Linda Lewis Griffith

What makes SLO Triathlon so special? ‘All are welcome,’ this retiree says

Kudos to the 40th annual San Luis Obispo Triathlon!

This awesome event, put on by the San Luis Obispo Department of Parks and Recreation, does a bang-up job of creating a supportive atmosphere in which athletes test their mettle in a half-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run.

The goals are sweet and simple: Do your best and have fun. Legions of staff and volunteers are on hand to make that happen.

I’ve participated in the SLO Triathlon several times.

I did one of the earliest triathlons when I had the chutzpah and the youth to attempt the event without an ounce of training. Fortunately, I was fit enough to go the distance, even though I hadn’t been near a swimming pool in decades.

My primary goal that day was not to drown.

A few years later, I did another triathlon. That time, I had the good sense to actually train for all three segments.

That was 34 years ago. I’d thought my triathlon days were long behind me.

Then a dear friend asked me to be part of her team for the 2019 SLO Triathlon. I’d only do the swim portion, as I no longer run or cycle.

Since I’m a regular at SLO Swim Center in San Luis Obispo, I knew a half-mile swim would be a snap. I jumped at the chance.

The entire thing took some orchestration. We had to register, pay, select a team name (Vintage Tri) and get a start time. I applaud my friend for her cat-herding skills.

Retired therapist Linda Lewis Griffith and her teammates pose for a picture after competing in the 40th annual San Luis Obispo Triathlon on Sunday, July 28, 2019. Courtesy of Linda Lewis Griffith

All that effort paid off on the day of the event.

On Sunday, July 28, we each left our respective homes before sunrise. Our start time was 8 a.m. and we wanted to find a place to park.

But mostly we were excited. The adrenaline was already surging before the air horn ever sounded.

My swim couldn’t have gone better. The water was warm compared to the chilly morning air, and I had the good luck to get a lane all to myself.

I finished 18 laps in 20 minutes. Then I leapt from the pool, scampered to the transition area, tapped my waiting teammate and I was done. Finito. Nothing was left for me but the cheering.

My teammates were equally satisfied. Each was pleased with her performance and the condition of their respective courses.

Our elapsed time was a respectable 1 hour, 49 minutes and 17 seconds. Our average age was nearly 68 years old

That’s why the SLO Triathlon is unique. It’s completely doable for any body type, age or skill level.

You see lots of studs competing on the course, but you also see folks who request the shallow end of the pool so they can walk all 18 laps.

Some athletes ride pricey bikes and wear streamlined suits. Others are first-timers, cancer survivors or families joining forces with their teens.

All are welcome. All are encouraged.

The event single-handedly improves the health and fitness of the community. It also motivates and inspires.

When several of my friends realized they could have participated in the triathlon as a team, they vowed to join next year.

So, keep up the great work, SLO Triathlon. Your impact is positive and far-reaching

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at
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