Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's All Us

"A friend of mine told me of a guru from Sri Lanka who was asked, What will be the undoing of humanity? He answered: The separation between you and me." - From Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Rolf Gates

In preparation for the Sage Endurance Running and Yoga Retreat I'll be participating in this weekend (event report to come next week!), I've been reading Meditations from the Mat.

This morning's reading focused on Ahimsa - the first yama or "necessary restraint for spiritual life." Ahimsa means nonharming - or as Gates puts it "embracing nonviolence at the level of speech, thought, and action." Nonviolence toward others, our environment, and ourselves.

What a perfect reminder of the intention behind Tri to End Homelessness. Through this nonviolence, we begin to let go of the idea that there are good people and bad people, people who should be helped and people who should be left to suffer, people who give and people who receive. Instead we see that it's ALL us. Through approaching the families that live at Genesis Home with ahimsa and helping to fund the programs that support them , we acknowledge that part inside us that could use some tender compassion. Through helping them, we help ourselves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What if You Were Homeless?

Follow Pras Michel of The Fugees as he lives on the streets of Skid Row for nine straight days and nights as a homeless person.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Best Conditioned

It's not just what do, but how you do it.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of again serving on my Dad's endurance riding support crew - and this year I realized that triathletes could learn a lot from this sport.

All horses that cross the finish line must be "deemed fit to continue" in order to score an official completion. If your horse is in bad shape at the end of the ride, none of it counts. The rider who knows his horse best and paces most effectively wins over the one goes all out all the time.

In addition, the top 10 finishing horses are each evaluated by the onsite vet and one as chosen as Best Conditioned. According to the American Endurance Riding Conference "the Best Condition award is earned by the horse judged by the veterinary team to have finished in the best condition, based on a score which is derived from a combination of considerations, including riding time, weight carried, and physical state." This is the most coveted prize.

What if triathlon had such a award? What would our Best Conditioned be? Sure, it could be something physiological, like lowest resting heart. But what if instead, we put the concept of personal best in context. What if we honored the athlete who had balanced her training and her family most effectively? The one who did the most good for others through the sport? The one who had the least expensive gear and still finished strong?

During November's race, while I strive valiantly to meet my goals, I'm also going to remember the Endurance Riding motto that "To Finish is To Win."

Friday, September 19, 2008

As the Economy Goes...

"The economy is in chaos, we're in an unofficial recession, and Americans are worried, from the homeless to the middle class, about their future." - Michael Stoops, National Coalition for the Homeless

According to a story in today's Boston Globe, cities across the country are seeing a rise in homelessness as a direct result of our current economic woes.

Here in Durham, North Carolina, Genesis Home has certainly seen an increase in the numbers of homeless families needing shelter and supportive services.

Instead of worry and trying to control what we cannot, let's do what CAN: Vote. Live within our means. Pray. Breathe. Think creatively about how to give back.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yards into Miles

"Endurance is patience concentrated.” - Thomas Carlyle

If you've been following along since the Tri to End Homelessness journey started back in January 2007, you know that swimming has been my most challenging discipline.

When I first started training for triathlon in Spring 2006, I could not swim from one end of the pool to the other without stopping. Literally, I could not make it 25 yards. I was afraid of putting my face in the water. I didn't understand how to blow air out of my nose while taking my strokes. I kicked WAY too hard and yet still felt like my legs were always sinking.

Learning to swim has required an immense amount of patience. It very well may be one of the hardest things I ever done.

This morning my swim workout included a 40 minute straight, steady swim. After warming up, I started my watch and swam at a pace I could have continued all day. If I counted correctly (and that's a big IF!), I swam 2,125 yards or 1.21 miles - the same distance I'll be swimming come November 1.

When I touched the wall, I was happy to be done, but immediately and unconsciously switched my thoughts to "o.k....helmet, glasses, shoes, bike, GO!" A very good sign.

Patience pays off.

Monday, September 15, 2008


“The secret of getting things done is to act.”- Dante Alighieri

When I start to feel nervous about my preparation for November's race, I'm going to remember my Mondays. For the last several months, nearly every single Monday has been it's own special endurance event:

Multiple sets of clothes for the day are set out. Breakfast is in fridge. Lunch and snacks are packed. Coffee is prepared. Alarm is set and goes off at 5:15 a.m.

