Bethesda Magazine | November-December 2017

Training Days

A group of older athletes in Montgomery County are pushing their limits with a coach and teammates who live for triathlons

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David Saybolt, Christina Dorrer, Ying Long Ford and Paul Huey-Burns make their way from Potomac to Poolesville—and back—during a regular Thursday evening ride. Photo by Skip Brown

Linda Kelly of Rockville was on a swim team as a child, but was never a runner or biker. 

Her older brother and sister-in-law inspired her to try triathlons as a way for all of them to travel together. “We purposely pick events in places we’ve never been and go a few days early to explore, then compete, celebrate and go home,” Kelly says. 

The most challenging climbs (biking and running) were at a half Ironman in St. George, Utah, she says. She and her brother also have competed in half Ironman races in Oceanside, California, and Cambridge, Maryland. They’ve raced in Montreal; Bend, Oregon; Portland, Maine; and Naples, Florida. On their bucket list: events in New Zealand and Mont Tremblant, Quebec. 

In the seven years since she began, Kelly has inspired her grandchildren, two of whom have trained for and competed in kids triathlons. “My 8-year-old grandson wants to do an Ironman with me when he turns 18,” she says. Kelly, who will be 71 then, plans to be right there with him. 

“During the race, every race, there’s a moment where I think I might not be able to finish this,” Kelly says, explaining that she powers through for her grandkids. “It’s part of what I’m trying to show them—you persevere no matter how old you are, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes you, you work toward a goal and see it through.” 

Christine Koubek is a writer, writing coach, runner and almost swimmer.  Researching this story has tempted her to train for a triathlon to do around her next birthday, which is Nov. 1 (the same as Huey-Burns and Kra).