Personal bests set in blazing heat

The weekend warriors at the 2015 Cayman Islands Triathlon presented by Elian are nursing sore limbs and feet after Sunday’s staging at Public Beach, but many are also glowing from the satisfaction of setting personal bests. 

It was a typically scorching hot day for the athletes, which saw perennial champ Marius Acker overcome injury to reclaim his Olympic-distance title in 2 hours, 14 minutes, 47 seconds. Because the 10K run was actually 600 meters longer than it should be, his adjusted time is 2 hours, 11 minutes, which the 44-year-old South African is extremely pleased with under the circumstances. 

It was Acker’s eighth win since 2007 and he won comfortably by six minutes. 

Newcomer Stuart Bray (2:21:00) took second place, followed by 2015 double Ironman Dale Avery (2:27:41). 

Visiting athlete and past winner Arwen Lawson once again gave local athletes stern competition. 

The 44-year-old American’s quick transitions saw her secure the Olympic-distance title in 2:45:43. Michelle Bailey (2:46:19) and Alyssa Dodson (2:46:20), were immediately behind Lawson. They sprinted to the line in the closest finish of the day to take second and third place respectively. 

Teenager Brandon Williams took the men’s sprint title in 1:13:15, beating Graham Blyth and Daniel Cummings who took second and third respectively after a continuing battle throughout the day. 

Gill Comins pipped Elena Testori to the title in the women’s sprint in 1:21:13 with less than a minute between them. Fleur Vagniez took third place. 

The teams pushed themselves to the limits in the challenging conditions, with great competition among the field. 

Tag You’re It! won the mixed team title and overall fastest Olympic time of the day in 2:06:33 with Elaine Heausler Gomez (swim), Steve Abbott (bike) and Will Edwards (run). 

Revolutions Sub120 took the all male team title through Darren Mew, Jerome Ameline and Victor Magalhaes. 

Steve Abbott and Will Edwards recorded the fastest bike and run split of the day with Darren Mew taking the fastest swim split. 

This event has grown exponentially in recent years and continues to attract overseas entrants, Lawson and her boyfriend Eric Johnson in particular. 

Lawson is based in New Jersey, just north of New York City and comes regularly to Grand Cayman on vacation and to compete. 

The triathlon is her favorite event, which she has won three times in the last four years. 

“I’ve done so many different races here it’s hard to recall all of them and how I did,” she said. They include the Duathlon 2012 when she placed third, before winning them the following two years. 

Another event she regularly enters is the Pirates Week 5K. In 2011 she was third overall and in 2012 was first in the women’s 40-49 age group. 

She has also competed in cycling time trials, finishing on the podium, the Stroke and Stride and has raced in the Mercuryman 70.3 the last two times. 

Winning Sunday’s triathlon was probably her hardest victory in Cayman. “It was a difficult race for me because of the intense heat on the run,” Lawson said. “I didn’t really know – with the exception of Michelle – where the other competitors were on the course at the time. I just knew I had to keep going at an even pace.” 

Lawson owns a fitness and wellness business in New Jersey where she coaches and trains triathletes and non-athletes as well. 

She’s been coming regularly to Cayman since 2007. “I absolutely love it here for the weather, great events and friendly people in addition to the thriving athletic community. There are some very fit people here in Cayman. 

“Eric and I own a house in Cayman Kai, so it gives us a good excuse to come down, and we generally schedule our trips around athletic events here. 

“Eric also competes here. He’s done the last two Mercuryman events and the triathlon sprint distance the last three years. He’s also run the Pirates Week 5K twice.” 

Lawson has been an athlete most of her life. She played soccer for 17 years throughout school, including university at NCAA Division II level. “I did 5K and 10K road races to stay in shape and found that I really enjoyed them. Triathlon was basically a long evolution from that.” 

Her big goal for 2016 is to make Team USA and qualify for the ITU Age Group World Championships in 2017 in the Netherlands. 

She plans to come down for Christmas for a few days and will definitely be back for the Mercuryman in January. “It will make the cold, snowy New Jersey winter a little shorter and more tolerable!” 

Her advice to triathletes coming here to compete is to “have fun, work hard and compete at your best, but remember to enjoy yourself in this beautiful place.” 

Marius Acker showed his champion

Marius Acker showed his champion’s fighting spirit again. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD

Stuart Bray impressed on his Cayman tri debut.

Stuart Bray impressed on his Cayman tri debut.

Triathletes made a dash for the water at the start.

Triathletes made a dash for the water at the start.

Brandon Williams, 17, won the men

Brandon Williams, 17, won the men’s sprint event.

Gill Comins shows her delight at winning the women

Gill Comins shows her delight at winning the women’s sprint.

Ben Hart was raising money for the Cayman Heart Fund.

Ben Hart was raising money for the Cayman Heart Fund.

Michelle Bailey finished a second ahead of Alyssa Dodson.

Michelle Bailey finished a second ahead of Alyssa Dodson.

Arwen Lawson really had to dig deep for her win.

Arwen Lawson really had to dig deep for her win.

Daniel Cummings found a good way of cooling down.

Daniel Cummings found a good way of cooling down.

Dale Avery was third fastest.

Dale Avery was third fastest.
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