A familiar athlete will be among the cluster of competitors vying for a medal at the 31st annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon this month.
Former professional triathlete Claire McCarty is set to compete in the Sept. 16-17 contest for the first time in two years. The personal trainer will swim, bike and run in the Herbalife International Distance Race on the triathlon’s first day, more than a year after beginning stem cell therapy to remedy a meniscus tear in her right knee and cartilage degeneration in both knees.
The sharp pain in her knees and other ailments had held McCarty out of the triathlons and Ironman clashes she had excelled in for over three decades, but the 60-year-old said she is now pain free and chomping at the bit for a chance to be one of the few participants to end up on the podium at Malibu’s popular endurance sport showcase.
“Both knees are very functional,” said McCarty, a participant in at least eight Malibu triathlons. “They aren’t a 20-year-old’s knees, so they are a little tight and cranky sometimes, but I can run on them without pain.”
More than 5,000 people competed in the two-day triathlon last year. Each year, the charitable competition features athletes swimming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Zuma Beach, then biking along Pacific Coast Highway. The bunch closes the contest by dashing back to the beach on foot.
The Malibuite McCarty will contend in the women’s 60-to-64-year-old age group this year. McCarty said she is not in her best shape for the competition, but expects to have one of the top times in her bracket.
“I certainly won’t have the type of race I would like to have where I try to compete with the younger age groups in the overall placement,” she said, but, “it’s fun being out there.”
McCarty’s career in triathlons and Ironman bouts started after she graduated from UCLA in 1979. She placed fifth in the women’s division of the first triathlon she ever attempted and proceeded to finish in the upper echelon of several endurance matches and placed in the top 10 of several Ironman competitions. While living in Australia from 1989 to 2001, she placed in the top three of engagements so often she was considered a professional.
The upcoming event McCarty and other first day Malibu Triathlon participants are competing in is Olympic distance—a 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometer bike and 10 kilometer run race along Pacific Coast highway. Two years ago, she had the second fastest time of a Malibu resident in her age group in that category of the Malibu Triathlon. In fact, since 2012, the Malibu sports spectacle is the only event McCarty has competed consistently in; initially because of an Achilles injury.
McCarty said she hasn’t devoted much time to training due to her busy schedule as a personal trainer. The skillful triathlete said in order to be in her best condition for the event she would have had to spend four hours a day biking, running and swimming.
“I still see myself as a highly functioning triathlete in my age group in spite of my limited training schedule,” said McCarty, who used to enjoy challenging younger women in the sprint race. “I have so much foundation stored that I know I can call on it to perform well, even though I am not doing the fine tuning I would like.”
The endurance athlete said she expects to do well in the swimming portion of the competition, but the biking and running will be a challenge.
McCarty wants to do at least one national or world championship triathlon this year, but right now she is focused on the hometown showcase, her favorite endurance race. She said she is approaching the triathlon like a weekend warrior.
“I hate to admit that, but that is where I am,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how I do in Malibu.”