Monday Swim
Feet on the floor. Do not hit SNOOZE. Kiss still-sleeping husband. Start coffee. Remember to brush teeth. Swim clothes on. Coffee down. Half of PB& J consumed. Keys, swim bag, travel mug, GO!

Drive to Pool. Feel comfort in the fact that pool is actually crowded. Swim for an hour.

Out of the pool and into the locker room. Quickly and nimbly transition out of wet suit and into running clothes. Breathe deeply while struggling to pull dry sports bra onto wet body. iPod, Road ID, visor, glasses, GO!

Eat remaining PB& J or suck down Hammer Gel while driving home. Pull into drive way. Swim bag down. Start running! It's 7 a.m.

Monday Run
Legs do not like running after swimming. Keep moving anyway. Run up to Duke's East Campus loop. Wave to same folks you see every day. After warm-up, commence 1-hour of pick-ups/ intervals/ hill work/ tempo/ speed routine of coach's choosing. Run home.

Remember to stretch while drinking bottle of HEED or chocolate soy milk - YUM!

Take fastest shower possible. Dress in professional clothes and attempt to stop sweating. Lunch bag, Palm Pilot, afternoon workout bag, keys, GO! It's 8:45 a.m.

Monday Work
Roll into Monday morning staff meeting just in time. GET MORE COFFEE.

Work. Do your part to save your little square of the world.

Hydrate and eat snack 1, lunch, snack 2.

Fight sleepiness.

Leave work promptly at 5 p.m. and drive to yoga class. Attempt to be zen while sitting in traffic. Reach studio and change into fourth outfit of the day.

Monday Yoga
Bliss out. Notice tight hips and hamstrings from morning's workouts. Breathe.

Drive home. Heat-up veggie burgers. Kiss hubby when he returns home from his own very long day. Eat. Chat. Get all food, gear, clothes ready for Tuesday.

GO TO BED knowing that if you can do this every Monday, you can do anything!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Handstand Lessons

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” - Julia Cameron

For the last few weeks, I've been quietly obsessing about the outcome of my big race for the year. Despite knowing better, I've struggled to not focus my attention on the super-secret, radical time goal that I've set for myself.
Work is crazy and I need to rearrange my training schedule this week.
How will this affect my goal?
Between travel, family, and an approaching hurricane, I'm going to miss my long ride on Saturday.
After all of this work, am I going to miss my goal because of this?

I'm tired and hungry and cranky and just need to skip this afternoon's swim. Ooh, will I still make my time goal?

Then, on Monday, we practiced handstands in my yoga class.

Instead of focusing on the potentially scary outcome - falling, looking like a fool as we try and try to kick our legs up, being uncomfortable upside down - Sage encouraged us to focus on the process, specifically paying all of our attention to the alignment of our bodies.

I breathed. Said "No fear." Focused exclusively on my mountain pose. And for the very first time, I did it.

I made it up and stayed there.

I trusted the process and the process worked.

All week I've been returning to that lesson. Instead of focusing on the outcome of my upcoming, final race or the time trial I have the next day -- or even the complicated and sometimes scary projects I'm managing at work right now -- I'm trusting the process that I've seen work over and over and over again throughout the last two years of becoming an athlete: plan ahead, eat right, drink water, go to bed, listen, show up, breathe, and do it. When I surrender the illusory control I think I have over the outcome, I'm not only happier -- but more successful in reaching what I'd been hoping for all along.

The parents living at Genesis Home know this all too well. When they accept the things they cannot change and change the things they can, they reach their goals: independence, safety, and a home of their own.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Time, Talent, and Treasure

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. - Kahlil Gibran

Throughout the Tri to End Homelessness campaign, I've seen how generosity can take many, many forms.

Yes, sometimes generosity involves money. And that's certainly important.

But it's also so much more.

It's offering coaching services, it's sponsoring our team, it's getting others involved.

It's giving our time and talents - in addition to our treasure.

My friend, running partner, and cake -baker-extraordinaire Claire is doing just that. She's giving her baking talents away to the highest bidder in her office and donating the funds raised to Genesis Home. You can read all about her cake auction below -- AND if you'd like to get in on the yummy fun , just shoot me an Email and I'll connect you with Claire. Bidding starts on Monday!

