Trek Women
May 30, 2008

My Personal Ad

J0254495_2When I train there is peace.  Call it a runner's high, an endorphin high, or whatever you want, but somewhere in the mix of blood flowing, endorphins working, or the rhythm of legs moving, I find a certain zen.  Sometimes it's at mile 2 of a run.  Last week it didn't happen until mile 16 of a ride.  Whatever the perfect storm of endorphins and sweat, it allows me to think clearly.  I suddenly find myself solving problems (how do you get two kids in three places when you are just one person?), to creating the perfect training strategies, to blog writing, to discovering things about myself as a person or as a mom. 

These ideas and thoughts always seem to come with such clarity and eloquent wording but I have no way of capturing them.  I sometimes feel that it would be nice to stop, flip open my head and let all the thoughts come tumbling out onto paper or in a box so that they will be preserved until I get home, where I can put them in action.  My family has seen me more than once come in from a ride or run, breathless, and dripping sweat only to run to the computer and open the first blank thing I can get my uncoordinated hands to click so that I can type random thoughts to save for later.   When I look at these notes later, often the bubble has burst.  The essence of the idea is lost or the eloquent wording that made it all come together was not captured in time - (I kind of feel it's like thinking you've nailed your answering machine message and then you listen to it and want to run screaming at the sound of your own voice).

I think this process is why non-athletes often don't understand what happens to the rest of us when we can't train - it's like trying to think through mud.  I've often thought that perhaps a great cancer breakthrough would come if I could just get a team of oncologists to train for a triathlon.

So here's the ultimate problem - how do I get these thoughts and ideas at the time they happen?  It's a little tricky to ride or run (don't even get me started on swim) with a pen and paper.  The illegibility of the writing, not to mention danger of writing and riding simultaneously, make that solution a no-go.

So, I am putting out a personal ad:

WANTED - Inventor needed . .Triathlete in need of solution.  Tons of great ideas, blog posts and solutions for life in general are being lost while swimming, biking and running.  Need thought capture that is clear, won't weigh me down, chafe, or get in the way of training progress.  Mass marketability for other triathletes a plus.  Those applicants with brain surgical solutions need not apply.

Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat. . . and think good thoughts. . .

-Jen

May 29, 2008

The Great Belly Divide

Jen_run_njtri_2 I've decided that the best way to ignore/supplement an early season lackadaisical training plan is to focus on what truly matters - what I'm going to wear when I race.  Because seriously, if I can't race as fast as I want to, I should at least try and look good for those inevitably bad looking race course photos (do I really sweat that much?  Why is it that I look like I'm running as if I'm going to fall down?  Does my face look as if I just ate a lemon?).

When I first started my triathlon "career", if you can call it that, I had know idea what one wore to race.  A friend introduced me to the concept of trisuits.  (Coach Tom pointed out that there is no changing in the transition area - at least not any that results in naked-ness).  I decided that the best thing for me was a two piece outfit, actually three if you count the sports bra I wear underneath.  (I am seriously jealous of those of you who seem to wear the same size top as bottom - it just doesn't work for me.)

So, in looking at gear this year, I've decided that what separates me, and most of the amateur women triathletes I know, (other than well speed, fame, and fortune - okay, maybe not fortune, this is triathlon after all) is something I would call The Great Belly Divide.  In looking, the classic division between the pros and the rest of us seems to rest somewhere in the expanse of coverage or not of the belly.   Obviously, I generalize but you get the idea. . .maybe it's just the willingness or ability to bare large expanses of abdomen.

As much as I would say I am ever trained I have a certain respect and love for the compression of biking/tri shorts for that odd hip/butt jiggle.  My body fat would be classified in the "normal but loves brownies" range and I am certainly endowed enough on top to laugh hysterically at the concept of the "built in shelf bra" that comes in most racing gear.   I want to be light, and not overly water-logged when coming out of the swim but seriously, I also want abdomen coverage.  Some of the pro's racing wear is well, let's just say, of less fabric than most of my daily undergarments. 

Amateur racing tops should have descriptions that read: "Made of highly technical wicking materials to quickly dry after the swim and absorb and wick sweat.  Other features include:  No shelf bra, lifts, separates and eliminates jiggle while on the run, slimming colors that won't look see-through when wet, stretch mark coverage length, and just the right amount of compression to hold in that "never gonna go away" belly bulge.  Available in a wide range of sizes."    Free shipping and returns wouldn't hurt either. . .

