys….you get the idea.

Maybe it’s just me and new motherhood, but hiking with a baby requires a lot more gear than I’m accustomed to carrying. Items usually in my pack include:

For me:

  • water
  • pamphlets on wildlife and weather

…that’s about it. For a long hike I’ll take a snack, maybe some electrolyte replenishment tabs, toilet paper…the sorts of things you might add if you plan to be out most of a day.

For the baby:

  • diapers
  • wipes
  • change of clothes
  • blanket
  • burp cloth
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellent
  • enough formula for the time we plan to be gone plus extra

Two weeks ago we planned a hike that we thought would take most of the day. It was up above tree line so we knew we wouldn’t have a lot of shade, starting in the morning would be cool but we could expect it to warm up, and rain might roll in later in the afternoon. As we packed up the night before, I took inventory of what we packed for the baby.

Of all the prep and care for the baby when we’re out in the world, diapering is the easiest, in my opinion. She needs to be changed at predictable intervals and it’s always good to have one or two extra diapers, just in case. A few wipes and a clean surface to change her on and we’re good. For a while I took a travel size changing pad along but since then I’ve decided that just a clean waterproof pad that folds up no bigger than a burp cloth works just fine and takes up less space.

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Four diapers, wipes, and a waterproof pad to use as a changing pad. This turned out to be too many diapers but other days would have been just about right.

Feeding her is more complicated. At the time of that specific hike, Adventure Baby was taking about 4 oz of formula at a time but the length of time between feedings could vary a lot. Now I know that the inconsistency in that was probably attributable to poor naps, but at the time I found it very hard to predict what she would need. That meant that for a long trip we could have needed as many as 4 bottles, between driving to the trail, hiking, and driving back home. In the past I’ve used a formula dispenser cup with one serving (bottle-worth) in each well. Anticipating needing 4 bottles on this hike would have meant I needed two of those cups since each only holds 3 servings. Instead I decided to pack what we might need in two ziploc bags (in case we got a hole) and carry a scoop so I could measure out each serving as needed. The bag shown below actually contains enough formula to make 20 oz (5 bottles, at the time). Anytime we’re traveling I prefer to use Playtex Drop Ins bottles because feeding her multiple times only requires multiple liners, not multiple bottles, and there’s less clean up afterwards. Here I just made sure we had enough liners to feed her as many times as we anticipated and threw in an extra nipple, just in case.

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Formula in a ziploc bag (inside another ziploc bag)
Bottle liners
Playtex nurser bottle
Extra bottle nipple
and the bag we used to keep it together in the pack
Not pictured: water and formula scoop

Although we carried a Katadyn filter for our own water, I wanted to have water from home for mixing formula. So, we carried 24 oz in a Nalgene bottle.

In case of unexpectedly cool weather, rain, or a blowout, we carried extra baby clothes as well.

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Pants and a onesie rolled up inside a baby-sized hoodie

And finally, because we weren’t carrying enough already…

From left to right: insect repellent, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and plastic bags for diapers

From left to right: insect repellent, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and a roll of plastic bags for dirty diapers

All of this went into the pack, which Adventure Guy had the joy of carting around the mountain.

So that’s what we packed – but actually executing this is a whole other can of worms. We packed everything up the night before so that we wouldn’t waste precious happy baby time packing in the morning. As soon as she was up that morning, I fed her while Adventure Guy got himself ready and everything into the car. Dressed myself, had a little breakfast, and off we went. Adventure Baby slept a little in the car but as has been a pattern for her lately, not very much. By the time we arrived at the trailhead it wasn’t quite time for her to be hungry again yet but I knew that by the time we got ourselves actually on the trail it wouldn’t be long before she needed to stop. So, I fed her in the car at the trailhead but she only took about half of her normal amount. When she was done, I loaded her up in our new white Boba Air carrier (with a rolled up receiving blanket in the bottom and her legs froggied because she’s still a little small to sit in there) and we were off.

Thankfully, Adventure Baby loves being in the carrier – any carrier we’ve tried – as long as she’s fed and in a good mood when we put her in there. Not long into the hike she was asleep and she slept for nearly 2 hours. It turned out to be horribly windy and she did not appreciate that, so our hike was shorter than we intended and she didn’t wind up needing to eat on the trail a single time that day. I over packed.

