Thursday, January 31, 2008

2008 Homeless Point in Time Count

The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession.”- Sherlock Holmes

This morning Ryan left the house at 3:30 am to join other Genesis Home staff, officers from our local police department, and numerous volunteers in conducting the 2008 homeless point in time count. This group - like those in other areas of the state who are doing the same - headed out to various designated regions throughout our area to meet with and count the number of people who are currently homeless. Last year, over 1800 homeless men, women, and children were identified in the Triangle. We'll see what this year shows.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


"Hate. Hate. Double-hate. Loath and despise." - The Grinch

Lest you think that my Tri to End Homelessness altruism stays with me through every workout, I have an embarrassing confession to make.

My name is Robyn and I hate water aerobics.

Specifically, I hate the water aerobics class with whom I share a pool many mornings each week. I hate the fact that many members of the class arrive 20 minutes early and demand to have a lane to use for warm-up (even though we have an entire second POOL that could be used for that exact purpose). I hate the fact that during said warm-up, these class members simply seem to be floating in the deep end with the help of their water belts. I hate the fact that once class begins they use 6 (yes, SIX) full lanes of our eight lane pool, even though they only have 8 class members (at least that's how many they had this morning). I hate the fact that the members of the water aerobics class barely seem to be working at all. And I hate the fact that their huge lane consumption means that my workout gets interrupted as I'm forced to move from lane to lane in the middle of a long set.

I know, I know. It's incredibly selfish. It's obnoxiously elitist. It's definitely does not represent me at my best. And I hate this about myself. Please commence with judging me, now.

In an attempt to cultivate a more respectful attitude toward my fellow pool athletes (there, I said it), I did a quick search to learn more about the benefits of water aerobics. According to the Aquatic Exercise Association, aquatic exercise is especially beneficial for folks with arthritis because:

  • The soothing warmth and buoyancy of warm water make it a safe, ideal environment for relieving arthritis pain and stiffness.
  • Immersing in warm water raises your body temperature, causing your blood vessels to dilate and increasing circulation.
  • Water exercise is a gentle way to exercise joints and muscles.
  • Water supports joints to encourage free movement, and may also act as resistance to help build muscle strength.

As someone who says she values life-long exercise, surely I can get behind this and evolve past this morning's hateful thoughts. If changing the world begins with changing ourselves, here's hoping that today's confession brings us all one step closer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can We REALLY End Homelessness?

"We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee." - Marian Wright Edelman

I was at lunch with a friend recently, chatting away about the Tri to End Homelessness campaign, when she asked "Can we REALLY end homelessness?". In short, my answer was YES. Yes, we can. Yes, you can.

As a triathlete, I've experienced the long-term difference in my endurance and racing times that comes as a result of connecting all of the little training choices I make every day. The same is true with social change. Although, it's often tough to see how today's small actions contribute to tomorrow's revolution, they do - and it's simply our job to keep the faith. Here's 10 things YOU can do today to end homelessness:

10 Things You Can Do

1. Learn about homelessness and educate others. Reading the Tri to End Homelessness blog is a great start! Why not email the blog link to a few friends?
2. Support the development of affordable housing. Here in North Carolina the NC Housing Coalition is working to ensure that we all have access to safe, decent, and affordable places to live.
3. Contact your local elected officials and ask them what they are doing to support homeless children and families. Ask for their support of local initiatives and programs. Ask them to establish a Plan to End Homelessness in your community. In the Triangle, you can read about each of our 10-year Plans to End Homelessness HERE.
4. Volunteer at a local shelter - no matter what you do for a living, you can help the homeless with your on-the-job talents and skills.
5. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
6. Donate groceries, toys and money to local homeless shelters.
7. Donate leftover food and flowers from catered events.
8. Become a landlord to a family that is transitioning out of a homeless shelter.
9. Help a family move or provide "house warming gifts" such as linens, dishes, pots and pans, small appliances and lamps for children, youth and families who are moving out of the shelter and into their own homes.
10. Ask local television stations to schedule educational programs on homelessness. Your encouragement and praise of such programs can keep them on the air.

