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Topanga Canyon man prepares to compete in his sixth Nautica Malibu Triathlon by Equinox

Forty-six-year-old Jake Kennedy, who has overcome a variety of injuries to his legs and hip, will compete in his sixth Nautica Malibu Triathlon by Equinox on Sept. 16. Photo Submitted
Lauren Coughlin, Editor
9:35 am PDT August 15, 2017

The Nautica Malibu Triathlon is not an iron man, but its participant Jake Kennedy is. 

The 46-year-old Topanga Canyon resident has metal in the lower half of his leg and a screw in his hip from an April 2013 injury, but that hasn’t stopped him from coming back to the Malibu event for the past four years.

This year, Kennedy is doing the International Distance Race, which consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim in the Pacific, 40K bike along Pacific Coast Highway and a 10K run back to Zuma Beach. 

Kennedy did his first Nautica Malibu Triathlon in 2012. 

He had been at a party when he heard an “older gentleman” about five years older than him talking about doing triathlons. While talking to another partygoer, the man agreed to do the Nautica Malibu Triathlon on the spot. The race was just a short five months away.

Kennedy said he thought to himself “if you’re going to do it, I’ll do it, too. That’s a great goal.”

The five months flew, and soon it was race day.

“I didn’t win, I didn’t do great, but I just loved the whole thing,” Kennedy said.

For Year 2, Kennedy set his sights on trimming his transition times — times he said he spent eating, posting to Facebook and the like more so than actually transitioning in Year 1.

Kennedy also decided to buy a road bike off of Craigslist.

He was training on the brand new road bike — one which he said was quite daunting, with gears that he didn’t quite know how to change — that he said he hadn’t ridden more than five miles on when it happened.

“I turned a right-hand bend and I had my right foot pedal down, and that’s when I flipped off this thing,” Kennedy recalled. 

With a busted hip and leg, he was taken to the hospital. 

“Trying to get healthier and do better actually put me in the hospital,” Kennedy joked. 

That summer, Kennedy sat the Nautica Malibu Triathlon out. But the spirit of the event made him determined to come back.

“Out of all of the triathlons, on the West Coast certainly, [the Nautica Malibu Triathlon] is by far the best one,” he said.

Kennedy is also no stranger to injury — and it’s actually what initially led him toward picking up swimming.

Before moving to America in 2003, Kennedy was a professional rugby player. During one match in 2001, a player jumped on Kennedy’s leg and snapped in 90 degrees, he said. Still in shock, Kennedy sat up, grabbed his foot and bent it back.

“The bone was sticking out of my leg,” Kennedy recalled. 

That, too, resulted in a metal plate — that time in his shin. 

That was when he took up swimming.

“Two-mile ocean swims every weekend became my thing,” he said. 

Now, Kennedy is again facing an obstacle, as he said he dislocated his shoulder about six weeks back. 

Still, though, he is determined to make it to the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. Kennedy said he has been running about three times a week and planned to bike this past weekend, but swimming is going to be his biggest obstacle, he predicted, and he may need to do the breaststroke if his shoulder isn’t strong enough by race day.

“I’m just going to be trying just to complete and be part of the sport rather than beat my best time [a 2015 International Distance finish of 3 hours, 11 minutes and 4 seconds],” Kennedy said. 

Certainly, Kennedy has the determination on his side. 

And while he’s tried many other events, including a half ironman and various triathlons throughout California, the Nautica Malibu Triathlon stands out from the rest, he said.

“This year, I only picked the Nautica because I think out of all of them this one is a the most beautiful, the most scenic, the most well organized,” Kennedy said. “It has the best atmosphere and the bike ride is phenomenal.”