Last April I walked into WWMS Tri Night with no idea what to expect. Although I knew I wanted to do my first triathlon that summer and had been invited to check out Wheelworks by some friends, I wasn’t totally sold on joining a team. The interior of Belmont Wheelworks was overwhelmingly stuffed with bike gadgets and paraphernalia - intimidating for someone whose cycling career up until that point consisted of learning how to ride a bike around age seven and not pursuing it much since then. I spent a few awkward minutes wandering around and trying to keep track of all the people I was meeting, but the night turned out great. I met a ton wonderful people and decided to join the team!
My most vivid memory from that night was the Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation Awards. Listening to the Clavettes speak about their daughter, I was touched by descriptions of Caitlin and the relationship between the team and the Clavette family forged in Caitlin's memory. The foundation sponsors race entries for Wheelworks Multisport teammates who support the foundation's vision of a community where all people live healthy lives, preserve and appreciate the arts, respect and protect all living things and live with passion.
In my mind, the sense of welcoming I experienced that night, and continue to experience as part of this team, is inseparable from Caitlin’s legacy. I would venture to say that Caitlin may not have totally realized what a huge impact she had on others. I don’t know any of us ever realize our impact on others. The way this team, and each of us as individuals, welcomes and inspires each other is so special and meaningful. We are so much more than athletes (even when it literally feels like training is all we do). Our team is about building a welcoming community and helping individuals embrace new challenges. The foundation is offering race sponsorship for Wheelworks Multisport teammates to apply for once again this year, and I'm looking forward to learning more about all those teammates who apply and align with Caitlin's vision.
Teammate and past recipient, Leah Reis-Dennis, adds “It's easy to focus single-mindedly on triathlon when we're hanging out with WWMS teammates. I love that the Caitlin Clavette Foundation is explicitly more holistic, committing itself (and committing us) to remembering Caitlin for the multifaceted person she was: an artist as well as an athlete, a teacher, daughter, and sister as well as a friend and teammate. WWMS can continue to support this vision by encouraging its members to get to know each other as people and as friends—not just as teammates to sweat it out with on early morning rides.”
Hey green team,
During a leisurely morning ride that circled “Concord*” via “the Minute Man trail*,” our teammate “Brian*” and I had an experience that reminded me once again of the overlap between Wheelworks life and our professional lives. Typically, when I join or convene a new team, one of our foremost exercises is to engage in norm-setting. On the surface, this elicits general responses: listen while others are talking, show up on time, don’t be late. Go a little deeper, and we start tugging at personal expectations: speak your truth, assume good intentions, maintain a safe space, practice bravery. One of the norms that tends to emerge part-way through is perhaps the most basic: act with respect.
While we never officially penned Wheelworks team norms, I took a stab at what I imagine they might include:
Perhaps not all 8 are in play during every run, cycling loop, or swim, but for the most part: generally applicable.
Ok, back to the Minute Man. As “Brian*” and I were spinning along, we came to a segment almost every Wheelworker has experienced: a cluster. Three people walking shoulder-to-shoulder in front of us; parallel, a couple pushing a baby carriage, two young kids running slightly ahead. Up ahead, a busy intersection. In between, more pedestrians.
As we approached said cluster, “Brian” and I recalled both our previous rides and inadvertently, the norms above. Pop quiz: what did we do?
If you answered (c), you are correct. [If you answered (a) or (b), OMG why do you hate us?!]
In this instance, the right thing to do was to slow down. Could we have sped up and/or shimmied between the pedestrians? Yes. Would it have freaked them out, and potentially endangered the kids? Also yes. It’s the concept of utilitarianism: the greatest good for the greatest number. We applied that here; the only people who would have benefitted from us speeding up was...well, us.
