Trek Women
March 16, 2009

See One. Do One. Teach One.

012 For anyone who is or has ever been a fan of medical TV shows, you are probably familiar with the phrase, See one. Do one. Teach one. Well, if medical professionals can use it, why can't fitness instructors?

A week or so ago I faced the challenge of teaching my first spinning class.

See One:  I've been to probably at least a good hundred spin class - some good, some fabulous, some tragically awful, and some where I thought the instructor must be from another planet. 

Do One:  Ditto with the See One.  I know what I like in an instructor.  Good balance between encouragement and letting me sweat up the hill without talking my ear off.  Reminders when I'm getting sloppy on my form.  Good music that pumps me up.  And the intangible - the sweaty spent feeling of a great workout that somehow leaves me  MORE energized for the rest of the day, despite that searing burn in my quads not 5 minutes ago.

Teach One:  Much, much trickier.  It's one thing to spend all the time on the other side of the bike, mentally making those notes, "if I were the instructor I would/wouldn't do that. . . "   The problem is that those amazing instructors make everything look so easy and effortless that you take for granted the work that it really is.  A late afternoon class meant spending the day listening to my music, stressed that I wasn't going to get the timing right and that I would do everything short of falling off the bike.  I used my kids as my confessional after school pick-up and on the way to the gym.  Cameron's quick answer, "Mom, a lot of these people are your friends, right?  Well, they're not going to tell you if you're doing a bad job. . . "  Fair point - score a comfort-mom point for the 8-year old.  They spent the rest of the ride composing a highly technical rating system that could be used to judge my performance (as well as rate the music played).  I think it was akin to using a telephone poll, the evening post-class:

"Hello.  We would like to have you complete a short survey regarding your spin class experience this afternoon.  To proceed in English, press 1.  Para Espanol, numero dos.  Using the following numbers on your touch-tone phone, please rate our mom's ability as a spin instructor.  Press 1, if you liked the class, thought she was a decent instructor and will return again.  Press 2 if the class was so bad, you hope to never run into her in the grocery store, post office, or bank.  Press 3 if you are her friend and would like us to just let her down easy.  We thank you for helping us deal with our neurotic mom.  Good-bye.  Click."

Class went well for me.  I was able to work the music, know the routine, and even work the timing for some jumps.  Everyone was sweating at the end but seemed energized.  Just how I like an instructor to make me feel.

-Jen

December 3, 2008

Where Did It Go?

IMG_3591 Do you remember as a child how long a month took?  Do you remember how agonizingly slow the days on the calendar passed - especially when waiting for a birthday, vacation or Christmas?  Not so as an adult.  I caught myself answering a question for the kids last weekend that started with, "Yes, Monday is December 1st. . ." and then stopped in my tracks.  December?  Where did November go?

Last you knew I was layering up for the Philly half-marathon and then heading for a warmer climate. Halfmedal Layering and layering is exactly what I did - to the point where my runny nose was practically all  that was showing (and yet there were many a red and frozen bare leg seen running in shorts that day).  I ran myself to a personal best half-marathon time of 2:15:45 and managed not to slip on the ice that formed at water stops when water sloshed and froze on the ground.  As I crossed the finish, I gathered my cool medal (yes, I did "Kick Asphalt," I thought) and kept right on walking - straight to my car, a warm shower at home and then the airport.

Our cruise was fabulous.  Yes, we ate too much and did a lot of nothing.  The whole family got in the water and pet dolphins, the kids tackled a 40 foot water slide, learned to climb a rock wall and we decided on a no-turkey meal on Thanksgiving. Brendan even lost a tooth, which is what got me thinking about how fast time is passing.  When he lost his tooth, we laughed at the irony because Cameron,  3 years ago - almost exactly - lost a tooth on a cruise.  When I had to think back to when that cruise was and realized it had been 3 years - wow!

So, while continuing the day to day and marveling at how fast the holidays are approaching and how little I have done, I'm spending a lot of time trying to conjure up all the moments in the past year, realizing how quickly they've come and gone.

It was just a year ago that I was holiday shopping in a leg cast.  A lot has happened since then.  Since January I've learned to walk and run again, completed 2 5K's, 2 half-marathons, 3 triathlons (one being my first Olympic distance - where there was no medal - yes, I'm still annoyed about that), 3 cycling charity events, skiied in 2 different states (tackling a black diamond run that I thought would be the death of me), cycled around 5 different cities in 4 different states, met many, many other Women WHo Ride, celebrated 2 kids birthdays, had 2 boys grow roughly 6 inches, seen 4 baby teeth fall out, seen a child through surgery, survived a kitchen re-model and and a family room remodel, spent time in the hospital with shingles, gotten a job at a bike shop and written over 125 blog posts chronicling all these events.  Phew.  Wow. 

I've been looking ahead to 2009 lately thanks to all the e-mails announcing race registrations being open. At the same time it's made me realize that time continues to tick by and perhaps I should balance out my thinking ahead with spending a little more time recounting and reliving the fun I've already had.  Kids are good at that - they can remember something silly or the details of an amazing accomplishment for a long time but as adults I've noticed that I'm often more preoccupied with the "What's Next?" thoughts.  So, while the holiday season can often get everyone wrapped up in a whole series of what next's as we try to do to much, be too much and exceed our own often too high expectations, take a few minutes to say, or even ask others "Where did the year go and what moments will I remember?"

-Jen

November 19, 2008

Shhhh. . . I Ride For Me

I have been struggling with writing to all of you about my Trek Travel Women Who Ride Santa Barbara Trip  because I feel like I'm struggling to come up with descriptions adequate enough to do justice to the amazing experience I had.  Trek Travel truly had every minute detail covered.

Who Knows Where We're Going?
On Day 1, twenty-two women shared two vans for the hour long trip to the Solvang area and the Curtis Winery.  We relaxed and chatted as we toured and tasted at the winery.  Following our tour, we enjoyed a beautiful picnic lunch on the lawn of the winery, set up for us by our guides, Andrea and Diane.  I was constantly amazed at their ability to be chef, tour guide, mechanic, cyclist, chauffeur and concierge all without ever seeming to break a sweat.  After lunch we changed into our cycling gear and got fit on our bikes.  There were a number of writers and editors who were part of the trip and we all got to utilize the Trek Project One to custom design our rides for the trip.  The thrill of designing a beautiful, Jen Polo original Madone 6.5 WSD online was quickly eclipsed by the actual beauty of seeing it come to life right before my eyes.  How often can you look at racks of 20 Madone's and know EXACTLY which one is yours to ride?

Day 1 was set to be an easy 15 mile ride to get us warmed up and have a get to know you with our bikes.  We had a briefing on the route, got our cue sheets and headed down the sloping winery driveway.  That is when some turned right and others turned left.  A group of us paused at the bottom, watching, not knowing any women well enough to know who had the poor sense of direction (I won't point any fingers - um, Selene. . .).  We were righted in our path and enjoyed what turned out to be 18 miles ending at our hotel for the night in the little town of Solvang.


SolvangOn Day 2 we did thirty miles, with options for more or less, around Solvang.  The scenery was beautiful and the company was even better as we were able to ride, share stories and feel the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair with no time-line other than how much time we wanted for a quick shower before checking out of the hotel and heading to Santa Barbara for the evening.  We climbed some hills, gathered at the Maverick Saloon where the signs proclaimed "Ladies Welcome" and later enjoyed a fabulous Italian dinner topped off by a limo ride back to the hotel.

"I'm Gonna Frame That Graph"
On Day 3, in Santa Barbara, we had a number of options for riding, including a total of ride of 59 miles for the day.  While I had felt a lot of nerves going into the trip - my own insecurities about being a strong enough rider, being able to handle anything that looked hilly, being able to handle four straight days of riding after mostly running for the past month or so - by the second evening I had made a deal with myself.  I was going to attempt the 59 miles.  I had never ridden that long before, constraints on my training time and my love of family time, mostly have me topping out at 30 mile rides.  I knew I didn't want to be sitting on a plane home regretting not trying - especially after I realized that this was the perfect time to challenge myself - when else do you get the fully supported (SAG van, guides and awesome women to ride the miles with) opportunity to try something you're not fully sure you can do?

