Part of why I began writing a fitness and wellness column is the community surrounding it — those who are actively focused on improving mind, body, and soul share a commonality; bettering themselves, and oftentimes those around them. On October 5, I rode alongside dozens of men and women who were all on a mission to inspire young middle school girls through the sport.
We gathered at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton and prepared for Ride & Wine, a fall fundraiser benefiting i-tri, a nonprofit empowering girls through the completion of a triathlon that has grown significantly since its inception in 2010.
The initial event was a bike ride of choice, either 10, 30, or 60 miles. Originally, I intended on going 30 to push my own personal boundaries, but circumstances beyond my control bumped me into the 10-mile group. Thanks to Sag Harbor Cycle Company I was on my way down Lumber Lane, over to Ocean Road, turning onto Bridge Lane, and over to Gibson Beach on the scenic route. On the way back my group rode up Sagg Main Road, passed the Wölffer Estate, through Narrow Lane, up Lumber again, and back to the winery. The weather was beautiful, and two men made the day more interesting, sporting a tandem bike in matching green and beige outfits.
i-tri began with coaching eight middle school girls at Springs School in East Hampton, and as of 2019, has worked with over 700 across 10 school districts. The organization’s founder, Theresa Roden, has her sights set on national expansion.
During a presentation following the ride I listened to four middle-schoolers in the program with low self-esteem talk about how the preparation for and completion of a triathlon helped them create a better sense of self — that overcoming new challenges makes them prideful. It brings a sense of camaraderie and confidence that no one can take away from them.
It reminded me of my youth, and how each day of middle school was like stepping onto an emotional battlefield. It made me think of my niece, who is 11 years old, and what she must be going through right now. Women everywhere can relate to these young girls, because we all used to be them.
What Roden has created is beyond each individual in the program — she’s building a stronger wave of female empowerment for now and for the future.
This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper here