Trek Women
August 29, 2008

Just for Fun

I'm having a great time on vacation and I have lots of great pictures and stories for when I get back, but, right now, with my computer access and Internet access being spotty I'm posting this picture just for fun.  This is a real picture as seen from the road. . . .It made me laugh and remember my Big Wheels plastic "bike" from as a kid - it had a plastic brake handle on one side that I wore down from pedaling as fast as possible and then yanking the brake to be able to do a spin around and stop.  I figure that whatever kid convinced his/her parents to take such care in transporting their "bike" in this manner is bound for future greatness in the cycling world!  -Jen

August 24, 2008

Friendship Test

Brenstopwatch2 Everyone, unless you don't own a computer/e-mail account (and in that case you probably aren't reading this anyway), has seen them.  I'm talking about those "classic" e-mails that circulate as tests of your friendship with the sender.  They warn you about your luck and responding and passing it on in order to demonstrate the breadth of your circle of friends. 

I think I have found a better test of friendship - ask a close friend to coach you in your weakest sport.  I don't know what I was thinking when I tentatively e-mailed Carla, who is a great runner, for help in designing me a running program  make me a stronger, better, and hopefully faster runner.  She enthusiastically agreed to the task.  I believe her e-mailed words were, "I would LOVE to help."  I think that's when I realized that this newly budding branch of our friendship, that of coach/athlete, could be a test of our friendship.  (Besides, what was she trying to imply with that bold pronouncement?  Was I so in need of running help that it was if I was finally admitting to a problem everyone else saw?)  I knew that I was treading a fine line because earlier in the summer I found myself practicing avoidance as a training technique with Coach Tom.  I was so mired in my inability to train because of the debilitating headaches and fatigue, that I felt I was disappointing him as an athlete and it was best to avoid rather than admit the problem.  I completely forgot that as a friend he would understand.

I've read numerous things about the best way to do run training.  Problem is, the volume of information has made me unable to figure out what are the best pieces to use in designing my own program. Camstart_2 I've never done things like tempo runs and speedwork.  And, if I do try and run at certain paces, it's just as easy for me to give up or find an excuse for myself because I have no one to report to that is holding me accountable.  I am now in Week 3 of Carla's 6 Week "Make Jen a Faster Runner" program and so far, we are still speaking.  I report my successes and troubles to Carla via e-mail and she makes any adjustments to paces and keeps up the steady stream of encouragement with things like, "No, there are no typos in those pace times. . .you can do it, I know you can."

I am finding myself doing less running slacking off because I need to "report-in."  There is certainly value in having an objective observer hold you accountable.  Having someone else view differently than myself what I am in fact capable of accomplishing, has given me extra motivation to try and meet those expectations.  I am now consistently surprising myself and finding that I can run faster than I ever thought (and I don't keel over!)  This week I took the kids with me to the track and gave them a stopwatch to play with while I ran - no excuses - didn't want to attempt speedwork at high altitude.  (The boys found speedwork more fun than I do - perhaps it was because they were trying to imitate Jamaican Olympian Usain Bolt.)  Week 6 will culminate in the Danskin Women's Triathlon and we will see what our work has accomplished.  Hopefully, I will make her proud and be able to complete the last line of her workout which simply says, "Race Day:  Run your @ss off!!!"

Swim. Bike. Run Whatever You are Told To Do. Repeat.


August 23, 2008

Last Minute

Pedal_wrench  There is something uniquely special that happens at the last minute before vacation.  It is that time before we leave when I, unreasonably, assume that I can accomplish an amazing volume of things. It's as if the very power of the word vacation somehow dupes my brain into thinking, "Hey, who needs sleep now, I'm almost on vacation!"

Even though I see this pattern time and time again, I never fail to think that I can accomplish packing for our family (in a completely organized, without forgetting anything way, of course!) as well as clean the house and complete household tasks that should be done in the course of the regular day to day.  Perhaps my brain justifies these tasks and accomplishments as my payment in order to get away.

