Race Report: Mercuryman Triathlon Cayman Islands
Last year I participated in the inaugural version of the Mercuryman Triathlon. This year I returned for an early season wake up call in the middle of my holiday. I had about nine days to acclimate to the heat and humidity (I started a few days earlier at home during my training).
I arrived at the East End of the island the afternoon before the race to give my pre-race talk on race execution. I love giving this talk because it becomes my conscious and very public reminder of how I need to execute the race. Thanks again to everyone who attended!
I was fortunate to meet pro Lisa Ribes (@lisaribes) who joined us for the talk and was a terrific model of execution and participation throughout all the events. She was generous with her knowledge, set the pro women’s course record and greeted the finishers at the end of the race. I think she had enough time to shower, change, grab a meal and have her nails done by the time I finished.
I stayed at The Reef resort right at the Transition Area. Great venue and makes race morning so easy! The room was right on the beach overlooking the ocean. I awoke at 3:30am for my pre-race breakfast and noticed something odd. The sound of big wind and crashing surf. I could hear this through my closed door and the curtained windows. At that moment, it crossed my mind that this may be a duathlon.
I arrived at transition at 6am. Set up my space and completed my pre-race warm up. Coach walked me down to the beach and we noticed that the wind and surf were still high. High enough that when the organizers attempted to install the race start buoy it blew away and had to be retrieved by a kayaker.
As the start time approached, I noticed no one, and I mean not a soul, was getting in the water to warm up for the swim. I was standing there thinking until the last minute that they would cancel the swim. But this is the islands. Unlike the states, you can still take risks here. What kind of risks? At the pool, you get a fob for electronic access and swim when it is available understanding that there is never a lifeguard present. In other words, live and let die.
I was terrified when we were finally called into the water. I felt the waves crashing, the pull of the current and the wind whipping. We could barely hear the start horn. Suddenly we were off. Or not. Coach has a video of the start where everyone is laughing because the field is barely moving due to the waves and current. The first leg took forever! The second leg was better but due to the waves you couldn’t quite see the yellow turn buoy. The third leg you got to surf back a bit into the turn for the second loop.
During the second loop I was swimming with a group but quickly noticed that the group was going way off course. Like cutting the course in half. After all the races I have completed, I have the confidence to know when it is time to let them go. A few short minutes later I noticed a Kayak going to retrieve the group and lead them back onto the course!
The whole swim was total chaos. I was swamped, my stroke cut short from crashing waves and almost stopped by the current. I also had one of the greatest swims of my life. It was a blast from start to finish. I laughed and just kept plowing away. Coach Marilyn Chychota had me very fit for the swim. How fit? I exited the swim feeling great despite spending some quality time in the washing machine.
I immediately jumped on the bike and got to work. I had a specific plan for the bike portion of the ride but ended up ignoring it. My power meter failed, my heart rate strap failed and I noticed at the first turn around that I was being closely chased by three women. When one of them passed me, I threw my plan out and decided to race.
My competitor and I legally passed and followed each other. The last aid station I paused to get a bottle of water and she skipped aid and went for the outside pass. I chuckled, cooled myself down with water and then increased my effort for the last 12 miles. I passed her and never looked back.
Speaking of looking back, the biggest tell you are struggling is looking behind you to see how close the next cyclist is following you. I never look behind but I might drop my head slightly to see how close the next wheel is to my back wheel.
As I arrived in transition, the woman wasn’t far behind me. I hustled, got my gear together and exited running. The run course was an out and back completed three times. It was fairly flat with a strong head wind and a false flat on the return.
The woman I was racing turned out to be doing the Aquabike! She never appeared on the run course. I decided to pick up a guy in blue in front of me for my next pass. I was running my pace but feeling no flow. As I picked him up and started to pass, he was having none of it, and accelerated to stay with me. I truly hate running with someone in a race and this guy would not go away. The plus was he never talked and he let me through the aid stations first. Of course he out kicked me to the finish. Coach gave me crap for letting the Big Unit beat me until she found out he was part of the relay and was a runner only.
The run was pretty uneventful. I targeted five minute per kilometer pace (eight minute miles) with the goal of pushing hard at mile 10. There is something strange about GPS in the islands. It is not quite right perhaps due to satellite locations. I just tried to feel right and ‘sort of’ trust the watch.
Despite never finding my groove, I finished third overall age group and first age group woman. I improved over fifteen minutes on a very windy day. Like Kona, I felt that every where I turned had a headwind!
Thanks to my triathlon coach Marilyn McDonald for the prep and confidence to have a great day. Special thanks to my life Coach KT. She never lets me feel alone out there and reminds me constantly on what I can do to improve. It is easy to settle in life and very hard to find people that will push you to your potential. Lucky to have that in my triathlon team and my home team. Additional thanks to Endurance Corner for my team’s support.
Next year, I highly recommend breaking up the winter grind and heading to the Cayman Islands for the Mercuryman Triathlon. The race organizers do an excellent job putting on this event. The race is challenging, the post-race party includes beer/barbecue and they give away great raffle prizes. Hope to see you next year!