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Competing for a Cause

Potomac resident Christina Lynn will participate in the Make-A-Wish Triathlon.

An avid athlete all her life, Christina Lynn dreamed of racing in a triathlon.

“I used to say I’d do it by the time I was 30, and that came and went,” said the six-year Potomac resident, who formerly competed in gymnastics and swimming. “Then I had two kids.”

Luckily, the outdoor activities available in the Potomac area and the sports enthusiasm of her peers allowed the 35-year-old mother of two to become a triathlete after all.

“You have the [C&O] Canal close by, and it does seem like there are a lot of running events,” said Lynn. “I go down on the canal and run, and my friend Deborah King who got me interested in triathlons turned me on to her trainer, a firefighter at Cabin John named Jim Gross.”

“My friend Debbie had done a triathlon, and she said ‘Oh, don’t wait,’” recalled Lynn. “She has a few triathlons under her belt. She’s my inspiration.”

LYNN AND KING met at a spinning class at the Fitness First gym in North Potomac. The women discovered that they had a lot in common: their passion for exercise, their young families (King has three children under 5 years old, and Lynn has two), and the struggle to balance the two.

“She doesn’t have a babysitter and I work, so for both of us it’s a challenge to fit everything in,” said King.

King convinced her friend to return to the world of competitive sports. They completed a half-marathon together in February, as well as a recent 62.5-mile bike race to raise money for asthma patients through the American Lung Association.

“We kind of have this little calendar of things to do,” said King.

The duo plan to participate in the Iron Girl Triathlon in Columbia in August, and the Osprey Spring Triathlon in the Eastern Shore in October, which will raise money for the Chesapeake Bay.

“[Lynn] was very athletic when she was younger, then like all of us she had kids and got put on hold for a little bit,” said King. “Those who have competitiveness will always have it. It comes into anything you do, and it definitely shows up in the races that she’s done.

“She’s really tackled it head-on and really gone for the big events with no concern and a lot of vigor.”

A TRIATHLON is a grueling combination of swimming, biking and running. Lynn decided to select one at which her hard work could make a difference for others. At the Make-A-Wish triathlon on Sept. 24, competitors will endure nearly a mile of swimming, a 25-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run while raising money for children facing serious illnesses.

“When you’re doing something like that it’s definitely a win-win situation,” said Lynn. “I’m not looking to have a timed goal. I’m reaching my goal when I’m helping them reach their goal of raising money for Make-A-Wish.”

Each athlete is required to raise about $300 in order to participate in the triathlon.

“I’ve pledged my own money, and I’m sending out letters and emails to friends and family and coworkers as well,” said Lynn. “I think most people do feel it is for a great cause. I would like to raise at least $1,500 as my minimum goal.”

King is a veteran triathlon competitor who participated in the Make-A-Wish event last year. Her sister is a volunteer for the foundation who brings wishes to the sick children.

“Make-A-Wish is an organization that I have a lot of respect for … and the triathlon really has that feeling [of volunteerism] about it,” King said. “Many people are doing it for that reason, or doing it for the first time, or doing it as a relay, because that’s a pretty popular way to raise money. It’s well-organized and fun, and there’s a lot of camaraderie.”

Nonetheless, the triathlon is a competitive event with a challenging course.

“The toughest part for most people is the ocean swim,” said King. “I was there last week, and the ocean swim can be very challenging depending on how many swells or how rough the ocean is at the time.

“Sometimes what goes through your mind is what’s out there in the ocean while you swim,” she added with a laugh.

FOUNDED IN 1983, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has fulfilled the wishes of more than 5,000 children from Northern Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Delaware. Recent wishes include visiting Disney World, meeting the president and traveling to Australia. The average cost of a wish is about $7,000.

That’s where fundraisers like sporting competitions come in. The Make-A-Wish Triathlon is in its 23rd year. Every year it is held at Sea Colony, a resort in Bethany Beach, Del. Last year, the event raised almost $200,000.

“The goal for all events is to raise as much as possible, and we would love to top $200,000,” said Kevin Flintosh, public relations coordinator for Make-A-Wish. “It’s a way to provide hope and joy for children with life-threatening medical conditions. It gives them something to look forward to and strive for.

“The triathlon is located along the beach, so it’s a nice scenic setting for everybody,” said Flintosh. “A lot of people make it a family weekend and go up Saturday and enjoy the beach before the race on Sunday.

“The race is followed by a picnic, and they usually have at least one wish child who’s had a wish fulfilled speak about their experience,” he continued. “A lot of participants find that to be a really rewarding experience.”