Here’s Part 2 of the story. As we feathered our breaks, we noticed the pedestrians to our left turning around, reacting, and hurrying out of the way (which would have been the same reaction we caused if we sped up). We craned our necks to see what was coming our way, and what I saw was more disappointing than discovering the Rx bar I brought had expired: a group of cyclists, from a fellow tri team I will not name, chose option (b)--and married it with option (a). A handful of riders came whizzing down the middle, leaving scared walkers in their wake. “Brian” and I slowed further, signaling to those around us we would not do the same.
Granted, our teams our different. We know that, and the riders who passed us know that. But the folks walking around us did not know that. Being a triathlete is a privilege--one that comes with the requirement to respect those inside our athlete community, as well as those outside of it. I was proud to be a WWMS member this morning; my hope is that the pedestrians remember the green top more favorably than the other color. It’s a good reminder about why we chose the team we did, and the norms we subscribe to by donning the Wheelworks name.
Be safe, ride well, and we’ll see you on the trail!
Hey green team,
As we turn the page to August on our WWMS Calendar (shout out to Katrina Ladd, master designer), we’re deep into two things: humidity, and race season. When the heat kicks up, our pace slows down--but interestingly, I’ve noticed that the inverse is true for “sense of determination regarding workouts.” Some deem this “competitiveness,” but let’s stick to the positive. :)
So as not to generalize, I’ll keep this post in the first person. When the sun shines outside my windows, a little voice pops into my head saying, “you should work out.” That’s often coupled with motivational messages on social media, such as facebook postings by fellow athletes (“Man it’s hot, but I got in my 27 mile run! Now I can eat a raisin!”), race reports, and photos of finish lines from across the globe.
Often, because of my own internal competitiveness, the nagging voice wins out. I’ll hop on the bike, or tug on my running shoes, or wander over to the pool/Mystic/Walden for a swim. I feel awesome after. I’ll take a selfie and send it to my mom, who inevitably states the obvious: “Um it’s 92 degrees and you are RUNNING?! Are you crazy?!” Me: “It was only three miles.”
Pause for a second on this.
A few weeks back, I was privileged to teach a session on Women in Academic Leadership to college presidents, deans, and executive directors from institutions across Asia. The first thing I asked them to do was to share their role. I expected, “Hi I’m <name>, and I’m the President of <institution>.” That happened the first 2-3 times. From there, the narrative changed slightly: “I’m <name>, and I was asked to be President of <institution>. I’m really not qualified, but I was the only person available.” “They just didn’t have anyone else.” “I’m only two years in, so I need to learn how to lead.” And so on.
After 10+ women shared a similar story, I stopped the class. I said to them, “Let me reflect something I’m hearing. You keep saying “only...” and “just..”. Please don’t forget that you EARNED your jobs. It’s not “just” that you happened to be there. You are brilliant, accomplished women. You weren’t handed a presidency. You earned a presidency.” The room was silent for about 10 seconds before one soft spoken women whispered, “thank you.”
As I think about these two scenarios, I realized “only” and “just” applies across boundaries. We athletes have holy grail races to celebrate--for example, Ironman, which certainly deserves to be celebrated. Finishing this race is a feat accomplishable by a very small number of humans. To those who crossed those finish lines this summer: you are rock stars, and we commend you for that tremendous amount of work.
That said, our ability to meet goals for smaller, shorter races should not be diminished. As illustrated by the women in class, their sense was that they were “just” available--somehow, their accomplishment didn’t count. Their training didn’t count. Their work, their dedication, their sacrifices didn’t count. So to all those WWMS teammates who sometimes feel what I feel: “only” three miles is still three miles. “Just” a Sprint, or an Olympic, is a heck of a lot when you stand on the other side of the classroom. I never finish in the top three, and I likely never will. People who run without shoes and bike in their sneakers instead of bike cleats still beat me. But you know what?
So in the end, remember: your training matters, and more importantly, your dedication to training for three distinct sports matters. It’s never “only” or “just.” It’s a triathlon. And no matter how many miles you swim, bike, or run: you deserve the kudos.
Train well, and #gogreen!
