Athlete Profile: Jenn Sommermann 50-50-50

On race morning other athletes often stare wondering who this woman with the teal bike and custom tri jersey is?
- Is she an elite?
- Is she a local personality?
- Why are camera crews following her?

Triathlete Jenn Sommermann gets noticed--which is a good thing--she's hoping to draw attention to a cause she is passionate about (finding early detection methods for ovarian cancer) via a sport she credits with saving her life--triathlon!

Sommermann discovered triathlon with thanks to her best friend Ann who said they needed to do a tri to celebrate turning 4o. They selected the Danskin Triathlon Series in Seattle, a large women's only tri with 5,000 athletes.

"I was hooked right away," says Sommermann. "I've obsessed about it ever since and made it my life’s passion. We are still best friends. I am forever grateful because if I had not discovered triathlon, I might not be alive. I credit the sport with saving my life."

She says her finetuned body awareness due to tri training helped her notice and listen to slight changes in her body. Sommermann gained five pounds--a red flag for her, but easy to ignore for some.

Symptoms and warning signs of Ovarian Cancer are covert, especially for women over 40, says Sommermann. Therefore OC is usually detected in late stages (III and IV) and is difficult to cure at that stage, but not impossible, look at me! she says.

"However, if detected early (stages I and II), it is 92% curable," she says.
OC Symptoms include:
fatigue, weight gain, bloating, cramping, frequency of urination and indigestion.
"Isn’t that vague? Currently there is no method of early detection, like a pap smear that can detect cervical cancer," she says. "If one can be developed, every woman would get the test at the annual GYN appointment and thousands of lives could be saved. Especially exciting is that this year, three new biomarkers were discovered that link to ovarian cancer and early detection. That means we are closer than ever to developing this test."

"The sport saved my life," says Sommermann. "It makes sense to give back to it [triathlon] and use it to combat the disease that almost took my life away. It feels good to use my healthy body for good and to race for women who have lost their battle with ovarian cancer, for those currently in treatment and for those women yet to be diagnosed.

With this in mind Sommermann is on a mission to complete 50 triathlons in 50 states before her 50th birthday while raising $100,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. She's on track to complete her 19th state this year.

She trains with Team Total Training of Long Island, N.Y. She found TTT by accident. Sommermann was in a bike store and another person asked who she played with? Since joining TTT her swimming has completely changed and she credits her podium finishes to the training. "I'm pushed a lot further with the team than I can do on my own," she says. "Today's swim was a brutal 4,000m. I would NEVER have done that solo. I also find that I'm faster and more fit for hanging around and training with folks who are stronger and more fit than me. I’m a little competitive… did I say that?"

Sommermann's 50-50-50 Mission:

Q - Where does the $ come from to compete in and travel to these events?
A - Sommermann is completely self-funded. Each year she scours web sites and maps out the upcoming season. Her husband Don, mom and friends and family help with logistics and PR.
Contribute to Sommermann via OCRF here . Cheer for her in person at a race in your state or offer to host her for an event. More info on Sommermann's race planning process here.

Q - I'd like to donate, but wonder if the amount is too small to matter?
A - "No donation is too small," says Sommermann. "People think if they can’t give $20, it isn’t worth it. That’s not true.

"I've had too many friends die this year," she says. "It breaks my heart and I don’t want to say goodbye to friends anymore…. Not when all we need is a method of early detection."

Q - How does she share her message?
A - "Basically I talk to everyone I can," she says. "Lots of folks just look at me and don’t ask questions. I think they think I am a pro so I just strike up a conversation."

At a past race a TV crew followed Sommermann around. A women near her asked what was going on and Sommermann had the opportunity to talk about OC and its symptoms.

"Within five minutes I had 50 women listening," she says. Sommermann asked those women to go home and call five friends. "This is a grass roots thing and I get goose bumps thinking I may have helped to save 250 lives that day."

Q - What's your connection with QVC?
A - QVC hosts a fundraiser called Super Saturday Live benefiting OCRF. This year they wanted to spotlight a survivor and they chose me, she says. The camera crew shot about six hours of footage to make the feature. Checkout a preview of Sommermann's experience in her blog post.

Q - What's triathlon's fourth discipline?
A - Driving! says Sommermann after this past weekend's 25 hours spent in the car completing two races in three days! The triathlons went well. She placed first in her agegroup in New Jersey and fourth in her agegroup in Maryland. Congratulations Jenn!!!

More info:
- Jenn's blog
- Support Sommermann's 50 - 50 -50 mission by donating here.
- A short video interview with Sommermann via the OCRF facebook page.
- OCRF facts & statistics.
- The Hope Line, 1-877-OV-HOPE ( 877-684-6731 877-684-6731), is a free telephone counseling and referral service that helps patients and families cope with the challenges of an ovarian cancer diagnosis.

photos: of Jenn taken by her friends and family.

Questions for You:
- Did you know teal was the official color of Ovarian Cancer?
- How do you plan your race season?


ShirleyPerly said...

Very cool to hear about another 50-50-50 effort. Thanks for letting us know about her.

Xavi Garcia said...

Congratulations Jenn!! ...I am also fighting to help Cancer Childhood lives!

Cheers from Hong Kong!

"XTB" Xavi.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

ShirleyPerly- amazing things you've done & continue to accomplish!

Xavi Garcia - excellent!!! I'll have to read more about it!

Best to you both!