Despite the rearrangement of vacation plans this year, Jeff and I managed to keep our getaway portion intact and will be headed to Portland, OR on Monday night with a trip to Seattle later in the week, while the kids are at "Camp Grandma and Grandpa" here in Colorado. Our plans are to explore both cities by bike.  The key part in this story is that we have known this plan for months.   Yet, late Wednesday night (only about 12 hours before departure) I was just coming to the realization that I needed to remove the pedals from our bikes.  This would easy for the average, well prepared cyclist, but, well, I am anything but average and it takes something like the last minute to push me into action.  You see, I have no pedal wrench - a key component in pedal removal.  "No matter," I think, "Surely I can accomplish this in some other way."  An hour later, with greasy hands and one blow to the face in a missed attempt, I gave in, resigned myself to Olympic watching, somehow confident that I could pack and solve this problem in the few hours the next morning.

Thursday morning dawned and with enough coffee (darn those late night Olympics!) I was a version of the cartoon Tasmanian Devil.  With an hour and a half before airport departure I put the kids in the car and sped to the bike shop.  Bike shop worker: "Hey you're that Trek woman."  Me: "Um, no time to talk, I need a pedal wrench, I gotta leave town." 

Back home, I used said pedal wrench, after a call back to bike shop owner Img_2978for help, a bit of force (and more greasy hands) I got Jeff's pedals off and packed.  Not so for my bike.  I then learned that a pedal wrench would not work for my pedals the way they were designed.  The only tool left in my arsenal was a multi tool, to which Scott, bike shop owner, said would not work because I did not have the right leverage.  I dug around in our basement for a suitable, and longer, allen wrench.  I found one but still massive amounts of force (and again more greasy hands) would not budge my pedals.  I tried to remain calm knowing that I had no one to blame other than myself - I had put the pedals back on the last time they were off - I apparently don't know my own tightening strength.  Jeff arrived home and I put him on the task.  Nothing.  More force, more dirty hands and FINALLY one came off.  The other pedal wanted NOTHING to do with being removed.  Jeff finally gave up and I became committed to one last try.  We were already 10 minutes behind departure schedule.  I applied some WD-40 lightly to each side, hoping it would "unfreeze" my stuck pedal.  With one last show of force that would either release the pedal or cause the bike and both of us to go flying, hopefully not landing one of us in the hospital, it loosened!!!

I flew to Colorado with grease marks on my shorts but with pedals safely stowed in my carry-on.  I can't say lesson learned because I'm sure the next time I encounter a last minute I will find a new task to occupy that minute.  However, I am now the proud owner of a pedal wrench - a good $12 investment.  When I get back I'm thinking of investing in some other bike tools.  Anyone have any recommendations for must-haves?

Swim. Bike. . and Carry the Right Tools. Run. Repeat. . . .


August 20, 2008

Unexpected Vacation

Arches31 Last week I took an unexpected vacation.  It was a vacation that kept me from the blog, kept me from training and kept me from leaving on my actual planned two week vacation visiting such places as Arches National Park in Moab,Utah (see amazing picture on the left) and the Grand Canyon.  What I saw instead of beautiful geological wonders was the inside of a hospital room.

Last weekend I found a lump in my neck.  Given my history, neck lumps are cause for A-#1 freakouts.  By last Tuesday I had, what I had previously thought was acne on my face, a swollen, and still swelling jaw line, red sores, pain in my jaw and teeth, and still the painful lump in my neck.  Last Wednesday morning I was diagnosed with shingles, a re-emergence of the chickenpox virus, through nerves in your body.  I quickly learned that shingles is primarily seen on your back or abdomen.  Because this is, well, me it was emerging on my face.  A spot blossomed next to my left eye so I was immediately shipped to an ophthalmologist to check for spread into my optic nerve.  A call to my oncologist was the third in line of doctor notifications. 

Thursday morning I was in so much pain that I was vomiting the pain pills and antibiotics and my oncologist was requesting a visit - stat! I was masked, gloved and whisked in the back way for a consult.  My words for her, "Is this your fault?"  What I meant, and my oncologist knew it, was whether this painful condition was one of the side-benefits I was getting for having my immune system sent to hell and back with all the chemo my body has been subjected to.  The only answer I got, which I also already knew, was "yes." We then moved on to the only business in this merry-go-round that we know, called "What do we do now?"

