Patrick Harfield has cemented his reputation as the fastest and fittest person on Grand Cayman.
Harfield, a personal trainer and triathlon coach, came home in 2:12.12 to win the Olympic distance of the Cayman Islands Triathlon for the third straight year on Sunday. It wasn’t a personal best or a course record, but Harfield beat the next closest competitor, Marius Acker, by more than two minutes.
“I love this race. It’s the best event on the island, I think, for multi-sport,” said Harfield shortly after crossing the finish line. “The conditions today were fantastic. The sea was really calm. Not much of a current or swell. It was lovely out in the water. …The bike was smooth. Unfortunately, my chain came off once, but I rectified that quickly, got back on and put the hammer down after that.”
Dozens of competitors lined up alongside Harfield at Governors Beach before sunrise on Sunday, and the race began just after 6:45am. Many of the competitors were doing the Sprint Triathlon, which meant completing a 750m swim, a 12.4-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run. Harfield and Acker were running the Olympic distance, which was a 1,500m swim, a 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run.
Acker, a previous champion, had planned on running the shorter distance. He changed his mind, however, after seeing that his homeland South Africa had bested England in the Rugby World Cup.
“I knew England was going to win,” said Acker of the Rugby World Cup. “Yesterday morning, I called my mom and said, ‘England won, right?’ She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘I don’t believe you.’
“So I speak to my Dad, and he said, ‘They won.’ I’ve told everybody if South Africa wins, I’ll do the Olympic distance. So yesterday I had to upgrade and do the long one because South Africa screwed me.”
Acker was the first out of the water, but Harfield passed him on the bike and never relinquished his lead. The course was different this year, with competitors running from Governors Beach to Public Beach and back. That was a positive change for Acker, who had been hit by a car on the course four years ago.
Harfield, amazingly, had run an Ironman race just three weeks prior to the Cayman Islands Triathlon, and he said he spent a couple of weeks recovering prior to getting back into competitive mode on Sunday.
“Marius was closing me down on the run, but I knew I had enough distance,” he said. “I’m dropping back down in distance. I haven’t done anything short and fast like this, so it’s a bit of a shock to the system.”
Alyssa Dodson ran the fastest time for women (2:34.15) in the Olympic distance, and Arwen Lawson, a three-time champion, came home in second place. Lawson said Sunday that she’s been running the race since 2007 and that she’ll continue running it as long as she’s in condition to finish.
“It’s always hard, partially because I’m getting older,” said Lawson of the race. “The competition has stepped up an awful lot. I won it in 2012, 2013 and 2015, I believe. But I’ll tell you: Now, it’s so much harder. The competition is so much harder, which is good. It makes it a better race.”
Different competitors might have different answers as to which part of the triathlon is the most difficult, but it’s an easy answer for Lawson. In her case, she said, it’s always the run.
“You’re gassed. It’s the last leg,” she said of the running portion. “You add in the heat and the humidity. I come from the Northeast, where it’s about 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s very hard to acclimate to this. Our summers can get like this, but then it cools down and I race in summer again.”