Other days, especially before we got better at planning ahead so we could time our trips better, she’d need to eat multiple times during a hike. I try to anticipate when she’ll be hungry so that I can be on the lookout for a good spot to sit – preferably with a view.

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Our feeding perch from my first hike with Adventure Baby – Mother’s Day, 2013

When we find that perfect spot, hopefully at the perfect time, I slip my pack off while taking great care not to wake the baby! With any luck, I can get the bottle mixed before she wakes up. Then I slip her out of the carrier, sit in the best spot I can find, and proceed to look around while she eats to her heart’s content. Then it’s back in the carrier, feeding paraphernalia back in the bag, and back on our way.

The logistics of finding a spot and timing things well are no doubt essentially the same for a nursing mom. At first, I thought it was kind of convenient to be bottle feeding. After all, I can feed my baby anywhere and not have to worry about what people might say or feeling self-conscious. On the other hand, having to plan ahead and carry a bunch of extra stuff while being sure there’s enough to ride out unexpected delays is..tricky. We’ve been through a lot of trial and error trying to figure out what works best for us and I’m not 100% sure we’re there yet, but we’re on our way.

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In case anyone has stumbled on this post looking for more general tips about adventuring with infants and children, Megan Ward of the Adventures in Parenthood project recently shared two great posts: 1) 10 Tips for Camping with a Baby and 2) a nice long list of resources for parents with links to books, other blogs, and individual articles. Enjoy!

 

 

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Catching Up: The Arrival of Adventure Baby!!

After much sitting and waiting, Adventure Baby arrived on March 30, 2013. What follows is a birth story I originally wrote as a note on my iPhone a few nights later when the only way she would sleep was on my chest.  Enjoy.

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When I melted down in my doctor’s office at my 39 week appointment, he agreed to strip my membranes and see if that would move things along. I bled that night as I always did after checks, but the bleeding continued Thursday and Friday and at some point Thursday morning I was pretty sure it was actual bloody show and not just from the exam. I also had some, uh….other signs of labor. So I talked to the doctor on Thursday – he thought I might be in early labor and wanted me to get checked again. Went in and there wasn’t any more dilation than the day before (still 2cm, where I had been for a while) but he said Adventure Baby had dropped to zero station. He sent me back home with assurances that things were changing and it wouldn’t be long. I had contractions off and on all day Thursday but they ended in the evening. Friday, I had basically nothing. More bleeding, but no steady contractions.

My dissertation advisor used to be on faculty here and he got us a gift certificate to one of the nicer restaurants in town for our wedding. We decided to use that Friday night and joked that it would be our last supper. Not a single sign of labor the rest of Friday.

Saturday morning I woke up at 2:30 unsure if I was having contractions or just had a very upset stomach. I got out of bed and sat long enough to decide they were contractions, then bounced on my exercise ball some to see if they were going to stick around. They got worse as I did that and I had to stop bouncing during each, so at 3:30 I went in and told Adventure Guy it was time. True to form, he was maddeningly calm about it :p. I took a shower, he walked the dog, and we were off. We got to the hospital around 4:15 and to our room a little before 4:30. As I was in the bathroom changing into a gown I heard the nurse say we had gotten the last room – whew! Just before I walked back into the room, my water broke. Yay! Didn’t wind up happening in front of my class after all.

The doctor was extremely busy (see note about the last room) so the nurse checked me and tested to make sure my water really had broken. No more dilation but she thought I was 90% effaced. After a few minutes monitoring we were up and walking the halls. I had to stop and lean on a counter with every contraction. Adventure Guy was great, rubbing my back with every contraction and taking while we walked so I had other things to think about.

A little after 6 the nurse had me get back in bed for more monitoring and another check. Only 3 cm. By then the contractions were right up there with the worst pain I’ve ever felt and I asked about an epidural. The doctor wanted me to dilate more, so we waited. It didn’t take long for the contractions to become unbearable so that I was crying through each one. Finally around 7 they at least brought the consents for me to sign and they started an IV for fluids. I wanted to kill someone when they said I had to get a whole liter of fluid before I could get the epidural. The CRNA came in a little before 8 when the bag was about 80% empty and got started. She gave me a spinal first and then the epi, so things kicked in pretty quickly. She also said I had the strongest back muscles of anyone she’s seen in a long time and that made me giggle – 7 weeks of bed rest!

