triathlon - winner's podium

Triathlete Claire McCarty (second from left) on the winner's podium

Running along Malibu’s coastal sands two Saturdays ago, focused on getting back to Zuma Beach as fast as her feet and aching legs could take her, Claire McCarty, a seasoned triathlete, flashed back to a race Down Under 20 years ago.

In 1997, McCarty, then a professional triathlete representing Australia, was running as fast as possible, shoulder to shoulder with an American competitor in a world championship race in Perth, Australia. The two women were blazing down the last leg of the Western Australian field, when suddenly McCarty’s competitor ran out of gas. McCarty slowed down too, thinking, “Racing with my competitor will make me better.” However, the Malibuite eventually powered back up and pushed through her fatigue to beat the woman, finishing the race with a bronze medal in hand. 

McCarty, 61, had already completed the 1.5K ocean swim and 40K bike ride of the Nautica Malibu Triathlon’s international distance race on Sept. 16 when the line “’97 world championships,” kept sprinting through her head during triathlon’s final event, the 10K run. 

“My hamstrings and glutes were on fire,” she said. “That was very limiting in being able to run faster. I wasn’t running at the same pace from 1997. I just wanted to simulate that effort.”

The former pro endurance racer finished the 31st annual Malibu event second in the 60 to 64-year-old age group with a time of 2 hours, 55 minutes and 30 seconds. McCarty competed the swim in 25:10, the bike race in 1:22:17 and the run in 1:01:05. 

The personal trainer, racing for the first time since completing stem cell therapy on her knees, said she finished the contest 10 minutes faster than she expected. 

“I was really happy with how I raced,” McCarty said. “I had a solid swim, and that’s what I carried through to the bike.” 

The athletic competition raised $1.4 million for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Alexander Romanenko was the overall winner of the triathlon’s Sept. 17 traditional race, completing the half-mile swim, 17-mile bike ride and four-mile run in 1:12:14.09. Sophie Chase triumphed in the female division with a time of 1:20:20.09. 

McCarty was one of over 60 Malibu residents to swim, bike and run in the two-day spectacle that featured more than 5,000 participants that range from weekend warriors to professionals. 

Triathlete Alec Wilimovsky, 20, a 2015 graduate of Malibu High, finished second to Romanenko in the classic race with a time of 1:12:45. The 20-year-old was one of 46 people who listed themselves as Malibu residents who ran in the race. Jeff Runyan, 43, of Malibu finished the 1,866-person dash with the 58th fastest time—1:33:09. Other notable times were David Barton, 35, who had a time of 1:34:30; Ted McDonald,47, had a time of 1:35:06; and Reid Lazzarini, 22, had a time of 1:35:33.

triathlon - Alec Wilimovsky.jpg

Alec Wilimovsky

Thirteen other Malibuites competed in the international distance race on the event’s first day with McCarty. They and their times were: Bryan Kelln, 51, 2:34:17; Kevin McCabe, 56, 2:42:19; Jeff Barton, 62, 2:43:03; Derek Newman, 46, 2:51:51; Lydia Stiegler, 49, 2:54:53; Patrick Kelly, 52, 3:01:30; Jill de Jong, 35, 3:05:08; Philip Frykman, 50, 3:05:25; Alexander Pfeiffer, 24, 3:07:48; Cynthia Wornham, 61, 3:15:34; Eric Hedayat, 55, 3:24:30; William Pfeiffer, 56, 3:25:06; and Julie Andersen, 41, 3:51:56. 

The mix of participants allowed McCarty to keep an eye trained on women competing in younger age brackets. 

“When I got out of the water and was running up the beach, there was a man standing in the chute to run into the transition area and he must have tracked for someone else, but it was cool, he said, ‘You’re fourth yellow swim cap,’” McCarty said. “So, I was like, ‘Cool.’ I was fourth out of the water for the swim.” 

Max Jaben, a Zuma Beach lifeguard, competed in the triathlon’s classic relay race celebrity bracket with Team Westworld, a group composed of he and “Westworld” actors Luke Hemsworth and James Marsden. Jaben, also the head coach and owner of the Malibu Seawolves, a youth swim program, completed the 800-meter ocean swim for the trio in 8:41.

triathlon - L-R Hemsworth, Jaben, Marsden

From left: Luke Hemsworth, Zuma lifeguard Max Jaben and James Marsden

The expert swimmer was first out of the water in a race that included Olympic gold medalist Conor Dwyer.

“I was really happy with that,” said Jaben, acknowledging it was fun to swim against one of the best pool swimmers in America. 

The 31-year-old said his experience as a lifeguard gave him some advantages—reading water conditions, knowing where to spot buoys and catching waves—over the swim’s other participants.

“Conor was pretty far ahead of me when we rounded that last buoy, but I caught a wave into the beach,” said Jaben, a member of several swim clubs. “That is probably the one point where an ocean-based person gets to use their knowledge. You can catch a wave all the way into the beach to pass people.”

Once out of the ocean, Jaben passed his timing chip to his teammate, Hemsworth, who completed the bike race for Team Westworld. Marsden capped the team’s race with the run. The group finished with a time of 1:32:39. 

Jaben said a having a group of likeminded people at Zuma Beach and the triathlon’s fundraising efforts are why he competes each year.

“It’s very nice to go there for a very meaningful cause and to just have some fun,” he said. “I will be back next year.” 

The triathlete of 35 years, McCarty, is ready for next year’s Malibu Triathlon, also. 

“It’s a really nice experience,” she said. 

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