Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Next?

"The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” - Flora Whittemore

Well, it's been a week and half since our big race of the year and we're beginning to think about what comes next.

Rest, the First Annual Family Camping Trip (with our parents, husbands, and in-laws), working out when we want to, and enjoying some free, unscheduled time are on the immediate agenda. Ray will also be spending some time getting to know our local orthopedists and podiatrists as she deals with some knee and foot pain that have been lingering long enough.

Next month, Robyn will join her best friend Carly in running the Outer Banks Half Marathon. It will be Carly's first half and the longest she's ever run - and Robyn can't wait to cross the finish line with her...and enjoy an ocean front beach house and hot tub after the race!

Then, who knows?

  • Robyn's planning on focusing on her running speed and overall swimming this winter, and is considering racing the Run at the Rock in December.
  • Rachel is looking forward to starting her doctoral program in January and is holding off on making an racing / training plans until she see what life looks like as a student again -- but she is looking into becoming a Masters Swimming Champ this winter.
  • We're talking with Genesis Home about their next challenge grant to see if / how Tri to End Homelessness can best help continue raising funds in 2008.
  • And Robyn is thinking -- just thinking -- about doing something big (the half!)next season.

As we take some time off, we won't be blogging as often. But do keep an eye on this space to learn of our latest and greatest plans.

Thank you for all of your support this year!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What We've Learned

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” - Mahatma Ghandi

Most of our blog posts this year have focused on something we've discovered through our training this. As we wrap up this transformative season, here are few additional things we've really learned that might be especially helpful for new endurance athletes and new fundraisers:

  • Having a coach makes a HUGE difference. We've been participating in various endurance sports for several years, but this was the year we really made progress. Our coach helped us understand and implement both the science and the art to this sport.

  • Heartrates! Who knew? Before this year, we'd pretty much just gone out and run, not paying much attention to levels of exertion. Discovering, monitoring, and actively training in our own personal five heartrate zones kept us honest when we were sandbagging (not that we ever were, of course) and kept us from pushing too hard, too often.

  • Speed work, hill repeats, and plyometics aren't just for elite athletes. We used to read Runner's World magazine and know that Runners did these things, but we couldn't really figure out (or maybe we were really just too embarrassed to possibly look like fools) how to integrate them into our routines."Normal" folks like us can get faster and stronger by actually going faster and harder - and risking looking foolish, too.

  • Nutrition is even more important than we originally realized. Making the commitment to focus on recovery calories and eating within 30 minutes of tough workout, made the next day SO much more enjoyable.

  • Partnership is critical. Yes, we could have done this alone, but knowing that the other sister was also getting up early and doing the day's workout -- and being able to talk about how that workout went -- was a huge accountability factor for us.

  • Our non-training husbands were also huge partners. This year's training and Tri to End Homelessness campaign was a family decision -- and remembering that family decision helped when training sometimes conflicted with other areas of our lives.

  • Figuring out strategies to integrate increased and intensified training into our days made us more efficient and effective in lots of other areas of our lives.

  • While our everyday lives may be filled with more email than adventure, signing up for races we weren't sure we could complete, taking on new cycling routes, and learning brand new skills really fed our deep yearnings for leading adventurous lives.

  • Connecting our season to an issue we care about deepened our connection to our training and our community. In a very short amount of time, anyone can raise enough money to make a real difference for a cause about which she cares. Think about what issues stir you. Find a organization that's working on that issue. Ask how you can help. Write letters to your friends, family, co-workers, places you shop -- tell them why you care, ask for their help, and thank them for their support.

  • People do care - but they need a personal connection to the issue. Most of the nearly $6,000 we raised came in small amounts from folks who had obviously heard of homelessness, but may have never felt a connection to this unsexy cause. Knowing us, knowing triathlons, knowing our sponsors and supporters helped build that connection.

  • Writing through this blog helped us become more reflective about the entire experience. That reflection deepened our emotional and intellectual learning throughout the year. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Race Report: Pinehurst Triathlon

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - George Bernard Shaw

A little more than 72 hours have passed since our last race of the season -- our A race, our first race at the olympic distance, our goal for the year -- and deep, deep, deep satisfaction is what we're feeling.