...and (my favorite) #11: Make a donation to Genesis Home. Our local organization that is ending homelessness one family at a time.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dreaming about Rest: Workout Wrap- Up

"How can a four-day week feel so long?" - Me

It's the end of a three-week mesocycle and despite the ongoing fun, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'm looking forward to the rest week that begins on Monday! While some weeks are full of reflective moments, this week was simply filled with workouts and cold weather. Here's a snapshot of what I've been up to this week (in addition to celebrating my 30th birthday, of course):

Monday: This cycle has been filled with a lot of strength-building work. Monday's morning swim included additional experimentation with swim props (but this time with much greater success!) and time on the weight floor.

Tuesday: Hill running and T-pace swimming! You know you're base building when.....

Wednesday: Since I was without a bike of my own until Wednesday evening, I beat the alarm gremlins and got up for my first spinning class in a long, long time. What fun! The evening brought a quick weights session before a lovely birthday dinner out on the town.

Thursday: Hills in the morning and the toughest swim workout I've had in a long time in the afternoon. Here's what I wrote to my coach when I finally dragged my behind out of the pool and got back home:

Ugh. The best thing I can say about this swim is that I did it. Talk about an off workout....
I forgot my watch, so I used both the swim clock and went on feel. I just didn't have it today and thought about quitting about a gazillion times. I tried to use the "box" mental strategy I read about for long distance races - i.e. The box is what I can control at any give moment. Today the box was super small, barely the length of one stroke. When my speed wasn't there, I just focused on getting through it. Tomorrow is another day....

Friday - Sunday: Brick (on the new bike!), long run, and yoga at home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Look What the Birthday Fairy Dropped Off

The yellow one - hereby named Sunny D by my dear husband - now lives at my house! Thanks Ryan, Roger, Sandy, Mom, and Dad!!

Aging Up

“They are too inhibited to put their full passion out there,” she said. “They are almost afraid to be serious about a sport. They think that if they’re not the best, they shouldn’t care so much.” - Mary Wittenberg, New York Road Runners, on why younger women often run slower races than older women

Too inhibited. Too afraid of what others think. Unaware of the radical possibilities that are only shallowly hidden inside. That's the way this article describes many amateur women runners in their twenties.

On this, my 30th birthday, I'm thankful that my twenties -- especially the last six in which I became an athlete - taught me to let all of that go (in sport and life) and simply go for it. Grunting, all the way home.

Here's to entering a new age group, starting a new decade physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthier than I've ever been before, and celebrating my 30th year all the way to $7,300 and the B2B finish line.

...and just in case you're still wondering what to get me for this important birthday, look no further than HERE.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When No One's Watching

"It's not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.” - Francis Bacon

I'm watching the snow fall in the mountains of Western North Carolina after having just done something for the very first time: I practiced yoga on my own. Forty-five minutes, no teacher, no DVD, no book, no guide. Just me and my body and my breath.

Although I've been taking regular yoga classes each week for over a year, I've been hesitant to move through more than a few compulsory post-run stretches. Which poses do I do? How do I move from step to step? How will I know if I'm doing it right? How can I concentrate without someone else taking all of the responsibility?

Today, I chose to acknowledge all of those doubts and move forward anyway. I was reminded that it's exactly what we do when no one's watching that makes the difference. It's what defines the families that successfully graduate from Genesis Home's Family Matters Program from those who don't. It's what separates the Genesis Home kids who will break the cycle of their family's poverty from those who won't. It's what draws the line connecting the hill repeats and weight sessions and t-pace 100s and isolated leg training and sometimes muddled yoga we do now to how we race later. In our training, in the world, in our lives, what we do when no one will necessarily know is where it always begins.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On Swim Fins, Sleep, and Saying Goodbye: Workout Wrap-Up

"Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat." ~Ann Landers

I'm glad to read that I'm not the only one who's pooped at the end of this week! Goals for this week included building on the increased volume and intensity my dear coach added to last week's mix. Build, volume, intensity: CHECK.