We all started out together, riding a beautiful area along the Pacific.  Ann, Becky and Susan and I stopped for a quick coffee shop bathroom break before heading into the foothills. We then headed into the hills and climbed, and climbed, and climbed.  We took a few stops for pictures and to consult the elevation graph that seemed to often not be giving us a clear picture of what was in store.  I had never climbed this much ever and it was sapping my energy leaving me ravenous.  We stopped for a break where I was willing to admit that I needed some M&M's badly and like a mirage in the desert, there it was - the Trek Travel van pulling along side us and asking us if we needed a snack.  We reevaluated during our snack, where Alison (on her first day on a road bike ever) caught up with us.  Becky, Alison and I decided that we were in it until we rode right up to the picnic lunch waiting for us at the Santa Barbara mission.  Diane led us in a few more miles of climbing where we were treated to spectacular ocean views and then we began our descent toward lunch. 

After lunch, Andrea and Diane swapped places and Andrea took Becky, Susan, Lori and I on the second half of our day, leading us through University of California, Santa Barbara.  We left Susan and Lori on campus as they headed to the school bookstore for shopping. 

Becky and I stuck together and at the end of the day, 61 miles later, we were toasting ourselves and our girl-power accomplishment from the jacuzzi of the hotel.  The next day Becky told me she wanted to get a copy of cue sheet from our ride saying,  "I'm gonna frame that graph."  Becky and I will forever be connected by all those up and down spikes on that graph and the fact that we rode every one of them (and then some).

I Can't Believe It's Over
Our last day dawned about 10 degrees cooler and much, much windier than our previous days for riding.  The first six or so miles my legs and my brain fought with the headwind.  Somehow our group ended up with Selene riding off the front.  My only worry was that Selene wasn't the best person to follow for directions (see Day 1) and I wasn't sure if my legs had a detour in them today.  Selene kept us on course and sixteen miles later we were handing over our bikes and heading to pack and then hit the airport.

As I sat on the plane home later I reflected on so many things.  The trip gave me relaxation, new friends, fabulous food, new challenges, and a sense of strength that I can accomplish so much more than I ever give myself credit for.  But, more than that, what stuck with me was the exercise we had done the first night during cocktails.  We were asked to all introduce ourselves and share the reason that we ride.  Here are just a few of our thoughts, "for sanity, for weight loss, for transportation, for health, to feel like I'm flying, to feel alive. . . "  

While we started our trip on Day 1 with a small ride, perhaps nervous in not knowing each other, nervous in our own abilities, by Day 4 we were all in it together, no longer willing to hide that all our reasons for riding are all a part of each one of us.  The truth is we ride for ourselves and because of that we are all better wives, mothers, girlfriends and women.  I didn't think that group psychology, friendship, rejuvenation, strength and self-confidence could all be packaged in one bike but yes, it was one amazing bike on one amazing trip.  I was so proud to be just one rider on a journey with twenty-one other Women Who Ride. . . .


-Jen

November 5, 2008

Seventy Three Degrees and Sunny

There are more leaves on the ground than on the trees here in Pennsylvania.  It was snowing briefly last week and we've had more than one hard frost that left the remaining vines in our garden done for the year.  In essence, it's November.  I've told you that I'm determined to keep riding outside as long as possible this year and I've found what has to be the best possible way to do it - Trek Travel.

I'm hopping a flight this afternoon for Santa Barbara, California where the forecast calls for 08SB-L seventy-three degrees and sunny over the next four days. Tomorrow morning I will meet up with approximately eighteen other women, for a Trek Travel Women Who Ride Santa Barbara Wine County Weekend cycling trip.

On the itinerary are four days of riding, amazing scenery, fabulous food, and numerous winery stops.  I'm looking forward to getting away and getting to know other women riders while Trek Travel takes care of all the details.  I return on Monday and I'm sure I will have some wonderful pictures and stories to share.  I can't wait to tell you all about it. . .

-Jen

October 28, 2008

All The Signs Are There

Snowflake-01 I was at a school meeting yesterday evening.  When I left and walked through the dimly lit parking lot I didn't immediately notice the slightly damp pavement.  What I did notice was the smell in the air.  For some reason my mind immediately went to the thought, "Why does it smell like snow?"  Once I got in the car I noticed my wet windshield and the light mist that had started but still, I was convinced that I smelled snow not rain.

