In 2015 professional triathlete Sarah Piampiano finished 7th at the Ironman World Championships. Despite the long hours she logs training, racing, recovering and traveling as a professional athlete she still manages to find time to be involved in the community through both The Habit Project, a online community found by Piampiano that supports mutual journeys towards healthy and positive nutrition, fitness and life balance habits, as well as the non-profit program i-tri. I-tri is a community-based program for at-risk girls out of Long Island that fosters self-respect, personal empowerment, self confidence and healthy lifestyle through triathlon.

We caught up with Sarah to learn more about i-tri and how she got involved with this amazing program.

How did you get involved with i-tri and what particularly drew you to this organization?
When I was living in New York and I was transitioning from working full-time and racing as an amateur to racing as a professional. I felt like I wanted to be involved in some type of non-profit group, give back and inspire others with my story and what I was doing. There are a lot of big organizations and big programs out there but for me I wanted to work with something a little bit smaller, where I felt like I could really have an impact.

I started researching and I came across i-tri. I really felt like it was the perfect fit because I am all about female empowerment and building confidence. It just seemed like a really natural fit so I reached out to them. It started with me going out a couple of times with the girls. I did some workouts with them, talked to them about triathlon, answered their questions and things like that. When I moved out to California I stopped working with them because I didn’t feel like I was in a place at that time to dedicate the amount of time I wanted to.

About a year and half or two years ago I reached out to them again and told them I would really like to be involved again and that I wanted to talk to them about how to make it work. They wanted me to join the board which I am part of now. In addition to that I reach out the girls so that can ask me questions and talk to me about basically anything they want to talk about. For me it is all about being a role model. On the board I am working towards trying to create an awareness of the program on a more national level and helping them think about sponsorship.

In addition to all the things you mentioned above you also hosted a bike event last weekend to help raise money for their program. What did that event entail?
Since I am not on the east coast I am not able to go and volunteer at events they host for the girls so this is a way that I can give back to help them with their program. Last year I helped raise money through at The Habit Project Launch Party and this year I partnered with Boheme, a sponsor of mine and winery based in Occidental. The event consisted on a 30-50 mile ride followed by lunch at this great restaurant called Hazel in Occidental and wine tasting. The owner of Boheme provided the wine tasting, talked to people about the wine and then made the wine available for purchase. A portion of the money made from the wine went directly to i-tri.

After reading this Q&A if people are interested in helping with i-tri and they are not on the East Coast how could they become involved?
One of the things that we talked about was getting the program out on the West Coast and being a national program. The program itself has a curriculum that they use in New York right now. And what we are doing is working on building off that curriculum to get to a place where people can implement it on both a regional and national level. One of the things that they are working on is attracting new board members in areas outside of just the New York area. They are hosting parties and gatherings to help increase the awareness of i-tri and working to recruit new potential board members. One of the things I was thinking about doing and that I would love to do is to put on an event to educate people about i-tri and potentially recruit new board members.

It sounds like a great program. I am looking forward to seeing it grow. So I noticed a trend with the i-tri and your own ventures with The Habit project. Both of them seem to focus on healthy lifestyle choices to make personal improvements. Is this just a coincidence or is this a topic that you are particularly passionate about?
The girls in the i-tri program are typically 16-17. This is such a critical point in their lives in terms of making good habits and building self-confidence. It is important for people to be involved in their lives to help promote good habits and self-awareness. And with The Habit Project – we all can use a little help, support and encouragement in our own personal endeavors to build healthy habits. So I do think they go hand-in-hand. Both are geared towards making better choices which is important to me.

So I can’t let you go without asking you at least one training or racing question. This year you made the first cut for Kona versus last year when you qualified in the second round. How will your lead up to Kona this year be different than last year?
My whole season this year, which ultimately has affected my lead up to Kona in general, has been different. I have not raced nearly as much. At this time last year I had already done two Ironmans and raced at least six to seven 70.3s. I had a very full schedule early in the season where this year I have only raced two 70.3s and an Olympic distance so far. So my whole season has been different.

This year has been much more geared toward training, skill development, building strength and things like that. It has been really interesting. My numbers in one of my sessions that didn’t go particularly well were better than my best numbers last year. I am definitely at a different level this year. I think part of that is due to a big focus on developing strength. I have been doing strength training three times a week which I didn’t do last year because I was racing and recovering all the time.

Since your numbers are stronger this year is your race strategy in Kona going to be different than last year?
I am doing Ironman Vineman this weekend and then I will probably be doing a bit of a longer build up into Kona. In terms of strategy I don’t know yet. I think the strategy I had last year certainly worked very well for me. I think the expectation of what I will do this year will be different. My swim is my swim. I am not really focused on the swim. For me the ideal thing would be for me to not lose any time on the bike to the lead women and then run under three hours. That is the big goal for me in Kona this year. I want to run 2:55, 2:56, 2:57 – somewhere in that range. I want top three and you have to run well to get it.

Thank you Sarah for taking time to talk with us and thank you for being involved with the community! Good luck with the rest of your season and at the Ironman World Championships in October.

For more information about itri girls visit:
To learn about the Habit Project:

Image by Sean Dulany. (Oceanside 70.3; 2015)