On Your Mark, Get Set, Compete!
Réal Andrews takes on the LA Triathlon
Whether it's winning a race, clinching an audition, or nabbing that big fish, Réal Andrews (Taggert, GH) likes to come in first. Arriving at the park the morning of the LA Triathlon in April, 2000 was no different.
"I like to get there early," said Réal, as we were discussing arrangements for the day. "I have to beat everyone! The race begins at 7 AM but you are going to want to meet me there by about 6 AM so you can observe us all getting ready, and talking, and all that exciting stuff!"
So, at oh-dark-hundred hours, otherwise known as about 5 AM on Sunday morning, April 16, 2000, we got in the car and headed east on the 10 Freeway out to Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas, California. One fantablous thing about driving the LA freeways at 5 AM in the morning. No traffic! Probably the only time there is no traffic on an LA Freeway. We made it to the park in about 45 minutes, and after another 15 minutes, found our way to the starting point of the race.
A few competitors had arrived before us. True to form, Réal was already there. As were his sponsors from Power Bar, who were setting up their booth and getting the paper work ready to submit to the race administrators. "It's great being entered by a sponsor," said Réal later in the day. "They do all the paper work and register us for the race. We don't have to wait in any lines. They take care of all that for us!"
The morning haze still hung in the air as daylight broke over the park. Réal greeted me with a big hello and an even bigger hug. He was in the process of getting his bike out of his sports utility vehicle and giving it a last minute mechanical check.
"Right now I am tuning up my bike. It's been a little neglected lately, because it isn't my regular race bike," explained Réal. "I have two sets of wheels with me. One is a disk wheel. I will wait till right before the race to decide which wheel I will use, because if it is too windy, I won't use the disk. It will hinder me more than help, as it will push me all over the course. But if it is a calm day, like the Lord has blessed us with right now, the disk is a pretty powerful weapon out there on the course."
Réal went on to say that the disk wheel created an awesome sound as you rode past other racers, and demonstrated by shouting out a harrowing "whuuumpf whuuumpf!"
A born showman, Réal was at ease and comfortable in front of our cameras, but he is also dead serious about competing. He did take immediately to being the tour guide, however, explaining every aspect of race preparation, along with tactics used by racers to assure a competitive edge.
For example, Réal showed us the new electronic system that he just put on his bike. "When it works it is great, but should it go out on you during the race, you are up the creek because then you have no gears," he explained with a laugh.
As many of you already know, a Triathlon is a race comprised of three sporting events. The LA Triathlon consisted of a 500-yard swim, a 14-mile bike race, and a 2-mile run. Réal was competing in one portion of this Triathlon: the 14-mile bicycle race. He was a member of a relay team called Team Braveheart, also comprised of 11-year old challenged athlete and swimmer for the day, Rudy Garcia-Tolson (See Team Braveheart's Rudy Garcia-Tolson.), and runner, Claudio Del Pueche.
As the cyclist member of the relay team, Réal explained the importance of positioning your bike as close to the water as possible. "You want to tag the swimmer and get to the bike as quickly as you can," said Réal. He took his time in selecting the perfect staging location for his bike. He went on to explain that every cyclist keeps a spare tire strapped to the back of their seat. However, if you get a flat, you are basically out of the race. "You stop and fix it and continue riding until you finish," said Réal, "but as far as finishing in a competitive time frame, you can pretty much forget that if you get a flat."
Réal participated in his first triathlon competition two years before in the Malibu Celebrity Triathlon. Subsequently, he did the Iron Man and now the LA Triathlon.
He spent a few moments greeting other racers and explaining their strategy for the types of bikes they used, the types of wheels, and the way they position their bikes. He then introduced me to one cyclist who was actually a racing guinea pig, testing a product for a sports equipment manufacturer.
As the morning progressed, the full contingent of racers arrived. When Team Braveheart team member Rudy Garcia-Tolson arrived, Réal brought him right over to meet us. "He is my hero," Réal said. "He is going to get in that 34-degree water and swim for 500 yards!"
"Next time, I am doing the entire Triathlon myself," Rudy revealed. Réal explained that a cycle manufacturer was in the process of developing a new special bike to accommodate Rudy's particular challenges.
