Meet GTD Swimmer Christie Ciraulo
"I can do this."
As a pre-Title IX athlete, Christie Ciraulo took a 25-year hiatus from swimming after high school graduation in 1971. She swam a little recreationally on a club team while getting undergraduate and graduate degrees at USC, but to her this was not challenging or very competitive. One day, when lap swimming at UCLA, Ciraulo saw a little sign posted on the gate: UCLA Masters Swim Program Starting. The date was April 3, 1994. Ciraulo observed the first workout from afar and thought, “I can do this.” For the next scheduled workout, she was there, and she has been there ever since.
“It is wonderful that we live only blocks from the UCLA campus, so that geographically, we are so close that I can get there in 10 minutes—even in LA traffic,” Ciraulo says. She works out at least five times a week, with the workouts being 60 to 90 minutes long. The group usually fits 4,500-5,000 yards into a 90-minute workout. After every workout, Ciraulo figures out her yardage and she inputs her yardage into her phone so that she can remember to go on her computer and log her GTD. Ciraulo swims with a big group and counts herself incredibly lucky to be coached by two-time Olympian, Erika Hansen Stebbins. “Coach Erika is a great motivator and not only writes challenging workouts, but also is there with words of encouragement and stroke tips, every time we come up for air,” Ciraulo says.
But Ciraulo is most at home in the open water. “Breaking waves, playful dolphins, bright sunshine—who wouldn't love open water swimming in Southern California? Although I participate in our local meets and attend nationals about every other year, my real love is the open water. Several years ago I decided I needed an attitude adjustment: swimming was becoming too routine and I had celebrated my 50th birthday. I decided to invite other ‘over fifty, fast and fun’ women to join me in the annual open water relay in Lake Tahoe.”
For years Ciraulo had seen the same names in meet results for her age group. She decided to send out some emails to see if any of these women were interested in joining her in such a venture. She sent three emails, went to swimming practice for an hour, came home and had five emails. The three were on board, and had invited two more to join. The details were finalized, down to the color of nail polish they were going to wear during the swim. The Mighty Mermaids came to be.
“Now swimming has taken on a whole new wonderful meaning. It is amazing how having fun can be so motivating! With my Mighty Mermaids teammates, Nancy Steadman Martin, N.J., Lisa Bennett, Va., Jenny Cook, Calif., Tracy Grilli, Vt., and Karen Einsidler, N.J., we have raced across Lake Tahoe, and swam around the Island of Manhattan. Most recently I convinced the Mermaids to venture into the Pacific Ocean and we crossed the Catalina Channel, breaking the existing division record by more than 90 minutes.”
Swimming is definitely an important part of Ciraulo's day. Although her household is a busy one, they always make exercise a priority. Her husband David, a retired invasive interventional cardiologist, took up Masters swimming four years ago. A speedy runner, he decided to cross-train with swimming and loves the club atmosphere. Diana, their 17-year-old daughter, swims for her high school and also enjoys working out with the kids and Masters teams at UCLA. Ciraulo's 90-year-old mother lives with them and she is the first to ask about swimming practice every night at the dinner table. The couple also have three grown children, their spouses, seven grandchildren, their dog, Sami, a whippet, and the occasional fish.
Every year, Ciraulo and her mother write a CPA reference book entitled The Accounting Desk Book. Her mother and co-author Don Morris write the book and Ciraulo does research, edits and coordinates the publication with their editors at CCH Publishing.
"It is wonderful that we can research and write from home offices. This allows me the flexibility to get to swimming, drive carpool, and be at home writing when Diana is here doing homework. I’m expecting even more fun swimming in 2011, as Diana will be 18 and can get her USMS card," says Ciraulo.