Trek Women
March 3, 2009

Derailed

104I love my niece.  Haley is a smart, funny, silly, and articulate 5 year old girl all wrapped up in an extremely pint-sized package.  I don't see her or my nephew nearly enough.  Last year I went a whole year without seeing them - Christmas to Christmas.  This Christmas after watching my boys cry over leaving their cousins, enough was enough.  We used a boat-load of frequent flyer miles for the boys and I to fly cross-country to California for a visit over President's Day weekend.  I planned on being "off the grid" for some sun, relaxation and playtime over 5 days. 

What happened instead was this:  Day 1: Rain.  Day 2: I re-rolled my healing sprained ankle in a game of keep-away at the park. I hobbled home from the park.  Day 3: Haley spiked a 105 degree fever.  Day 4: More rain; Haley's fever breaks  Day 5: I woke up having become the new host to whatever virus Haley had.  Oh, and it was also time to leave. 

I flew a red-eye flight home popping cough drop after cough drop.  I subsequently descended into a bronchitis so severe that is has essentially kept me in bed for two weeks.  During this whole episode I managed to cough hard enough, for long enough, that I tore (and not in a micro, building new muscle kind of way) two lower abdominal muscles that are still healing. (Note - if this happens to you, don't let your kids challenge you to a plank contest - it is very painful).

And, just when I was feeling at the end of my rope (and bottom of my 5th Kleenex box), the tide turned.  Last Friday was 60 degrees and sunny - I lamented not being able to climb (slowly) a flight of stairs without doubling over.  A bike ride would have to wait until next week.  My coughing eased over the weekend, although I still have my moments.  But by Saturday I knew I would be ready to get back to training on Monday.  Then it snowed - A LOT (at least for here).  Derailed again.

While wallowing in my bed of sickness I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.  My ankle hurt, my nose was runny, I was hopped up on cough syrup and every fiber of my being hurt.  The thought that I could get back to training, let alone meet my goals for May seemed unfathomable.   As my coughing has eased, I've found a better frame of mind.  Everyone is going to get derailed, I'm not the only one (even though sometimes it's hard to feel that way) - that's just life.   It might be sickness that prevents training, a busy time of work, an unforeseen injury or just expectations that need adjustment.  But, that's what derailing does for us - it doesn't take us completely out of the game.  It just puts a hill for us to climb in our path.  It causes us to use the derailleur and shift our gears, make adjustments and find our way either up and over at a new pace or look for an alternate route to get back to our path.  But either way, it is simply something looking for an adjustment - in my case - perhaps a downshifting in my expectations for May.  I used all that time coughing and not training to rest my ankle and work on strengthening exercises.  I'm still here and in this - to race and for what it represents to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I'm sure that there will be other things to derail me in the time leading up to my race in May.  Good thing I have a lot of gears to choose from. . . 

-Jen 

February 6, 2009

Rx: Cycling

Rx pad I've been in a bit of a writing slump lately.  It's not that there aren't plenty of things going on that I want to share with all of you - there are.  It's just that, well, I'm sad.  To be completely honest, I'm not just sad, I'm SAD.  I am one of millions of people, more women than men, who is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Basically, what that means is that right around Daylight Saving Time in the fall, when there are more hours of darkness than not, when the air turns cooler and the skies turn grayer, I become depressed.  I feel tired, I want to hibernate in my bed, I crave and seek comfort in sweets and carbs (Sat:  doughnuts - way too many doughnuts, Sun: coffee cake - what do you mean this is supposed to serve 12?, Mon: banana bread. . . for example), and I just feel generally depressed.  But, these symptoms are limited to the winter season and when the weather turns come spring, my depression lifts.  (This shouldn't surprise any of you regular readers who can note how many times I cite my hatred of Daylight Saving Time and gray skies.)

It is not known what causes SAD but experts are fairly convinced it is connected to levels of sunlight and the effect that sunlight has on the chemicals in our brains.  In fact, the more north of the equator that you live, the higher the percentage of people with SAD.  There are various ways that SAD can be treated, depending on the severity of the symptoms (which, in my case, can depend on whether or not we are having a sunny, mild winter or not).   This year, I was able to push off the onset of my symptoms until December by having the trips to California and then the Bahamas in November.

