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Just Keep Swimming – Tamara Olaniyan

Tamara Olaniyan How It All Started Run Tri Bike Magazine Triathlete Swimming
Tamara Olaniyan
Year started: February 2022
Next race: May 21, 2022 / I'on Club She Tris Sprint Triathlon / Mt. Pleasant, SC
Favorite gear:

Whoop Band and Apple Watch

My start in triathlon started with half-marathons in Texas. Prior to moving to South Carolina due to the pandemic, I was capable of running a half-marathon every weekend because it was easy of me to register. There were plenty of races and signing up for them was very easy, to the point that I would race 2 half-marathons some weekends.

That paragraph tells you that I loved half-marathons in Texas and am not able to run many in South Caroline but what it doesn’t tell you is why. My why for running starts with my ability to manage my depression. When I run, I am by myself and give myself time to cheer, laugh, air high-five and get encouragement from other athletes. It’s my ‘me’ time and I can focus on having fun, completing my race or training run and not the personal ‘rain cloud’ over my head.

They Say To Just Keep Swimming

With the move to South Carolina, I found that I had to switch gears since there weren’t as many half-marathons in the area. I still wanted the opportunity to have fun and enjoy the ‘me’ time. Taking swimming lessons and converting myself into a triathlete would allow that to happen. I found that the same me time and fun I was having running could be done on the bike. Notice, I didn’t mention swim and fun in the same sentence. Despite taking swim lessons and learning how to swim, it is still an anxiety producing workout.

Last August, I registered for my first sprint triathlon. I went to the starting line ready to put my new found swimming abilities to the test, but panic took over and I never completed the race. I cried, cleaned my face, went back to the drawing board and kept practicing.

For some, this may seem like a simple task to undertake but for me it was difficult. I almost drowned at a pool during summer camp when I was younger. I had an enormous fear of pools, specifically the Olympic distance pools. For me, swimming is purely mental and it’s something I work on each time I go to the pool.

Overcoming My Swim Anxiety

In a 25 meter pool, I can calm myself down and tell myself that I can swim to the other side. When it comes to the 50 meter pool, the anxiety grows. Seeing the long roll of blue string balls throws me off and I have to remind myself to calm down. My swim calm coach and my swimming instructor taught me to not look up and keep going. This helps me get to the other end and remind myself that I can swim. 

These reminders helped me get to the staring line of a sprint triathlon in February 2022. I didn’t quit and I finished. The race after that, in March, the pool frightened me. Despite that, I kept pushing and once again crossed the finish line. I am getting more comfortable with swimming that I was able to finish an aquathlon and the next sprint triathlon is coming up in May.

Despite not finishing that first sprint triathlon, I have a goal of racing in an Ironman. I will need a coach, but having overcome obstacles, I know I can get to that finish line.

They Were Right, Just Keep Swimming

I want to leave a piece of advice for those reading this How It All Started. I thought people, other athletes, would give me the side eye and ask themselves “Why in the John Blaze” is this novice here? Well, that never happened. So far, I have completed 2 sprint triathlons and 1 Aquabike race. The athletes have been amazing and supportive. 

My first attempt at a sprint triathlon, my anxiety was so bad , I couldn’t complete the race. I cried for 2 minutes and felt like a failure. 

I would tell anyone to (1) Have Fun, (2) Go Easy On Yourself, (3) Hold tight to the reasons for wanting to complete the race.

We all have our own backstories for completing the triathlons, your reason should be your motivation.