Triathletes run, bike and swim for a cure

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A wave of triathletes hits the water in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sunday at Zuma Beach. The event raised funds for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Rough surf and a strong ocean current at Zuma created a turbulent first leg for the event, which consisted of a half-mile swim, followed by an 18-mile bicycle ride and concluded with a 4-mile run. Joel Ball / TMT

The 18th annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon, which took place at Zuma Beach, featuring athletes such as Olympic Gold medallist Amanda Beard and celebrities like David Duchovny, raises more than $268,000 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich wins the Women’s Celebrity

Division.

By Stephen Dorman/Special to The Malibu Times

On a sun-soaked and breezy Sunday morning at Zuma Beach, more than 2,000 athletes ran, swam and biked their way through the city at the 18th Annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon. The annual event, which was constructed by Michael Epstein Sports Productions and benefits the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, raised more than a quarter of a million dollars, nearly doubling last year’s total revenue.

The foundation is a leader in the fight to prevent pediatric AIDS and other life-threatening diseases that affect children. Since its inception in 1988, the organization has raised nearly $150 million around the world for its cause and has received the highest rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy.

“This event has grown from its first year when we raised $30,000 to today where we raised $268,000,” said foundation President and CEO Kate Carr. “We just couldn’t be happier. Everything is completely underwritten by the sponsorships, and all of [the sponsorships] add up so that every cost is covered and every dollar raised goes directly to fund research for the foundation.”

Nautica was the triathlon’s title sponsor for the eighth consecutive year, although many other companies lent sponsorship support as well, including Jeep, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, Men’s Health and Malibu’s John Paul Mitchell Systems.

“Nautica is associated with water and this event was a perfect opportunity for us to bring in a charity component to help make this triathlon grow,” said Mary Ellen Barone, director of public relations for Nautica. “There were over 600 participants eight years ago, now there are 2,100-it’s at its limit. We’re just so proud to support the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the athletes who participate.”

Amongst the triathletes were a host of celebrities ranging from television and movie stars to musicians, Olympians and even a United States senator. Some competed on teams where they could focus on one particular event, while others finished all three legs of the race-a half-mile swim, 18-mile bike ride and four-mile run.

“This event is just a great idea,” said actor David Duchovny. “It’s fun for the athletes and benefits a really great cause.”

Duchovny, who finished fourth in the Celebrity Individual Race, added that after competing he was ready to go home and watch the Emmy Awards, which were to be broadcast later that night, “on a nice soft spot on my couch with an I.V. in my arm.”

Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Calif., a representative of the 7th Senate District, also completed in the entire triathlon and said he really enjoyed swimming in the warm waters of Malibu compared to the frigid ocean temperatures found on the Northern California coast.

“The event is fantastic,” Torlakson said. “I’m down here because I really support the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.”

On this day, however, with surf in the three-to-five foot range, the ocean was a little bit unforgiving toward competitors who may not have had as much experience swimming long distances through breaking waves and strong rip currents.

“Conditions today were extremely rough with rip currents and lateral currents going up and down the beach as well as straight out,” said Zuma Beach Lifeguard Captain Jake Jacobson. “We’ve had multiple rescues where we’ve brought people in through the surf on our personal watercraft and our paddle boards.”

One of the competitors who had very little trouble completing the swim was seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard, who recently won gold in the 200-meter breaststroke in Athens.

“It’s great to come out here and raise money for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation,” Beard said. “[Swimming] is something that I can do pretty easily, so I might as well do it. It’s my pleasure to be here and meet these wonderful people, and it’s all for a great cause.”

Former Malibu lifeguard Derek Kite was this year’s winner of the Pro Division race with a time of 1:23:30, the fastest score of any competitor for the day. Kite makes his living as a professional triathlete and is currently working on accumulating enough points to qualify for the U.S. Championships in 2006. His ultimate goal, he said, is to earn a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing, China.

“Winning feels wonderful,” Kite said. “I always wanted to come back and win this race. It was a sweet homecoming. Plus, to do this for a charity, especially for kids that are sick, is the best thing that could possibly happen out here.”

Other winners included: Tate Donovan (“The O.C.”) in the men’s Celebrity Individual Race and Malibu City Councilwoman Pamela Conley Ulich on the women’s side. Team “NYPD Blue” (Larsen Jensen, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Elton Lewis) captured first place in the men’s relay, with Team Less Than Perfect (Julie Swail, Kurt Broadhag and Zachary Levi) winning coed team honors. And, 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist Michellie Jones won the women’s Pro Division with a time of 1:30:30.

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon will be televised on Fox Sports Net on Oct. 16.