Trek Women
October 29, 2007

Courage for the 5th Grade

Class_pictures_046 So, can any of you out there remember the 5th grade?  It's a little murky to me.  On Friday, I gave a presentation to some 5th graders at Groveland Elementary.  The topic:  Courage.  Right there it's intimidating, right?  A teacher heard me tell my story to a group at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society about 6 months ago and asked me to come speak to his students on courage.   Well, because I can't remember 5th grade at all (except for some bad fashion choices) let me say that I needed some courage to go and speak to them.

My talk was part of a leadership series that their teacher created called Pillars of Leadership.  The students had spent time in class thinking about courage. Over the past few years I have had many people tell me that I have been courageous in the way I have handled my cancer.  I have always been puzzled by it because I would never apply that label to myself.  Then again, I had never thought about how one might define it.  Luckily, I had some 5th graders help me with a definition. 

Here's what they thought - Courage:  "the mastering of fear and the willingness to act in spite of it."  They also added this: Things You Need in Order to Be Courageous:  1) Relax 2) Believe in yourself 3) Act according to your beliefs (don't give in to peer pressure) 4) Realize you are not alone.  To their definition we discussed whether or not you could master fear or just be willing to acknowledge and accept your fears and then act in spite of them.  I also added a couple of things I thought you needed to be courageous - 5) be honest  and 6) be open to the unknown and growth.

I had a great time in their class!  They asked great, intelligent questions and were great listeners.  I can tell there are 22 leaders prepared to face anything they encounter in the 5th grade and beyond. I know that I am richer for the experience and now feel like I will recognize courage in myself and others more readily.  (Plus, they thought my Trek posters were cool - I felt a lot cooler than I felt when I was in 5th grade!) 


PS.  Remember Groveland 5th graders:  Run Your Own Race and always be honest when someone asks "How are you?"  I hope to see some of you as future triathletes!

October 26, 2007

The Green Blob

Radar_map2_2Superman had Lex Luther.  For Spiderman it was the Green Goblin.  My nemesis - it's called the Green Blob.  You may know it but have paid it no mind.  Well, for me, my day can become a whole different thing when the green blob makes an appearance.  The green blob on the local radar means rain is coming to get me.  After a week that had Brendan home from school with a fever for two days, I really, really needed to get out on a nice long ride.  I was busy in the morning but I got home and scarfed a quick lunch so I could get out there.  It was dark and overcast so I pulled up and that's when I saw it.  The Green Blob was moving in.  Could I out bike it?  Roads get slippery when wet and given the amount of leaves and dead pine needles we have lining the roads, I wasn't going to head out to ride in the rain.  As I contemplated the blob's speed I looked out the window.  It had already started a light rain.  Foiled again.  You've won this round Green Blob, but my partner in the fight, High Pressure System, may be moving my way.  Until next time Green Blob. . . . .


October 25, 2007

Turning a New Leaf

Img_1606 I do not have an indoor green thumb.  Plants (well let's just say one  plant that I keep replacing) have consistently died under my care.  Yes, even the kind of plants that people like me are not supposed to be able to kill.  Dead.  Dried up.  Kaput.  (The good news is that I only seem to do this to indoor plants and not, say, husbands or kids).

There's that saying out there "The only thing constant in life is change."  Most of us see that change in nice controllable increments - we try a new restaurant, we say "what the heck" to the newest Starbucks creation.   Most of us don't have major, life altering, mind bending change smack us in the face.  That's what cancer did for me and it has been an interesting ride.  It will be coming up on 3 years of this roller coaster in March 2008. 

I had no choice but to change when I was diagnosed but what happened after that required my willingness to take a chance and grow.  I was the kid who at 10 had my whole career path mapped out in front of me (I was going to be a doctor - I think organic chem did that one in).  So, did I ever imagine that my stay-at-home mom-ness would compete in and fall in love with triathlon?  That I would get the opportunity to be a Trek Woman Who Rides?  That I would be the woman trying to convince as many women as possible to try a tri?  Not in a million years.  Not part of the plan.    But here I am, changing, growing, stretching. . . Sometimes amazing things happen when you let yourself embrace ideas that sound uncharacteristically NOT like you or even the you that you imagine yourself to be.

