Pacific Island Triathlon Championship – Race Report
This was the first year the CNMI participated in the Pacific Island Triathlon Championship. Now in its 5th year, this year’s race was held in Merizo, Guam. Participating islands were Guam, CNMI, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Palau. Including local Guamanian racers, there was a turnout of about 120 racers for the olympic distance event (1500m swim, 25 mile bike, 10k run).
There was a mass swim start where everyone was treading water until the starting horn blew. I found a place up front and really didn’t have any issues, but it turns out I was one of the lucky ones. Several people on our team were stung by portugeuse man-o-wars. Brad Ruszala had particularly bad luck with a huge sting on the back of his neck and subsequently had trouble even taking full breaths throughout the swim leg. Guam’s Charlie Epperson suffered a sting and ended up pulling out of the race during the run due to irritation. Two other CNMI teammates, Tyce Mister and Jerome Diyco, also got hit. Luckily, I didn’t learn about any of this until after the race so I wasn’t paranoid. Actually, the swim was really beautiful. It crossed a deep channel to a far reef, paralleled the reef, then returned to the starting point for a second loop. Crossing the channel, I couldn’t see the bottom, but there were really huge coral heads along the far reef.
The bike course through Merizo was a little wet from early morning showers, but the course was all flat so the rain wasn’t much of an issue. Like the swim, the bike course was two loops out and back on the road. I actually like races that lap that way because once you are on the bike, you can see who is ahead and behind you. As I approached the first turnaround, I saw a few people I recognized ahead of me, including Mieko Carey and Charlie Epperson, and also my teammate Tyce Mister. My goal was to catch up to Tyce, but I knew I’d have to do it on the run because he’s such a strong biker.
By the time I was out of T2 and running, the sun was coming up and there were a lot of complaints about the heat. I hugged the shoulder of the road though and caught a little shade, and even felt a little breeze. The heat didn’t really bother me, or maybe I was just to stoked to be racing to notice. Like the swim and bike, the run was two loops along the same route. During the run, I decided to keep a high cadence with smaller steps which seemed to work pretty well. I passed a few more people and eventually caught up to Tyce at the last turnaround. Heading into the final stretch, I saw Dave Torre who told me I was still in it for 2nd or 3rd if I kept up the pace. After that, I just pushed it right up to my threshold until I crossed the finish line.
Our team faired pretty well for a first venture into the series. I bagged second place, and Tyce got third (the race was won by Cameron Oneal from Guam). For the women, Amy Sletton was also able to chalk up a third place for the CNMI. Jerome Diyco got fifth in the Time Trial event the previous day. Points were acquired during all three events, including the time trial, bike race, and triathlon. Unfortunately, we focused mostly on the triathlon and didn’t enter any racers in the bike race, though Jerome represented us in the time trial and got fifth. In the team scoring, the CNMI got third place.
I have to say that Guam does things right. They put all the teams up in the Leo Palace Hotel for free where there were training facilities available and easy access to the time trial and road bike events. They also provided us with a van to use all week, and provided iPhones for the traveling teams to use to keep in touch. Even at the end, race organizer Mark Cruz was at our hotel at 12:30 in the morning to shuttle people to the airport, and Dave Torre was there at 5am to shuttle a second group. They definitely set the bar. Every year, the race is hosted on a different island, and next year’s race will be held in Papua New Guinea. It was really nice to meet the racers from the other islands, and I can’t wait to solidify those new friendships next year!