When the epi kicked in I took a nap. Apparently during that nap my contractions slowed down and they gave me pitocin. I likely would have told them to go ahead and do it anyway, but it irritated me that they didn’t even wake me up and tell me what they were doing. Adventure Guy was also sleeping so he didn’t know it either. The doctor came in and checked me again at 11 and said I was 6cm and progressing nicely. I went back to sleep again then until maybe 12:30 when husband decided to go to the grocery store so he could stockpile food and maintain his blood sugar. Somewhere in here they also put in a Foley catheter. I felt like I might pass out at that point so I said something and my blood pressure was only 63/31!! Got a shot of speed at that point which brought my BP back to the low normal range.

A little after 1 the doctor checked me again and said I was fully dilated. Adventure Guy was still at the store so I asked, on the verge of panic, if it was time to push. Thankfully the doctor said no, baby was still sort of high so she wanted me to “labor down” for a while. So I texted AG and told him to get a move on.

Shortly after 2 the CRNA turned the epi down a little so I could feel that I was having contractions and could at least sort of control my legs.

At about 3:30 the nurses came in and started preparing for pushing. Doctor came in at 3:40 and we got started. I was TERRIFIED. Nervous it would hurt and I wouldn’t be able to handle it, or that I would suck at it, etc. AG was amazing again, counting out the length of each push and rubbing my head for encouragement between each contraction. There was also a nursing student who was fantastic, and the nurse and doctor both gave really helpful instructions and feedback. Again they talked about how strong I am and again I wondered how I managed to fool them all. Ha.

With the second to last contraction the doctor said it was about time she got her booties so she stepped out and said I could keep pushing with the nurses. Rested the 2 min or whatever and then did the first of my usual three pushes at the start of the next contraction. Nurse Barb suddenly went “oh! Stop pushing!” And dove for the call button. The nurse at the desk answered and Barb said “we need [the doctor] NOW.” The contraction continued and Adventure Baby’s head came out with no pushing. Barb caught her head and the doctor made it in the room just in time for the rest of her body. After only 35 min of pushing little miss Adventure Baby was here.

Oh, I was such a teary mess. All I remember from the first couple minutes is crying, the huge grin on my husband’s face, and this squirmy beautiful little girl crying pitifully on my chest. It was so amazing, now I’m crying again.

She was born at 4:15 PM on the 30th, 7lbs 6oz and 20 inches long. Her mop of brown hair is already long enough that it curls around her ears and her eyes and little mouth are just gorgeous. She’s perfect. I absolutely could not be happier. It feels like this is what I’ve been waiting for this whole time, my life is complete now. I didn’t know it was possible to love someone so little so very much. All I want to do is cuddle her all day long.

Our sweet little girl on the day we headed home.

Our sweet little girl on the day we headed home.

Adventure Dog is learning what it means to have a baby around but clearly already loves her baby sister. What a wonderful little family we have :hug:

 

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Following Your Gut and Challenging Your Doctors

This post is going to veer way off the usual adventure theme. As discussed in my last post, we had some adventures of a different kind – threatened preterm labor and two separate trips to labor and delivery at 33 and 35 weeks which resulted in 5 weeks of bed rest and medication to stop contractions.

This post is about that kind of adventure.

Since that first episode at 33 weeks we’ve been seen at the OB weekly. Some things you should know. There’s one OB practice in this town. When we moved here, there were three doctors there full time and another who works on-call only – I was told never to expect to see her. In the past month or so, two new doctors have joined the practice. Expectant mothers are “required” to see each doctor in the practice, because any of them could be on call when delivery day comes around.

Our first round of threatened preterm labor, the female doctor I’d been told I wouldn’t see was actually the doctor on call. She was amazing – much better bedside manner than the other doctors I’d seen (all men, but I don’t think they have poor bedside manner because they are men). While we were in the hospital they ran a fetal fibronectin (fFN) test, which is supposed to indicate the likelihood of actually going into active labor within two weeks. Apparently, the fFN test has a high false positive rate, which means that a positive test could indicate that labor is likely to happen within two weeks, but may not actually mean anything at all. On the other hand, if the fFN is negative chances are good that labor will not occur within two weeks. My first fFN was negative, and the same was true when the test was repeated at 35 weeks the second time we found ourselves in L&D.

