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News 2006

We tri as a family

My life changed in more ways than one the day my husband decided to go to medical school. We were going to be moving from NH where all of my family and friends were, to a tiny little island in the middle of the ocean. An island that we had never seen before full of people that we didn’t know. What we knew was that this island would become our home for the next few years. What we didn’t know was that it would also become a training ground.
We decided that if we were going to be living on an island only 36 square miles, we should be able to get by using pedal power. After all we were already an active family. Julian, my son, had been an active part of my runs since he was 4 months old. For my birthday the year he was born I got a running stroller as a present from my Mom. I started running with him in the stroller several times a week. As he got older and heavier it became more challenging and I may have given up on it if he hadn’t loved it so much. Since I was now working full time it was a nice way for the two of us to bond at the end of the day. We had a bike path near our house that we would use many afternoons. It became a good healthy habit for us both. I would run for a couple of miles and on the way back we would stop at the playground to get in some exercise for Julian. Many times he would fall asleep on the way home all cozy in "the buggy" as we had nicknamed the running stroller.
My husband, Jaime, and I also bought bikes with a baby seat when Julian was a year and a half old. On weekends we would pack up the saddle bags with snacks and baby gear and head into the city. We were living in the suburbs of Denver, CO and the bike path would take us straight into the city where we could spend the day. We also bought a baby back pack to use for hiking. After all we were in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We couldn’t let that go unexplored. We did several hikes on the weekends of the summer always picking up rocks and other souvenirs to keep the memories alive. Julian also loved hiking and being up high on Jaime’s back.
After a couple of years in Colorado we decided to make the move back east where my family was. Things were a lot different in NH. No off road bike trails meant riding on the winding country roads of New Hampshire which were not always the safest places with a child on the back. Although we still frequently took the bikes out, we usually kept closer to home and longed for something more. We started entering in local 5K races. Either I or Jaime would push Julian in the buggy while the other one went all out for a good race time. Being both full time workers with our son in school all day, these races defined our time together as a family. Jaime and I also had a treadmill that we would use on rainy days or during the winter.
You can understand our thinking when we decided to travel by bike in Nevis. We thought it would be easy. We kept saying 36 square miles is not very big. We bought a trail-a-bike for Julian who was now 5 and not riding a two-wheeler yet. We packed up all of our stuff including bikes, helmets, saddle bags, backpacks, swim suits and snorkel gear and headed south. As soon as we arrived we realized that biking as a family would be more of a recreational activity and not as our sole means of transportation. The school and town are at least a 25 minute drive by car. We were going to be living on the north side of the island near the school since this is the most important place we need to get to every day. Jaime biked the mile or so to school each day. Being May it was a hot time of year and since school was out for Julian we spent a lot of time at the pool on campus. We would pack up our stuff and bike over there with our backpack and saddlebags full of pool gear. It didn’t take long before Julian was getting around the pool unaided. He had taken swimming lessons for the past year and they really paid off. He was diving and swimming and snorkeling all over the place. When we weren’t at the pool we were at home and Julian was watching far too much TV. Jaime came up with an idea to have Julian run around the house to earn TV time. It started with 7 laps around the house then we moved it out to the perimeter of the yard for 30 minutes of TV. He complained a lot about it but after a few weeks he was used to it. We got lenient after a while and let him watch more than a half hour but it still got him outside and active. After a few months of running around the house he got a little bit bored with it and asked if he could run on the roads with us. We said "sure!" And began with short distances and worked up to a couple of miles.
By around July we had found some wheels. We bought a Suzuki Samurai and were no longer biking as much as we were. We knew we would need to be disciplined to keep up some kind of exercise schedule. It was not easy to force myself out into a hot humid day to go running. It would be so much easier to just drive to the beach or pool and lounge. It was around this time we noticed there was a triathlon scheduled for the following March. We decided that we could do that and we started practicing our swimming at the pool on campus. We wanted to get comfortably able to swim distance without having to stop and gasp for breath. We had, at this point, several months to train. It was not always easy to squeeze training in between Jaime’s schedule. I was home schooling Julian so I didn’t have any time to myself to get out there on my own unless Jaime was home to watch him so our training was not as structured as we would have liked. I was getting up early to run before the heat got too bad so I was getting my run and swim time in. I could easily go to the pool and swim with Julian. Since he is a great swimmer I didn’t have to have my eye on him every minute. My biking was lacking at this point, however. My biking consisted of going back and forth to the school towing Julian and once in a while riding over to Oualie Beach. I also rode to my friend’s house over in Butlers. Not an easy ride with a trail-a-bike with all those hills over that way but we made it after walking up a couple of hills and I figured that if anything it was strengthening my legs for the triathlon. In hind sight I know that I needed a bit of endurance for the length of ride that I would be doing and a bit of speed would have helped too. We knew we would be slower than the others to begin with since we were racing on mountain bikes but didn’t know how much slower this would make us until a bit later on.
