Richie Caiazza

Richie Caiazza

My journey into the unkown

Ahhhh... 2012! A season of Highs and lows.

I've been putting this off for quite some time. So grab a cup of coffee, and strap yourself in. Its gonna be a bumpy read.

2012 started with a vision. I hadn't really planned it all out on paper. All I knew was I wanted to get faster. At everything. I was hiring a coach, going to Florida for a "Tri Camp", was thinking of doing my first full Ironman. Somewhere in the beginning of the season, I changed my goal, and wanted to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships. Mission accomplished. I had done it. Now I just had to race it. Learning about how my body reacted to extreme heat in Florida, I realized that I needed to do the majority of my training in the peak heat of the day. I saw opportunities to ride at noon, and seized them. I would get on the trainer and put the heat on instead of the A/C. I would practice my hydration methods, and requirements, like a scientist searching for the cure for cancer. I did my long runs and long rides. I prepared to the best of my ability given the fact that I have a family and a career to balance in the mean time. I did everything I could to mentally and physically prepare for the challenge that was before me. It wasn't enough.

I severely underestimated the elevation and heat. I hadn't taken into account the adrenaline. I missed the mark by so far, it was almost sad.

I went down to Vegas on the Thursday before the race. I spent one day seeing the sights, going to various casinos, and just taking in Vegas, in all its gluttonous glory. Las Vegas is ridiculous, and never having been, I was floored at the sheer level of indulgence that these massive casinos possess. From the marble and granite work of the lobby's, to the grandeur of the casinos. IT was incredible. I gambled a bit, but not too much, and took the, as I liked to call it, "Mediterranean tour" of the hotels. I ate a spectacular dinner, "table for one please!" and enjoyed a nice night out alone. On Friday, I picked my dad and my friend, a fellow athlete, and a chick that is WAY faster than me, up from the airport. My dad is amazing. He is by far the biggest supporter I have in racing. He keeps me motivated when I don't want to push any further. He has been at the finish line at every major race I have ever done. He navigates himself like Christopher Columbus through unknown seas of people and place to make sure he is at exactly the right place, at the time I need him most. This comes in to play because there were points on the run that day, that had he not been there, I simply would have walked off the course. But more on that later.

Fast forward to Saturday. The day before the race. My friend, Meaghen, and I were going to do a pre race workout. Do a pre-race lap on the swim course, a short jog, and then a short ride. Short ride, not really what happened. Course knowledge is so important. There is not much worse than getting lost on a bike course. You would think that with all the other people racing you wouldn't have that happen, but how do you know that everyone else knows where to go. We always just assume that we all know where we are going out there. Trust me, we don't She and I figured this out the hard way, by turning our short ride into a 2 hour long 30= mile confused romp through the Vegas desert. Not fun.

Sunday I felt good, I had a good night sleep after a great dinner with dad. We drove, at 4 am, to the venue, which was 25 miles away. I was prepared. After setting up my stuff in T1, I had a good hour to warm up, and get my shit together. Boom, we are the next age group in the water.

Here on Long Island, I am able to make up for inefficiencies in the water against my competition on the bike. This was not the case here. BOOM canon goes off, and here we go. I took three strokes, looked up, and never saw anyone in my age group again. I have never experienced being SO out classed in my life. I immediately got a little down, but buried my head, and kept swimming. Got out of the water with people from the age group behind me, and said, time to go. The song "Let's GO" by Calvin Harris is playing in my head now, and the bike is my thing. Surely I would catch some of these fools who OBVIOUSLEY went out to hard, right? WRONG! I got out on the bike, and was tired already. I had been the one that went to hard. Got a few miles in on the bike, and got to the beginning of the "climb". The hills in Lake Mead state park are like nothing I have ever seen on Long Island. Climbs would be measured in miles, not feet. And they didn’t stop. Now it’s close to 10 am and the temperature is rising. On the bike course the high for the day was 114 degrees. So said my Garmin. I was overheating. After the bike, I didn’t even want to run. I didn't want to take one step. I pulled into T2, and there was my dad. Decked out in his IM Providence Golf shirt, I was able to spot him from a mile away, or so it seemed to me. I got choked up as I was approaching him, clapping and smiling. He asked how I felt and I could barley answer. He knew I was in trouble, but he encouraged me, and so I pressed forward into the T2 tent. Pretty cool at the world championships, you have volunteers take your bike for you and give you your Run bag. I ran into the tent they had set up, and sat in a chair to collect myself. I am no longer concerned with time, or age group placement. My sole goal at this point is the same as it had been when I first started racing. "Finish and don't die”. That is my mantra at this point in the day. I started the first of 3 laps on this hilly run course which has you running down steps, and the flattest part of the course is at the finish line. Lap 1 was hard, I was FREEZING cold. I was trying to figure out why, considering it was well over 100 degrees out. I pressed on, and was able to see dad at every lap. I stopped and chatted with him for a minute or two. Told him that I was freezing, and he said, just keep going. I did. I wish I hadn't but I pressed on. At the end of the day, I finished, I didn't die... although I felt like I had. I got my finishers medal, I raced in the most competitive, deepest stacked, hottest climate, and hardest terrain of any race on the calendar. I am proud to have done it. 6:30:00 later. Almost an hour longer than my qualifying time, and half an hour longer than my worst previous race.

