From the nine month old Thill twins, Benjamin and Isabelle, to 65-year-old Jared Falek of St. Thomas, athletes from across the Virgin Islands — and as far away as a Switzerland — enjoyed the ninth annual Love City Triathlon on Sunday morning, September 2.
In a new twist this year, the St. John Land Sharks, who organize the event, added a “duathlon” for athletes who were not comfortable battling the steep St. John terrain on bicycle. The new event also contributed to attracting about 75 participants, one of the biggest turnouts for the races.
The duathlon consisted of a half mile swim on a two-lap course in Maho Bay and a 5K run from Maho Bay to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins to Francis Bay and ending back at Annaberg.
The triathlon, which was open to individual athletes and relay teams, started with the same swim but then pitted participants on a 12 mile bicycle ride from Maho Bay to Cruz Bay on North Shore Road and back to Annaberg via Centerline Road.
The event finished with a four mile run from Annaberg to Francis Bay, then to Leinster Bay, back to Francis and ending at Annaberg.
Harpers Are Top Duathletes
St. Croix veteran competitor Theresa Harper won the inaugural duathlon, beating out her husband John who was the first male finisher and the second overall to cross the finish line. She finished five minutes ahead of the next female finisher, Jodie Tanino of St. John.
Although winning the less-taxing duathlon this year instead of her usual finish at the top of the triathlon pack, Theresa Harper said the event was challenging in different ways.
“The swim was calm and great, but the run was actually more difficult because usually when I get off the bike I am warmed up and ready to go,” said Theresa Harper. “Coming out of the water and getting into the run right away I think was more challenging than the triathlon.”
Tough Warm Up
Despite her difficulty warming up, Theresa Harper was in fine form after the race.
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m not hurting, which is nice.”
John Harper found inspiration for his top male finish in his wife’s performance.
“My wife and I aren’t competitive at all,” said a sarcastic John Harper. “She had one of her best swims ever and it scared me. I had to really turn it on to try and catch her.”
Although new mother Jane Thill was the 12th woman to cross the finish line, she was the only one pushing a double stroller.
“I exercise with the twins a few days a week anyhow, so I thought I’d try to race with them,” said Thill. “Unfortunately I couldn’t swim with them too.”
Last Minute Entry
While 65-year-old St. Thomas resident Jared Falek was the fifth male finisher in the duathlon, he was the oldest participant to cross the finish line, and he joined the race at the last minute.
“I came over with my friend John Folmsbee who is doing the triathlon,” said Falek. “I just decided to come over with him and I was thinking of doing the swim. But then I figured I wouldn’t be an official entrant unless I did the run also.”
“So I thought, ‘what the heck,’ and entered the run too,” Falek said.
The retired pharmacist even impressed himself.
“It’s amazing what you can do if you just put your mind to it,” said Falek. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow but right now I feel great.”
In the triathlon, St. Maarten resident Frits Bus took first place for the first time. The absence of last year’s winner, fellow St. Maarten resident Dick Luttekes — who actually won three years in a row — gave Bus the chance to come out on top for the first time.
First Win for Bus
“I’ve never won before,” said Bus. “I always come in second but with last year’s winner not here, I did it.”
The serious athlete, who has finished several Iron Man competitions including the event at Kona, Hawaii, had not exactly been training for the Love City Triathlon.
“I love sports — everything from one design racing to kite boarding,” said Bus. “I finished at Kona, but after that I started doing other sports. I have been cycling this summer though so that helped.”
The annual race has turned into a regular gathering of friends for Bus, who usually stay at Maho Bay Campground which offers a free night of lodging for athletes participating in the triathlon.
“I love Maho Bay and it’s just fun coming over here with all my friends,” Bus said.
The St. Maarten athlete crossed the finish line after 1 hour and 46 minutes, three minutes and forty seconds ahead of St. John’s Matt Crafts, the second male and second finisher overall.
The 29-year-old construction worker is training to become a professional triathlete and logging his best Love City Triathlon finish helped Crafts’ confidence.
“I was third last year, so second place is good, but I still finished behind the same man,” said Crafts. “The race was good and it was nice to not have rain, but the St.
John hills still make the bike part the hardest.”
No Sweat for Dewitt
The first female finisher, Terry Dewitt of St. Maarten, showed no signs after the race of the grueling miles she logged.
A veterinarian and mother of three, the 45-year-old Dewitt kept herself positive throughout the event.
“It’s really important to be positive the entire race,” said Dewitt. “You can’t think, ‘that bit is going to be really hard.’ You have to think, ‘oh it might be more challenging, but that’s okay.’”
“So the bike segment was the most challenging,” Dewitt said. “But the race felt great today, it just felt great.”
The combined efforts of swimmer Kate Swan, biker Andreas Dill and runner Chris Meyer, proved successful, as the trio was the first relay team over the finish line.
Swan put the team in the middle of the pack out of the water, but Dill bumped them to lead coming off his bicycle while Meyer had no problem keeping the lead with her speed.
St. Croix duo Michelle Dizon — who both swam and ran — and Robert Bauman took second place in the relay team.
For a complete list of winners check out the 8 Tuff Miles Web site, www.8tuffmiles.com.