At 33 weeks they also gave me steroid shots to help develop the baby’s lungs and put me on Procardia to stop the contractions. I continued that Procardia until the 37 week mark. That came with some really fun side effects – wonky blood pressure, swelling in my hands and feet, flushing, dizziness and horrible headaches for at least an hour after taking each dose…it was no picnic. I also spent 5 weeks sitting around, going to campus only to teach my class and really doing nothing else.

Today I went to the doctor for my 38 week appointment. It’s spring break in our little town, for both the university and the local schools, and most of the doctors are out of town. I saw the newest member to the practice – he’s been practicing for >20 years but in another city until he joined this practice last week. And he had some very interesting things to say about preterm labor…

First, he said that if I had truly been having preterm labor they never would have been able to stop it for more than a few days (now, to be fair, they did call it threatened). Second, in light of the negative fFN test, he wouldn’t have put me on Procardia OR bed rest.

That’s right. Neither.

I haven’t taken the time to research any of this since I left the office, though I do intend to. When I was first placed on bed rest at 33 weeks, Adventure Guy went online to research that part himself. He found that as of 2011, the position of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is “bed rest, hydration and pelvic rest does not appear to improve the rate of preterm birth and should not be routinely recommended.”

Did I question the doctor at that time? Me, with the PhD?

No. No I did not. Why not? Because she’s the expert. When I’m talking to someone about [my field of study] and making recommendations based on what I know to be current in the literature, I expect that to be respected. Note: respected is not the same as taken at face value. It is possible to ask someone’s expert opinion and still question them, still challenge them, in a respectful way. But I didn’t do that. I knew that the ACOG recommendation was against bed rest, but I didn’t question it when the doctor told me that was what I needed to do.

I’ve obsessed over this all afternoon. And do you know why I think I didn’t question the doctor? Because of what happened at my very first OB appointment.

We had just moved to altitude. I’m very familiar with the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and I know what the recommendations are, I could spout them off to you in my sleep. I also know what the old recommendations are and could spout of several iterations of those, too. So when I asked the doctor what kind of exercise I could/should be doing – in light of our recent move to altitude – I knew that the recommendations he gave me were from 1975. After a short pause during which I’m sure smoke was coming out of my ears, I questioned him and I quoted the 2002 ACOG recommendations for exercise during pregnancy.

And he actually responded with “you wouldn’t want to hurt your baby, would you?”

Of course I wouldn’t want to hurt my baby. Who would? And I really think that one statement made me, an educated, confident woman, hesitant to question my doctors anymore. No, I don’t want to hurt my baby, so I’ll take what the doctors say at face value. I’ll do what they tell me because they think it’s best for my baby.

So today I asked this new doctor about bed rest. He told me that ACOG no longer recommends it and that there are negative effects to the mother that seem to outweigh any remote benefit. I bucked up and told him that I had read that, but had deferred to the expert, and he started talking about the benefits of all of the information that is available to us on the internet. However, he said, if he were to go online to research internal combustion engines he could find a lot of information but it wouldn’t mean much to him, and he would ask his mechanic. That was what I had done. However, my PhD is in the, uh…biomedical sciences…and I can read medical research and understand what it says. I told him this, and do you know what he said to me?

“Challenge your doctors.”

I should have. When my husband pulled up that article about the ACOG recommendations I should have asked the doctor about it. We could have at least discussed it, entertained the possibility that bed rest wasn’t really necessary.

On the other hand, if I’m going to make a mistake I’d still rather err on the side of caution. My baby didn’t come early. She’s still growing as she should and appears to be perfectly healthy. If I hadn’t gone on bed rest, hadn’t taken the Procardia and she came early and needed time in the NICU I probably would have always doubted my decisions. There’s no way to know for sure what would have happened if we hadn’t followed this course.

