Trek Women
September 26, 2007

Winner!

Bobblehead_3 Yesterday I went for my first run since the Danskin triathlon.  Right after the tri I got a horrible cold and spent most of last week connected to a box of tissues, a bag of cough drops and Day-Quil.  So, I had myself committed to a 5 mile run yesterday.  I should have known it was going to be trouble from the moment I woke up to a weather forecast projecting August-like East Coast humidity.  But, I was committed.  I went and silently cursed every step of those 5 miles.  I knew (or at least prayed) I would feel some kind of pride later on (maybe after a shower) that I got out there and did it and didn't wimp out.

When I got home, sweating profusely, my answering machine was blinking.  The message was notifying me that I had won an award at a local 5K race I did in August and that I had not claimed my award yet.  I almost fell over laughing.  Me - curser of every footfall in my run - a race award winner?  Turns out it was actually true.  I won 3rd place in my age group in the local Race for Missy 5K and got the cool bobblehead runner statue pictured here.  I'm trying to not let it go to my head lest my head become as big as the bobblehead.

What makes the story funnier is that I have spent the last year and a half having to explain to my kids each time I do a race that I didn't win.  Each time they ask - "But Mom, what place did you get?"  In their world they only know 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  Even at age 7 and 6 they understand that the podiums don't have room for 675th place.  What is even harder for them to get (particularly Cameron who even thinks getting your pajamas on fastest should be a competition) is that I'm not doing it to win.  In his young kid mind he can't fathom why I would even be doing the race when I know that I'm not going to win.  He has persisted often enough with, "But Mom, maybe if you really try your fastest you'll win"  only for me to answer, "No, no I won't but that's not why I'm doing it."

Having to answer their questions has really kept me grounded in the answers about why I am out there biking, running and swimming.  No, I don't enter these races to win - nor do I enter them to lose.  I just don't see it in terms as black and white as those.  There is a lot of gray area to what it means to win.  The fact that I can get out there and have a body that can feel the breeze, the water and the sweat makes it a win for me.  Being able to take 10 seconds off my running pace is a huge win, never mind that it doesn't garner podium coverage.

Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking there is only room in the world for winning to be defined with a 1st, 2nd or 3rd.  Sport wouldn't have much room for most of us if that's truly all that mattered. I'm a winner for the experience, the challenge, the completion of a goal.  Sometimes it is wholly satisfying to have moved up to the 500th-something place.  It's why I love finishers medals.  I don't fall for the trap of "oh, they give that to everyone."  They don't give them to everyone.  Only those who dare to step up to the start line so that they can feel the joy of the finish line get to wear the hardware.  Fortieth place, 600th place, 999th place, last place - I'm a winner.

September 24, 2007

Laugh Out Loud

Img_1525 On Saturday night I had the pleasure of joining fellow Trek Woman Laura, and her sister Jen, for the final performance of Trek Woman Susan's one-woman show.  I drove down to Baltimore and met Laura and her sister for a quick bite before we went to the Theatre Project stage.  It was a laugh out loud good time as we saw Susan sing, dance and entertain us.  I am still marveling at how she can possibly do a full splits on top of a piano, carry on a conversation and sing a song - pretty much all at the same time.

While I was driving home that night I had some time to ponder all the things that made the evening great.  I was able to eat, drink and be merry with new friends and laugh A LOT (all while wearing a very unique nametag).  Just Img_1524a few hours earlier, Jeff and I had been pondering how crazy our weekend scheduling had gotten - in the midst of that you often forget to stop and find the any fun in the day to day to-do list.

So, Susan (and the Loveman too - yes, he has a "real" name but it's funny how Loveman just sticks with you) - kudos for reminding us all that life should be fun and that it's always worthwhile to support a friends passion.

Laugh out loud and do it often!

-Jen

September 21, 2007

Scan-a-rama-ding-dong!

Well, it's been a long couple of days since my scan - my body is still "enjoying" the effects of the barium.  But, I am soooooo happy to report that my radiology report was the shortest it has been in almost 3 years.  NO CANCER!  No glowing spots, no little bits, nothing.  My doctor knows that it does not suffice to say "You're fine."  I have to lay my eyes on that report (and many times the actual scan films) myself.

