Thursday, November 6, 2008

2008 Year in Review

"I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me." - Anna Quindlen

- 9 races.
- 5 triathlons.
- First sponsorship.
- Nearly 500 hours of training.
- Fastest times ever in 5K, Sprint Tri, Oly Tri
- First and second age-group wins.
- First half-iron distance tri.
- First-place finish Try Sports Triathlon Development Series, Women 30-34.
- Over $6,350 raised to support Genesis Home.
- More than 130 blog posts documenting the journey and more than 5,981 unique visitors following along.

I'm calling 2008 a grand success! Thank you for being part of it.

In the days since Saturday's race, I've been enjoying lots of rest and have been reflecting on what will come next for me. More on that soon...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Work Ahead

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there."- President-Elect Barack Obama.

What an amazing year to be alive and engaged in making the world better for all of us.

The final Tri to End Homelessness fundraising numbers are not yet in, but I do know that at the least, we came very, very close to the goal of raising $7,300 in recognition of the 70.3 miles I covered on Saturday.

As I begin to think about the close of the formal Tri to End Homelessness initiative, I know that the work ahead remains. We've learned about homelessness in our communities. We've gotten to know some of the homeless families living at Genesis Home. We've taken action. And we can all continue to do so. Here's how.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


"The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” - Lyndon B. Johnson

I've done it. Ryan's done it. Our Sage Endurance team has done it. Thanks to early voting and a ride in the Genesis Home van, many homeless families have done it for the first time.

Have you?

Polls are open. Go exercise your rights. Use your voice. Take action and vote!

Race Report: Beach 2 Battleship Half - Iron

"Turn the page." - My Brother-in-Law David at Saturday's B2B

Racing the Beach 2 Battleship Half-Iron Triathlon was the hardest thing I've ever done.

Now, three days later I am still overwhelmed with a sense of pride, satisfaction, and gratitude. The fulfillment I feel after setting a big, audacious goal, working every day toward its accomplishment, and coming out on the other side is the reason I love this sport.

After exchanging approximately 1,982 logistics emails, my family and Sage Endurance teammates arrived in Wilmington on Friday afternoon. After a smooth packet pick-up and pre-race meeting, we headed to Wrightsville Beach to check-in our bikes and gear for race day.

Because of the point-to-point swim and two separate transitions areas, this race was the most logistically complicated one I've run. I checked-in my bike and swim-to-bike gear at T1, dropped off my bike-to-run bag, and left hoping that I'd remembered everything!

Thanks to the generosity of a Sage Endurance friend, our team reconvened at our home base for the weekend: a gorgeous beach front house on Figure 8 Island. After dinner, sunset, and a last minute check-in, we headed off to bed.

After waking at 4:30 a.m., downing my pre-planned breakfast, driving with my teammates to T1, setting up transition wearing my headlamp, hitting the port -o-potty a few times, and dropping off my post-event bag, I was finally on the bus from T1 to the swim start -- and I was not at all nervous. I was calm, ready, and excited to finish this incredible journey.

Our team huddled for warmth on the sound-side beach, watched the full-iron athletes pass by us on their swim, and waited as long as possible to take off our warm-ups and get in the water. After singing the national anthem and taking time for a group hug, it was time to go!

The horn sounded and it was time to face the chilly sound. To some, 60-ish degree water temperature is not cold, but to me it's absolutely FREEZING. It took a few strokes, but I caught my breath, put my face in, and quickly got caught up in the fast current. From there, the swim was uneventful -- quiet water, a bit crowded, the sunrise to my right, a beautiful setting. My complete focus was on GETTING DONE and GETTING WARM.

Thanks to the current, I swam faster than ever and covered 1.2 miles in just over 34 minutes -- much faster than my anticipated 40.

1.2 miles
34:04(~1:37 / 100 yds)

Throughout the day, the volunteers were a highlight -- particularly the wetsuit strippers that met us as soon as we came out of the water! After heaving myself up the dock ladder in a bit of a cold-induced haze, removing my cap and goggles, and getting my suit half-way down, I met a volunteer who looked me in the eyes and said two words:

Stand! Whoosh....

Sit! Weee....

... and with that, my wetsuit was in my hand and I was running into transition: ~300 yds on cold asphalt with numb feet! Get me to my socks!

