Trithletes are a special breed who belong in the upper echelons of sporting deity.
For their efforts they should be grouped alongside boxers, mixed martial arts fighters, American footballers and all extreme sports practioners for bravery and commitment – especially the top amateur triathletes who do it for the love of the sport.
One of those brave soles is Jasper Mikkelsen, a 36-year-old Dane who in the year he’s lived here has become a regular competitor on the triathlon scene.
The Florida Ironman is his next challenge. A mere 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and full 26.2 mile marathon awaits Mikkelsen on November 1.
Surely he’s been out in the Cayman sun too long, you might ask. But no, he is a sensible man with a responsible job in high finance and two small children so the rational part of his brain is still intact.
Like anybody who does this sort of event, it is all about the challenge; wether mind and body can meet the demands. There’s not much of Mikkelsen but what he lacks in size he is certainly makes up for in heart.
With his designer specs and quiet demeanour, Mikkelsen seems more suited to attend an IT conference than one of the most demanding sporting events imaginable.
‘I’m drawn to endurance sports and have always embraced the suffering required,’ says Mikkelsen without a trace of irony. ‘Up until I was 13 or 14 I did a lot of different sports but excelled at cross country running and swimming.
‘From then on I had a long period where I did little or no sports at all and when I did it was predominantly team sports, although I did have one year where I did a fair amount of cycling.
‘I starting running a little again in my early twenties, but focused my efforts on karate until my late twenties. I also enjoy mountain biking. Triathlon is only something I started in late 2005.’
Who or what inspired you to race triathlons? ‘I was introduced to triathlons by our neighbours and good friends in Australia; Russ and Gale Rogers are both close to 60 and have completed numerous triathlons.
‘They are incredibly fit for their age and are very inspirational and supportive. I thought, what the heck, if these people can do a triathlon so can I.
‘One weekend they invited me along to a short distance triathlon event. At that time I didn’t even have a bike so I had to borrow one.
‘I could not believe how tough it was to run after biking, but it was a great experience and I have been hooked ever since.’
A typical hard training week is nothing short of Full Body Torture. ‘A big week is around 18 hours of training: 4 hours swimming, 6.5 hours running and 7.5 hours biking. I might also do some core strength training.
‘Since I started training seriously for the Ironman four months ago I have trained on average around 13 hours per week.’
He loves Cayman to train on. On Saturday he had just finished running for two and a half hours with Scott Brittain, last year’s Cayman Marathon winner.
‘Training here is excellent,’ smiles Mikkelsen. ‘The weather is typically good all year round, although summer can be a bit hot. The water conditions are simply world class. There is also a small but good community of athletes dedicated to triathlon.
‘The swim scene here is surprisingly big relative to population size and I have benefited greatly from swimming with regular masters swimmers like Alex Harling and Johan Heath.
‘On the cycling side the Cyling Association does an excellent job in organizing events and weekend rides. I think the smallest organized group is probably the runners, although there are plenty of people out both in early mornings and evenings along West Bay road and South Sound.
‘I’ve been very lucky to have an opportunity to run with Russell Coleman and Scott. Both are excellent runners and I have benefitted greatly by running with them. Fellow triathlete Marius Acker has also provided lots of good advice.’
It may be mid-October but Mikkelsen has plenty to do before Christmas.
‘Immediately after the Ironman I will be taking it a bit easy, but then I will be doing a lot of the upcoming events on island.
‘Pirates Week is an opportunity to do swimming, running and cycling. Then we have the biggest triathlon event on island – the Turtle Tri.
‘I am very excited with the participation of a few pros this year and some good age groupers. It should make for good competition for the local favourites Marius and Dave Walker.
‘I’m hoping to do a lot better this year with a solid year of training behind me, but I won’t be able to compete with Dave and Marius who both have so much speed especially on the run. In December I will be doing the Cayman Marathon and then finally I will take the remaining three weeks off.’
Mikkelsen is a senior economist with Information & Communication Technology Authority. He rides a BMX to and from work most days.
‘I get lots of looks because it’s such a small bike. Some people probably think I’m crazy, but I think it is in line with the island vibe and it stretches my legs.’
He came here with his wife and two boys, aged six and three, from Australia having left Denmark in 2002 to join an economic consultancy in Melbourne. After two years in Melbourne and some time in Brisbane they moved to Cayman.
‘It can be tough fitting in training with the family around. I start very early in the morning so that I can be back in time to have breakfast with the kids.
‘With the family around triathlon training becomes a bit of a juggling act. You have to decide how much time you are prepared to commit to training and discuss your plan with your family. This avoids a lot of problems down the line.’
So far there haven’t been any training injuries and he is fit and raring to go. He is financing the whole thing himself, costing around $1,000 and is open to offers from sponsors.
‘The last couple of weeks have been quite tough. I probably maxed out at 18 hours. This last week was 16 and this week will be slightly less. By the time I hit the last week I’ll be down to about five hours. I’ll be tapering basically, preparing my body for the strain to do the Ironman.
Why the Ford Ironman Florida which starts from Panama City Beach? ‘This Ironman is close to Cayman, it’s a nice event and supposed to be a Florida classic.
‘Where I expect to come all depends on the participation. I expect definitely to be in the top 100. We had the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii last weekend so many of the top pros are not going to be in Florida. That means many of us mortals will be there and it’ll be much easier for us to place highly.’
The winner will come in around nine hours and Mikkelsen hopes to get a sub-10 hour time. Ten hours of self-inflicted torture. No matter what his time is, this is an Ironman in anyone’s books.