Linda Johnson started with gymnastics at a young age and has always strived to do athletic activities ever since.
The Rainier resident traveled to Kona, Hawaii last weekend to prepare for her participation in the Ironman World Championships after working toward the goal for several years. The event will take place from Oct. 6 through Oct. 8. She had previously competed in Ironman events and triathlons across the United States and in Canada and Panama.
Johnson, who has lived in Rainier since 1989, started to participate in Ironman in 2005. She used exercise as a way to relax from a busy life of being a mother of three. She began swimming at the YMCA in 2005 and then a friend recommended she try out for a cancer benefit sprint distance triathlon.
Johnson then began doing more triathlons and found out she was pretty good at it. She continually placed in the top three for her age group.
“I guess it became part of my life,” Johnson said. “I would leave my house and run around the park. I could bike on the Chehalis Western Train and swim at the YMCA. It was a nice healthy outlet.”
Her mom, who was a big part of Johnson’s life and a vast supporter of her athletic endeavors, died in 2008. That helped instill a drive in Johnson to succeed. She said training for Ironman helped her get through the difficult time and made a warrior out of her.
During her last Ironman competition in Alaska, Johnson placed second in her age group. Since the first place person already qualified for the World Championships, Johnson was given a slot to travel to Hawaii this month.
“It was a 2.4 mile open swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a full distance marathon of 26.4 miles,” Johnson said of the Alaska race.
Kona, Hawaii was where the triathlon craze took hold in the 1970s. After the Ironman World Championships was held last year in St. Georges in Utah, the return to Hawaii got people excited.
“It’s very tough,” Johnson said of getting to the world championships. “At my last race, there were 2,500 participants. Sometimes there can be 85. Before COVID-19, I missed making the world championships by 30 seconds, so during the pandemic I was determined to make it to Kona and did a lot of indoor cycling to stay fit and didn’t let COVID bring me down.”
Johnson flew to Hawaii ahead of the Ironman World Championships to acclimate to the heat and humidity. She also wanted to get used to the high headwinds that can hit when a person is cycling during the race. She will compete in the age range of 55 to 59.
It’s a moment, you could say, she has been working toward for years and now she gets to live it.