The race director is on the beach, pointing out to sea. “Swim out to the blue boat, turn right round it, back in towards the small white buoy, turn right again and swim along the coast to exit under the arch.” It sounds so simple. But seconds later an animated debate breaks out amongst the small, but enthusiastic, field of competitors over whether he meant the navy blue boat or the sky blue boat.
It’s an important distinction, as this quirky way of defining the course constitutes the only markers we’re getting – and the two boats are about 100m apart. I should be paying attention, but in honesty I’m only half-listening, as I’m staring out into the beautiful blue sea, feeling the early morning sun on my skin and marvelling at how I’m about to do a non-wetsuit race in the middle of November…
Such is life at the Nevis Triathlon, one of the smallest and most laid-back, yet stunningly beautiful, races 220 Triathlon have ever had the pleasure of attending. Only 40 competitors are on the start line this year and that encompasses all three events: the full Nevis 74 (1km swim/63km bike/10km run), the half-distance Nevis 37 and the entry-level Try a Tri.
Within that small field is a fantastic range of competitors though – from the youngest racer at 9 years old to the oldest at 85 – from locals doing their first tri to Kona age-group champ Jane Hansom. They’ve had some big names here in the past considering it’s such a tiny race too. This is where Ross Edgley (of great British Swim fame) competed his ‘tree-athlon’ and even Ironman pro Chris McCormack has taken on the course in previous years.
Kona age-group champ Jane Hansom (right) with the race's oldest competitor, 85-year-old Dr Avery. Image: Ryan Delano
Monkey run club
I arrive on the Wednesday before the Saturday event. This is a last-minute end of year addition to a season blighted by injury (I’ve been the 2018 Queen of the DNS) and although my grumbling achilles means I’m there to complete not compete, I’m just happy to be on a start line.
What a place to compete in, too. Nevis is one of the smallest Caribbean islands and is a true paradise with lush rainforests covering a volcano in the middle, and sandy beaches around the coast. Towns are small and rural but the island is packed with friendly residents and rustic beach bars – put it this way, you’re never far from one of Nevis’s famous rum punches (or a new friend to drink it with) – and if, like me, you’re a fan of getting away from it all and out into nature, then you couldn’t ask for more.
I’m staying at the Hermitage Plantation Inn, a boutique hotel created from one of Nevis’s historical sugar plantations, nestled within the base of the rainforests and dating back to c1670. I’m shown to a magical gingerbread-style cottage, complete with four-poster bed, swimming pool just outside my front door and hammock in the back porch… Considering I’m used to staying in tents or dodgy B&Bs the night before most of my races, it’s fair to say this quite a dramatic upgrade!
Monkeys can be found all over the tiny island and will peek out at you while you're racing! Image: Helen Webster
On my first morning I’m woken early by a group of the African Green Vervet monkeys that roam around the forests, so I lace up my trainers and head off into the forest roads for a morning run. I keep seeing the little black faces of curious monkeys popping out of the trees as I jog up the winding track past lush green vegetation and trees, while the hotel dog, Tuffy, has come along as my run buddy. It's a fantastic way to start the day, before heading to breakfast for the Hermitage's famous pumpkin pancakes and coffee with new local buddies Joel and Tim, who are a lot of fun and seem to have adopted me (you're never lonely for long on Nevis!).
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