Linda Matzigkeit didn’t plan to begin her journey to the finish line of an Ironman when she attended a routine press conference at the Chief Administrative Officer of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In fact, she was only attending the press conference to watch, but moments before AFLAC announced that CHOA would be the beneficiary of the upcoming Irongirl Triathlon, the race director came up to Linda and said, ‘you know it would be really cool if we could announce that you’re doing the triathlon today’.
With very little time to think about it, Linda made the decision to sign up for her first ever triathlon. Moments later the race director announced that Linda would be racing and she was committed.
Although she came from a running and swimming background, Linda didn’t even own a bike. She jumped into her training and remembers thinking,
‘I wish there were an easier way to figure this all out’.
Despite knowing so little she finished her first race. She rode on a hybrid bike with cages on the pedals and her helmet on sideways but she was hooked on triathlon.
Linda went on to finish multiple sprint and Olympic distance triathlons before working her way up to 70.3’s and then deciding to tackle the Ironman in Chattanooga to celebrate her 50th birthday.
Following the Ironman, Linda was ready to start giving back to the triathlon community. She looked no further than her own organization. She started Tri Possibilities, a triathlon training team for employees of CHOA to help women (and a few men) take the journey to becoming triathletes.
The goal is for employees to have a safe place to train and feel a certain level of confidence on race day. Linda wants her employees to have all of their questions answered rather than having to piece together information like she did when she first started training.
CHOA chose the Ackworth Women’s Triathlon as the team race (although a few men did join the program and participate in the Peachtree City Race a few weeks later). Instead of racing, Linda volunteered as a swim angel on race day. She and a group of other volunteers swam beside anxious swimmers until the very last person is out of the water.
Linda understands the open water anxiety that many of the athletes feel as they approach race day. She eventually conquered her fear of the open water but can remember not being able to sleep the night before races in her early days as a triathlete because she was so anxious about open water swimming.
After helping the last woman out of the water, Linda headed to the finish line for her favorite part of the race, watching women cross the finish line.
'There’s nothing like seeing the smile on their faces when they complete their first triathlon'
Beyond the race day experience, Linda has seen how the Tri Possibilities experience has benefited her employees. It gives them the opportunity for teamwork and camaraderie. It also breaks down barriers with employees. She believes that the program provides powerful opportunities for mentorship.
The program also allows for employees to grow in their confidence,
I think that triathlon is a sport that gives you such confidence. It’s not easy to do all of those things back to back. After employees finish the race they feel like they can tackle almost anything’
This year, Children’s Healthcare has over 160 employees participating in the Tri Possibilities program. Linda and her team see it as a way not only to give back to her company but also to the sport.
Triathlon has been in a bit of a decline in the last few years. Several of the people who went through last year’s program got hooked and started taking up triathlon as a lifestyle.
And don't worry, Linda isn't riding her hybrid bike anymore. She has purchased a couple of Cervelos from all3sports. A P3 Tri bike and a road bike. She and her husband, who works for Wahoo Fitness, are finding that they really enjoy combining cycling and vacations.
Find Linda and her crew at the Georiga Peach Women's Triathlon this August. They bring their own finish line DJ to celebrate all of the finishers. It's a party you won't want to miss.