The local triathlon scene has grown considerably in recent years thanks to a number of factors, and all the weekend warriors will be vying for bragging rights at Public Beach on Sunday.
The 2015 Cayman Islands Triathlon, presented by Elian, is one of Cayman’s premier sporting events, and always attracts a strong field of local and international competitors and many spectators.
Organized by the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association, the event offers the sprint or Olympic distance. The Olympic distance is a 1,500 meter swim, 40 kilometer bike and 10K run; the sprint is half that. Two- and three-person relay teams are allowed for the Olympic distance. Last year it was won by British visitor Patrick Harfield, a personal trainer in London, in 2 hours, 15 minutes, 19 seconds.
Marius Acker was second in 2:19:03, but he would have finished faster had he not been knocked over by a negligent motorist on West Bay Road. Acker had just started his run and had Harfield in his sights, but he briefly blacked out and was bleeding from the incident. He bravely got up and continued racing. The motorist sped off.
Acker is proud of the fact that at 44 he has never lost this event to a local athlete and has been triumphant seven times from 2007.
He says he is “reasonably fit” but has been recovering from a foot injury sustained a couple of weeks ago and his doctor banned him from running for a while. He was forced to take time out from all training and only started training again a couple of days ago.
“I have to let the injury heal and running might make it worse, so I’ve not been able to run for a while,” Acker said. “I will do a test run later this week to see if I will be able to do the triathlon without making the injury worse.”
The South African banker would love to line up for the Cayman half-marathon on Dec. 6 – which he has also won multiple times – but entering the triathlon might jeopardize that.
David Lim was third in the triathlon last time, two minutes behind Acker, who sees him as his biggest rival again. Newcomer Ben Creasey would have been another favorite but he will be off island.
“There are some other newcomers on island who I do not know and who have done well in the warm-up triathlons,” Acker said. They include Stuart Bray, who many are tipping to end up on the podium too.
Acker said, “A strong wind is predicted, which favors the cyclists like it did last year too, so I don’t expect super-quick finishing times.” In the face of how strong the competition will be, Acker says he will be “delighted to finish on the podium if I am privileged enough to be able to participate.”
He thinks the top 15 spots will all be keenly contested, mainly because the overall level of fitness of Cayman triathletes has improved considerably. Many locals have also stepped up to the half-Ironman and Ironman distances, which means they are far more experienced and better prepared for the shorter Olympic distance.
Cyclist Jerome Ameline has improved dramatically, and the Flashy Nation Sports Club crew headed by Kendall Ebanks will also make a bigger splash than before.
Darrel “DJ” Evans, Jon Roney, Dean Gaffigan and Dale Avery were in the top 10 in 2014 and could move up this time judging by their improving performances.
Michelle Bailey, the fastest woman last year in 2:42:22, was 18th overall. Arwen Lawson was second and Justine Plenkiewicz was third of the women.
There have been record turnouts for the warm-up triathlons, and Acker expects that this year might have the most entries to date.
“The triathlon committee and organizers are doing an outstanding job in preparing and hosting events for athletes to test themselves and be prepared,” he said. “Trevor Murphy [tri association president] and his team have been stellar in contributing their time and resources.
“Sarah Superfine and Claire Griffin have recently also completed the same Ironman as Trevor. A number of Cayman triathletes completed an half-Ironman in Miami last weekend.”
The indications are clear that this could be the biggest and most competitive local triathlon to date.