Transition Talk: Best Friends

I found out mid-day yesterday that it was “National Best Friends Day”. While at the beach, it got me thinking — thinking of how much my best friends have had an influence on my life.

Think for a second. Who are your best friends? Not your acquaintances or your “close” friends, but the ones you can’t do without? The ones who would answer a phone call at three in the morning on a Tuesday if you really needed them. The ones who support you no matter what (in your training, with your problems — with anything).

Sometimes friendships can become such a part of our daily life — with constantly texting, snap chatting, etc. — that we can forget to be truly thankful for the wonderful people in our lives and how much they affect us in the grander scheme of things.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Whether for a season, a reason, or a lifetime (as the saying goes) friends are a huge part of life. ANd best friends are even more than that — someone with whom you can share silence and not feel awkward, share your innermost thoughts, and be yourself. I’ve met my best friends through all different means — from school to shared love of preppy things to elementary school friends that lasted to family to meeting in Lake Placid (and having the same name and similar values 🙂 ). But it really doesn’t matter if the friendship is formed from a common interest (like triathlon) or from family (like a cousin) or otherwise, there’s really nothing like a best friend.

How has friendship affected your life? Who are your best friends? Do you race with any of them? (two of my best friends share my love for triathlons! 🙂 )

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Two of my best friends together – Kaitlin from FL who I met through YoungTri and my cousin Erin!

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My four best friends from high school!

Tri Hard,
Caity

Transition Talk: Blankness

It’s five seconds before a race is about to start. Your feet are brushing the cold water, glued to the shore. Your breathing intensifies. Your hand is crossed over, touching your watch about to hit “start” so that you can stare at your wonderful splits throughout the course of the day (haha). But after the gun goes off – when your body mixes into the crisp, cool water and your arms begin to stroke furiously – what happens next?

Thinking about the things you love - or that anger you - can give you that extra edge in pushing through difficult portions of races

Thinking about the things you love – or that anger you – can give you that extra edge in pushing through difficult portions of races

“What do you even think about for that long?” is a question commonly asked to triathletes by those outside the swim, bike, and run world. To many, it seems unfathomable, almost irrational, that one could “enjoy” an endurance event ranging in time from one to seventeen hours (from sprint to Ironman).

The answer to this is a bit more complex than one might think.

When your body is pushed to the brink, ready to give out – when muscle soreness and levels of exhaustion are so high that the finish line seems a distant dream – sure, it can become difficult to keep going. But it’s the mind that takes over in these instances. The blankness.

You can’t exactly shut off your thoughts and your brain as a whole during a triathlon. So, in reality, all the triathletes panting around the course have to be thinking about something, right? Something to keep them going?

For me, a sort of blankness sets in. A tunnel vision. A sort of blanket wraps itself around my mind, transforming my pattern of thought.

Sometimes, I’m so focused on the course ahead of me – swimming around the orange buoy, dodging some glass on the road, or trying to pass someone on the run – that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what is running through my mind. More like a state of blankness.

Conquering the mental aspect of the races help you get to the finish line!

Conquering the mental aspect of the races help you get to the finish line!

But, realistically, this complete blankness and tunnel vision cannot continue for the entire duration of the race. So, what’s next? What could possibly be getting all of the triathletes in these races through such arduous courses and long miles?

A great deal of it is your personal competitive and racing impetus. What drives you to go faster?

For me, when my mind is unable to seep into that “blankness” mode completely; when it is hungry for real, salient thoughts, I channel my personal motivators. The things that anger me – the people with whom I’ve had differences or wish I could change things with, events in life I wish I could alter – certainly help in driving me through various points in the course where my mental acuity seems to be waning. When all else fails, I turn to happier motivators, like the people and things in life that I love and for which I am thankful. With memories and feelings seeping through my body, I find that extra something to push.

It’s this stream of blankness mixed with pulses of motivational thought that bring us from dolphin diving to start the swim to putting that last foot across the finish line. Sometimes, this pattern repeats itself for hours on end. But it’s this mental aspect of triathlon; the ability for individuals to constantly overcome the negative voice in the back of the mind and conquer it with motivational thought throughout hours and hours of tireless competition, that is part of what makes this sport so great.

What do you think about when you tri?

Tri Hard,

Caity

 

Transition Talk: Dealing With Change

It’s hard to explain what change feels like.

It can be fast.

smooth.

rough.

swift, gradual or unexpected.

