How do you compete in an Ironman triathlon when you don’t know how to swim? Take lessons at the Y! That’s what 61-year old Neil Gussman did, proving that it’s never too late to learn new skills and take on a challenge. Two years ago, his wife Annalisa Crannell was inspired to sign up for an Ironman by an analogy her minister made between training for the race and leading a Christian life. Neil decided to join her. The pair was already physically fit; Annalisa had been a swimmer in college, Neil bikes thousands of miles each year, and together they’d already competed in marathons. However, the 2.4 mile swim portion of the Ironman was at that point completely out of Neil’s reach. His parents hated the water and so he was never taught how to swim. He always saw himself as someone who would “surely just sink to the bottom of the pool.”
To overcome this obstacle once and for all, Neil joined the Y and signed up for private lessons at the City Center branch. Instructor Stephanie Walton not only drilled him on the fundamentals of swimming, but also taught him to let go of that image of himself and replace it with a strong, capable swimmer. It took Neil about a year to be able to swim the Ironman distance of 171 lengths of the pool and he and Annalisa completed the Louisville Ironman on August 24. While he values the capable instruction he received in the pool, Neil also appreciates how the Y helped him achieve this goal through private instruction, flexible facility hours and a convenient location – all important factors for a busy father and out-of-town commuter. Neil was fit and strong when he became a member, already a runner and cyclist, but he’s also now a swimmer and Ironman, showing how so many achievements can start at the Y.