Prelude to the SB Triathlon: ‘On your mark …’

Race director Joe Coito, right, and staffer Jim Ryden don't let the breakdown of a transport truck spoil their day at the beach while setting up for this weekend's Santa Barbara Triathlon. (Randy Weiss photo)

It’s known as “tapering” in triathlon-speak.

That final countdown of saving energy the last few days before a race.

Taking life easychillin’ …. hangin’ loose … whatever you want to call it — it’s all the same.

The training is done.

Nearly everyone tapers — seasoned athletic studs like Dave Groom and Whitney Bruice do.

Whitney Bruice has prepared for the triathlon by doing the Reef and Run Series and Nite Moves. (Randy Weiss photo)

Even triathlon rookies — a la Ben Romo and those in training groups like Momentum-4-Life and Moms in Motion are resting and staying focused on what Coach Extraordinaire Ernesto Paredes calls, “completing, not competing.”

The only person not tapering is Joe Coito — he just happens to be SB Triathlon race director.

In fact, he’s just ramping up.

It’s a year’s worth of work coming together very quickly. His only race is ‘against the clock’ and after 16 years of running this Tri Show, he knows what it takes to win.

Today, he is readying his East Beach base of operations — though it looks more like the beginnings of a MASH unit in some far-flung desert location: cargo containers, tents, tables and a cool camouflage-like transport truck full of supplies.

When the truck’s engine conks out in the sand during the blazing mid-day sun, staffer Jim Ryden knows what it takes to fix it.

And while he tinkers, Presidio Sports zooms in for an exclusive, on-location interview with Coito:

PS: How’s life, dude?

JC: Hectic right now but it’s great! Got a beautiful day here and a wonderful weekend forecast!

PS: How many triathletes signed up?

JC: About 1800. We’re down about 5 percent from last year.  It’s not bad considering the economy — if other business were down only 5 percent they would think that it is pretty good.

PS: How does it all come together?

JC: We have a great team — eight key sponsors and many others and some new ones, plus over 330 volunteers lined up. And Santa Barbara is very hospitable — locals put up with some minor inconvenience on the weekend roadways. Overall, we’re blessed.

PS: Any projections how much money the non-profit beneficiary, Partners in Education, could receive?

JC: Since we started the fundraising component 12 years ago, we’ve raised nearly $500,000 for local non-profits, including the $40k-$50k anticipated for Partners in Education this year.

PS: What else you got?

JC: As much work and stress as this is (Note: setting up, not this interview), it’s always a joy to see the smiles on the triathletes’ faces.  This is a lifestyle event and we are changing lives. I can’t wait to get started!

Janet Garufis, Montecito Bank & Trust CEO, the triathlon’s lead sponsor, is excited, too. This year she is teaming with her son, Matt, and his dad, Sam – The Bertolet Boys – in Saturday’s long-course relay.

When asked if she’ll miss the uber-challenging  ocean swim from her inaugural sprint triathlon performance last year, her response was clear:


She’s totally focused on the 10-mile run while young Matt is biking the 34-mile course and Sam will do the 1-mile swim.

“Oh, Sam’s been a L.A. County lifeguard for years,” she casually mentions.


And when asked the deep-probing, ‘60 Minutes-like’ question — “Why is MBT so committed to this event?” — she zooms to the point again:

“People from all walks of life – all age groups – participate. Moms and dads. It’s fun to see the kids. It is very life-affirming and supports healthy lifestyles.  And we are hoping to raise a lot of money for Partners in Education. The bottom-line is that this is what ‘community’ is all about,” Garufis said.

Matt Bertolet will don ‘The Crayon Man’ outfit during Sunday's sprint triathlon to recognize the 2011 beneficiary, Partners in Education. Matt is doing Saturday's long-course relay with his parents, Sam Bertolet and Janet Garufis. Janet is the CEO of Montecito Bank and Trust, the triathlon's lead sponsor. Matt also works at MBT. (Photo courtesy of Montecito Bank and Trust)

In addition to the Saturday relay with his parents, Matt, who also works at MBT, will don “The Crayon Man” outfit for the entire Sunday sprint triathlon. Last year, he wore a teddy bear costume in support of the 2010 beneficiary — The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.

And if conditions remain the same through the weekend, participants can expect summer heat and a very clear ocean with water temperatures in the high 60s.

Up in the air right now is if local triathlon legend Joe Howell will be able to keep his 20-year SB Tri streak alive after his crashed his bike avoiding a wayward car driver.

“Everything still hurts,” Howell said.

Best not to count him out yet …

Not hurting this year is Larry Ortiz, who stops by to greet Coito by “The Concrete Casino

Ortiz is making a comeback in the Sunday Sprint course this year after a seven-year hiatus.

When asked by Presidio Sports where he’s been, the 79-year-old replies..

“I’ve had both knees replaced with titanium new ones.”

“Are they built for speed?

“I hope so,” he responds.

His goal is to finish the course in under one-hour.

Now after his noontime swim, he’s calling it a day.

Time to taper …


Note: Volunteers are still needed for the bike course. If you are interested, please surf over to or call their office at 805.682.1634.