Trek Women
October 28, 2008

All The Signs Are There

Snowflake-01 I was at a school meeting yesterday evening.  When I left and walked through the dimly lit parking lot I didn't immediately notice the slightly damp pavement.  What I did notice was the smell in the air.  For some reason my mind immediately went to the thought, "Why does it smell like snow?"  Once I got in the car I noticed my wet windshield and the light mist that had started but still, I was convinced that I smelled snow not rain.

Last week, I found myself getting out of bed each morning to frosty air and started adding layers in the darkness before heading downstairs to the coffee machine.  The thermostat suddenly dipped to 58, causing me to grudgingly fire up the heater.

Once I was home, I logged on to the computer to check the weather forecast and the computer reminded me that Daylight Savings Time is this weekend - (hello, dark, dark, dark).

I went to bed and woke up this morning to cold, sleet-y, windy rain.  I don't mind riding or running in a light rain but this was cold enough to force me onto the treadmill - oh how I hate the treadmill.

All the signs are there.  I've been ignoring them until late morning yesterday when huge snowflakes began falling fast and furious.    I only felt a moments vindication that my nose knew there was snow somewhere - then considered that the bikes displayed outdoors at work were quickly gaining a layer of snow and ice.  I had been ignoring the calendar, the increasingly bare trees and the jacket I was adding before walking the boys to the bus stop each morning, because I was still able to get out and ride and run sometime each day.  But now I need to face facts, the days of dark mornings and quickly darkening evenings are here.  It's quickly coming to the time where I need to get out my CycleOps bike trainer, consult the gym spin schedule and move the training indoors.   Each year I've been extending my outdoor season.  Perhaps I'm becoming used to the cold or each year I'm becoming more stubborn about relinquishing my outdoor rides and runs.  How long can you still ride outdoors?  Perhaps the better question is how many layers do you need before you are forced inside?

I've got some interesting plans for more outdoor riding in the next few weeks though so stay tuned. . .

-Jen

October 24, 2008

Triathlete Pet Peeve #3

Dictionary Yes, you read that right - we are on to triathlete pet peeve #3.  I thought I was done with the two pet peeves but then it hit again yesterday as I was doing some blog work.  Why is it that no one can spell triathlon or triathlete?  The most common error is to add an extra syllable to the word by sticking in an 'a' or an 'o', as in "triath-a-lon" or "triath-o-lon."

I understand that it's probably not on the elementary school frequently used words list.  I also understand that unless you are involved in the sport, you might not have much need to know or care how to spell it.   But, here's the thing - what has really pushed me over the edge into calling this a pet peeve is this:  I have been blogging about triathlon for over 15 months now and the blogging software spell check  (through a couple of upgrades), and  my computer spell check, don't recognize the word as even existing!  Each time I blog, I inevitably end up with spell check stopping at all the instances of triathlete or triathlon.  If you don't know how to spell it correctly but you at least have the decency to click the spell check button, how does it help anyone to have the program not even recognize the word, spelled correctly or not?  It still frustrates me when people involved in the sport can't spell it correctly, but now I understand - it might not be their fault entirely.  Does anyone know how you can petition to have a word included in spell check?  I'm no computer programmer but I would have thought somehow Merriam-Webster's Dictionary would have just handed over the latest dictionary to the computer programmers and said "start typing. . ."

I'm doing a test right now. . .Let's see which other sport names I can type that the spell check doesn't recognize and we'll know where they rank.  Football, baseball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, basketball, swimming, diving, javelin, hurdles, wrestling, curling, discus, polo, dressage, shuffleboard. . . .

Test complete:  It recognized all of those sports.  The hilarity is that I got the idea for this post yesterday and then overnight the blogging software upgraded to a new look and platform.  First time with the new spell check and it, of course, flagged 'triathlete' and 'triathlon' (and none of those other sports - I would have thought for sure I could have tripped it up with dressage).  When I clicked the first instance of 'triathlete',  it actually suggested, and had written, 'triathlon.'  I thought I was going to have to delete this whole post but. . . .wait for it. . . .when I got to the word 'triathlon' it didn't recognize it at all, instead asking me if I had really meant Lon, Leon, Lion, LPN. . . .