By that evening, when Jeff returned home from work, he found me curled up on the bathroom floor croaking, "I can't even keep water down.  We have to go."  And, unfortunately for him, because of all too much intimate experience, he knew that meant go to the ER.  I entered the ER Thursday evening and was admitted to the hospital, only to be sprung late Monday afternoon.  Because shingles is essentially chickenpox, I was quarantined so as to not expose the virus to anyone else.  The contact I had with nurses was only through layers of gloves, gowns and masks.  The size of the spots on my face roughly resemble two quarters but it took almost a week to get the pain under control and my body rehydrated and able to eat.

I am still recovering and Jeff has canceled, re-done, rescheduled and rebooked vacation plans, all while joking (?), "I'm done with you."  We are now leaving tomorrow for Colorado and my parents house, trusting that we can see the Grand Canyon next year. . .


PS.  I don't think my trip will be entering the hallowed printings of Fodor's travel guides when as souvenirs all I have is IV bruising, and a scabbed up face.  Those things don't even make good T-shirt slogans for a gift shop. . .

August 13, 2008

Like Butter

ButterI am not one prone to random cliche references (unless I am making fun of sportscasters constant overuse of cliches to describe the play of the day).  But, I just couldn't help myself this weekend when I was heard to exclaim, "My ride is like butter. . . "

I stopped,realizing I wasn't even sure if that made complete sense but it seemed like it conveyed the light and smooth feel of my Equinox on the road.

After a ride last Thursday, I decided Friday would definitely consist of a trip to consult Scott, owner of Bucks County Bicycles.  Scott has never been one to not take me seriously when all I can do is point to large areas of my bike and say, "something is making a noise."  (this usually accompanies my best imitation of said noise).  Sure enough, when I wheeled my bike in and said to Scott, "something is making a noise, around in here, I think in my chainrings.  I don't know what it is, or how to fix it but I want to learn," he didn't blink twice and popped my bike on the rack in his service area and invited me to learn (only in the world of bikes can you do this - I seriously doubt the Honda service mechanic is going to invite me to poke under the hood of my car next time I'm in for service).  I then spent the next hour and a half learning about limiter screws and my front derailleur, adjusting for equal "grab" in my brake pads, tightening spokes (I had a loose one), truing a wheel (my rear), giving my bike a bang with a hammer (bent tooth on my large ring), and filing a small metal "burr" also on my large ring.

The result:  My ride is like butter.  My gears shift effortlessly and dreamlike and it's like I've reached the zen state of being one with my bike.  I loved my bike before Friday but this weekend my Equinox and I re-fell in love. 

Other than highlighting I perhaps could be prone to odd cliches, my lessons were this: 1) Find a bike shop mechanic you trust, 2) Don't care if he/she laughs at you (so long as you are willing to laugh at yourself), 3) trust your gut when something just isn't feeling right with your ride and 3) someone who is willing to teach you is priceless so long as you are willing to learn and admit what you don't know.  [I guess this applies to more than just bikes, now that I read it back (just insert whatever you need in for bike mechanic)].

Swim. Ride Like Butter. Run. Repeat. . . .


August 11, 2008

Three Day Triathlon

Img_2950_2 This weekend I participated in a three day triathlon.  In early season race planning I had considered an  Olympic distance race for this past weekend but decided that the training wasn't going to be there for me to put two Olympic distances so close together.

Instead, I did the Missy Flynn Challenge.  It is a triathlon but spread over 3 days.  Participants can do the whole challenge or pick any parts of the swim, bike, or run.  The swim and the 5K run are timed and the bike is non-competitive with distances up to 50 miles.  The entire series was created to raise money for a local triathlete from my area, Missy Flynn, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2005 and has many ongoing medical and therapy costs.

Friday night: Jeff dropped me off for the 800 meter pool swim and I competed on a snack of a few chocolate chip cookies and the promise of him picking up sushi for dinner. I was able to zone out because there were volunteers counting laps.  Sometimes the hardest part of doing long sets for me is remembering the lap count.   I finished in a time of 14:57.91 - I definitely lose time with all those turns when compared to swimming in open water.

