One of the toughest races on the Cayman sporting calendar is Off The Beaten Track, staged next week, and last year’s runner-up Samuel Young says he is totally focused on going one better this time.
Young, who last year led until just before the end, came in a frustrating second to David Lim.
Young has since seared it in his mind to add this to his mounting list of victories.
Off The Beaten Track is an annual charitable 50K ultra-marathon inspired by the Marathon des Sables, the world’s toughest race, run over six days in the scorching Sahara Desert.
The much shorter Cayman version is on March 1, and it leads participants along unchartered, tropical bush, on the sandy beaches, and through Grand Cayman’s unseen back roads.
The event was established five years ago by KRyS Global founder and executive chairman Kenneth Krys, an ultra-marathon runner who has completed the Marathon des Sables.
The route is not announced until a few days before to add to the elements of spontaneity, intrigue and mental agility.
As well as the competitive and fitness aspects for participants, they are also contributing to local charity Meals on Wheels and international charity Facing Africa.
Young pleasantly surprised himself last year, entering with the sole intention of just completing the challenge.
“In addition to competing last time, I ran 10 miles at a 6-mile-an-hour pace and handed off to my team Phoenix Flashers in third place.
“This was taxing towards the end as I expected, and I was also inexperienced in maintaining my salt levels in the intense heat. “This year I am a stronger runner, and my running intelligence has increased and I can draw from hindsight.”
Longer running sessions have prepared Young for this ordeal, which at just over 31 miles is longer than a marathon by almost 5 miles.
Apart from several short runs, Young last month completed the Mercuryman half-Ironman, so endurance will not be an issue this time.
Young thinks his body has adapted much better to the demands of performing in the heat as well, plus the former bodybuilder has dropped weight slightly and is more aware of when and how much to hydrate.
“This event has been in the back of my mind all year,” he said. “I learnt things about myself last year and my determination stood out to me on the latter part of the race whilst fighting hamstring cramps and the adversity of running all those miles on an unconventional course whilst dealing with the unforgiving sun.”
To cut back on the probability of getting lost, Young will go through the course once it is available.
The 26-year-old fund accountant at Advanced Fund Administration mainly trains with fellow novice triathlete Jordan “JJ” McLean.
“JJ is a really encouraging and positive person in general. I enjoy seeing him evolve in the sport. He’s a real friend.”
Young also trains with champion runner Chadwick Webster. “He’s my favorite runner in terms of his style,” Young said.
“It feels good to pick up the phone and call Chadwick and listen to his extensive knowledge of the sport and from someone who has accomplished so much. Jason Saunders [another top local runner] shares a similar sentiment with me too.”
Young thanked The Physio Center for helping him to recover from tendonitis recently and “for ironing out any nicks and knacks throughout the year.”
He added that this event is dedicated to his late grandfather Capt. Marvin Ebanks, the celebrated seaman who died two months ago, aged 98.
“He was the strongest person I knew,” Young said. “His work ethic and sense of charity is a legacy. I thought of him last year when I was cramping because he never gave up. He’s really been the reference point for strength in my life.”