Thursday, August 23, 2012

Always Keep Pedaling!

This has a back story as most of my adventures seem to. I went to the young adult cancer survivors conference at Dana Farber in Early March. While there I met Jon Wilson a fellow cancer survivor but also the founder of AKP (always keep pedaling foundation). The foundation offers grants to cancer survivors to get out there and challenge themselves after diagnosis. You can apply for a grant for adaptive equipment, training sessions, or other adventures.

Shortly after I went I decided I wanted the Title 9 Sprint Triathlon to be my challenge. There was only one problem I don't have a bike to use to train or ride for the race. I also don't have the funds to get my own. I thought of AKP and went to take a look at their site. I ended up submitting the first application and then the second. Unfortunately something went a miss and my application was never received (probably something on my end, it usually is user error) so when I email Jon in mid July asking about it he kindly had me to them again and said the review committee would be meeting the end of August to make a decision. But that in the mean time they were hosting a bike retreat the weekend of August 10th in Vermont. I was very hesitant to even consider going mainly because biking was my least favorite as well as least successful triathlon sport. But some how I convinced myself that I had to at least try worst thing that could happen is I wouldn't be able to do it and would walk or get back in the van.

I am thrilled I made the decision to try it! There were a few of us from about the same area that were able to arrange a carpool so on Friday morning we headed out for our adventure!

About 3 hours later we arrived at our fantastic accommodations! We would be spending the weekend at the river road barn. It had a gorgeous view of the mountains and of course a pool!
We were greeted by Els (a friend of Jon's as well as a member of AKP's board and fellow cyclist). She was kind enough to show us around and get us situated. Jon arrived shortly after 

and again checked in with us and gave a little run down of how the day was going to go. Everyone else proceeded to arrive for the next couple of hours. We all gathered together and went over what we were going to be doing for the day as well as the weekend. 

Vermont biking Tours was kind enough to donated not only all the equipment we needed for the weekend but a guide, vehicle, gas, etc. for the weekend! So Chris our guide from VBT went over the bikes with us and got us all fitted. This is the point where I almost freaked out a bit. Els showed us the maps on our bikes of the course we would be riding and at the top it had the mile 17.9.

 I honestly might have stopped breathing for a moment. I have not ridden more than 12 miles outside and almost 18 miles on the first day SCARED me! But I reminded myself that I needed to try so I got myself all ready. After doing all the waiver signing and such we headed out!

I am pleased to say that I survived all 17.9 miles well actually it ended up being 18.3 miles because we missed a turn. I'm not gonna lie I got off and walked a handful of time but I always got back on the bike and I never got back on the van. That was a win for me!

When we got back to farm we headed to the pool, where I discovered I had forgotten to pack my bathing suit, but I improvised! While we swam Jon, Els and Simon (Els's finance and Jon's long time friend) got dinner ready. Then it was time to eat!

Smoked Salmon, pasta salad, asparagus and salad. Although it was not my normal dinner it was still very good. After dinner some stayed up and played games but I was tired and just laid down on my bunk.
Day two was just as much fun. We had the pleasure of being able to do a yoga class at 8:30am. I was thrilled to have this offer. So we all were up and in the gym for 8:30am.
It was nice to have a good stretch after Friday's 18 mile ride. I was also happy to know that my yoga abilities had improved. I was able to pretty much keep up. It was both energizing and relaxing at the same time!

Then Jon's mom was kind enough to come and make us breakfast. I don't know about you but I love blueberry pancakes! 

After breakfast we all got dressed, collected our gear and then Chris our VBT guide did a gear shifting clinic for us. 
He was fantastic the whole weekend. Sharing his vast cycling knowledge, providing assistance with the bikes, giving us snacks and of course rides when we were tired.

Jon and Els then gave us all our maps of the days course. Today was only going to be a 13 mile ride however it started with a 3 mile 750 ft climb. They gave us a choice we could do all 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile or start at the top.I really had a lot of thinking to do, in the end I decided to do two miles. I did end up walking some of it but I did it none the less. 