One part of treatment  that I have found works for me is to use light therapy.  I use a light box which simulates sunlight - I sit in front of it for a half an hour each morning and just read a book.  But, I am also really lucky in that I have a doctor who also prescribes training as part of my treatment.  There are definite links to aerobic exercise and mood and my doctor actually tells me that I need to be exercising each day to help boost my "feel-good brain chemicals" and stave off my winter mood.  So, this year, to help adhere to my prescription, my bike is hooked up to the bike trainer right in my bedroom.  It makes it harder for me to climb back under the covers and stay there when every time I roll over my bike is staring back at me.  These days, I am fighting that internal battle each day to climb on the trainer and get the wheels spinning.  I've found that the over-under is around 20 minutes - I spend 20 minutes hating it and wanting to jump back into bed and then around minute 21 my head clears, I enjoy the sweat and I feel lighter and better for the effort when I'm done.

The best part of that portion of the prescription?  No referral, no copay, no trip to the drugstore.   It's only 42 days until spring. . . .not that I'm counting. . . .

-Jen

January 7, 2009

Trailer

In order to effectively read this entry, you must imagine the voice you hear in dramatic movie trailers - you know the one - the deep dramatic voice that could make even eating oatmeal sound like a drama not to be missed.

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They were ordinary women.  Women of all walks of life who shared one common love.  They loved to ride their bikes.  Their reasons were different, their passion the same.  They wrote of their love and millions of women responded.  Now, they look to expand their circle.  Brought to you by Trek Bikes, the search begins anew.    They will search high and low and read millions of essays looking to identify five new women who can only be known as. . . .Women Who Ride.  (Insert dramatic music here.)

Coming NOW to the Trek website near you.  The search ends on January 24th.  Rated W - Women Only.

Get writing girls!  I can't wait to see what you have to say. . . .

-Jen

January 6, 2009

Holiday Bubble

159 If I must, I will wish all of you out there a Happy New Year.  I am slow entering the New Year not because I had particular attachment to 2008 but because, for the past two weeks, I have been living in the holiday bubble.  I think it started slowly with Thanksgiving - being away and then returning home with all the once-a-year things that come with the holidays.  But, then came Dec 23rd where my brain took a vacation - a much needed vacation. 

We did Christmas here and then boarded a plane the day after for my parents house in Colorado where my whole family gathered.  I got to spend over a week playing with my niece and nephew whom I haven't seen in a year and spend a significant portion of time (read: all day, every day) generally doing nothing (unless you count flag football, bowling or swimming which are a far cry from working, cooking or bill-paying).  I have some well lived in pajamas (and a belly full of cookies.) 

I spent over a week not checking e-mail (any of the 3 accounts), or thinking any of the  "what I should be doing" thoughts.  I truly unplugged.  179 And, because I wasn't in my own house I couldn't even play the "I'm relaxing by not doing anything but mentally making list after list as I look around and see all the things in my house that need attention" game.   When we arrived back home this past weekend, we rolled right into some hockey games for the boys and more pajama time as 160we re-introduced ourselves to the kids toys (some assembly and batteries required).   The only thing we did as an acknowledgment of sorts to the new year was to drag our sad, dying Christmas tree out of the house.  Jeff momentarily dumped it on the driveway and it left behind a a tree shaped pile of dead needles.  It looked like we should have drawn a chalk outline around it to symbolize it's demise.  That should have been a clue of things to come.  

When the alarm went off yesterday morning to get the boys up for school we were all a little dazed and confused.  There was crying that vacations were too short (Brendan) and a general grumpiness about releasing the warm and comfortable blankets and pajamas (me).  It doesn't help that I started the new year with a reminder to my family about how many days left until Daylight Saving Time (41).

Knowing myself and that my brain operates in slow speed during the first part of January, I thought through plans for the new year before the holidays so that I could hit the ground running (an unfortunate turn of phrase - it's really more of a meandering walk).  Luckily, while I pick myself up from the thud of hitting the ground when the holiday bubble burst, I can still wear my pajamas at the computer this week while I share with you more of my plans for 2009. . .

-Jen

December 16, 2008

Surprise Me!

J0440281 So, as the holiday shopping season starts and swings into high gear with only 9 days before Christmas, my kids have presented a challenge.  I know, you  want to focus on the fact that I said our holiday season shopping is just starting. . .   The thing is that 10 years ago I started the holiday shopping in late October, early November.  Jeff's family, on the other hand, has always seemed to embrace the concept of, "Who can pay more for overnight shipping?" as a holiday shopping tactic.  Over the years I've slipped, as I've become busier and online shopping has become my tool of choice.  I do mull over ideas for the holidays well before I actually point, click and ship so I'm not entirely lost and frantic.