Saturday morning: After a late night of Olympics watching - Jeff and headed out to the bike start.  Jeff started with an allergy pill and it just went downhill from there.  It was a beautiful day and I had signed us up for the 50 mile ride.  While my legs felt fresh, energized and ready to enjoy a day that felt much more fall-like than August in Pennsylvania, Jeff's chain falling off, followed shortly after by a flat tire for him told us not to push our luck.  We did 30 miles.

Sunday morning: I got up for the 5K and realized that when doing a triathlon over 3 days, its easy to forget you haven't completed the whole challenge.   I "carbed up" the night before on pizza and beer and did not got much rest (Olympics again).  At the race site I decided to try something new - warm up before the race.  My body always hates the first mile or so of every run and in a 5K that leaves you little real estate left to race.  I warmed up for about a mile and then stretched.  Missy had been at each part of the challenge and right before the 5K start she was, with help, able to get up out of her wheelchair.  It was an emotional start that made me feel strong, able, and thankful for the ability to run.  I finished the run with a new PR - 27:48 and then found out I won 3rd in my age group!  It was a momentous run for me that left me with a high all day.

For my $40 I got 3 days of training, a new PR, an award and a reminder about being thankful for the abilities to do what I do.  Money well spent. . .


August 8, 2008

One Degree of Separation

PosterThe summer Olympics kick-off tonight in Beijing and I've got my Tivo ready to roll non-stop.  Today I will be printing out, hunting down, and constructing the massive schedule of events so that I can make sure not to miss a minute of my favorites. 

On August 18th Laura Bennett, Julie Swail Ertel and Sarah Haskins will compete for Olympic medals.  On August 19th I'll be rooting for Jarrod Shoemaker, Matt Reed and Hunter Kemper.  While I am watching them strive for Olympic gold I will know that I am connected with all the United States Olympic triathletes.  I've never met them personally but we all belong to USA Triathlon, the national governing body for United States triathlon. 

I first joined USA Triathlon (USAT) last year - it just seemed smart - each time I registered for a USAT sanctioned race there would be an additional $10 USAT one day license fee for the race.  One year of membership in USAT cost $39 and would cover as many races as I wanted, plus offer other benefits. One of those benefits is national rankings. If you compete in three USAT events within a calendar year you then become a ranked athlete in USAT.  You heard me right - I am officially a nationally ranked triathlete, along with the Olympic athletes.  Not only does it offer some swagger (albeit a little misleading - but who cares?) to tell people that you are a nationally ranked triathlete (no need to point out exactly where you rank), it is fairly one of a kind.  If you play some amateur football on the weekend, do you get to be part of the same organization as pro football players?   If you play in an adult baseball league are you connected with MLB? I think not. 

So, in my mind, not only can I speak of belonging to the same organization as some major triathlon powerhouses, I love the feeling of being only one degree of separation from the Olympic triathletes.  Watching them push themselves for Olympic glory only makes me want to train harder.

Let the Games begin. . .


PS.  The photo here is of the 2008 USA Olympic Triathlon Team poster by artist, triathlete and Judge Michael E. Jones.  Limited editions can be purchased through the USAT store.

August 7, 2008

"Go By Bike" Freebie

So, if you haven't joined the Go By Bike Challenge that Trek has as a part of its 1World, 2Wheels advocacy campaign, now is the time.  Not only do you join the over 20,000 people pledging more than 6.8 million miles of biking miles instead of car miles, you can be entered to win a Trek 7.2 FX bike - one is being given away every day to a member of the challenge.  The Challenge may highlight the great benefits of going by bike - less carbon emissions, no gas costs when going by bike, calories burned etc. . .  but, what I will tell you - and this is not in the fine print anywhere - is the freebie you can get as part of the challenge.  You too can get free food.

I met a friend for coffee this morning and, as the coffee shop is only about 2 miles away, I went by bike.  I enjoyed the ride into town because it's all downhill.  On the way home there is one big hill.  I hit the hill and was working hard to get to the top without running out of gears.  My breathing was heavy, sweat was forming and my mouth was hanging open seeking all available oxygen.  And then, I ate a bug.  I'm sure it was small but in my head the headline of the local paper read, "Woman found on side of road clipped to bike - Heimlich maneuver saves her!"  I'm not sure if said bug counts as protein,fiber, or perhaps both - I'll consult a nutritionist for exact nutritional content if anyone needs that kind of info. . .

