Fitness Swellness: Cayman Half-Marathon race report

December 11, 2015

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On Sunday, December 6th, I raced the Intertrust Cayman Islands Half-Marathon. I’d briefly considered running the marathon, but after all the races I’ve done this year and not feeling in the greatest shape and having disappointing races all season, plus the fact that it’d be very hot in Grand Cayman, I decide to run the half instead.

Which is is perhaps the best running decision I’ve made this year. I landed in Grand Cayman on Thursday, which gave me plenty of time to settle in before the race. But it also meant I was eating  much richer food than usual. But I had decided weeks ago that I would not race this half but rather would just run it for fun. But because of this, I basically took a very relaxed approach (let’s call it that rather than being disorganized…!) to this race. I would usually pack something to eat for breakfast before the race, for example. And I completely forgot about this until the night before the race. Thankfully, at the Westin Grand Cayman (the HQ for the race) they opened the cafe at 3 a.m. for us runners. So I was able to buy a banana and a muffin. Otherwise I was fully prepared to eat a rum cake (the only food I had in my hotel room!) before the race. I also never looked at the race route…I assumed there’d be a map in the race kit but there wasn’t, and I forgot to check the website for it. That said, I’m not very familiar with Grand Cayman roads so it wouldn’t have meant much to me anyhow. I knew the island is very flat and that was enough info for me.

The race started at 5 a.m. downtown, so I went to bed by 10 p.m. and got up at 3:30 a.m. to eat and get dressed and catch the shuttle bus to the race start. The early start time was an adjustment in itself for racing but it truly was a blessing as it was a smidgen cooler and a tiny bit less humid than it was during the day. I heard the announcer say it was 77 degrees at start time, which is 25C, but it felt warmer given the humidity. That said, I have trained in much harsher humidity and temps here in Toronto and it was actually less grueling conditions than I anticipated for race day. The air was indeed thick

The route is very flat and mostly goes out on West Bay Rd for 10k and then you turn and take the same route back (I think, anynow, I got into run mode and it’s possible the end is slightly different). There were water and Gatorade stations practically at every kilometre and these were much needed given the hot conditions. I heard there were many people who were vomiting or who needed medical help, I spotted a few as I ran, too. I was very relieved I hadn’t opted for the marathon as I learned that mornings hat it is two loops of the half route, and I always find loops draining mentally.

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The first hour of the race we were running in the dark, but by 6 the sun started to rise. The most disappointing part of the race is that I was expecting gorgeous scenery. But the road is not that scenic. Basically a flat road with high trees on either side of you, or homes, and the occasional rooster walking around. In a handful of spots, you can view the ocean and that’s were I snapped the sunrise photo.

As much as most of the route was lacking in scenery, the locals at the many water stations more than made up for it. So many smiles and great encouragement. The occasional costume or theme, too, such as the one featuring a slew of people riding Spin bikes, or the Star Wars-themed water station. There was something really welcoming and charming in the crowd support her in Grand Cayman and it made a world of difference in the race experience.

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As I’d decided I was just running the race for fun, I stopped to take photos of the route whenever I saw anything photo-worthy. I took unflattering extremely sweaty selfies. And I pretty much stopped at every water station and walked whenever I felt like it! I enjoyed watching other runners and just taking in the scenery. In all honesty, it was a much more enjoyable race experience compared to being in pain and discomfort and driving myself bananas over whether I was going to finish with a PB.

As usual, my second half of the race was much slower than the first half. Making the many turns in the last kilometre or two of the race was a struggle. When I heard loud music, I assumed I was very close to the finish line…but it was nowhere to be seen and I quickly realized I still had at least another kilometre to go. Groan.

I finished in 2:15, which is 24 minutes slower than my half PB, but there’s nothing I’d change about my race. It wasn’t the hardest race I’ve ever run and that’s because I didn’t race it. Everyone I spoke to who’d pushed themselves in the race swear it’s the toughest one they’ve done, and, well, I spared myself two hours of agony this time around, haha. Even with this slow-for-me-easy-pace time, I finished 238th out of 721 half-marathoners, 84th out of 399 women, and 22nd out of 126 in my category, and I’m totally fine with that. Cuz sometimes it’s just nice to take a break :)

The finish area had some of the best snacks I’ve seen at a race. A ton of amazing fresh fruit of all kinds, Kit Kats, plantain chips, bottles of Gatorade, and Cayman Brewery was serving up beer, too. The sweaty runners at the finish were a happy, friendly group, too, congratulating everyone and there were lots of smiles all around.

After cheering a few runners in as we drank beer, we hopped onto the shuttle back to the Westin, celebrated on the beach by running into the ocean for a refreshing dip, then showered and ordered a lot of food at the beach bar. Followed by some spa time and serious R&R on the beach. Despite what the race lacked in scenery, I’d happily run this destination race as a half-marathon again.

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