About Cari Soleo

I am originally from Greenville, NC but have been living in the Triangle area for more than twenty years since graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels!) For most of my middle and high school years I played tennis, but in college I took up running to stay in shape, and continued to run on and off after school. Like many other moms, I started running again to get back into shape after having kids. In the summer of 2006 I decided to take on my first half marathon that October. While training for my half, I started swimming for cross training, which I really enjoyed. At the time, it seemed like everyone I met was talking about the sport of triathlon, so the following year I added biking to the mix and trained for my first sprint triathlon at Riverwood in April of 2007. One race and I was hooked! Over the past seven years, I have done many races, from sprint to half ironman distance, and have run several half and full marathons. My husband trains and competes in triathlons with me, and we have two kids, aged 11 and 13, who are competitive swimmers (and way faster than me). I am very excited to join such a talented team this year and look forward to another great season!

Sandling Beach Formula 1 Sprint


I raced Setup Events’ Sandling Beach Formula 1 sprint last weekend and had a blast!  I enjoyed the Old School Aquathon races put on by One Step Beyond and FS Series years ago, so I thought it would be fun to mix it up at the end of the season with something different again this year.  This race consisted of a 5 mile two-loop bike course inside the Sandling Beach Park, followed by an out and back 2k run, 500 meter open water swim, another 5 mile bike and 2k run, and then repeat the swim bike and run one more time (15 mile bike, 6k run and 1000 swim total).

The first bike was a self seeded time trial start, so I got near the front with Bri Gaal and several of my TMS-IOS teammates and headed out on the course a little after 9:00 am (the later start was really nice).  The course was only 2.5 miles long so there were lots of turns, a few hills and three speed bumps in each direction.    Despite these obstacles it was still possible to build some decent speed on the course.

The run was in the opposite direction from the bike course and started uphill, which made it even harder to adjust to running. However, it did have some flatter sections in the middle and a downhill finish!

The swim was nice but very shallow due to low water levels.  It was wetsuit legal (77 degrees I think), but since the swim was not first I don’t think anyone bothered to put on a wetsuit in transition.  The water actually felt perfect without a wetsuit.  It definitely felt different swimming after biking and running.  My arms felt like lead, and I felt like I was barely moving.  The shallow water certainly didn’t help.

Mentally, it was nice breaking up the bike,  run and swim into smaller chunks.  It was easier to focus on each section since they were short, even though there were 7 transitions!  It was also nice not having to worry about cars on the bike course.

I ended up 5th overall female, behind teammates Kelsey and Stephanie who were 1st and 3rd overall. Not bad considering the fact that it has been a very tough summer for me training wise.  Since turning 50 last year, I haven’t felt the same physically, and really struggled with my training in the humidity this summer, especially on the run.  However, now that the weather is finally starting to turn I am starting to feel more like myself and look forward to winter training, and hopefully a better racing season next summer!  This race also reminded me that racing in triathlons is fun, even when you’re not in the best shape.  I hope Setup Events will keep this race on the schedule for next year!

Winter Training

It’s often hard to get motivated to train during the winter when it’s cold and dark outside, and your next race is months away.  However, it can be fun with a little extra effort. Here are my tips for making the most of winter training.

Winter is a good time to work on your swimming since that is something you can do indoors.  I recommend swimming with a local masters group, especially if you aren’t feeling super motivated. Training with a group is so much more fun than always swimming on your own. There are usually a variety of different workouts, coaches are available to help with technique, and training partners push you to work harder. Also, for a change of pace try signing up to compete in a masters swim meet. There are usually a couple of meets in Cary or Greensboro that are open to US Masters swimmers. Here are some local swim clubs that have masters groups:

  • YOTA Swim Team: masters locations in both Cary and Raleigh M-F 6:30-7:30 am. For more information: www.yotaswimteam.com
  • RSA: Raleigh practice at 5:15-6:30 am or 11:00-12:15 pm most mornings and Sun 7:30-8:45. For more information: www.swimrsa.org
  • Raleigh Area Masters (RAM): Practices in Raleigh M-W-F at 5:30 am or 12:00 pm, T/Th evenings at 6:45 pm, and Sat/Sun at 8:00.  For more information: www.swimram.org
  • TAC Titans: Practices in Cary 6:00-7:15 M-W-F or 6:30-7:45 T-Th and 11:45-1:00 M-F.  For more information: www.tactitans.com


Running can also be a lot of fun in the winter with the right clothes.   Living in NC, I normally get by just wearing tights, a tank, and a long sleeve running shirt, along with gloves, hat, etc.  This year I went looking for something warmer to wear for winter biking and found a great run jacket that I wear for both running and biking now.  I bought the Pearl Izumi Fly Soft Shell run jacket from Inside Out Sports and really love it, not just because it is a pretty turquoise color!  When I bought it, I thought it would be too warm for running, but then it got really cold here, and I was so happy I had it!  It has great wind protection and warmth, but still has good breathability.  I didn’t miss a single run workout during all that cold and snow we had in January.  I love running on fresh powdery snow (before it gets icy).  I managed to get by OK without Yaktrax so far this year, but I could have used them with the 7” of snow we had a couple weeks ago.

It is a lot harder to get out on the bike when it’s really cold or the roads are icy.  However, there are several good options for winter cycling if you are not a fan of spending hours on your bike trainer by yourself.  Inside-Out Sports has group trainer rides inside the Cary store every Tuesday at 6:00 pm and cyclecross rides leaving from the store every Thursday at 6:00 pm.  Another option is to try a cycle class at your gym. All the Triangle area YMCA locations have new spin bikes with power, and classes are now taught on power based on your FTP.

My last piece of advice is to go ahead and sign up for a spring race.  If you have something to focus on during the winter months you will be more motivated to train.

Battle at Buckhorn 2017

BuckhornI have done this race a few times in the past, and it has always been competitive and lots of fun. This year was no different, and since it was at the end of September the weather was perfect! The water temperature was also cooler, so it was wetsuit legal this year.

My swim went well. I started out behind Bri Gaal, and stayed close to her for part of the swim but fell behind a little by the end. I think I was 5th out of the water, but two of the girls ahead of me on the swim must have had slower transitions because I never saw them on the bike or run. My time was 12:30, which I was happy with.

As I ran into transition and found my spot I saw Bri was already heading out on her bike. I quickly got out of my wetsuit and into my bike gear and headed out on the bike right behind Braden Walsh. Once on the bike Braden and I passed each other back and forth a few times before I was able to put a small gap between us. I rode by myself for a while, and this section of the course was a little slower due to the wind. About half way through the bike I heard a familiar voice as one of my teammates, Sara Larson, caught up to me. I was happy to have someone to pace with again and we finished the bike together. Time 49:48, not my best time on the course but still pretty good.

I made good time in T2 and started on the run just ahead of Sara. Unfortunately, Sara is a faster runner than me, so she quickly passed me and put some distance between us. Since the run was out and back I could see that Bri was the only one ahead of Sara and me. I also knew Braden and Millie Barrett were not far behind, so I could not let up on the run. I was happy to be running OK after a pretty bad ankle sprain a few weeks before the race. I managed to hold off the girls behind me to finish in third place overall. Run time 22:56, and total 1:26.50. After the race I enjoyed hanging out with my fellow TMS-IOS teammates and other tri friends while we waited for awards. This year FS Series gave cash prizes in addition to the prized belt buckles, so that was a good way to finish off the last race of the series!

IM Chattanooga

After racing half IM distance and shorter triathlons for the past nine years, I finally took the plunge and signed up for my first full IM last September after volunteering at the 2015 Chattanooga race.  I was really unsure how I would be able to manage the increased training volume with a full-time job and a very busy schedule with the kids’ activities.  It hasn’t been easy, but with the help of my coach, my husband and many friends/training partners, I was able to get it done, and even had some fun!


