Richie Caiazza

Richie Caiazza

My journey into the unkown

How it all began... This could take a while!

So... If you are reading this, chances are you probably know me already. So thanks for taking the time to read this, perhaps it will shed a little light on where my heads at! God knows I have no clue!

So first... the "Readers Digest" version of my life to this point... Hold on, because it's going to be a bumpy ride!

I grew up in probably the most optimal set of circumstances one would ever imagine. North Shore of Suffolk County Long Island. Two AMAZING parents, just me and my sister! My dad, blue collar guy, always in pretty good shape managed to delegate his time growing up in such a way, that I never knew him not to be there. Started his company in the late 70's with my Great uncle, and His son-in-law (My cousin, but we really haven't figured out the proper relationship yet I just know him as Uncle Joe!). Together they started what is now today a medium sized multi-location successful heavy duty truck parts company. He worked 60 hours a week, and still found time to make it to every baseball game I played in, and every basketball game I warmed the bench at. My dad knew the value of a dollar, (something I have yet to learn) and he provided everything my sister and I could have ever wanted.

I had a pretty normal childhood, playing baseball pretty averagely, having the friends that my mom knew were good for me, but never really "excelling" at anything in particular. I did below average in school, and by the time middle school had rolled around, I pretty much had the social life of a hermit. In stepped my little sister (who at the time I think was taller than me) Denise, being only 13 months my junior, brought me around her friends, introduced me to people that I didn't really know, and gave me a social life that I didn't really have prior. I owe my sanity in those younger years to her.

My mom... My POOR POOR mom! Had her hands full with me. Without any real friends in middle school and the earlier part of high school, my mom bore the brunt of my antics. My mom's place in heaven is reserved for her just for what I put her through back then, and it’s been since remodeled for what I put her through now! But it is from her that I get my compassion for others, and my sensitivity that I have to people’s feelings! By 7th grade, my school principle had my parent’s number on speed dial, and I had been suspended from school 7 times that year. Constantly being bullied for being smaller and less popular, by the time I was 16... Very bad thoughts were entering my head. It was probably some of the darkest days of my life, as kids can be very cruel.

By the time I was a just about out of middle school, I had developed an affinity for singing. I love the sound of the human voice, and started to notice that I had one of my own. So in 8th grade I tried out for the school play.... Wizard of OZ. I didn't even get into the ensemble. The following year changed everything for me. I met a teacher Mr. Olsen. My high school chorus teacher. If it hadn't been for him, I probably would have dropped out of school, or harmed myself. Chorus was a mandatory class, and I enjoyed going. That first year in HS, Mr. Olsen saw something in me that I didn’t even know was there. He pushed me to try out for NYSMA, and that year was the first time I had ever sung in front of a group alone. I got into all county that year, and every year till I graduated from HS. That year I had also tried out for the school play, and landed a lead role in "Pippen". But still my academics plagued me. Because of my low grades, I was removed from the school play, and the following year I wasn't given a lead in fear that I again would be removed from the show and leave them shorthanded. By junior year, I had begun to turn my act around (no pun intended) and by my senior year, I was doing much better in school. I started to date, and my confidence began to build.

As I got older, I made friends with guys that were mostly bigger than I. Truth is, everyone was bigger than me, so it wasn't really all that difficult, but these guys were exceptionally big. As time had passed, I had been chillen with a bunch of successful guys that always had money in their pocket. That "power" that we had when we went out was intoxicating and addicting. For the first time in my life I was an "it" guy. We went places and people knew us, we got to the front of lines at the hottest clubs, drank all night on a tab, and basically did whatever we wanted when we were out. It was a feeling of empowerment, entitlement... I don't know... it felt good!

While we were out, I went outside to make a phone call one night on the deck at CoCo's in Huntington. There were these two girls sitting down having dinner... I decided to join them. There was something special about this girl... Dirty blond hair, cute, thin... I never thought I would be walking down the aisle with her on my arm 6 years later!

 

Fast forward a few more years, and now is when I get into what drives me to do this today. On New Year’s eve, 2008 we found out she was pregnant with our first! My son was born 8/30/08, and during her pregnancy, I gained 25 lbs... Putting me at a hefty 185! The heaviest I had ever been by far! I lost some weight, and felt pretty good about myself, but then she got pregnant again! April fool’s day 2010! Two things happened that changed my life forever! First and foremost, My BEAUTIFUL baby girl was born! Second... Someone took a picture of me in the hospital. I had INFLATED to an unhealthy 208! I felt like crap, I was lazy, and lethargic, and didn't feel like myself. I had no confidence, and was just generally unhappy.

 

 I started riding a crappy old mountain bike back and forth to work once a week. 10 miles each way. Once turned to twice, and the MTB turned into a hybrid. Then one day, some guy past me on the bike like I was standing still going up a hill! I yelled to him "How is it F&CK$ING POSSIBLE YOU ARE GOING THAT MUCH FASTER THAN ME!!!!" He replied simply... "It’s not the rider, it’s the equipment" That response prompted a change. I got a road bike, and signed up for the SBRA that next day.

I started riding with a group out of Riverhead, on the east end of Long Island. This group was run by a triathlete named Sam Cila. And riding with him that day, changed my life again. I looked at his bike, and it was this amazing, futuristic thing. I asked him what kind of bike it was, and he began to explain to me about the differences of his Giant carbon fiber Tri bike to my lowly Trek aluminum 1.1. In talking to him, I noticed one glaring difference between he and I. Besides his RIDICULOUS level of fitness, He was missing something that most of us take for granted. Sam is a Wounded Warrior, and he is missing half an arm. While deployed in Afghanistan, Sam's convoy was hit by an IED. And took out most of his vehicle. Sam was lucky, and "only" had half his arm amputated. Sam is also professional Para-triathlete, and competes at Kona every year. During that ride, I got to talking to him about triathlon, and what is involved. The next day I entered my first race. Smith's Point Tri, and never looked back.

 

 

By July 4th weekend, 2010... I had been in the gym every day for the past few months, and running and biking regularly. I got my weight down to a trim 150... And am still there today. Not only had I transformed myself physically, but a mental transformation had taken place as well. I had confidence, and swagger. I felt I could take on the world. That first triathlon I just wanted to finish. My goal was literally "Don't DIE!!!" I came out of the water like primordial ooze! But got on the bike and began to get my strength back. I struggled in the run, but kept on pushing. I finished in the middle of the pack that day. But more importantly... I finished! Toeing that starting line was one of the best decisions I had ever made.

I now have competed in over a dozen Tri's and a handful of duathlons. I am starting to get much better, but have a long way to go! This blog will act as not only a chronicle of my journey to the next level, but as an outlet for me to express the trials and tribulations of being a competitive age group triathlete...but most of all a father and a husband! Balancing my professional career of carrying on my father’s dream... While creating my own dreams, chasing them down, and fulfilling them! Thanks for reading, I welcome your comments, and critiques... and I promise that next time won't be so long!

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