Last spring, The Indy, first-time sponsor of the Santa Barbara Triathlon, issued a challenge to S.B. desk jockeys and jock wannabes: Tell us why we should pick you as one of our Independent-sponsored triathletes. If you do, you’ll be entered to win free registration and-more notably-the services of a personal trainer who’ll whip you into tip-top shape for this race of a lifetime. We recruited Peter Park, of Platinum Fitness Performance, to play the role of sadistic drill sergeant, aka trainer.
After carefully perusing the entries, we found our victims: Cynthia Stewart and Danny Brire (pictured above), whom we’ll track all the way to the finish line. Both Stewart and Brire plan on tackling the “sprint,” a (relatively) kinder, gentler version of the triathlon that’s composed of a 500-meter swim, a six-mile bike ride, and a two-mile run. To get them ready, Park may have to crack the whip from time to time, but he’s in our athletes’ corner. “It’s like training for three sports,” Park said. “It’s a whole new world for them, and they just have to do the work, get up at five if they have to. But they’re both really dedicated; they’re going to do great.” Read on and discover why you’ll want to root for them, too.
Cynthia Stewart, 37, is a wife and working mom to a 10-year-old son. She doesn’t like running (going so far as to say she believes that runner’s high is a myth: “People are lying,” she said), hasn’t been to a gym since before her son was born, and has never participated in any competitive sports. “When I was younger, my dad put me in tennis lessons, but to run to hit the ball? I just wasn’t motivated to do it.” Last year, however, Cynthia decided it was high time she got in shape, and determined that she needed an “unreachable” goal to do it. “If just exercise is the goal, then doing the laundry :” she said, trailing off, implying that exercise for exercise’s sake would never suffice as an impetus to make a change-especially in the face of a mountain of dirty socks. But, with the quantifiable goal of crossing that finish line, she thinks she’ll be able to stick to her training. Perhaps more importantly, she said, “I told everybody I know that I was going to do it, so at least one of them will call me a wimp if I chicken out, and my mom decided to fly out from Texas, so I have to do it.” And doing it she is, albeit with decidedly modest goals. “Just surviving is good enough-I don’t have to beat anybody; if I cross the finish line, that’s enough.”
Then there’s Danny Brire, 50, whose wife Eve entered him in the contest, unbeknownst to him. (Not exactly the type of thing you’d find in Cosmo’s list of Hot Surprises for Your Man: “Surprise, honey, I signed you up for a triathlon!”) While our attention was definitely piqued by the application-by-proxy approach, what had us most intrigued was the fact that Danny has Parkinson’s disease. Though he’s had symptoms for seven years, Danny has little interest in taking meds; L-dopa, the best option in terms of medication, is 40 years old and comes with its own set of side effects. “Staying really healthy has become my therapy,” he said, pointing out that vigorous exercise has been shown to make neurons work more effectively, a symptom-easing phenomenon he’s definitely experienced firsthand-especially since he began going to the gym regularly, a healthy change in lifestyle that Danny also credits to Eve.
All that aside, though, Danny estimated that “the last time I raced someone I was probably nine years old and riding a Stingray.” Although he’s daunted by the swim, Danny stressed that he’s willing to work hard, and is excited to kick his fitness up a notch. In short, he’s fired up by the challenge and is ready to take it on, explaining his motivation by saying, “I have a sign in my office at work that says, ‘If you could read the story of your life, would you?'” We feel pretty sure that the triathlon chapter promises to be quite a page-turner.