Family adventures

A mother that reaps, will sow! An inspiring story…

Great mothers raise great children
… and adventurous mothers raise adventurous children

This may not be the case in all homes around the globe. But it’s surely the case in mine. And since Mother’s Day is just around the corner, I’ll tell you the story of my favorite adventurous mom! MINE. But trust me; it’s a story worth telling…

adventure through generations
Grandma with my mom & uncle

From grandparents to parents, from parents to us

Growing up in a typical middle class family, my dad worked a lot to give us the best education. During the weekends, he studied for his MBA. My mother worked hard as well all week long, a double full time job, the busy life of an editor at the biggest newspaper in our country and a full time dedicated mom at home. But this wasn’t it; she was also a very dedicated, very high level athlete!!! Plus, she was an extreme adventurer. So my two brothers and I, studied hard during the week (some more than others), and adventured every weekend. I remember growing up camping. Even when my dad was away on a trip or had a class to take, my grandparents would pack us all in their little van and off we went to explore the beach!

mom at the beach
Mom and my older brother

Now, this part of the story only makes it better. We’re not really your average American family. We’re actually not even a little American. We have lots of Italian in our blood, but I’m the third generation of my family born and raised in Costa Rica. Yes, totally tico, as we like to call our people. So when I say we piled into my grandpa Teo’s van and went off on an adventure, I mean crossing rivers, riding horses with no saddle, fishing miniature fish downriver with just bread crumbs and a pair of old socks, getting eaten up alive by mosquitos, fleas and ticks… You name it, we lived it! Oh the fun of growing up with adventurous active parents and grandparents!  Of cooking by the fireplace and telling stories by candlelight, just because we spend lots of time in places that had no electricity or running water at all. So my grandpa would build us a camping facility, pulling river water with hoses and tarps the size of our whole house (or so it seemed when I was 5).


Iron Woman Herself

I know most of us consider our mother’s to be super mom. Well my mom was Iron Woman, and the real thing! Shortly after I, the middle child, was born, my Mami, who has always been a great swimmer, added some running to her already busy life. My younger brother was born three years later and that didn’t slow her down. Some people she knew were starting to run marathons and my mom stepped it up and kept to their pace. One of her best friends put an even crazier idea in her mind, and told her about something somewhat new in our country: the Triathlon! All she needed was to start biking and she’d be set. And so it came to be that my mother became the first woman triathlete in Costa Rica.

first woman triathlete in CR
First woman triathlete in CR

And she was good! So all our weekends from then on were spent as the most passionate cheerleaders, handing out water bags off the side of the road, anywhere and everywhere around Costa Rica. Costa Rica may be tiny, but it’s full of steep mountains, volcanos, hills, rivers, beaches and way too many dirt roads. If mom didn’t have a race, she would still wake up at 4am and set off biking to our weekend destinations and meet us there while we rode in the car with dad! Again, you’d need to know the roads of Costa Rica to understand the magnitude of that challenge.

All the hard work was not in vain. In 1987 my mom was chosen as part of the team to represent Costa Rica in the Triathlon Championship in Kona Hawaii, the Iron Man! And so my mom trained hard and was ready. Even when she fell off her bike a week before the event, her shoulder, arm, knee and leg hurt and swollen, she didn’t let that stop her, she had trained to hard and gotten too far to quit. Enduring the pain, my mom completed a 4km swim, a 112mi bike and a 42km run.

Ironman Kona Medals
1987 & 1988 Ironman Finisher

The next year she decided she would try again to improve her timing. And she did!


Her Legacy

Without even setting out to do it, my mom’s adventurous, strong spirit, helped her build a legacy for our country in sports and in health journalism. And this was just who she was! As for us three siblings, we all started sports when we were very young. I started jogging with my mom when I was just in Elementary school. But only on her cool down days, of course, or during her warm-ups. Before her 15km run. Some days I’d go out running with my grandpa, who was much slower than my mom, so it was easier to keep up. By the time I was 9, my older brother and I were part of the first Iron Kids triathlon that my mom and some friends organized to help kids learn about the sport and love it! Some of our best Costa Rican Triathletes remember being a part of those when they were kids like us.

The outdoors is such a passion for every one of us! We all started swimming before we could even walk, we learned Tae Kondo at a very young age, we were soccer players, runners, and both my brother they bike and surf. Since I married a surfer and a crossfit freak, I do a little crossfit now myself.


When any of us get asked if we do sports, we have to admit that we do, but nothing like my mother!


Mom as a girl in swimteamCamping in Costa RicaAge 3, following her footsteps atTraining for triatlonsMy first 1/2 marathon with mom

The Story Goes On

Five years ago, the healthiest strongest woman I have ever known, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And just like she always did, she battled the disease in every possible way. She survived several major surgeries, recovering in ways that would always leave the doctors in awe. Her faith and her passion never dimmed. But her body finally ran her last lap one year ago this same month.

Gina Polini 1956 - 2013
Gina Polini March 23, 1956 – May 8th, 2013.

Her funeral was a real celebration of her life. Pictures of many of her races came up and people remembered her not for her medals, but for the values she helped sow in many hearts. Including ours! We felt honored by the people who came to say goodbye.

Today a year later, as both my brother and I help the Rowe families write their blogs on adventures of people all over the world. I feel proud to know it was my mother, my Iron Mom, who showed me the world and the wonders out there to explore. TO ALL YOU GOOD MOMS OUT THERE, especially all you adventure lovers, know that what you sow in our hearts, will reap, sooner or later. Your lessons will not go unheard and your words will stay with us always! Thank you for investing your life into us


Phoenix Pop Up has a story of another amazing mom!

Heaven is real

We love stories! So send us your stories of adventures, traveling the world with your family and your Pop Up. Tomorrow, we’ll share one more, OURS, right here in our Phoenix Pop Up Blog!

We work hard to create customized truck campers to give you, your family and even your dog, the chance to see the world and learn together as you explore the outdoors and think about life! If you don’t have a Phoenix Pop Up yet, give us a call, and we’ll help you start on the adventure of your life. And what matters most is the stories you create and the lessons you learn! You never know when it will be your kids writing about everything they learned while on the road with you!