By Chris Marchand
A former Drydenite has turned her efforts to pull herself out of a mid-life malaise into an powerful source of personal strength she says has re-shaped her life.
While fitness has been a constant throughout her life, Christine Erb (née Bergman) says it was the death of her father Doug Bergman in 2013 that she says left her feeling adrift and struggling for meaning and purpose in her life.
“Physically and mentally I was lost,” she said. “I didn’t know which direction to turn or what to do. A friend, my hairdresser actually, told me about triathlon and how she thought I’d be good at it and that it might help me in a way.”
No stranger to the gym, Erb’s fitness goals evolved into race goals as she signed up for a sprint distance event hosted by the University of British Columbia. By race day she was confident enough to step up into the Olympic distance category in her first event, just a few months after her 40th birthday.
“That’s what drove me — to get my body, physically, mentally and emotionally a lot stronger after the loss of my Dad. I just felt like I was at the bottom of the barrel. I started really pushing my limits and it kept me preoccupied. I have two young kids and I’m a single parent, so to be strong for my kids is really paramount for me. I found that in triathlon.”
The 43 year-old occupational therapist in Surrey, B.C. hasn’t looked back since, ramping up her training to push her mind and body to compete at ever more punishing distances. In 2016 she completed her first half-Ironman Triathlon (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run) and this past June joined the ranks of elite long distance athletes to compete in Ironman events. In her first attempt at the 3.8km swim, 180 km bike and 42.2km run, Erb finished 16th out of 53 finishers in her age class in Whistler, BC. The 225km race took her just over 13 hours and 22 minutes to complete.
In August of 2017, Erb was fortunate to be selected by lottery to compete in the famous Escape from Alcatraz Ironman in San Francisco. After many chilly training sessions in 11 degree water, Erb says the famous swim portion of the race had to be cancelled for the first time in the event’s history due to unsafe weather conditions, which grants her the chance to return to the race in 2019. To finish the season, Erb competed in a half-Ironman event in September.
With the help of a positive co-parenting relationship with her ex-husband, Erb says her training schedule can range from 15-25 hours per week — running at lunch hours, swimming in the early mornings and using a stationary bike trainer to put on miles in the living room when she can’t get out for a ride.
“I just don’t make excuses,” she says. “Like any parent, obviously my kids are the first priority and their activities come first. And it’s interesting how my kids understand this part of my life. Being that role model for my daughter is huge for me. At the finish line for my Ironman she was in tears. I want her to see a strong Mom who’s doing it on her own and that it’s totally doable.”
This year Erb plans to compete in an Ironman event at Mont Tremblant, Quebec — a good chance to see her brother Stephen, who lives in Ottawa.