The annual Cayman Islands Triathlon Association has a new king of the Olympic distance in Patrick Harfield, an overseas visitor, but at least second-placed Marius Acker retains the satisfaction of still being undefeated by any local in the decade he has been competing here.
Acker showed immense tenacity and competitive spirit after getting knocked over by a negligent driver early in his run phase, blacking out briefly and still getting up to finish strong and overtake four ahead of him.
The windy conditions and choppy sea at Public Beach on Sunday were not conducive to fast times, and athletes had to be a little more cautious, especially on the bike phase.
They competed in either the Olympic distance of 1,500 meter swim, 40 kilometer bike and 10K run, or the Sprint distance of half that. Most were individual competitors and others were in teams on a newly set out course.
- First out of the water was triathlon coach William Balderamos in 22 minutes, 47 seconds, with Acker 61 seconds behind, David Lim (25:31) third and Harfield (25:43) fourth.
- Michelle Bailey was the fastest female swimmer in 25:42, with Christine Gibbs next in 26:57 and Awen Lawson third (29:31).
- Claire Roscoe and Donna Harding were close behind in 29:51 and 29:53 respectively.
- The bike phase saw cycling specialist Jerome Ameline not surprisingly record the quickest time of 1:01:41, much faster than Harfield (1:06:10), with Lim next quickest in 1:08:38.
- They pushed Balderamos and Acker down the field since cycling is their weakest discipline.
- Harding was the quickest female (1:19:00), just three seconds faster than Lawson, with both closing the gap on Bailey (1:22:39). Justine Plenkiewicz moved into contention with a ride of 1:22:46.
- Harfield won when he rounded off the 10K in 42:24 recording an overall time of 2:15:19.
- Acker (39:36) started his run in sixth place, overhauling Lim near the end for a 2:19.03 finish. In addition to the car incident, Acker acknowledged it was his cycling performance that cost him the title this year.
- Lim (2:21:32) was third, Deysel (2:23:29) fourth and Patrick Loughnane (2:30:22) fifth.
- Jody McFarlane completed the fastest 10K by any female in 51:06. She was last year’s fastest local, but overall winner this time was Bailey who completed the 10K run in 52:22 and overall in 2:42:22, holding off the challenge from Lawson (2:45:37).
- Plenkiewicz (2:52:42) moved past Harding (3:00:08) to take third place.
There were many entrants from the Flashy Nation crew, DJ Evans (2:32:00) being the fastest, finishing seventh. Flashy Nation’s Marlon Crowe Jr. jazzed up the event in a multicolored tutu, which could not have helped his aerodynamics on the bike but at least got him the most cheers.
Lim, a student from Canada, has been here for a year and is a frequent half-Ironman triathlete. He also came third last year.
Acker is recovering from his injuries now and is grateful that he was able to continue the race and is not permanently injured.
The South African banker said he found out through the triathlon grapevine that Harfield was on island and that his personal best time was quicker.
“I knew my swim and run was quicker than his as he analyzed last year’s results in comparing my times to his,” Acker said.
Harfield caught Acker early on the bike leg, and the seven-time local triathlon champ said the American’s presence did not change his strategy.
“I was just focused on going all-out and enjoying the race,” Acker said.
He was in Europe on work commitments for three months during the base training for the triathlon and could not get his cycling mileage in.
Consensus was that it was a cyclist’s triathlon this year, the stronger riders benefitting the most from the adverse conditions.
“This was the most challenging triathlon I’ve competed in Cayman over the last 10 years due to the blustering wind,” Acker said.
He was running back to Public Beach when an elderly motorist hit him from behind onto the tarmac.
Although he blacked out and was injured, Acker’s competitive spirit was so strong that he continued to race, leaving the driver to be questioned by the police who had quickly arrived on the scene.
This incident evidently had an impact on his time, but he still achieved the fastest run split of the day by about 90 seconds.
Nevertheless, even without the accident Harfield would still have won, Acker admits, although the winning margin would have been much less.
Acker has a wound on his left elbow, his neck and his lower back is tender and his buttocks are badly bruised.
He needs to see a chiropractor but has to wait for the swelling to subside first. “The fact that I did not have a broken bone or any head injuries is a miracle and I am thankful to God for his angels that protected me.”
He added that the triathlon committee “did a great job and did everything to keep the athletes safe,” but a request that the RCIPS close West Bay Road for the running part of the triathlon was denied. “A huge shout out to the committee, the volunteers and the sponsors who hosted a great event in very challenging conditions,” Acker said.
He thought David Lim and Marius Deysel had great bike legs and did not think he was going to catch Lim, overhauling him near the end.
“My prediction for a new women’s race came true,” Acker said. “Michelle Bailey had the race of her life. Coach Balderamos did great in his first Olympic race despite being hampered by hamstring cramps on the bike and only got beaten by one of his Flashy Nation athletes. “Marius Deysel did great in placing fourth again in his final Cayman triathlon. He is leaving Cayman this week.”
Acker hopes to be able to start training again soon since the Cayman half-marathon, his favorite event, is only four weeks away.
Gill Comins won the women’s Sprint event again. She said, “Once again the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association held a really fun and supremely well organized event.
“It’s great to see so many residents and visitors of all ages experiencing the fun of triathlon here.”
Comins added that the volunteers did an excellent job and that all of the participants are extremely grateful to them.
Paul Schreiner, the race director, said, “The event went off as planned thanks to the large number of volunteers that came out to help.”
“Thankfully, the weather cooperated for us. The swim course was a little wavier than our local athletes are used to, but all took on the challenge.”
Schreiner added that The Waterman paddleboarders deserve praise for keeping everyone in the water safe.
The wind played a big part on the bike course, but the cloud cover was much appreciated on the run course, he said.
Schreiner added, “Congratulations to all athletes that took part. Thanks must also go to our sponsors Elian, the main sponsor, Red Sail Sports and Governor’s Square, as well as the numerous local businesses who supported the event through prize donations and helping on the day.”
He added that Kiwanis is the charity benefitting from the event and the organizers are happy to have had a record number of entrants this time.
Jon Roney was eighth overall and also works for Elian. “Obviously being a keen triathlete I was delighted when Elian decided to sponsor this year’s event,” he said.
“We have a great team spirit at Elian and this was reflected in the number of volunteers that we had turn out for the event.”
Roney congratulated the volunteers for doing “an amazing job from manning the water stations to
directing traffic to loudly supporting their favorite athlete.”
He added that this event always improves because the triathlon association makes the effort.
This year, timing chips were introduced, with timing and splits showing on the big screen at the finish.
Roney added that he is grateful to the executive committee for putting long hours into preparing for the event and particularly congratulated Schreiner and triathlon association president Trevor Murphy.
Roney also said that he and Elian “hope to be a part of this fantastic even for many years to come.”