Editors note: Jen posted to the group over this past weekend, and just casually mentioned that she was hiking with her dogs just weeks out from a bilateral mastectomy – that immediately grabbed my attention and I wanted to share her story – this week there will be two Featured Athlete spots. I also asked Jen a few extra questions – which appear at the end. First, I asked Jen to introduce herself and tell us about her past – before we get into the questions:
I’d love to tell my story! I lost about 100 pounds over the last four years (only 40 left to go!) and did my 1st obstacle course race at the 2012 Sprint in Amesbury. Then the Rugged Maniac & finally Fenway (I was also the morning volunteer at the cargo net on Sunday at Fenway). I can’t wait to do more in 2013!
I am a police dispatcher & finally got into good enough shape to pass the agility test to become a police officer …not long before I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction December 4. I have 3 more (relatively minor) surgeries to go, but I plan to train between them. I was back to work 3 weeks after the mastectomy (and could have gone back after two), which is about twice as fast as most of my surgeon’s patients. I was also back to hiking 3.5-4 miles a day less than a week after surgery. I attribute my speedy recovery to a good attitude (never give up, never surrender!) and to all the training I’d been doing.
On a public service note, if you know any women 40 or older, please make sure they get a mammogram. Getting my first mammogram at 40 saved my life!
Oh, and breast cancer has only delayed my dream of becoming a police officer, not ended it!
- What is your day job, and do you have other hobbies?:
I am a police dispatcher and am hoping to become a police officer. I hike with my dogs year-round, snowshoe, ride my Harley Iron 883, and plan to learn to snowboard this winter.
- When did you start obstacle course racing? Tell us about your first race.:
Spartan Sprint New England 2012 was my first OCR. I couldn’t get any friends or coworkers to do it with me, so I ran alone. Although, you are never really alone at a Spartan Race! As I was trudging up that awful hill for the umpteenth time, sandbag on shoulder, the woman next to me & I agreed that it shouldn’t be fun, but it was, and we couldn’t wait to do it again!
- What was your biggest accomplishment at an obstacle course race? What made it your biggest accomplishment (overcame a fear, injury, disability etc?):
I was diagnosed with breast cancer after my first mammogram in October 2012, a 1.4 cm tumor in my right breast. I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction on December 4 under a better safe than sorry philosophy. Breast cancer is almost twice as likely to return in women under 45 and mine is invasive, so this was the way to ensure almost zero chance of it returning. I was back to hiking 3.5-4 miles a day less than a week after surgery and, just 4.5 weeks after surgery, I am back to training for my next OCRs and 5ks. I am doing the Spartan Preparedness January Birthday Challenge and start my fifth round of P90X (an Insanity hybrid this time) on Monday.
- What attracts you to obstacle course races? Why do you keep coming back?:
The fun, the mud, the cameraderie, what’s not to love?!
- What are your training and/or diet routines? Do you have other athletic pursuits?:
P90X, Insanity, hiking daily (those dogs won’t walk themselves!), snowshoeing. High protein and low fat, five small meals a day. Oh, did I mention that I’ve lost 100 pounds so far? Only 40 left to go!
- Were you always athletic? If not, what athletic changes have you made to keep up the obstacle course race lifestyle?:
I was athletic in high school and the Army and for a few years after, but I’ve always struggled with my weight. I ballooned up to 286 pounds by the time I was 30 and stayed obese and unhappy for 6 years. Four years ago I started walking short distances, then longer ones, and learning how to eat properly. Now I can do Spartan Races and run up to 12 miles.
- Who, alive or dead, would you invite to run an obstacle course race with you?:
My dad. He passed away suddenly at the age of 48, when I was only 28, and I would love to do a Spartan Race with him.
- Tell us a fun fact about yourself that we may not know!:
I am a total sci fi geek, my license plate says TARDIS, and I write Star Trek fanfic. 🙂
- What are your goals? Next race, next season … what’s in your future?:
As many OCRs and 5ks as I can afford! Oh, and hopefully the Police Academy once I recover from my final breast cancer surgery in April.
- What challenges (if any) you have faced since your op, with regards to training and getting back into being active – has it been easy?
Getting back into training since surgery hasn’t been easy. There’s a strict no lifting more than 5 pounds for a minimum of 3 weeks after surgery. I still have a fair amount of pain in my chest/underarm area if I do more than 20 burpees and my flexibility and strength have suffered quite a bit. All things I will get back with time and training. I have to be careful about doing too much, too soon. If I don’t slowly work my way back up to pre-surgery weights I was using, there’s a danger of something called lymphedema.
- Also – what was your trigger for losing weight – how did you do it?
My trigger? I knew I was overweight, but I hardly ever looked at photos of myself, so I didn’t realize how bad it was till this one horrifying photo, . Ugh! After that, I tried all kinds of diets, etc. It wasn’t till I changed my lifestyle, from how and what I ate (I had to learn that food isn’t my enemy, but it’s certainly not my best friend) to how I exercised. P90X definitely saved me!
- When is your next race?
I’m not sure on my next race. The temporary implants aren’t quite as durable as the final ones will be, so I may have to wait till after April for any OCRs, but I’m going to start looking for some straight 5ks next time it’s slow at work. I wanted to introduce myself to some of you at Fenway, but was feeling a bit shy!