In fact, I've been jotting down ideas and casually pestering my family for gift ideas over the past 6 weeks.  Here's the thing - my kids want nothing.  Now, that's an overstatement.  Of course they want Santa to bring them presents under the tree but there is nothing specific on their list of wishes.  In fact, the list is so bare that there in fact is no list.    They've said, and I quote, "Santa should just surprise me - he just goes and raids the stores anyway."

Now, on the one hand, I'm happy as a parent that my kids feel satisfied with what they have and haven't produced a "Gimme, gimme, gimme" list a mile long.  On the other hand, this puts Santa in a tough spot.  I've spent quite awhile (in fact my clicking hand is sore) surfing the 'net for good gifts for boys 7 and 8.  We've found a few things  and now the tougher part now is waiting for the Christmas morning reaction.  When there is nothing wished for, you can't get the "It's just what I wished for!" reaction.  We're just hoping that we don't get the, "Why did Santa get me this - this is boring!" reaction. 

And, while I've clicked my way all over the Internet to shop for my family, I find myself struggling with the same issue.  I can't seem to think of any fun gifts that I'm secretly hoping for this season.  I think part of the problem is that now I'm in the off season - it will be next May that I suddenly realize what my athletic bag of tricks needs.

What cool cycling or triathlon gear are you hoping to receive this year?  Maybe I can get some ideas from all of you.  And, if you have cool suggestions for boys aged 7 and 8, I still have a few days on overnight shipping deadlines. . .

-Jen

December 11, 2008

Coming and Going

Graph3 (2) This post can only possible start with multiple disclaimers.  1) There is really nothing cycling related here.  2) I try to balance my "cancer talk" so that you're not listening (or reading, as is more accurate) but I know that I can't tell you last week that I'm going for a scan and then not report about its results and 3) many of you may not understand or "get" what I'm trying to express in this post (I'm not sure I quite get it myself - please enter now all you armchair psychologists) but I have promised myself that I will always be honest as I blog about my thoughts and feelings, even when confusing.

Okay, disclaimers out of the way, here we go. . .  My scan was last Friday and after a weekend of mentally preparing myself to deal with "a spot, the spot, many spots," my oncologist told me I was entirely spot-free.  Now, this is great news but in no way should spot-free be misconstrued as scot-free.  So, I'm sitting there in the exam room and while spot-free is great news, I wasn't feeling the elated feeling.  Here's what I realized.  I am now 20 months out of chemo for the second time.  It's a scary place to be.  The first remission was so very, very short that being this far out has me always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  In the very same visit my oncologist smiles broadly and tells me that I have no spots we review the latest clinical trials and thoughts on treatment options for the when of when the spots do reappear.

The best way I have figured out to sum up my reactions and my feelings are this:  In my mind, this battle, at its simplest is a task of coming and going.  On the graph of cancer and its treatments I must always be somewhere on the line of coming from chemo and/or treatment and going to the next relapse and its subsequent treatment.  Because that first remission was so short, and now 20 months seems like forever, I somehow feel that on the graph of this whole cancer journey, I must be past the midpoint of that line by now and heading toward that next relapse.

Ultimately, the news is great and 3 more months on that line, wherever I am, is a really good thing.  I'm not dwelling on my feelings about coming or going, but just expressing them for what they are.  I never know what feelings these visits will stir, each time I'm in a new place with my attitude toward cancer, whatever the news.  So, for now, I move on, keep going, as its the only thing I know I can do, train through the cold winter and we'll deal with whatever is next on this journey in March. . .

-Jen

December 5, 2008

Guessing Game

Question mark
So, just for fun, we're going to see who's been paying attention. . . .

Can anyone guess what today is?  I'll give you some clues if no one guesses by early this afternoon. . . .

-Jen

December 3, 2008

Where Did It Go?

IMG_3591 Do you remember as a child how long a month took?  Do you remember how agonizingly slow the days on the calendar passed - especially when waiting for a birthday, vacation or Christmas?  Not so as an adult.  I caught myself answering a question for the kids last weekend that started with, "Yes, Monday is December 1st. . ." and then stopped in my tracks.  December?  Where did November go?

