Halloween is coming and one of the scariest things you can do is enter a triathlon. You know, the swim, cycle and run event that tortures every muscle in your body for ever.
Yet Larry Walters has competed in 10 Olympic distance triathlons in Cayman since 1996. He is 61. Why, for heaven’s sake, why? ‘I just want to be healthy,’ he said. ‘It’s my ideal sport because it joins together all the other disciplines. Plus the fact that I have an ongoing knee problem it prevents me from being a marathon runner which was my original discipline.’
He now does 10k runs having run seven marathons, the last one being Boston in 1994. His best time was 3 hours 21 minutes 11 secs, a very respectable record. He also competed in the world Olympic distance triathlon championships in Madeira, Portugal in 2004, finishing in 3 hrs 10 mins. There were 13 from Cayman in that race. They finished low down the team order ‘because of the extreme hardship of the hills of Madeira’. Walters adds: ‘All of us did well on the swim, a fair job on the bike, but the hills were a massive challenge.’
Walters, who is membership chairman of the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association, has helped organise the second Build Up race this weekend, in preparation for the Turtle Triathlon on 25 November. He expects between 50 and 60 entrants this weekend.
The first Build Up race two weeks ago had 30 competitors who ‘enjoyed’ the three disciplined event in preparation for the big one. The full triathlon is broken up into several events to help participants achieve their goals. There are two distances to choose from; the more popular Olympic or international distance is a 1,500 metre swim, 40 km bike, and a 10 km run. The sprint event involves a 750 metre swim, 20 km bike, and a 5 km run.
There are also two ways of completing either course. The relay team competition brings together those who would rather split up the swimming, cycling, and running between two or three people. The individual competition is for the super-fit who want to boast that they can do it all on their own.
First time triathlete Emma Graham-Taylor is preparing for the Olympic distance race and was in the first Build Up. ‘This was my first official triathlon. I had great fun and will be training to race all of them and hope to get faster. I was born and raised in Grand Cayman. My mum, Sarah, used to race bikes with people like Celine Macken, Perry and Craig Merren and Beatman Ebanks back in the day.
‘I’m from a family of six and so we used to split into two groups and participate in team triathlon events as family teams when we were a lot younger. I remember we used to have shelves and shelves of team trophies at home, not because we were particularly fast but often we were the only teams to enter!’
Sister Tara was at the first Build Up race, taking photos and volunteering as a marshall on the run leg of the course, bringing law and order when most needed.
Macken is president of the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association, and a gifted veteran triathlete in Cayman. Craig Merren is the long standing president of the Cayman Islands Cycling Association, and previously represented the Cayman Islands in the Olympics. In an effort to raise the profile of triathlon, and more importantly to raise the island’s level of health and fitness, the Triathlon Assocaition reached out to the cyclists and swimmers to form the matchmaker program so that they can compete as a unit. It matches athletes from the three sports together to form a triathlon team.
Merren responded enthusiastically to forming a synergy. ‘I am sure that members will support such an event,’ he said. ‘For years it has always been cyclists that could not find swimmers and runners. You can pair me with anyone; Perri, Mitch, Alfred, Richard, Dennis, Orrett, David, Stefan, Michael let’s get pedaling like old times. I’m riding. So you think you can beat my team? Come try, cyclists.’
The response from the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association was just as positive. Swim official Bill McFarland said that CIASA would gladly help in any way possible, to include a placement of swimmers in triathlon teams. McFarland will participate. He is a fierce competitor in the water.
The joining of the three associations should make the big triathlon a great race. The next Build Up race is this Sunday (28 October). Teams and individuals are invited to compete in the Olympic and sprint distance races.