Name: Jayette Pettit
Occupation: Retail Store Manager for The Real Mother Goose Gallery at PDX(started in 1991 – soon to be unemployed)
Local Team: Southern Oregon Masters Aquatics (SOMA)- Jayette lives in Vancouver, WA, but swims with SOMA because of their participation in open water events.
I was six months old when my family moved to Texas from Ohio. Because of the heat, we spent most days at the pool or around water. I was put on the swim team as young as they would take me. In 1979, when I was 12, we moved to Corvallis, Oregon. The new team and pool could not have been more different than where I came from. The coach at that time could not even swim. If the team won a meet, we had to throw him in the shallow end. So, I lost interest in swimming. Even though I stopped swimming, I still tried pretty much every other sport. The water was not out of my life completely though. My older sister was a star swimmer, so I was dragged to swim meets almost every weekend. In high school, her swim coaches convinced me to put on my goggles again. After years of not swimming, my strokes were completely out of date. It was clear to me that my skills lay in long-distance. I was never going to beat the sprinters.
My coach, Jeff Storie, started doing triathlons and encouraged me and a few other long distance swimmers to train with him during the summer. We raced in the Bud Light Triathlon Series and shorter local triathlons. We would train together in an unheated pool at 6 am every other day. To say it was cold would be an understatement, it was bone chilling. The pool pump was broken and they just dumped cold freshwater in. The water never got warm and neither did we. That was my introduction to open water swimming.
In high school and college (Oregon State) I worked at the Aquatic Center in Corvallis. I was always around the pool. I hung out with the other lifeguards, and that is where I met my husband Greg. We would tell each other bad jokes and solve the problems of the day during our shifts. The bad jokes worked because now Greg and I have three childern and have been living in the Portland area for 28 years. Unfortunately, once again I stopped swimming, because between work and running the kids around to school and ballet lessons there simply was no extra time. Greg and I both agreed that our children needed to know how to swim. I started taking them to the Propstra pool in Vancouver, WA. Once they were old enough that I could trust them to be on their own in the water, I started to sneak in a few laps. Sometimes when I was swimming I would see this wicked fast woman. As hard as I tried I could not keep up with her. She would swim in the lane near me and she had a fitting dolphin tattoo.
When the pool changed their hours, I was no longer able to swim there. However, I was really enjoying swimming and knew I could not stop again. I joined a health club that had two swimming pools and flexible hours. I started work at 5:45 a.m. Every day, rain or shine, I commuted over the I 205 bridge by bike. I couldn’t find a Masters team that trained in the afternoons so I swam by myself.
At the club I noticed that the girl with the dolphin tattoo was also swimming there. She swam around the same time I did in the afternoon. We started doing sets together, then whole workouts. That is how I met Suzy Jajewski. She followed what was going on with Master swimming and seemed to know all the other swimmers. Suzy encourage me to get involved in Masters events and convinced me to do the Oregon open water series. I have participated in open water for the past four years, swam in two Association Meets, and I joined SOMA.
Suzy and I have a lot in common. We swim at about the same speed although she is still a bit faster. We both like really long workouts. Together we can be seen swimming excessively long distances in as much open water as possible due to our mutual hatred of flip turns! After swimming together for a few months, we realized that we were both taking the same exit to go home. Come to find out, we live one street away from each other!!
Other Masters swimmers can tell when we are at the pool because we stand on deck for a good 20 minutes talking about the day’s events. Our husbands know that when we are swimming it will be at least 3 hours before we return home. Normally we swim 6 to 7 days a week (aiming for 5000 meters or more), but lately we have been swimming almost every day in open water around Vancouver. One of my favorite swims that we have done this year was at Lake Merwin. The water is clean, the surrounding area is beautiful, and we have seen several fish. Suzy is a great friend and swimming partner. We help motivate each other to swim faster and farther, but most importantly I know that she’s got my back. We both are worried about jet skiers not seeing us. I am most impressed with Suzy’s ability to withstand the cold water and how many yards she is willing to put in. I am always trying to keep up. Thank you, Suzy, for always being willing to swim a few extra yards.