Ambassador Deena Ebbert Finds Her Way Back To The Poolmpinzon
by Deena Ebbert
I gave a speech in a swimsuit. Surrounded by women snapping on bright pink swim caps and adjusting their own triathlon gear, I knew it would be the easiest thing I did all day. I turned my back to the pool and jerked a thumb over my shoulder. “Truth be told, giving a speech in a swimsuit is way less scary than getting in that water.” We grinned, and I told them the rest of the truth…
I was born, for all intents and purposes, a mermaid. In the pool before I could talk. Swimming like a fish before I could walk. I wore my red, white and blue Speedo more often than proper clothes, and regularly pretended to be an Olympian.
In 1978 – Right about the time “Grease” came out in the movie theaters, I went in – to the hospital. A lingering cough from the winter before had turned chronic; x-rays revealed an unhappy surprise, a tumor that was in face a bronchial carcinoid.
The docs got it out, along with much of my lung. And the following year when I returned to the water, I floundered. I sank straight to the bottom. I got scared. I got out and I turned my back to the pool.
I found other sports; bicycling for years was a freeing escape. Recently, mud running (also known as OCR) has, oddly enough, given me real peace. Two years ago, becoming a Gildan Esprit de She Ambassador seemed a great way to ring in the second half of my first century. At the 2016 Ambassador meet up, Kelly Donahue smilingly encouraged me to try a tri. “No!” I recoiled in mock terror, ignoring the real sinking fear resurfacing. “That sounds like a terrible idea!” I tried to laugh it off, but Kelly’s face was bright with belief that I could do it, so I signed up.
The day of the Indoor Tri, I looked at the faces of the athletes there, and realized we all believed in each other. I realized all I had to do was try. I turned back to the pool; my 38-year fear washed away as I reacquainted myself with the softness of the water, stretching buoyantly across the surface and reaching for the far end. I swam. I swam and swam, strokes and pacing as natural as if I were the mermaid me, and when the timer called out, I wanted to stay.
The timer called again. Time for bikes, then the run. Shaking myself from my reverie and the water from my skin, I raced to the transition point, realizing I had undergone a transition. To triathlete. I’ll most assuredly be back.
Deena Ebbert is Propellergirl – International Speaker, Inspirational Author and Gildan Esprit de She Ambassador. She loves OCR, gardening and the goodness that comes from women encouraging each other. “Turning the corner on the second half of my first century, I realize that “Be Your Potential” means the opportunity and charge to use my powers for good; to get other people out shaking their groove thing. A walk around the block, a 5K, a 10K, a du or a tri. A mud run. Whatever it takes to get us out from behind “I can’t, I don’t, I quit” and into community. That’s what Gildan Esprit de She means to me.”