So, scan-a-rama-ding-dong! [Insert your own sound effect and crazy dance of joy here]. 

It's hard to explain to those who haven't been directly through the roller coaster of cancer themselves how much living between these scans changes you.  My entire personality changes right before each scan because of the anxiety and the mental preparation you have to go through to deal with whatever may come.  Sometimes, okay most times, at least for Jeff and I that mental preparation comes in the form of sarcastic humor.  Jeff comes with me to each appointment and so as we are sitting waiting for lab work, his work phone buzzes with incoming e-mail. 

Jeff:  "Hmmm. . . a rep from a company is coming in to take us to lunch.  What time will we be done?"  Me: "Do you want my next blog title to be "Honey, how's your steak?. . . I have cancer again." ?    Jeff:  "Funny.  I'll e-mail that back to them."    Humor is what gets us through.

I had someone say to me last year, "You have to go every three months - that's so often."  Yes, it may seem often to some, but, to me, being granted a three month reprieve from pokes, prods, questions, forms, lab results, chemo - any of it feels - like a lifetime.  We rejoiced this summer when I was given the "whole summer" off.  I felt free to make plans without reservation and live the summer to its fullest without tempering myself for the "what if" that comes every time you step foot in the oncology door.

I can now live with abandon for the next three months (okay, okay, within the confines of making sure my kids get to school, we all have clean underwear, yada, yada, yada).

Watch out blogoshpere . . . .here I come.

September 20, 2007

"Even the Bugs are Frozen. . ."

Jen_bike_2_5 The Danskin Women's Triathlon this past weekend was my last triathlon for the season.  Last year, Danskin was the first tri I had ever done and what hooked me on the sport.  I was so ready to race last year that I couldn't wait for race day.  This year, the 3 weeks prior to the race I had barely trained for a variety of reasons so I wasn't sure what to expect. 

On Saturday we got our race numbers and attended the race Expo.  I was able to hang out and work at the Trek booth with Fit for Women Demo Tour Trek woman Julie Kramer.  I also got to meet a Trek Women Who Ride blog reader (great race the next day Lisa!) who was taking a Trek test ride (along with lots of other women taking advantage of all the great Trek bikes Julie brought for test rides or use in the race. 

3:30 AM Sunday (Yes, I did type that time correctly.) - Alarms went off and we were up and dressing.  This year was different in that we were layering for the tri - the temperature for the start of the race was supposed to be a high of 47 degrees (yes, I typed that one correctly too).  As we were getting dressed I made sure to spray my legs with bug repellent - last year we were completely ready for the swim, bike, run but unprepared for the amount of bug bites we got in the transition area.  I can still see some of them in my pictures from last year.  My friend Carla's only comment as I did this was "I think that the bugs are frozen."

4:45 - Got parked in the dark and gathered our stuff for the walk to transition where we waited to get in with a gathering 1,500 other women who were cold and barely awake.

5 AM - 7 AM - Shivered!  Wished I had a hat, gloves and perhaps a scarf.  (Also set up my transition area.)  We walked the course and discovered that the run from the bay to the transition area had been changed slightly from last year.  We also went down to the swim start and felt the water.  Balmy!  With the air temps as cold as they were, the 70ish degree water felt really nice. We also found out that the swim course had been shortened for safety (as it was last year).  Hmmm...the water looked really calm.

Race Start!

Swim:  This year I made sure to not be tentative and waded right up to the start line.  I am a strong swimmer and I didn't want to get caught up in the arms and legs of everyone else at the start.  We were given the go by Sally Edwards and took off.  I think I took off a little to fast but was pleased to quickly have my own open water to navigate.  I got part way out and then the rolling with the waves started.   Okay, so the water was not nearly as calm as it looked from shore. It didn't matter what side I chose to breath on, the wave of salt water was there to meet my open mouth each time. [Note to self - the Coast Guard knows their stuff about water conditions - next time trust them.]  The course made a rectangle and as I made the last turn to head in to shore I started passing some racers.  Swam in and got out in the sand for the race to the transition area.  As I ran to the transition area I was out of breath, dizzy and bit off-kilter due to the waves.  I immediately knew that I would need a slower transition to get my bearings.

