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Professional triathlete and coach Rachel Casanta was called into action when GOTRIbal offered its support to espnW's Adena Andrews as she took on a new challenge, triathlon. Casanta recently spoke with GOTRIbal about how she got into sports and how the quickest way to quiet "mean girls" is to simply have the best legs in high school.
GOTRIbal: What were your early experiences with endurance sports?
Rachel Casanta: My dad started jogging at 5:30 a.m. when I was 8 years old. Like any little girl, I wanted to spend time with my dad, so I went with him. I was already up attempting to do aerobics along with a TV program called "Morning Stretch." I wasn't very good at coordinating the steps and kept crashing into the coffee table. Jogging with my dad was a better, safer option! We ran to a man-made lake nearby and then turned around and headed home. We always ended with a sprint down the hill to our house. My dad told me it was six miles, but later I figured out it was two to three miles.
As for cycling, there was one really tall dude in high school who rode a Cannondale road bike to school. Mind you, our school district was geographically very large. His house was 20 miles from school. I thought that he was quirky and started joining him. I lived only 14 miles from school but would accompany him from time to time. Other school kids were pretty mean. They joked about our stylish Bell helmets and our 'spandex' shorts. Fortunately I also knew that it was apparently common knowledge that I had the best legs in school. That was enough for me to deal with the "mean girls."
My bike friend and I later partnered as a relay for a bike-run event. He cycled, I ran and we won. Winning was cool, but we had such a good time being the youngsters in an event that really had nobody young competing.
GT: What was your favorite discipline, if you had one?
RC: Honestly all I knew was running. With the exception of cross-country skiing when blizzards hit, it was all running all the time. My coach discouraged me from downhill skiing and despite heavy recruiting from the basketball coach, I stayed the course with running. I wanted to earn a scholarship and that meant staying healthy and running fast!
GT: What were your early struggles?
RC: My early struggles were interwoven with the same struggles of any teenager. In 10th grade I grew quite a bit, finding my former 5-4 self at 5-8 and later 5-9-plus. I struggled with body image and the added weight. I was an overachiever and very tuned into academics and my training, I caught some flak from classmates for that. There was a lot of teasing. Oddly that just motivated me more.
GT: What do you love most about participating as an athlete?
RC: I love being outdoors (in any weather) and being free to clear my mind. I sometimes wonder if in a different situation I could have ended up a person on many prescription drugs. I often feel like my head is spinning out of control with information. Being athlete has always tempered that head noise! I like the structure of training routines, they have always served as my launching pad to succeed in the other areas of my life.
GT: What annoys you now that you're a coach, that never seemed to be an issue when you were an athlete?
RC: Impatience. As a coach with Hypercat, it really frustrates me when an athlete 'wants it now' and doesn't really commit themselves to the real work (and time) that is involves to reach a goal. I'm also not great with whiners. We choose to swim, bike, run, and whining is just a waste of time.
GT: What advice do you have for athletes?
RC: Be honest with yourself. Know what makes you tick and what motivations are behind your desire to do endurance sports. I think it's very important to understand why you do what you do.
It's having a clear sense of your purpose and reason for doing multisport that will help you overcome hurdles in training and to get out the door when staying in a warm bed seems the better option.
Additionally, keep it all in perspective. Nobody really cares how you perform in a race, except you, your coach, your spouse and maybe your mom (but your mom really just wants you to be happy). In the end it is only sport.
Check out the entire interview with Rachel Casanta.
Tanya Maslach, CEO, GOTRIbal. Triathlete, entrepreneur and restless advocate for women in endurance sports.