We arrived in Chattanooga on Thursday around dinner time, three days before the race.  We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Chester Street, which was only a few blocks away from Ironman village and that ended up being worth it with all the walking back and forth we ended up doing.  After unpacking, we got together with a group of friends from Cary that were also racing and headed to the Bluewater Grille for dinner, which was pretty good.
The next day my friend Anne and I went for an easy 25 min run.  During the run we passed by the organized swim in the river and decided to come back later to swim.  After a little breakfast we gathered the others in our group and drove over to Coolidge Park on the other side of the river to get in a short practice swim and see what the current was like.  This swim is known as a “down hill” swim because you swim down river with the current. I didn’t really feel the current on the way up stream, but once we turned to swim back it was amazing to see how much faster we covered the same distance.  After our swim we went to the IM village to check in for the race and walk around the expo for awhile.  We met up with the group again for lunch at the Village Grill.
After lunch I tried to sit in the shade and listen to the 2:00 athlete briefing.  It was so sunny and hot, and the forecast for race day was for more of the same.  We had heard the humidity levels would be low for the race so at least it wouldn’t be as bad as it was training in NC this summer! So we thought…
Then it was time to relax at the hotel for a bit.  The Gaal’s had rented a condo on the river, so we drove over to visit with other OSB athletes and friends from Cary for a few hours before meeting back up with our group for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant downtown, Alleia.  The pasta there was homemade and delicious!  We had a relaxing dinner and were all excited and looking forward to race day.
Saturday morning we went to the Bluegrass Grill on Main Street to have a big pancake breakfast as our biggest meal of the day.  I had a little bit of everything!  When we got back to the hotel we went for a quick bike ride to check that everything was working, and then organized all of our gear into the bike, run and special needs bags.  This was a little stressful for me since it was my first full IM and I had not yet totally decided exactly what I would carry on the bike and run for nutrition and what I would put in special needs.  One big decision that I had to make was whether or not to wear a fuel belt for the run.  I always wear one in training, mainly because there are no aid stations on training runs.  Some people prefer to carry their own nutrition in a race and others don’t want anything around their waist other than the race number belt.  I had decided not to use it for the race and trained with Gatorade Endurance the last month or so of my training so I would feel comfortable drinking what was available on the course.  However, with the forecasted high temperatures I started to second guess this decision.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get enough fluids this way. In the end I decided to start with an old hand held bottle that I could toss if I got tired of carrying it.  Once the decisions were made I put everything in the correct bags and my husband and I walked my bike and bags down to the transition area to check everything in.
For the next several hours I relaxed in bed at the hotel to stay off my legs as much as possible.  I ate a pb&j sandwich for lunch rather than go out to eat.  We decided to get take out from Tony’s Pasta Shop with our friends and eat a small pasta dinner back at the hotel rather than wait in line for a table.  This worked out well, and we all went back to our rooms early to try and sleep.

Race morning

I had set my alarm for 4:00 am, but woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep, so at 3:45 I decided to get up.  I went downstairs to the lobby and got a bowl of oatmeal, two pieces of toast, and a banana and brought that back to my room to eat. I also drank a bottle of Infinit.  I added lots of ice to all my bottles, got dressed and we headed to transition to put my nutrition on the bike, pump my tires and drop off my special needs bags.  Then we hopped on a bus to the swim start at around 5:25.  When we got there we set up towels on the sidewalk so we could sit or lay down while we waited for the race to start at 7:30.  I realized at around 6:30 that I should have brought more food to eat at the swim start as I was starting to get hungry.  I did eat another banana I had brought but wished I had a bonk breaker or something.  As it got close to race time I did a short jog around the parking lot to get my blood flowing, and hit the bathroom one more time.  When I got back to my spot I had to hurry and get my swim skin on because it was almost time to start.  I took a salt stick capsule and Gu and had a few sips of water and then put everything but my cap and goggles in my morning clothes bag to drop off near the swim start.

