January is a great month to escape and go race on an island. I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the Cayman Islands to race MercuryMan, a half ironman on the east end of Grand Cayman. I have visited the Cayman Islands before, over ten years ago, and always stayed on the Seven Mile Beach side of the island. It is beautiful on Seven Mile Beach, however, the east end was just as pretty and had a more local Caribbean feel. The roads were quiet for riding, there was a grocery store across the street from the resort and swimming was right outside the back door of our Reef Resort condo (with full kitchen!).
MercuryMan benefits the Estella Roberts Foundation, which advocates equality for women and young children, and the East End Primary school. On race day, the students from the East End school were out on the course cheering and helping at an aide station on the run.
My favorite thing about the whole weekend was the laid back vibe and grassroots feel of the event. All of the athletes were there to have fun, race and test themselves in the early season. Transition was right outside our door and the swim start and finish line were on the beach behind the condo.
The swim was in warm water (my favorite) and while it was not too choppy there was a bit of current at points so that added to the challenge. The water was crystal clear and I did find myself spotting pretty fish, one really big tuna and some starfish during the swim. I had to remind myself I was racing and not snorkeling!
We ran up the beach and then hopped on our bikes. The course was two loops and most of the ride provided gorgeous views of blue water. There was a teeny bit of wind and it was hot so while the course was not hilly it provided a good challenge. I made sure to manage my hydration and nutrition in an effort to avoid a blow up on the run in the island heat. Luckily, while it was warm (80s), the heat and humidity were not as oppressive as it can be in the summer. I like heat, so to me, it was perfect conditions for a race!
The run was a 3 loop out and back course. The lack of breeze definitely made it warm and I made sure to grab ice and hold it in my hands between the aide stations. The aide stations were all well stocked with ice, sponges, water/gatorade, gels, pretzels and bananas and most importantly, enthusiastic volunteers. There was one women who was the talk of the post race BBQ–everyone loved her. She made us all smile when we ran by with her cheering and encouragement. The out and back course broke it up nicely and kept all the racers close together so you were never lonely. There was plenty of support out there from fellow athletes.
I was happy to get out there, race and execute a solid day without totally burying myself–4:31:59 finish time and in 1st place. I had fun and gained some fitness for sure! The last mile all I could think about was my planned post race dip in the ocean—I knew it would feel so good!
The next day we headed out to Stingray City to swim with the rays. This is a must if you visit the Cayman Islands. It is such a unique experience. It may seem scary but, I swear, it’s not.
The five days I spent on the Cayman Islands were awesome. Trevor, the race director, and his girlfriend Claire (co-race director too) were wonderful hosts and are enthusiastic about growing triathlon, among other endurance events, on the island. The training on the East End of the island is great. I think it is wonderful place to escape the winter weather and get some training and racing done in a beautiful location. I can’t wait to return next January!