Monday: The week started off with the first three workout day of the year. Get up super early, grab the 17 bags of gear, clothes, and food you've packed the night before, be the first one at the gym when it opens, swim, drive home, bike, work 8 hours, practice yoga, eat, fall into a deeply satisfied coma.....'nuf said.

Tuesday: A chilly long run as the sun rose, followed by weights after work. I focused on really keeping my heartrate in my assigned zones. Who knew that going *slower* would one day be so challenging?!

Wednesday: The morning brought a special ritual: a last dance with my current wonderful road bike, before a I turned it over to my new friend Hollie, a dedicated runner who's now well on her way to dominating duathlon. That's, right -- the birthday fairy is bringing a new bike into my life in celebration of my upcoming 30th! More on that exciting development soon.

The evening brought amusement as I made my way through a very challenging swim workout with paddles and fins. Note: The first time you use fins in the pool, be sure to swim in the lane next to the elementary school swim team. They provide endless encouragement, tips, and some great gawky stares in your direction.

Thursday: Less than 12 hours after the fin/ paddle adventure, I found myself back in the pool early Thursday morning. The work of the week definitely got me. I stumbled my way out of the pool up to the weight room and simply got 'er done. Thursday afternoon, I skipped one my first scheduled workouts of the year: No bike, no time for a spin class, no evening mojo....

Friday - Sunday: This morning I awoke up in the snow-covered North Carolina mountains for a long birthday celebration weekend getaway. After 9.5 glorious hours of sleep, I'm heading out to attack some hill repeats and savor my day off from work. Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Motoring to First Prize

Thanks to 752 votes from all of you, Tri to End Homelessness is the First Prize winner in the national Toyota Engines of Change Contest! While it's not the Grand Prize, it's darn good and I'll take it!

Thank you for helping me spread our message far and wide! Stay tuned for the reveal of which prize I'll be choosing and how it will help bring me closer to this year's goals.

Missed out on the voting and what this contest was all about? Look here to learn more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Used to Exercise

Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.” - Henry Van Dyke

I used to exercise.

For me, exercise mean plodding along on the treadmill or elliptical machine, bored, counting down 30 minutes until I could check this self-imposed mandatory drill off my to-do list. It was sort of about weight maintenance, sort of about being 'healthy', sort of about feeling good. In any given week I would inevitably pull out all of the well known reasons for skipping a workout and, inevitably, nothing much would happen. I didn't really look better. I certainly didn't get any faster. I didn't ever really feel whole.

I used to exercise. I now go play.

Fellow blogger Tri Greyhound writes about his triathlon training as recess. This year, I couldn't agree more. Riding solo this past weekend in the chilly winter air (outside on the bike for the first time since last year's big race!), squeezing in three workouts yesterday in between my full-time job, and running long this morning watching the sunrise, I found myself transformed:

I used to find all sorts of reasons for skipping a workout. Now, I find all sorts of creative ways to squeeze in one more lap, one more new route, one more set. I used to plod along, bored, counting down the minutes until it was over. This week, I've actually been sorry to see that my planned time for the day has elapsed. I used to question myself, my body, my ability, my place, my space in the world. Now I swim and bike and run.... and walk and work and love with the childlike sense of freedom that only play can bring.

I used to exercise. I'm so thankful that I no longer do.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Morning Haikus

It's amazing what
I can accomplish when the
alarm's set for 5.

1800 done.
I head home to my trainer
where my bike awaits.

Zone 3's where its at.
I will not drop my heartrate.
One more hour, check.

Four hours later,
I sit at my desk at work.
What satisfaction!

Friday, January 11, 2008

On Chanting & Hills: Workout Wrap-Up

When every physical and mental resource is focused, one's power to solve a problem multiplies tremendously.” - Norman Vincent Peale

The first three weeks of base training and my first rest week of the year are officially behind me. With some added volume and intensity, this week of training raised several opportunities to think about FOCUS -- am I focused? on what am I focused? how can I re-focus?

Here's what I've been up to:

Monday: Welcome back t-pace! After threshold tests last week in both swimming and running, this's week's workouts put those test results into action. I was pleased to see that my swim times have remained steady since the height of last season and that my 3-mile test time was the fastest ever. A very nice way to start the year.

