Federations athletes all heroes of the St. Croix 70.3 Ironman
On Sunday May 6th athletes from all around the world descended on the town of Christiansted in St Croix, to compete in this most arduous but prestigious Caribbean long distance triathlon. Some of them were racing to win places at the Kona Ironman, some to qualify for the Clearwater 70.3 World Championships, and some were simply there to test themselves against one of the toughest courses on the 70.3 half-ironman calendar.
Into this heady mix were the athletes of St Kitts and Nevis, the smallest nation being represented at the event, Reggie Douglas was making his 2nd appearance and wanting to make up for missing it last year, for Winston Crooke it was also his 2nd, but just wanting to improve his time, Jessica Geist of St Kitts was there to qualify for Kona if possible or a second chance at the Worlds. For James Weekes, Keith Jones, Sarah Petre-Mears and Wendy Brear, this was their first attempt at this distance, so for all of them this was a very daunting and largely unknown task that lay ahead of them, also competing was the teams Dutch swim coach Janine Herweijer representing her home country.
Despite many problems with flight arrangements, accommodation mix-ups and the delay of two of the team bikes, everyone was in a very positive frame of mind as they lined up at 5.00 am with the other 600 athletes to complete the last stages of body marking and transition preparation. The final announcements were made and at 6.00 am all of the 500 half-ironman competitors swam across to the staging area to line up in their respective age –group categories, and at 6.30am precisely the 11 Male professionals started, followed 2 minutes later by the 11 Female professionals, 5 mins later each age-group wave was started at 2 min intervals. This was it.
Reggie was the first of us to go in the 25-29 age-group males, then Keith and James in the 35-39, followed by Winston in the 45-49 group, after the men’s waves were in the water the women started, Jessica was first off in the 25-29 women, next to go was Sarah in the 30-34 group, followed by Janine in the 35-39 women’s age group and Wendy in 40-44. The water conditions were perfect, almost no breeze to affect the surface and very clear, so some fast times were expected overall.
The wonderful thing about this event is the way it has been embraced by the St Croix community, so even at that early stage of the morning many spectators had gathered to watch the swim start and to cheer the athletes as they exited the water after the 2 km swim leg. As expected the times were very fast especially from the pro’s, with times s fast as 24 minutes to complete the course, incredible!
After completing the swim leg the athletes then make the transition onto the bike for the bike leg, and this event is famous for the heart stopping climb nicknamed “The Beast” as well the natural beauty of the 56 mile course that winds its way through this very scenic island. For a lot of the less experienced athletes riding “The Beast” is a definite no-no, so a lot of people walk up it, for the better bikers it is only one of the many challenges on this technical course.
Coming into transition after the bike leg a lot of athletes were already suffering from cramps, dehydration and other woes, but the pros make it look straightforward, Keith was one of the people who got cramps on the bike, but he still managed a very credible time of 3.12 mins, for Reggie, James, Jessica, Janine and Winston the bike leg had not affected them so much, but now came the real test, the 21 km run.
Reggie was in superb form on this day a 36min swim, 2.44 on the bike and a 55min 1st lap of the very technical run course, he was definitely on course to shatter his previous time here, Jessica was also doing superbly and on course to beat her time of last year. James started his run well, but soon found out why it is called “Ironman” having to surrender to the affects of his efforts so far, and resorting to walking some of the course. He was not alone, with Keith, Winston, Sarah, Wendy and Janine also feeling the effects and having to join the many other athletes, taking walk breaks to rest their tired muscles.
In the final outcome all of our athletes finished the course, which is a huge achievement in itself, for Reggie, he had smashed his previous time by 30 mins, despite having to slow his pace in the second lap of the run, he placed 8th in his age group in 5:14:23, was the top placed Caribbean athlete and won a spot at the Clearwater 70.3 World Championships. James has also done superbly despite his out of character run, placing 19th in his age group, 2nd placed Caribbean athlete in 5:35:19, and he also won a spot to compete at the Worlds. Jessica had beaten her time of last year, placed 3rd in her age group at 6:06:25 and won a re-visit to the Worlds, narrowly missing out on a Kona spot. Winston had beaten his time from 2003 with 6:49:15, but a faster swim and bike was hampered by a much slower run. Janine suffered through a back injury on the run after a fabulous bike leg posted a time of 6:47:15. For Keith, Sarah and Wendy as first timers, they can only be applauded for their efforts, they had taken on the challenge of this grueling event and won, Keith finishing with a very respectable time of 6:12:18, Sarah in 8:15:03, and Wendy in 8:41:26, congratulations to all of them they have done their little nation proud.