That is to say, if I could take it all back I don’t know that I would. But I did learn something from this – I learned to follow my gut, have faith in my ability and my husband’s ability to critically analyze the information available to us and to respectfully challenge our doctors. And that, in the end, might be what benefits Adventure Baby the most.

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Curve Balls

Or, when things don’t go as planned.

Hi there, sorry for the long hiatus. Life got busy – or busier, as the case may be. As it turns out, though, life is now slowing way down, though not necessarily by choice.

Throughout most of the third trimester, which hasn’t been that long really, I’ve had this fear that Adventure Baby would try to come early. Right after Christmas I insisted that we order her car seat and stroller, and a few weeks later we ordered the Pack n Play she’ll be sleeping in for the first few months.

Last Wednesday we found a new, bigger house to move into when this lease is up at the end of June – and it has heat! Thursday the Pack n Play arrived and I put it together. All week I’d been having some stomach discomfort and I was growing uneasy, concerned that Adventure Baby really might make an early appearance. We went in for my 32 week appointment that day (actually nearly 33 weeks) and the doctor was entirely unconcerned by my symptoms.

Friday morning I taught my class. I had some discomfort while lecturing but I thought it was just big movements – she’s been doing those a lot lately and sometimes it’s quite a bit…less than comfortable. The discomfort continued after class and shortly after 11 I decided to sit in the recliner in my office and read.

A couple minutes later, I felt what I was pretty sure was a contraction. Timed it just in case…and felt another one. Two minutes later. Somewhat alarmed, I set my book aside and continued timing. And they continued coming every two minutes, practically down to the second. After about half an hour of that I walked down to a friend’s office (she’s also pregnant) and asked her to feel my belly. She agreed they were contractions and I called the doctor. Naturally all of the doctors had just gone out to lunch, but the nurse asked me to come in at 12:45 to be monitored.

I was monitored at the doctor’s office for about 30 min and found to be having real, regular contractions 2 minutes apart. When the doctor got back from lunch, she checked and found that I was not dilated but was 50% effaced. Off to the hospital we went.

Once at the hospital I was hooked up to fetal monitors and an IV was placed. They gave me two doses of Procardia 90 min apart to try to stop contractions and checked again and found that I had dilated to 1 cm and was 70% effaced…progress we had not hoped to see. They started talking about flying me to Denver because this hospital isn’t equipped to deal with such wee babes, and I started to cry. Thankfully, a third dose of Procardia finally slowed the contractions and dilation didn’t proceed any further. They continued to monitor me until about lunch time on Saturday, on Procardia every 4 hours, and the contractions were finally gone. At 4 PM, after a second shot of steroids to help Adventure Baby’s lungs mature, we were sent home.

I’m still on Procardia every 4 hours and now on modified bed rest – I can go to campus 3x/week to teach my class, go to the doctor, and stand up long enough to do things like make a sandwich, but that’s all. Adventure Baby is staying in there for the time being and we’re hoping we can at least stretch this 3 more weeks.

So, my adventures are now of the couch variety. Guess it just goes to show that even with careful attention to prenatal health and remaining active, things can and do still go wrong. They couldn’t find a reason for my “threatened preterm labor” and this scientist doesn’t appreciate not knowing why, but it is what it is. And it’s all going to be worth it to cook a healthy little girl a little bit longer.

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On Skiing While Pregnant

Winter came and I couldn’t take it – I had to ski. We’ve been out twice now and I have some thoughts/observations to share.

You may remember that I was having trouble deciding if skiing (the cross-country variety) was a risk I was willing to take during this pregnancy. Most of my hesitation came from two places: 1) last year was really a non-season, so it felt like I hadn’t skied in 2 years, and 2) hiking the trails here, I worried that my skills might not be up to par.

We’ve talked to a number of people who do know the area well who thought there were easy enough trails out there for me to be safe. Adventure Guy gathered trail reports from all sorts of people, and decided on a good trail system for us to try on New Year’s Day.  Up until then, it had been all snowshoeing, all the time. That day we threw our snowshoes in the car just in case (but forgot boots – ha) and headed out to ski these reportedly easy trails.

