Back in Full Speed
After Almost Two Years of a Break the Island’s Biggest Sporting Event, the Sixth Bay Islands Triathlon is Here Again

February 1st, 2011
by Thomas Tomczyk


Leading triathletes ride on their bikes toward the transition area.

Leading triathletes ride on their bikes toward the transition area.

As the biggest sporting event on Roatan, the Bay Islands Triathlon is not easy to organize. The 2011 race, the sixth race ever, was the smallest Bay Islands Triathlon to date with only 63 athletes finishing the course. Due to lack of sponsorship the original triathlon scheduled for November 2010 had to be postponed till January 23. While Heineken came through and became the main sponsor, this was already a change from the triathlon’s usual March calendar spot.

At the mandatory athlete’s meeting prior to the race, some elite triathletes voiced their concerns, especially with limited supervision on the bike course and positioning of the swim buoys that could lead to cheating. Even with police help, not enough volunteers and supervisors could guarantee that cars would stay off the roads, which had the professionals “riding safe,” not wanting to go full speed around blind corners to potentially be faced with a speeding car.
Due to the north wind blowing the day before the race, organizers placed the swim course buoys in the water around 7:45 am, 15 minutes after the expected start of the race. This delayed start for the first wave of elites in turn caused the amateur athletes to still be on their bikes well after 10:15 am, when cars were allowed on West Bay road again. At the end of the day all ended well with prizes and trophies given at the Henry Morgan hall.

Out of the 29 men in the Olympic distance Leonardo Chacon from Costa Rica took the prize in  the elite men’s category. It was Chacon’s third Bay Islands Triathlon, which he completed  in 1 hour 59 minutes and 25 seconds. Faster than the 2:00:05 from 2003.Twelve women athletes registered and finished the Olympic distance. Eight elite female triathletes from as far away as Japan and Israel competed for points in international ranking. The fastest was Elizabeth Bravo from Ecuador who finished the course in 2:21:50. Roatan’s fastest woman was Jenny Roberts, who came in 50 minutes after the elite winner.

In the men’s sprint category, Honduran Jose Ozellama, took the prize,  finishing the course in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 33 seconds. The last male triathlete, Jose Abrego, crossed the finish line over an hour and a half later. The women’s sprint was won by Natalie Siegler in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 15 seconds. She was one of five women who finished the sprint distance.

Above text and photos by Thomas Tomczyk

Written by Jim Donnelly

'Age groupers' athletes prepare to begin their race in the water.

'Age groupers' athletes prepare to begin their race in the water.

A visible level of acuity and hyper-awareness came across the competitors’ faces the morning of the race, like they had just plugged into the Matrix and everything was suddenly and completely comprehended. Many of the elites, however, only moments after crossing the finish line, looked relatively calm and unscathed. Some were getting treatment for muscle cramps and dehydration, but most were milling about as if they had just left a Spandex conference. Gone were the looks of desperation and pain. In their place, a sort of serene elation.

Though it’s tempting to see these triathletes as hard core, long-lasting superhumans, or vain masochists, maybe they’re simply chasing an experience that people of many disciplines-from practicing yoga to racing cars–chase after: that feeling of clarity and calm that follows a period of physical activity which requires the mind’s full attention. They train hard, but they play as well, which some amateur triathletes did just two days before the race in West End. No one can be easily defined, including the triathletes who swam, biked and ran Roatan’s waters and roads.

The motivation for and rewards gained from participating in the Bay Islands Triathlon are evident in the racing stories of triathletes living in Honduras. Karine Pingit, originally from France, decided to accompany her son, a physical education teacher who planned to bring some of his students to the race as inspiration. Due to a lack of funding, Pingit’s son was unable to bring any of his students, but mother and son decided to come to Roatan and participate as well. As she casually explained, “I used to swim a lot, so I figured why not?” Having exited the swim portion with a strong time, Karine was in great spirits, hollering encouragement to her fellow participants as she put on her helmet and tennis shoes on and rode off.

Another age group triathlete, Jenny Roberts had been an avid runner and biker, but only since moving to Roatan six years ago did she begin swimming. Roberts started training in September using a free online training program which had her on a regimen of three runs, three bikes rides and three swims per week plus weight training. Prior to the race, she knew very little about the intricacies of triathlons, this being her first organized race of any kind. “Exercise is my drug of choice, liking hitting a reset button on a bad day,” explained Roberts.

Bay Islands Triathlon was also Adina Serrano’s first Olympic distance triathlon. A 17-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Serrano has competed in two sprint triathlons within the last four months. She described the Bay Islands race as “the athlete’s perfect vacation.”

Volunteers give out water and Gatorade to passing athletes.

Volunteers give out water and Gatorade to passing athletes.

Serrano believes that triathlon races are, “90% attitude” and her attitude has been inspired primarily by her faith and by watching the 2008 Olympic Games. “I always admired how athletes can make a difference in strangers’ lives,” said Serrano, who cites Hunter Kemper, a seventh place finisher in the Beijing Olympics, as one of the main sources of inspiration in pursuing competitive racing. Essentially, Serrano races to inspire other kids to start racing. [/private]

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