Any triathlon clothing manufacturers hiring?  I think I'm on to something.  . .

Swim.Bike.Run.Repeat

-Jen

PS.  I wore a Sugoi top my first year (I deemed that I looked like a rectangle, Jeff rolled his eyes) but wore Zoot last year (seemed more waist slimming. . . )  The colors/styles seem better this year for all the manufacturers.  Anyone have suggestions or things they've tried?

May 28, 2008

Lost at T3

Carlajen3 Carla and I met through Team Survivor and did our first triathlon together.  We live about 30 minutes apart and during that first summer of training we would meet at the local "Park and Ride" parking lot and carpool to other training locations.   We would pull in adjacent parking spaces and Carla would unload bags into my car while I racked her bike on the back.  We would pull out of the parking lot and support each others paranoia - "Do we have the helmets?"  "Let me check - yes"  "What about bike shoes?  Running shoes?  Goggles?"  "Check, check, check."  This would go on but you get the idea. We could implicitly understand how important this was to each of us and how nice it was to have someone else soothe our fears without explicitly calling them out for what they were.  By the end of the summer we had renamed our ritual "T3" after the T1 (swim to bike transition) and T2 (bike to run transition) that occur in actual races.

Since then I like to say that Carla and I train together.  We only see each other about once a month or so given our schedules but it does feel like we are training partners.  Carla helps me with my running (she's fast) and I give her pointers on swimming (my forte).  When we bike together we have a great rhythm for drafting off of each other.  In March, just as we were planning our races for the summer, Carla was in a very serious car accident.  She has a fracture in her spine at her neck and a fracture in her pelvis.  Right now she is in a neck collar and on crutches.  She still has 3 weeks until she will be rid of the neck collar. It will still be another 2-3 months before she can bear weight on her leg.  Her racing season this year was over before it started.  (Although, she was trying her darnedest to salvage her racing season when she asked the trauma doctors, while in a neck collar and immobilized on a backboard, how long until she could run and bike.)

From what I read, triathlon can be a lonely sport - all the hours of solitary training.  I haven't ever felt lonely because I've had such a great group of women racing with me.  From the beginning, triathlon, in a way, has seemed a team sport.  Women are like that - in it together even when they're not.   We each want the best for the other woman's race - even if sometimes that means being passed by a friend.  That friend will then wait and cheer you into the finish.

But Carla, I'm feeling lost at T3 this year.  Some other poor unsuspecting soul will have to put up with my paranoid checking of my transition area.  You might just have to be by the phone come 4 AM on race mornings to make sure I have everything I need - because let's face it, friends don't let friends freak out all alone.  In the meantime Carla, heal quickly. I'll do my best to make you proud. . .

-Jen

May 23, 2008

Going Low-Tech

Img_2210 When I first started training for a triathlon I started keeping track of what I did - mostly it was in an effort to encourage myself - to show that for my pain and persistence I was making progress.  I went out to Barnes & Noble and bought an on clearance weekly calendar - nothing fancy - just something that I could write down what I did for the day.  That was the time I knew nothing about monitoring heart rate, wind speeds, pace, temperature or any of the myriad of things you can track.  I wrote down my weight at the beginning and measured my waist and hips so I could measure inches lost as I went along (remember, the original stated goal, although not completely accurate but easy for others to understand, was to lose the "chemo-butt").  Every time I did an activity I would write down how long I had done it.  After a month of entries that looked something like, "Ran -sort-of - 40 minutes - COLD!!!" I evolved to, "Ran - 40 minutes - 3 miles - easier breathing  (Or sometimes, "felt like I wanted to throw-up.")

A few months later, I learned that logging training is an actual "thing" and I bought a tri-training log.  There are a lot of logs out there but I happened to like the aptly named spiral bound TriLog by Tim Houts.  It's a 56 week book that has spaces and lines for swimming, biking and running each day of the week.  At the end of each week you can total up the minutes or hours in each sport.  I liked it because it was both structured and yet unstructured - I could write as much or as little as I wanted and each week fit nicely in the two page spread so I could see a nice at-a-glance of how much I had done.  The book it recommended drawing a diagonal line through each day you didn't do anything.  Mondays were always my off days so I would draw that line and write OFF or "scheduled off", but the act of having to open the book and draw those diagonal lines when I didn't do anything (and see that reflected when I flipped through the weeks) was actually very motivating.  Often I would include reasons ("water park with the kids" or "super-tired, felt crappy") if I had them but also be able to see when I was just being a slacker.

