On Sunday, September 16, I joined about 3,000 of my closest friends for a scenic day of fitness at the Nautica Malibu Classic Distance Triathlon. The race, which is also a fundraiser for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, is close to my heart because it was my first official triathlon way back in 2009. Three years ago, I was a nervous wreck and spent the three days prior to the race debating the pros and cons of not showing up. (Pros: avoid waking up at 3 am and potentially failing at fitness. Cons: royally tick off my coach and never know what I might be capable of.) I forced myself to show up. I also managed to finish in the top 10 for my age group (a fact I was not aware of until hours later) and start myself down the path of full-fledged triathlon addiction. I still feel the flutterings of pre-race butterflies every time I compete, but I've managed to control that panicky, fight-or-flight response I remember from three years ago. The Malibu course consists of a half-mile ocean swim, followed by 18 miles of rolling hills on the bike, capped off by a flattish out-and-back 4 mile run along the boardwalk. The most intimidating part of this race for most people, myself included, is the swim. This particular stretch of coastline is popular with surfers, making it generally unpopular with triathletes. The beach is typically closed to swimmers at least once every summer due to dangerous surf. This year it was closed about two weeks before the race, causing nervous mumblings and grumblings among more than a few participants. However, on race day, the ocean was just about perfect. Small waves spaced far apart, a flat sandy bottom, a favorable current, and clear but not too sunny skies -- dream conditions for people like me who prefer to swim with lane lines and a black line along the bottom. Can't wait to get my hands on Endurance Films' Open Water Swimming DVD so I can improve my ocean skills! Despite getting bumped out of my preferred starting position along the front line, I executed my best ocean entry ever and led for the entire swim. I had solid transitions, and my bike and run were in the general neighborhood of my goal times, allowing me to stay in front for the whole race. I finished in 1:36:19, over two minutes faster than my previous year's time. The highlight this year was seeing Chrissie Wellington at the finish line congratulating people. I suspect she just wanted to shake my hand, but I stole a nerdy side-hug instead. Luckily for Chrissie, I didn't know at that time that I had won the whole race. Otherwise she would have been wrangled into a full-body hug. With possibly some squealing and undignified jumping up and down thrown in for good measure. Here are the actual numbers: Swim:  12:12 T1:  1:54 Bike:  52:08 T2:  1:24 Run:  28:38 Overall time:  1:36:19 (1st out of 547 women) Total money raised by the race for CHLA:  $1.17 million dollars Overall a successful day of racing for a great cause, and I'm looking forward to being back on the beach next year!

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