Trek Women
June 26, 2008

The Evil Plan

Each year we come down to the beach at Fripp Island, SC.  Two years ago we invited our close friends Ryan and Lynne with their two girls who are of similar age to our boys.  But then, they had to beg off when Lynne gave birth to their third girl (yikes #1) two months early (yikes #2) - some excuse!

Life and craziness got in the way last year but this year we all made it down together for some quality relaxation and playtime for our kids at the beach.  Originally, Jeff and I thought it would be a great way to have our friends be able to get away for some R&R and have our kids enjoy great beach memories together.

BUT, what developed in the past year was my evil plan. . . .(insert evil laugh here).  All I could dream of on the 13 hour car-ride down was that Ryan and Lynne were two nice warm responsible adult bodies.  Two adult bodies that could sit in the beach house no matter the time of day and be the "responsible parties" for our boys  (you know, while getting some R&R).  In the past year, because of my riding, I have been able to interest Jeff in riding.  He bought a bike.  I have a bike.  Trouble is we never are riding together.  Try as I might, I have yet to be able to convince any teenager in their right mind to come to our house at say 7 AM on a Saturday.  So, Jeff and I have been passing bikes in the night, if you will.

But, with two other adults captive in the same house with us there is nothing stopping us from riding together this week. . . .  (perhaps another evil laugh here. . . .)

Finally riding together,

-Jen

June 25, 2008

One Car, Eight Wheels

Img_2389_3 Last Friday night Cameron's 7-year-old All-Star baseball team (yes, there is actually such a thing - it was a surprise to us too) lost a heartbreaker of a game causing their elimination from the All-Star tournament.  This happened around 8 PM.  While the loss was disappointing, it set in motion a whole different set of emotions - mostly "Uh-Oh."  Our annual SC beach trip had already been postponed for a couple of days because of this tournament.  So, in keeping with the fact that my middle name could be changed to "procrastinate", I was really only partially ready to load down the car.

The back story you need here also has to do with the fact that since my car was new in November, I - again in keeping with the procrastination theme - had just the week before gotten the hitch installed on the car in order to mount our 4-bike carrier.  Getting that hitch in and of itself was an effort.  While I thought I could just call up a hitch place and say "Go for it" I instead spent a week of phone calls learning about stability, hitch receiving ends, adapters, pins, and frame cracking on cars.  More than once I was found to be sitting moaning, "How hard can it be to go by bike. .. I just want to move bikes from point A to point B." 

Okay, so now you know that hitch is new.  It's late and we're not packed and yet we've decided on the fly to leave early Saturday morning to do the 13 hour drive all in one day.  Let me just say that 4:30 in the morning is not the best time to have two sleep-deprived adults attempt to put 4 bikes on a bike rack - for the first time.  In fact I think that it could qualify as a reality show challenge (along with the "some assembly required" of most kids toys).  The kids have never been strong enough riders until now to warrant brining their bikes.  So, while we know how, in theory, to work our bike rack - it has never done more than two bikes up to this point.  After a few different tries about the order of the bikes and one saddle removal (done by me by flashlight), Jeff got it done (Equinox needs to go on first).  All I could think as we drove was that we had super-sized the Trek One World, Two Wheels program and become One Car, Eight Wheels.

-Jen

June 23, 2008

Student Teaching

Img_2379 My sister teaches second grade.  I remember when she was in college and had to student teach.  That's where all that you have learned in books and lectures meets with your ability to actually get the point across to living breathing small people.

I got my student teaching opportunity for bike-speak a couple of days ago.  My kids are getting big enough no that biking is no longer just the up-and back on the sidewalk.  They want to go somewhere, signal turns and be "big boys" who bike like mom.  So, we hauled out the bikes and I offered a lesson on gears and gear shifting.  Luckily, at the time, one was interested and the other gave a pass for just straight-up riding, which gave me one on one teaching time.

I have learned a lot about bikes in the past two years but this put me to the test.  If  I could successfully get across the key points and teach gear shifting to a seven and eight year old (without them giving me the exasperated "I just don't get it!"  look) then I would know I was doing something right.

I have to say, we started out with just calling everything, "See this circle here? and how the chain goes on it?" down to the kids saying later on in the day, "Yeah, over here on the derailleur. . . ."  We did aImg_2377_2 lesson on shifting the back and then a lesson on shifting the front chain rings."  Each time I taught them how it worked I sent them down the street with the assignment to just try it out and then report back on their observations.

They caught on quickly and, I think because their kids, were able to not get totally caught up in the concept of gear ratios etc. .  .and purely went on feel, deciding what gears worked best for them and where.  More bike shop owners need to get back to student teaching and teach us all like second graders - the language is simplified and we can just go on the feel of the bike and the wind on our face rather than all the technical mumbo-jumbo that often makes a beginner (or even me) intimidated.