Hey green team,
With the first days of June upon us, the weather is nicer(ish), the days are longer, and of course: we can train outside. It’s also the most joyful season for those attending one of the 60+ colleges and universities in the Boston area, known to some as “OMG I cannot drive ANYWHERE AROUND HERE OMG” and to others as simply “Commencement.”
What does Commencement have to do with triathlon, you ask? Well, for one, it’s literal: commencing. For we Wheelworks crew, it’s the start of another season of swimming, biking, and running toward finish lines (or at least toward brunch). For others, it’s the commencement of a new life, a new job, a new identity. These two notions intersected one May morning for me, which made me think about how our identities can be molded by the suits we wear--and more importantly, how “commencement” applies to all who engage.
For those who don’t know, my day job brings me to a local university, and I am fortunate to work with some of the most brilliant, inspiring folks around. Every Commencement morning, I dust off my cap and gown, shrug the robes over my shoulder, place the hood over my head, and don a bright blue velvet hat my dad affectionately deemed “fuzzy blueberry.” I process onto the stage; I cheer for students as they cross. And then, just like that, they go onto their new lives, and my regalia finds its home in a garment bag once more.
This year, following Commencement exercises, I immediately changed into running gear. Gone was the blue velvet, the floor-length garments, the matching hood. In fact, I wore the opposite: light colors, light fabrics. As I began the slow motion of revolving legs, I noticed that my colleagues didn’t stop to say hello. Students with whom I posed for photos just an hour ago walked right by. It seemed my whole identity shifted simply by changing my clothes.
Taking this one step further, I recently tried on my favorite green tri kit--mostly to see how it fit, but also to remind myself to swap that daily half box of Cheerios for vegetables. It occurred to me that this too is an identity shift: from trainer to racer, from individual triathlete to WWMS collective. It’s not just what we wear, it’s the way we operate; riding up mountains in freezing rain (#trainingweekend), swimming in a choppy ocean, running in conditions from snow to heat. In the same way regalia does not make someone an academic, the tri kit doesn’t make you a triathlete: YOU do. That fierce determination makes our bodies move, but remember too that you are part of a team. The real motivation to get up at 6AM on a Saturday is knowing that friends are waiting; that if the ride goes from “slightly chilly” to “I can no longer feel my feet,” you’ll keep going because you’re not alone.
So the next time someone asks why you’re tugging on calf sleeves to go running during lunch, remember: you get to choose that identity. And we all chose one we share, one we get to carry with us during every race. We are members of the most determined, supportive, and downright amazing team of athletes around. We wear our green proudly, because it reminds us we are never alone in the triathlon world.
Train well, and we’ll see you at the next race!
Hey green team,
It’s April in New England, which must mean: it’s still snowing. That said, summer is coming, and with it: open water swimming! For all the newbies (or us old-bies) who see “open water swimming” and have mild heart palpitations, remember: it just takes practice. Take it from this month’s guest blogger Malia, who shares her powerful story below.
“I remember my first triathlon as if it were yesterday. When you feel you’ve survived a near death experience, those memories tend to stay with you. Okay, maybe it wasn’t “near death”, but I can at least say I felt like I might die.
I thought I had trained for my first triathlon. I swam in a 15 yard pool, I could ride a bike, and I have a running background. Doggy paddling was always my backup plan for the swim. A friend who had done one triathlon before gave a lesson on how to transition. I was ready!
The morning of the race I donned my rented wetsuit. I swore mine was way too small. The neck line was choking me, I was pretty sure it was going to compress my trachea. How were my lungs going to expand?!
I had registered for the ‘Beginner’ wave of the race and was given a hot pink cap. I headed down to the beach donning my new cap. We got instruction that it was a point to point race and we would stay on the right side of the buoys. There were kayakers available to help us if we needed them. If at any point we wanted to quit we just had swim to shore. We headed out onto the dock and one by one jumped into the water, ‘Oh my God that’s cold!!!!’ I felt my lungs and every muscle tense up. I slowed my breathing enough for the gun to go off.
