Completing a half-iron triathlon is the toughest sporting challenge in the Cayman Islands, yet around 100 did so and in horrendous conditions many finished with smiles on their faces.
It was the second Mercuryman Triathlon and Aquabike at the Reef Resort in East End last week, consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and half-marathon run of 13.1 miles.
Organized by the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association, much credit goes to Trevor Murphy, Justine Plenkiewicz, and Johan Heath who only last month left to live in his South Africa homeland but he could not resist returning for this event.
It all started at 7 a.m. with choppy seas and a blustery wind. The athletes pushed ahead and professional triathlete Lisa Ribes won in the triathlon in 4 hours, 31 minutes and 40 seconds.
“It was great. An absolutely beautiful course,” American Ribes said, adding that the swim was a bit rough and she got “tossed around a little bit, kind of like swimming in a washing machine.”
“But I just kind of relaxed and had fun and rolled with it and embraced the wind in whatever direction it was coming from,” she said.
Ribes lauded the event’s organizers. “For the second year of doing this race, it’s an absolutely wonderful race,” Ribes said. “Well organized, well supported and I’m just happy to be here.”
It was her second year in succession of competing and she took it, literally on short notice and treated it like an extended training session.
On the strength of how much Ribes enjoyed it last year, she consulted her diary and in a heartbeat decided three days before it was worth making the trip down from Tucson, Arizona.
“It was a great way for me to see where I’m at to start ramping up my training for the season,” she said. “Once I got on the bike, it was like being in the water because I got tossed around in the wind, but I just kind of hunkered down and got it done.
“The run was fabulous. There were a lot of volunteers out there and everyone was cheering for us and all the aid stations had plenty of stuff for us. It was great.” Ribes, 35, was a middle-distance runner in high school and college in Illinois and when she moved to Tucson to get her master’s in landscape architecture she got “sucked into the triathlon scene” and been doing them for 11 years. This is her fourth year as a pro and this year she hopes to compete in the world championships either in the half-ironman or ironman distance.
She loves coming here and hopes that more people will participate in the future.
“They had everything organized really well,” she said. “For a race that’s only in its second year and as small as it is, that was pretty amazing, because a lot of other bigger races would have just canceled the swim and just taken the easy way out, but they didn’t.”
Ribes is encouraging other pros to attend the Mercuryman. “I’ve already been bragging about coming here and encouraging others to come here next year and use it as a great event to build it up and use it as a wonderful training event and getting themselves ready for the season. Absolutely.”
Darren Mew, Chris Sutton and Marco Mirando, of team Wet, Windy and Hot, won the team competition. Johann Prinsloo won the Aquabike competition. Local athlete Jonathan Herrick was second in the triathlon in 5:02:50 and visitor Doug Jesse third (5:09:40).
Suzanne Aquila won the women’s open and was fourth overall in 5:18:50 and then came Jamie Hoyt, Marius Deysel, Conrad Proud, Jeffrey Jakubiak, Joanna Thwaites and Jon Roney was tenth.
Plenty brave and very determined souls completed this gruelling solo distance for a first time, including Jens Pankalla, Kevin Connolly, Helki Weber, Sarah Superfine, Andrea Roach, Dale Avery, Marlon Crowe and Samuel Young. Connolly, Crowe and Young are youngsters in their 20s and also members of the Flashy Nation team and deserve props for competing in many of these events throughout the past couple of years.
Smiley Gill Comins recovered well enough from long-term injury to win the female aquabike, finishing fourth overall.
Trevor Murphy said, “I’m very pleased with how it went because the weather in the days leading up to it were not ideal. It played havoc with our minds and we only decided half an hour before the swim to go ahead.
“It was great, a huge success and I’m very happy. Johan was one of the founders of this race and were more than happy to see him again. We hope he flies back every year for it.”
All the volunteers deserve praise for their input, particularly the Red Cross team that, thankfully, had little to do. Some of the proceeds went to the East End Primary School – its students manned a water stop with jokey posters to the delight of the competitors.
There were welcomes all round for Jasper Mikkelsen back from Denmark competing for the first time here since he left Cayman a couple of years ago.
Despite the tortuous demands, the fun element still shone, with silly team names keeping everyone amused. They included A Good Day To Tri Hard; The Young, the Old and the Restless; Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady; Last Minute Tri; The Wet Mullet Mafia; Tri Catch Us; Thought This Was a Space Mission; and I’ve Changed My Mind.