Last week, I found myself getting out of bed each morning to frosty air and started adding layers in the darkness before heading downstairs to the coffee machine.  The thermostat suddenly dipped to 58, causing me to grudgingly fire up the heater.

Once I was home, I logged on to the computer to check the weather forecast and the computer reminded me that Daylight Savings Time is this weekend - (hello, dark, dark, dark).

I went to bed and woke up this morning to cold, sleet-y, windy rain.  I don't mind riding or running in a light rain but this was cold enough to force me onto the treadmill - oh how I hate the treadmill.

All the signs are there.  I've been ignoring them until late morning yesterday when huge snowflakes began falling fast and furious.    I only felt a moments vindication that my nose knew there was snow somewhere - then considered that the bikes displayed outdoors at work were quickly gaining a layer of snow and ice.  I had been ignoring the calendar, the increasingly bare trees and the jacket I was adding before walking the boys to the bus stop each morning, because I was still able to get out and ride and run sometime each day.  But now I need to face facts, the days of dark mornings and quickly darkening evenings are here.  It's quickly coming to the time where I need to get out my CycleOps bike trainer, consult the gym spin schedule and move the training indoors.   Each year I've been extending my outdoor season.  Perhaps I'm becoming used to the cold or each year I'm becoming more stubborn about relinquishing my outdoor rides and runs.  How long can you still ride outdoors?  Perhaps the better question is how many layers do you need before you are forced inside?

I've got some interesting plans for more outdoor riding in the next few weeks though so stay tuned. . .

-Jen

October 21, 2008

Enough With Asking

1114_canal_path_leavesedit_ps_rz_2 For months I have been hyping various cycling adventures to the kids.  The biggest of these is taking their bikes, along with my mountain bike, down to the path that runs along the canal in our town.  I frequently run there and the fall is the best time for the canal - crisp air, crunchy leaves (no Canadian geese with babies to hiss and block your path).  I have continued to meet lukewarm responses.  There is always something else that sounds more appealing.  Twice a week I have the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with each of the boys.  On Monday one has soccer practice but the other does not.  On Wednesday it reverses.  Yesterday was a beautiful, albeit cold fall day.  I made a big pot of soup in the afternoon so that dinner would be ready for us right after practice.  I once again suggested the canal bike ride and got a "nah" in return.

Then it hit me.  I was forgetting the biggest mom rule of all time.  Enough with the asking.  It was time to pull out the "because I said so."  I simply stated, "Well, that's what we're doing."  I pulled up a map of the canal and said, "you can choose which direction we take the canal.  How far do you think we can go during your brother's practice?"  That's right - it was on.  Not only was I invoking the "because I said so", I had issued a challenge as well.

Brendan rose to the challenge and then some.  He kept time on a watch so we would know when to turn around.  I strapped on the Garmin to keep distance for us.  One hour and fifteen minutes later (and almost dark) we had ridden 10.42 miles (he wants it to be exact).  He crunched over leaves and sticks, passed a farm with horses, said hello to every maniacal squirrel gathering for the winter and only once did a swerving maneuver that I thought would end with me picking him out of the canal.

In the end I felt satisfied that no longer asking was the right choice.  Sometimes as a mom you just have to prove that you know what will be fun (granted, sometimes you say it will be fun and know it won't - like grocery shopping).  Our only mistake was not wearing gloves.  My hands were so cold when we got back to the fields that it took extra time to load the bikes back on to the car rack. But, Cameron is already prepping for Wednesday when it's his turn to see how far he can go.  Cameron's only question so far, "Did you take any breaks?"  He's cut from the same mental mind-set cloth as his mom (what if I can't do it?).    Enough with the asking - I think I'll just tell him that we're going 11 miles. . .

-Jen


October 16, 2008

On the Other Side of the Bike

Img_3349_2 Whew - I made it.  Last Saturday was my first big event for Bucks County Bicycle Company - the Trek WSD Breast Cancer Awareness Ride.  It is a completely different experience to be on the other side of the bike and be the event planner.  I spent two weeks stressing over the creation of safe, enjoyable and scenic routes that would be welcoming to all abilities of riders.  I hoped that I had ordered enough food and drinks and that  while I felt unsure and disorganized in my mind, it would appear flawless and well planned to those attending. 