Bang! I stuck my head in the water tried to swim, ‘I’m not moving!...Everyone is splashing me!...I can’t see where to go!...This tastes awful!....The waves are crashing into my face!’ After about 2 freestyle strokes I started doggy paddling to shore. ‘I’m not dying today! I’m getting the heck out of here!’ (Un)Fortunately, one of the kayakers told me I was going the wrong way, ‘No I’m not!’ I responded. Then this person wouldn’t let me go to shore! I therefore attempted to move my body with with a doggy paddle/breast/side stroke combination and somehow managed to get to another kayaker. They had one of those red lifeguard rescue buoys floating in the water. I latched on for dear life. I’m not sure how long I stayed. I didn’t want to let go, but I was encouraged by this lifeguard to continue on my journey. So I did.
I somehow managed to get the courage and doggy paddle-side stroke to the next lifeguard and repeated the process with the buoy. By this stage in the race, as you can imagine, there weren’t many people left in the water. This gracious lifeguard told me that she would follow behind me all the way to shore. I started out side stroking again, she cheered me on and told me I could do it. It was at that point that I felt that I could get my whole body horizontal, put my head in the water and start to freestyle. She followed me all the way to shore.
I don’t remember hitting the sand, but I remember I felt relieved. I remember I enjoyed bike ride and I somewhat remember the run. My swim time was the 2nd worst time posted for the day, but finished my first triathlon.
For some strange reason, despite that swim, I wanted to do it again. I knew I could do better. For years and races that followed I continued struggling my way through the swim. Through panic attacks and actual feelings that I might drown.
So how did I progress to the point of finishing more triathlons than I can count on two hands?
- I got my feet wet. I started swimming and swimming in a 25 yard pool.
- I talked to a lot of people about my fear, anxiety and inability to move myself through the water. These people helped me develop workouts and encouraged me to take lessons...
- I got lessons. This made a huge impact on my balance in the water. It also helped me become more comfortable in the water and address overuse shoulder injuries.
- I watched videos of swimmers, read articles and books.
- I started open water swimming with friends/teammates. It helped to get used to spotting and to not being able to see the bottom.
- I joined a Masters group. I think that this was the single most valuable thing I ever did as far as my swimming career is concerned. I had someone giving me daily workouts and I had to swim with other people surrounding me.
- I practiced swimming in a wetsuit. I’d swim in it as often as I could to get used to the compression at my neck.
- I use(d) visual imagery techniques. This is how it works: Imagine standing on the beach of your race in your wetsuit compressed on you. Imagine standing in a large clump of adults in black suits and all the nervous energy. Feel that you need to pee again even though you’ve already gone three times! Feel walking up to the water’s edge, crossing over the timing mat. Feel wading in the water. Hear the sound of the gun going off and the splashing of all the other swimmers around you. Think about what you are going to do to handle yourself in that situation. Will you swim with them or hold back a bit and let them get ahead of you? How will it feel to start sighting your buoys? Imagine every possible scenario (both the positive and negative) and play it over in your head before going to bed at night. When the time comes when you are living the experience, it won’t feel like the first time, because you’ve already visualized it happening so many times before it has.
Reflecting on my personal transition from anxious newbie to advice-giving triathlete is an interesting experience. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, but there was a process that took place over a few years. Here’s my best advice: prepare for it. Physically, mentally, emotionally. And at the end of the day: even if you’re second to last in the swim, you still cross that finish line.
PS: That first wetsuit I thought I was going to die in? I now own it and have done nine half Ironman and two full Ironman races wearing it! It will be retiring this season for a newer (hopefully) faster model.”
See you at Walden, friends!
Q: Where's the best place in town for great food, delicious beverages, awesome giveaways, raffle prizes, and mind-blowing triathlon trivia?
A: Wheelworks Tri-Night!
Join us on Sunday, April 8 (6-8PM) at Wheelworks Belmont for our annual multisport celebration. All are welcome - teammates, prospective teammates, and triathlon enthusiasts who simply enjoy spectating and cheering! The event features a Q&A with USA Triathlon representative Ron Franklin, TriTrivia with fabulous prizes, and the big announcement of our Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation sponsorship recipients. And of course: snacks.