And dealing with a transition [like going to college], a breakup [ouch], a friendship ending [the worst] or otherwise can be tough. Whatever the change may be, it can knock you off your feet; take the wind from your breath. And sometimes, it can be difficult to focus on things other than the changes in your life when they are occurring.

“It was hard to feel the right emotions at the right times. They didn’t come at all when you set a place for them, and they sacked when you weren’t ready, when you were just innocently flossing your teeth, for example, or eating a bowl of cereal. ” ― Ann Brashares, The Last Summer

Ann Brashares’ quote perfectly describes a sentiment that affects most of us – emotions hitting us at strange times. A sense of being overwhelmed or sad can hit you at any time – whether you’re ready or not.

d9b8c29102bb62bc1160215cece935cbFor this reason, triathlons are so appealing because they offer an escape from our everyday lives [filled with change and craziness]. Triathlons are three different events coming together; filled with unexpected twists and turns; yes, but all ending with that blissful, consistent finish.

At the end of the day, maybe the best way to deal with change is to just run [or swim or bike].

Feel the pavement beneath your sneakers; your breath speed up.

Let your mind go b l a n k.

Because through all the difficult days; changing times and long, tireless nights of studying or working toward a goal, one thing has the ability to stay constant in all of our lives:

triathlon.

35571096e73fb59b40ec9092d692675bEven if you’re in the offseason or focusing on a different sport [like being a collegiate athlete]; this can still apply. Whatever you’re currently focusing on in the athletic sphere can serve as a productive outlet for mental soundness. [and plus, even if you’re not training for a tri, you’re probably counting down the days until you are :)]

Oftentimes, mental clarity can be found through a tough workout.

And no, swimbikerun can’t fix everything.

Having said this, through all of our crazy lives, triathlon can certainly help.

But sometimes, the only way to deal with a tough change is to face it front-on. Ask yourself what made this change so difficult, and how you can learn from it. Cry if you need to. (Even the guys out there…) Scream. Write out your feelings. Drive around your neighborhood blasting sad music. Or happy. Whatever you need. Mourn the change. You’re allowed to.

“You know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon…everything’s different.” -Bill Watterson

But at a certain point, let yourself move on. Sometimes, life seems to be going so quickly that, like the quote above expresses, it can be an arduous process to pin point when exactly your younger brother grew taller than you – when high school ended, when you grew apart from a childhood friend. Change is sad. It’s hard. But it can also mold us into the people we’re meant to be. For if things were always stangnant and un-changing, what would life be like?

Tri Hard,

Caity

Transition Talk: Pre-Race Rituals

You’re standing in the transition area. Your stuff is set up all neatly under your bike… your wetsuit is on (well, half on), and you’ve got your goggles and watch ready to go. It seems to all be coming together… but what did you do to prepare to arrive at this moment?

There are myriad different ways of approaching these minutes that lie between getting up race morning and the gun going off to begin your swim.

For me, it goes like this (your routine may look pretty similar! or it could be way different. haha)

forcing my brother to take a pre-race picture. haha

forcing my brother to take a pre-race picture. haha

  • Wake up. Getting out of bed is the first step!
  • Check. I check a million times to make sure that everything is packed. (Once, I forgot my wetsuit. It was kinda rough/brutal)
  • Eat. BREAKFAST. The meal varies based on race length (bar/fruit for shorter races, eggs for longer)
  • Get there. Head to the race. This usually involves my dad driving. Haha
  • MUSIC. This one is key for me. In the hours preceding the race, I need to listen to motivational music to get me going. Everyone has their own strategies, but I like to channel things that anger or upset me into productive energy on race day – and sometimes getting psyched up through music can help this. Everything from Eminem to Mumford and Sons gets me pumped for racing.
  • Pictures. Ok, this may not be on everyone’s pre-race ritual list. But I make my dad/cousins/brother/whoever is racing with me take pictures together at races! I love being able to look back at races from years ago and remember them through personal photographs. 🙂
  • Definitely a throwback picture... cousins setting up the transition area at West Point!

    Definitely a throwback picture… cousins setting up the transition area at West Point!

    Transition Set-Up. Although I am DEFINITELY not a neat freak (I have many people who can attest to this, I try to make the transition area as organized as possible. Every second matters during the race and a neat transition area can really help!