It went even better than I expected.  We had over 45 riders (a huge increase from our 12 last year) of all abilities and everyone seemed to have a great time.  We had the exact right amount of food and a beautiful sunny, cloudless day.

Our pre-registration numbers only had 4 riders for the 10 mile ride, so I decided it would just be easiest if I led the ten miler and focused all my ride leaders/assistants on the 25 mile ride.  Well, when registration was said and done I ended up with a dozen riders.  I felt a bit like a summer camp counselor or perhaps pre-school field trip chaperone in that I kept counting all my riders to make sure I hadn't lost anyone at turns or left them behind.  It's definitely hard work to be the leader and find the right ride speed and ability to signal turns, making sure others follow.

We had a few great stories come out of the day - One rider had just bought her bike this summer and six miles was the longest she had ever ridden at once.  She successfully completed the 10 miles, easily I might add, and quizzed me afterward on clipless pedals - I think she's hooked.  We had one woman who had just finished chemo in July and the ride was her second one of the year.  And lastly, my favorite story of the day. . . Prior to the ride start I had one gentleman in cotton T-shirt and shorts quiz me quite emphatically about the one hill that I had mentioned was on the 25 mile ride (when you ride down to the river, you have to come back up somehow).  He said he had only been riding two months and how steep, how long etc. . .was the hill.  He then asked what would happen if he went part way and didn't/couldn't do any more.  I was momentarily startled because I hadn't considered that as a possibility.  I told him that a ride leader would call the store and I would come pick him and his bike up if that were the case.  I felt a fine line right then - here was someone I had just met and I didn't want to tell him that perhaps he should just come on the 10 mile ride and not attempt the 25.  I didn't want to speculate on what he could or couldn't do - it just didn't feel like my place.

Well, he made it back - beaming.  He then told me that he hadn't heard me separate the groups into the two rides and he ended up on the 25 mile ride when he really did intend to be on the 10 mile.  He made it the whole 25 miles, hill and all and was thanking one of our ride leaders profusely for encouraging him the whole way.  I am pretty sure that I will see him at this event again next year!

It was a great day and it was great to meet and talk with so many riders.  Our store raised over $625 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and everyone enjoyed the ride.  It's good to be on the other side now and looking ahead to the next event.  I learned a lot and have a ton of respect for event/race directors.  I think I'm going to aim for 75+ riders next year. . .

-Jen

PS.  Many thanks to my fellow Trek chic Laura, who endured many issues in coming from Washington DC to support the event.  I was so glad to have your support!

PPS.  Many thanks go out to all the employees at the store, many of whom I met just that morning, who helped get everything ready.

October 2, 2008

Restless

I must apologize to all you faithful blog readers out there for the feeling that I have left you out in the cold.  I seem to spend each Monday trying to recover myself and our house from the whirlwind that is each weekend and then the boys were off of school the past two days, which took all my "me" time and made it kid time.

Usually when I blog I like to have something to write about that has a beginning, middle and end, if you will.  A problem that has a solution.  Today I don't have that to offer.  What I can tell you is this:  I am restless.

Perhaps it was the mood in which I did my last race, perhaps it was the fading of me reaching my goals for this tri season, perhaps it was the stilted interruption to the racing season with the hospitalization in August.  Whatever the case I know that the only word I seem to settle on lately is restless.  A week after the last tri I was feeling empty.  I didn't feel like my triathlon season had come to a complete close for the year.  I googled around for other races, wondering if doing another late season tri (cold or not) would fill the void.  Last year I felt ready for the tri season to come to a close and to move on to fall activities.  I was ready to look to the next year and make plans, comfortable in the end of one season, ready for the next.

Right now I don't feel ready to plan.  I'm wandering around in a fitness haze, trying new things, unsure of my place.  Last week I reacquainted myself with the offerings of my gym and tried a class called H.I.T.  I'm not sure exactly what the acronym means, other than the fact that it HIT me hard.  (Coach Tom, yes, I finally understand specificity of training - the thought that to be good at swimming, biking, and running you need to do those things specifically.)  I was uncoordinated within the class (I've never been a step aerobics kind of girl) and my family enjoyed laughing at me for the rest of the week as every time I sat down I felt muscles that I didn't know existed (apparently they are not ones used in swimming, biking and running).  I'm planning on returning - the cross-training will be good for me - but it definitely cemented my permanent love of triathlon.

