Marlon Crowe Jr. is one of a bunch of aspiring athletes who hopes one day to represent Cayman at the Olympics.
Triathlon, one of the hardest sports to excel at, is his choice. Crowe is one of the Flashy Nation youngsters who train together, network and motivate each other to reach the pinnacle in their sport. It’s working.
In the couple of years since Flashy Nation formed, the group has grown considerably and youngsters like Pedro Lopez Ramos, Kendall Ebanks, Kevin Connolly, Samuel Young and DJ Evans finish regularly in the top tier in road runs and cycling events.
Crowe with pals ran the National Trust Glow Run last week, had fun doing so and prepared for more serious and gruelling events later in the year.
He said he really enjoyed the inaugural event, which included three loops around downtown George Town, goody bags with glow accessories, lots of people dressed in costume and glow attire, marshals throwing powder over participants at a station and the pumping music.
“It was well organized, safe and also had performance prizes, and runners were timed so you couldn’t ask for more really,” Crowe said. “I had eased back on my run training and was focusing more on my swimming and biking so actually set this event as my comeback 5k.
“Plus, I heard a few of my teammates had this event in mind. Along with it just sounding like a fun event to try, I decided to give it a go.”
Crowe placed third overall and hit a sub-19 minute 5k. He did not expect to run so well but could tell that all the bike training kept his cardiovascular level high.
“The event in my eyes is as good as it gets,” he said. “Some slight improvements could be having some random prizes and allowing the runners still doing laps to have space as people who had finished the area got crowded and some runners had to zig-zag through the crowd to continue their next lap.
“It was a wonderful event and I’m looking forward to an even bigger turn out next year and defending my third place.”
He is working incessantly to become a world-class triathlete, having fallen in love with running as a kid.
“Even if I decided to give up my triathlon pursuit, I would devote all my training to running still and probably focus on my half and full marathon times plus the shorter distances like 5k and 10k,” Crowe said.
He started running seriously at age 13 but there was no variety nor strategy. His training was simply to run as fast and hard as possible every day. The inevitable burnout soon came.
“Looking back at my horrible self coaching, knowing all that I know now, it’s clear why I peaked when I did and ended up on this on-off pattern with running,” he said.
In high school, Crowe was into many sports but the 800 meters, 1500m and cross-country took priority.
“I was on the track team and under the wing of coach Jerry Harper who took me overseas for a few meets.
“He was a great mentor and taught me a lot about running, information I wish I’d known when I was much younger and coaching myself,” he said.
After graduating from high school eight years ago, Crowe got into weekend fun runs, usually finishing in top places for his age group.
The 25-year-old appliance engineer works at The Appliance Guru, traveling to homes repairing fridges, microwaves, washers and dishwashers.
Weight lifting took over five years ago when, for a spell, he headed to the gym five times a week before returning to running a year later. “I have been serious and dedicated with my training since October 2012 when I joined Flashy Nation,” Crowe said.
He wants to hit a sub-2 hour Olympic distance triathlon in the future but for this year the aim is for under 2 hours, 20 minutes.
“I am at a different level compared to last year,” he said. “In the Cayman Triathlon in November, I will be in even better shape at this rate.”
For the Cayman Marathon in December, the aim is to finish inside 3 hours, 30 minutes. In the Mercuryman half Iron, his target is sub-6 hours and for the 2015 duathlon around Easter time, he wants nothing less than 55 minutes, which may be the winning time.
“I’m confident I have the ability to reach all my goals,” he said.
Crowe is being coached by the experienced Will Balderamos to try and qualify from a select group of Flashy Nation teammates for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“If I don’t make it, this training is still useful for the Cayman Islands Triathlon,” Crowe said. “I would like to thank Will for all he has done for me and my fellow Flashy Nation teammates. Already we can see drastic improvements.”
His next event is the Flashy Nation 5k this Sunday morning and Crowe is aiming for a sub-19 minute run again but is not sure he’ll be wearing a full Spiderman costume. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to breath in it,” he joked.
Crowe’s father, Marlon Sr. has been a great mentor. “Dad is now 55 years old and he is a natural athlete. He does not really train but can decide to run plus pushing my son in a stroller and do great.
“He was the one that first took me running and started this amazing passion I have for it. I remember him having to run back and forth and sometimes running in one spot waiting on me when I first started. Now the tables have definitely turned but he has always helped me and given advice based on his experience.”
Crowe’s hardest event so far was the Mercuryman in East End in January, completed in difficult circumstances. A 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, then 13.1 mile run, it was brutal.
He first attempted an Olympic distance triathlon only two months earlier and found that 1,500 meter swim, 24 mile bike and 10k run tough so the leap to half Ironman was a gigantic one.
The half Iron weather was horrible. Even the winners said the swim was like being in a washing machine.
“I battled in that water for an hour and five minutes,” Crowe said. “Exiting I was completely exhausted and literally the last person out of the sea. Mentally I was weak just thinking of the next three hours on the bike had me in turtle mode but I jumped on and gave it my all.”
He was hit by a car while training a month earlier and felt fortunate to only receive stitches in his right ankle, knee and a broken bike. He was on crutches for two weeks from the swelling and pain around his ankle which disrupted all preparations.
“I thought I wouldn’t even get to the start line as I left the hospital after the accident, so remembering where I was during the race gave me a boost and I finished my bike in just under three hours.”
On to the run, trying to save time in transition, he naively made the mistake of not wearing socks.
By the sixth mile, feet on fire with blisters and unable to bear the pain, Crowe took his shoes off and continued to push through the other seven miles barefooted.
“The pain was easier to bear than the blisters but now my pace per mile dropped drastically. As I’d never run so far barefoot, I just tried to keep pushing so I could at least cross that line and know that next year I won’t make these mistakes again.”
He was inspired by all the love from fellow athletes roaring him on as he started his last run lap and all the way to the finish line.
“After I finished, I could barely walk but I had finished so I embraced the pain as bittersweet victory,” he said.
“Psychically and mentally, it was tough but I had crossed that line and you can bet I will be at that start again this January, God spare life.”