Bike: Transitioned slower than I wanted but necessary.  Got out to the bike course and moved through the slow single lane area out to the main road.  I immediately noticed that my legs had been replaced by cold, icy bricks - well, that's how they felt.  I couldn't tell what the wind was doing but I didn't feel like I had the wind at my back like last year.  The course is an out and back.  I got to the turn around and then found the wind - coming right at me.  With the ocean on one side and the bay on the other, you can get some pretty good wind on the course.  As I rode with the headwind I was really thankful for the aerobars on my Equinox because I was able to be as aerodynamic as possible.

Run:  My weakest event.  Usually my only goal is to get through the run knowing that the finish is soon.  My only goal for the run this year was to try to pick up my pace.  Last year I was really able to sprint in to the finish and then realize after that I probably could have gone a little faster through the entire run and not had so much sprint left in me for the last 100 yards.

Finish!  No race clock at the end so I had no idea how I had done.  After the finish I got to hang around at the Team Survivor tent and congratulate all the women, especially the first time tri-ers, who had completed their goal.  There were 100 survivors who raced that day.  The picture here is of fellow Team Survivor teammates Suzanne, Carla and I as we headed for the swim start.  The biking picture is when I was at the end of the bike leg, right before the dismount area. Thanks to Suzanne's husband Bob for all his photography - it's a little hard to get pictures of yourself while racing!Game_face_2_2

Overall Time: 1:16:52 (last year 1:21:22)

Swim: 9:28 for 500 meters (last year 10:51 for 600 meters) T1: 3:02

Bike: 34:19, AVG 19.2 MPH (last year 34:54)  T2: 1:11

Run: 28:49, 9:18/mile (last year 30:55 9:58/mile)

I was 18th of 106 in my age group and 152nd out of 1307 women overall.  I was happy with my improvement in all areas, especially the run.  My bike leg inches me closer to my goal for next year of racing with an average speed of 20 MPH or more.  Because all sprint races are different, especially with regard to the bike leg, it was fun to be racing the same course for a general comparison of my improvement.  With that said, in a tri, there are always differences and you can never replicate the exact same conditions on the same course so each race has its own character.  But, I think once you have met the accomplishment of completing your first tri, you have room to set smaller goals for future races.  It was a great day, albeit really cold and it's really fun to see so many women crossing that finish line getting hooked on the sport.

Oh, and one last thing. . . .no bug bites - Carla was right - the bugs were all frozen.

-Swim, Bike, Run, Repeat. . . -Jen 

September 18, 2007

Reality Check

Pet_ct_2  If you were hoping to read about the Danskin Women's Triathlon that was this past Sunday, you will have to wait.  I have something more pressing on my mind.  It's that time.  Some measure time with the changing of the seasons, some the school year, others pay no attention.  I however, live in three month increments.  Today is reality check day.  A PET/CT scan in June, right before my kids got out of school, showed no cancer activity, so I got the summer off.  But, here I am now at 5ish am, up and cranky.  Every three months I report to the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania to have a full body scan. (The picture is what the scanning machine looks like.)

I become a whole different person when it is scanning time.  I am cranky, grouchy, and full of anxiety.  It has taken the scanning techs and doctors awhile to get it.  I keep trying to explain that I have to get up, fast (which makes me incredibly cranky), drive downtown, fill out paperwork, get injected with a radioactive substance that is encased in a metal tube (so the techs don't get too much radioactivity - never mind the fact that one of these days I am convinced I will turn out the lights and start glowing in the dark), drink cups of barium which messes up my digestive system for a few days, sit for an hour, then get stuck on a narrow metal table with my arms above my head for an hour - all so I can find out if I have cancer again.  Would you be in a good mood?  I thought not.  So, here is the ugly, ugly truth. . . I resent the hell out of this scan.  Medical technology has made these incredible strides so I have this super great scan which can help show if my sneak, sneaky, blood cancer is in there doing something and I resent it, resent it, resent it.  Every 3 months for God-knows how long I will repeat this ugly task that uses up my whole day and well, quite frankly sucks.

This is my first scan after some distance.  It has been three months of oncology-free visits.  Three months of freedom.  After that scan in June, I got three months of relaxation - no visit that could turn on a dime and ruin my summer plans.  At least this time I don't have to wait long.  I will see my hematology-oncologist at the end of the week for my ritual blood letting and news.

