Banking on the Cayman Islands Marathon

This past weekend was another quick in & out of town marathon trip. What was different about this one was that it was in the Cayman Islands. Normally, my quick trips are in the US. This time, I went all the way to the Caribbean just to run and then come back home. Normally, I would like to stay a little longer in a new country, but I was on a mission. In order to join the Marathon Globetrotters club in January at their annual meeting (at the Marathon Bahamas), I needed to first run Cayman Islands Marathon. The qualification for joining the club as a Provisional, or non-voting, member is to run in 5 countries. Cayman Islands was country #4, and Bahamas will be country #5. I wouldn’t have been able to do either of these trips without using frequent flyer miles. I am lucky, indeed, to have this opportunity. Without further ado, here’s my report from Cayman:

Saturday was a full day of travel. With the limitations on frequent flyer tickets, my itinerary had me flying from DC to Philadelphia to Miami, and finally to Grand Cayman. That’s a lot of flights and airports in one day. I arrived on Grand Cayman at about 8:00 PM, after dark, and had no time for any fun that night. I had to go straight to the hotel (The Westin), meet up with my friend David (here’s his Cayman Islands Marathon race report), who had picked up my race packet, then eat some dinner and get some sleep.

Welcome sign at Grand Cayman Airport

Sunday morning was an early one. We had to catch the shuttle at 4:00 AM to George Town, where the race would begin at 5:00 AM. Fellow Marathon Maniac Dawn was staying at the Westin, so we met her in the lobby and got a quick photo. There were a couple other Maniacs at the start, including Bart Yasso from Runners World. He was going to be running the half marathon.

Maniacs at the start: Sandy, David, Dawn, Amy

A few Maniacs with Bart Yasso of Runners World

The start corral held mostly half marathoners, with some full marathoners and relay runners mixed in
 
We were underway on time, and started by running through a residential area near the city center. It was 80F degrees and a little humid, and we ran under a full moon. I was intimidated by the weather from the very start. The combination of the dark and the humidity was very oppressive and even at Mile 1 I was doubting my ability to finish the two-looped course without getting sick, within the time limit. But I kept going and saw interesting sights along the way.

The course map shows the loop we ran twice for the full marathon

Only half of the yard of Christmas lights at this house; fun to run past during the dark loop
 
When the sun came up a couple hours into the race, I actually felt better. I think the sun burned off some of the humidity, and while it was still low on the horizon, I felt pretty good. My most comfortable hour of the race was between 7:00-8:00 AM. And it was during this hour that I finished my first loop, and continued on into the second loop. There was no longer any question of turning in at the half; I was feeling decent and going for the full marathon. Unfortunately, the full marathoners had to run under the start/finish arch to start the second loop. I was running alongside half marathoners who were finishing their race, yet I had to keep going.

This team of Bees was walking the half marathon
A not-quite-light ocean view

An aid station with Santa; there was another one later in the loop with even more Christmas craziness, including kids dressed up like elves

This is Sir Turtle, the Cayman Airways mascot
 
Normally, I dislike multi-loop courses because I find them boring. But on this day, there were a couple benefits of running two loops. Because the second half did get oppressively hot, at least I knew exactly where I was on the course at all times, and the terrain was familiar; this made it easier to pace myself and to be prepared mentally. Also, since much of the first loop was run under darkness, the second loop was my opportunity to see the course in the daylight. It was almost like it was a different course the second time around.

David running his last three miles, while I still have a ways to go

Stopping for a beer on my second loop; "Twisted Citrus" by Cayman Islands Brewery was refreshing!

Pretty view from the course

The human traffic cones did not let us miss this on-course turn
 
Some great things about this race: the pre- and post-race communications were very informative. The swag was good. The post-race festivities were good. But the best feature was the aid stations. They were very frequent, in some cases they were less than a mile apart. And they were well-stocked with water, Gatorade, fruit (loved the watermelon), and other snacks. It would have been very difficult to be under-hydrated or under-fueled at this race. And the volunteers were great. Most aid stations had a theme, and they were staffed with very enthusiastic people who encouraged all of the runners. One aid station was run by an Indian group, and every time I ran by (4 times total because of the out & back, double-loop course), one man would shout “Indian water, fresh from the Himalayas!” That’s just one example, but all the aid stations were great!

My neck and shoulders were in agonizing pain in the last 5 or so miles of my race, which were also the hottest. I think I ran the first dark half with very poor posture, hunched over at the neck. I paid for this later on. I had to keep massaging my neck and shoulders. At one aid station near the end of the race, a medical volunteer sprayed my neck and back with Biofreeze and massaged it in for me. It helped, but I still hurt. During the last mile I was running with another Maniac named Perky. She had come up from behind and finished just before me. She was very upbeat and friendly and it was nice to have someone to chat with for a few minutes when I was in such pain and so ready to finish.

And the finish felt great! I was so happy to be done, and I completed country #4 toward my Marathon Globetrotters qualification. I was surprised that David was still there at the finish line, and in fact there were still quite a few people who had finished well before me. Many of them were waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. After receiving my medal and getting a couple photos at the finish, I made my way to the beer. I drank a cold CayBrew Light and waited my turn in the massage tent. It felt great to have the massage therapists work on not only my legs, but also my neck and shoulders! I was still a little sore afterward, but the massage definitely helped. I was so happy that the beer, the food and the massage were still available for slower finishers like me. As for my time, I finished just a couple minutes past the 6 hour time limit. I felt good about this considering the heat, my two port-o-potty breaks, my long beer break, and my BioFreeze break. Without those stops and my photo stops, I probably would have finished in 5:40 or 5:45. I was the 100th finisher out of 107, and the last one didn’t finish until 7:47!

I finished!
David received his first place age group award from a Subway sandwich

The marathon t-shirt and medal; the medal is larger than it appears here, and heavy
 
David and I stayed for the awards ceremony so he could collect his age group award. After that, we caught a shuttle back to the Westin, got cleaned up, then met up for lunch at the hotel’s outdoor casual restaurant Tortuga, which had a great ocean view. Then I needed to get some rest. I never did get a nap, but it felt good to lay down and relax before heading out again. I didn’t do much else that evening except a dip in the ocean (the swim in salt water felt good on all my muscles and joints) and a soak in the hot tub. Maniac Dawn was also in the hot tub, so I spent some time talking to her and other runners. Later, David and I met for dinner at one of the other hotel restaurants. Normally, I’d want to do more exploring on a trip like this, but because it was such a short visit, it was really convenient to have everything I needed at the resort.

Finisher pic back at the Westin Resort
Seven Mile Beach from the Westin Resort
Sunset at the Westin Resort

The next morning I got in a beach walk/wade, sat on the beach for a while to simply take in the ocean, and then finished with another hot tub soak for my sore muscles. Then it was time to get cleaned up, checked out, and to begin my next full day of travel. My return flights were Grand Cayman to Charlotte to Chicago, then finally home to DC.

My last morning on the beach with Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo
 

Comments

  1. 7:47... that would be me if I tried a marathon :)
    I think every race needs human traffic cones :)
    great job!!!

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    Replies
    1. The human traffic cones were fun. I'm always happy when turns are clearly marked, because I've run plenty of races where they weren't. On my first loop there was a guy in one of the cone costumes. On my second loop it was these two ladies. In spite of the heat, it was fun.

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