The inaugural Mercuryman Half Iron triathlon in the Cayman Islands also happens to be my first attempt at a triathlon of this distance. The setting could not be better, the course either.
The swim, 1.9km two lap course in the incredibly clear and warm waters of the Caribbean sea, you are literally watching the fish swim around you, which can be a little unsettling I guess, but if you're used to it, it's incredible. The water is also pretty warm, up to 30, but more likely mid-twenties at this time of year.
This was small race, around 50 competitors/teams, which included three pros, two male and one female and some pretty serious local athletes! Myself not being one of them!!! It's a great crowd though, most of the entrants were locals and I knew/had trained with most if not all of them. A very special situation indeed to know pretty much everyone taking part at some level, great for encouragement out on the course and makes for a great atmosphere on the day. I loved it, and now having left the Cayman, it's one of the things I miss the most.
The organisers of the race are also residents of the Cayman Islands, a great group of people and for me at least, got every aspect of the day/weekend bang on.
To the race:
Swim, like I said, a two lap course with a pretty small group, apart from the fact that I went so far off course (pretty standard for me) that a jet ski had to intercept me and give me a friendly nudge back of course. This actually made me quite frustrated as I'd managed to pull away from my very good friend Marius Diesel and the small group we were swimming in, with this diversion I found myself swimming on his heels again, by the end of the swim I had managed to get about one minute on him and took another member of the small group with me, we worked well together for the last, against the pretty strong current, stretch of the swim.
Bike. The 90km course is also a two lap course and is probably the flattest course anywhere! The only real issue to race is the heat (high 20's by now and humidity on the way up to around 95-100%) and the wild chickens that can come out of nowhere! I've ridden the course a thousand times, but, never in the direction we went, which was for traffic reasons, the roads were not closed and this route reduced right turns (we drive on the left in Cayman, its part of the commonwealth you know!). As you know, I said my friend Marius was one minute behind me out of the water, well, I played a sneaky card here, I saw him as I was almost ready to exit T1, knowing he is also strong on the bike and our main competition is on the bike I decided to wait for him and exit transistion just behind him (he actually flew through T1 so to be honest I didn't have to wait really!), I followed him on the bike (yes, at a safe and legal distance), he knew I was there, I could see him checking and after a few variations in pace at the start he knew I wasn't going anywhere just yet! We were flying on the bike, neither of us strong in the swim, but both strong on the bike we made up a great deal of time on most people. Mid way through the second lap Marius started to pull away, still easily in sight, but easing away, Marius is considerably stronger than me on the run, I always refer to the fact I weigh 20kg more than him!! I stopped to fill up my bottle on the bike, I could have made it to the end, but with the temperature easily at 30 now and the sun beating down, I knew it wasn't worth the risk of tempting dehydration. At that point he was gone, didn't see him again, he caught one more person on the final stretch, I think we were 5th and 7th off the bike in the race (pro's excluded!).
Run. This course was pretty dull, four times up and down a road, the best thing about the course was you kept seeing people! The worst thing was the heat and sun. Holy moly…it was pure survival, water, sponges, ice down the shorts, under the hat…anywhere there was a gap or elastic, ice got inserted!!! I was really struggling when I saw Marius coming the other way and made it known to him I was struggling, he told me to drink more, I looked dry…which surprised me as I felt like I was knocking the fluids back. Anyway at the next stop I did my usual routine, stop running to a fast walk, pick as much up from the first person as I could grab, drink it/eat it, then grab more fluid and ice from the last person on the station and jog off slowly whilst I got that down me. Only this time I walked a lot slower, stopping to drink and get fully loaded with ice and sponges before taking off again.
The going was slow and getting slower, but I made it to the end in a time of 5h 31m, probably giving up all the places I made up on the bike during the run!
The final part of the race was a well thought out photo shot, we ran the final 100m or so on the beach looping round to come across the line with the sea behind us!!
My first half iron distance tri done, happily is an understatement! I hung around with my mates and cheered on anyone still out there until everyone was done I packed up and drove back home to the other side of the island…had a beer on the beach, quick dip in the sea and crashed on the sofa with the a/c cranked right up for the rest of the day!!
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