PennyWater and I had a tumultuous start. In fact, I hated water as a toddler. So Mom took me to the YMCA for swimming lessons. Maybe it was the candy counter following lessons, learning how to float, or the fun of jumping off the diving board, but I was hooked. Fast-forward to high school, the swim team introduced me to the satisfaction of winning races in the water, and in college, the challenge of water polo.

I didn’t get back to swimming regularly until I was pregnant with my first child. It was then that my passion grew even more. Water allowed me to be active in my uncomfortable skin. Swimming was one of the few activities I could continue regularly when the children were small, so it became my physical and mental outlet. I decided to do a triathlon which included an open water swim in a small lake. Without access to open water for training or much confidence in my swimming ability, I made the classic newbie triathlon mistake and entered race day without doing any open water swims. When the start gun went off, I looked around at the other athletes, trying to picture how I would dominate the race. To my shock, after about 10 strokes, I couldn’t breathe. I started hyperventilating. For the first time in my life, I had a complete panic attack. I considered abandoning the race. My first race. It was only 500 yards, a distance I had practiced, but pulling myself together and completing that swim drained me completely. Open water swimming became a nemesis in my otherwise love of the water and triathlons.

Overcoming the terror of another panic attack in a race became my focus as I registered for longer races. It took me outside of my comfort zone, as many races involved ocean swims. Building a network of local swimmers for training swims opened the door to so many new friends and opportunities. Morning swims in clear Maine lakes and the open ocean became a treasured part of my life as I witnessed beauty from a vantage point that few get to see. I found ways to work through my fear, which enabled me to go on and swim in extraordinary places: a five-mile swim around St. John, an Ironman in Mont Tremblant, and a swim-run across islands in Casco Bay, Maine. Water started as the activity where I was most comfortable but ultimately pushed me to experiences I never imagined.

Location: Portland, ME

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