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The Castaldo Chronicles Part 1: Signing Up

By Eric Castaldo | July 29, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

eric castaldo

“The hardest part of any race is signing up.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have stated those words to friends whom I have encouraged to compete in their first triathlon. I explain to them that signing up is more difficult than any swim, bike or run as it indicates commitment. The first time I signed up was in 1998, as a first year medical student, to help a friend through a difficult divorce. For my wife, Miki, it was in 2012. Now I consider myself a triathlon junkie. But what did I just sign us up for?

As a former collegiate and professional baseball player and as a practicing general surgeon I am goal directed. After a five-year hiatus from triathlon due to my general surgery residency at Vanderbilt University, beginning my private practice and starting a family, I signed up for the multisport lifestyle and immersed myself in it fully and set a goal. My goal was to sign up for the USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships. This meant qualifying.

My plan was to attempt to finish in the top third of my age group at St. Anthony’s in 2014. I astonished myself with an age group win at the 2013 Hammerhead Sprint Triathlon, my first ever podium finish! When I got the email indicating I had qualified, it was a day of rejoicing.

So we signed up. We signed up for a 1,100 mile cross-country trip from Gainesville, Florida, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a Honda Odyssey with 129,000 miles on its odometer, two boys (Casey, 9, and Cale, 8), two bikes and no idea where we would stay, how we would continue to train or how we would make it a memorable family vacation that everyone can enjoy (cue images of Clark W. Griswold). To throw us for a loop, our 12-year old dog Dixie was recently diagnosed with leukemia. The sheer logistics of this journey are mind-numbing. We still aren’t sure of the exact details of our route. We do know we will detour to Panama City, Florida, to leave Dixie in the care of my in-laws while we are away. We also know that I will do the Olympic-distance race on Aug. 9 and Miki will do the sprint-distance race on Aug. 10.

eric castaldo For the last year, Miki and I have had to juggle our training schedules around my work and on-call schedule, our boys’ school schedules and their numerous after-school activities while trying to maintain a semblance of balance in the household. There have been many days when training had to be sacrificed. Many other days where we have had to make Casey and Cale ride their bikes next to us while we run or sit on the pool deck and do homework while we swim. I am sure this scenario is quite familiar to other fellow age-groupers with children.

We are leaving Thursday, July 31. Our proposed route will take us through Nashville, Chicago, then to Neenah, Wisconsin, to stay with friends before arriving in Milwaukee on Friday, Aug. 8.

Now we will take on the challenge of trying to maintain our fitness while traveling and attempting to make this a fun trip for the whole family. Can we find a pool to swim in (our favorite training activity)? Will we have the chance to eat at our favorite Nashville restaurant McDougal’s (trust us, it’s amazing)? Did we pack our wetsuits and bike helmets? Can we get to the top of the Willis Tower or see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago? Can we find a safe place to ride bikes or run? Furthermore, we cannot train simultaneously, as someone has to watch over the kids. How are we going to coordinate this?

Thus begins our journey to the 2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.

Maybe the hardest part of these races won’t be signing up?

Visit to learn more about the 2014 Olympic-Distance National Championships.