The rest of the course was mostly down hill. We were able to stop and an old query and go down to take a look.

It was quite beautiful. We did some minor rock climbing, some people went swimming in a small pool between rocks and then we got to eat lunch there. Then Jon uttered the these words, "Do you guys want to do some more or are you all done?" We all felt pretty good so we said, "Let's do it!" he did warn us that there was one hill, we later discover Jon's idea of a hill and ours (yes as a group) are VERY different.

We rode for a little while longer and then turned onto a side road and started our climb. I rode maybe 1/6 of mile up and then just couldn't do it anymore. My Garmin was blinking at me that my heart rate was over 185 so I got off and walked. Chris once again came around checking to see if we were ok if we wanted a ride up. I refused to ride I was getting myself up the mountain. That's right it was a mountain not a hill! :)

There were a handful of people behind me. I got back on my bike and rode the last little bit to the top. As we waited Chris came driving up with everyone who was behind me in the van I was thrilled that I made the decision to do it myself!

Before we left Jon told us that he had something special to show us after our ride. So we piked back into the van and left for our second adventure. Chris pulled over, we climbed over a guardrail and walked through a field. My first thought was, 'ok this is the part where we are all murdered.' I could not have been more wrong, Jon is a teacher as his full time job and he took to see where the Vermont mint used to be. He told us all about the history of Vermont becoming part of the colonies and therefore the mint was no longer needed. It was really beautiful!

At dinner that night Jon invited some friends of his. They were also cancer survivors, they were married and both of them had been through cancer. Their story was astounding yet inspiring. I loved that they were there and we were able to chat freely. They were perfectly willing to answer all our questions.

The next day was Sunday August 12th. 

I thought it was very fitting that our final course for the weekend was on the two year anniversary of my diagnosis. I had come so far since then and this was the perfect way to display that! We got an early start because we all had to head home after. Again we had a choice at what course we took. We could either do a 12 mile course or a 21 mile course that went into New York and back again. 

Once again I adopted the I need to try theory so I decided to do the 21 miles! It was a great ride! I was thrilled when I got to the New York border. I knew I could do the rest! I continued on and we all stopped and ate lunch at a cute little covered bridge! Even though I was in the group that was in the middle of the pack we got the bridge first because Jon had missed a turn so his group did an extra couple of miles.

It was beautiful there and great atmosphere to eat lunch. There were actually some people there on vacation from the Boston area I thought that was pretty funny. 

After we were done eating we got a group shot on the bridge. We are a good looking group if I do say so myself!
We headed back and finished our 21 mile ride. We might have completed this adventure but it definitely gave me the confidence to keep searching for new adventures!

I really can't thank Jon, Els, Simon, Chris, Andrew (another friend of Jon's), the river road farm owners, VBT and everyone else involved with AKP enough for this weekend. As I said in the beginning my challenge was to train and complete a triathlon. Before this weekend I was overly worried about my ability to complete the bike portion of triathlon. By Sunday I was completely confident that I will be able to successfully complete the 10 mile bike. My famous last words to Jon were, "you made me hate biking a little bit less this weekend!"

Else and Simon were actually getting married the following weekend. I don't very many people who would give up the weekend before their wedding to do something like this. But that is what this foundation is made up of great people who care! Please be sure to check out their site, donate and of course spread the word to other cancer survivors. This is an experience I will never forget!

Take the road less traveled by it is usually the most fun!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Everyone Tri's, Try it you'll like it! Week 1

So since I am planning on doing a triathlon exactly a month from today when I saw this as I was going to swim I had to sign up for it.
I also talked my friend Sara into doing it with me because we were supposed to be doing the triathlon together too (that's whole other story). So I went and signed both of us up.

Sara was away the first day of class so I originally wasn't going to go, but then I decided that since I was only busy for half the class that I would go for the second half.

I got there just as everyone was getting ready to get in the water. The teacher Jill put me and another guy in the first lane because we were the only two who hadn't taken the class before and she wanted to watch us swim. I was ok with this because I already knew I was going to be the slowest out of everyone there but hey at least I was there and trying to change my life. So we swam, she taught us a couple of new strokes, catch up stroke, glorified doggy paddle (but actually more difficult). She had a few pointers for me but for the most part had more the say to the guy I was sharing with. At the time I thought to myself well I am either completely hopeless so she is not even wasting her time trying to correct me (you can see the kind of mood I was in when I arrived to class) or I wasn't as bad a swimmer as I think I am. At this moment I am going to go with the second thought, I am trying to be more positive. When all was said and done we swam 1500 meters. Now mind you for the triathlon I am doing I only need to swim 450 meters but hey at least I know I can swim more than that.

The end of the class we got out of the water and did stretching. While we were stretching Jill started telling us about what we were going to be doing during the next class. That we were going to work on water transitions REPEATEDLY to wear what we are going to wear for the triathlon as well as sneakers we didn't mind getting wet.

My first thought was, "Oh no what have I gotten myself into?" then I quickly changed my mind frame. First of all I have absolutely no idea what I am wearing for the triathlon. I am hoping that I will be able to raise enough money to get a first descents tri suit for TeamFD but if not I will have to have a plan B. And then I was thinking about the repeated transitions. I am not entirely sure what that is supposed to accomplish. When I do the triathlon once I am out of the water that is it there is in and out but we will see what the next week holds. 

I have to say I left the class feeling very overwhelmed and I hadn't even done the spin part of the class. I am afraid this is going to be a long four weeks. But hopefully I will get  a lot out of it.

Stay tuned for week 2 for another exciting adventure!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July Foodie Penpal Reveal!

The Lean Green Bean

I am not even sure where to begin with this month. My foodie penpal Sonia The Mexigarian who is in California really paid special attention to everything I told her I liked and didn't like. I guess I need to start with the one thing that intrigued me the most!

I had never tried candied ginger mainly because everyone said that it had quite the kick to it. As it turns out Sonia ended up saying the same thing. So of course I had to open it immediately to see for myself. I didn't necessarily hate it but I didn't enjoy it either. I think it is something that is simply an acquired taste and I am not sure I will ever acquire it. But I am thankful I got to try something new.

This is the next thing that was opened immediately! I absolutely love nut butters and chocolate so this was right up my alley! I opened it up and I was in love. I brought it to work with me and I have been having it with my breakfast. YUM!
Although this had pecans in it I figured I would give it a shot. It was actually quite delicious and the caramel was so smooth and creamy. It was also a from a local farm too!
Although these look like they are for children they are great. Apple and banana are two of my favorite fruits so I was excited. They are really handy because you don't need a spoon for them. They have come in very handy for a little burst of energy right before a workout!
These were yummy too. I love dried fruit! I had never had this particular trio from Trader Joe's. I ended up adding it into my granola to make my own little version of trail mix. It added a good sweetness to it and made it that much better!

Although I have not tried this yet. One of my favorite comfort foods in PB & J. I am thrilled to be able to try this homemade apricot preserve! Sonia's mom made it! I love getting homemade goodies!

This gave me a real laugh probably because there are things that I have to do this to so my husband won't eat them either. Sonia wrote on the bag so her husband wouldn't eat them before she could send them to me. I have yet to try these but I am excited to do it soon. I think these will be a great alternative to potato chips.
This was absolutely amazing. Chocolate, wafer and hazelnut cream filling! I ate one and then kept the second one for a snack later on. So excited Sonia sent this!

Sonia is also an artist and she sent me these. She asked me what my favorite animals were and since I told her cats and dogs this is what she sent me. They are very well done and if anyone else likes them make sure you check out her blog so you get to know her.

Thanks again Sonia for the fantastic Foodie Penpal experience!! And thanks to Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean for putting this whole program together.

And now it's time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:
-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re interested in participating for August, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.
You must submit your information by August 4th as pairings will be emailed on August 5th!

*If you're from somewhere besides the US, Canada or Europe and want to participate, send me an email and I'll see if we get enough interest this month!