Intrepid triathletes Kendall Ebanks and Justine Plenkiewicz enjoyed representing the Cayman Islands at the ITU World Championships in Chicago over the weekend.
Ebanks finished his Olympic distance triathlon of 1,500 meter swim, 40 kilometer bike and 10K run in 2 hours, 41 minutes. Not fast, but because of the congestion from swim to bike, he had a nine minute transition.
“I was a bit nervous going into the swim as it was my first time in water that cold (60°F) and also my first time swimming in a wetsuit,” said Ebanks. “When I first jumped in and was submerged [in] the cold water, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack!”
He feared in front of a huge crowd that the water’s coldness would make him the only competitor from the Caribbean who ended up in an ambulance.
Thankfully, he made it through and, after getting settled in, was able to complete comfortably. “The swim itself was tough though,” he said. “I figured I wasn’t going to get a good time so I was working hard to get out of the water and get on the bike where I would make up for a lot of lost time.”
The bike course was tricky. It had a lot of U-turns and sharp corners, but it was an enjoyable ride because of the challenges and variety.
“We rode on overpasses and underpasses. Being able to ride underground for a period of the course was awesome.”
Ebanks certainly did improve his place on the bike, passing more than 400 people.
“My aim was to ride a sub-65 minutes and I did it in 64, so that’s a personal best for me.” His run went according to plan with his splits decreasing in time. “First loop I ran at 165 heart rate. Loop 2, I ran at 173 heart rate, and loop 3 I ran at 183 heart rate.
“I felt good and I made it through as expected. I was not too worried about the pace, I just had a plan and wanted to stick to it.”
Ebanks is a world-class boxer too and has been in world championships in that sport. He thoroughly enjoyed competing at this level in Chicago.
“I got to see the top guys race and I cheered on Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain who was in the elite race.”
Spain’s Javier Gomez won a third successive World Triathlon Series title. He finished second to compatriot Mario Mola on Saturday but that was enough to secure him the title. Mola (1:44:53), finished four seconds ahead of Gomez.
Brownlee, 25, is a former world champion in many categories and London Olympics bronze medalist. He finished 12th after being sidelined in June with a stress fracture in his left leg. “I am not normally happy with twelfth,” Brownlee said. “But it was an achievement to be here after injury.”
Ebanks is a fitness coach who formed Flashy Nation Sports Club a couple of years ago to encourage locals to get fitter in whatever sport they were involved in.
He competes next at the Cayman Islands Triathlon on Nov. 1 at Public Beach “which should be fun. I enjoy being in the field with the competitors here.”
He added, “I always have a great time competing against teammates and friends. I wonder who is going to win it amongst the Flashy Nation members. We are guessing Jeff Jakubiak, but he will be coming off [an] Ironman, so we will have to wait and see.”
Ebanks thanked the Flashy Nation crew for their support and his girlfriend Christine Connor.
“I look forward to seeing my squad of beginner triathletes take the field on Nov. 1,” he said. “This will be the first time for a lot of the ladies and guys and I see great potential in this team.”
Next year Ebanks hopes to take at least 10 of his Flashy Nation clients to a race that ITU plans to put on in May in Florida. “Hopefully, I can have some younger kids going too.”
Canadian Plenkiewicz is a seasoned triathlete and participated in the sprint distance (750m swim, 20K bike, 5K run) triathlon on Sept. 17 and the Olympic distance two days later.
“Racing at the world championships was a definite learning experience,” she said.
“I was nervous before the first race and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, finishing in 1:30.” Fortunately, she regrouped for the Olympic distance and was not only able to race as fast without hindrance, finishing in 2:49 and 101st of 107 women in her age group, but she “also truly had fun during the event.”
Racing against the world’s fastest triathletes was a “fantastic experience and a motivator” to try to improve her times in short course triathlon, as in recent years Plenkiewicz has focused mainly on the Ironman distance of 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and full marathon run of 26.2 miles.
“It was also great to have another triathlete from Cayman, Kendall, at the race to share the experience with,” she said. “The world championships are in Mexico next year and it would be great to have a big team there to represent the Cayman Islands.”
Like Ebanks, Plenkiewicz’s next triathlon will be the Cayman Islands Triathlon.
“If my knee allows it, I would like to do the Halloween 10-10-10 in October and the Cayman Islands marathon in December,” she said.
Caymanian Samuel Young was signed up to compete too, but a last-minute lower back injury prevented him from traveling.
“It was a very difficult choice to make, but I couldn’t wear my country’s colors and be hampered by the back pains,” Young said. “It was just a super-heartbreaking situation.
“I registered and had sponsorship support and even offers to go up to Chicago on the same day, but my back just wasn’t there for the run and I had to come to terms with it, as difficult as it was.”
It is an injury he struggles with from time to time and it usually takes a couple of weeks to subside.
Young would have been shooting for a 2:20 finish, having shaved three minutes off his swim time, as well as five minutes off his bike preparing for it, and his run was sub-38 minutes.
“My body was in a great shape and my mind-set was to give it my very best.
“I believe I would have beaten Kendall to pieces, but I like the fact he was out there and gained exposure at world championship level, as well as Justine.”