Mercuryman racers battle the heat

D.J. Evans crosses the finish line, winning first place in the men’s division of the Mercuryman International Distance Triathlon on Sunday. – PHOTO: MARK MUCKENFUSS

Nearly 70 athletes took to the water and the road for the sixth running of the Mercuryman triathlon/aquabike event on Sunday.

Starting at 6am, swimmers took off from the starting point at Eden Rock.

Over the course of the morning they went on to cycle as far as the easternmost section of Grand Cayman, before running laps along South Sound Road. There were several variations that athletes could compete in, including an international distance triathlon, a half-Ironman triathlon and an aquabike event.

Within each event were subcategories for individual competitors and teams: men, women and mixed. D.J. Evans hit the finish line just after 9am, winning the men’s international distance race. “That was super tough,” said Evans, 36, catching his breath after the race. Although he regularly competes in triathlons, he said this was his first race at the international distance.

“I’ve been training really hard, so it’s good to see everything add up,” he said. He said the 6.5-mile run, coming after a 900-metre swim and a 28-mile bike leg, was the hardest part of the race.

“It was so hot,” he said. “That second lap, whoo!” But, he added, “It’s always hot, so it was going to be tough.” Race director Trevor Murphy said the event was running smoothly through mid-morning, though he did not envy the people on the course.

“It’s so hot already,” he said at 8:30 as the thermometer began pushing toward 90  degrees. “I’d hate to be doing this later.” Most of the Ironman competitors were expected to finish between noon and 2pm.

“That’s the reason we call it the Mercuryman,” said race organiser Chris Bailey, “because it’s so damn hot”. Normally held in February, this year’s event was moved to September due to what Murphy called a “lack of resources”. He had only two other people who could help organise the event at the time. “We said we’d put this on for the people who were crazy enough to do it,” Bailey said. Alicia Proud-Rabess was only crazy enough to do the cycling leg.

She was part of a three-woman team that won the international distance in its division. Proud-Rabess, who works as a health coach at Seven Mile Fitness, said she spent the last four weeks training for the race by riding a Turbo Trainer in the gym. She did not hit the road on an actual bike until race day. “I’m not going to lie,” she said. “It wasn’t a breeze, because there was a breeze.”

Despite a headwind on the second half of the course, she said, “I beat my time I wanted to get. I’m paying for it now.” Proud-Rabess was impressed by one of her competitor’s bikes. Daniel Cummings’ Diamondback triathlon bike has a nearly solid aerodynamic frame with high-end racing wheels. And it’s bright red. “Does that make you go faster, just looking at it?” she asked Cummings.

Cummings said he’s in training for a full Ironman race in Florida in November. He rode just the bike leg in Sunday’s event, finishing first among the international distance competitors. “I do this every year in some form,” he said. Kyra Rabess did the swimming leg for her team, and 17-year-old Ava Hider held on to their lead to make them the top mixed team in the international distance.

Hider said she was the one who initiated getting the team together. It was her first time participating in the event, although she trains regularly with the 345 Athletic Club. “Considering I did a twomile race yesterday and the sun was demanding,” she said she felt good about her performance.

It was fun to see the multi-event happen.” Proud-Rabess said she thinks the event is “one of the best ones” in Cayman. It’s also a chance for younger athletes, such as Hider, to gain experience. “We have some good athletes coming up,” she said.