On the way in, I gave my husband a high-five and quickly found my rack position. Before the race, what to wear on the bike was a big question for me. After that swim, I had no doubts about giving up a few minutes to put on a few light layers of my cold weather gear. I took a deep breath, wiped down my arms and legs, pulled tights over my tri shorts, pulled on a bolero, zipped up my wind vest, struggled to get my fingers into gloves, donned socks, shoes with toe covers, sunglasses, helmet, bike, GO!


The best part of Saturday's 70.3 miles were the 56 I spent on my bike. I felt incredibly fast, powerful, and alive! All of my training paid off during this stretch of the race.

From the time I got on my bike until the time I crossed the finish line, I was completely in the zone. I rode in my big chain ring, stayed aero, followed my nutrition plan, and barely noticed the world around me.

The course was a mostly flat out and back that included a few bridges. Early on, we crossed two grate-like bridges that race officials had covered in indoor / outdoor carpet to ease the riding. None the less, my wheels were quite squirrelly on them and my heart rate definitely went up as I safely navigated my way across. Following the bridges, the road surface was 85% very, very good -- with the exception of several road seams in the last third of the course.

Later, throughout the course's rural section we passed several hunters who looked very confused as we zoomed by. I distinctly remembered thinking, I hope they're firing into the woods and not across the road! I reached the course U-turn and enjoyed giving a shout-out to several of my teammates as I headed back into town.

Reaching mile 46 was special. My #1 worry preparing for the race was having to face bike mechanical issues. When I only had 10 miles between me and T2, I knew that, if I had to, I could walk/run my bike in and still finish the race before the cut-off.

With about 5 miles left, I realized that I was on target to finish the bike leg in under 3 hours. At the moment of this realization, it became my only goal. I started passing people - a lot of people! Going up the last bridge to transition, I probably hammered too hard, but in the moment, I didn't care. I just kept thinking GET ACROSS THAT MAT IN UNDER 3!

Making the turn for T2, I finally sat up, saw my family and friends cheering like wild animals, and began to remember how in the world to dismount my bike.

56 miles

2:59:37 (~19 mph)


The transition volunteers were again amazing. At the dismount line, they called me by name, took my bike and helmet for me, and directed me to bike-to-run bag. Thank you volunteers!

This time, changing was much faster. Hat, belt, shoes, nutrition and I was quickly headed out to the road. On the way, the woman in the picture below who is in my age group asked what pace I was planning to run. I mumbled something and she responded, "Oh, you can go faster than that." Ha! I chuckled and sent her on her way. Go, girl.


Just after the turn out of transition, we began climbing the first bridge on this rolling course. In past races, this type of hill has been demoralizing, but on Saturday it didn't phase me. No, I wasn't having the run of my life. Far from it. I simply needed to use the bathroom so badly that I was COMPLETELY focused on getting to the aid station and port-o-potty at mile 1.

Feeling relieved, I headed out across the second bridge and into downtown Wilmington.

Then, things got dark. Very dark.

Oh, the weather couldn't have been better, but internally, I was struggling. Miles 2 to 5 were probably the hardest I've ever run. At mile 3, I face a short, steep hill and decided to walk it. I took on step, stuttered a bit, and immediately thought "Uh, oh. This could be a LONG half-marathon." While walking up the hill, I passed another racer who was also walking. He laughed and said, "Geez! You can't pass me while you're walking!" That gave me the lift I needed to start running again.

During our pre-race meeting, Sage had warned our team that the first 5 miles might feel bleak. I remembered that and kept repeating, JUST GET TO MILE 5. My stomach was cramping badly (perhaps too much time in aero bars on the bike?) and I couldn't get down the Hammer Gels I'd planned. Instead, I switched my strategy and simply alternated between water and Hammer HEED at each aid station.

At mile 5, the course moved on to a shaded bike path surrounding a lake. Between miles 5 and 6, Sage and my teammate Julee caught up to me on the run. Julee went ahead, but Sage decided to run with me for a bit. I was mostly non-verbal, but did manage to eke out "Thank you for running with me." Sage responded with "Don't worry. I'm here," and I knew I could get this done. From there my spirits picked up. Sage and I caught another teammate, and she ran with her as I went on ahead one aid station at a time.

Never before have I been so internally focused, so completely in the moment. I did not notice the scenery around me. I did not hear the spectators. I barely heard my own breath. My mind was completely blank and was only occasionally interrupted with Be Relentless. It was truly an out of body experience.

Before I knew it, a volunteer was directing me to turn for home.

From behind, I heard Sage yell, "You're doing it, Robyn!"

Ahead, I saw my sister jumping up and down, screaming, "I promise the finish is right around this corner."