It's not the same overwhelming "I can't believe we did this" emotionality that we remember from our first marathon -- it's something else. It's a deep knowledge that when it comes to a choosing a goal, doing the work, and implementing the plan, we would bet on ourselves everyday of the year. It's a feeling of limitless possibilities. It's a self-trust and self-confidence that we've never experienced before. Yes, by golly. YES.

After a hectic-as-usual life week, we arrived in Southern Pines, NC on Friday evening eager to meet up with our coach , husbands, and friends for a wonderful pre-race dinner. Early in the meal Sage asked if we were nervous and surprisingly we weren't. Excited, yes. Ready, focused, and maybe a little taper-induced cranky, but not nervous. We'd done the training. We had a plan. We couldn't wait to implement.

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel and were treated to our first race-related surprise: colorful, handmade Good Luck signs from the kids living at Genesis Home. The best part of the signs was the note from one child that said "Hope you win!" Now, there was no chance of us winning anything official this weekend -- but that note alone reminded us of how much we had already won this year.
The next morning, Robyn was up as usual before the alarm, having tossed and turned for most of the night while Ray, as usual, slept soundly. We loaded up the car and headed to Pinehurst Marina where we were greeted by our parents who would put in nearly 10 hours of driving over the course of 24 to cheer us on for 3. Thanks Mom & Dad!!

We picked up our chips, got body-marked, set up our transition areas and headed out to warm up. We found a quiet place along the run course to do a few sun salutations, gaze at the lake, and take a moment for gratitude.

Returning to the transition area, we found our second race-related surprise: a challenge from our friend Carly who was also running a 10K on Saturday morning in Montana (sans the swim/ bike warm-up, of course). Instead of sending us congratulations flowers or some other token of support, she gave us a gift consistent with this year's Tri to End Homelessness philosophy. For every second faster that we ran our final 6.2 miles, she would donate an additional $0.60 to Genesis Home in our honor. We quickly did the math and realized that this could mean some significant money for the organization we've been supporting all year.

With that extra motivation, we poured ourselves into our wetsuits (Many thanks to our family for photographing the amusing, and oh-so-pretty wetsuit picture) and made our way down to the water's edge.

THE SWIM - 1500 m
The air was wonderfully cool, the sky overcast, and the lake water was calm as the horn for our wave went off at 8:18 am. The last things we thought about were the kids living at Genesis Home who have rarely - if ever - have had the opportunity to go for a swim in such a beautiful location.

For the first time this season, we entered the water from a running beach start. Ray quickly found her groove and took off at the head of the pack. For once, Robyn decided not to wait at the back of the wave. Instead she jumped into the middle and calmly negotiated the water traffic. For the gal who couldn't swim 50 yards straight a little more than a year ago, feeling strong at the turnaround buoy was a very special moment.

We exited the water and had to climb quite a hill to reach T1. Our parents, who had earlier noted how long the swim looked, shouted "You did it!," while Sage shouted "Hooray! You're out of the water" and reminded us to be mellow as we entered transition.

Rachel - 26:12
Robyn - 33:19

Our swim to bike transition was perfectly uneventful. Rachel consciously chose to take a moment to catch her breath, while Robyn was so happy to be out of the water that she jumped on her bike as soon as she possibly could.

Rachel - 2:03
Robyn - 1:35

Our strategy on the bike was to have our effort climb in a stair-step fashion, always keeping in mind that a significant run would follow. After swimming twice the distance that we had in any other race this season, it took a few minutes for our legs to come around, but soon we were zooming away -- working the hills, intentionally taking in nutrition, and giving thanks that we'd previewed this course. We both averaged around 18 mph, passed a few gals in our age group, and felt our bike legs went exactly according to plan -- even down to Kanye West's Stronger playing in our heads throughout the ride.

Rachel - 1:22:29
Robyn - 1:21:16

Thrilled that we made it through the bike without any mechanical issues, we quickly transitioned to our own two feet and headed out on the run course. When Robyn was leaving T2, Sage asked "How do you feel?". She responded, "Good." -- but really meant SHOCKINGLY GOOD - WOO HOO!!!

Rachel - 1:25
Robyn - 1:07

We knew the run would be tough, with the hills getting longer and steeper as the course progressed. Our strategy was to settle in, take it easier during the first 3 miles, focus on efficient form, and attempt a negative split. So we did (although we're not sure of the negative split part!). We ran, we cheered for other runners, we thanked the volunteers. When it got really tough during mile 4, we latched on to our memories of the year and got very internally focused.

