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less than two months!

Posted by abirkenstamm Feb 8, 2009


Hello everyone!



We leave for Hawaii on March 21st. Less than two months away. I can hardly believe it. I've been trying to read anything and everything on triathlons to prepare. Apparently, the coral is pretty nasty during the swim portion of the tri. People have been cut, etc. But my goal is to scout out a perfect location a few days prior to the race.  I just saw the bike route and its on some sort of highway. Yikes!  but at least its not too hilly. The run begins over lava and ends with sand. I can't even imagine what the 6 mile  run will feel like. I hope my brain shuts down and my body just pushes me through.



As if I don't have enough to do, I joined a women's lacrosse club team here in Seattle.  I figured the games/practices will help me gain better sprinting ability and agility. Just another fun way to stay in shape!  I haven't played lacrosse since I tore my ACL reconstruction.  But at today's practice, I shook the lax cob webs off and ended pretty well. Unfortunately, we did hill sprints after practice which wasn't the most fun but what doesn't kill me is only going to make me a 100 times stronger.



I'll check back at one month pre-race.






Hope you are all well! xoxo







It is about time!

Posted by abirkenstamm Jan 25, 2009

I  do apologize to my loyal blog readers about my delay in posting (or more like, sorry mom!). Anywho, it has been awhile since I updated this thing. Just a little over two months to the big day! I can't believe. We just had to fill out our recommitment forms which basically means that we will definitely raise the $5900 by race day. I am getting close (about 1600 away) so I know with the help of family and friends, I can do it!






Yesterday, we went on a great 7 mile run at Mercer Island. However, the run contained hills and I must not be doing any hill work (i.e. any) b/c my hips are killing me today. Gosh, I didn't know 26 was new the 80. But I will push throuh b/c I need to get ahold of my swimming. I have done a mile swim in the pool but I really want to do about one mile and 1/4 before the race b/c swimming in the ocean is no joke. Perhaps a lovely sea turtle can give me an advantage by letting me ride on his shell. 








On February 22nd, my tribe and I are holding a great fundraiser at the Market Comedy Theatre in downtown Seattle.  If anyone is in the area, please save the date. If anyone would like to donate a good for the silent auction, email me at








Thank you again for all your support. I will be back soon! 








Blogs Blogs Everywhere!

Posted by abirkenstamm Nov 21, 2008


There about 55 of us participating in the triathlon in March.  Team in Training divided us into "teams" and I have six great teammates. We started a team blog and here is the link:  It gives you a different perspective than mine on the training (but who really needs that when you have my weekly blogs? but I post there too, so check it out! )






Today I went to the pool on my own.  Without my teammates, pushing myself was a little difficult.  I swam about half a mile and then the engines shut down and I was pooped. Unfortunately, I missed my run yesterday b/c I had too much school work to finish. So today is a SWIM & RUN practice day.  I'm about to head out for a run whie the sun is still out. Which is getting rarer in Seattle these days. We shall see how long I last. I bought a super nerdy triathlon watch to keep my pace and it has a heart monitor too.  Can't wait to try it out. Will probably do less running and more playing with the thing. oh well!



I also want to thank everyone who has donated. I have raised over $2000. Amazing! I am one-third of the way there.  Its pretty cool to see how generous people are, esp. during the holiday season. I am extremely grateful. Thank you, thank you!



ps. I just got the new US Weekly in the mail. The title is "How Angelina Tortures Jen" - it just cracked me up. Thought I would share. You would be amazed how thirty minutes on the stationary bike passes by when you are reading one of these magazines. Its like a diabetic craving sugar - I just can't  get enough celebrity gossip!




Just returned from my first biking practice in Woodinville, WA.  It was an absolutely beautiful ride. The trail took us through farms and past amazing fall foilage (love that word!).  We rode for about an hour so I think I was able to churn out 10 miles.  It was a great workout but i barely did half of what I need to do during the real tri!  However, it is reassuring that we still have a few more months of serious training and that by March, 25 miles will be a walk in the park. (if a park you mean an island and after I just swam a mile in the ocean, yikes!).  Our whole team was there to support one another and I can see why people return to do Team in Training year after year.  Having someone to push you through your weak moments is invaluable.






So now that I'm done exercising, its time to EAT.  Eric and I are off to grab some lunch and then hit the video store. We are babysitting a precious 3 yr old  tonight and we need to rent Jem. My kind of girl!!  Hopefully she won't mind my singing throughout the movie. But I can't help myself.  The 80's always inspire me to get up and dance. I would say "sing" but I often sound like a dying dog and I forget most of the words. So I start singing Boy George and go "Comma Comma Chameleon". oh well




Hele Hui!!

Posted by abirkenstamm Nov 8, 2008


My triathlon team has grown to over fifty people and we were given a team honoree. Her name is Jonelle and here is her story:




In November of 2000 I returned to my hometown to visit my parents at their house in Seattle, Washington for Thanksgiving break. It was my senior year at Santa Clara University and I had been tackling my senior thesis for my Major in Religious Studies. I had a cough and cold and slept straight through for the first two days of the week. My family and I thought nothing of it. If you have ever witnessed a college kid home for break the first thing they usually do is crash. I got over the cold that week but the cough remained. So, after multiple trips to multiple doctors I returned to college where my doctor at the campus health center finally threw up her hands and ordered the fated chest x-rays.