Perhaps all this change and growth has improved my indoor gardening skills.  I have actually tackled re-potting my plant (they've never made it that far before) and it seems to be thriving.  This gave me the courage to take on more plants. . . .we'll see if I actually have to use the one-year plant guarantee that the store promised.

So, now while I still don't love change, I am open to what it might bring.  I am starting to think about what new challenges to take on for next year so stay tuned. . . .


"You only ever grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone."  -Percy Cerutty

October 23, 2007

63 Days

Calendar_2An announcer on my radio morning show announced this morning that it was only 63 days until Christmas.  What????!!!!  I checked my calendar - yup - it's still October.  The leaves just started changing thanks to our unseasonably warm temps this month.  My kids still haven't decided what to be for Halloween.

Last week I was shopping in a store that will remain unnamed.  In a bizarre time warp feeling moment  I was able to browse all the Halloween/fall decorative items on my left and also shop for a fake Christmas tree and all its trimmings to my right - all within arms reach.

I don't need the last quarter of the year to be all wrapped up into one big holiday extravaganza - a sort of Happy Hallo-Christ-a-Thanks-mas-iving.    While it would save time if my kids could dress as Santa for Halloween and go house to house trick-or-treating for a full Thanksgiving meal, I think we will take one holiday at a time.

Training and riding brings different things each season.  For right now I'm going to continue to take advantage of the sunny days, cooler temps and great fall scenery while I am out riding.  Enjoy what's right in front of you, not what is 20, 30 or 63 days ahead.


October 22, 2007

My Mobile Closet

Shorts We have a general philosophy here in the Polo household - "You can wear shorts almost all year long!"  There are some funny side-rules to our shorts wearing motto that include such things as:  "if its December and snowing, perhaps throw on a sweatshirt."  The thought being that if your arms are warm that will be enough body heat to trick your mind into believing the rest of you is warm too.  We also like to play a little game this time of year called, "How long can we wait before turning on the heat?"  Needless to say, we don't do a lot of winter entertaining at our house.

I decided to share some of our Polo family playbook with you all because well, I'm finding the need for some rule modifications.  Last week I found myself wearing almost everything in my closet when it came to training (not all at the same time).  When I did the Trek WSD Awareness ride, the temperature that morning started in the 30's.  Hmmm.  Pants, short sleeve jersey, jacket, hat until the ride, gloves.  Ride time- two hours later:  Shorts, short sleeve jersey (a little brisk!).  Tuesday ride:  Overcast and dodging some light drizzle:  Shorts, sleeveless jersey, light rain jacket just in case.  Friday run (8 AM) - 78 F and 90% humidity:  Tank top and running shorts.  Sunday early run (6:30 AM -dark):  Capri pants, long sleeve shirt, reflective vest.

Because of the time of year and depending on what time of day I am riding or running, what I should wear is all over the map.  So, my car has become a mobile closet sporting the boy scout motto of "be prepared."  It contains all the layers I shed plus all the "what if I want to change into this" layers.  It's messy on the organization side but helpful when my friends remind me that there is the wind chill factor once you start riding.Commonstain_kid

I read a great tip recently which I plan on putting into practice:  Don't dress for the first 15 minutes of a ride, dress for what it will feel like in the second 15 minutes of the ride.  I'm hoping that will help me navigate the tricky fall/winter weather.  For more great tips on cold weather riding, check out's Cold Weather Riding Guide.

Right now, it's back to laundry day, which, coincidentally has also turned into clean-out-my-car day.


October 17, 2007

What's Your Everest?


Whew!  This past weekend was a busy one.  Trek WSD Awareness ride on Saturday and then the Annual Team Survivor Tri-State "Thrive and Survive" Fundraising Brunch on Sunday. 

