Weary Acker goes for double

This is the toughest time of the year for local weekend warriors because they competed in the gruelling Cayman Triathlon on Sunday and somehow have to soothe their aches and pains in time to do the celebrated marathon this Sunday.

A veteran of the two events is Marius Acker who took his third triathlon title outright over the weekend, confirming him as one of the fittest athletes ever to grace these shores.

In 2007 Acker was second to the former pro world champ Steve Smith.

Acker won it in 2008 and last year so technically this was his fourth win as the fastest resident.

He has won the Cayman Half Marathon four times and hopes to make it five on Sunday.

The Olympic triathlon distance is a 1500 metre swim, followed by 40km bike ride and then a 10k run.

The sprint distance is half that. Hundreds turned up at Public Beach for the event. Besides competitors, there were officials, volunteers and spectators. It was another fabulous, well organised event and credit goes to all the triathlon association reps, headed by president Dave Bennett, who put it together.

The men’s race was a thriller between Acker and Johan Heath. Acker was first out of the water, got caught and overtaken on the bike and overhauled Heath on the run having set off over a minute behind.

Acker was a comfortable winner in the end, in a time of two hours six minutes and one second, nearly seven minutes ahead of Heath who finished on 2:12.52. The much improved Tom Stephens was third in 12:13.54. Jasper Mikkelsen, in his farewell race before returning to live in Denmark, was fourth in 2:17.19.

Fifth place and first woman home was American visitor Ashley Naelon in 2:23.12. She loves coming here from Davidson, North Carolina and was over in September for the Sprint & Stride.

The 41-year-old Bank of America executive often competes in triathlon world championships and Ironman events so this was more a work-out for her than serious competition.

JP Hanekom was sixth in 2:26.56, Mike McDonald seventh in 2:27.33 and Ray Welds was eighth in 2:28.09. Mehdi Alofir was next in 2:30.26.

The local women’s race was just as gripping as the men’s. Pam Travers was second to Julie-Anne Pearson last year and although Pearson was there she wasn’t in shape to successfully defend.

Caroline Cahill, the brilliant runner, had worked hard on her swimming and biking and was expected to push Travers all the way – which is exactly what happened.

Travers is the superior swimmer and she came out five minutes ahead. Travers gained another two minutes on the bike and hung on to win ahead of Cahill who made up a lot of time on the run. Travers finished in 2:30.57 and Cahill’s time was 2:32.32.

Visitor Adrien Royston won the sprint event in 1:14.57 with Marius Deysel second and Johan Bjuro third. Cayman’s Marlene West was fourth and the first sprint woman to finish. Alex McCallum was fifth and fastest junior and Chris Sutton, in sixth place, was the best senior.

Pappagallo was the first team to finish, in 1:08.54, ahead of Ready Or Not. Third placed team were the Cabinet Cavaliers comprising of the Governor Duncan Taylor in the swim, Orrett Connor on bike and the newly athletic Rolston Anglin on the run leg. They were ‘coached’ by Mike Adam who expertly guided his team from the sidelines. Eric Johnson won the 10k run in 42 minutes 11 seconds and Annie King was second.

“Winning this time was just as special as the first time,” Acker said. “And I can assure you it still feels as unreal that I have won it as it did the first time. This was my only triathlon for the year so it was a huge relief to finish on top.

“Local triathletes all improved on their times in the last year and there was a lot of talk of having a different winner this time.

“I battled a flu infection shortly before the triathlon and at one stage doubted if I would be able to recover in time. I did little high intensity work in my preparation as a result and only started to feel better with four days to go. “In planning the race I knew Johan would be taking time on the bike and possibly on the swim. I had an outstanding swim on Sunday and managed to get out of the water ahead of him.

“He beat me by about 20 seconds in the last 800m swim and I feared that he might be 40 seconds ahead in the 1500m triathlon swim. If this would be added to minutes on the bike he might have got away from me.

“Coming out of the water ahead of Johan gave me a lot of confidence. When he passed me on the bike I was able to keep him in eyesight and that gave me a lot of confidence. I was passed after 3km of the bike race so I was doing the chasing after that.

“Though I am a better than average runner I knew the race was not over until I crossed the line. Cramps and fatigue during the run have ended many top triathletes challenge for a victory.

“I only felt that the race was mine with about one kilometre remaining even though I was in the lead from the third kilometre. In prior years’ triathlons I had to deal with discomfort on the run which I did not have this year.”

New resident Krissy Dooling will attempt to better the women’s half marathon record so Acker may have a good running partner. Mark Hogan has been in good form, having recently run the New York Marathon in just over three hours and could challenge for a win.

“I am still recovering from the triathlon and I would like to improve on my own course record in the half marathon,” said Acker. “The wind will be howling come Sunday morning which makes a course record extra challenging on top of the fact that I would most probably be on my own to chase it. I would be happy to win my fifth half marathon title even if I am not able to set a new course record.”

The South African banker turns 40 next year and is relishing being a youngster in the master’s division. “There is a quote which I like from the Bible: As a man thinketh so is he… (Proverbs 23:7). I don’t think of myself as old and I can assure you most people I compete with think the same when they see me.”

More triathlon coverage on page 30.

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