Prizes include, but are not limited to:
Ready to raffle?! The more you buy, the more you win - and there is a LOT to be won! Funds go to support the Wheelworks team, but more importantly, to support larger events like this. Tickets can be purchased here.
See you - and hopefully your new Tifosi shades - on April 8!
Hey green team,
Well, it’s official: another year come and gone. If your holidays were anything like mine, they included at least one person who posed the innocent question, “Why do you do triathlons?” This is typically accompanied by expressions ranging from awe to sheer terror. But the inquiry is one I’ve been thinking a lot about during the first days of 2018. So I sought to answer it.
In the quest to identify my personal reasons for participating in triathlon, I decided to list all possible reasons someone might love the sport. Here’s what I brainstormed.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it felt like a good start. From there, I wondered: which ones actually speak to me? I wasn’t sure how to go about this, so I engaged in a little exercise that I highly recommend before you answer the question. Ready? Take out your cell phone, open your Photos app, and look at your training and/or race photos. Really. Do it! I’ll wait. *pause*
Ok, now that you reviewed your photos and reminisced about warmer weather, reflect on the items above. Here’s where I landed.
What did I learn? For me, triathlon is primarily about the people, the de-stressing element of training, and possibly eating. I may not be in “it to win it,” but I’m glad we are all in it together.
No matter your motivation - the podium, the joy, the strength, the race - remember that as long as you love something about triathlon, triathlon will love you back. And that you’ll always have something on the list to fuel -8 degree runs, likely with a pack of neon-green-wearing weirdos right beside you.
Here’s to another amazing year, and #gogreen!
Hey green team,
First off: if you don’t get the title reference, look to your triathlon elders...and to the first-ever MTV video. :)
Second, for those who may be a little down with the darker nights, cooler mornings, and the impending doom of holiday cookies: remember that triathlon, like delicious hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon, is good for the soul. Not only do we have goals to set and accomplish, but we get to do both of those with some of the coolest people around. The sweat makes us warriors, the elements make us stronger, the selfies make us funnier, and the hours spent volunteering - both at races, and with folks like the Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation - makes our hearts grow right alongside our muscles.
So as we prepare to roll into the holiday season, remember that triathlon is inspiring, and the new year means a new chance to hit those new targets. Need a little inspiration? Check out this amazing Harvest Tri video courtesy of Tim Richmond and his team at Max Performance...and be prepared to watch some green magic.
Happy training, and #gogreen,
Hey green team,
As age-group athletes, we reward ourselves - rightfully - for conquering new distances, setting personal records, coming in 28th out of 30 (YEAH I WASN’T LAST!), and tackling a three-sport event with grace, integrity, a limited amount of Gu showing in the professional race photos.
For some of our WWMS teammates, however, age-group holds a bit of a different meaning: once you become truly outstanding in the sport, you have the honor of participating in the USAT National Championships. In order to qualify for Nationals, as one guest informed me, “[for the Olympic Nationals] you have to finish in the top 10% of your age group. If there are fewer than 10 people in your age group, you need to finish first. There are no qualifying requirements for the Age Group National Sprint. It’s open. All you do is sign up.”
To understand how Nationals differs from our local tri series, I caught up with David Crelling, Sherman Roberts, and Sharman Lappin - three of our esteemed Nationals competitors in recent years*. Here’s what they had to share.
JV: How did you find out you qualified? (Please say someone delivers the news to your door in a wetsuit, please say someone delivers the news to your door in a wetsuit…)
DC: I think Bonnie, my wife told me.
SL: Sorry. No wetsuit. USAT sends an email late fall.
SR: Just and email from USAT. No wetsuit sadly.
JV: What did it feel like knowing you were traveling to this race as a national-level competitor?