Around January the Nevis Cycle and Triathlon Club started having races to get people out there and training. It was nice to get those competitive juices flowing again and to meet some of the people we would be competing against in the triathlon. We were so glad to have taken the time to get out there and meet these great people. There were some ex-patriots and some local athletes helping each other out with advice and strategies. These events started a change for us on the island. We no longer felt like we were just a student and his family enduring life on a small island, we now felt like we were a part of the island and its community. The first training race I did was a 15k bike ride. I was proud to hold last place. Jaime was not happy with his near the back of the pack time but we were a struggling student and his family and couldn’t really afford a new road bike at the time much less 2. We knew our bike time would be lacking on race day but we were really doing the triathlon for fun and not to try to win anyway.
Jaime recruited students on campus to compete in the Nevis Olympic Triathlon. He was hoping to recruit a lot more than he did but as it was there were 11 or so students/faculty/spouses entered in the race. He also had a strategy for those who claimed they were too out of shape to compete. He recruited them to volunteer at aid stations and as kayakers for the swim leg.
The day of the triathlon we were a bit nervous and the feeling of anticipation was kicked into high gear for me. We had to wait until afternoon for the race and I was pacing around the house waiting. My husband got the job of transporting our gear down to the race. We rigged 3 bikes into the back of our Suzuki Samurai. It was very creative and funny to see the lengths we had to go to get our bikes to the starting area. Later that day we finally got our son dropped off at a friend’s house and headed down to get painted and wait for Winston Crooke’s instructional speech. After that we headed over to the waterfront and got in for a water start. The whole race went well for both of us. Our goals were to finish and we did that so we were very happy. The problem was it left us wanting more. We decided that the following year we would train more and do better. We started working on our swim in the ocean this time. We found that all of our time in the pool helped but it was nothing compared to swimming in the ocean with currents and the normal rhythms that come with a big body of water. Our endurance improved greatly with this training.
We still had schedules to work around but we found ways to do this. That summer on a trip back home we entered in a couple of 5k races. Just like old times but this time instead of riding in the buggy we entered Julian in also. We figured all of that running he had been doing to earn TV had prepared him and thought he would enjoy it. He did really well. On the first race he battled it out for last place with an old man. He did end up coming in next to last but was so proud when he came across the finish line and the announcer belted out his name and age and the whole crowd cheered for him. He finished at 38:22 which is amazing for a boy not quite 7 years old yet. The second race he ran was a bigger event and he was far from last with a time of 37:06. This was good for all of us to keep active while on our little hiatus back home.
Once we got back to Nevis we signed up as official members of the Nevis Cycle and Triathlon Club and did a few rides with them. We got a lot of good training advice which has helped a lot. The club also started a triathlon training series which was a series of 5 triathlons which started with short distances and gradually increased in length. This helped a lot with transition and endurance. We had a friend video one of the triathlons and it was interesting to actually visualize myself in transition. I noticed that I needed to quicken it up in there. I looked like I was having a relaxing time in there. I started leaving the MP3 player behind and working on a speedy transition. We also bought a road bike which gave us more time to train in that phase.
Around the turn of the year Jaime got a thorn in his ankle which took several weeks to recover from believe it or not. But that’s a whole story in itself. He missed 2 of the training races. Jaime is very competitive and the fact that he was missing his training and especially the races meant to me that he was in some serious pain. By the 5th race he was feeling better but knew he couldn’t put his all into it so he decided to race with Julian. Julian had since learned how to ride a two-wheeler so he had been riding a lot near our house which had strengthened his legs. He was not able to do a 20k race on a 16" one speed on his own so he and Jaime teamed up and biked together with the trail-a-bike and then ran the 5k together too. He ran a 36 minute 5k which is wicked awesome! He impressed all of the spectators and athletes too. Winston invented a special category so Julian could get a medal for his amazing efforts. Jaime and I are still training for the big triathlon in March and we’re pretty confident that our times will be reduced by quite a bit from last year. Julian is now practicing his catching and throwing and for variety, kicks a soccer ball around the house to earn TV time. We’re hoping that the triathlon bug has bitten him and left a bit of venom to fester until later on. Maybe someday one of us will be an ironman. I know who I’m putting my bets on.

St.Kitts & Nevis Triathlon Federation
St.Kitts & Nevis Triathlon Federation


Kathryn Bertine's book
Kathryn Bertine's book
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