Skip to Friday, January 26^th^, 4pm: My doctor comes into the exam room with a face I had never seen on her before. She sits down on one of those brown, wheelie, stools (that all doctors have) and told me that I had a ”very large mass” in my chest. From the look on her face I knew I would have to press her for more information. “What kind of mass are we talking about?” “ Lymphoma” . . . was my response. Now, I knew that couldn’t be good because anything ending in “oma” never is. I looked at my doctor and said “that’s cancer of the lymph system isn’t it?” My parents flew in from Seattle that Sunday morning (my sister was a grad student at Santa Clara as well) and I was on the biopsy carving table that following Friday. After saving my life by draining almost 2 liters of fluid from my right lung and confirming that my mass was about the size of a small watermelon, the surgeon handed me over to my Oncologist at Stanford. Diagnosis: Hodgkins Disease – Stage 2b non-sclerosing Bulky tumor. That was the day I learned that “Bulky” actually is a technical, medical word. The funny part of this story is that at the moment when my Oncologist told me what I had there was an audible sigh of relief from my family and I. We had finally found out why I had been so sick. From that point on all the news was good. I had the “good” type of cancer; I was in the best hospital in the world for my disease being taken care of by the best doctors medical training has to offer. My chemotherapy and radiation regime was relatively short, my survival rate was a whopping 89%, my university bent over backwards to help me with school, and my angel of a mother flew down from Seattle every week for my treatment. More shocking then the news of the cancer was the immediate outpouring of support and love that I felt. I never knew so many people cared so much about me. It was the most humbling experience of my life. Every day the letters poured into my mailbox and every day people stopped by to visit or to bring my class notes. My Professors “went to bat” for me on all my assignments and my family became Superheroes. It was a circus for a while, but it was a circus of angels. What I had yet to learn was that I owed a large part of my survival to people like you. Team in Training helped aid the research for most of the medications that kept me alive as well as paying for the research the doctor’s needed to come up with my Chemo treatment. I didn’t discover this until the summer of 2002 when I joined the run team with TNT for my first marathon, making it across the finish line of the Maui Marathon in 7 hours 19 minutes. I have since run the Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans, the Home Depot Half in San Francisco and the Maui Half. I am honored to be a part of this team (even if I don’t look like it after a hard work out). Thank you for taking the risk to be here and run with us, it means more then you will ever know.

- Jonelle

All of the Lavaman Triathlon participants met this morning at 8 a.m. to discuss the proper gear for the race, fundraising ideas and for a quick jaunt around Lake Union afterwards. The training gear is quite intense for the bike portion of the triathlon. I tried my best to take good notes about top tubes, bento boxes (as far as I knew, I ate food out of those things), and a patch kit. I did start to  cringe, thinking about the possibility about one of my tires blowing during the 25 mile ride. I know people are generally friendly but how many are going to 1.) take notice of my predicament and 2.) stop and say, "Hey girl, let me waste 10 minutes patching your tire b/c you are just too cute to do it yourself!". Probably not many, perhaps I should think about taking a prep course on bike basics. I knew Seattlites were down with the outdoor sports but I'm from New Jersey and nobody "biked" anywhere.  Nobody wakes up on Saturday morning and thinks to themselves, "I'm going to get on my ten speed and ride to the Freehold Mall." Do they even have bike racks there?  So back to my building anxiety... I scribbled down a few things that I knew I needed to purchase.  Most importantly, the padded cycling shorts.  Not that I need more padding back there but comfort is key when you are biking for two hours (at least - I mean, who am I kidding?)


The best part of the day was meeting the other Team in Training members. There were men and women; young and old (seriously - one lady just broke her hip 6 months ago - go girl power!); athletic and lethargic.  It was just amazing to see all these people together on an early Saturday morning for something they truly believe in. It was truly incredible.  I know I will need their support during our practices, after the 60th sprint and my legs feel like giving out.  Everyone needs a cheerleader and now I have fifty to help me throughout my training!



As I just mentioned, we are meeting at the Greenlake track on Monday  at 7 p.m. I'm praying that a.) it doesn't rain (but then again, I do live in sunny Seattle!) and b.) I somehow morph  into the shape I was back in high school and kick some serious track butt!  Nothing like positive thinking! I will update you on how that practice goes. Now, I'm off to buy a Speedo! woohoo! nothing like bathing suit shopping in November. maybe I should do a few lunges before I head out (tighten those glutes and all)...




This is just an example of my practice schedule. Looking at it makes me slightly nervous but what doesn't kill me can only make me stronger (or so they say - i hope "they" are right)









  • coached run at Green Lake Track (my thoughts wander back to high school - ugh oh)

  • 45 minute (doesn't sound too bad?!)




  • on your own stregnth training ("I will pump you UP!")




  • coached swim at Medgar Evers Pool

  • 50 minutes (omg)-note to self: swimming is all the rage after summer olympics




  • on your own run

  • 50 mins - including 20 min tempo (no idea - tempo? perhaps that includes a fast paced walk?)




  • on your own stregnth training




  • on your own bike (include rolling hills) for one hour

  • anyone actually think Eric will join me on this saturday jaunt?




  • oooh fantasy football day -- must fit in a 40 minute swim. well there is always that lag in time between the 4pm game and SNF (east coast time of course)



Blogging until race day

Posted by abirkenstamm Oct 26, 2008

Hi guys! Thanks for checking out my racing blog.  As part of my fundraising campaign, I will maintain a blog to continually show my progress throughout the five months of training!  My first day of practice with the team is Nov. 8th at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.  I will let you know how I survive the first running practice.