-Jen

October 22, 2008

Perfecting Imperfection

Checklist_2 So something happens after you complete your first triathlon and you become hooked.  You no longer look to complete but to compete.  And therein lies the problem.  Suddenly you are acutely aware that there is a perceived perfect way to train, perfect gear to have, and perfect paces to attain.  Your mind knows what a perfect race would look like, a perfect transition would feel like and what your perfect time goal for each race would be.

The perfect ideal is getting to me.  When I first started running and cycling the goals were to go for a longer amount of time or "just a little longer" in distance.  That was my method of measuring my accomplishment.  Now, because I want to actually compete with those goals in my head, I have a training plan that involves things like speedwork, short rides, hills, long runs etc.  The checklist of exacting training goals one can impose on themselves can be quite extensive. 

I've gone through this change and thought that it wasn't affecting me until recently.  I am training for the Philadelphia Half-Marathon (you know, the same race I was supposed to do last November until my leg was sidelined by a cast) and on Sunday I was out for what was supposed to be a 6 mile run, which ended up being only 4.25.  This was the 6 mile run that I had been sidelining for 4-5 days, not because I can't run 6 miles but because one day the weather didn't seem perfect, one day I was not rested enough, one day I was in a time crunch and didn't think it would perfectly fit into the day. 

The perfection has gotten to my head.  I am making excuses for myself and depriving myself of the actual enjoyment I get when I am out riding or running because I am constantly trying to make it fit a perfect pace or distance or training ideal.  Even worse, I am choosing to put off or not do these things I love because I'm scared of failing.  Here's the thing - I am decidedly NOT perfect.  I'm imperfect everyday at a lot of things and I'm okay with that.  It's the theory that applies to pizza night in our house - sure, I could be Martha Stewart and handcraft a meal that took 6 hours to make (along with the perfect centerpiece, to boot) if I had a staff of 50 but I'm an imperfect mom and sometimes dialing for dinner delivery gets the job done. If I were a perfect triathlete I would need an army of coaches, nutritionists, massage therapists, sponsors and perhaps even a different body and I'm sure even then I wouldn't be able to completely shed the nagging notion that something wasn't just so.

I'm not sure why I can't let my 'regular life' notion of my imperfection mingle with my 'amateur triathlete' notion.  Perhaps because in triathlon the goals are so clearly defined (three times over)  - go faster and the return on investment is the numbers that prove it.  I've got to let go and go back to the enjoyment factor.  The imperfect mom, wife and person is the same me as the imperfect triathlete me.  Does it mean that I won't still train to compete and pay attention to those splits and paces?  No.  That is all still part of the training and my goals.  It's good to have goals but the perfection ideal, and its accompanying fear of failure, shouldn't overshadow whether I choose to just get out there or not.   And in choosing to perfect my imperfection by training no matter if it always fits the training mold, I will come far closer to meeting my goals then by sidelining myself out of fear.   At the end of the day I'm the only one keeping score and last time I checked I wasn't perfect at that either. . .

-Jen

October 21, 2008

Enough With Asking

1114_canal_path_leavesedit_ps_rz_2 For months I have been hyping various cycling adventures to the kids.  The biggest of these is taking their bikes, along with my mountain bike, down to the path that runs along the canal in our town.  I frequently run there and the fall is the best time for the canal - crisp air, crunchy leaves (no Canadian geese with babies to hiss and block your path).  I have continued to meet lukewarm responses.  There is always something else that sounds more appealing.  Twice a week I have the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with each of the boys.  On Monday one has soccer practice but the other does not.  On Wednesday it reverses.  Yesterday was a beautiful, albeit cold fall day.  I made a big pot of soup in the afternoon so that dinner would be ready for us right after practice.  I once again suggested the canal bike ride and got a "nah" in return.

Then it hit me.  I was forgetting the biggest mom rule of all time.  Enough with the asking.  It was time to pull out the "because I said so."  I simply stated, "Well, that's what we're doing."  I pulled up a map of the canal and said, "you can choose which direction we take the canal.  How far do you think we can go during your brother's practice?"  That's right - it was on.  Not only was I invoking the "because I said so", I had issued a challenge as well.

