Some of the fittest athletes in the Cayman Islands are in scenic East End and North Side for one of sport’s toughest challenges this weekend.
The Cayman Islands Triathlon Association is staging the 2013 Mercuryman Triathlon on Sunday, starting at 7am from the Reef Resort in East End.
The first Mercuryman Triathlon and Aquabike is a half iron distance of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.
Athletes in the Aquabike will do the 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride only. The triathlon can be completed individually or as part of a relay team.
There is also a special corporate division for the relay teams, where all members are part of the same company.
It is the only half iron distance triathlon in the Cayman Islands and one of only a few in the Caribbean.
“We are excited that we have two pro triathletes coming down from the United States to take part in the race – Guilherme Campos and Pedro Gomez,” said organiser Justine Plenkiewicz.
“We are also looking for more volunteers to ensure a safe event for all the athletes. If you want to see an extreme athletic endurance event up close – which is sure to inspire anyone – you can register to volunteer at http://mercurymantri.com/sign-up-form.”
Notable local athletes in it are Marius Deysel, Rodger Yeomans, Scott Ruby, Larry Walters, Mike McDonald, James Bebarfald, Neal Coleman, Scott Ruby, James Murray, Dean Gaffigan and Mike Ridsdale.
Given the fast runners and cyclists in this bunch, they are expecting an extremely competitive race in the men’s field.
“On the women’s side, Elizabeth Berns, Gill Comins and Carol Bell will duke it out against visiting triathlete, coach and Ironman World Championship qualifier Sue Aquila.
“Aquila will also be giving a free seminar for triathletes on Saturday afternoon at the Reef Resort about racing a half iron distance triathlon.”
The Mercuryman Triathlon is sponsored by the Reef Resort, the official race hotel.
Other sponsors are Cayman Airways, PostNet, White Sand Watersports, Tortuga, Vampt Motors and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
This event is organised by the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association and race directors are Johan Heath, Trevor Murphy and Plenkiewicz.
“With a week to go we had received 10 relay team entries and 38 individual entries for athletes competing in the Aquabike and half iron distance triathlon,” said Heath who is not competing because organising duties precluded him from training.
“I would have loved to compete but without myself, Trevor and Justine there would be no Mercuryman Triathlon event to begin with.
“I would be too distracted being concerned that all the race arrangements are going to plan while competing.
“It has taken months of planning and hours of work behind the scenes. I would thus like to see this dream and vision I have for the event becoming a reality on Sunday.
“It is only the second half iron distance triathlon to be created and hosted in the Caribbean.
“The other event of this distance is held in May every year in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.
“The buzz here is due to there being exponential growth in the number of triathlon races of this distance being created every year.
“So far Cayman triathletes have all always had to travel off island to attend triathlons of this distance in the US which is a costly exercise.
“It is about time that Cayman triathletes finally have a opportunity to race a half iron distance in their own backyard, in the very scenic districts of East End and North Side.
“I expect the Aquabike event to be very popular in coming years as it enables triathletes who have running injuries to still compete in an endurance sport event.
“It is also a great opportunity for aspiring half iron distance triathletes as a benchmark before competing in a full half iron.”
This time of year used to be quiet for weekend warriors. Not anymore. There is the Cross Island Relay, Valentine’s Run, Cancer Society Stride and Off the Beaten Track in the next few weeks. Heath feels there is plenty of room for the Mercuryman too.
“Our event caters for a slightly different portion of the endurance community. The others are pure running events while Mercuryman offers multi-sport events.”
Heath’s triathlon times improved significantly last year, closing the gap on unrivalled champ and fellow South African Marius Acker.
“I am exceptionally pleased with what I achieved at Ironman 70.3 Miami last year,” Heath said.
“I consider it my best race performance to date with a personal best time of 4 hours 38 minutes 59 seconds in the half iron distance event which placed me 21st out of 306 triathletes in the men’s 30-34 age group representing triathletes from 36 countries.
“This enabled me to qualify for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in August.”
Heath, 32, has been working with RBC Wealth Management as a trust accountant for three years. He has another busy year planned.
“I aim to focus on triathlon races of the Olympic distance (swim 1.5km, 40km bike and run 10km) during 2013.
“I am competing in the St. Anthony’s triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida in April and would like to represent the Cayman Islands at the Olympic distance triathlon event at the Island Games in Bermuda in July.”
He knows what he needs to do to improve his triathlon times but is coy about divulging them.
“Many of competitors will be reading this article so I can’t give away any secrets.
“I am about to become a first time dad soon so my biggest challenge this year is to become a master at time management to be able to fit my training in around work and being there for my wife Jana during these first couple of months as new parents.”
He hopes this is the year he finally usurps Acker in the big one in November. “Yes, it is a goal of mine to still win the Cayman Islands Triathlon. The Island Games and USA national age group champs will serve as great events leading up to this year’s local tri.”