Written by Tamia Santiago
Caitlin grew up in a small town in Virginia. She is the daughter of a doctor and runner, so her childhood was active. She was involved in almost every sport, but this led to a jack of all trades effect where she was relatively good in all sports, but great in none. She would swim as a child and even did some relays but running was her thing. She ran her first 5k at 8-years-old and says training like this is what kept her coming back. However, she had talent without proper guidance. Injuries caught up to her and her love for running became too painful. Her athletic career took a detour and she focused more on arts and music for the next ten years. But it wasn’t long before her purpose came crashing into her life.
A Leap of Faith
“One day I was biking to the gym, and I got doored by a cab. The passenger swung their door out right at the moment I was passing, and I flew off my bike. I tore a bunch of ligaments in my knee and had to get surgery.” Sometimes the best opportunities hit the hardest. Caitlin did not find her career in college, but instead the passenger door of a taxi in New York City. At the time, Caitlin was working at a record label, and as exciting as the music industry looks, Caitlin described her job setting as rather depressing. Layoffs were unpredictable and the field was not her passion of work. “Every day I would go to my normal job. Then, I would go to PT, and I would hate my normal job but love going to PT.”
Physical therapy was Caitlin’s dream career, and she did not hesitate to pursue it. “I quit my job and decided to go back to school for the prerequisite courses for PT school...It took me 2 years just to finish all of my general electives.” It was not long before Caitlin found herself at a physical therapy school in Colorado miles away from bustling New York City.
Shortly after graduating PT school, Caitlin was able to land a job at Build as a physical therapist and biomechanical specialist. “Our goal is to build a better you, and that’s why the lab is called Build. It’s a unique place and I’m very fortunate to work there. Every day I can’t believe I work where I do because there’s not a lot of clinics like this around.” Caitlin was fortunate to find a place like Build just 2 years out of physical therapy school. Build was a great job, but more importantly, it was a community based in helping people achieve healthier living. Missions like these are what gravitate Caitlin to an organization, so when her friend pitched a potential ambassadorship with a particular company, Caitlin did not hesitate to act.
Professional athlete and friend Rachel Olson introduced Varlo to Caitlin. “I looked them up and I looked at what their mission was. I thought to myself that this is such a cool company. It’s a small company, but it has so much potential. I loved the kind of outreach they were doing and the goals and missions they had as a company. I also just loved the apparel. The gear was so sweet.” Caitlin mentioned that Varlo had a uniqueness that was not yet prevalent in the industry, so she gladly reached out to Founder Soj Jibowu and things went from there. Today, both Caitlin and her boyfriend are ambassadors for Varlo.
Caitlin emphasized how important the diversity and inclusion aspect of Varlo’s outreach was to her. Diversifying the face of multisport hits home for Caitlin as she noted lack of diversity as one of the biggest cultural shocks when moving from New York City to Boulder. “Living in Boulder it’s a great place, but lacking in the diversity front. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I moved out here. My boyfriend is from Mexico and he’s probably the only nonwhite person here in Boulder, so being able to support a brand that is passionate about being inclusive and bringing minorities into sport is something I’m 100 percent on board with.”
Focusing on TomorrowCaitlin signed up for her first Ironman at 25-years-old, and it would take just five years of competitive ironman training before she qualified for Kona in Ironman Louisville 2019. Caitlin described this to be one of the best races of her life.
The swim was cancelled, and she had to start with her weakest link, the bike. When she came from the bike, she received the horrifying news that she was fifth in her age group. “I was kind of devastated because I knew there was only going to be one Kona slot for my age group. I needed to win my age group in order to make Kona, so when I heard that I was fifth, I didn’t know if I would make it.” But Caitlin is an all or nothing type of person, and that is the exact mentality she entered the run with. “So, I started my run with a pace that I thought was comfortable and it ended up being faster than I’ve ever ran and I said, ‘I don’t know if I can hold this but I’m going to try.’ Then, 5 miles went by, 10 miles went by, 15 miles went by, and I’d see my boyfriend and sister throughout the course, and they’d shout, ‘Now you’re fourth in your age group. You’re two minutes behind third.’”
With everything she had she passed second placed and finished second in her age group and fourth overall. Caitlin discovered the unlimited capabilities she possessed when she focused on the goals of tomorrow. Of course, she needed to place first to qualify for Kona, but she was proud of what she accomplished. Luckily, a Kona slot rolled down from another age group, and Caitlin was able to qualify for Kona after all.
“The second you think you know everything is when things go wrong.” Caitlin stated that she’s far from her peak. She recognizes her accomplishments while simultaneously maintaining focus on what else there is to accomplish. Both her career and hobby are full of possibilities. “I feel like I’ve really found my place and it’s a beautiful mix of what I enjoy doing personally and what I get to do from a career perspective.”