  • Talks. Exchanging a few motivating words with fellow racers (for me usually my cousins or dad) always helps the last minute race-jitters!
  • Go Blank. In the seconds preceding a race, a wonderful blanket of white sweeps over my mind. Adrenaline pumps. It’s the best feeling in the world.

What are your pre-race routines? Not sure how to formulate them? Try to think about your daily morning routine. What about it do you like? How does it help you get ready for your day? Try to translate this into a triathlon-related routine.

Some can’t live without pre-race coffee. Others like to go for a brisk warm-up jog or swim before the gun goes off to start the race .Whatever it may be, try to find the pre-race routine that works best for you… it can really make a difference in your racing.

Some additional Pre-Race planning resources:

Race-Day Warm-Up

Race-Day Tips (great article – very in-depth)

ITU Athlete Routines, Rituals, & Performance Strategies

Tri Hard,

Caity

Transition Talk: Eye On Ironman [lake placid. 2013.]

Seven letters. Two syllables. One word synonymous with the sport of triathlon.

Ironman.

Ironman_Mdot_Logo_sticker1The allure of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112, and running 26.2 all within a 17 hour time frame escapes many; for often individuals fail to see how such an endeavor can be in any way, shape or form enjoyable. However, this is not the case for many of those in the triathlon world.

There’s something to be said about the mental fortitude and physical power of each individual that crosses the finish line of an Ironman event; hearing Mike Reilly’s quintessential “YOU. ARE. AN IRONMANNNNNNN” greeting as they take their final steps of their Ironman journey. I probably have a slanted view of the magic of this Ironman journey – for my dad has completed seven, my uncles both five, my aunt three, and my cousin one. As much as I love dancing around the finisher area with my cousins in Lake Placid, patiently waiting for our relatives and making new friends in the process, [read: giving out “random hi-fives” to everyone who walked by. my brother made a sign. hahah] I’ve always longed for an Ironman journey of my own.

This July 28th, I’ll have the chance to join my cousins, aunt, uncles and dad in Ironman Lake Placid. I couldn’t be more excited! I’m also raising money for the Ironman Foundation to compete… the organization is really, really great. It raised money for  “local non-profit organizations that recognize citizens in need and support The IRONMAN Foundation’s mission”. http://ironman.kintera.org/lakeplacid2013/begg

I’m looking forward to Mike Reilly’s “YOU. ARE. AN IRONMANNNNNNN” chant for myself, but that’s not really why I’m racing. I’m doing it, [just like most of you probably do] because I love racing. That rhythmic beat your body gets into during the swim. Miles passing by on the bike. Thinking of things that frustrate you and anger you and channeling them to get up the arduous hills. Running, running, and running some more even though the body aches. There’s something about it… something about triathlons that make you keep coming back for more.

And that’s not just me. Not just a few people who share this sentiment. There are thousands of people each year who expand upon their triathlon aspirations and compete in Ironmans. And if it’s not Ironman, it’s diving into that first race, tackling an Olympic, trying a half. Whatever it may be, there’s something about the sport that keeps thousands of us crawling back. [even when we SWEAR after a really hard race that we’re DEFINITELY taking time off. stop kidding yourself. you won’t. I’ve seen it firsthand with my relatives when it comes to Ironman.]

I think that besides the competitive drive and love for racing that triathletes share, it’s something about the community. Something about the “ties that bind us”… about the people around us who are as passionate about swimming, biking and running and we are. When you meet someone at a race that has an inspirational story, when you bond with other triathletes through relatives, a club or otherwise, when you see the myriad racers around you the day of an event… there’s nothing like it. And it’s that sense of community – that sense of belonging, intertwined with that never-ending competitive fire, that serves as the impetus for my passion for triathlons.

My hope is that my Ironman journey will only expand upon this. Whatever “tri journey” you’re going through this year – whether you have your eye on an Ironman, sprints, halfs, or are taking a year off, take a moment to think about what it is that motivates you. Why you’re racing. That’s what will keep you going.

For now, I’m keeping the words [you. are. an. ironman.] on my head in r e p e a t.

A constant inspiration for July.

What’s your inspiration this season? What are you working towards?

Tri Hard,

Caity

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Transition Talk: Tri Beginnings [West Point]

Flashback to August of 2005.

Pre-braces. Pre-middle school. Pre-triathlons. My identity was formed largely as a combination of my days of swimming competitively, playing lacrosse, creative writing, and other random hobbies. Triathlons were not a part of my life. Yet.

Looking back, I never would have thought that a quick trip up to West Point in mid-August of 2005 would forever change this.

I was first introduced into the triathlon world through the West Point Kids Triathlon. When I heard about the race only about a half hour away from my house, I was eager to participate. The day I headed up was a sweltering August day. I knew none of the “tricks of the trade” of the triathlon world, and the world “triathlon” was as new to me as the numbers freshly inked on my arms pre-race. I was not six foot one, I was more along the lines of five foot four or so. I was little (well, relatively). I was young. I was a wide-eyed, blonde-haired pre-middle schooler looking to try something new.

I made the rookie mistake of doing the whole race in my bathing suit. No shorts during the run = cuts on my thighs after the race (haha). No idea how to transition = me taking forever to tie my shoes. It was nice, in a sense… the way in which all the little kids approached the sport that day. With such raw excitement and a lack of meticulous planning. Sometimes I wonder how many of those who raced with me that August of 2005 fell in love with the sport the same way I did.

I had so much fun that day that it led to a passion for the sport, the next seven summers involving tons of triathlons. (This probably had a little bit to do with the fact that we got free ice pops after the race. It was awesome). I still look forward each summer to traveling to races with my cousins. Each summer when I head back to West Point for the non-kids triathlon, I’m reminded of my tri beginning. 🙂

That sunny day in West Point was the beginning of me discovering one of my passions. Nine years later, it’s hard for me to imagine a time when I wasn’t racing!

I’m  sure that I’m not the only one who looks fondly back on their tri beginning… many of us were probably introduced to the sport in a number of unique ways. Where did you get your tri start? How? And what has it meant to you?

And if you’re still struggling to find an inspiration to dive into triathlons, or to reach that next milestone in the sport… try to approach it with the same raw enthusiasm as a kid in a mini-race. Sometimes, a sense of enthusiasm and a lack of over-analyzing is the best way to go for your next goal. Easier said than done, but try it. You never know, it may lead to a whole new tri beginning… filled with new accomplishments, people and goals.

Tri Hard,

Caity

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My brother TJ racing on his mini bike hahaDSC01904DSC01900

Tackling the transition area… hahaDSC01898DSC01893

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Kickoff to the swim!DSC01884DSC01880

Kids transition area… the bikes a bit smaller 🙂

MOTIVATION: THE “TWO MS” TO KEEP YOU ON TRACK

Ok, so let’s be honest. It can be hard to stay motivated ALL the time.

One of the hardest parts of the holiday season is keeping up motivation. How do you stay motivated when you’re a collegiate athlete but you’re at home on break? How do you make yourself go to the gym when it’s snowing or when you’re not feeling up to it? And how do you make yourself eat well when so many tempations arise during the holiday season? (Hint: It is possible.)

I’ve found that the two keys to staying motivated are the two Ms: moderation and mentality. I have definitely struggled the most with the latter. Like many endurance athletes, I have a “Type A” extreme personality. Sometimes, I tend to hold onto the mindset that I need to eat PERFECTLY during the day, and that if I do not eat completely well and consume a little treat that makes it okay to have more throughout the day.

This mindset is FLAWED and NOT the way to stay motivated to eat healthy. The key to finding balance and motivation to eat well, to workout, or whatever it may be, is moderation. Don’t try to stick to extreme diets or starve yourself – it isn’t healthy. Rather, try alternatives; like eating healthy 6 out of 7 days per week and allowing yourself a treat one day a week. Or, if you can handle it, have something small a few days a week. Creating a plan that fits your personality and schedule can help you find balance in your life… and this can help you stay motivated!

This goes along with the second “M”… mentality. Keeping a positive mentality is the KEY to accomplishing your goals and staying motivated to do so. In order to do this, you may want to keep a journal, talk to friends about your goals, make your phone background a motivational quote, keep a goal list on your desk, print out pictures of yourself at happy times to keep you in a good state of mind, etc. Some of these things help me when I’m not feeling motivated.

The key thing to remember when it comes with the struggle to stay motivated is that YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE FEELING THIS WAY and that YOU CAN DO IT! Reach out to friends and follow the steps above, and you will be well on your way to accomplishing your goals 🙂

Tri Hard,

Caity

it can be hard to resist over eating baked treats during the holiday season!!!

IT IS POSSIBLE TO WORK OUT IN THE COLD!!! #staymotivated