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I usually hate excuses. In my line of work I think I’ve heard them all, thousands of times. They drive me nuts. I have one client who’s actually a pretty big celebrity in her own right. I love how she never uses excuses. She just says, “You know what, I don’t want to work out today.” I love that. There is one time I like excuses. I’m entertained by this excuse. I started hearing it about 28 years ago. It was around when I started cycling. It’s an excuse other cyclists will give. It’s the ones you’re about to ride with for the day, as to why they’re going to be slow. If you’re a cyclist you know what I’m talking about. You’ve either heard it, or done it. In my case, it’s both. Some of the favorites: “I went hard yesterday so I don’t have anything today.” “I went to the gym and did heavy squats last night.” “I had insomnia and went to sleep at 4 a.m.” “I’m just getting over the flu…or a cold.” You name it, I’ve heard them all. As a matter of fact there was a guy from when I lived in Brentwood who had an excuse literally every time. He wasn’t actually a riding buddy of mine. He was of a different ilk. He was the guy you usually run into while riding. Then you spend the rest of the ride trying to figure out his name. I’d always refer to him as Dude or Bro. This particular dude had a laundry list of excuses each time he caught up with me. I’d listen, then ride him right off my wheel. I’ll never forget one time he told me it was the first time he’d been on his bike in two weeks. He said he had a bad flu and ended up in a hospital. I guess he had forgotten that we had ridden together the weekend before. And I had seen him on his bike three times that week as I headed to different clients. I always knew it was him. He rode without a helmet. He was just way too cool. I told you that to tell you this. I met Caroline Lettieri a couple of years ago along with another girl named Karen on a bike ride. We all seemed to get along nicely, so we planned to ride again together. I learned a lot about those two women. I also learned that they were highly competitive. Not just with themselves or with each other, but they wanted to do well every time they went out. They were both marathoners and triathletes. I was in Tempe when Karen did her first long course triathlon. And I remember the determination she had. This year was Caroline’s year to go for it. But early on Caroline developed injuries. And those injuries began to plague her mind as well as her body. She was having issues with her calf muscles. It seems as though she kept pulling them around her Achille’s tendon. I sent her to one of my favorite physical therapists. He was able to help but the injuries kept coming back. I would often see Caroline running in the pre-dawn hours as I headed to my first client. We would often ride on the weekends. She never made excuses for her leg. She wanted to know what to do to stop it. I wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do.
Caroline was always a strong rider but something about her riding style didn’t look right. I kept chalking it up to the fact that triathletes think they have to ride time trial bikes all the time. It just didn’t make sense. Why did such a good athlete look so awkward on a bike? I often told her she looked like a monkey fucking a football as she rode down the rode. Then one day it hit me. It wasn’t Caroline and it wasn’t her bike. It was the crank arms. You may remember when I called her 59 inches of inspiration. If you do the math, that puts her at 4’11”. With all the experts in the world she went to, no one cared to check to see the crank arms on her overpriced bike. The arms were too long. She bought a shorter set and continued to see the physical therapist. Slowly but surely she got stronger. Caroline seemed to be sailing toward the event with ease. That’s when everything went south again. Her father, who she loves dearly, became extremely ill. She had to take off of work and go home to New York to see her father. When she returned to Los Angeles, she told me that leaving his bedside was the toughest thing she ever had to do. She knew she would never see him alive again. She was right. About a week later, she went home again to bury a man she loved dearly. This time when she returned to L.A. she was distraught. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to do the triathlon. With less than a month to go, she got her grieving butt back on the bike and began to swim and run. Grief stricken, she spoke of her father often during the rides. She often said she wasn’t sure why she was continuing. To be honest, I’m not sure I could have. As Caroline and I drove from California to Tempe, Arizona, she told me her father always wanted to see her in a triathlon. But he never had an opportunity. She said Tempe would be the first time her dad would see her. “You know, he’s going to have the best seat in the house,” she said. I’m not a very religious man, but I believed my friend. I believed her dad would be there.
Caroline finished her Ironman event with blood blisters on her toes that were bigger than I had ever seen before. She finished despite the fact that she suffers from lupus. And she finished without any excuses. In my earlier blog about her, I said I would be there when my friend got in the water that morning and I would be there to hug her at the finish line. I watched her cross but I was too far into the crowd to push my way through. But that’s OK. Caroline had someone much better to greet her at the finish line. Only moments before she crossed, the current world champion triathlete, a woman who set a new world record that day, Chrissie Wellington, showed up as if on cue, as Caroline crossed the finish line. She got a big smile and a hug from the champion. Do I think Caroline’s Italian father was watching that day? Absolutely. I also think he pulled some strings with the Big Guy to have that kind of finish for his daughter.