The Malibu Triathlon: The Most Fun You Can Possibly Have While Sleep-Deprived

I got up at 4:15 on Sunday morning. Voluntarily.

Think about the good things that might get you out of bed two hours and 19 minutes before sunrise. Childbirth, for sure. Perhaps the return of Halley’s Comet. An ESPN Classic replay of Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

OK, maybe that last one is just me.

In any case, here’s one to add to the list: The Nautica Malibu Triathlon.

“That’s fine and dandy,” you may say (if you are comfortable using phrases like “fine and dandy”, that is). “But why so early?”

Well, in order to witness the starting cannon of this singularly L.A. event, you have to be on Malibu’s Zuma Beach by 7:00 AM. I guess the participants like to get the half-mile swim, 18-mile bike ride and 4-mile run in before the sun melts away the cooling marine layer.

Wimps. Hey, I had to drive 48 miles in the pitch black – and convince The Bird to go with me. All on a single cup of coffee!

Because to guarantee yourself a parking spot – even at the remote shuttle lot – you really have to be there no later than 5:45. And when you live about an hour away…you get an alarm clock buzzing at 4:15 AM.

But believe me when I say that it was well worth it. I will do it next year in a heartbeat. And not just because I got to see actress Teri Hatcher in a skin-tight wetsuit. Although I must admit that did add to the event’s allure.

It’s a little surreal to be crawling along the Pacific Coast Highway in heavy traffic at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. Somewhere well north of Pepperdine University, we passed one of those interactive highway signs that says “Speed Limit 50” and “Your Speed”, along with a digital readout displaying same. We got clocked at “08”.

We caught the shuttle at Point Dume State Park, and had the interesting experience of riding to the event on the same bus that carried many of the competitors that we were there to watch. While some people climbed aboard the shuttle bus carrying beach chairs, others carried wetsuits. Some even hoisted their bicycles aboard. For many – especially the event rookies – this mode of transportation to the starting line was their only choice.

For while Zuma Beach is the perfect location for the event, the fact that the Pacific Coast Highway is not only the biggest thoroughfare upon which to get there, but the ONLY thoroughfare, makes for potential gridlock and a parking management challenge for the most seasoned of event producers. But somehow they pulled it off seamlessly, as they have done so for more than 20 years.

Evidently, having to lug your bike aboard a shuttle bus is little deterrent to those that compete in this event. Online registration for the event opened in March, and closed four hours later, completely sold out. During those four hours, over 3,000 participants had signed up, from professional triathletes to Corporate Challenge relay teams, to…well, to Teri Hatcher.

The Malibu Triathlon benefits the Pediatric Cancer Research Program at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and the company town’s primary industry – entertainment – turns out in droves each year to support the event. And not just to make a quick appearance and wave to the cameras. They come to take part, even if it’s just doing one leg of the triathlon as part of a relay team.

Name a studio and they were there with multiple teams and individual participants. NBC Universal, Sony, Paramount, Fox Studios, DreamWorks, Lionsgate, Warner Brothers – Disney alone had over 200 athletes take part.

So there we all were:  spectators, athletes, celebrities, titans of the movie biz – all intermingled along the beach, awaiting the start of the event. In the dark.

I talked with Eric, one of the event managers from MESP, the production company that runs the entire weekend’s slate of activities, and found that he had been up since 2:30 and on-site shortly thereafter. But his spirits were high, as were virtually everyone’s. It was like being in the locker room before a big game. A locker room big enough to hold about 6,000 people.

Amazingly, at 7:00 on the dot, all 3,000 participants were assembled in front of the event’s main stage, as event producer Michael Epstein went over a description of what they could expect to encounter in their trip around the course. As you might expect, there was a collective sharp intake of breath when Epstein announced that the current ocean temperature was, ahem…58 degrees. But what the hell – they were already there. Why not collapse a lung? It was for charity, after all.

To be continued…

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