The kicker to the whole thing (causing further resentment) is that what I really need is a good workout.  A bike ride to end all rides to ease my anxiety and reduce my stress.  But, no.  Can't workout for the 24 hours prior to the scan because the way the muscles react to a good hard workout can mess up the scan.  Did I mention that I hate this scan?  And so, I become cranky woman without an outlet.  It's hard to sit around, knowing what will ease your stress - unfortunately not my mind, although it is a good escape, a NOT be able to do it.  So, fair warning to any who may cross my path in the next 9 hours - I could snap at any moment. 

Okay, blogo-o-sphere out there - talk to me.  I know that I am not the only survivor who feels this way at reality check time. 

Deep breath. . .rant done.

September 15, 2007

GO TEAM!

Header_logo I have had the unique experience of being a Team Hero for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (Eastern PA) Team in Training (TNT) Program this summer. 

When I ran the NJ State half-marathon in April of 2006, just six months after being in remission the first time and only four months into learning to be a runner, I was amazed by the purple and green presence of Team in Training participants.  I kept hearing GO TEAM! as I ran.   It was very emotional for me. I was able to tell my story to a few of them as I ran. Many of them helped get me through those 13 miles.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training® is the world's largest endurance sports training program. They provide coaching and training to run or walk marathons and half marathons or participate in triathlons and century bike rides.  In turn, participants help raise money to fund the Society's mission of curing blood cancers.  Since 1988, more than $700 million has been raised by over 300,000 participants. If you have ever even considered, in the deep recesses of your mind, trying one of these events, TNT is a great way to learn, get coaching and have friends to train alongside.

I really wanted to share my story with Team in Training participants because they had been inspirational to me.  I became a Team Hero with my local chapter.  A Team Hero is a patient who can help give participants a personal connection to blood cancer and to why they are training and fundraising. 

So, tomorrow, while I am competing in the Danskin, the Team in Training Fall team will be doing the Philadelphia Distance Run.  For many, this is the event for which they have trained.  For others on the Team, they are using it as a training run for marathons later in the fall.  The summer Team has raised over $400,000 and they aren't finished.

I wish I could be there this weekend to cheer them on and let them know that what they have accomplished is amazing, both athletically and for the money that helps fund research for cures to blood cancers.  I can't wait to hear their race stories.

If I was there in person, there would only be one thing to say to such an amazing feat. . . .

GO TEAM!

-Jen

September 14, 2007

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Medal__gold The Danskin Women's Triathlon (NY Metro Area) race is this weekend.  It is my last triathlon for this season.  Because I have done some other races this year and was retraining from my off season chemo, I had originally thought of this as my "A" race - the one that I would be the most trained for - ideally my best race.  Hmmmmm.  That plan went out the window awhile ago.  I think I discovered a new training theory goes against the norm.  Because my kids are in school full time now, I have more time to train during the day when they are at school.  The summer is my play time with them - the time for amusement parks, the beach, the park and the like.  It makes training a little tricky.  I don't resent that.  I don't mind at all.  Maybe because of what the past two years have been like, I am very aware of not wasting the opportunities to make memories with my kids and as a family. 

Anyway, that leaves us coming into this weekend with very little training that has happened over the past few weeks.  My kids school opening got delayed and so they just went back this past Tuesday.  I sent them off to school and then thought, "Great - time to ramp up my training. . . . just in time for the taper week."  So, right now my taper week doesn't feel any different than the past few weeks.  I have paid no mind to nutrition going into the race, I'm going to be using new running shoes that I have only put a few miles on, and using my new Equinox in its first race.  Not to mention that yesterday I took my kids to Ringing Rock State Park and we climbed around on rocks and I slipped and now have some bruises and a slightly sore ankle.  (Add that to my growing list of pre race no, no's).