The brunch featured an incredibly moving video/slide presentation of all the survivors over the past two years and what they have accomplished - from gaining fitness and strength through yoga, toning, swimming, spinning and walking all the way through the challenge of a triathlon.  I have lived my life through those two years with all its ups and downs and it was incredibly moving for me to see the pictures that recount the story of my past two years and the power of my own body to keep me strong.  It also is quite a testament to the 200 other women in Team Survivor who fight their own cancer battles and still have the words to support fellow athletes in their quests.

I also spoke at the brunch and told my story.  I remember emphasizing no woman should have to sit on her 32nd birthday (like me), have an oncologist bring her birthday cake and then wonder if eating the cake will make her throw up.  I was also able to convey that during my relapse, when I underwent more chemo, all of these amazing women walked with me when I couldn't run and sat with me when I couldn't walk.  But, more importantly, they never ever told me that I wouldn't be back training, riding and running and swimming. 

The keynote speaker for the day was Sean Swarner who founded the organization CancerClimber.  Sean was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin's disease at age 13 and given 3 months to live.  He beat Hodgkin's only to be diagnosed with another cancer, Askin's sarcoma two years later.  He was given two weeks to live.  Fifteen years later, with only one functional lung, Sean summited Mt. Everest as the first cancer survivor.  Sean has gone on to summit the highest peaks on each continent, leaving a flag saying "Dedicated to all those affected by cancer in this small world!! Keep climbing!!" and the names of numerous people battling cancer.  Sean's message is one of hope and inspiration about the power of achieving things not thought possible, giving strength and courage to those battling cancer.  Sean emphasizes living life to it's fullest and encouraging not only cancer survivors, but everyone to find and climb their own "Everests"  to overcome their own limitations and mental boundaries.

When I spoke before Sean, in the blink of an unplanned moment, I remember closing, "If I have to outswim, outbike, and outrun to beat my cancer. . . .if I have to complete an Ironman race to beat my cancer, then I will meet you at the finish line."  I think I found my Everest.  What is yours?


October 16, 2007

Casual Ride for a Cause

Img_1598_4 On Saturday morning I met friends at Bucks County Bicycle Company for the 2nd Annual Trek WSD Breast Cancer Awareness Ride.  Fellow Trek Woman, Laura joined us after a crazy ride from Washington D.C with her bike in a top down convertible (hint - temps that morning were in the upper 30's).  Keep an eye on Laura's blog for her recap of the day!

Bike shop owner Scott fed us well with breakfast before the ride and a huge lunch after the ride.  Yummy!  Laura and I chose the 25 mile ride, while my friends did the 10 miles.  We had a fun, casual ride.  The only hiccup was when we encountered a "Road Closed" sign and ride leader Deb said, "Umm, that wasn't closed yesterday."  Turns out it was the town of Fallsington's Fall Festival!  A nice officer was able to direct us around the crowds, the crafts and even the horses.

Trek had sent Scott a bunch of great give-aways - a helmet, a watch, a bunch of shirts (which are awesome!) and we all walked away with a goodie bag too.  Img_1595

Carla and Suzanne (pictured above) are both breast cancer survivors and I've had 3 other women I know diagnosed in the past month.  I spoke with others on the ride who were there because of a family member who has had breast cancer.  I rode a mile for each of these people.  My hope is to next year only ride miles in celebration of survivors. 

After the event, Scott and I spent some time talking about things that we can do to get more women out there riding.  Scott was really open a lot of ideas (maybe because he just kept telling me to be in charge of them!).  So, look for some fun events and rides for women coming this Spring.


October 12, 2007

Ride for a Cure

Awarenessridelogo This Saturday, October 13th, I will join thousands of people across the U.S. who participate in the 2nd annual Trek WSD Breast Cancer Awareness Ride.  The ride is a casual 10 mile (or 25 mile option too!) ride designed to raise awareness about breast cancer. 