DC: I was doing ironman distances at the time so my focus was there. My training for that year was ironman distance training so the nationals field wiped the floor with me. I didn't have that short distance speed and power since I was training for more slow and long ironman distance.
SL: I was very excited and nervous. When I racked my bike the night before the race and looked at all the fancy bikes around me, I started to cry. I was quickly comforted by some really wonderful women. That was empowering.
SR: The first time a bit keyed up. It is a somewhat higher level of competition in the AG world.
JV: How did the race atmosphere differ from our local events?
DC: It was the same vibe as local races but the competition level was much higher. Better bikes and fitter people.
SL: A lot more energy.
SR: A lot more flirting and drinking... No, seriously, a bit more celebratory.
JV: What was the most exciting thing about participating in Nationals?
DC: We had other team members up there so being around the team was good. Racing against other strong dudes is always nice since you then get a check on where you stand against other people with similar experience levels. Going to Hot Topic and Wet Seal in Burlington mall was the highlight.
SR: They are fit and serious as hell at race time.
JV: What advice would you have for teammates seeking to race at the national level?
DC: Getting a training plan or a coach is really helpful. Find the local races that are national qualifiers and make those your "A" race. For the bike use a power meter and periodically do a ftp test to figure out your threshold and use that number to guide your workouts. On the run use a heart rate monitor to do a LT test and use that number as a guide for your workouts. Join a local swim group and do more of your workouts in the pool instead of open water. Ride with pure cyclists, run with pure runners and swim with pure swimmers. They will be stronger in their respective sport than you (most likely). Have fun, eat and drink well.
SL: Train – hard. A hint is to find a race with not much participation.
SR: Train seriously and be in the top 5 or so in you AG, although check with USAT on that. They are very attentive. This is REALLY a different level of AG competition.
As we wind down the 2017 season, the athleticism and determination personified by these former Nationals competitors provides fuel for the 2018 race fire. To all our Nationals participants: huge congratulations! To those with eyes on the Nationals prize: keep at it. Remember, we’re all blessed with an opportunity to compete in multi-sport events; a very small percentage of U.S. citizens are able to do this (in 2015, USAT had ~161,000 members - even if we add 40k for 2017, it’s still <1% of the US population).
So be inspired, and know that you are already inspiring.
*Note: we have many more Nationals athletes on the WWMS team! My decision to include these particular three was predicated by...them being the three who responded to my email.
Hey green team,
Amidst two of the most exciting triathlon months, I’ve been reminded by teammates to consider the “why” behind what we do - especially the morning of a race, when it’s 3:30AM and you’re trying to jam peanut butter banana toast down your throat while repeatedly questioning your sanity. In those moments, I invite everyone to call on the “spirit” of our sport. There’s no better way to do so than remembering the ones who fell in love with triathlon - and the ones we, as a Wheelworks family, loved right back.
So if you need a little motivation as we round out the season, I give you a story about Caitlin Clavette, a beloved teammate who was taken from us too soon in a tragic accident in the winter of 2016. Her family established the Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation (CCMF) with a vision to support a community where all people live healthy lives, preserve and appreciate the arts, respect and protect all living things, and live with passion. In 2017, the CCMF awarded 5 race entries to WWMS teammates who live the foundation's values. I couldn’t have written this story as eloquently as the authors: Louanne and Andrew Clavette.
You asked what inspired the CCMF to support Wheelworks Multisport athletes in their races this season. The answer is simple - yet the story is long. It involves a Tri- bike, a bird, a team and the unrelenting spirit of our beautiful girl.
Wherever you swim, bike, and run this season, remember this is not just about podiums and incentive points (though those are terrific). It’s about growth, determination, overcoming fear, gaining strength, and most importantly: it’s about the people triathlon allows us to be.
To read more about Caitlin’s passion for triathlon, the arts, education, and life in general, please visit the Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation website - and if you’re inspired, consider donating. Our generosity allows Caitlin’s “spirit” to live on, through athletes just like us. (See below for evidence of their WWMS racer support this year.)