Brendan rose to the challenge and then some.  He kept time on a watch so we would know when to turn around.  I strapped on the Garmin to keep distance for us.  One hour and fifteen minutes later (and almost dark) we had ridden 10.42 miles (he wants it to be exact).  He crunched over leaves and sticks, passed a farm with horses, said hello to every maniacal squirrel gathering for the winter and only once did a swerving maneuver that I thought would end with me picking him out of the canal.

In the end I felt satisfied that no longer asking was the right choice.  Sometimes as a mom you just have to prove that you know what will be fun (granted, sometimes you say it will be fun and know it won't - like grocery shopping).  Our only mistake was not wearing gloves.  My hands were so cold when we got back to the fields that it took extra time to load the bikes back on to the car rack. But, Cameron is already prepping for Wednesday when it's his turn to see how far he can go.  Cameron's only question so far, "Did you take any breaks?"  He's cut from the same mental mind-set cloth as his mom (what if I can't do it?).    Enough with the asking - I think I'll just tell him that we're going 11 miles. . .

-Jen


October 16, 2008

On the Other Side of the Bike

Img_3349_2 Whew - I made it.  Last Saturday was my first big event for Bucks County Bicycle Company - the Trek WSD Breast Cancer Awareness Ride.  It is a completely different experience to be on the other side of the bike and be the event planner.  I spent two weeks stressing over the creation of safe, enjoyable and scenic routes that would be welcoming to all abilities of riders.  I hoped that I had ordered enough food and drinks and that  while I felt unsure and disorganized in my mind, it would appear flawless and well planned to those attending. 

It went even better than I expected.  We had over 45 riders (a huge increase from our 12 last year) of all abilities and everyone seemed to have a great time.  We had the exact right amount of food and a beautiful sunny, cloudless day.

Our pre-registration numbers only had 4 riders for the 10 mile ride, so I decided it would just be easiest if I led the ten miler and focused all my ride leaders/assistants on the 25 mile ride.  Well, when registration was said and done I ended up with a dozen riders.  I felt a bit like a summer camp counselor or perhaps pre-school field trip chaperone in that I kept counting all my riders to make sure I hadn't lost anyone at turns or left them behind.  It's definitely hard work to be the leader and find the right ride speed and ability to signal turns, making sure others follow.

We had a few great stories come out of the day - One rider had just bought her bike this summer and six miles was the longest she had ever ridden at once.  She successfully completed the 10 miles, easily I might add, and quizzed me afterward on clipless pedals - I think she's hooked.  We had one woman who had just finished chemo in July and the ride was her second one of the year.  And lastly, my favorite story of the day. . . Prior to the ride start I had one gentleman in cotton T-shirt and shorts quiz me quite emphatically about the one hill that I had mentioned was on the 25 mile ride (when you ride down to the river, you have to come back up somehow).  He said he had only been riding two months and how steep, how long etc. . .was the hill.  He then asked what would happen if he went part way and didn't/couldn't do any more.  I was momentarily startled because I hadn't considered that as a possibility.  I told him that a ride leader would call the store and I would come pick him and his bike up if that were the case.  I felt a fine line right then - here was someone I had just met and I didn't want to tell him that perhaps he should just come on the 10 mile ride and not attempt the 25.  I didn't want to speculate on what he could or couldn't do - it just didn't feel like my place.

Well, he made it back - beaming.  He then told me that he hadn't heard me separate the groups into the two rides and he ended up on the 25 mile ride when he really did intend to be on the 10 mile.  He made it the whole 25 miles, hill and all and was thanking one of our ride leaders profusely for encouraging him the whole way.  I am pretty sure that I will see him at this event again next year!

It was a great day and it was great to meet and talk with so many riders.  Our store raised over $625 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and everyone enjoyed the ride.  It's good to be on the other side now and looking ahead to the next event.  I learned a lot and have a ton of respect for event/race directors.  I think I'm going to aim for 75+ riders next year. . .

-Jen

PS.  Many thanks to my fellow Trek chic Laura, who endured many issues in coming from Washington DC to support the event.  I was so glad to have your support!

PPS.  Many thanks go out to all the employees at the store, many of whom I met just that morning, who helped get everything ready.

