Friday, November 20, 2015

Nevis Triathlon: Swimming, cycling and running in the sun

The famous Avenue of the Palms at Nisbet Plantation on Nevis is the gateway to serenity  (Taylor)
 CHARLESTOWN, NEVIS Take one tiny island in the Caribbean and add athletes from more than a dozen countries who swim, bike and run through paradise. Simmer for four and a half hours in the West Indies sunshine of Nevis and you have the recipe for a world class triathlon.

Swimming at sunrise on Nevis  (Taylor)
Judging from the reactions of the competitors in this year’s Nevis Triathlon, the miniature gumdrop shaped island just may be home to the most beautiful triathlon venue in the world.

In 2015, the Nevis Triathlon earned itself an international reputation for anyone who dares take up the challenge. Competitors came from around the world: the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, China and South Africa as well as relatively local athletes from Trinidad/Tobago and Belize.

At six, young Vlad of Romania was the youngest  (Taylor)
The youngest competitor at just 6 years of age traveled with his family all the way from Romania to participate. And the oldest, Dr. Gordon Avery at age 81, has participated in all 14 of the Nevis Triathlons. As a beloved island resident, Avery was clearly the crowd favorite.

Festivities began precisely at 7 am with three scheduled events. The shortest, known as the “Try-a-Tri,” is geared for first timers, smaller children and people who might not be sure they want to test their skills in three events on a hot Saturday morning in November.
Dr. Gordon Avery, 81 of Nevis, was the oldest triathlete -- it was his 14th Nevis Triathlon  (Taylor)
The Try-a-Tri includes a 100 meter swim, a 10K bike ride and a 2.5K run.

For triathlon veterans the Nevis37 involves a 500 meter swim, followed by one lap around the circumference of the island on a bicycle, a distance of 20 miles, and a 5K run.

Competing in paradise (Taylor)
The ultimate challenge is Nevis73 which doubles the distances of the sprint.

Ordinarily Nevis is a quiet place with its distinctive humpbacked mountain landmark Mount Nevis situated roughly in the center of the island. On triathlon day however, the main harbor in Charlestown swells with loud music and raucous competitors and spectators.

Nevis is filled with history. British naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson was married to Fanny Nisbet, the daughter of a sugar plantation owner in the late 18th century.  Today, Nisbet Plantation is a favorite island resort with its yellow cottages and its famed Avenue of the Palms that leads to the beach.
Typical cottage at Nevis Plantation  (Taylor)

Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis in either 1755 or 1757. The actual year is uncertain. Hamilton was Father of the United States Coast Guard, founder of The New York Post and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury. For this reason, his portrait graces our modern day ten dollar bill.

But in mid-November, the eyes -- and arms and legs -- of the world turn toward Nevis where the triathlon is quickly gaining a global reputation.

If there is one place on the course that makes competitors groan it’s the dreaded Anaconda Hill. Though not especially steep, Anaconda’s length never seems to stop. It just keeps going…and going…and going. As cyclists reach the first water station, believing they have reached Anaconda’s summit, they realize they are only 75% finished which brings groans of despair as they grudgingly peddle onward and upward.
Montpelier Resort is another sugar plantation that has been converted to accommodate guests on Nevis  (Taylor)
Nevis73 riders are particularly challenged because they know they must battle Anaconda a second time around the island.

The run goes from the start/finish line in Charlestown out to the Four Seasons Hotel, the only chain hotel on Nevis. Runners must go out and back at least once, but Nevis73 competitors have the joy of doing it twice.
Kevin Mackinnon (center) of Canada won the men's Nevis37 with a time of 1:37  (Taylor)
During the course of their bike ride, cyclists sometimes encounter donkeys, goats or even an occasional monkey. In fact, there are more monkeys on Nevis than people. Fortunately they are shy and don’t bother humans, but they are still a nuisance.

Three sided trophies sculpted from local stone (Taylor)
Trophies are awarded for the top three places in each category for men and for women. This year’s sculptures, carved from local stone by an artisan from Nevis, featured three sides representing each of the skills involved.

As the event wears on, temperatures rise and the competition becomes more intense thanks to the heat. When asked how hot it was out there, one woman replied, “I think it was a million degrees.”

To her credit she finished, as did everyone else, and the temps did not quite reach a million.

The overall winner was Jason Costello of Trinidad who, oddly enough, was the only male participant in the Nevis73 race.

It was a congenial atmosphere nestled within the island beauty of Nevis, just across the channel from big sister, St. Kitts. If there were any complaints, some participants wished there had been time to learn more about the course before heading out into the sun.
At Nisbet Plantation a sugar mill ruin is a reminder of the history of Nevis  (Taylor)
Certainly the hills and terrain of Nevis provided the ultimate challenge, and with that came stunning island views and an accomplishment that even the most diehard triathlete will long remember.

Just as the slogan says, “Nevis….Naturally.”