I'm not looking for it to be 90 degrees and humid again but I also feel myself fighting the onset of the cooler weather, which usually I love for running and cycling.  Do I need a new challenge?  Is it an Xterra?  A winter tri?  Adventure racing?  Do I just need to forge ahead and plan for the tri season next year?  A problem without a solution - I told you that in the beginning. Usually what gives me clarity and some space to problem solve is to get the heart pumping and the endorphins flowing.  I'm going to head out this morning and try just that but, lately, I seem to lose any problem solving as soon as the wheels stop turning or my legs stop moving.  Then, once again, I am restless. . .

-Jen 

September 25, 2008

Can I Use My "Phone A Friend?"

Telephone I've been busy preparing for the Trek WSD Breast Cancer Awareness Ride on October 11th.  At the shop I have been put in charge of the whole thing (how's that for trust 3 weeks on the job?)  So, while it was easy for me to deal with things like flyers, website promotion and food ordering, creating routes for a 10 mile and 25 mile ride has been a little intimidating.

The area surrounding the shop doesn't have the most "cycling friendly" roads.  And, because the ride is meant to be casual and welcoming to everyone of all abilities, I want to ensure that everyone will feel comfortable (and address all those "how many hills?" questions I've been getting.)

So, yesterday I came into the shop with my bike and then headed out to scope out some roads and tentative routes.  Twenty-one miles later I had experienced roads that dead-ended (geez Google Maps - you coulda told me!), roads that were entirely too trafficked, and roads that were just not that scenic to ride.  In my frustration with the routes I thought would be fine, I made a key error in judgment.  I decided to explore additional areas, not necessarily knowing where they would lead.  Twenty minutes later I was completely lost.  I should have known better - some of the housing developments in this area are notorious for circular streets and confusing layouts that leave you turned around without clear direction on where the main roads lie. 

I had no map, I had no fancy GPS device.  What I had instead was my lifeline  - the phone-a-friend.  I always carry my cell phone when I am out riding.  It slips easily into a jersey pocket and you just never know when you might have that sudden weather, flat, or mechanical issue that you just can't handle.  Luckily, my phone address book is chock-full of friends who work with or near readily available computers to help navigate me and (this is key here) not laugh at me or question why I need them to Google Map me out of somewhere.  It only took two calls for me to find a friend at their computer who could lead me out of my mess.  Turns out I was less than a mile from where I needed to be but the phone-a-friend lifeline saved me another 30 minutes of riding in circles. . .

-Jen

PS.  The phone-a-friend also works when you need advice on why you just can't seem to get the stinkin' pedals off your bike.  (I speak from experience!)

September 23, 2008

What Women Want

What women want - what a totally loaded blog title.  I know, your minds are already reeling so let me give you some focus.  Today, Scott, the owner of Bucks County Bicycle will head to Las Vegas for Interbike.  Interbike is North America's largest bike trade show.  If it's part of the biking world it will be at Interbike.   Scott will be looking at all the latest and greatest in the cycling world, from bikes to clothes and all the parts in between.  He will be making decisions that will affect what is stocked in the store for the coming year. 

Okay, so what does that have to do with what women want?  Well, I've already told Scott he needs to think and shop like a woman if he wants to become a store that is woman friendly and can cater to the woman's cycling world.  Women look for different things, shop differently and expect stores to be friendly to them.  How many times have you gone to a store and immediately made a snap judgment based on the look or layout of the store.  So, my job here (or at least I've decided it will be) - to be outspoken about how to create a woman-friendly bike store.   Anyway, here's your chance to have a say. . .   What types of products, tri or otherwise, clothing or gear do you wish the "perfect woman-friendly bike shop" would have?  We all know that there aren't local tri-specific retailers on every corner - make that hardly any corners - so we are all used to the Internet shopping game for our gadgets, gear and a lot of times clothes (how horrendous is that when you have to order a bunch of stuff based on a size chart and then do the frustrating "try on, send back" game).

So, ladies, have your say.  Close your eyes and imagine your perfect bike/tri store. . . .  What do you want?  From little to big, to colors or designs, tell me what you want. . .

-Jen

PS.  I'll be passing the comments on to Scott - especially as he will be figuring out what clothes to stock for the coming year.