Monday's swim involved lots of 100 yd repeats at my current t-pace. Breath and form, breath and form, breath and form....and can I get another cup of coffee....and breath and form.... don't forget to stop your watch....and form....That's pretty much all that went through my mind during Monday's swim.

Yoga on Monday evening brought the return of Sage's lessons on the yamas and niyamas. I love this part of our yoga year. Every class has so many practical applications to my training.

Tuesday & Thursday: Runs and weights both days. Thursday's hill repeats were especially fun - in that I love this, I hate this, It's gonna feel so good when it's done, It's gonna feel so good come race day kind of way.

About 3/4 of the way up the hill, I found myself wanting to give up. I've noticed this 3/4 mental block in each tri sport over the last year. I can now see that this is something to really pay attention to and plan for. What 3/4 strategies work best? On Thursday, I overcame the 3/4 block with form and visualization: really pumping my arms and imagining myself being pulled up a ski slope by the tow-line.

Wednesday: A breakthrough day! After a quick swim in the morning and a long day at work, I was dreading Wednesday's bike workout: sustained heartrate work on my trainer. No way around it, keeping my heartrate up on my trainer is just hard. BUT! Instead of mentally giving up and giving in, I decided to try out a few of the strategies my coach recommends in her new book : I chose a gazing point on which to focus; I counted pedal strokes; and for the last five minutes, when it got really tough, I chanted - yes, Sanskrit....out loud. And you know what? All of those mental strategies really worked. My heartrate stayed where I need it, my cadence stayed high, my spirit stayed strong.

So it seems that the big question of the week was: What do I do when I want to give up? It's the same question the staff at Genesis Home challenge the residents to ask of themselves when they feel the urge to return to unhealthy patterns. I intend to spend this year - not to mention tonight's swim and tomorrow's brick - exploring my own answers.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

For All of the Women...

"The world is full of people who will go their whole lives and not actually live one day. She did not intend on being one of them." - A reminder from the magnet on my desk Meredith Emerson , who want to hike and run and bike and play in the woods without fear, today's run is dedicated to you. Ray and I didn't know Meredith, but we have not been able to stop talking and thinking about her. Her story and our lives are full of connections - and our prayers go out to her family.

... like my sisters Rachel and Holly who are making dreams into reality, this week of training is dedicated to you. Rachel started her doctoral program this week and Holly has been accepted into both of her top colleges!

.... like my Sage Endurance buddies (guys, too!) and long time friend Carly , who have committed to big (and sometimes scary) training plans this year, this first month of the new year is dedicated to you. Run strong on Saturday, Claire (and Dave)! the moms living at Genesis Home, doing the everyday work to face the fear of the unknown, but not be its prisoner, this year dedicated to you.

To whom and to what are you dedicated today, this week, this year?

Election Time: Ask the Questions

"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."- Aristotle

We're in the throes of election 2008; however, for those of us in North Carolina, it feels a bit like we're watching from a far - thanks to our later primary. BUT - that doesn't mean that we can't get informed. I'm particularly interested in what Presidential candidates on both sides have to say about ending homelessness. After a quick Google search, here's what I found:

The Homeless Alliance of Western New York addressed the topic in this September 2007 blog post on the Democratic candidates for President.

The Informed Voters raised the issue a year ago and followed it up with an open letter to all presidential candidates.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has all of the facts and figures you could ask for, along with tips for contacting elected officials - and potential elected officials.

ABC News highlights all of the current candidates with links to their biographies, policy positions, and more. It's a one stop shop for all of the issues that matter to you.

For those of you in Michigan and Nevada and South Carolina and California and New York, ask the candidates how they plan to end homelessness in America. Ask them about the issues that have an impact on homelessness: affordable housing, living wages, health care for all (including mental health services), domestic violence prevention, and access to higher education.

Ask the questions on behalf of those of us who won't see any election fervor until much later this year. Ask. Vote. Remember that this is what democracy looks like!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pace and Patience

Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

It’s base training time and after a beautiful winter run last week with my coach, I’ve been thinking a lot about pace. Specifically, holding back my pace during my long runs.

