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SPECIAL EVENTS : Putting Body, Spirit to Test in Triathlon

May 30, 1991|APRIL JACKSON

Remember the old cigarette commercial, "I'd walk a mile for a camel?" Back in the '60s, that mile sounded like a long, long way. But that was then and this is now.

Blending physical endurance, mental strategy and raw speed, triathlon racers cover a distance of just under 32 miles (!), swimming 1.5 kilometers, biking 40 more kilometers and then finishing up with a 10-kilometer run.

About 1,000 such hearty souls, and about 300 relay teams, are expected to participate in a triathlon around Lake Mission Viejo Sunday to benefit the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

It's the sixth such annual event; the first five brought OCPAC $350,000, raised through entry fees and corporate sponsorships. The top finishers will split $12,000 in prize money, but, despite any lessons we may take from pro baseball and football, motivation isn't always tied to cash incentives.

Pushing beyond physical limits takes a special determination and can result in a sort of spiritual enrichment. An intangible element passes like electricity through the crowd as participants complete each leg of the race. A triathlon is a battle fought in running shoes, on two wheels and through waves. The ultimate desire is to win; the basic test is to survive.

No one in Sunday's race knows more about testing personal limits than Tom Sullivan of Los Angeles. Blind since birth, he will, with the aid of a partner, compete in the cycling and running legs. He'll also kick things off at 6:45 a.m. when he sings the national anthem.

The starter's pistol will be fired at 7 a.m., at the lake's North Beach. And how long does it take to complete such an ordeal? Last year, Brad Kearns broke the ribbon in a little under 1 hour, 50 minutes.

The event is being sponsored by First Interstate Bank, Mazda Motors of America and The Times Orange County Edition.

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