My Tri Beginning (Olivia from NJ): How My First Triathlon in High School Gave Me Strength

 Below is a feature from YoungTri Ambassador Olivia Christmann from New Jersey about her “tri beginning” and overcoming obstacles to get there.

Less than two months ago, I never would have imagined that I would do my first triathlon this summer, let alone ever.

My whole life, I’ve loved trying new things and challenging myself in ways that I didn’t always think was possible — but for years, I faced medical issues with my back and I wasn’t even able to walk down a hallway without having to sit right away. During this time, one year ago, I couldn’t even imagine being out of pain – let alone doing a triathlon.

After lots of work, I was able to rehabilitate myself out of pain which started by joining the school swim team this past winter. Prior to this, I never swam competitively and I only knew how to do freestyle. I just threw myself into the sport, hoping for the best. Without knowing it at the time, I was on the road to becoming a triathlete.

During that swim season,my health started improving a great deal. So, when that season ended I decided I join the track team! I’ve never ran long distances because of the pain that I was in, so when I joined the distance team, I literally gave it all I had. I wasn’t the fastest by far, but I was trying my hardest and loving it.

When track ended in May, it was time to schedule jaw surgery for my overbite. I didn’t want to waste my summer recovering from surgery and I really wanted to do something to get my mind off surgery. So, I made my surgery date August 8th, which would leave me a month of summer to recover.


During Track!

So, around the time I scheduled my surgery, I was just browsing the Internet and I came across triathlons. At that point, the idea sounded insane. I couldn’t even imagine doing anything like that. Yet, in the back of my mind I kept on remembering the surgery I scheduled to have on August 8th. I needed to do something to prove I myself that I was strong enough to do anything. Without thinking much, I used the money I saved up and signed up for the New Jersey Stare Triathlon. With less than five weeks to go until the race, I didn’t really know how it would be possible, but I knew that I would make it work.

The next four weeks I trained like crazy. I went from having trouble swimming ten laps, to waking up at 5 am to swim 100. I took long bike rides with my family on the weekend, and ran with my cross country team (which I decided to join for the following fall) during the week. Things were falling into place and I finally felt ready. I couldn’t believe what I was so close to being able to accomplish after the challenges I faced in the past years.

Race day came, and I finished my first sprint triathlon. I actually did it and I could not believe what I was actually able to accomplish. You can read about my race here!


After my first triathlon!

After the race, I had the confidence about my athletic ability that I never had before. I was proud of what I did, mentally and physically, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to try a triathlon.

Before I knew it, it was time to concentrate on my next challenge: lower jaw surgery. With my surgery date two weeks after my triathlon, I was told that I had to stop all physical activity. I lost too much weight (I dropped below 100 pounds) and I would not be able to eat solid foods for about five weeks. So, I could only dream about triathlons, as I just had to focus on my health for surgery.


Trying to gain weight pre-surgery!

Last week, I had my last jaw surgery (hopefully) that took four and a half hours. I woke up with my mouth wired shut and everything aching. When I was able to walk around the hospital a day later, my dad said something to me that really hit me. He said this was just another step in my triathlon training. Physically, I was walking slowly (which would be the closest I would get to training for awhile). But I was also training mentally. For me, triathlons are a way of overcoming mental obstacles and powering through things when your body just wants to quit. During that first night after surgery, when I felt worse than I have in my whole life, I just remembered to keep on going, which triathlons helped remind me of.


Going into surgery!

Today, I am still unable to talk or do anything but lay here, but I am dreaming of my next triathlon! For me, triathlons have given me hope, strength, and goals that I know can be possible. Triathlons have been able to give me strength and endurance to continue onward in even the hardest of times, which is something I couldn’t be more thankful of right now.

-Olivia Christmann

{A few words about Olivia (from Olivia herself): I’m Olivia Christmann, a 15 year old from Mendham, NJ. I’m a sophmore in high school and my favorite place to be is in the mountains. I love to ski and hike, and I am on the cross country, swimming, and track team at school! I just became a certified Pilates teacher this past year, too! I did my first triathlon July 20, 2013 and I can NOT wait to do another! I am so excited to be a YoungTri ambassador! Stop saying “I want” and start saying “I will”!}

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