Swim (57:20, 10th AG)

The pros started at 7:20 and the first age groupers at 7:30.  We had a pretty good spot in line and the line moved very quickly, so I was in the water by 7:36.  The water temperature was 83 degrees, which felt good to me.  I tried to swim towards the middle to get as much current as possible and avoid getting into the crowded water closer to shore.  As I got close to the island I started heading left closer to the buoys.  We swam under three bridges and then headed to the swim finish where there were a bunch of volunteers waiting to help us up the ladder and on to the carpet to run to transition.  I looked at my watch and saw that my time was about what I expected based on last year’s times, so I was happy with my swim.  I pulled my swim skin down to my waist and took off my goggles as I ran to get my bike gear bag and head into the women’s changing tent.  As soon as I came into the tent there was a volunteer there waiting to help me get ready.  She dumped everything out of my bag and helped me get everything on and out the door.  T1 time was 5:38, not too bad.

Bike (5:58:45, 7th AG)

I headed out on the bike and checked my HR.  Oops! My HR was already about 10 beats higher than the range I had planned to maintain for the bike, so I tried to relax and get into the lower zone.  I couldn’t seem to get my HR down even though I didn’t feel like I was riding that hard so I just went with it.  I would still hold back on the hills to keep it steady and try not to let it spike higher.  I kept my pace as steady as possible.  I kept hearing the words “HOLD BACK ON THE BIKE” and “STEADY IS FAST” which was good advice from my coach and others.   I don’t like to hold back on the bike, but I knew it was best, especially with the forecasted high temperature in the mid 90’s.  I kept thinking about the marathon and tried very hard not to use up any excess energy.  The first loop went by pretty quickly.  I was hungry so I ate a bonk breaker in the first half hour of the bike.  I alternated drinking Infinit Go Far and water, and took one salt stick capsule every hour.  I felt full after the bonk breaker so I didn’t eat anything else during the first half.  The course was beautiful, so I tried to just enjoy being out on my bike in the sunshine since it wasn’t too hot yet.  As I came in to Chickamauga, GA there were spectators lining both sides of the street, and I saw my husband and Anne’s husband on the side of the road screaming and waiving as hard as they could.  They had said it was too much trouble to get there so they probably wouldn’t see us on the bike, so it was a really good surprise to see them there.  It definitely got me pumped up and ready for the second loop.  But first I had to make a quick stop at special needs to get my two bottles of Infinit Speed for the second half of the bike.  I was so happy to see that they were still cold, and actually still had a little ice.  The Podium Ice bottles in an insulated lunch bag worked well.  The second loop was not as fun as the first one.  The sun was high in the sky and it felt like I was riding in a furnace!  Also, we seemed to have more of a head wind on the second loop.  I just kept plugging along and drinking as much fluid as possible.  I was really happy when I finished the second loop and turned back on to the highway for the final stretch.  That part felt a little easier and I was excited to be getting off the bike soon, even though the run wasn’t going to be fun in the heat.
I decided not to do a flying dismount off the bike since I had bottles in the rear cages, so I left my bike shoes on and got off the bike.  It was really awkward running in bike shoes after riding 116 miles let me tell you (the Chattanooga bike has an extra 4 miles). I should have just taken them off and run in my socks.  I eventually made it to my run gear bag and headed into the changing tent.  I had three volunteers helping me all at once, and in my rush to get ready I forgot to tape up my toe that rubs on my shoe, so I had to take my shoe back off and get that taken care of.  One of the volunteers added ice water to my bottle which had Infinit powder in it, while the others helped me get my run gear on.  They had me all ready to go in no time, but since I was not able to go to the bathroom on the bike I made a quick stop at the porta john right outside the tent.  I probably didn’t drink enough on the bike to make it through 6 hours without going.  T2 time was 8:46.  A little slow, but still not bad.

