Get Out of Town!
Swim. Run. Bike. Cheer. The Malibu Triathlon
November, 2021 - Issue #205

A day after turning 16, my daughter Brooke stood amidst a group of other nervous hopefuls waiting to be called forward. The tension was palpable. Months of training, planning and dreaming led to this moment. Would she get what she came for?
Not wanting to distract her in the pressure-filled moment, I gave her a quick hug, encouraged her to do her best and left her in line. The rest was up to her.
A blaring horn broke the tension. Dozens of purple-capped swimmers charged forward into the surf at Zuma Beach to begin the first leg of the Malibu Triathlon.
While most teenagers want a driver's license for their 16th birthday, Brooke had something entirely different in mind. Bolstered by the heightened aerobic capacity that comes from years of club swimming, she set her sights on completing her first triathlon for her Sweet 16.
And not just any triathlon. She wanted the Malibu Triathlon, one of the nation's most popular races that draws more than 1,500 competitors for its Classic Distance format of a half-mile swim, a 17-mile bike ride and a four-mile run.
She dove into training, determined to put in the miles needed to overcome her lack of experience in running and biking. She didn't need prodding from Mom and Dad. Just bike maintenance and accompaniment on her rides and runs.
"A blaring horn BROKE THE TENSION. Dozens of purple-capped swimmers charged forward into the surf at Zuma Beach."
As she hit the water, it was our turn as parents to be nervous. Zuma's incoming tide was a churn of brown and white froth as breakers hit the beach with an occasional boom. We had watched previous divisions struggle in the surf, getting pushed back toward shore before finally breaking through.
Our worry was unwarranted. Brooke played it like a pro, choosing a smart line and swimming fast during a lull in sets to get past the whitewater. We hurried north across the sand to be there when she exited the water.
Just over 17 minutes later, she was done; the first in her category to complete the swim. While others trudged up the sand, she jogged toward her bike for the next leg. We yelled and cheered from the fence lining the transition area before losing sight of her as she rode out.
It would take her more than an hour to complete the ride up Pacific Coast Highway to Leo Carrillo State Park and back, so we distracted ourselves with the spectacle of the race.
The transition area was a swirl of spandex and spokes as racers came and went. A giant video monitor captured competitors crossing the finish line. This being Malibu, the race featured a celebrity division. An announcer interviewed assorted soap opera icons, sitcom stars and CEOs as they finished. To their credit, they managed to catch their breath and say a few coherent words about Children's Hospital Los Angeles, the race's charity beneficiary.
Soon enough, Brooke was back. She racked her bike, squirted herself with water and was off. It took a few stiff steps for her legs to switch from biking to jogging. We crowded the fence and cheered as she passed, then repositioned ourselves at the finish line for the final wait.
There were a mix of emotions and expressions as racers of all ages and fitness levels crossed the finish line. Relief. Jubilation. Disbelief. And more than a few grimaces.
And then it was Brooke's turn. Focused until the end, she came through with the same steady pace that marked the start of her run. When we finally found her amid the throng on the sand, she was relieved, but also full of smiles and excitement, rightfully relishing her accomplishment.
In her first-ever triathlon, she finished fourth in her age group, only a few minutes off podium pace.
She didn't leave with a medal but earned something more valuable. Inspiration.
She wants to race again in two months.
Eric Harnish, now a proud triathlon dad, lives in Castaic.
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