I heard my brother-in-law Dave (who'd already finished his own race with a PR and 9th place overall!) say, "Turn the page, Rob, turn the page!"

And then I saw the finish line.

During my last few training runs, I'd become emotional just thinking about this moment. But when it was finally here, the tears did not come. I had simply given everything I had to give out on the race course. I had nothing left.

I crossed the line, raised my arms in the air, accepted my medal, and stumbled toward the medical personnel who asked if I needed some assistance. I mumbled "Just a second," and a woman walked me out of the shoot to sit down while she poured a bottle of water over my head.

I opened my eyes, saw my family and coach standing there, thrust my fist up into the air, and felt amazing.

13.1 miles
2:21:35 (~10:48 min / mi)

After six hours, two minutes, and thirty-six seconds of going for it, I crossed the line completely content. I finished this distance for the first time, met my time goal and came satisfyingly close to my radical goal. My swim and bike were much faster than I'd planned and my run was much slower - but in the end, I left it all out there.

Through it all I carried the initials of all of my homeless neighbors who currently live at Genesis Home. This race was for:

KB and her 3 kids
ED and her 2 kids
LH, AH, and their 3 kids
SP and her child
S and her two children
MT, PT and their 3 their children
LA and her child
LP and her 3 kids
GM and her 2 kids
BJ and her child
SC, KG, and their 2 kids
And JR and MC who are transitioning out of foster care and into adult life on their own.

I and we and they can do amazing things.

Thank you to Ryan, Rachel, Sandy, Claire, Natalie, Dad, and Mom for being extraordinary cheerleaders. Thank you to Dave, Derek, Julee, Katy, and Sage for sharing this incredible experience with me.

Age Group: 8/17
Overall Women: 37/109

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Done!

6:02:36 and very, very happy! Full race report to come.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Intention: Be Relentless

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas

And so, here we are.

Over 440 hours of training complete this year alone, over $12,000 raised to help end family homelessness since we started this initiative, and one more race to go.

My intention is to be relentless - on Saturday and in what comes after.

Relentless about seeing the race as a celebration.

Relentless about staying in the moment and following my race plan.

Relentless in my form, my breath, my focus, and my effort.

Relentless about constant forward motion.

Relentless about remembering my reasons.

Relentless about knowing that the finish line will really just be my next transition area.

Relentless about taking the lessons I've learned over the last two years and continuing to cultivate them.

Relentless about living my very best life -- and making that life matter.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Nitty Gritty: Part 2

On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” - Thomas Jefferson

On to the next pre-race step: What to wear?

The weather here in beautiful North Carolina seems to be following the stock market. Temperatures have been constantly up and down. Over the last few days, I've worn various combinations of the following:

- tank top
- flip flops
- rain coat
- wool socks
- turtleneck sweater
- gloves
-running shorts
- running capris
- biking tights
- arm warmers

During this morning's run, the air temperature was in the 30s -- but by this time on Saturday morning, things are supposed to warm up significantly at the race site.

Soooo....what clothing will I be bringing with me? In short, pretty much every piece of training clothing I own.

On Friday, I will check-in my bike, along with my swim-to-bike and bike-to-run gear bags. What I ultimately wear will be a game-day decision, but here's what I'm thinking:

Wear to swim and put in gear back at swim start:
- fleece
- warm hat
- socks
- old running shoes

During swim:
- tri suit top and bottom
- sports bra
- sleeveless long john wetsuit (Cold arms = motivation to swim fast!)
And if it's cold....
- silicon cap under my race-issued cap if it's cold

Pack in swim-to-bike bag:
- bike shoes with toe covers attached
- aero helmet
- biking bolero
- sunglasses
- socks
And if it's cold.....
- beanie to wear under helmet
- gloves
- tights (I'll just pull running tights up over my damp tri shorts)
- dry jersey (I'll change in transition if it's really cold)

Pack in bike-to-run bag:
- running shoes
- race belt
- running hat
- run nutrition
And if it's cold...
- keep bolero and gloves on

Put in family's car:
- dry clothes to change into at finish line!

Shoo!! Am I forgetting anything? By the time I actually get to the start line, I'll be so ready to just turn my brain off and GO!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Nitty Gritty: Part 1

It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” - John Wooden

Three short workouts done, two more to go.
Pre-race pedicure? Check!
Pre-race yoga and meditation? Check, check!
Pre-race massage? Taking place tonight!

The days are counting down and I'm getting into the nitty gritty details of race prep. As you can see from the above notes, I'm also trying to REALLY ENJOY MYSELF this week.