October 9, 2008

Before the Storm

Tonight was a rare moment.  It's hard to even know how to describe it and while it doesn't relate to a race or a bike adventure I still wanted to share it.  The boys were off of school today and we had a fun day together doing nothing special.  Brendan finished up some homework this afternoon while Cameron and I took on the baking of some butterscotch brownies.  (He thought I was granting a delicious dessert to him, scoring me mom-points, while I secretly thought I was granting myself some one-on-one time and something for my late night junk-food craving.) 

Perhaps it was the warm brownie-baking smell as it wafted through the kitchen that put a spell on all of us.  We agreed that riding our bikes to Cam's soccer scrimmage was a great idea.  We got ready and no one put up a fight.  There was no frazzled-we're-late-scramble.  We just hopped on our bikes and went.  The weather, which has been playing its tricks on us all week - freezing cold one day, warmer the next had greeted us with a beautiful late afternoon sun and a warm, but not too warm, feel.  The ride to the field was all up hill and no one complained, remembering instead how sweet the cool breeze would feel as we coasted home later.  At the fields, Brendan and I sat on a towel and read aloud from our current book  while Cam and his teammates warmed up.  The game started and Brendan abandoned me for the playground while I enjoyed the color of the changing leaves and the slowly setting sun against a backdrop of boys jogging back and forth calling, "here, pass, up front."  And for that one hour, all was right with the world.  No phone ringing, no four calendar synchronization, no car pool coordination, no nothing (not even bug bites). . .actual space to breathe.  The kind of space where you actually do notice your breathing and enjoy the present rather than creating a mental to-do list while your exterior pretends to be present in the moment.

We did in fact coast home, the air becoming cooler the faster we went.  I got the boys fed, we rated the brownies a two-thumbs up (actually six-thumbs up, they would tell you) and I have now tucked them in.  Tomorrow we begin again and the schedule is one of constant motion pressing from dawn well past dusk.  I don't yet know how we will handle the frenzy of soccer tournament/Trek Breast  Cancer ride/hockey practice/eating/sleeping and still speaking to each other in the small 48 hour space that defines our weekend.   But, for tonight, in the time before the weekend storm, I am grabbing onto the calm and will sleep well. . .

-Jen

October 9, 2008

Sweatin' My Style

Hanger_2 I met my friend Jean when I was the one with the longest hair out of the two of us - all 1 inch of it.  Jean and I met when she was still in treatment for breast cancer and I was only a couple of months into my first remission.  It was the dead of winter and I was learning to run.  Jean was walking at the time so I had no idea, until I got to know her better, that Jean has quite a running history.  Jean has numerous marathons and half-marathons, under her belt and is the type of runner (and person) who can just show up at a race, with minimal training, and knock out a race at a pace that I have to struggle to attain.

Early on, when I still was running in a big cotton sweatshirt, sweatpants and something I thought resembled a running shoe, Jean shocked me with the following disclosure.  Her husband had built a huge walk-in closet for their running/fitness clothes.  What?!!  I immediately thought of Jean as a bit wacky, eh (she's from Canada so I had to throw in the "eh").

Here it is 3 years later and as I was rummaging through my closet and drawers last week I thought, "I need to clear out my "regular" clothes to have better space for my running/cycling/tri gear."  My training gear definitely is winning the battle for closet and dresser space.

I've never been star-studded with my style.  For some reason the shopping gene skipped me and shopping for new clothes vexes me to no end.  For the last 9 years it really hasn't mattered what I've worn, because as long as it was comfortable and could go from playground to school to store it worked (i.e. T-shirt and jeans, or shorts.)  Then, last year I noticed a subtle change to my sense of style.  Starting in the Spring and running straight through 'til Fall,  I would find myself living in my workout clothes.  When you are regularly training twice a day and also having to fit in the pesky things like shopping for eggs, bread and milk (often done at the end of workout to appease the family with the "look what I brought you" thought), you start to see no point in changing clothes that many times a day (that is unless its from cycling shoes to running shoes or to a swimsuit).    So, while years before I would gasp at the daring idea of anyone wearing spandex in a grocery store, I would often find myself pouring sweat, helmet on head and spandex on butt running errands.