We were LOOKING for the last hill where we knew Sage and our families would be waiting. When Rachel reached it, she looked over at Sage with a huge smile and just nodded over and over again. Yes, this is hard. Yes, it's almost over. Yes, the training, the plan, the tips, they all worked. Yes, we're going to beat our goal times. Yes, it was all worth it.

We rounded the corner, came through the shoot, and crossed the line -- our run splits 1 second apart!

Rachel - 1:03:20
Robyn - 1:03:19

We both had perfect races. We trained, we had a plan, we executed. Yes, we know that we can drop time - especially on our bikes and during the run - in future races at this distance, but for a first time out, we'll take it - with a cherry on top.

We loved this race. We loved this distance. We loved this year.

Rachel - 2:55 (AG 14/23, Overall 92/174)
Robyn - 3:00 (AG 15/23, Overall 109 / 174)

We did it!!

It was a perfect race day. Full report to come!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Our Intentions: Gratitute & Going For It

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” - William Barclay

Over the course of this season, we've learned that setting an intention for our races works for us. Throughout Saturday's race, we'll be focused on two intentions: Gratitude and Going For It.

Gratitude for:

  • This amazing, transformative year in our lives
  • Our bodies' abilities to adapt and do what we ask of them
  • Support from our families and friends - especially when our training caused their lives to change
  • Generosity of the many Tri to End Homelessness donors who have financially supported Genesis Home
  • Our coach, the change of seasons, our alarm clocks, coffee, peanut butter, our local running store's frequent buyers program, the friendly life guards at our pools, Maple View Dairy, maintaing our senses of humor and each other -- all of the things that made this season's training just a little bit easier!
  • The opportunity we have to swim, bike, and run - PLAY! - that so many others do not.

...and Going For It - as in:

  • No lollygagging on the swim
  • Working the hills
  • No coasting
  • Saying YES!
  • Leaving it all out on the race course - in celebration.

Monday, October 1, 2007

40 Weeks

The achievement of your goal is assured the moment you commit yourself to it.
Mack R. Douglas

Well, here we are. Forty weeks since the start of our training: 280 days filled with over 800 bike miles, over 200 run miles, nearly 250,000 swim yards, and almost 50 hours of yoga have passed since we made the decision to make this year different.

In this week's final training plan, our coach asked us to think of a few memories from the past year that we can draw on when things get tough during Saturday's race. Here are some that stand out:

  • First setting up our blog one night while hanging out with Ryan at Genesis Home.
  • Brainstorming together over the phone and in Ray and Dave's old apartment about the possibilities for Tri to End Homelessness.
  • Sitting in yoga class the night before our first speed workout, thinking What is a stride? Where in my neighborhood can I safely do strides tomorrow morning? How early do I need to get up to get this workout in? How early does the sun rise in February? Doh! I'm supposed to be meditating....Om.....Did she say 30 left footsteps or 25??...Meditate. Mediate. Dang. This is hard.
  • How sore we were after that first week!
  • Sister bike adventures every Saturday, especially cycling together throughout the winter, looking like a pair of abominable snowmen on bikes.
  • Ray-led swim lessons in the pool with Robyn kicking way too hard, gulping down water, and letting out a little squeal - while Ray yelled: Relax!
  • Long trail runs in the cold and rain and sleet wondering if Spring was ever going to arrive.
  • Our first week of high volume, two-a-day workouts. Strategizing over the phone about how, where, when we were going to fit everything in.
  • Being the only person in the pool during early morning or late night swims.
  • More than doubling our fundraising goal -- and raising nearly $6,000 for the families living at Genesis Home.
  • Winning big at our first race of the season.
  • Watching movies together in bed during our White Lake weekend.
  • Long trail runs during the week of solid 100+ degree days wondering if Summer was ever going to end.
  • Track workouts. Before sunrise.
  • Our last week of high volume, two-a-day workouts. Realizing that it got a lot easier.
  • Finally realizing that it is all within reach, because it's within us.
  • Hanging out with the Genesis Home families while still in our workout clothes and knowing that we've made a difference.