Reggie and James against the world
The grueling discipline of 70.3 (half-ironman) triathlon racing was taken to it’s extreme this last weekend, when athletes from 50 different countries descended upon the holiday town of Clearwater in Florida. Two of those athletes were from the smallest nation in attendance, St Kitts & Nevis.
For the whole of the last year triathletes from around the world had been honing their skills, and testing their mettle, as they attempted to qualify for the 2007 Ford Ironman 70.3 World Championships, for James Weekes and Reggie Douglas their moment came in May in St Croix. 2 kms of swimming, followed by 90 kms of cycling, and to finish off, a half marathon distance run, no easy feat, yet almost 2000 people had passed the test and found themselves in Florida, to determine who was the best 70.3 athlete in the world.
We will not concern ourselves here with the professional athletes in attendance, remarkable though their achievements are, this is their job, full time, let us look instead at the age groupers, the athletes who have jobs and families, but who make the time to train and prepare themselves for a year to find out where they stand in the grand scheme of things.
Two such athletes are Reggie and James, who have been involved in triathlon for almost 7 years now, but have only raced this distance twice before, once for james, living and training on the tiny island of Nevis these two young men have dominated the local triathlon scene for the last 6 years. James was three times national champion, until deposed by the increasingly talented Reggie Douglas.
From their arrival in Florida the team from St Kitts & Nevis stood out, for only one other nation from the Caribbean was in the event, Jamaica, but Reggie and James were the ONLY BLACK ATHLETES there, plus with their entourage of Greg Phillip, Collette Weekes and Winston Crooke, the team caused quite a stir, with athletes and spectators stopping them and asking where they were from, and when told, responding “where’s that”.
This proved to be an unforeseen opportunity to wax lyrical about the wonders and beauty of our home Nation and to extend to the athletes an invitation to the Carino Health Spa Triathlon in March next year. When the team arrived at the opening ceremony they were stunned to see the National flag of St Kitts & Nevis flying alongside the flags of all the other countries attending, it was a truly wonderful and emotional moment for all of them.
Race day, on the 10th of November the guys were lined up against 1800 other racers who were all looking for 1st place in their respective age groups, a daunting task to which they both applied themselves and rose to the challenge. Firstly in the 2km swim leg, this was so cold that the athletes were required to wear wetsuits, they did not have any, but bought them as a necessity.
James was racing in the 35-39 age group, one of the largest and most competitive groups, with over 250 athletes ,and his wave started before Reggie so he was up first, he charged into the water and disappeared off into the distance his presence masked by all the other flailing arms and legs that churned the water to froth.
Then it was Reggie’s turn, after taking a moment for his personal meditation he too joined the 190 other racers in his wave as they too turned the ocean into a grey/blue maelstrom.
The SKN support crew were anxiously waiting for a sign of James, as members from his wave, resplendent in their Green swim caps, started to appear out of the foam to dash up the beach and pass under the swim finish arch, and then suddenly there he was, in one piece, the most difficult part over, they hoped.
Soon the white capped members of Reggie’s age group started to appear out of the water to thunderous applause from the watching spectators, with some definite shouts of ‘Nevis’ being heard in the melee, Reggie was also out of the frying pan, but about to leap into the fire with james, the arduous bike leg was next.
This being a world championship, all the stops had been pulled out to make sure the athletes were taken care of from start to finish, they had come a long way for this, the more than 3,000 volunteers, the helicopters filming from above, roaming reporters and TV crews, plus the thousands of spectators, it was a remarkable feat of organizational skill.
After passing through the transition area, first James and then Reggie took off on the 56 mile/90km bike leg, which was promising to be flat and extremely fast, and so it proved with some amazingly fast times being posted by numerous athletes including Reggie and James who both knocked 20 or more minutes off their previous best times. Reggie had to contend with a flat tire that was, fortunately, quickly fixed by one of the many roaming crews of technicians, and James sustaining a bruised calf along the way. The flat course threw up other complications as the riders had to go full bore with no let up for over 2 hours, with no hills to take a break on they punished one set of leg muscles, so how would they now fare in the upcoming 13mile/21km run?
Into Transition for the second time with the volunteers helping the athletes as much as possible, before they exited onto the run course, Reggie had made up about 5 mins on James in the bike leg and was looking much sprightlier then james at this stage, as James nursed his injured calf. But both athletes had a determined look about them as they took off with the rest of the runners to the encouraging shouts and screams of the growing crowd of onlookers.
Running a half marathon is not an easy thing especially after swimming and biking, but this is the nature of this sport that has touched millions of people around the globe, so the athletes from the tiniest Nation there acquitted themselves admirably as they made their way around the course. How were they feeling? Were they in pain? Had they eaten and drunk enough? These were the questions that rattled round the heads of their support team waiting for them at the finish line, but then here came Reggie who had managed to pass James on route, down the finishing chute he came with the St Kitts Nevis flag flying cape like behind him, like a dreadlocked superman, lifted by the cheers of the crowd and thrilled by the announcement of his name and country, it was over he had done it!!!
Then just 10 minutes later came the compact figure of James also wielding the national flag as he tapped into his last reserves and out sprinted another athlete to charge across the finish line with the roars of an appreciative crowd ringing in his ears.
St Kitts & Nevis came, they saw, and they conquered the Ford Ironman 70.3 Triathlon World Championships Florida 2007.
At the post race party when all the accolades were being handed out, the flag of our Nation blew in the gentle breeze, when the organizers finished off with a short video production of the race, BOTH Reggie and James were featured, a glowing testament to their efforts and presence at this world class event.
They did not get there without considerable assistance, and the team wishes to thank The Hon. Premier Joseph Parry, Mr Alsted Pemberton and the NIA, Mr Alaister Yearwood, Nevis Cycle & Triathlon Club, The Hon. Vance Amory, and all the people who have supported and helped them to achieve their best.