The best part is that I know the adage "See it, do it, teach it" will apply here and my kids will be showing other kids about gear shifting and bike parts in no time.  I know know that I have passes my student-teaching experience and will be able to use the right language and the right steps in teaching others the same thing.  What a wholly satisfying afternoon of biking - and I never even left my driveway. . . .

-Jen

PS.  I also gave them a "Ride" guide of their very own and told them lesson #2 was tire changing. . .

June 19, 2008

The "face" of Advertising

Nikeswooshred Even with a Tivo to speed through advertising my kids are completely susceptible to the advertising and product placement that is everywhere pretty much all the time.

When tucking Cam in last night, after I had a particularly rough day, we had a moment.  I bent to hug him, in a way a mom can tenderly do while simultaneously thinking, "please sleep quickly so I can collapse in my own bed."

Cam tenderly reached up and touched me on the face near the corner of my eye.  "Mom," he said gently.  ". . .you know the tired line under your eyes?  It looks like the Nike symbol."

Maybe my "tired lines, " "mommy-wrinkles" or whatever are trying to indicate that I'm "Just doing it - the best I can."

Swimming, Biking, Running and "Just Doing It - The Best I Can" with an all too honest 8-year-old. . .

-Jen

June 17, 2008

Tri Camp

P1000862_2On Saturday, Team Survivor held a triathlon camp where I was in charge of leading the beginner's bike group.  The day before I had spent considerable time planning a bike route with MapMyRide.com and then spent the evening dragging Brendan (bribed by ice cream) in the car scouting the route to make sure it was beginner appropriate - especially since I wasn't sure of the types of bikes and level of experience of the group I would have.

Due to the availability of the pool at the site for camp, the bike portion of the day ended up being around 2 PM.  It was a steamy, humid 95 degrees by then - my bike computer clocked in at a temp of 109, so we shortened the route.  I had 8 beginners in my group on a variety of bikes.  I have to say, I have a lot more respect for ride leaders now.  I wanted to make sure that everyone was doing well, had their questions answered, came away feeling more confident in their biking skills, and most importantly that I returned with 8 riders.

I think all goals were accomplished.  We returned with 8 riders, made some seat height adjustments, successfully talked through gear shifting for a few, did some clipless pedal practice, talked rules of road riding, bike training for the NY Metro Area Danskin race in September, made some brake adjustments and although sweaty, everyone returned in one piece.

Toward the end of the ride the intermediate/advanced group, led by Coach Tom, merged with our ride.  Tom took off at a sprint on one stretch and I found my body and bike poised to do the same - it was a huge mental victory to know that while I remain a medical mystery my body and mind still have racing instincts.

After the bike portion, Tom and I talked through transitioning with the group.  I made a smart-aleck remark at one point, after which I got myself in trouble when Tom challenged me to a "transition race" to see who could transition faster.  (Phew - got myself out of that one!)

It was a great day and I was glad to help.  I'm hoping that everyone came away feeling more confident about their bike skills and more prepared to tackle their first triathlon.  To me, being able to get groups of women together and say, "Yes, you can do this" is the power of Women Who Ride. . . .

-Jen

June 11, 2008

Leave My Nodes Out of It

I'm not a secret-keeper.  My life is with its up and downs is mostly an open-book.  But, I must confess that I have been not so forthcoming with the behind the scenes look at my life as of late.  I've spent the last 6 weeks plagued with an odd-assortment of symptoms - relentless fatigue being the biggest.  So after some crafty dodging of isolated symptoms with just-plausible rational, I finally had to pick up the phone and call my oncologist.  In a style that would make Freud proud, I did so the day before I left for Michigan to do the Wine, Women and Wheels event.  I knew, and was even willing to admit that I called that day precisely because I knew nothing could be done about my reported issues for at least a week because I would be out of town.  That's the tricky game of emotional hide and seek that cancer and I like to play.

Aggravated at having to answer "yes" to the many questions about symptoms, I artfully left town for Michigan and a place called Denial-ville. When I returned it was to the request of my oncologist for a meet and greet with my blood and lymph nodes.  For some reason, my brain had remained in denial-ville and thought the answer would easily reveal itself in the bloodwork. I was willing - begging, in fact, for a problem with my thyroid - it nicely fit with my symptoms and was NOT cancer - the key part of the puzzle.  WRONG.  After one feel of my neck lymph nodes, my oncologist said she was worried and sent me to be scanned. 

