Killer Bees & Hardtails
I’m mindful of saving some energy for the race though, so short jogs aside I leave the big-energy activities such as the Nevis Peak Hike until after the race and instead spend some time exploring the island. It’s hard not to get swept along in island life though and I try hard (and fail!) not to eat too much of the amazing island food, mainly accompanied by lethal rum punches. Word to the wise – if someone offers you something called a ‘Killer Bee’ during your pre-race taper, it’s best to say no…
The day before the race arrives and I head to Oualie Beach, on the north of the island. This is where the race will start the next day and I’m keen to recce the swim and collect my bike from the hire shop. Turns out there’s been a small error in communication somewhere along the way though and the hire shop is out of road bikes, meaning my only option is a Trek hardtail… Not being used to a mountain bike and aware it’s a really challenging bike route I’m a bit nervous about this!
Later that evening, a chat with a new friend Tim, who lives on the island, reassures me though. “The roads are pretty broken up in places and there are a few potholes,” he says, considering the course. “Plus it’s meant to rain, so there might be standing water in a few places.” Potholes and wet surfaces? My two least favourite things. I’m suddenly very happy to be on a MTB – and decide tomorrow’s going to be a lot of fun!
Race morning arrives and it’s a 5am start. The Hermitage have kindly made me some homemade carrot and walnut muffins for brekkie and I eat them while poking my nose out of the door and breathing a sigh of relief that the heavy rain forecast hasn’t materialised yet. When it rains here, it rains like it really means it!
Navigating the swim
So we’re back where we started this feature, at Oualie Beach at sunrise and that swim course. It’s now been confirmed that it’s the closer of the two blue boats we need to swim around and quickly afterwards, the klaxon goes and we’re running out into the water.
I’m doing the Nevis 37 which only has a 500m swim, so it barely feels like I’m getting into a rhythm before I’m already turning to head back to the beach. The water’s clear and blue and I’m wishing I’d been able to take on the longer distance and stay in it for longer! The triangular course is easy to follow out as I manage to get on the feet of some of the faster swimmers, then on the way back in I realise the buoy is the same one I’d been using to sight off earlier in the week during practise swims. It’s tiny, so I’m glad I already know that the yellow house behind it is the right place to aim for! Win!
Kona age-group champ Jane Hansom exits the water first. Image Ryan Delano
Transition is across the beach and it’s not my fastest, as I take a minute to chuck a bottle of water over my feet to wash the sand off. Not the pro approach I know, but the thought of racing in 30 degree heat with a load of sand chafing my feet makes the time lost seem worth it.
The Nevis bike course is really simple – it’s either one or two laps of the 32km main road around the island, depending which distance race you’re doing. Being such a small island the roads are pretty free of traffic too and what cars there are seem more curious about what we’re doing than keen to overtake and I have a few locals slowing down and driving alongside me for a chat. Despite my reservations, the neon green Trek is actually a lot of fun and I’m keeping up with a few other competitors and playing cat-and-mouse with an American girl on a racier-looking Specialized. There are a few potholes as predicted and as I speed past her on the bumpy straights while she slows down to dodge them, she laughs and shouts: “you chose the right bike for this course!”
The route takes us past the immaculate grounds of the Four Seasons hotel, then through Charlestown (the island’s centre), where I almost take a wrong turn thanks to a car parked on one of the orange direction arrows spray painted onto the road. Just at the last minute I spot it and haul off left across the junction – to the cheers of a few locals on their morning trip to the shops!
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