The perfect triathlete needs to be able to swim like a fish, cycle like a machine and run like the wind and that is exactly what the winner of the annual Turtle Triathlon did on Sunday. Triathlon royalty was in our midst and he turned in another regal performance.
The legendary Spencer Smith showed why he was a triple world champion in the Nineties and virtually unbeatable for many years. So no wonder now, at 34 and semi-retired, he is still a cut above anyone on the island.
Smith broke the course record with ease, completing the Olympic distance course of 1,500 metres swim, 40k bike ride and 10k run in 2 hours 3 minutes, a full three minutes ahead of second placed Marius Ackar who beat perennial rival Dave Walker into third place. All the action took place from Public Beach.
First woman home was Jamaica-based German Alexandra Consten, whose run was hampered because she was bloodied and bruised after a mishap in the cycling.
It wasn’t just a day for super athletes though. Many turned out just for personal satisfaction. Tony ‘Old Duffer’ Watts is a 43-year-old Englishman who claims to be the slowest swimmer in the world. Nevertheless, he completed in an admirable 2.46, well within the three hours he set himself and his wife Nicky finished too. There was at least one family team; the McCallums. Alex, 13, led off in the swimming and dad Tom took over to cycle before mum Pat stormed home for family glory. People of all ages, shapes, sizes and ages got into the spirit and turned out in the searing morning heat.
Larry Walters, Cayman Islands Triathlon Association’s membership chairman, also competed at 61 and he was a spring chicken compared to some of 200-plus other competitors. It was organised by Polly Cox and the main sponsors were Butterfield Bank.
Smith, a Brit, now based in the US, thoroughly enjoyed the event despite being beaten in the swimming by 14-year-old Seiji Groome. It was a stroll, really for Smith who ensured that he was not overtaken on the run by Scott Brittain, the Aussie speedster who is favourite for Sunday’s marathon. ‘The weather conditions made it very testing,’ said Smith. ‘It wasn’t too bad on the swim but I found at the end of the bike I started to feel it a little bit and definitely on the run that was when it took its toll. I found it very humid. Although I live in Florida, the humidity was definitely up there.
‘It’s coming up to the end of the year so for me it was more like a vacation kind of a race. The great thing about it is where I am. If you can’t come here and relax and enjoy it then there must definitely be something wrong with you. It’s nice that I get to race at the beginning of the week, now I can enjoy myself, kick back, enjoy the sun, beach and generally enjoy everything around here.’
Smith thinks this event could become a regular fixture with top triathletes. ‘I think the Cayman Triathlon is awesome. Considering how small the island is, to see the transition point and how big and bustling it is, Polly’s done an awesome job here. All credit to her. I think it has a nice island feel to it. It’s casual but everyone wants to do their best. This is my first time here and I hope to come back. It’s a very nice place.’
Ackar is a veteran of 10 triathlons. The 36-year-old South African works as a contractor for Butterfield Bank, so presumably will get a pay rise for raising their profile! Running is his specialist sport. He trained for two months.
‘This was my third Cayman triathlon and the third time I was second. Hopefully, next year I can go one up. The bike was the toughest part for me, I’m not a cyclist. I’m happy. I aimed for 2 hours 5 mins and got 2.06. Next week is the half-marathon so I want to beat Dave Walker for that. He won last year.’
Accountant Walker, 30, is a triathlon specialist. He had a running injury for seven weeks and couldn’t train for that part so was pleased with such a high placing.
The Englishman was magnanimous in defeat. ‘Marius beat me. He’s been training hard and well deserved it. I’m glad I came second. Spencer Smith is obviously a league above us, being a pro. It’s fantastic seeing what a pro can do. I’m really pleased to see him race and then it’s great to have a close race with Marius. TJ Oliver won this race two years ago in the course record of 2.05 which Spencer beat today. I hope TJ’s racing next year.’
Consten, 30, was another international competitor who couldn’t resist the lure of the Turtle Triathlon. She works at the German embassy in Kingston with her husband so it was a convenient long weekend for them to both come over. She’s done around 10 triathlons, mostly in the US.
‘I had a fairly bad crash at the bike turnaround, which was pretty much half way through the race. The guy in front of me was taking his time to come around so I had the option of crashing into him or going down. So I decided to go down and ended up landing on my mouth and face.
‘It crossed my mind to quit but the medics didn’t really say anything. They just checked if I’m okay or if I needed serious medical aid. But it was just road rashes. So I thought: ‘Well, I might as well finish if I can.’ Considering the crash I still managed a personal record (2.36).’
Typical German, she underplayed her preparations, but was obviously intent on winning. ‘I just got in the pool and swam a few laps but nothing serious compared to what I used to do. I got a little bit of cycling done in Jamaica and the running was pretty much the same. I’m actually very surprised at my swim as well. This was my first Cayman triathlon. It’s a great race.’