Back in March, a serious swimmer showed up at the YMCA pool where I do my laps with my trusty flotation belt fastened around my waist. Notice that I didn’t claim to be swimming, only to be managing to repeatedly get from one end of the pool to the other! I had been using a noodle but had graduated to a belt, which I thought was a bit classier! Overcoming a disabling fear of the water and keeping my joints limber are my very humble goals. Our new friend obviously had loftier aims than I did!

She was timing her laps and working hard toward a goal. We are a friendly group at the Y, and it wasn’t long before some locker room discussions revealed that the swimmer’s name was DeAnna and that she was training for an Iron Girl Triathlon to be held in a few months. There were days when she admitted that she wondered why she had ever decided to do this crazy thing. It wasn’t long before others at the Y started asking her how the training was going and offering encouragement and support.

She said she had never been overly athletic, and knew nothing about how to train for the events, which included a 600 meter (.37 miles) swim, followed immediately by an eighteen mile bike ride, followed by a 5K or 3.1 mile run. She did what many of us do when we need to learn how to do something—she GOOGLED it! She printed out a schedule of training guidelines and got busy. She kept logs and notes of her times, feelings, doubts and triumphs as she worked her way toward her goals in each of the three areas.

What makes this story even more interesting is that DeAnna had Bariatric surgery for weight loss six years earlier, and had disciplined and retrained herself to eat differently while losing over one hundred pounds and 76.5 inches overall. Add to that the fact that she has asthma, bad knees, and had recently turned 50 years old and I knew that we had met a remarkable person and I was definitely interested in learning more about her journey.

We visited on my back porch on an overcast windy day, and I learned that she had been a rebellious teenager and a poor student who developed an attitude after being repeatedly bullied and ostracized for being of a different race than her classmates. She admitted that she had no Christian ties at that time and wasn’t sure what kind of a future she would have. She had convinced herself that she was stupid until she took a test at the Employment Center after high school and learned that she had nearly perfect scores in all areas, and was told that she should go to college. This was a turning point in her life and she eventually earned an MBA and greatly improved her self-image in the process.

As the day of the Triathlon approached, the self-doubts began to surface again, and she had to rely on her newfound faith and believe in her favorite verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. The records she had been keeping during her months of training showed definite improvement in times and accomplishments, and reviewing them helped to give her the courage to actually make the arrangements for the Triathlon. She secured the last room at the Iron Girl rate, a sign that was interpreted as a confirmation that she was meant to do this. She and her mother loaded the car with clothes, baggage and bicycle the day before the race and set out for Syrause.

Out of the 650 entrants in the Triathlon, she happened to stand in line at registration next to a girl named Penny who was familiar with the biking trail and told her what to watch for and in general gave her some tips, as she had previously participated in the race. DeAnna dubbed her “Penny from Heaven,” and felt that meeting her and benefitting from her advice was another confirmation that she was meant to do this.

However, on the morning of the race when she entered the breakfast room at the hotel, the local news was on the TV, and she heard the announcer say that Oneida Shores was closed to swimmers due to high levels of E coli bacteria in the water. She stopped in her tracks, hardly believing what she was hearing, because that was where the swimming portion of the race was to have taken place. She remembers thinking that swimming was her best event, and that now she would be unable to achieve her goal of completing a Triathlon. She felt keenly disappointed but had to keep her focus on the task at hand.

When the women reported for the race, they were given the option of substituting a specified time of running instead of swimming, followed by the biking, followed by the 3.1 mile run. The other option was to participate only in two events, running and biking. She had trained to do a Triathlon, so that’s what she opted to do, but had to smile at the irony of it, as she had hated running and had to really work at improving her times.

To successfully complete the Triathlon and avoid being disqualified, a time of 2 hours, forty minutes was needed, and DeAnna finished in two hours, two minutes and 8 seconds, by far her best time ever!

She was wearing her medal around her neck as she sat talking to me, and I was full of admiration for the amazing job that she had done, in spite of her doubts and setbacks. She said she learned to tell herself that she wouldn’t say the “C” word (can’t) just for today. Positive self-talk, her strong faith and a fierce determination combined to make her accomplishments an inspiration for all of us! Congratulations, DeAnna, for never giving up and for a job well done!

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