We first heard from Shameka back in September, just after she completed her first ever triathlon. She has been working hard to face her fear of the water, and we are proud to report that she is starting to become quite the triathlete! Shameka's story is one of strength, both mental and physical, as she faces her challenges and works hard to achieve her goals. Read Shameka's original testimonial.
By Shameka Pollard -- 2015 ended on a high note with the completion of the Anchor Splash Sprint Triathlon. One wonderful thing I experienced at this race was so much support from so many people. I had a group of people who not only wanted to see me succeed, but they wanted to help me succeed. I really did struggle to complete that race. Yet when I finally climbed out of that pool, I knew I wanted to do more. I also knew I had a lot of work to do. I wanted to complete more triathlons, but I wanted to actually enjoy them. With this in mind, I knew I would need to really focus on swimming in my off season. Thanks to the Fleet Feet training group, I met a life saver; her name is JD. I met her at Storm the Fort and she worked with me following Anchor Splash. At this time, I had no idea how I was going to get any better and I honestly did not feel like I was making any progress. This was so frustrating and discouraging. I just continued to go to JD's swim sessions. I knew I wouldn't get any better by not going. So, I just focused on showing up and trying. What did I have to lose? Initially I tried to attend her class one time per week and then finally something clicked and I decided to get serious. I started attending it religiously twice a week. Something eventually happened: swimming 25 yards finally became bearable. I was then able to swim 50 yards and then she had me swimming 100 yards. I do have difficulty with swimming 100 yards, and I still have difficulty with 50 yards—especially when I am tired. I still get really nervous and anxious. I am continuing to work on reducing my anxiety and improving my breathing. These episodes are not as frequent, but I now can see that I am making progress. I am definitely not the same swimmer who completed Anchor Splash.
Anchor Splash served as a milestone which helped me to establish some triathlon specific goals. The goals I set are as follows: Swim 50 yards without stopping (I can do this now thanks to JD and her patience with me), Learn to breathe bilaterally (I am working on it) and complete the Trideltathon Sprint Triathlon. The Trideltathon has haunted me since I registered for it in November 2015 (thanks to the dang black Friday special deal). I was excited about the bike and the run, but I was terrified of the swim. I had been working hard, but this swim was 400 total meters on 50 meter laps. That meant I would have to swim 8- 50 meter laps. I was also worried because 50 meters is longer than 50 yards. It is actually 54.68 yards. That means a lot to someone like me who struggles with consistently swimming 50 yards in a 25 yard pool. The other issue was that as the swim moved closer to the diving board, the water would get deeper. I had never set foot in a 50 meter pool before, and I was freaking out. I wanted to back out so badly, but I couldn't. I couldn't back out because I had quite a few people rooting for me, and I had specifically written a goal to complete this triathlon. I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't at least try.
I am happy to report that I was able to complete the Trideltathon Sprint Triathlon earlier this month. It was not easy, and I had some major panic attacks during the first 3 laps. I let the length of that pool get into my head. I didn't see how I was going to recover and finish that race. I almost gave in to my fear; I actually said "I can't do this" and wanted to climb out of that pool. Luckily, Renee (who I met via Fleet Feet) was on the pool deck when I said this. She didn't let me quit. She gave me a pep talk and sent me on my way; I was to work at swimming towards Misty (who I also met through Fleet Feet) and then back towards Renee.
There was also a crowd of folks cheering for me, offering advice and encouragement. Looking back, I know the first three laps were ruined because I let my anxiety and fear get to me. Thanks to my Fleet Feet Family, I was able to suck it up and finish. I was the very last person out of the pool, but who cares. Less than 1 year ago, I would not even put my face in the water and here I was climbing out of the pool after a 400 meter swim on 50 meter laps swimming in and out of this SUPER deep end (I have no idea how deep that pool was; I just know there was a board for high diving and I could barely see the floor of the pool).
If someone would have told me last April that I would have completed two sprint triathlons within the upcoming year, I would have assumed I was being confused with someone else. There is no way I would be where I am without the help of all of the folks I have met during the training program. This group has been nothing but amazing. They are so supportive and inspirational. It is amazing at the amount of experience and knowledge they possess. They are all so willing to share and help in any way possible. There was a quote I came across this year that stuck with me, "Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most importantly surround yourself with those who see greatness within you even when you don't see it yourself." Having people surround me who saw my potential has been priceless. When I wasn't sure I could do something, I just focused on the faith that they had in me and just focused on trying.
Because of these people, I have a long-term goal of completing a Half Ironman Triathlon. I would absolutely love to complete the Augusta Half Ironman. Our coach, Shahin, has confidently stated on multiple occasions that I WILL complete a Half Ironman. For now, I will focus on my short-term goals, along with a new goal of completing a triathlon without crying. I am looking forward to the Westside Y Sprint triathlon in July. It will be the day before my birthday, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate. I am also looking forward to completing the Springbrook Sprint Triathlon in August. About five years ago, this was the very first triathlon I watched. It sparked my interest in attempting to complete a triathlon. It was my goal race for last year's triathlon training program, but when August rolled around, I was not ready. It is now a new year, and I am ready. I am actually excited. Who would have thought???
I will continue to work hard and train hard because I know it will only get better. I also look forward to going back to Trideltathon next year. My goal is to swim that course without any panic attacks. I am waiting for the day to enjoy every minute of my swim. Like I said, there is no way I would be where I am without "my people." Starting this journey with Triathlon 101 was the best decision I could have made. This program has allowed me to meet goals I never would have thought were possible. This program has also allowed me to connect with so many wonderful people who motivate and inspire me every time I am around them. The moral of this story is to not only try, but to surround yourself with supportive people. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.