Each year, i-tri girls’ inspiring programming culminates with the BNB Hamptons Youth Triathlon.
Now in its tenth year, we caught up with Theresa Roden, founder of the empowering youth organization, about this year’s event on Saturday, July 13, the 2nd annual Ride & Wine this fall, i-tri’s plans for global expansion and more.
i-tri is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Could you please discuss the organization’s growth?
TR: We started it back in 2010 at Spring School with just eight girls. We’ve been steadily growing and to the point that now we’re in ten schools from Mastic to Montauk and we’re working with about 165 girls.
Has the triathlon been part of the programming since the beginning?
TR: Yes, originally the triathlon was in East Hampton, but as we grew, we quickly outgrew the capacity for that location. So probably almost five years ago, we moved to Long Beach in Sag Harbor, with the blessing of the Town of Southampton. They’ve been incredibly supportive, and really worked with us to make sure that we have a really great event for, not just for the girls of i-tri, but for the race itself, which is opened to all kids 10 to 17-years-old. It’s a great community event and a way for all kids to be able to be out and get active and, do things that come naturally to kids – swim, biking, and running – lifelong fitness skills. We’re so lucky to be able to live in such a beautiful place where it’s really easy to do all of those things, to want to keep encouraging kids to be out and be active.
For the kids that do participate in the triathlon, what kind of impact does that have on their lives?
TR: The girls in our program, the i-tri program itself started in February, and runs through the race in July. So many of them, probably about 35/40 percent of the girls, start out not being able to swim at all, very fearful of going into the deep end of the pool, and they’re just not proficient swimmers at all. By the end of the program, these girls have gone from not being able to get in the deep end of the pool, to swimming 300 yards in open water.
Again, bike riding… years ago, we would have maybe one or two girls who came to us not being able to ride a bike. This year, I think we had a record number, we had about 15 girls who could not ride a bike, we had to teach them how to ride a bike. So they went from not knowing at all how to ride a bike to every single one of them. We did our first bike – the full seven miles – and every single one of them did the full length, that is an incredible achievement to go from nothing to seven miles on open road, cars, and all of that. So, you know, for so many of them it’s an incredible physical and emotional challenge. We give them all of the tools and support and everything to be successful in achieving that goal. So on the other side of that finish line they are transformed. They believe in themselves in ways that they never could have imagined.
What sorts of programming does i-tri offer leading up to the triathlon?
TR: It’s an incredibly multifaceted program. It’s not just the physical training for swim, bike and run, which is a big part of it. We also work with each group of girls at their schools. Once a week, we’ll go to their schools, the girls gather after school for empowerment sessions. We do an empowerment session once a week, followed by a fitness session that are often donated by local fitness professionals who offer a class for say, Zumba or different things. The girls get to have a taste of all different kinds of fitness activities. Knowing the empowerment sessions, that’s where we kind of work on, the program itself, which has been mind, body, spirit integrated. That’s where we introduce things like visualization and the use of positive affirmations to help them to set goals and to achieve those goals.
They also make connections with girls that they start off as strangers and end up as friends and those go on. These girls go on to make lifelong friends. Not just some of these girls in their school group, but as the crowds get together and train together, they’re meeting girls from all over the East End of Long Island. Those kind of friendships lasts for years, often when a new girl from Tuckahoe will meet up at the high school with the girls from Southampton Intermediate School, they recognize each other and they become fast friends, the same with way out east with the Montauk girls and Springs girls getting to the high school and meeting back up with the middle school girls. It’s a lot of camaraderie and something they take with them for years.
Where do you see i-tri in ten years?
TR: We have been working on a plan to eventually bring i-tri national. The first girls who did i-tri, those first eight, they came back to me the following year and they said we don’t want this to be done. We want any girl who could benefit from doing this to experience what we just experienced. They were really the driving force behind all of the expansion we’ve done so far. Last year, we were given a very big donation to hire a consultant to do some research for us on how we could eventually bring i-tri national and eventually international so that dreaming from the first girls could become a reality and any girl who could benefit from i-tri would have that opportunity. We’ve been working really hard to come up with a plan and a strategy to do that. We’re going to be announcing that plan at our event in October called the Wine & Ride.
Tell us a little bit about the second annual Wine & Ride?
TR: That’s October 5. It’s a group bike ride that starts at Channing Daughters and goes different distances and people can choose anywhere from 10 miles to 30 miles to 60 miles. The participants will do the ride, they choose what distance they want to ride, and then it’s followed by a luncheon and wine tasting at the estate of Molly Channing. At that event, we will be making the announcement on our plans for bringing i-tri out into the world.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TR: We are doing two events with The Spur coming up, which are kind of fun. Those are July 17th at 6 p.m. at The Spur in Southampton and then August 7th at 6 p.m. at The Spur in East Hampton. It’s called Change your Mindset, and so it’s a kind of a mind, body, spirit, goal setting workshop with Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Ph.D., one of our board members that teaches a fitness class, IntenSati, which is a phenomenal – it’s combining that.
Registration for the BNB Hamptons Youth Triathlon ends on Tuesday, July 9. The Triathlon at Long Beach (1001 Noyack-Long Beach Road, Sag Harbor) will feature a 300-yard open-water swim, 7 mile open-road bike ride, and 1.5 mile run. Registration opens on-site at 6:30 a.m.
For more information, visit itrigirls.org.