With the fall race season in full swing, two local athletes, Rotarians Chris Bailey and Derek Haines, are making final preparations to go the distance for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute.

Working together and with the support of their headline sponsor Butterfield Bank, they have been on a mission to raise $50,000 for CCMI’s new virtual live experience, Reefs Go Live.

Both Mr. Bailey and Mr. Haines have been training for months to get in shape for feats of athletic endurance. They will soon don their bibs, lace up their shoes and take on what many only dream of attempting – and it is all to help Caymanian students gain a greater appreciation for and understanding about our coral reefs.

First up is Mr. Bailey, who is competing in the Ironman Florida on Nov. 4, which will take place in Panama City Beach. An Ironman triathlon is a true test of human endurance and mental strength; participants must complete a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and finishing by running a full marathon of 26.2 miles.

An Ironman competitor travels a total of 140.6 miles, which must be completed in less than 17 hours. On average, Mr. Bailey has trained between 8 and 16 hours a week to prepare for his challenge.

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“I started off joining in the plethora of Cayman’s 800m sea swims, and continued on to 5K runs, followed by my first 10K in 2014,” Mr. Bailey said.

“I was starting to enjoy feeling better about myself and especially hitching my wagon to Derek’s challenges. In 2014, I completed the 640 Run Ride Read challenge, which raised $30,000 for the Guatemala literacy project and the LIFE foundation in Cayman. This involved cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway [North Carolina to Virginia], my first half-Ironman, the Miami 70.3, and finishing with the Cayman half-marathon. All these events totaled 640 miles which is the distance from Cayman to Guatemala. In the last two years I have done five half-Ironman races. This will be my first full Ironman challenge.”

He will be joined in competition by Daniel Cummings, a fellow Breakaway squad member and training partner.

A few weeks after the Ironman Florida competition, Mr. Haines, 69, will revive his role as Cayman’s Marathon Man, joining in the excitement of the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon on Dec. 3. This will be his third marathon this year and his 48th marathon in his liftime.

When all is said and done, these two men will have run, biked, and swum an estimated 3,300 miles en route to the race day finish line.

All costs associated with their races, including travel and registration fees, are self-funded by each participant. All money raised for CCMI through their efforts goes directly to launching the Reefs Go Live program in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Bailey said he is happy to help promote enhanced learning experiences for students in Cayman: “I believe education is one of the most important investments we can make, so helping to fund an initiative locally that benefits so many of our youth can only be a good thing.”

Carrie Manfrino, CCMI’s director, president and director of research and conservation, said she is excited that CCMI was chosen as the beneficiary for the athletes’ fundraising efforts in 2017.

“Launching a new program such as Reefs Go Live is no easy task. This virtual live experience will directly connect students in the Cayman Islands with the research scientists as they conduct their surveys and experiments on the coral reefs in Little Cayman. This funding, supported by Derek, Chris, Rotary and the greater community at large is enabling us to purchase all the equipment necessary to launch this innovative learning experience in early 2018 in Cayman’s schools.”

She said Reefs Go Live will allow for immediate interaction between students in a classroom and the scientists in Little Cayman. Students can ask questions during the live broadcast, and the scientists can reply while they are underwater. Initially it will only be available to students in Years 5 and 6 in the Cayman Islands.

Future plans include sharing this experience with teachers and students around the world to allow those who may never see a coral reef to have the chance to see them live during Reefs Go Live broadcasts in their classrooms.

“We are exceptionally appreciative of both these men’s efforts to raise money for Reefs Go Live,” Ms. Manfrino said. “This is an opportunity for CCMI and the Cayman Islands to bring coral reefs to students across the globe, helping them to understand their role in coral reef conservation – no matter where in the world they are.”

To help Mr. Bailey and Mr. Haines reach their $50,000 goal, checks can be made payable to Rotary Grand Cayman. Indicate ‘CCMI’ in the memo line.

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