“You need to get out of the house. I signed you up for the swim team.”
I woke up one morning in 2005 to my mom’s executive decision, made after too many summer days spent in front of the television. I had just finished fourth grade, or as I recall it, “the year of trying everything I don’t like”. I didn’t enjoy Girl Scouts, the clarinet, or basketball, but I did like my dance classes twice a week. However, the summer before, we had spent many days at the neighborhood swim club, which I suppose was my mom’s rationale for my brother and I becoming members of the team.
That first season of swimming was hard. Most kids start swimming much earlier, so I was slow for my age group and had a lot to learn. I ended up having a lot of fun that summer, but decided against joining the winter team at the YMCA so I could go to dance class, but my brother kept going, and he kept improving.
The following summer, we were back at Hideaway Swim Club, and my brother was getting more competitive. He made “A Champs”, which was the final meet for the best swimmers in the league. I didn’t qualify, but improved drastically over that summer and found my niche, the butterfly. I swam every summer and winter after, until I was recruited to swim in college in 2013.
Freshman year of college is a huge transition for most people. I wasn’t sleeping well and was anxious and homesick. I walked into swim practice that Wednesday not knowing that it would change my entire college career, and ultimately shape the path I would walk beyond it.
We had an underwater set, where we had to swim the width of the pool without coming up for air. This set was timed, and I got nervous. I knew I needed to make the times because I didn’t want to fall behind and I just wanted the set over with. I did a breaststroke pull-down, thinking I was at the third lane. I was in the fifth lane.
I slammed my head into the wall, sustaining my first concussion – my teammates said they could hear the impact from outside the pool. It took me eight months to recover, and I never fully rejoined the team. Losing swimming was a massive blow, it was such a huge part of me for such a long time. I struggled with my mental health and self worth, and threw myself into other interests and projects.
Fast forward to 2019. I was three years out of undergrad and I was life-guarding as I applied to graduate school. I often had the morning shift, and befriended one of the aqua-robics instructors. The class she had was always bubbly and energetic, and I would listen in to their conversations and sometimes chime in. This worked well in my favor as one day, I heard them talking about an indoor triathlon. I got to learn more about the sport, and was on duty the day of the race. One of the adults I had been teaching swim lessons to did the event, and he had vastly improved his skills and endurance from when I first started working with him. It lit something up inside of me and that was the day I signed up for my first triathlon.
I was feeling deeply lost in that time period, and triathlon gave me something to work towards. Even when I sustained my third concussion in a car crash later that year, the triathlon community was a group I could go back to, form friendships in, and have something to look forward to as I healed. I’m currently training for my first half Ironman, 70.3 Atlantic City, and am excited to see where the journey continues to take me.