Inspiration Found by Racing with i-tri
By Carrie Ann Salvi
Despite the mud and puddles on the ground and the rain and chill in the air on Saturday afternoon, i-tri’s sixth annual Turbo Tri fundraising triathlon at Maidstone Park in East Hampton was a well-attended success. Registration, dinner, and sponsorships brought in about $21,000, according to Theresa Roden, the event’s founder and executive director.
Seventy-five racers ranged from hardcore Ironman triathletes to a team of three “Unfit Mothers” who rode, according to Roden, to show their kids that anybody could compete. The Turbo Tri consisted of a 300-yard swim, 7-mile bike and 1.7-mile run.
David Horton, 46, of Remsenburg finished first overall in 36:46.15 and was followed by Anthony Daunton, 24, in 37:31.60 and Noell Kelly, 44, in 37:57.65. The women’s winner was Kittredge Zuk, 32, with a time of 39:33.54, while Southampton’s Sally Dawson, 38, finished second in 41:08.86. Third place went to Mary Lenzi, 54, with a time of 42:02.50.
The real stars of the event, however, were the i-tri girls, especially Destiny Milnes, 12, who overcame tremendous hurdles this year.
“She was bullied and used to come home crying,” her mother, Kim Tibbetts, said on Tuesday. On top of that, her family has been through extreme hardship the last two years. “Everything went downhill for her,” her mother said. “She had no friends, she was picked on, she had no confidence.”
All of that has changed, thanks to the help of i-tri.
“She made so many friends. She feels like she can do things,” her mother said. Despite obstacles that included a move to Hampton Bays, “she saw this through to the end, and put her heart and soul into it,” Tibbetts added.
Destiny was cheered as she crossed the finish line on Saturday. Although i-tri’s inaugural youth triathalon will take place in July, Milnes ran a modified version of the adult race because she will not attend that event. “We are all so proud of her,” Tibbetts said.
“I don’t mind what people tell me about myself,” Destiny said about what she learned during her first year in the i-tri program. “It doesn’t matter what they think as long as I feel great.”
Roden knows what it feels like to be an outsider. “I dreaded gym glass,” she said, “I was overweight.” It wasn’t until her her 30s that she had the motivation to start training after seeing some athletes compete on the beach on Block Island.
After crossing a finish line of her own, Roden realized how transforming the journey was. She saw how going a bit further or faster each day made her feel. “I wanted to encourage everyone,” she said. Looking at her teenage daughter she thought about what a different experience she would have had if she had learned these skills at that age.
Aside from the physical aspects, i-tri addresses mental issues “in a very positive way,” Roden said, adding that the program helps kids meet others who have come through hard times and realize that things can get better.
“My mom saw what she needed to change and she took action on it,” said Abby Roden, Theresa’s daughter.
“Fifty Springs School teachers are racing today. They’ve seen what a difference i-tri makes.” There have been studies on how i-tri has improved their math and science grades, she added.
“There is no definition of what an itri girl looks like,” she said. The girls range from sibling caretakers with Spanish-speaking parents “to blonde-haired blue-eyed girls who don’t think they’re pretty,” she said.
Abby also spoke about Annette MacNiven, the girls’ “fallen amazing coach” and world-class mountain-biker who died in September. MacNiven, a member of Team USA who was a part of a group that worked to add off-road biking as an Olympic sport, was remembered on Saturday for her spirit, laughter and dedication.
Abby recalled how MacNiven put in extra time to teach a struggling young girl how to ride a bike. That girl became “one of the best bikers we had,” she said, adding that she has since taken leadership roles in her class. She said the girls use MacNiven’s “inner light to help us.” Since many of the i-tri girls will learn to swim and ride a bike for the first time, the program hires certified, professional instructors in swimming, running and cycling.
The program began with eight girls at the Springs School, and currently enrolls 60 from five schools. The program is free to the students. “We are a family. You don’t have to be poor, you don’t have to be depressed, you don’t have to be heavy,” said Abby Roden, “Reach out, you can be part of it.”
Anna Rafferty, a 14-year-old from Springs, said on Saturday that she will soon compete in her third triathlon. “I was really quiet and didn’t really have any friends,” she said. “The girls in the program are like sisters. I feel confident from all of the people that support me.”
“It’s something I can always depend on. It’s a second family. They will always be there for me,” said
Kaya Mulligan 15, an i-tri alumni coach approaching tenth grade at East Hampton High School. “It has opened so many doors to my life.”
“If something is happening, you can always talk about it. You can feel secure,” said Tiffany Farez, 11. She said i-tri has empowered her and helped her not to “feel really gloomy.” She said the group meets every Thursday and every Saturday at practice. “We talk about our problems. We let it go. If you are very sad, people can comfort you,” she added.
“I used to be so negative and I used to bring myself down. Now I am positive and I like to help others,” said
Pamela Ramirez, 14.
Also recognized on Saturday was the girls’ swim coach and internationally-known triathlete, Steve Tarpinian, who died in March. Kathleen King spoke the honors.
“He was my friend for 25 years,” King said. “He made me laugh and feel loved.” King said Tarpinian was humble despite his 17 Ironman competitions, which consist of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run all in the same day. King asked for all to live as he did, “Be kind always. Do not speak negativity against yourself or others. Love freely and openly. Always drink good coffee and eat dark chocolate.”
Next up for the itri girls, in addition to meeting their fundraising goal by Tuesday, June 30, at http://goodcircle.org/projects/i-tri/, is their first youth triathalon at Long Beach in Sag Harbor on July 15 at 5:30 p.m. Registration is open to all kids from 10 to 17, and volunteers are needed.
“We’ve been dreaming of this for years,” Theresa Roden said.