Well, life moved on, more chemo cycles came and went, my immersion into the sport and all its associated gadgets increased - I abandoned my pencil.  I now own a Garmin Forerunner 305 - which I love (and at the same time still don't know how to fully use).  It tracks my running and biking for me.  I then found and started toying around with online logging - Runnersworld.com has a cool training log (understandably more skewed toward running but does understand the triathletes needs).   Buckeye Outdoors has some cool logging features too. I thought to myself that it must be more efficient and some how better to use the computer to track myself.  Not so.  Now I am lazy.  I happily let data sit in my Garmin.  When laying in bed at night, usually my first thinking (and not reacting) time of day, I have little motivation to get out of my cozy bed to go start the computer to check an online log.  And, when using the computer I actually have to click around multiple ways to have an "at a glance" of how I'm doing.

So, I've come to realize that higher tech is not necessarily highly motivating.  I'm picking up my pencil and getting back to low-tech.  I've recently looked at my logging over the last two years and noticed that while I thought I was just charting my training, I really created an interesting time-line of events in my life.  I may not have graphs and charts in my handwritten log but I can lay in bed at night and flip through weeks at a time and marvel at my progress, make plans for the next day or the next week or even just look at how far I've come - no username or password required.

Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat. . .

-Jen

PS.  Are you high-tech or low-tech?  A logger, planner or just get out there kind of triathlete?

May 21, 2008

Can You See Me Now?

Seeing_bikes I am not a bumper sticker gal.  I certainly have opinions on lots of things, am proud of my kids school achievements but I don't really want to shout them off my bumper.  But, the other day I saw a great bumper sticker.  The beauty was in its simplicity.  It said "Start Seeing Bicycles."  No yelling, no honking, no middle-finger waving, just the reminder.

There are many cars out there that need the reminder to start seeing bikes.  I've always respected cyclists rights to use the road when I'm in my car, but I became much more aware once I too became a consistent cyclist.  Once you've ridden down a trafficked road, you become much more aware that the force of wind generated by a speeding car is definitely felt when on a bike.  You also appreciate more those cars that are willing to slow down and give you a wide zone of road when they are passing.

I don't sport a bumper sticker but when I'm in my car and come upon cyclists I always slow considerably, well before I approach them.  I'm talking seriously slow - the kind of slow that is actually meant to passively annoy those cars behind you.  I keep this ultra slow pace and give a wide berth around the bikes well before I am up at their back wheel.  Yes, in some ways I derive a bit pleasure out of trying to annoy the cars behind me when I do this but I have my reasons. I live in an area where most of the cars on the road contain drivers who are late, trying not to be late, or just used to treating the road as their personal autobahn.  Perhaps the actions of my car will help them "see" and respond to cyclists the same way in other situations.   Non-cyclists may not appreciate the argument that the road is just as much ours as theirs so let's help them see us. . .

-Jen

PS.  Don't forget that wearing high visibility (the neon-yellow stuff) clothing and using lights when needed help you be seen.  (Or, perhaps a sign, much like a bumper sticker, on your back saying, "Can you see me NOW?")   :)

May 20, 2008

Wine (lots), Women (500) and Wheels!!!!

Img_2185_2 Owner Tim Brick of Brick Wheels in Traverse City, MI has it figured out.  Maybe it's because he has two stellar females who work for him, Becky and Kristy, who can advise him on the recipe for success with women.  Either way, it works.  When you take a bike shop, 20% off, free wine and food, lots of goodies, a silent auction that benefits charity full of great stuff, women will come.  And that is exactly what they did last Wednesday night.  Five hundred (yes, 500) women attended Brick Wheels 3rd annual Wine Women and Wheels event. 

