Rapposelli races past adversity

Cool resident finishes first Ironman triathlon after accident, theft
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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For triathletes, the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii is the ultimate challenge. After the obstacles Linda Rodgers Rapposelli faced on her journey to Kona, the actual event was a relative breeze. The Cool resident finished her first Ironman earlier this month, covering the grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in 14 hours, 26 minutes and 9 seconds. Rapposelli was hoping to compete with the top athletes in her age 50-54 division, but the circumstances leading up to her trip to Kona left her grateful for the opportunity to participate. Back in March, Rapposelli was driving on I-80 when a Suburban spun out in front of her. She crashed her Toyota 4Runner into the vehicle head on, leaving her with severe whiplash. Though she was dealing with lingering neck pain, Rapposelli was feeling good about her training when, in August, her new 4Runner along with her bike and most of her gear was stolen after a day of training in San Francisco. “It was one challenge after another,” Rapposelli said. “I said ‘I’m going to use all this to fuel me to a great race.’ When I got over there I had some things come up and I kind of knew it was going to come down to just finishing.” The open-ocean swim at Kona was Rapposelli’s biggest fear. She had a panic attack during a training swim about a week before the race and ended up taking a swim lesson to help calm her nerves. “I’m not sure if it was the pressure or what it was, but I did some resourcing and I had a swim lesson,” Rapposelli said. “The teacher was great. She sat me down and talked to me about racing with love and respect for the island and being grateful for everything. I cried for probably the first 10 miles on my bike (following the swim) because I was grateful to be done with the swim, but I was also listing off everything I’m grateful for.” Rapposelli’s finish in Kona gives her a resume only a few endurance athletes can match. She has finished the Western States Endurance Run, the Tevis Cup endurance ride and the Kona Ironman. Rapposelli, who works with foster teens and at a women’s shelter, said she relied on her Western States experience to make it to the finish in Hawaii. “I ran in the dark and that reminded me of Western States, but I used everything from that race,” she said. “I knew I could go the 26.2 miles and I was power-walking — doing the Western States shuffle — as fast as people were running. Getting through Western States - mentally that gave me the edge here.” Though the San Francisco Police Department offered little help initially, Rapposelli’s boyfriend Patrick McDonald — whose gear was also stolen with the car — would not let the case go, even after the car had been recovered 20 days after the theft McDonald investigated and eventually called San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, who pressured police into action. On Sept. 23, police arrested Melissa Small of Canada on suspicion of car theft and possession of stolen property. Small had a warrant out for her arrest in Placer County as well and was in the country illegally. Rapposelli got a helping hand from a downtown Auburn bike shop and missed only a few days of training as a result of the setback. She’s mostly happy she can practice what she preaches at her job each day. “When I work with foster youth, I tell them a lot of the same things I’ve tried to do,” Rapposelli said. “And that’s set goals, stay focused and overcome obstacles.”