If I had a nickel for every time I heard “I can’t do triathlons because I can’t swim!” I would have more than enough money to support my new found triathlon obsession. Although, I can relate because it was me too who looked at Michelle Powell last fall like she had two heads when she encouraged me to join the MHWTC. To say that I could not swim to save my own life is putting it lightly.

On top of not being able to swim, I also had not been on a bike for almost 7 years. I was a runner and not even a competitive runner, I just ran for my own sanity. Life can get pretty crazy around here. I am a mother of three beautiful and extremely energetic children ages 7, 5 and 2 that I have the pleasure of staying at home with every day. I am a full time graduate student at Rutgers University studying Biology. My husband Steven is an attorney in Haddon Heights who works long hours and we work very hard to find a balance to fit everyone’s needs on a daily basis.  I would not trade my crazy life for anything in the world but as rewarding as it is being a stay at home mother is, it can become very lonely at times.

We moved to Mullica Hill just over two years ago from Haddon Township.  This was a huge change from the neighborhood we lived in because in Haddon Township the houses are on top of each other and there were always neighbors and children in and around my house at all times. I wished for the day that I would be able to roll out of bed and walk around in my pajamas for once without the fear of someone showing up at the door unannounced.  When we moved here we bought in a small development of only 15 houses and none of the neighbors have children close to my children’s ages. It was quite a change from where I was living. It was eerily quiet.   My children were not yet in the school system so I found it difficult to make friends. After about a few months of living here the loneliness set in. I needed some sort of release because I felt like I could burst.  I started working out regularly and running on the treadmill. It had been a number of years since I had really run so I started out very slow interchanging a run and walk. Each time I ran I was able to go longer and run faster. During the 2009 World Series and I believed the Phillies performed better when I was running. Yes, I believed Chase Utley only got a hit if I was running.  So running for most of a baseball game helped build my stamina and I was finally able to able to run for 60 minutes or more.

The treadmill eventually became boring to me so I decided to buy a jogging stroller for my son Chase and me to venture outside. I was running three to four times a week anywhere from 4-8 miles at an average of 7:15 minute mile. I felt like a runner again so of course I bought a new running wardrobe and all of the gear that goes along with the sport and the moms at Richwood preschool took notice and continuously said to me “You should join that Tri Club!” I would laugh and tell them that I run in the park with a stroller, I am NOT a triathlete! Meanwhile, the preschool transition was difficult for my middle daughter Bryce and she struggled to make friends as she has severe anxiety in social situations. There was one little spirited girl that took Bryce under her wing and befriended her and protected her from teasing children as well. That little girl was Marissa Powell, Michelle Powell’s daughter. This relationship between our daughters introduced us and Michelle in turn took me under her wing and the rest is history.

I agreed to go to the MHWTC kick off meeting to see what this was all about and it only took one inspiring power point presentation and I was hooked! The meeting was in February and I promised myself that I would do this, I will complete a triathlon but not until next year. For 2010 I will run then I will start biking in the fall and next year I will start taking swim lessons. The thought of a swim lesson horrified me to the core. In my mind there was nothing that could get me into the water this year.  Nothing that is until Lori Muller, a friend that I encouraged to join with me even after she said “But I can’t swim!” set up our very first swim lesson in late March. I had promised Lori that I would learn with her but I didn’t think she actually meant this year! Lori made the appointment and even went and bought all of our flippers and gear too.  I had no other choice but to go she was just as terrified as I was and I could not let her down. At my first lesson, I could barely doggie paddle and it was very scary but by mid lesson, surprisingly, I felt very relaxed. I left that night smiling and excited for the next lesson. I realized it was not so terrifying, actually it was incredibly amazing. Swimming is hard work and I was up for the challenge. I signed up for Queen of the Hill and SheRox and it was official, I was going to complete a triathlon. I took swim lessons once per week religiously from March to June. I was swimming well in the pool and developed a lot of confidence. That is until I had my first open water experience at Lake Wenonah. Oh my goodness can you say ANXIETY ATTACK?

I had my very first real anxiety attack in that lake. I went home crying and saying there is no possible way that I can do this. I cannot swim in open water. I immediately texted all of the people behind the scenes working with me and told them I quit. I can’t do the swim this year.  I woke up the next day and went back to the pool remembering that I am not a quitter. The following week I went to the open water swim at Lake Gilman where Queen of the Hill would be held and I had hoped it would be better than my Lake Wenonah experience. Well, I was wrong.  I got in the water and I immediately began to panic. Thankfully, Colleen with her noodle in hand went around with me. She talked to me and comforted me as I gasped for air trying to make it around that course. I made it around in just over 30 minutes. I got out of the water and desperately tried to find a place for me to hide and cry. I cried as I rode my bike home and continued to cry the rest of the night.

The next morning I went back to the pool and continued to practice. The following week was the last open water swim before Queen of the Hill and I cried the entire drive to the lake then sat in my car and cried until I forced myself out of the car. My swim instructor was there that night and he went around with me. He gave me a strategy and I made it around in about 25 minutes still panicking but I was better than the prior weeks. I left that night with a smile on my face confident that I would get through the race. So June 25th finally arrives and it’s time to race. You could see the fear in my eyes, I was completely terrified. But then something strange happened when I got into the water to begin the race, I became excited for what I was about to accomplish. My swim coach was in the water as a safety guard and he yelled out to me asking if I was ok, I said “I’m good!” and finished the swim in 13 minutes to my astonishment.

Since QOH I have completed four triathlons two involving 400 meter swims and the other two were 600 meter swims. My last 400 meter swim was an ocean swim in the freezing cold (well it was freezing to me 72 degrees) ocean without a wetsuit against the current. I also completed 4 long distance road races including my first half marathon. I am going to continue to train hard especially in swimming. 2010 was one of the most incredible years of my life and I am expecting big things for 2012. I have made so many friends that truly inspire me every day. I will continue to pay it forward and try to inspire others and give them what this club has given me. I would never have been able to do this alone. Having Andee Bramplett out there waiting for me at 6 am to run has not only motivated me and turned me into a morning person but has given me yet another incredible lifelong friend.

On Sunday I completed my first half marathon next to Lydia DelRosso who told me back in May at the Broad Street run that she would never run a half marathon or more for that matter. We have together made plans for next year to train for a full marathon. Yes Lydia I will hold you to that and now the entire club knows from reading this so we have to do it now. I would like to thank the four incredible women that started this amazing club that has changed my life and the lives of so many others in such a short time in so many incredible ways. Also, thank you to every member that I have encountered this past year because each and every one of you has inspired me in some way or another also.  I have to thank my wonderful husband Steven for supporting me (even at the most inconvenient times), for being my biggest cheerleader, rearranging his life to accommodate my early/late workouts, Thank You. I am looking forward to 2012 and many years to come with the MHWTC. I can’t wait to see what you girls do next, Go PINK!!!

 

7 thoughts on ““I can’t do triathlons because I can’t swim” by Christylynn Peterson

  1. So I’m way too pregnant to compete in any way but you continue to inspire me!! Our knees were shaking that first swim lesson and look at you now!!! I’m so proud of you!!!

  2. Way to go ChristiLynn! I am a swimmer novice this year and also have the 13+ minute 400 which is party due to total fear in the open water. I did so good in the pool practicing and then in open water; can’t breathe, forget all lessons and then just focus on survival. I hope to improve for 2012. Thanks for sharing your “fear”. It helps the rest of us to put our toes in the water!

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