Now suddenly I have re-entered the work world and while "bike shop professional wear" is not quite in the same league with corporate America work wear, I am learning that "sweaty" is not really considered a style of dress (although it is considered a certain style "statement" but one that gets you talked about behind your back not really complimented.)  I'm also learning that bike shop wear sometimes does not mix with my mom life.  Just last week I got some looks when I realized that while waiting to pick my kids up from school I was sporting my "No Boys Allowed - Women Who Ride" T-shirt - with the statement right across my chest.  Again, good as bike shop wear but not so much for the PTA-set.

So, now the weather is getting cooler and I'm coming around to the sad thought that knee and arm warmers don't usually make the pages of the fashion mags (and fashion is not normally described as wicking, compression, or in the level of chamois comfort - so I hear.)  I need a fashion intervention that can meet all my needs.  After that, perhaps we can explore my make-up bag.  I'm hearing rumors that the "average girl's" bag contains more that deodorant, sunscreen/moisturizer, and chamois butt'r.  Then again, to pull off sweaty as a style, I must be anything but average. . .

-Jen

 

October 7, 2008

I Like My Family

Img_2532When I run into people that I only see occasionally, they inevitably ask me, "Are you still doing triathlons and those races?"  When I say yes, we will often launch into a discussion about my training.  Many, many times I have been asked, "Do you think you'll do an Ironman?"  Last year, I was a definite yes to that question.  To me, completing an Ironman seemed like the biggest and baddest way possible that I could thumb my nose at cancer and prove that it hadn't gotten the best of me.  (Plus, there's the bragging rights and people would stop saying, "Oh, so you've done a mini-triathlon?)Img_2920

But, over the past year I've come to one monstrously important conclusion that impacts that idea - I like my family.  I really do.   They have their moments of leaving socks on the floor (Jeff), whining at me (Brendan) or giving me the "Duh, Mom" (Cam), but I'd take spending time with my family if given a choice any day of the week.   My family is really supportive about my racing goals and don't ever make me feel guilty about training - I do that myself.  It's not necessarily a guilt complex - they do perfectly well fending for themselves and, with Dad at the helm, there is always a little more freedom (and sometimes a little more pizza.)  However, the guilt I think I feel has to do a lot more with the torn feeling about what I'm missing when I leave to train.  I like to be able to cheer for the boys soccer, be amazed at new skills they learn, and watch the wonder they have at simple things.  I like to scream my head off on roller coasters with them, help with homework and play a game of Scrabble with Jeff, or just laugh - let's never leave out the laughing.

Img_2231Training for an Ironman involves a monstrous amount of preparation - and that is just to get to the starting line.  Throw in the commitment to it at least a year in advance and I know it's a recipe I just can't mix right now.  The ups and downs that punctuate, sometimes dramatically, our otherwise "normal" life as a family with two kids can't be predicted a few weeks in advance, let alone a whole year.  It's still a fragile balance I feel - the need to let myself think more than three months in advance and the reality that sometimes provides the reigns that hold me back.

So, I've decided that the moments I love now are with my family and the hours of training for an Ironman would not outweigh the moments I would miss with them.  There is plenty of time in life for that and plenty other triathlon goals to challenge me in this coming year.  I'm sure my kids will be asking for car keys and money and I will only see the back of them as the head out the door soon enough.  I'm not giving up the Ironman idea, just the idea of that finish line being in the near future.  Besides, spending as much time as possible experiencing the good, the bad, the funny and the joyful with Jeff and the kids now seems like perhaps the best way to thumb my nose at cancer. . . 

-Jen

October 3, 2008

Here Comes Big Foot

Blackandwhiteclownshoes My feet have been hurting lately.  So, I sat down with my training log and added up the miles on my running shoes.  Yikes!  Too many miles on those soles - no wonder my feet have been hurting.  So, I headed out to buy some new running shoes. . .

