Friday, November 28, 2008

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon Circus

Where can you watch giggling girls gush over Chris McCormack when he joins their heat to race, then see the Ironman world champ cross the finish line the next day to a crowd of puzzled faces asking, “Chris Macca Who?”

Or where does a race participant have a bodyguard for the swim, and all of her family members allowed in transition?

Jennifer Lopez triathlon swim

Where can you get mowed over by paparazzi taking pictures of one shirtless man, singled out in a crowd of many equally handsome, if not more chiseled dudes?

Matthew McConaughey triathlon

And where can you jump into an ocean-side changing room with nobody around one day, then go to the same room to be surrounded by women doing their make-up and adjusting their push-up bras the next?

Only in Malibu at the Nautica Malibu Triathlons!

Nautica Malibu Tri Logo

This year was the first to have an Olympic distance tri on Saturday, in addition to the star-studded sweatfest that is Sunday’s weird-sprint-distance tri phenomenon.

It seemed to break down like this: athletes looking to actually race a real triathlon signed up for Saturday’s event, while athletes looking to get a glimpse of their favorite stars stuffed into Xterra wetsuits raced on Sunday.

And athletes like me found a way to be involved in both days, equally intrigued by the prospect of brushing arms with Macca and Hunter Kemper as by blowing past J. Lo on the swim, or giving Matthew McConaughey a run for his money.

Saturday’s race started with a long walk down the beach to the race start, where co-ed relays and girls 29-and-under lined up, and were soon joined by none other than Chris McCormack. He was quickly recognized, then fawned over. The photo ops never seemed to end, as girls threw their arms over his shoulders, and dudes shook his hand. Then the cannon went off, and we all got down to business.

I should've counted the buoys before starting the swim, because every time I got to one, I convinced myself the next one was the end, only to be sorely mistaken. As much as I love swimming, my right hambutt had enough after the third buoy, and told me I'd better hurry up and start biking because the evil muscle would only give me a 2.5 hour time limit before it would secede from my body.

On the bike, hambutt and I felt much better. We beat other girls on our rack out of transition, giving us a feeling of untouchable glory. We had ridden the out-and-back stretch of PCH that is the Malibu Tri bike course numerous times, and were ready to have it to ourselves without traffic for the first time.

We flew out to the turn-around, then noticed a line of people and parked bikes by Encinal Canyon, one of our favorite climbs. A closer look revealed a triathlete lying on the road with what looked like a blood-soaked towel under his head, and another athlete a few feet away being sat upright by people holding her neck. Not good.

We continued on, watching ambulances and firetrucks drive the other way. We had passed other girls who had kicked hambutt in the swim and we were feeling fierce. We beat a Michellie Jones look-alike (she was wearing the full pink-and-blue Michellie kit) out of transition. We ran for our lives.

Michellie joined us for the first two miles, after another young girl leapt ahead of us like a gazelle. Hambutt would not think of catching her. Then, Michellie made her move. Hambutt warned me that if I tried to stay with her, he would take me down. At least, that's what he implied when he started to hurt. He still wasn't keeping me from running as fast as I could. Michellie, unfortunately, was faster.

Hambutt and I triumphantly crossed the finish line in a new Olympic-distance PR. He was promptly treated to a free post-race massage and promised he'd end his tyranny of my right side if I promised not to make him run another 10K for a very long time. We had a deal. We couldn't compromise on the swimming, however. He wanted none of it, and I was set to return the next day as a part of a Paramount tri team relay.

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon, Part Two: "Classic" Distance and Mind over Hambutt

Where pros are usually racked, pro actors and actresses were instead, along with a throng of camera-toting foreigners clamoring for the shots I'm using for free here.

Matthew McConaughey triathlon

J. Lo's paparazzi mowed down anyone who stepped in their way as they walked backwards toward J. Lo's swim wave start, following her and hubby Marc Antony. On another section of beach, Matthew McConaughey stood in his traditional pose: no top on. He was half-dressed in a wetsuit, and coachubby remarked that he has quite a toosh on him. A man-J. Lo, if you will.

J Lo tri paparazzi

The celebrities went off in their own wave, with the blow of an ear-drum popping cannon. My wave was 10 minutes back. I wanted to accidentally swim over Matthew McConaughey. It didn't happen. As a consolation, I swam right by Jennifer Lopez, who is the only triathlete I've ever seen to bring a bodyguard / trainer (was it Gunnar Peterson who was in the water with her?) along on the swim...probably to guard her from men who had the same idea about swimming on top of her as I did about Matthew McConaughey. (Smart move, J. Lo.) She was easy to spot, with giant aqua-sphere-like goggles on.

I ran into transition, slapped the timing chip on my teammate, and watched him run out with his bike to compete in his first triathlon. I was like a proud mom.

In the meantime, coachubby and I made our way to the finish line to watch stars like Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lopez, Eliza Dushku, Anna Kournikova, Zach Morris and Kelly Kapowski from "Saved by the Bell", Felicity Huffman, Jon Cryer, and Scott Foley come through. In three years of living in LA, I hadn't seen a celebrity yet, but this race made up for it. It was like a dream--besides all the "celebrity" celebrities, tri celebrities Hunter Kemper, Chris McCormack, Katya Meyers, and a ridiculously tall Jasmine Oeinck also participated in one way or another.

Jennifer Lopez runs

Coachubby then frantically led me to the awards stage for the celebrity ceremony--Cindy Crawford was giving out the medals.

All in all, it was the ultimate triathlon-in-LA experience. If you come for the Nautica Malibu triathlon, you might as well do them both, even in the event of a protest from a broken hambutt. Race the first day, then stay for the media frenzy of the "Classic" distance race. You'll get your shot at Olympic-distance glory and get to hobnob with tri-stars, then rub shoulders with (or swim over) your favorite TV stars without ever having to leave gorgeous Zuma beach!

Gotta love America, where Jennifer Lopez can get more media coverage for triathlon by participating in her first than Hunter Kemper ever did for being an Olympian in the sport!