Run (5:01:23, 7th AG)

I started the run with a hand held bottle full of Infinit since I wanted to make sure I got enough to drink.  However, I have never really liked running with something in my hand and today was no different.  I ditched it by mile 2!  Starting out the run felt kind of rough.  I managed to run a 9:30 pace the first mile but my pace slowed quite a bit after that.  I had decided I would walk through all aid stations and try not to walk more than that for at least the first half of the run.  The first 4-5 miles were on a boring highway with no shade and if it weren’t for a guy from VA named Brandon who starting chatting with me I don’t know what I would have done.  He told me we would turn off of that road soon and then we would have some shade.  It was so much better once we turned and started running on a the riverwalk greenway trail that took us through a wooded park and along the river.  That was my favorite part of the run course.  Unfortunately at around 6 miles I started having stomach issues and had to use the bathroom again.  The extremely high temperature was making it difficult to process the calories I was taking in on the run.  Once I got back on the road again my stomach felt better for awhile and I was able to keep up my slow running from aid station to aid station, although I did have to stop one more time during the first half of the run.  After running for awhile on the riverwalk we ran across a bridge to the the back half of the loop, which is mostly up and down hill.  So many people were walking on this section of the course, but I managed to keep running for the entire first loop.  I told myself I could walk more in the second half if I needed to.  After the hilly section we ran over the Walnut Street bridge where I got to see my husband again.  That lifted my spirits again for awhile.  When I finished the first loop I still felt OK, so I decided I would keep running as long as I could.  I had to make another bathroom stop at mile 19 and started to worry.  My stomach issue was getting worse, so I thought maybe I should walk for awhile.  After walking nonstop for a mile I decided I was OK and only had 6 more miles to go, and the sooner I finished the better. I was pretty sure at that point I would be able to finish so I went back to running when I could.  This time when I got to the hilly section I decided I would walk up the hills and run down them.  I hardly saw anyone running at this point.  Once the hills were over and I reached the Walnut Street bridge again I was almost finished!  As I headed over the bridge and made the turn toward the finish I could hear the announcer as others were finishing and picked up my pace for the final stretch.  It was so exciting getting to the finish with everyone cheering and hearing “Cari Soleo, you are an Ironman!”  Total time 12:11:52 (7th AG).
I was so happy to be done, and feeling OK.  After seeing Lou and getting my picture taken I went to the medical tent to make sure I was really OK.  They gave me ice to help me cool off and offered food and water. A guy sitting next to me told me to drink chicken broth, so I did.  That really helped!  After 3 cups of chicken broth I was feeling so much better!  I watched my friend Anne finish and then walked back to the hotel to shower.  At about 9:00 we met up with Anne and her husband and went to celebrate with pizza and a beer at Mellow Mushroom.  The next day at the award ceremony we learned that the high temperature had been 97 degrees (the hottest on that day since 1931!) and 87% humidity.  The DNF rate was over 25%, the second highest in Ironman history!  Times were about 1-1.5 hrs slower this year compared with last year’s times.  While my final time wasn’t the time I was hoping for, I am happy that I did as well as I did considering the brutal conditions.  And I managed to finish happy and healthy, so I can’t complain.

Battle at Buckhorn

It was a beautiful morning, a little chilly and fairly low humidity which would be great for the run. Last year it was pretty hot and humid and there is no shade on the run course. Maybe this year I would have a better run and have a chance to win the coveted belt buckle. There are several other fast girls racing this year so I will have to have a great race to win.

Swim – The course is a triangular shaped course starting in the water. The water was still pretty warm, so no wetsuit, but I decided to wear my Huub swim skin to see if I could shave some time off my swim. I felt pretty good on the swim and came out of the water a few seconds behind Bri Gaal with Erin McGowan already out of transition on her bike. 40 secs faster than last year, yay!

T1: focused on being fast so I could leave on the bike with Bri. It’s so much more fun when you have someone to race with on the bike course. Other than fumbling a bit trying to buckle my helmet I was out pretty fast…so I thought until I got to the bike mount line and looked down to see I had forgotten to pull my swim skin off from my waist. I can’t believe I did that AGAIN! It’s funny how I never made mistakes like that in my first few years of racing, only after racing for 9 years. I really need to remember to practice my transitions before my next race.

T1.5: Ran back to my spot in transition and racked my bike so I could take off the swim skin and then headed back out of transition. Another 46 secs. So much for the 40 secs I saved on the swim!