As race time neared, Réal checked the tire pressure on his bike. "I use 110 or 120 in the front, and 130 in the back. These tires that I have can take up to 150, but because this is a race, and I want to go faster, I will use less pressure and risk a flat," Réal explained.
Soon it was time to process the paperwork and get marked and numbered for the race. We headed over to the Power Bar booth, where Réal's sponsors were also prepping their other big relay team, Team Ono, comprised of David Ono and Curt Sandoval, both of KABC News is Los Angeles. Réal introduced us to David and Curt and also to Terry Martin of Power Bar. Then, Team Braveheart team members signed in and got their numbers for the race. It was number 207. 207 was written in sharpie marker on Réal's forearm and thigh.
"Actually, there is no real reason to mark the bodies," Réal joked. "It's just that one day all the girls got together and decided, well, if we have to be here this early in the morning (we might as well have some fun with it!)"
Not only did Réal show great respect for his team members, but he also introduced us to Rudy's mom. "Like it says in the Bible," said Réal, "behind every great person is a greater person. This is Sandy, Rudy's mom. She is an incredible woman. When I am out there doing the race, I think of people. I think of my brother (Mark Teljeur, who succumbed to cancer earlier this year). I think of people like Rudy. I think of Sandy, and if I am not going as hard as I can, I think about things like that, and it makes me go a little harder."
Réal had a great time introducing us to everyone, including Bill Fulton, the director of the event. The LA Triathlon is the first LA-area triathlon of the year, and the one where all the triathletes get their feet wet. No pun intended. This year's race had a total of 300 participants. In its 18th consecutive year of existence, the LA Triathlon is the oldest triathlon event in the world.
As the moment for the swimming portion of the race drew near, we all ventured over to Puddingstone Lake where Rudy was in his wet suit, minus his prosthesis, and in the water getting accustomed to the chilly temperatures of the lake. Everyone wished Rudy good luck. Réal gathered the Team Braveheart members around for a moment of prayer. After a reciting the "Our Father" aloud, Réal continued: "Bless us dear Lord on this beautiful day. Thank you for your blessings. Thank you for this day. Let us have a good day in Jesus' name, Amen."
As Rudy took off in the chilly waters of Lake Puddingstone for the first lap of the race, Réal imparted some interesting information. "To most triathletes the swim is the most horrific part of the race," confessed Réal. "I don't think that anybody really likes to swim. As you can, see it looks like a bunch of piranhas out there, beating each other up. If you can imagine an Iron Man Triathlon with 1500 to 2000 people in the water, it is scary!" Réal said with a laugh.
Meantime, there was a lot of ground to cover. One of TRO's photographers, Billy J, was positioned near the finish line of the swim portion of the race. I zipped (and I am talking hauling it, my cyberfriends) to a spot near the cyclists area to try and get a shot of Réal taking off on the biking part of the race. Once Rudy finished his swim and tagged Réal, Réal was off like a bat out of you know where. I am fast on the camera, but not quite that fast and Réal whipped by me before I knew it, and I missed the shot! But we did get him coming around on the course! He bellowed "Wazzzuppp!" as he rode by our cameras!
Réal did his 14 miles and tagged Claudio who took off on the running part of the relay. After Réal secured his bike, the first question he asked was indicative of his competitive nature. "Were we the first relay in?" At that point, no one knew. How do you feel, I asked Réal. "I feel great! Were we first?"
Claudio finished the running portion and Réal and Rudy were there to greet him at the Finish Line. It took some time for the rest of the competitors to finish the race. Réal decided to occupy those moments by interviewing his team members and some of the other racers like Curt Sandoval and David Ono from KABC News. Curt, a seasoned on-camera anchor, gave Réal a few tips on how to interview for camera. "Stand this way so your audience can see the sponsor!" Curt advised in regard to Réal's Power Bar t-shirt! David Ono, another seasoned on-camera anchor, demonstrated for Réal the best way to hold the microphone in order to conduct an interview.
Despite the constant buzzing overhead of private planes taking off from a nearby airport, Réal had a blast interviewing everyone he could find! "I never noticed all those planes before," Réal said with a laugh, as he had to stop talking until the plane passed by. With quiet restored, Réal began his interviewing.