The day started quite rainy but Tim loaned me a Madone and I headed out with Kellie, wife of Trek rep Mike Shrift, for a rainy morning ride.  I've never ridden in that much rain and my feet were quite squishy after 20 miles.  But, it reinforced that I'm not going to melt in the rain so perhaps I won't be such a wimp about riding in the rain now.

The rain headed out by late afternoon which was perfect because women were lining up for the six o'clock opening of the event well ahead of time.  I had heard from Tim that quite a few women had been in the store pre-shopping the week before in preparation for the 20% that goes with the event.

Once the doors opened women filled the store.  Wine glasses were filled and a Trek powered margarita machine was pedaled in case wine wasn't your thing.  Women munched on cheese, fruit and assorted appetizers while they shopped and talked cycling.  They also were able to browse a tent outside filled with donations from local businesses offered in silent auction style.  The auction raised over $3,000 for the local Smith Breast Health Center.  Oh, and did I mention the music, massages and bike give-away?

I manned a table with the new Trek Ride guides and the new Women Who Ride Club water bottles.  The local cycling club was also there and club member John talked Women Who Ride Club with women when I was overtaken (thanks John!). 

I met so many women who got involved in cycling for so many reasons.  Julie was picking up her new Trek FX 7.3 WSD on Friday and we talked the benefit of technical socks (I swear you'll love 'em Julie).  Mary came with her friend wanting to start cycling and we were able to talk the benefits of WSD and the amount of WSD bike offerings to fit the type of riding women wanted to do.  All the women were big fans of the Women Who Ride Club concept and how cool the shirt was.  I was also proud to be able to hook up some women who had mentioned to me they currently have a group that rides, with someone who came to me wondering how to find other women for rides.  I felt like a successful matchmaker!

When the event was done I was on a bit of a women-in-cycling-high (and no it wasn't the wine talking).  To see that many women in one place all so passionate about cycling or wanting to become a cyclist was amazing.   I tried to take some fun photos to capture the event (with some added notes).  Hope you enjoy them. . .

-Jen

PS.  I'm not sure I can truly convey what a great event this was - at least not without writing a "War and Peace" sized blog about it.  Let's just say I'll be looking to get back to Brick Wheels next May.

May 19, 2008

Plan A, Plan B

Img_2207 Plan A today consisted of the following:  Get up at 5:15 to say goodbye to my dad as he headed to the airport to fly home.  Get the boys up and off to school by 7:45.  Eat breakfast, check e-mail, run a couple of errands, work on organizing my Michigan photos and getting them posted for all of you, taking a nice 31 mile ride that I planned out last night, homework with the boys and then their baseball game. . . .

What really happened today was Plan B.  Get up and say goodbye to my dad - check.  Get the boys up and off to school - check.  Breakfast, e-mail, errands, check, check, check.  It was the next part where the wheels pretty much fell off the wagon.

In the midst of organizing my Michigan trip photos and working on a blog posting, loud angry barking erupted from my back yard.  I ran to the window to find our dog Kodi, a Siberian Husky who rarely barks, going toe-to-toe (or in this case, bared teeth) with a groundhog.  This groundhog was NASTY.  It had some fierce looking teeth and kept making strange noises and jumping at Kodi.  Kodi wasn't helping the situation by barking right at it and trying to, essentially, attack it.  I was FREAKED out.  Kodi is fast and we've had our share of rabbit and squirrel nabbings (even a couple of possums) but they don't usually fight back.  Plus, yard-kill is so NOT my department. 

I yelled, I threw baseballs at Kodi to try and distract her.  I tried coaxing with some leftover steak.  I tried banging a big metal rake.  I turned the hose on full force.  Finally it was over and Kodi was bloodied for it.  I then spent 3 hours round trip taking Kodi (who left my car with that wet-dog smell) to see my brother-in-law Scott, who is a vet in South New Jersey.  One rabies booster and some antibiotics later I returned home.

When I got home the garage door wouldn't work.  I had no house key.  I had to go through the fence, pull open the glass doors to the porch and then let myself in.  Turns out the garage door wasn't broken, we had a power outage.

I'm really working hard on taking things with a grain of salt, but man, today my salt shaker overflowed.  The bright spot was Brendan making his pitching debut at baseball tonight and striking out two batters.  Later in the game he hit a home-run.  We're back home now and I'm in my pajamas.  The power is finally back on and I promise you will have pictures of my Michigan trip tomorrow morning. . . .