After Vegas' performance, I began to question my ability as an athlete. I started to say, I should just quit doing this. I signed up the following week for the Huntington Triathlon. It was a sprint distance race. The weather was TERRIBLE, and after a shortened swim, I hit the bike. I won my age group, and turned in a great run split. I then signed up for the Half Iron distance race in Montauk the following weekend. I went on to PR the swim, and ended up PR'ing the race. After a bad start to the run, and feeling like I was bonking a bit, I finished strong. And felt good about the race. I have done a couple more 5K races since, and again PR'd those as well, with breaking 20:00 for the first time with a time of 19:34. That was big.

Looking ahead at the 2013 season, Plans again had to change. I originally was going to do the IM Texas as my first full ironman. The date for the race was 5/27.... Well, I am happy to report that my wife and I are expecting our 3rd baby. Turns out I was feeling better than I thought when I got back from Vegas, and was happy to see her! The due date for "Binks", which is the name my year old son has come up with until we find out what the sex is, is on 6/6. I am most certainly not going to be 6 hours away, and in the middle of an IRONMAN 2 weeks before the due date!

Now I am signed up and scheduled in to do IM Cabo! The date of this event is 3/17/13. Most of my training will be in the dead of winter. But, gotta do it. It will be painful, it will be hard, and it will be amazing.

To wrap up, I want to thank a few people for 2012. First off, my wife. Colleen, you deserve as much credit at this year’s achievements as I do. It is not easy being the wife of a triathlete, and you do it, and rarely complain about the long training hours, and late nights at the pool. The way you and the kids support me throughout the year is what keeps me going, and that is just one of the reasons why I love you. Thank you for being you, and letting me chase this dream! Second, the rest of my family. Mom and Dad, you guys have put up with more BS from me, and more stories about racing, and training than I am sure you ever wanted to.
Dad, you have given me the opportunity to chase this dream. You set up the ground work in my head, and encourage me to no end. Your work ethic comes out in me, and your willingness to succeed is what keeps me going out there sometimes. Finish and don't die! That has been our motto since day 1!

To my coaches Bryan and Anthony. Bryan, Keep kicken my ass, I have taken 10 mins off my 1 mile swim time in a year, and I have all the confidence in the world that with your help that I will continue to make huge gains in speed and endurance in the water. You have become more than a coach in the last year, but a friend as well.
Anthony... What can I say? You are the most patient, and giving coach a guy could ever ask for. You push me beyond my limits, and continue to amaze me by your own athletic achievements. I look up to you as an athlete, and have learned to confide and trust you like a close friend. You have become almost a life coach as well. I wouldn't be where I am had it not been for you continuing set goals and shatter them!

Many people ask me "why". That answer has changed so many times. In the beginning, it was to say that I did. Now, it is to prove to myself that I can.

Here's to a safe and successful 2013. And thank you for taking the time to read these things. It means a lot to me that even one person takes an interest. Hopefully, my racing will encourage others to take healthy steps, and make healthy choices to start a journey of their own. Who knows, maybe next year, I will be reading your blog for motivation.



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