Bike: Thanks to my transition snafu at least one girl passed me in transition, and two were already ahead of me, so I would need a strong bike. Passed one girl right away and then Erin about half way through the bike. I was pretty sure I was in 2nd place behind Bri, but she was too far ahead to see. Felt pretty good on the bike but didn’t really have any one to pace with so had to keep reminding myself to push my pace when I found myself losing focus. It’s a nice moderately rolling course with only one big climb at the end.

T2: No issues in transition this time. Still not super-fast.

Run: Thanks to the cooler less humid weather the run was much nicer than last year. The run is a two loop course so you get to see the competition several times during the run. I went out pretty fast but started to slow down a bit on the second lap. Luckily I found myself running with a fast girl who was on her first lap, so I just focused on staying with her until I turned towards the finish. As expected I didn’t come close to catching Bri but no women caught me either, so I was pretty happy with my run and 2nd place overall finish. This is a popular local race so I usually see quite a few people I know which makes it a lot of fun. If you haven’t had the chance to race Battle at Buckhorn, I definitely recommend trying it next year.

Wilmington YMCA Sprint, Sept 27, 2014

I have done this race several times before, and it’s always a lot of fun.  This year my twelve-year-old son was racing with my husband and I, so I was nervous but very excited for him.    He swims competitively and has recently gotten into cross country as well, so he was feeling pretty confident.  The morning of the race the weather was great, no rain and 66 degrees!  We stayed in a nice house very near the race site, so we were able to ride over to transition on our bikes.  After getting our stuff all set up in transition, we grabbed a seat on the trolley to the swim start which is a couple miles away.  The water temperature was 74 degrees, so wetsuit legal (yeah!!).  Since I was racing masters open I was in the first wave, so I had to get in right away to warm up once we got our wetsuits on.  I only saw one other woman at the start, mostly open men, so I knew I would probably be racing alone.  That’s the one thing I don’t like about the open category.  A lot of very competitive women prefer to race age group, which makes it less fun for those that do race open.  Oh well, I would just have to race the clock and try to stay focused on pushing myself as hard as I could.

Swim:  20:16

The swim went well, no major issues, and my time ended up about 25 secs faster than last year.  I still think I can do better, and the top two women were 1-2 minutes faster.  On a positive note, my son, who started five minutes after me, did not catch me on the swim, so I was happy!

T1: 1:38

I have never been very fast at transitions, and once again my time was pretty slow compared to others, with the fastest women at a minute or less.  One of these days I will take my husband’s advice and practice my transitions. 🙂

Bike: 32:08

As expected, most of the open men dusted me on the swim, so I started out on the bike by myself.  I passed one guy early on, but after that I didn’t really see anyone else on the course.  The bike course is basically flat, so pretty fun to see how fast you can go.  My time was about 15-30 secs slower than the top women’s times, but about 30 secs faster than last year.  So not bad, especially since I didn’t have anyone to push me on the course.

T2:  1:12

Better than T1 but could still be 15-20 secs faster!

Run:  22:03

I felt pretty good on the run, and again was by myself for most of it.  So I just focused on keeping a fast cadence and a steady pace, especially on the second mile where it is so easy to slow down.  I did get to cheer on a few of the open men, Marty Gaal and Dan Young, that were finishing the out and back section as I headed down that way.  It was nice to finally see somebody!  The run course is also completely flat.  After a small out and back section you run a loop that takes you down the main beach road, past a bunch of bars and restaurants in downtown Wrightsville Beach, over two different bridges, and a tree lined sidewalk that leads to the back entrance of the race site and finish line.  I was happy with my run time, even though it was about 25 secs slower than last year.

So my overall time was 1:17:16, which I found out later put me in 3rd place overall for the women.  The first and second place women started about 20-25 minutes after me and finished a little over a minute faster overall.  I knew there were some fast women racing age group, so I did my best to push myself hard.  I had fun anyway!  And my son ended up placing third in the 15 and under age group with a time of 1:28:05 in his first adult triathlon.  Very proud of him!