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As it turns out, they were pretty easy! I’d say that for the most part, they were easier than most of the trails we skied in Michigan – the only thing I can think of that might have been easier there was a golf course. These trails were relatively flat without any steep climbs (though some did go on gradually forever) or steep descents, and no tricky turns at the bottom of hills. Most of the time the trails were even reasonably sheltered from the wind, for which we were thankful because although it was beautifully sunny, the temperature was in the low single digits and the windchill was well below zero that day.

I was happy to find that a few of my running clothes have sufficient Lycra content to still be worn at 27 weeks pregnant. Coupled with my Mountain Mama Maternity Clouds Rest baselayer top, my pair of Eddie Bauer Powerstretch pants, and an old Asics top, my Illuminite jacket provided just enough protection against the wind. Oh! And we can’t forget the Buff around my neck and the fact that I wore two hats – a fleece Mountain Hardwear liner and a windproof softshell hat from The North Face on top. It was cold with the wind in my face but otherwise great.

And some observations: these trails weren’t signed as clearly as we had hoped. Therefore, what we had intended to be a short easy ski became a bit more than 2 hours…. At 27 weeks pregnant, this meant a very sore pubic symphysis for a good 3-4 days afterwards. It felt ok for the first hour or so but by the end every stride was excruciating. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any choice but to continue until we finally got back to the car. Secondly, everyone knows that hydration is very important during pregnancy. I carry water on every outing, usually in the water bottle pockets on a Mountainsmith lumbar pack, which is what I did that day.  I drank throughout the trip but eventually all I wanted to do was put my head down and push back to the car. When we got back to the car, I found this…

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Taken a good 10-15 minutes into the ride back home…because the bottle was frozen shut until then. Oops.

Our second outing occurred a few days later when Adventure Guy decided he’d like to celebrate his birthday at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center. So we got up early on the morning of the 6th, loaded up the car, and drove down there. Once again he thought these trails – set on a golf course – would be easy enough for me to feel comfortable, but again we threw the snowshoes in the car – this time with boots! These trails were also easy and very well-groomed. Set tracks are a lot easier on the pelvis than smooth rolled trails are, let me tell you.

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This time we only skied about an hour. By the end of that time my pelvis was really hurting again, though not as bad as it had the previous outing. We walked around Steamboat for a while after we skied and I think that movement helped reduce the soreness I felt in the coming days.

Getting out on skis – especially that first day – made me feel like myself again. I have to admit it was fairly short-lived since it faded once the pelvic pain really kicked in, but it was great to feel that way even for a little while. I do wonder, though, how long I’ll really be able to do this with my pelvis feeling the way it did. I suspect not much longer. Snowshoeing is probably going to be out soon, too, as the wider stance seems to aggravate my loose SI joints. At this point, the only thing I seem to be able to do without any discomfort at all is the elliptical trainer. I haven’t tried swimming (and don’t really want to, as cold as this weather is!) but may have to break down and brave the pool sometime soon.

Another thing I really struggled with was finding the kick zone on my skis. This was worse during the second outing than it was during the first, but I struggled both times. My analytical mind had to come up with a reason, and I guess I’ve settled on blaming this new body weight distribution and a shifted center of gravity. According to my theory, my belly has shifted my center of mass forward and it’s no longer over my feet – which explains why I have no grip at all in a normal posture and feel like I have to sit back on my heels in order to have any traction climbing hills. Unfortunately, sitting back like that is not really conducive to climbing…Each of those outings were on my waxless skis – Adventure Guy is talking about waxing my waxable skis to see if maybe fine-tuning the kick zone helps. We also discovered that those skis are softer (even though they are the same model and same size), so that may help me have more traction than I had on the waxless pair. Otherwise, I have a pair of very soft Peltonen waxless skis that Adventure Guy picked up at Goodwill a couple years ago for $5 – they’re a little wider, too, and that may help as well.

So, that’s that. We finally got out there and I’m glad we did, even though I don’t know how long it will continue. It was nice to have the opportunity to enjoy one of my favorite things about winter.

Happy skiing.

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2012 In Review

All the blogs I read are popping up with “year in review” posts, so I might as well get around to that, also.

This is a tough one for me. Overall it’s been a fantastic year with a lot of major life milestones, the kinds of things that only happen once. When I break it down and look at different aspects of my life, less so.