Next up? Making sure I have all race day nutrition elements ready to go. Given the 6-ish hours it will take me to finish, I am not leaving fuel to chance. I'll use what I've been practicing with for every long ride and long run this year.

Here's my plan:

- PB&J waffle sandwich on 2 Kashi Go-Lean waffles
- 1-2 cups of coffee with skim milk

- Rest of sandwich if not yet finished
- Water (just a bit)

- 1 Hammer Gel
- Sips of Water
- 1 Endurolyte

- Start nutrition after I get settled in. 15- 20 min.
- 24 oz. Water + 4 scoops of Sustained Energy (~420 calories), aiming to get 1/3 of bottle finished per hour
- 48 oz. Plain Water (2 tall bottles)
- 1 Endurolyte per hour, carried in a plastic container in bento box.
- Also carry in bento box: 2 Hammer Gels and 1 baggie w/ 4 scoops of Sustained Energy just in case I drop my pre-made bottle.

- Hammer Gel at start and every 40-45 minutes after w/ water. Planning to carry 4 gels in my pocket and take with water at aid stations. Not going to wear my fuel belt.
- Carry 1 packet of pre-packed endurolytes in my pocket (not in the plastic container, because the sound of them jumping around irritates the you-know-what out of me!). Take 1 each hour or at the hint of a cramp.

- Whatever I can get down. It usually takes a while for my stomach to come around. I'll start with some HEED, but I most often crave fat and sugar ....french fries, a coke, and a milkshake might actually go down first!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Taking the Long Way

Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else
Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me I can still be found
Taking the long way
Taking the long way around
Taking the long way
Taking the long way around - The Dixie Chicks

My last long training run of this season was on Friday morning. After finishing the quick 6 miles around my longtime favorite course, I took the long way home and this song was playing.

I passed Duke's East Campus, home of the loop around which I'm sure I've gone hundreds of times this year. I drove up the hill on which I hammered out several weeks worth of hill repeats during the middle of the season. I drove through downtown and past the pool with the rising sunlight just beginning to reflect against the glass. I pulled into my driveway full of gratitude - for this experience, whatever the result is on Saturday.

Thank you to my husband - for emotionally, nutritionally, and financially supporting my crazy fun habit throughout the last two years of training; for putting up with 5 a.m. alarms, the 4 hours gone on Saturdays, and a perpetually tired wife; for keeping me balanced and focused on what's really important.

Thank to my sister Rachel - for teaching me how to swim and bike; for joining me on long runs and bike rides even when she wasn't training for anything in particular; for never ceasing humor; for being there for the first 25 yards, throughout first few hundred miles, and at the finish line -- this one and the many more to come in sport and life.

Thank you to my coach and yoga teacher Sage - for cultivating my inner athlete; for believing in me when I doubted myself; for teaching me to be flexible inside and out; for helping me connect it all.

Thank you to my Mom, Dad, sister Holly, Sage Endurance and Team Stayput teammates, other family members, coworkers, friends, - for joining me on the trail, on the road and in the pool; for asking about my training and for talking with me about things other than triathlon; for cheering me on over the phone, through email, and at my races; for generously supporting Genesis Home.

Thank you Genesis Home families - for keeping me real; for giving my training a larger purpose; for all of the lessons.

It's been a long season and an even longer two years of training since we started this Tri to End Homelessness campaign in January 2007. But, it's been a journey of self-discovery for which I will forever be grateful -- and if this is what it takes to live my very best life, I'll always choose the long way.

Five more days to go...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Genesis Home Sees 89% Increase in Need for Shelter

"Everywhere I go, I hear there is an increase in the need for housing aid, especially for families." - Philip Mangano, Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

On Tuesday, USA Today reported that the number of homeless families seeking shelter is on the rise in cities across the country.

Sadly, that's certainly true here in Durham.

According to Genesis Home Executive Director Ryan Fehrman, year-to-date Genesis Home has provided 9,877 nights of shelter to families with children. That's an 89 % increase - up from 5,215 shelter nights provided during the same period last year.

Over the last quarter, Genesis Home served a total of 18 families in the Family Matters program and two youth clients in the Independent Living Program. Totaling 61 individuals, those families include 21 parents, 38 children, and 2 young adults. That's more than double the number of folks served during the third quarter of 2007.

Every day for the last weeks, we've ridden the stock market roller coaster, read the bad news, and felt rather helpless. But, helping our neighbors living at Genesis Home is one thing we can do right now.