I know, I know, you're waiting for the results. . .  Think how I felt.  Living with, through and beyond cancer is tricky business.  I have spent a month now with crushing anxiety - enough to make your chest feel as if you were having a heart attack and can't breathe. A month of guilt for the potential havoc I was bringing on my family.  Of anger.  Of more anger.  Of resentment.  Of anger at the complaints of others with a common cold.  I would KILL for a common cold.  I've cried.  I've vacillated between staying positive and utter heart-wrenching despair.  I've tried to pacify myself with dessert - for breakfast.  I've done all the what -if's.

So, here's the thing.  After an injection of radioactive gunk - an injection that held my fate, leaving both a radioactive mark and a bad taste in my mouth, after filling myself to the brim with barium, my scan showed NOTHING.  The crushing weight on my chest has lifted.  I stood and cried salty tears as it was repeated to me on the phone.  Nothing is better than NOT having cancer again. . .

. . except, we don't know what's wrong.  Not having cancer is a sweet victory but not knowing what's next is just as complicated.  My body has been filled with poisons, over and over, in an effort to defeat an enemy that likes to hide and wait.  Doctors don't fully know and can't predict the myriad of health problems that follow cancer treatments and clinical trials.  I am 33-years old and have more doctors than most 80 year olds.  Am I angry, sad, and psychologically drained?  Yes.   Oh, and I am still fatigued, plus some other random symptoms too.

Frankly, I wanted to title this blog "Why Cancer Sucks" but I couldn't even do that.  It would give too much credit to such a short blog.  Cancer sucks over and over again.  If someone said cancer sucks and listed only one reason or a short list, I would have to laugh at their ignorance.  That's why I train, to grasp only a small part of control in a body that cancer wants to keep punishing.  Problem is, the fatigue, the worry, the anxiety and stress all make that hard too. 

I continue to put one foot in front of the other because that's what I do.  I am seeing more doctors to continue the conversation.  Unfortunately it's a lengthy process given the history I bring to the table.  I've accepted that right now my training won't meet the standards I've got on paper but sometimes you've got to work with what you've got.  And at the very least, for the next 3 months it's not cancer. . .

-Jen

June 9, 2008

More Than Toasty Tour Event

Yesterday Carla and I went into Philly to see the Pro Cycling Tour Philadelphia International Championship (156 miles).   It is the final event in the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling which includes two other races in Pennsylvania.  The day also included the women's race - the Commerce Bank Liberty Classic (57.6 miles).

Carla and I were there in time for the start but we positioned ourselves around one of the loops in the early part of the course, but away from the start/finish line.   The men's race was 156 miles and included 10 large loops and then 3 smaller loops.  The large loop included what is know as Manayunk Wall - a 17% grade hill that they would hit 10 times.  The women's race was 57.6 miles long and was 4 loops, including the Manayunk Wall.

Complicating the whole day was the extreme heat wave we are having.  The race started at 9 AM and the temp was already around 80 degrees.  Carla and I stayed for about four hours of the race.  Around the 3 1/2 hour mark, the announcer said that the air temperature was measuring 91 degrees and the asphalt temp had just been recorded at 120 degrees which was melting the glue in the racers tires.  Often times the only breeze we felt was when the racers whizzed by us - I can't imagine how they were able to race for over 6 hours.  Early on - I think it was into the 3rd lap - a group of 7 broke away from the field.  At one point the group had a lead of almost 9 minutes but that lead shrunk each successive lap.  The men's race was won by Matti Breschel of Team CSC in 6:14:47 which was a record for the longest race in the 24 year history of this event.  Clearly, the heat was a HUGE factor.  Out of the 190 men who started the race, only 81 finished.

The women's race started about 10 minutes after the men's so we had great viewing of both groups.  There were just over 100 women competing in the race and we were able to see Kristin Armstrong (of cycling fame not the ex of Lance - confusing isn't it?), way out in front of the pack.  Chantal Beltman of Team High Road won the race in 2:28:52 only 6 seconds ahead of the next woman.   

It was amazing to watch the racers whiz by us at such speed and be able to all race so closely together.  For awhile we stood directly across from the "feed zone" which was a stretch of road where the cyclists crew support stood and handed them water bottles and food as they passed.  Support cars with spare bikes, wheels and other supplies followed all the racers around the course.

At one point we moved to the start/finish area and got to watch the juniors race they had.  It was a field of 7-10 who did a 3 1/2 loop full sprint course.  On each lap the first three racers across the line were awarded varying amounts of point depending on position.  (That was the point at which is was around 91 degrees- I don't know how they were able to sprint).  After that, they had a lot of youth, sponsored by a local bike shop, do small group, short sprints.  It was done to expose kids to cycling and get them involved in the day.

