Women triathletes inspire one another

Christy Johnson says she’s “just a regular mom.”

Christy Johnson says she’s “just a regular mom.”

But this year, the “regular mom” of two from Sammamish is in training for a triathlon.

Johnson and a group of other women started regular workouts at the Sammamish YMCA in March in preparation for completing a triathlon this summer.

“I’m no seasoned marathon runner. I’ve never done a triathlon,” Johnson says. “But I feel like I can do this, and that it’s a good thing to shoot for.”

Often the women swim together on Tuesday mornings. Former swim coach Jessica Forsgren helps them with their stroke, the angle of their hands, whether their feet are too rigid and other elements.

When the weather warms up a bit more, the group will go out to local lakes to practice the swim segment.

“In the pool it’s nice, because you’re going short distances and you can talk to people in between,” said Forsgren, who is not only helping coach the triathletes but plans to compete in the Lake Sammamish triathlon this summer. It will be her fourth.

“I like water. I dream of fish if I don’t swim often enough,” she said. But, crosstraining has many benefits, Forsgren pointed out. “If you do three different sports, you’re less likely to get burned out and less likely to get injured.”

“For me, swimming is my strongest and biking is my weakest,” she said. “It’s also fun to get to know different people and learn from different people’s strengths.”

For example, Regina Ciambrone, one of the group’s older members, is one of the strongest swimmers, Forsgren said.

“She’s kind of inspiring for the rest of us, and she’s a great cheerleader for the rest of us.”

Cheryl Smith, who participated in triathlons in 2004 and 2007, agreed.

“The camaraderie is probably the most important part for me,” Smith said. “I also need a goal to keep me motivated.”

Also a mom, Smith has a 5-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.

“They’re really proud — they say, ‘You did it, mom!’ I have heard my daughter say ‘My mom is an athlete’ — the biggest compliment she could give me,” Smith said.

Working on improving at swimming, with the help of Forsgren and Aquatics Director Andrew Price, has changed her view of the sport.

“Swimming has become what I consider my strong point,” she said. “I love it. I crave it.”

Thursday mornings, the women climb aboard bikes in the club’s cozy spinning room for a class geared toward triathlon biking and led by the club’s Health and Wellness Coordinator, Kate Sheflo.

While not all of the women are aiming for the same triathlon — their plans range from the Danskin Women’s Triathlon in Seattle to the Blue Lake Triathlon in Troutdale, Ore. to the Fat Salmon in Lake Sammamish — they enjoy inspiring one another and cheering each other on.

Members of the team have gone on a few runs together, but haven’t started training in earnest for the run portion yet. Often the hardest part of a triathlon is switching from biking to running — sometimes called “the brick” — so the team has plans to work on that transition.

First-time triathlete Johnson coaxed her friend, Colleen O’Keefe, into joining the group as well.

Johnson, a mom of two boys, ages 5 and 2, said she and her husband were very active before they had kids. The triathlon is a great goal, she says.

“I’m not getting any younger, and all my relatives or good friends have done marathons or half-marathons,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t say I’m in the best shape of my life, but I’m in better shape and I’m OK with that. … This is making me realize I can do a lot more than I think I can.”