In a past blog life I did annual summaries by the numbers. If I were to do that again, I’d have to say 2012 was sponsored by the number 1:

  • 1 move (hooray, just one!) most of the way across the country
  • 1 wedding – and it was perfect
  • 1 baby on the way
  • 1 completed dissertation (hooray!!)
  • 1 PhD
  • 1 new job
  • 1 surgery for each of us
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So long, old house

What else did 2012 hold?  Well…

I started the year with a list of fitness-related (running-related) goals. This year that did not include a mileage goal, but did include a goal of no zero-mile weeks. On top of that, I planned on running the Race for the Cure and 1-2 half marathons, while considering a full marathon. I also planned on lots and lots of skiing.

That didn’t turn out so well. I started 2012 with major surgery that had a pretty profound effect on upper body muscle function and kept me out of exercise. I was cleared to run at the end of January, but upper body-intensive stuff like cross-country skiing was still off the table for another month or so. Of course, that didn’t matter, because it was basically the year of no snow in Western Michigan. Rather than running consistently….well, I basically consistently didn’t run. It looks like I stopped logging my runs in the beginning of July – with only 112 miles for the year. There were some I didn’t log, but certainly not more than another 30 miles or so. There’s no other way to put it – I’m really disappointed in myself. For the first year since….2005? I  didn’t run a single race. Skipping the RFTC was a conscious decision after the Susan G. Komen vs. Planned Parenthood debacle early in the year, but otherwise I just (clearly) was not fit enough to entertain the idea.

Skiing was a total bust due to the aforementioned year of no snow. We got out once.  ONCE.

It’s in my nature to look back on my year of fitness and try to assess why I failed so miserably. As I said, the year started with surgery. That was actually phase 2 – phase 1 was in late October, 2011. So basically, I ran the Chicago Marathon that month and then stopped running. I planned the surgery that way because I had been running consistently and rather seriously since 2007 and felt I needed a break – it wasn’t fun anymore. I can honestly say that I’ve only been getting the urge to run again in the past month or so. Maybe I needed a longer break than I thought. Nearly every run I did in 2012 was forced. And not fun. Then, there was life. That list of 1’s up there contributed to a lot of that, but really the dissertation takes the cake. Holy crap.

In good news, 112 running miles does not cover every bit of exercise I did in 2012. Thank goodness. I did yoga, enrolled in a series of spinning classes, did a good bit of road cycling, walked to/from work and for exercise a lot, and since we’ve moved, did a lot of hiking. Obviously I’m nowhere near as fit as I was the day of that marathon, but I’m not a total slouch either. So there’s that. And walking is very good exercise, I tell people this all the time.

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Welcome bear in New Town

Not to be solely focused on fitness, I also set unrelated goals each year. For 2012, those included getting married, finishing my dissertation, graduating, getting a job, and not losing my mind before August.

The losing my mind part could be up for debate (see dissertation) but otherwise – I knocked those goals out of the park. So a fitness failure, but a good year overall.

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Ooooh, pretty science.

What else did this year include? We moved out here for my job, but Adventure Guy found a job in town he loves and he can be happy there for a very long time, we think. With each job came new friends we expect to have many happy years with. We’ve even made new friends outside of work – probably a speed record, that one always seems to take us years. I coached toddler soccer for the first time and had a blast (after all, one of my favorite things in the whole world is toddlers running). We’re finally fully acclimated to altitude. And we love love love the mountains. And our new town and new lives here. Trail Dog loves the parks in town, her new dog and human friends, the snow, her new boots, and her new trails near and far.

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Trail Dog says Happy New Year!

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Gear Review: Ruff Wear Bark’n Boots Grip Trex

We’ve had our eye on these boots for the past five years or so (even though it doesn’t seem like Trail Dog is old enough for that to be possible), but were never convinced in our old location that she needed them.

Cue a move to Wyoming. Trail Dog has had issues taking even short walks several times already this winter. We’ve already kept her in on one of our adventures (snowshoeing in early December) because it was just too cold, and we haven’t been on the trails as much because we felt it was too cold for her dainty paws. Tuesday morning we tried to walk Adventure Guy to work and her paw froze just as we were arriving – it’s about a 5 block walk. Wednesday morning I think she only made it 2 blocks. Now, she’s loved running and playing in snow in the past, and we have a suspicion that she has a bigger problem with cold pavement (or maybe something they’re putting on the road) than just with snow. In any event, walks like that were not going to get her through the winter and she was in serious need of some exercise.