All registration fees for the ride will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  I will be doing the ride at Bucks County Bicycle Company along with friends who are both breast cancer survivors.  You can find out more about the ride, locations near you, and how to register by clicking here.  There will be goody bags for each rider and chances to win more prizes!

I hope that I will get a chance to meet some of you as we ride for such a worthy cause.


October 11, 2007

Peer Pressure

Prerace1_2Thirteen miles.  Strike that - 13.1 miles, a half marathon.  That's what I have agreed to do.  I think my feelings about running have been made clear - it's not my favorite among the three in a triathlon.  Biking a half-marathon sounds like a much better event to me.  So, what has made me agree to run the Philadelphia half marathon on November 18th?  Peer pressure.  Carla started it and then Amy, Bonnie and Jean joined too.  Nothing like having your good friends gang up on you and convince you to do something you're mind is telling you not to do.  Or is there? 

As kids we all were warned against peer pressure - succumbing to the will of our friends even if our mind and guts were telling us something wasn't such a great idea.  But, as an adult, peer pressure is an entirely different thing.  If it weren't for peer pressure I'm not sure I would be where I am now.  As an adult, it's easier to convince yourself to not try something, to stay in your shell of the things you know and the circle in which you feel comfortable.  But, it was Ronni, Amy, Sharon, Suzanne, Carla, Amy and a host of others who convinced me I could learn to run in the first place.  They are the ones who stood next to me during my first 5K ever where I felt like running - in the opposite direction.  They are the friends who helped me draft when learning to ride.  They are the ones who stood at the swim start of my first tri with me where we all held hands as we entered the water and reassured each other that yes, we could do this. 

Sometimes, its good to have friends look you in the eye and ask you to do something and then convince you to say yes.  It's peer pressure that helps get me to the start sometimes when I don't trust my own abilities.  So, on November 18th I will stand at the start line of the Philadelphia half-marathon.  And, if someone were to say to me, "If all you friends did a half marathon would you to?"  The answer would have to be. . ."peer pressure made me do it."

-Swim, bike, run, repeat.  -Jen

October 8, 2007

Slowing To A Walk

Img_1556 A week ago my pace slowed dramatically.  Instead of running, biking, or swimming I was walking - slowly and leisurely.  Jeff, the kids and I, his parents, cousins and friends participated in the Light the Night Walk hosted by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Three years ago I found the Light the Night Walk as I was entering my 5th cycle of chemotherapy.  I was discouraged and needed something.  Friends and family had been helping us with meals, errands and the kids but by then I was need of a emotional lift.  Light the Night fit the bill.  Light the Night is a leisurely walk at dusk, between a mile and two miles long, where survivors and supporters come together to help raise funds and awareness about blood cancers.  The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society sponsors these walks to raise funds for research and patient education.  Their mission:  cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

During the Walk, survivors carry lighted white balloons and supporters carry lighted red balloons.   This is our third year participating in the Walk and it doesn't cease to be emotional for me to watch long snaking lines of people, all ages and sizes, walking at dusk carrying blinking lit balloons.  There are seas of red balloons and not nearly enough white balloons. 

This year I met the Demsko family at the Walk.  Ten-year-old Dana is undergoing treatments for leukemia and is currently in a wheelchair due to the side effects of treatment.  She was able to participate, carry her balloon and wear her shirt that boldly proclaims SURVIVOR.  I met a young woman who was there walking for her dad.  Unfortunately, there were too many people walking in memory of loved ones. Img_1562_3

There are many charity runs and triathlons out there.   When I run or race a triathlon I don't have much time for thought or to talk - my breathing and heart rate just won't allow it. Light the Night gives me the opportunity to be with my family who have blood cancer as a part of their lives too.  It's a time for us to be thankful for my SURVIVOR shirt, to witness the support and to spend time together.  All those balloons represent hope - hope for better treatments, hope for cures.  Sometimes hope is fragile, like those balloons.  Sometimes hope is hard to grasp and hard to see. The web of red and white balloons is a visible and lifting tribute of hope for all those with blood cancers. 

Sometimes it's good to be slowed to a walk.