So, what I have is a really long (and growing) list of what I call the coulda, woulda, shoulda's.  I could use a laundry list of excuses for all the  things I could have done to better my training, things I would have changed if I did it over again, or a bunch of "I should have run this many miles. . .I should have paid more attention to my schedule. . . "   My point is to not give you a bunch of excuses so that when I give you race results on Monday I can rest on my excuses.  No, instead I want to tell you that the point to me is that I will be out there tri-ing my best this weekend.  No, it might not be perfect but I will have a great time doing it and know that I will feel proud of the medal around my neck at the end.  BC (Before Cancer), I know that there were many things I wouldn't bring myself to try because I was worried about not being excellent at them.  AC (After Cancer) I know that the effort means just as much, if not more.  So, I encourage you to think about your coulda, woulda, shoulda's.  Are they stopping you from something?  Want to try a tri?  Let me know - I'll help you get started.  Want to learn to dance? Bike? Run? Snowboard?  Danskin medals have a quote on them "The woman who starts the race is not the same woman who finishes the race."  Absolutely true.  It's never to late to amaze yourself.

-Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat. . .Jen

PS.  If you are at the Danskin this weekend, stop by the Trek booth at the Expo.  I'll be there and would love to meet you while you check out some great Trek WSD bikes!

September 11, 2007

In memory

J0400990_2Today marks the 6th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I can remember exactly where I was that day as I'm sure most Americans do. My town and neighboring area lost 18 people.   My thoughts and prayers today are with all those who lost someone that day and all those who continue to be affected by this horrific event.

September 10, 2007

Multitasking Madness

Juggling Okay, so I am a serious multi-tasker.  Part of it must be me, part must be something that happens when you give birth - like a swap - "Here, we'll take any semblance of your body that you used to know, your sleep, your sanity, your perky boobs, and basically life as you know it and we will trade you for stretch marks, no sleep, whining, crying, saggy boobs and we'll throw in the massive ability to multitask just to make it even."  They do this in the hospital when you are exhausted from giving birth and somewhat delirious that "THAT came out of THERE."  So, I have a finely honed sense of multitasking.  What I lack, however, is sometimes the intelligence to use it only for good and not go overboard. 

So, by this past Friday night our Saturday was booked with: A garage sale at our house (involving the moving of several large items from locations around the house), the first day of the Brendan's soccer season, the first day of Cameron's hockey season (which Jeff is also coaching), and a 40th birthday party for Jeff's brother Scott that afternoon (I may hear from him for including the age on that one). 

So, the day began before the sun was up at 5 AM with A LOT of coffee (the 1/2 Caff. Folgers just wasn't cutting it - it probably is also not really "1/2 Caff" when you drink twice as much - just speculating).  Here's what the schedule looked liked:

5 AM - Coffee - drag stuff out of the garage

6: 30 AM - First customers (Garage sale hours 8-12)

7:30 - Threaten the first child (who will remain nameless) about their whining

9 AM - More coffee. Decide that I won't make it without doughnuts (not great training nutrition)

9:45 - Cameron and Jeff leave for hockey

11 AM - Friends arrive to "babysit" the garage sale because I have to go to soccer soon with Brendan (Here is where you note that I should have realized it was too much when I had to involve outsiders in the madness)

11:30 - Arrive at new soccer field/sports field complex to battle the thousand other parents for what seemed like 10 parking places

12:55 - Soccer FINALLY done.  It was 92 degrees and about the same on the humidity.  Standing there for that long was making me melt.  I realized that this is what all you supportive friends, family and co-workers go through when you commit to watching a triathlon - THANK YOU.

1:10 - Home to clean up the garage sale remains

1:40 - Lunch for everyone (mmmm.....leftover doughnuts)

2:00 - Start the shower brigade (let's revisit that I only have the one working shower - See post Home, Crap, Home)

3:30 - Out the door for the drive to Southern NJ for the party

8:30 - Leave NJ for the drive home

10 PM - Collapse in bed

After that mess, a triathlon with only 3 activities sounds like a piece of cake (mmmm....did someone mention cake?)  Perhaps this is why you will find so many moms giving triathlon a tri.  With the amount of juggling a lot of women (not just moms) do, it is no wonder that triathlon is appealing.   As you can tell by the Saturday schedule, I wasn't able to cram in any training.  Sometimes that's just how it goes.  Right now that feels like the story a lot. So, the Danskin Women's NY Metro Area Triathlon this weekend should be interesting.  But, I know I won't be the only one out there who had to multi-task their way to a few hours for an event on a Sunday morning.  Fifteen hundred multi-tasking women in one small area. . . watch out, we'll be fast - we've probably got somewhere to be.

