Just keep spinning...
Soon after Charlestown though, the course comes back to bite me. I’d heard talk of ‘Anaconda Hill’ in the days before the race, but knowing I would be competing on a heavy, unfamiliar, bike I’d tried to ignore them. Well, it was now time to face my nemesis.
Anaconda Hill is on the East of the island and so named because it winds up and up (and up, phew!) until you reach the final sting in the tail – a short, sharp climb that takes you to Zetlands, close to where you start to hike up the main peak (infamously difficult and on my Nevis bucketlist for the days after the race). Today is all about triathlon, not hiking though and with the climb lasting about 2 miles I’m soon in my easiest gear and starting to struggle. My American pal on the Specialized catches me up and speeds past – we both laugh and it’s my turn to tell her she picked the right bike!
There’s nothing for it but to keep spinning my legs and look forward to the inevitable descent on the other side! Luckily it’s still early and the sky is overcast, so at least I’m not baking. Turn after turn I continue up until suddenly I round a bend to find a short, steep section in front of me – surely the final section? Nope. This is the famous false finish of Anaconda Hill and there’s still more to do. Coming to the next crest it’s finally confirmed that it’s over though (hurray!) as someone has sprayed ‘You did it!’ on the road alongside a smiley face, which makes me laugh as I start to speed down the other side.
Helen gets to grips with mountain-biking, Nevis-style! Image: Lizzy Dening
The second half of the bike course is way easier with long, sweeping descents taking me back around to the north of the island. Any kind of PB is way off the table now, so I just enjoy the experience – the greenery whizzes past and I get panoramic views out to sea, while in the towns, I spot wooden houses painted in green, pink, white or yellow. In one there’s a party atmosphere, with people running out to meet me in the road and shouting ‘welcome to Zion’ as I pass through and trying to stop me to give me segments of oranges. Some friends I've made on the trip come out in a car to cheer me on too (hugs to Lizzy, Ross and Julie!) too – I’m having a blast now and all too soon I spot the final hill on the course, a short but steep incline up and over and back down to Oualie Beach and the right turn back into transition.
I leave my bike and start the short 5km run course, which takes me back the way I’ve come (over the small nasty hill again!), to the island’s tiny airport and back. I’ll be honest, after 90 minutes of riding an unfamiliar bike over steep hills my legs are pretty tired and with the sun starting to beat down the run conditions are tough – so I’m almost glad my physio insisted I adopt a run/walk strategy to save my dodgy achilles. Hot runs have never been one of my strengths – I'm definitely an 'out at 5am and head for a forest’ kinda girl in the summer.
Despite my slow bike leg there are quite a few people on the run course and with the sun radiating the full force of its 30 degree heat onto us the remaining athletes are visibly wilting. Given I’m doing 3 minute intervals at race pace and 2 minute walk breaks I’m expecting to be slow anyway, but actually this strategy seems to be quite a good one in the heat and I overtake a couple of people. At the turnaround point the women manning the aid station spray a bottle of water over me (I must look hot!) and I’m into the last couple of kilometres back to Oualie Beach.
Sandy finish line
Turning back towards the beach I’m directed sharp right around transition as the race finish is along the stretch of sand that makes up one of the prettiest beaches on the island. Pretty it might be, but the sand is the soft kind that gives way as soon as you step on it, making it hard to run on with a dodgy ankle!
My friend Jane runs part of the beach with me though in celebration (she finished ages before me to win the race outright, all that Kona training served her well!) and with everyone on the beach cheering, I’m soon across the finish line to be handed a whopping gold finisher medal (if you’re into your bling, this is the race for you!). Then just in time, I head to join everyone in the bar as those predicted thunderstorms hit and the rain starts hammering down.
Male and female winner of the Nevis 37, plus winner of the Nevis 75 2018. Image: Ryan Delano
All in, Nevis was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’d thoroughly recommend it to any triathletes looking to combine a fun but challenging race with an amazing holiday and for 2019, a duathlon is being added to the race options as well. That’s a whole year away though, which seems too long as Nevis has utterly stolen my heart – so I’m already plotting how to come back in March for the Nevis to St Kitts Cross-Channel Swim…
Helen flew to St Kitts from London Gatwick with British Airways and then got a water taxi to the island of Nevis. She stayed at the Hermitage Plantation Inn. For more information on the Nevis Triathlon and activities on the island and to sign up for next year, visit the website here.
Other recommended island activities are: 4X4 island tour with Funky Monkey, visit to Nevisian historical Village, Nevis Peak Hike with Sunrise Tours ane visit to the island botanical gardens. Foodie highlights were breakfast at the Hermitage Plantation Inn (Helen ate far too many pumpkin pancakes on her trip) as well as pig roast night and wood-fired pizza night; dinner at the Golden Rock Hotel and Bananas Bistro and (if you dare) the world-famous Killer Bee cocktails at Sunshine’s.