Last you knew I was layering up for the Philly half-marathon and then heading for a warmer climate. Halfmedal Layering and layering is exactly what I did - to the point where my runny nose was practically all  that was showing (and yet there were many a red and frozen bare leg seen running in shorts that day).  I ran myself to a personal best half-marathon time of 2:15:45 and managed not to slip on the ice that formed at water stops when water sloshed and froze on the ground.  As I crossed the finish, I gathered my cool medal (yes, I did "Kick Asphalt," I thought) and kept right on walking - straight to my car, a warm shower at home and then the airport.

Our cruise was fabulous.  Yes, we ate too much and did a lot of nothing.  The whole family got in the water and pet dolphins, the kids tackled a 40 foot water slide, learned to climb a rock wall and we decided on a no-turkey meal on Thanksgiving. Brendan even lost a tooth, which is what got me thinking about how fast time is passing.  When he lost his tooth, we laughed at the irony because Cameron,  3 years ago - almost exactly - lost a tooth on a cruise.  When I had to think back to when that cruise was and realized it had been 3 years - wow!

So, while continuing the day to day and marveling at how fast the holidays are approaching and how little I have done, I'm spending a lot of time trying to conjure up all the moments in the past year, realizing how quickly they've come and gone.

It was just a year ago that I was holiday shopping in a leg cast.  A lot has happened since then.  Since January I've learned to walk and run again, completed 2 5K's, 2 half-marathons, 3 triathlons (one being my first Olympic distance - where there was no medal - yes, I'm still annoyed about that), 3 cycling charity events, skiied in 2 different states (tackling a black diamond run that I thought would be the death of me), cycled around 5 different cities in 4 different states, met many, many other Women WHo Ride, celebrated 2 kids birthdays, had 2 boys grow roughly 6 inches, seen 4 baby teeth fall out, seen a child through surgery, survived a kitchen re-model and and a family room remodel, spent time in the hospital with shingles, gotten a job at a bike shop and written over 125 blog posts chronicling all these events.  Phew.  Wow. 

I've been looking ahead to 2009 lately thanks to all the e-mails announcing race registrations being open. At the same time it's made me realize that time continues to tick by and perhaps I should balance out my thinking ahead with spending a little more time recounting and reliving the fun I've already had.  Kids are good at that - they can remember something silly or the details of an amazing accomplishment for a long time but as adults I've noticed that I'm often more preoccupied with the "What's Next?" thoughts.  So, while the holiday season can often get everyone wrapped up in a whole series of what next's as we try to do to much, be too much and exceed our own often too high expectations, take a few minutes to say, or even ask others "Where did the year go and what moments will I remember?"

-Jen

November 12, 2008

Cleaning Me

I found myself doing something unusual since my return from Santa Barbara's Trek Travel Women Who Ride weekend on Monday.  The kids have been off of school for the past two days and I found myself. . .cleaning.  I'm not really the cleaning type.  Straightening, organizing - sure - but I'd sooner take a toothbrush to some grout than, well, take a toothbrush to grout.  But, for the past two days I've been cleaning as if it were spring rather than November. (Fair disclosure:  I hear people clean things in the spring - I'm not sure I really know from personal experience).  I've even gone so far as to have the patience to teach Cameron how to clean a bathroom - only an 8 year old boy can think it fun to scrub a toilet by hand.  I'm going to ride that wave as long as possible.  When we were done with the bathroom Cam stepped back, breathed deeply and said, "Mmm. . . it smells so good in here.  We should do this [clean the bathroom] more."  I laughed, but when I viewed the shining counters, faucets and lavender smell, rather than crusted toothpaste, - why is it that kids get more on the counter than on their toothbrush? -  I secretly agreed.

It took me into the second kids room closet cleaning/organization to realize that this had nothing to do with a sudden Mr. Clean-gene activation but had everything to do with being away for 4 days without my family.  Traveling with 22 other women, eating, drinking, riding and experiencing the rarest of all gifts for many women - someone else sweating all the details - was a thorough cleaning for me.  It cleaned out  built up mom-stress, it rested me and refreshed my spirit in a time of year where the increasing dark, cold and repetition of the day can start to dull my finish and my patience. The trip was all it was advertised to be, and so much more - they didn't advertise the refreshed and renewed mom-feeling.  I came home feeling like a shiny, gleaming mom, showing only the best parts of me for time with the kids.  I am breathing deeply, and will be spending the next week sharing the trip memories, stories and pictures with all of you out there while thinking, "Mmmmm.  I should do that for myself more often. . ."

-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