Thankfully, the Ruff Wear Bark’n Boots Grip Trex boots we ordered her arrived yesterday. A few thoughts about the boot buying process, to start:

Adventure Guy works in a local outdoor retail shop that carries Ruff Wear, so we took Trail Dog into the shop one day to try them on. When we almost bought these boots a couple years ago, I think we were planning to buy a medium.  Trail Dog is a border collie – pointer mix and weighs 65-70 lbs, depending on the day and the vet’s scale. She is not small.  However, it was clear very quickly that though she may not be small, her feet apparently are. The small boots are a perfect fit. So my advice to you, dear reader, is to have your dog try them on! If that’s not possible, at least measure her feet – preferably both her front and back feet just in case they are different sizes. Ruff Wear provides instructions for doing this. Because Adventure Guy works for a Ruff Wear dealer, we were able to order the boots from the company at a discount.

We also ordered the Bark’n Boots liners. Ruff Wear says this is a good thing to do if the dog has a dew claw, and Trail Dog does. I’m not going to lie, these are a trip to put on. Fortunately Trail Dog is reasonably patient. I do feel like they probably protect her feet from any rubbing that might occur in the boots, though. These are sized a little differently than the boots. We wound up ordering an XS instead of a SM and they’re fine, but we are considering also ordering a pair in SM to see if they might be a little better, since she’s right at the edge of the sizing. However, I wonder if the SM would bunch up with extra fabric. If we do decide to size up I’ll come back and edit this.

Now, a few words on the reality of putting boots on your dog.

Trail Dog is 6 years old. She’s mellowing out. She’s always been good about letting us play with her feet (even though she won’t let us trim her nails) and is very good about letting us clean her feet every time we come in from nasty weather, so I was hopeful this might go reasonably well. But of course, there’s always the chance the dog could Freak Out. Trail Dog didn’t freak, but she did do the boot dance in the store (confession – I laughed my ass off  – it’s damn funny). However, after a few minutes of walking around she started to get it.

Yesterday with the addition of the liners, we decided the best thing to do was reward her as we put each boot on, so Adventure Guy put them on her and I fed treats periodically. She completely ignored what he was doing and kept her nose glued to my hand, waiting for the next treat to be released. Guess it helps to have a food motivated dog.

This time we headed out in the snow the instant the boots were on. Trail Dog loves to frolic in the snow so I took her right out to a fresh fluffy patch and frolic we did. Eventually Adventure Guy got his layers on and the house locked up, and the three of us set out for Trail Dog’s favorite city park. Within two blocks of the house – the same place her paw froze yesterday – the boot dance was done and she was walking normally. Two blocks more and she was flat out prancing. Tail and head held high, that was one happy dog. A much more pleasant walk than the previous several.

Taking Ruff Wear’s advice to make sure we do fun things with the boots on, we took her snowshoeing on day 2.

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Trail Dog modeling her Bark’n Boots and her Storm Chaser jacket – that one’s 3 years old.

It was a hit! We were in a hurry to hit the trails as we were running out of daylight, so I sat in the back seat of the car with her and put the boots on as we drove. In my haste, or poor balance, or whatever, one of the back boots wasn’t tight enough. About 5 minutes into our trek that boot spun on her foot. But, Adventure Guy was walking behind her and saw it. We stopped and re-tightened all the boots and didn’t have any more troubles from then on out.

We didn’t want to hike too long while she’s still breaking in the boots and as I mentioned, daylight was waning. Even so, she had a lot of energy, so Adventure Guy frolicked with her for a couple minutes before we got back in the car.  Go on and tell me this isn’t a happy dog:

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The boots are a hit! Definitely a good buy, we’ll be using these a lot more this winter, I’m sure.

Update – 12/21/12: When I originally wrote this post, details about how we got the boots were unintentionally vague. This post has now been edited to reflect the fact that Adventure Guy works for a Ruff Wear dealer and we purchased the boots from the company at a discount that is available to outdoor retail professionals.

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