Sometimes, all that we see and hear about are things that show the worst in humanity. There's no doubt that life can be unbelievable challenging and if we spend too much time watching the news, it can seem as if someone has drained much of the color out of life.
That's why, to the extent we can, we like to use this blog to highlight individuals who demonstrate actions that appeal to, as Abraham Lincoln said, "the better angels of our nature".
Today, we're highlighting an indvidual who experienced significant misfortune, but made the conscious decision to channel her anger and pain into something incredibly positive.
Her name is Triny Willerton and she's not only an ambassador for Coeur Sports, but she's an ambassador for all of endurance sports and she's a tremendous advocate for cycling safety.
We hope you enjoy our interview with Triny!
Triny...thank you so much for joining us! We're going to chat about your amazing organization called "It Could Be Me". Before we do that, we'd love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us about your athletic background?
Triny: I found my love for Triathlon late in life after having my kids. I was never particularly good at any sport or very athletic growing up. I tried but spent most of the time on the bench.
I started running after a friend convinced me to run in our city's Turkey Trot. I ran with her and loved everything about it. So I got a coach and started setting goals. Soon I was running half marathons, and my coach suggested I do a Triathlon. I had not been on a bike since I was 14 and could only swim to rescue my children in the pool, but I had never swam laps. He suggested I started swimming lessons and helped me get a second-hand bike. It only took one race, and I was completely hooked. I signed up for my first Ironman Triathlon that first season and have not looked back since. As my passion for the sport grew, so did my commitment and discipline. I became stronger and finally managed to put a nutrition plan that worked well for me.
I had my best year of racing in 2017. I podiumed in both the 70.3 and Ironman distances. I was determined to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, and my crash happened.
Let's talk about your organization. Can you tell us how and why you started It Could Be Me?
Triny: In 2018 I was the victim of a careless driver. I was riding my bike, training for Ironman Boulder on the actual course, a route I knew well and rode often. The driver hit me as I was making a left-hand turn. He crossed the double yellow onto the westbound lane and hit me head-on (we were heading eastbound). The speed limit on that road was 50mph. Some of the witnesses that day I shared that he had passed them as they were driving at the speed limit moments before he hit me. I never lost consciousness, and all I could think of was my family and how much my kids needed me. I suffered over a dozen fractures and a pneumothorax, among other injuries.
As I recovered, I knew I had to do everything within my power to make sure what had happened to me didn't happen to anyone else.
What is the mission of It Could Be Me and how do you go about accomplishing that mission?
Triny: It Could Be Me is a non-profit dedicated to improving the relationship between motorists and other users of the road by creating an environment of mutual other with care and respect resulting in zero traffic deaths and injuries. Our vision A world where all road, path and trail users treat each other with care and respect resulting in zero traffic deaths and injuries.
I believe that to create long-term change, you need to combine four essential elements: 1) A visual movement, 2) Education, 3)Policy Change, and 4)Community Outreach.
Most of our growth has happened during the pandemic and therefore has left us working in less traditional ways. We have become a robust virtual community. All involved contributing in one way or another to the 4 points mentioned above. We have some fantastic groups, one that encourages and provides information to new riders and a group that offers support and resources to crash victims, their families, and friends.
We serve as a liaison between users of the road and organizations for the community to gain access to the latest information: new legislation and new funding as we model safe behavior through our social media content.
We have joined coalitions with other organizations to create policy change.
If our memory is correct, you were involved in some legislative efforts even as you were standing up It Could Be Me. What successes have you had legislatively and what else would you like to accomplish?
Triny...You are correct. I have been extremely fortunate to have been involved in legislative change since the beginning. I got invited to testify for Bill175 in 2019. I submerged myself in the process. I testified before the Senate and before the House. I then went on to ask our community to reach out to their representatives so they would support the Bill. I remember handing out flyers at local races. Once the Bill reached the Governor's desk, I was out there asking people to reach out to the Governor. In a very "It Could Be Me" kind of way- things seem to be aligned and ready to happen. I was invited to a fundraiser for the Governor and was able to speak to him about the Bill. I then was invited to be present when the Governor signed the bill into law. Remembering gives me chills and gets me very emotional. This experience taught me not only about the legislative process but also about how powerful our voices are. How we all have the power to create the change we need and seek in the world.
In 2021 we were invited by three national organizations (Vision Zero, Road to Zero, and Families for Safe Streets) to join their effort to ask for congressional support for the Zero Traffic Deaths Resolution. We met with around 100 members of congress, and our ambassadors played a crucial part. During our presentations, we had a lot of data to share with them, but the ability to share our personal stories made our meetings truly compelling. I must have led around 50 meetings and was always humbled by the courage and strength of all the people willing to re-live pain and suffering to ensure others wouldn't have to. This effort that lasted close to a year led to one of the biggest wins in the road safety advocacy world. Secretary Pete Buttigieg presented the National Roadway Safety Strategy and made a public commitment to Zero Traffic Fatalities in our country. The Strategy was almost verbatim what we had been asking through the Zero Traffic Deaths Resolution. This was huge in a space where there are a few and far between wins!
There is a lot of work yet to be done. Luckily, there is also an army of passionate advocates to get the job done. I would love, for example, to lower speeds in our communities and for the government to regulate vehicle size (especially trucks).
You have Ambassadors around the world. How do you leverage them to make cycling safer?
Triny...Our ambassadors are a force. I am so incredibly grateful and always in awe of them.
When we started the program, we had different tiers, so people wouldn't be afraid to join us due to the different range of availability they might have. We have always strived to share with our ambassadors our immense gratitude for all and any of their efforts.
When COVID took over, we became more flexible and more accomodating. Our program is open year-round, so we can continue to grow together. We have always been passionate about raising awareness for the problems we encounter while sharing the road and the solutions.
Some of our ambassadors are currently involved in policy change in their communities and at a national level. Some create content on social media, and some are leaders of our virtual communities.
We sometimes get requests for support in efforts in their communities which we love and embrace.
You've already accomplished so much with the organization, but we know you are always looking to the future. What's next for It Could Be Me?
Triny...I envision a lot of our work as joint efforts through coalitions. For example, we are currently actively promoting a campaign that was created through a collaboration of It Could Be Me, The National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA), THe National Chapter for Safe Routes to School, and Safe Kids World Wide. This campaign highlights proper helmet fit through the 222 rule.
Finally, how can people help from a financial perspective or personally if they want to volunteer their time?
Triny...People can contribute to us by donating here: https://www.itcouldbeme.org/product/donations/. We are an official 501c3, and all donations are tax-deductible.
People can support us by becoming ambassadors. We will welcome any help they can offer us with open arms. As I mentioned earlier, our ambassador program is very flexible, and all we ask is for help to amplify our message and raise awareness. The program is open all year round. They can sign up here: https://www.itcouldbeme.org/ambassador-program/
We also have a mailing list that people can join and stay connected and informed. We constantly have new opportunities to help.
Thank you for being such an amazing advocate for cycling and triathlon and for helping make the roads safer for all of us!
Triny: Thank you so much for everything!!