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Cayman Islands Triathlon

6 November 2016

As I mentioned, (see Olympic distance Triathlon), I was a little nervous about the Cayman Islands triathlon this Sunday, a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run, starting at Public Beach, West Bay, in the shadow of the new Kimpton Seafire Hotel.

As always, this was a well organised event, with around 200 participants, the official Triathlon event of the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association.  They run three training triathlons, tri-weekly in the 9 weeks building up to it, but unfortunately due to various reasons, I was off island for those.

I love these events, always fall short of my targets, but I get a buzz from finishing and need to set myself targets to exercise. However, it is not really the fitness element that is motivating. In a world where terrorists seem increasingly common, far right political hate movements gain sway and every form of bad-ism is becoming more frequent, the camaraderie and selflessness of an event like this is wonderful. Volunteers turn up at five in the morning to set up the course, hand out water, marshal directions and hand out medals and refreshments after the race. Friends and family drag themselves out of bed to cheer you on, but there is no narrow-mindedness. The marshals and spectators cheer you on as you pass. Your fellow competitors are just as good (maybe because I’m not a threat), joking and cheering each other on as you repeatedly pass on loop courses.

I had signed up with a competitive friend and training had started well, but with various excuses and having to be absent from the Island for a while to visit my wife, the training had fallen apart more than I had hoped and despite being able to do some running in the Isle of Man I hadn’t swum in the sea other than scuba diving for weeks.

I hadn’t really given much thought to a time, I wasn’t sure until the day before that I’d actually turn up and do the Olympic distance rather than dropping down to the sprint like I did last year.

It sounds like a cliché, but during events like these, you learn a lot about yourself, the ability to break achievements into mental chunks, push yourself and get through a challenge.

The swim started well, two laps of a swim course because there was also a sprint triathlon going (basically half the distance). The wind was brutal for the bike, but at the back of my mind is always the run.   By then the Caribbean morning had truly taken off, it was about 28 degrees C, a beautiful sunny day. I had messed up transition to the bike, forgetting my sunglasses, then messed up transition to the run and forgot them again! I’m not good at running the best of times (see To keep running) but this started really badly.

I hate running, and think I mentally defeated myself beforehand, knowing it was at the end even if I got through the swim and the run. I started off dehydrated, overheated, low on energy and frustrated without my sunnies, so went straight into a run/walk to get my legs going. I tried to mentally set myself a challenge of 3:30 which any triathlete will tell you is a pretty dreadful times, but something to aim for… To minimise road exposure, the event consists of four loops of a bike course (two for the sprint) and four for the run (again, two for the sprint). The run course further double-backed on itself within the lap to maximise exposure to water stations.

There’s nothing quite like a water station when you’re running in 28 degree direct sunlight.  But a lap course is soooo demoralising… Save that you get to high five your competitive friend. He finished half an hour before me, and wandered down to do a little of the last lap with me. By that point I was thoroughly demoralised, pouring water over myself at every stop, and just wanting to get to the end, time be damned.

Then, after god knows how many mental subdivisions of that 10km run, I was within sight of the finish line. The clock said 3:29:42. Maybe a hundred yards to go. A sprint finish and I could achieve my newly created target.

A sprint finish at the end of a triathlon is slower than you might think… but I think I made it through with a split second to spare. Let’s see when the official times come out.

I spent a lot of that run demoralised, but I’ll keep at it. I’ve done sub-three hours before, and will get back to there. More immediately? I’ve signed up for the Cayman half-marathon, running both a relay leg (corporate teams divide the 42km between four) and doing the half marathon – two medals for the price of one.

Then, I’m tempted by the Aqua Bike in January… 2km swim, 90km bike, but no run!


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