But about three years ago, the Australian was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, an immune system disease that almost forced him to give up racing and ponder retirement. Sunday, after less than a dozen races into his grueling comeback, Walton finished second in the L.A. Triathlon, just six seconds behind winner Greg Bennett of Australia, who also won last year. During his rehabilitation, Walton tried to get up and run, train on the bike and jump in the water, and nearly 30 times his body failed him. “I tried to do it and then said, `Naw it’s not worth it,”‘ Walton said. “And then two weeks later I’m back trying again, and then sick, it’s just up and down like a yo-yo.” Now, with the disease finally in the backdrop, a healthy Walton sits in second in the Life Time Fitness Triathlon point standings. “You’re used to feeling strong and healthy, and then you’re stuck in a bedroom for four weeks with no sunlight. It’s definitely something that strikes you mentally and physically,” Walton said. “It’s just nice to be out in the sun here in L.A.” Walton, whose strong suits are the bike and the swim, couldn’t hold off Bennett – who finished in 1:51:49 – in the 6.2-mile run, the final leg of the event. Bennett said he “figured it out” three years ago. That’s when he began not just participating in the triathlon tour but also coaching. By training his wife, Laura, also a triathlete, Bennett became a “student of the sport.” This season he has become unstoppable, winning the first four events of the triathlon series. If he wins the final stop in Dallas, he will walk away with a $300,000 super bonus along with $208,000 for winning the point standings and individual events. “If you could make $300,000 in one event, wouldn’t you feel the pressure,” Bennett said with a laugh. With Walton getting stronger by the race, Bennett could have a tougher time walking away with the cash. If anyone was to take it away though, Bennett said he would want it to be his mate. “I felt for him, but at the same time he’s come good, he’s come strong, he’s got his head back into it,” Bennett said. “I want him to win one of these races but I can’t afford to let him do it.” Fellow Aussie Emma Snowsill won the women’s race by almost three minutes, finishing with a time of 2:00:45. She has won three of the four races in the triathlon series. The top local was Venice Beach resident Chris Foster, a former Penn State runner who began training in Southern California two years ago. The 24-year-old, who had never competed seriously in cycling or swimming until his move, finished ninth. “Mentally, it’s more fun,” Foster said. “Just when you start to get tired of biking, go running; or whenever you get tired of running, do the other one.” More than 2,700 participants took part in the festivities, with 70 percent competing in the Olympic distance, which consists of a 0.9-mile swim in Venice Beach, a 24-mile bike ride from from Venice Boulevard to Pico and Gilbert Lindsay Drive, and a 6.2-mile run to Staples Center. The oldest male was 84-year-old Bill Bell from Indian Wells, while the youngest were 14-year olds Nick Kinnon from Hermosa Beach and Brandon Nguyen from Palos Verdes. The oldest female to participate in the Olympic distance was 64-year-old Amy Galbrith of Venice Beach. She started doing the triathlon four years ago because the race went by her house. The top local on the women’s side was Santa Monica resident Jenna Shoemaker, who finished 13th. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! TRIATHLON: Bennett edges now-healthy Walton by just six seconds. By Roman Veytsman SPECIAL TO THE DAILY BREEZE Craig Walton was the picture of athleticism and health. The winner of the L.A. Triathlon in 2002 and 2003, Walton was at the top of his sport.