"Hi I am Réal Andrews and we are here at Bonelli Park for the first Triathlon of the year. I have with me our team captain, Rudy Tolson-Garcia. He did the swimming portion for us. I asked Rudy what part of the relay do you want to do. When he said 'the swimming' I said, Rudy, it's yours! The water is cold! How did you feel today Rudy?"
"I feel good," said Rudy. The water was warm! It was great swim. I did my personal best. Had the best time of any swim.
"What was your time, today?" Réal asked. "My usual time is about 6 minutes, 30 seconds, but today, I did the swim in six minutes," said Rudy, bursting with pride. "This kid has the biggest heart, with more focus and more discipline, than anyone I have ever met," said Réal. "He has changed my life. I have a spot on my webpage for him. I call him my hero. Any of you people out there who ever think there is anything that you cannot do, Rudy is a living example of there being nothing that you can not do. Get off your couch. Come on out. Do a triathlon, do something. Just don't make any excuses," said Réal.
Then, the microphone switched hands so that Rudy could interview Réal. As they waited for yet another plane to buzz by overhead, Rudy asked Réal "What should I ask you?" "Anything you want, buddy," replied Réal. "Whatever comes from your heart!" "Did you finish in good time," asked Rudy. "Yes, I am very happy with my time," responded Réal. "I had a personal best. I was most happy with the fact that not only did I have a good time, I came off the bike in control. I was not tired. I was not breathing hard. Which is the trick. When you can get to that point. To be able to hammer and still be in control. So I feel good!"
Rudy continued with the interview. "Did you like the course? Is it hilly, flat?" "I love this course," responded Réal. "It is pretty flat. It has a couple of hills. I went with the 909 zip disk (wheel) because there did not seem to be a lot of wind, but there was some wind out there on the course, so there were some places where I paid the price of going with the disk. But I made it up on the places where I used the wind."
Réal also interviewed the final member of Team Braveheart. "Here is Claudio del Pueche, our runner," Réal continued. "Claudio, you also had a personal best. What was your time?" "About 10:20," responded Claudio. "Wait!" bellowed Réal. "You were going for an under 10. What's this about a 10:20?" "The course was a little hilly," said Claudio. "Oh! It was hilly!" said Réal with a laugh. It was obvious that these two enjoy teasing each other. "Claudio is my secret," revealed Réal. "If I have a bad day on the bike, I know that Claudio will pick it up (in the running portion)."
Réal continued to wile away the time introducing fellow racers. Then, word came in. Team Braveheart placed first in the relay! Réal and his team were the winners! "WAZZZUUUPPP!" Réal bellowed in delight. Team Braveheart's official time was 58:27.
As everyone gathered to congratulate the winners, Réal was asked to say a few words regarding his efforts to raise awareness and monies to help those stricken with terminal illnesses.
"Hi everybody. First of all, I want to say thank you to my lord and savior, Jesus for giving us a beautiful day. For getting us all out here. For waking us up on another day. I am Réal Andrews. I am on Team Braveheart today. As some of you know, when my brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I decided to do the Iron Man Triathlon for him. I tried to take a negative thing and turn it into a positive. When I crossed the Iron Man finish line I raised over $40,000 for Ronald McDonald House, which sent over 100 kids with terminal cancer to camp for the weekend to forget about their pain. This year my goal is to do the Iron Man again and raise over $100,000. My brother passed away in February (2000)" said Réal, visibly shaken at the memory of the ordeal his brother endured. He took a moment to compose himself then continued over the lump in his throat. "He's watching me now. His favorite thing was the bike. So when I am out there, I know he is out there with me. I am going to continue to keep his name in memory. I am going to take this wonderful sport, the triathlon, and touch a lot of kids and change people's lives. Thank you."
"Champions in more ways than one," said the race administrator as he bestowed the first place medals on Team Braveheart. Congratulations Réal, Rudy and Claudio. Thank you for sharing your StarDay with us.
Soapdom would like to thank Réal Andrews for inviting us to join him as he competed in the 18th Annual LA Triathlon. Also, many thanks to Linda Torrance, Gedstern, KrazyMe2Aida, KDMASK and Terry Martin. Visit Réal Andrews online at http://www.Realandrews.net
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