RaceMill Collegiate: Carlie Pietsch of USC

The Final Dance

Hometown Los Angeles

School University of Southern California

Sport Triathlon


RM:  How did you find your sport of choice?

CP:  In undergrad (I am a graduate student now) I met someone who ran triathlon and I thought it sounded fun. I used to jog to relieve stress but was never a high school athlete. I joined a triathlon gym class offered in my undergrad, and took it almost ever semester after!


RM:  What drives your competitiveness?

CP:  I am driven by previous race times, my teammates, and the constant battle of mind over body. I am often internally competing with teammates on the track and in the pool that usually outperform me in a given discipline (swimming, biking, running). Often, what once seemed futile, turns into a huge and consistent performance gain. However, to maintain a competitive but supportive team dynamic is a fine line. That's why I prefer during races to compete with myself. I am always trying to PR my race distances, but more than that, I am trying to push the limits of the effort I put into each segment of the sport. I push myself to accept more pain, I put my mind versus my body. I ask myself, in the words of Lil'John "Turn down for what?" The answer is always, turn it up!


RM:  Athlete that inspires you? Why?

CP:  Jesse Thomas- the Wildflower King. Wildflower Triathlon is a race I have done many times and have loved watching him win, repeat, and three-peat despite insane injuries! His perseverance reminds me that everyone is this sport overcomes injuries and insecurities to perform their best. He also writes a really open blog post, he shares his mental state freely with anyone who cares to follow. I think many other pro-athletes keep their highs and lows more closely guarded.  On my team, it varies every year. We always have new recruits, many who can not swim, bike, or run well or at all before joining. Their insane motivation (even after gnarly crashes) is so inspiring. They always get right back up again. They inspire me to be the best athlete I can be, and the best teammate. Supporting their journey reminds me that triathlon truly can be a team sport.


RM:  How many years have you been competing?

CP:  8 years! Wow!


RM:  Perfect weekend workout trip... where to? what do you bring? Itemize it! Tell us why it's in your car and why we need it.

CP:  Cycling isn't my best sport but it's my favorite. Its also the place I think I could see the most improvement. I would ideally hit the canyons in the Santa Monica mountains outside of Malibu or the highways into the San Gabriels.

I bring my bike (Specialized Tarmac). My first bike. Nice and light for climbing. I wish I had a compact though....

My Garmin cycling computer. Mileage and Heart Rate!

My favorite kit (Fast and Loud by SmashQueen designed by Ironwoman Hilary Biscay (A USC Tri alumni!!)). You definitely need the kits designed by her. Bright colors, aggressive designs (a rarity in the female sports market). There is a spare water bottle (filled) for when I finish the ride and have no water left on my bike.

I will often pack a thermal lunch box so fruit stays cold in the hot car. Oranges are key. Hydrating and sweet.

Foam roller to get the kinks out for day 2 of riding!

Compression socks- also to get ready for whatever is coming the next day.

Comfy tech shorts and T to change into ASAP

Chamois style towel for the quintessential towel change. Packs down small in the gear bag!

Something to clean my face with. Sweat and sunscreen and road grit need to come off ASAP.

If we're in Malibu, a swim suit to hit the beach with! No better ice bath than the cold Pacific Ocean! We have team Jolyn brand suits with our emblem on them!

The watch comes in handy for timing said ocean ice bath! (10-15 minutes)


RM:  Group Training or do you prefer solitude? why?

CP:  Group!

My favorite training partner just moved to Alaska this past year. The downturn in my enthusiasm for morning rides has been significant. For me, being committed requires one additional person that I have to be accountable for. While the group aspect can slow down set up/prep time for a workout, having someone to celebrate/commiserate with at the top of every climb and the end of every swim set and especially the finish line is the reason I do this sport. I am dreading graduation and leaving my teammates.




RM:  Best result so far?

CP:  That's hard to answer. Collegiate Nationals 2014 I ran Olympic distance PR of 2:15 and change. I was really happy with that result. It was my best set of run splits. I had a strong and fearless swim.  I also completed my first Ironman (Tempe 2013). Default PR!! Finishing was so fantastic. I have never worked so consistently toward one race effort and seen the results so clearly. At that distance, the training directly translates to the race day experience. I was proud of myself for turning practice directly into performance.


RM:  What are you working on right now?

CP:  In my alternate life? I am 6th year PhD student. I defended my thesis a year ago. Right now, I am working on job applications to find a job in academia (to be a scientific researcher and teacher) and also working on publishing my research findings.


RM:  What are you training for now?

CP:  Collegiate Nationals! Olympic Distance Race. I just got out of the pool from a taper swim workout. We race Saturday (April 25th). It's my last shot at collegiate level racing.


RM:  Training secrets? Care to share?

CP:  I can't say I have secrets! As an experienced member of the team, I answer all questions my teammates put to me openly and honestly!

Consistency and sacrifice would be the only answers I can give. It is easy to say and VERY hard to put into practice.


Since I joined the USC Triathlon Team 5.5 years ago, I have seen gains in my performance every year. Triathlon is a sport that takes a LOT of training. To balance and master all of the disciplines takes years. I can not claim to have mastered any of them. By performing at all the practices my coach lays out for me, I know I can continue to see improvements. That's where the sacrifice comes in. To perform at each practice means a lot of things. I don't stay out late with friends, I don't have that "one more beer", and sometimes I forgo a hike or mountain bike ride with friends in order to be in peak shape for a key workout! There is a balance too, and I take advantage of the off season or easier weekends to make time for the important non-triathletes in my life. Its a bigger challenge than racing itself.


Oh, and get a watch! The number of new athletes that swim and run without watches appalls me! How do you know your pace and how do you push yourself without data? While I have always had a hard time maintaining a training log, having an idea of your 100 swim and 400 track times is SO important for seeing gains and transcending what you thought used to be a limit. Mind versus body versus the clock!! My watch has helped me internalize my pace so much and definitely drives me on race day toward performance goals.


Okay, one more secret. I read this on a blog once, and I can not remember whose. A female triathlete. I have looked for the article since then, and can't find it. Here goes: DON'T write your story during the race! Don't narrate  the excuses you'll tell your family/friends/coach at the finish for why you couldn't or didn't XYZ (perform). Take each challenge or upset in stride, push through, and continue to work hard. One set back in one segment of the sport should not carry over into to the next. One bad lap on the run course does not count you out of the race. It is not over until it is over. Don't be afraid!




RM:  Do you have a dream race you want to create?

CP:  Selfish/Selfless Plug. While I am graduating this year, I would LOVE for USC Triathlon to have their own race. In the conference, almost every team is able to host a triathlon for the other teams to participate in. Ideally, I would love to see it happen in Griffith Park in LA. There is a pool on Los Feliz Blvd just outside of the park and the bike could be laps in the park followed by an amazing run on trails in the park as well. It would likely require two transition sections to limit road closures. A race is important for our team because it builds our credibility in the conference! Ken, our race director, is leading us in the direction of a race for our team. I am excited for the future!


Training Tracks:

Turn down for What? (Lil'John)

Sugar (Maroon 5)

Dark Horse (Katy Perry)

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