Celebrities, athletes, Malibuites ready for Malibu triathlon

Mark Paul Gosselaar, Randy Eickhoff and Elton Lewis participate in last year's Nautica Malibu Triathlon. The three have been a team for a few years and have won the men's celebrity relay division each year. Photo by Nautica Malibu Triathlon

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon prepares itself for another fund-filled year.

By Olivia Damavandi / Special to The Malibu Times

At 7:15 a.m. on weekend mornings, Malibuites perform a number of rituals. Some read the paper, some go for a morning surf session and some begin nursing the headache from last night's party. But this Saturday and Sunday, some will be found on the starting line of the 22nd Nautica Malibu Triathlon at Zuma Beach, a two-day fundraiser that combines athleticism, Hollywood glamour and philanthropy to benefit Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and, in a particular effort this year, the Children's Lifesaving Foundation.

Featuring participants including world-class athletes, celebrities and corporations, the Nautica Malibu Triathlon is comprised of much more than a single competition. Though Sunday's general race consists of a half-mile ocean swim, an 18-mile bike ride and a 4-mile run, the event begins on Saturday with activities including an Olympic distance race composed of a 0.93 mile ocean swim, a 15.44-mile bike race along Pacific Coast Highway, a 6.21-mile run, sand castle demonstrations and a competitor awards ceremony. Following the general race on Sunday are the Nautica Kids Run and Tot Trot, the celebrity division awards ceremony and the competitor awards ceremony.

The event raises funds for Children's Hospital Los Angeles and its Pediatric Cancer Research Program. This is the second year the event will benefit CHLA, for which it raised $780,000 last year. The hospital is the largest regional referral center for children in critical condition who need life-saving care, with the mission of "making a world of difference in the lives of children, adolescents and their families by integrating medical care, education and research to provide the highest quality care and service."

This is the first year the Nautica Malibu Triathlon has teamed with CLF to raise funds for the foundation. Actor and Malibu resident Michael Chiklis has issued the "CLF Challenge," "telling …. not asking," as the CLF Web site states, people to sign up and compete to raise funds separately for the foundation. Participants registered as teams (the Nautica registration of $150 goes to the triathlon), and then went out and got pledges for CLF. So far, $44, 346 has been raised through teams registered at the CLF web page.

Children's Lifesaving Foundation since 1993 has enriched the lives of more than 32,000 children, moved 42 families into their own homes and awarded 41 college scholarships to deserving teens. The foundation inspires children to become future community contributors and provides life-changing opportunities through housing, education and recreation to homeless and at-risk families living in Los Angeles.

Since 1994, Chiklis has been the celebrity spokesperson for CLF and has helped further the foundation by publicizing its cause and motivating others to become involved. CLF president and founder Maria D'Angelo describes Chiklis as "an angel and a friend who has greatly benefited the CLF by spreading the word in every way that he can.

"He is a loving, dedicated person; the perfect spokesperson to represent the ideals and values of the CLF," D'Angelo said.

The two-day Nautica Malibu Triathlon is known for its plethora of celebrity and professional athlete participants. Among many are William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman, Scott Foley, Ed Helms, Tiffani Thiessen, Anna Kournikova and Hunter Kemper. Even Malibu's Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich has participated in the triathlon for several years now, taking home the Celebrity Female title last year.

Another participant competing in the triathlon for the fourth year is actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar ("NYPD Blue," "Raising the Bar"), who races throughout the year on an elite amateur cycling team.

"We race every weekend against the top pros and amateur elites," Gosselaar said. "The cycling season ends in August. I use this [the triathlon] race as a fun way to end my season," adding that he identifies with the mission of CHLA.

"Having children of my own, I understand the importance of having good medical care," he said.

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon was initially produced as a hobby by Michael Epstein, founder and president of sports marketing company Michael Epstein Sports Productions, and an Ironman triathlon finisher and mountain bike racing aficionado.

The triathlon had previously supported the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and, after 10 years switched to CHLA. "Our mission has always been to help kids," Epstein said. He described CHLA and CLF as "amazing organizations that have impacted lots of families and people."

Epstein hopes, in addition to fundraising, this challenge will "help people achieve their personal health and fitness goals and help them stay in shape."

More information about the Nautica Malibu Triathlon can be found online at www.nauticamalibutri.com, and more information about the CLF Challenge can be found online at childrenslifesaving.org/challenge.

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