September 9, 2007

We're not in Kansas anymore. . .

Wizardofoz1 Every once in awhile (okay at least once a day) the thought crosses my mind, "How the heck did I get here?"  Two years ago I was a stay at home mom trying to juggle two kids who are only 13 months apart and sometimes get a chance to go to the bathroom by myself (all you moms out there know what I'm talking about).  And then a lump appeared in my neck out of nowhere.  Then I flash to where I am now and I am a mom whose kids know cancer and its ugliness at a really young age, a mom who has lost her hair  and grown it back, a mom who decided to take back her body by completing a triathlon, and now a Trek Woman Who Rides.  It's all a little surreal to me.  Never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) could I have forecast that this is where I would be in life.  But, I am along for the ride, both literally and figuratively.  The triathlon-geek part of me I am now used to but this Trek Woman thing is still new.  When a friend (thanks Amy S.) forwarded the Trek Women Who Rides contest I casually dismissed it. . .but then I found myself revisiting the page time and time again.  So, at the last minute (really - the last day and the last say 15 minutes of business), I called Amy S. (I  like to call her my editor) and said, "Can you read something and hopefully not think I'm ridiculous?"  She didn't laugh and so I forwarded my essay to Trek.  I never thought I would win.  I just did it to tell my story.  So, when I got a phone message from Krista Rettig, WSD Brand Manager at Trek, my first thought was "What? Are they following up to give me some consolation Rice-a-Roni?  Do a survey?  Try to get me to buy something?"  I was so convinced I would never win that I obviously didn't think through that the Brand Manager was probably not in charge of surveys, consolation Rice-a-Roni or the like.  So, we're not in Kansas anymore but I still have that Dorothy-deer-in-the-headlights look (you can't see it as I blog, but trust me, I do) as I talk to all of you in the blog-o-sphere.  So, I can't tell you where this is going to take us, we're all just going to take it for the ride it is.  I hope you will ride along with me.

Because many of you have asked me privately, here is the essay and pictures I sent to Trek:

I nervously put on my shoes. I walked my bike down to the street and looked both ways for cars. My helmet was clipped. I swung my leg over the top and stood with the bike between my legs. One leg up and the shoe clipped on the pedal. Then the other leg up to the pedal. . . . .then, GRAVITY. I am lying in a heap with my new bike on top of me, my legs and feet still clipped in. My humiliation is burning through my cheeks. Then the voice of my neighbor, "Sure looks like it's good you have a helmet."

I'd like to say this is a story from learning to ride my bike when I was five. But I can't. I'd like to tell you that I climbed on that bike and rode with the wind streaming through my hair. But I can't. Learning to ride, as in living life, does not always go so smoothly.

I am 32, not five.
I have a husband.
I have two boys ages 6 and 5.
I am a woman who is learning to ride and live my life after cancer.
When I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma at age 30, life came to a halt. Living through chemo was the priority. My body got me through each day, but not anywhere else. When I was declared in remission, my youngest son asked me to take him on a bike ride - I made it four houses. I needed to take control of my body again since cancer had taken that control from me. I joined Team Survivor Tri-State and learned to run in order to complete a triathlon. Then I bought a bike and fell before I even moved an inch. But, after cancer, I knew I could get back up again.

In September of last year, I completed my first triathlon. I pushed myself in ways that I never thought I could and my proudest accomplishment was when I crossed that finish line at the Danskin Women's Triathlon. TAKE THAT CANCER was a good mantra.

Ten days later I was told my cancer had relapsed. I have just finished four more rounds of chemo and a clinical trial. During treatment I kept a blog to keep family and friends up to date. After an "off season" I would rather forget, I have now started training again to help heal my body and show cancer who is boss. I plan to participate in 4 triathlons - the Philly Women's Tri, the NJ Tri, the IronGirl and the Danskin Women's. I also will ride the American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon this year.

I am many things in life and they all will shape what's next. When I ride I don't look behind me, only ahead because that's the only place I want to go.

I am a cancer survivor.
I am a mom.
I am a wife.
I am an athlete.
I am a woman who rides.

Augustbike_2Finish_2   Img_0286_4