As coach and blogger ELF writes in a recent post, the season ahead is a long one and this is the time of year to focus on keeping efforts at the right pace. Sometimes that pace might not be the one we want to work in.

I suspect that the families living at Genesis Home feel this way at the beginning of their time in the program too. After a few weeks, they’ve gained some confidence, may have tired of the rigid household rules, and want to spread their wings a bit - moving at pace that feels comfortable, but may also be what brought them to Genesis Home in the first place.

Patience is the pace the required.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Helper's High / The Runner's High

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." - Michaelangelo

Folks often ask if me if I feel "the runner's high" every time I lace up my shoes. While I nearly always feel satisfaction, I have to admit that not every workout is a joy-filled, transcendental experience.

It turns out that I - and you! - can increase our chances of getting high on life by adding giving to our regular routines. As Arthur Brooks writes in a recent opinion piece:

It is a fact that givers are happier people than non-givers. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, a survey of 30,000 American households, people who gave money to charity in 2000 were 43% more likely than non-givers to say they were "very happy" about their lives.

It's called the helper's high!

Just as exercise has all of the health benefits we all know, giving does too:

Charity also lowers the stress hormones that cause unhappiness. In one 1998 experiment at Duke University, adults were asked to give massages to babies — the idea being that giving a baby pleasure is a compassionate act with no expectation of a reward, even a "thank you" — in return. After they performed the massages, the seniors were found to have dramatically lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine in their brains.

The bottom line from all the research on giving is that it is not just good for your favorite cause; it's good for you, too. For relief from stress and depression, it's probably more cost-effective than whatever your doctor might prescribe. For getting a little high, it's not illegal, and a lot less fattening than booze.

So as you're implementing all of those healthy new year's resolutions or thinking about what endurance goals 2008 will hold for you, do yourself a favor and make a donation to Genesis Home!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Building Power Equal to the Task: 2008 Goals

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.- Helen Keller

Well, it's official. I just received this note in my inbox:

Beach2Battleship Half - 11/1/2008: You registered on 1/2/2008

2008 is here, I'm registered for my first half-iron distance triathlon, and that means that this year's Tri to End Homelessness campaign is underway!

As both a triathlete and community advocate, I'll need your help throughout the year to reach my goals. Like last year, I'm again racing to raise awareness about homelessness and to raise funds for Genesis Home - a housing and supportive services program for homeless families in Durham, NC.

Also, like last year, my goals for 2008 are bigger than they've ever been before: (1) Raise $7,300 for Genesis Home in recognition of the 70.3 miles I'll be covering in the Beach 2 Battleship Half; (2) drop 5 minutes off of my 10K run time during an Olympic distance triathlon; (3) drop 2 minutes off of my 10 mile cycling time trial time; and finally, (4) the half: be prepared and execute my race plan.

My first triathlon of the season isn't until April, but my training is already underway and you can help end homelessness TODAY. Please consider making your first 2008 charitable donation to Genesis Home by clicking HERE and listing Tri to End Homelessness in the 'Payment For' section.

But wait, here's the most exciting part: DONATIONS WILL BE MATCHED. That's right - between now and June, all donations from new donors and all increases in donations from previous donors will be matched by a local foundation. That means that if you generously donated $50 in 2007 and choose to donate $100 in 2008, $50 dollars of your gift will be matched -- effectively increasing your impact to $150!!

And if you're a first-time Tri to End Homelessness supporter: Welcome! Through this matching challenge your $10 really means $20 toward clean sheets and a bus pass for a single mom of two staying at Genesis Home while she works and saves money for a deposit on her next apartment. Your $50 really means $100 toward GED program tuition for a young woman who has aged-out of foster care and is transitioning into adulthood. Your $250 really means $500 for the counseling and support a grandmother and her three grandchildren need to move out of homelessness and into a home of their own.

I have a year's worth of experience under my belt, a brilliant coach, big goals, and homeless neighbors who need Genesis Home's programs. Now, all I need is you.