Age and Son’s Battle Motivate Triathlete

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Get out your wetsuits, bikes, and running shoes, it’s time to race!

This Sunday, the Pacific Coast Triathlon will be held down at Crystal Cove State Park.  The half-mile swim, 12-mile bike, and three-mile run are definitely a grueling test of endurance, but imagine doing it for the first time after turning 50.

Such is the case for first-time triathlete and Newport Beach resident Nancy “Nan” O’Brien.

To put it in perspective, past racers have said that putting the swim first is the best way to do it because if it was last, people would drown.  O’Brien said she’s nervous for sure, but after it’s all over she’ll be able to say, “I did it.”

The Pacific Coast Triathlon has been honored by Competitor and Inside Triathlon magazines as one of the top races in the United States. Like any long distance type of race, there are people of many different skill levels that compete.  O’Brien said that during a walkthrough of the race she saw the hardcore racers with special suits and equipment that will help them finish faster.

But she’s in it for the experience, not the win.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, and a year ago I thought I could never do it, but turning 50 this year has given me motivation,” O’Brien said.  “I’m putting myself out of my comfort zone, but it’s something I’ll be able to say I’ve done once in my life.”

Another motivation and inspiration for O’Brien is her son.  Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, her son isn’t able to do such things as triathlons, but she feels like she’s been blessed in this life and is not only doing this race for herself, but for her son as well.

If he can deal with all of that, O’Brien said, “I can suffer for two hours.”

Endurance and skill are the keys to success in a triathlon and O’Brien seems to only be worried about one part.

“Swimming is going to be the most difficult, it’s the scariest part for me,” O’Brien said.

Having grown up as not much of a swimmer, she’ll probably be more comfortable during the bike and run, as years ago she ran a 10k.

The race starts at 7 a.m., which is also another thing out of O’Brien’s comfort zone,

“Who wants to get in the water at 7 in the morning?” O’Brien said.

After the swim, the 12-mile bike will be a sort of loop centered on PCH, and the three-mile run will be on trails hugging the bluffs of Crystal Cove State Park, which will provide gorgeous views.

Different age groups and abilities will have staggered starting times so that the slower competitors won’t be trampled or put in harm’s way.

Some people will be watching their time very closely, but for O’Brien, it’s not about the win, it’s just about finishing.

“This is a one-shot deal for me,” O’Brien said.

For information on viewing the triathlon or to register for the race next year visit

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