Buying running or cycling shoes is a painful exercise for me.  The first time I bought running shoes I ended up back at the store 4 times exchanging them because whatever model it was that I bought was uncomfortable or painful or both.  The first time you do this, after the employees reassure you that this of course is your right and their policy, you feel fine - confident that now you've solved your problem.  By the fourth time, you slink into the store where employees give you the, "oh, it's you again" look and you start to wonder if the problem is with the shoes or perhaps with your feet (or maybe your head).  I felt this way when I bought my first cycling shoes.  It happened to be the same time I was buying my road bike and I kept hearing the cha-ching sound of a cash register in my head as the costs added up.  I was so worried about the comfort and feel of the shoes - panicked because I only wanted to spend once.  I sometimes still debate whether my road shoes are the best ones for me.

So, anyway, buying shoes for me is a process.  I actually was proud of myself this time around because I only tried on 4 pairs (2 or 3 times each, mind you) before I came to a decision.  What was more startling than my unusual speed in purchase was that my foot seemed to have grown - again.  I swear, every time I am in the market for new running shoes I seem to go up a half size.  Now I know, much like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans, that not all manufacturers size things the same.  But, I'm not sure I like the direction this is going.  I already often feel self-conscious when I run - the clomping around feeling -  but now add the real or not growing feet phenomenon and I am starting to think that I look like I'm wearing big floppy clown shoes out there on the road.

Perhaps the pounding of running and pressure on the down-stroke with cycling is flattening my feet much like you would roll out dough.  But, do I now need to build an additional dollar factor into my cycling budget for yearly replacement shoes?  I considered my cycling shoes a long term purchase but maybe that isn't the case.  Do you own multiple pairs of cycling shoes?  How often do you replace them (other than the cleats)?

The only upside I can find is that perhaps my feet will grow large and flat enough to resemble flippers, thereby giving me Michael Phelps-like speed on the swim in races.  I'm headed out for a run with the new clown shoes - perhaps I will stop by a kids birthday party as the entertainment along the way. . .

-Jen

 

October 2, 2008

Restless

I must apologize to all you faithful blog readers out there for the feeling that I have left you out in the cold.  I seem to spend each Monday trying to recover myself and our house from the whirlwind that is each weekend and then the boys were off of school the past two days, which took all my "me" time and made it kid time.

Usually when I blog I like to have something to write about that has a beginning, middle and end, if you will.  A problem that has a solution.  Today I don't have that to offer.  What I can tell you is this:  I am restless.

Perhaps it was the mood in which I did my last race, perhaps it was the fading of me reaching my goals for this tri season, perhaps it was the stilted interruption to the racing season with the hospitalization in August.  Whatever the case I know that the only word I seem to settle on lately is restless.  A week after the last tri I was feeling empty.  I didn't feel like my triathlon season had come to a complete close for the year.  I googled around for other races, wondering if doing another late season tri (cold or not) would fill the void.  Last year I felt ready for the tri season to come to a close and to move on to fall activities.  I was ready to look to the next year and make plans, comfortable in the end of one season, ready for the next.

Right now I don't feel ready to plan.  I'm wandering around in a fitness haze, trying new things, unsure of my place.  Last week I reacquainted myself with the offerings of my gym and tried a class called H.I.T.  I'm not sure exactly what the acronym means, other than the fact that it HIT me hard.  (Coach Tom, yes, I finally understand specificity of training - the thought that to be good at swimming, biking, and running you need to do those things specifically.)  I was uncoordinated within the class (I've never been a step aerobics kind of girl) and my family enjoyed laughing at me for the rest of the week as every time I sat down I felt muscles that I didn't know existed (apparently they are not ones used in swimming, biking and running).  I'm planning on returning - the cross-training will be good for me - but it definitely cemented my permanent love of triathlon.

I'm not looking for it to be 90 degrees and humid again but I also feel myself fighting the onset of the cooler weather, which usually I love for running and cycling.  Do I need a new challenge?  Is it an Xterra?  A winter tri?  Adventure racing?  Do I just need to forge ahead and plan for the tri season next year?  A problem without a solution - I told you that in the beginning. Usually what gives me clarity and some space to problem solve is to get the heart pumping and the endorphins flowing.  I'm going to head out this morning and try just that but, lately, I seem to lose any problem solving as soon as the wheels stop turning or my legs stop moving.  Then, once again, I am restless. . .

-Jen