Cayman is the ideal place to indulge in sporting activity, which is partly why Jennifer McKinney ended up living here in the first place.
A member of the Flashy Nation Sports Club under coach and sporting all-rounder, Kendall Ebanks, McKinney has been training in his classes only since early July but already feels the benefits.
Flashy Nation is on a summer break at present and when season two resumes, McKinney will be attending.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” the 30-year-old American said. “A good friend of mine and I decided this would be the perfect program to assist us in accomplishing our goals of completing the Cayman Islands Triathlon in November, and it has truly surpassed our expectations.”
McKinney feels accomplishment in pushing herself as hard as she can during each session. “I can do things now that I’ve never been able to do before. I feel so much stronger, and my endurance has increased exponentially.”
Besides running, cycling and swimming, golf, tennis and scuba diving are her other interests.
“Cycling has definitely become my favorite of the sports. My love of underwater photography and scuba diving is what actually brought me to Cayman.”
Completing the Cayman Islands Triathlon on Nov. 1 will be a milestone event for McKinney. One of her training partners is Wendy Clarke, who is also tackling the triathlon for the first time.
“It’s my turning-30 challenge of wanting to complete my first triathlon,” said McKinney. “However, I want the experience to be more than marking off a bucket list item, I want it to be a lifestyle change.”
She started this year doing the same number of miles for the age she was turning. Cycling 30 miles in one session was her target. “I hope I can continue to be fit enough to be able to do 50 miles when I turn 50.”
Until this year, McKinney had mainly participated in running 5 kilometer and 10k fundraising events.
A trained accountant, she now works as an enterprise risk services manager at Deloitte, where she focuses on general business consulting, risk management and specializes in anti-money laundering consulting.
“I traveled quite a bit in the U.S. last year for work and would find myself looking for events around me that I could participate in.”
McKinney initially got into sports through Jacob Wells, a former colleague at a firm she worked for in Arkansas.
“He actually persuaded and coached me through my first 5k ‘Women Can Run’ in Conway, Arkansas.
“It was terrifying being my first organized sporting event, but … it ended up being life-changing. It was the starting point to the path of a healthier me. For that I am forever grateful.
“Jacob was an avid runner and inspiration to everyone and had run over 150 marathons prior to his passing last year.”
Her other sporting mentor is a really good friend in Cayman who is an accomplished athlete, having competed in many sporting events, especially triathlons.
“He’s completed the full and half-Ironman and many Olympic triathlons too.
“His dedication to his overall fitness and health has inspired me to take on the challenge of completing a triathlon of my own.”
McKinney transitioned from photographing local triathlon events from the sidelines last year to training for her first one this year. “I guess you can say I’m an aspiring triathlete.”
She thinks Cayman offers an incredible array of sports. “There is something for everyone, and it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests, but also a great opportunity to build solid relationships with folks from various backgrounds.”
Her C4 Flashy Nation group has brought a “great group of people together and the camaraderie and encouragement is quite motivating.”
She added, “We all have our own personal goals and some goals overlap, such as completing either our first triathlon or making a personal record.”
Although the cycling scene is thriving, McKinney would love to see more cycling events just for beginners and intermediate riders.
She thinks that continuing to expand Cayman’s sporting events, and marketing the events to the countries where most visitors come from will improve sports tourism revenue.
“A lot of people I know are doing more ‘race-cations’ and are always looking for destinations where they can have a nice vacation and incorporate some sort of race event into it.”
McKinney participated in the Stroke & Stride series and plans to do the triathlon build-up series in preparation for the Cayman Islands Triathlon.
“We will see how this year goes, and progressively set subsequent year challenges a bit higher and higher.”
If she could be a world or Olympic champion in one event, her first choice would be swimming, “simply because I’ve always loved being in the water.”
She added, “I can’t say enough about how great the C4 Flashy Nation sessions have been.
“Our coaches, Kendall and Will Balderamos, push us and encourage us. It’s a great series – especially for those training for triathlons.
“What I like most about the sessions is the variety of the workouts and venues.”
Sometimes they train at the Truman Bodden track, or at the gym doing circuit training or the swimming pool perfecting technique, covering drills and interval training.
Sometimes it’s at Revolutions for spinning, or just getting together for sea swims and Sunday morning cycles. “The teamwork with our group is remarkable. I think it’s important for a healthy lifestyle to find something you truly enjoy doing, then you actually want to do it. For me, this is a perfect fit.”