-Jen

May 14, 2008

A Long Way for My Next Ride

Wwwheels_2I've come a long way to my next ride.  I flew into Grand Rapids Michigan last night and I'm headed to Traverse City today for an event called Wine, Women and Wheels at Trek Dealer Brick Wheels

This is the third year for this event where the store shuts down and some 400 women turn out to talk and learn bikes, drink wine and celebrate women and fitness. 

When the e-mail invite was first distributed, there were 50 RSVP's in 12 minutes.  Wow, this is a powerful community of women.  (Plus, who doesn't love giveaways and 20% off  merchandise (only for women) while helping raise money for the new Smith's Family Breast Health Center).

I'm hoping to get a chance to ride with some women before the event starts.  Don't worry, I won't drink and ride at the same time. . . .

Hope to see some of you there.

-Jen

PS.  I will fly home on Friday and will hope to share pictures of the event by Monday

May 13, 2008

My Subconscious One-Click

Amazon_box_1I love to shop online.  Amazon.com is my favorite partner in crime.  Even the kids know that for almost any question the answer involves the words Google or Amazon used as a verb.  I mean, come on, where else can you comparison shop five different products while in your pajamas and waste not a drop of almost $4 gas.  And besides, it's not as if there is a triathlete's gear shop dropped on every corner.

Amazon.com and I have such a close knit relationship our family has something called Amazon Prime.  Together with my in-laws, we pay a small fee each year and Amazon will Two-Day ship anything to us for free, no matter the size or cost of the order.  For $3.99 you can even guarantee yourself an overnight delivery.

Well, apparently, Amazon and my subconscious have been back-checking my blogs and know that improving my mental skills in training and racing are goals for the year.   An Amazon package of "hey I didn't order anything, did you?" origins showed up at the door.  Inside was the book, "The Triathlete's Guide to Mental Training."  Hmmmm.  Apparently, my subconscious had felt this a worthy enough goal that it had one-clicked the book with overnight speed right to my door.  It was as if that box was yelling, "Surprise, we're on to you and your mental excuse making/fear of failure/fear of a fall/fear of a flat/fear of pain/fears you can't even identify racing mindset!!"

Okay, okay box. . . I'll step away from the mouse and screen and get reading. . . .

-Jen

PS.  Could any one write a quick Post-It for my subconscious listing:  time, sleep, and oh yeah, new sports bras for immediate delivery?

May 12, 2008

Bikes, Carrots and a Stick

100_0304_2  My Mother's Day weekend was great.  On Saturday we only had baseball and Cameron made his pitching debut in the first game of kid pitching ever.  He did a great job, had fun and quickly adopted his pitching stare-down look along with his official pitching stance.  We spent the rest of the weekend planting our enormous garden - cleaning out the strawberry beds, adding way to many tomatoes (we do this every year), peppers, cauliflower, eggplant, cukes, radishes, cantaloupes, and tending the already planted asparagus, lettuce, peas and broccoli.  As you can tell this is where I like to highlight how much we love our garden.  It's an odd dichotomy that I have a husband who doesn't love dirt and yet this monster garden is mostly his.  It is at this point I should put in the disclaimer that I am the one who has overdone the tomatoes this year - usually it is Jeff but I must admit there were too many fun varieties this year. (Who doesn't want to plant a tomato variety called Mr. Stripey?)Campitching2

On Sunday, where I knew I could pretty much pull out the "You have to do what I want because it's Mother's Day" card, I suggested a bike ride down into Yardley for my favorite (and their too) Yardley Ice House.  Sure enough, everyone got on bikes and we meandered down into town.  It was windy and actually a bit cold but we made it while teaching the kids that on bikes you sometimes need to take the indirect route and how to ride on the roads.  I've been working on getting the kids on their bikes more and I knew that Mother's Day, and the carrot and stick of Italian ice at the end would be enough to lure them into my biking web.  The only tough part was the ride home - if you noticed I used the word down a lot for our ride into town.  Coming home involved some hills - one seriously steep one.  There was some bike walking but I have to say they did a great job.  It was a Mother's Day well spent.

-Jen

PS.  Ironically, I used Italian ice as my carrot and stick for biking but we did not plant any carrots in our garden  :)