It was a really exciting day - seeing what those riders do had me all fired up to come home and ride, although the heat wave of over 100 degree temps isn't going to break until Wednesday.  I'm hoping to hold onto the momentum until then. . . .

-Jen

June 5, 2008

XTERRA lunch

100_0501 This is the story of cake and bicycling. . . but let's start at the beginning.  Yesterday I was getting together with Carla and Ronni for lunch.  We had a plan - it was a good plan right up until I inserted a bike into the mix.  The original idea was lunch in Lambertville, NJ - about 13 miles north and across the river from my house.  Ronni offered to pick up Carla.  I offered to meet Ronni at her house and we would all carpool.  Here's where I went awry. . .Ronni's house is about 6 miles directly upriver from my house, right on the canal.  So, I thought to myself, "Gee,I can combine Go By Bike and get in some training all at the same time by biking the canal to her house."

It had rained during the night and the humidity was hovering just under 100%.  No worries - the canal is hardpacked, quick draining and it was pretty dry out already.  I threw on a light rain jacket, packed an extra shirt and some flip-flops in a bag and headed out.

Problem #1 - I have yet to properly be able to calculate the amount of time needed by bike versus by car.  So, I was pedaling hard and annoyed because I also have yet to realize that I am never going to go as fast  by mountain bike as I do by the Equinox. 

I was already late and then I reached an impasse.  I won't call it a "classic impasse" because this is the kind of thing that only would happen to me.  What was this impasse?  A downed tree?  Large boulder blocking the path? No, it was Canadian Geese.  Six adult Canadian Geese blocked the canal path while guarding what looked to be about 15 baby geese.  These geese were not happy.  They came at me hissing and quite mad that I was disturbing the babies.  Now, perhaps I wouldn't have been that nervous EXCEPT for the fact that Ronni, who I ironically was trying to meet, actually had one of these geese attack her and her pants while out on an innocent run on the canal just last year.  [This type of thing is why Ronni and I can be such good friends - freaky-weird things happen to us].

I had no MacGyver-like solution so I called Ronni.  She said, "Where are you, I'll pick you up?"  I looked around.  Brush and woods blocked one side of the canal and wading through the canal and a canal-lock were on my other side.  I told her I would call back in 5 minutes while I thought it out.

I tried two more times to negotiate with the geese.  That was a no-go.  They didn't fall for my, "Hey, I'm a mom too - I mean no harm to your babies. . ."  I quickly turned around and pedaled back the way I came so I could find a bridge that would connect me down to the river where I could ride on the road.  At the first bridge I ended up dragging the bike up a muddy/rocky embankment to duck under the rails.  I then found it only connected to a gate blocking the path.

Back down the embankment, muddied, I pedaled to the next bridge.  Similar situation, shallower embankment.  I was muddy and soaked (remember the near 100% humidity).  I continued on and the next bridge was a road I knew for sure connected.  Once over the bridge I called Ronni and told her to not worry I was still on my way.

Three miles later, a wet and muddy me arrived at Ronni's.  I had packed a shirt but learned that what I should have packed was a towel.  I had the rain jacket on covering my bike jersey - that was really the only part of me, including my face, that didn't have mud.

I cleaned up, we picked up Carla and went to lunch.  And because of my XTERRA-like adventure in simply getting to lunch, I was RAVENOUS.  So, that is how we ended up getting 3 monster-sized desserts, one of which being a slice of the enormous seven layer chocolate cake. 

While I haven't ruled out doing an XTERRA triathlon, I'm thinking I want one that at least has a big chocolate cake at the end.

-Jen

PS.  I'll still "go by bike" the next time I go to Ronni's, but next time I'm taking the Equinox!!

June 3, 2008

Breaking Point

1w2w_logo_2color_2  Apparently, $4 gas is the breaking point.  For weeks I have been talking "Go by Bike" with anyone who will listen - its a conversation starter when you walk around the drugstore, grocery store, library or train station with a bike helmet on your head.  Most people sort of give me the "oh, that's nice" look with the mental pat and proceed out the door to their monster-SUV for the 2 mile trip to their house.  But suddenly last week, when gas around here hit $4+/gallon, I heard people talking:

"Maybe I'll start riding my bike to work"

"I saw 5 people on bikes this morning"

"I think they carry their clothes and things in a bag on their back. . ."

Yesterday, I saved 71.4 miles off of my car odometer (okay, not all by bike).  I rode to/from the local library to return overdue books.  I rode to/from the train station and then used the train for my trip into Philadelphia.

People still seem perplexed when they see me shopping in my bike helmet but I can tell it's got them thinking. . .

-Jen

PS.  I got to see  a man ride up to the train station on his fold-up bike and then easily carry it on to the train - very cool. . .

PPS.  Anyone ever tried to go through a drive through by bike?