Thanks for your generosity, Claire!

* * *
Dear Cake Fans:

My friend and training partner Robyn has spent the last two years and untold miles running, biking and swimming to raise money and awareness about homelessness. She is nearing her goal race (the Battleship Half Ironman Triathlon in Wilmington on Nov. 1) and her fund-raising goal of $7,300 (in honor of the 70.3 miles she’ll cover that day). You can read all about it at her blog, That site will also take you to a donation site for the Genesis Home in Durham, a shelter for families transitioning out of homelessness.

Her total commitment has inspired me, and her efforts have taught me that homelessness is something that affects all of us, whether we know it or not.

I cannot write her a huge check, but I love to bake.

So, on to the DETAILS!

Bidding starts at 8 a.m. Monday 9-8 and ends promptly at 3 p.m. Friday 9-12. The highest bidder by 3 p.m. Friday will receive a cake of their choice, baked for an occasion of their choice.

It’s a great opportunity to team up with your department, your floor, etc. to chow down.

If you win, I will bake for you sometime between now and the end of the calendar year, on a mutually agreed-upon date and time. D├ęcor is not my strong suit, but I can do basic stuff.

I’m open to flavor requests, but here are some popular options. Cakes are two-layer, 10-inch round cakes that serve ~24 unless otherwise indicated:

The CROWD PLEASER: 24 devil’s food cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting (tinted for the occasion? Carolina Blue? Orange for Halloween?)

The BIGWIG: Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Favorite of our fearless leaders!

The WEDDING CAKE: Yellow/white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. You've had it at every wedding you've attended.

The RED VELVET CAKE: Enough said. Also with cream cheese frosting.

And finally, MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: Chocolate pound cake smothered in chocolate ganache icing. If you don’t know what ganache is, your life is incomplete. (This is a bundt cake.)

Bidding starts at $70. Anyone (or any team) who comes up with $500 automatically gets a cake. To complete your end of the bargain, you must submit your contribution right away via Genesis Home’s PayPal site (please put Tri to End Homelessness in the subject line) or hand me a check made out to Genesis Home on the spot.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

What Lies Within Me

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The secret YMCA locker room angels struck again yesterday.

Mid-way through my work week, six hours into my 14 hours of training, after a tough AM run, followed by a tough PM swim, staring down 3 more days of high volume and intensity, I turned to see the quote above on the t-shirt of the woman standing next to me.

Although I was tired and hungry and couldn't quite believe that I would be getting up in a just a few short hours to do all of this all over again, I remembered that what lies within me is greater and stronger and deeper.

I got dressed, took a deep breath, and smiled I as I headed home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

If Phelps Can Donate $1 Million....

...surely all of us collectively can donate $2,500?

Olympian extraordinaire Michael Phelps is using his $1 million bonus check from Speedo to start a foundation dedicated to promoting youth swimming.

The kids currently living at Genesis Home will never get the chance to really try swimming - or biking or running - unless their families learn the skills necessary to maintain a home of their own and find their way out of the shelter. Your donation helps them do just that.

Let's all be like Mike and give away a little of what we have.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Into the Unknown

“All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary” - Sally Ride

Until recently, my training this year has been very similar to all of the swimming, biking, and running that took place throughout 2007. The volume, intensity, and my body's response have pretty much been known quantities.

Until now.

On Saturday, I rode farther than I've ever gone. Watching the odometer turn from the 50s to the 60s made me sit up and notice.

Here we go, I thought.

Then, on Sunday, my coach posted a 14-hour training plan for the week.


We're not in Kansas anymore. Nope, we're entering half-iron territory and these last 10 weeks are going to be an adventure!

I have a map, a destination, and some great travel buddies, but I'm the only one who can make the journey. I don't know what to expect -- and there's no way to know until I do it.

What will happen when I'm out on the road for 4 solid hours this weekend? How will my body handle a long, tough run followed by a long, tough ride? Can I really swim for 55 minutes straight?

This week, I'm wondering how the families who graduate from Genesis Home feel when they first leave the shelter. What will happen when the safety net is no longer there? Can they really do it on their own? How will they react when one tough day is followed by another?

There's no way to know until they do it.