All I know is that you too can earn free food when you "Go By Bike" so join, pledge your miles, and share your stories. . .


August 5, 2008

Baked, Sauteed, Fried

SunI did something yesterday that I shouldn't have.  I took a 5 mile run.  I took a 5 mile run on a clear, sunny August day without sunscreen.  I am tired of sunscreen.  I am tired of the time it takes to apply it.  I am tired of the endless amounts I have tried.  I am tired of standing in the drugstore contemplating 15, 20, 50, 80, dry, sport, lightweight, waterproof, water-resistant, UVA, UVB.  I am tired of feeling greasy and slimy.  I am really tired of the "sweatproof" claims.  I have yet to meet any sunscreen that once applied to my face didn't meet the sweat of a humid run or ride and inevitably meet up with my eye-ball in a stinging mess.

I try to live up to the standards of the dermatology world but I just can't.  I have been wearing a hat when I run, but frankly that has been mostly an effort to control hair in my face - shade from the sun is just a by product of the effort.  I do own a few running shirts that actually have a 50 UPF within the fabric.  This year I also bought a rashguard shirt with 50 UPF to wear when I swim and am at the beach.  Even at races, after I get numbered, I apply some sunscreen, but ration the amount and application to my face because of the sweaty sting.  But, here's the thing - I see very few others doing the same.  I have heard of more and more racers using non-stick cooking spray as a lubricant before they don their wetsuit in order to ease its removal after the swim.  All I can think of when I hear that is, "mmmm. . . baked, sauteed and fried racer, butter flavor."

Unless you train entirely indoors, or entirely after dark (which I highly doubt anyone does), endurance athletes are out in the sun a lot.  Each time I go out to train these days I find myself, at least once muttering some kind of expletive about the huge hot ball of sun in the sky and our stupid holes in the atmosphere.  I have a friend (you know who you are), who last week admit to never using sunscreen.  There was a collective gasp of judgment among those in earshot but I have a feeling they were just happy to not be grilled on their own habits. So, here it is, I'm putting it out there - the third-rail of training, do you wear sunscreen when you train?  C'mon, you can be honest with me - it's only me and the rest of the blog world?  (You can even create a fake name in the comments if you want to admit you don't even know what sunscreen is or where to buy it).

Swim. Apply Sunscreen. Bike. More Sunscreen. Run. I'm So Sick of the Sunscreen. . .Repeat.


PS. Sigh - I hate to say it, BUT, if you also have a recommendation on a non-stinging when sweat upon sunscreen, I guess I would be willing to try it.

August 1, 2008

Triathlon Pet Peeve #1

Dictionary tri-ath-lon: (noun); an athletic contest comprising three consecutive events, usually swimming, bicycling, and distance running. (

I was at the doctor yesterday - yes another one - for my annual GYN check-up. (No, men you don't have to stop reading here).  The first thing my doctor says to me is, "Hey, long time no see - still doing all those marathons?"

AAGGGHHH!!  We've encountered triathlon pet peeve #1.  A triathlon IS NOT a marathon.  Even my own mother makes this mistake.  A marathon is one event, running 26.2 miles.  A triathlon, by the very nature of the "tri" in its word, is 3 events.  I have a lot of respect for those out there who are marathoners but I have really no interest in doing a marathon, unless it's attached to an Ironman triathlon.  Even then, I would only be doing a marathon because its what would stand between me having swam and biked and the finish line.  You would think that with the rising popularity of the sport, even say, those related to me, could get the subtle (but additional 2 sports) distinction.

Swim.Bike.Run (see? 3 sports. . .)Repeat.


PS.  When looking up the definition, to be precise, I found that there is a British definition of the sport combining fly-casting, horseback-riding and trapshooting.  Who knew?

PPS.  By labeling this Pet Peeve #1, you should note that in the coming weeks you will be seeing some additional pet peeves. . . .