Triathlete Races with the Pros and Wins Age Group Title

Ben Greenfield at the Nevis TriathalonFor one week in April, the majestic Caribbean island of Nevis became the capital of the Triathlon planet. The 36-square-mile island known as the “Land of Beautiful Waters,” “The Sweet Island” and the “Queen of the Caribees” hosted the 2011 TriStar111 Triathlon. This international event, which featured 1km swim, 100km cycle and 10km run stages, attracted top professional and amateur athletes from all over the world, including the 2007 and 2010 Ironman World Champion from Australia, Chris “Macca” McCormack; French superstar Olivier Marceau, who is a three-time Olympic triathlete, 2000 ITU Long Distance World Champion and XTERRA European Tour Champion; and our own top amateur triathlete, Ben Greenfield from the USA.

“This event was won or lost in the 100km cycling route, which took competitors on three loops around the island along with three separate climbs up the steep and long Mount Anaconda,” Ben said.

“Preparing for this event, I knew I had to concentrate on the cycling segment of this triathlon, so I did long training rides each week peppered with intense hill climbs and track repeats as well as four swim workouts a week, long runs and speed repeats and some work with weights, all averaging around 10–12 hours of training per week.”

“To help calm down free radical damage during training and in the week leading up to the race, I always took some melatonin along with Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm® about 30 minutes before going to bed. This helped me sleep more deeply and recover more fully. In the mid-morning I mixed NutraRev! ® with Energy 28™ for more antioxidant protection and for energy. I found that Energy 28 helps utilize carbohydrates efficiently to get the most out of any calorie-dense nutrition that I would take during training and during the race. I took this combination 45 minutes before the start of the Nevis Triathlon, and this really helped me boost my energy level and keep it sustained.”

It’s not often that an amateur triathlete has the opportunity to stand right next to world champions and Olympic athletes like Chris McCormack and Olivier Marceau at the starting line of a triathlon, but that’s where Ben found himself on the morning of the race–looking over the clear blue waters of Gallows Bay in downtown Charlestown on the island of Nevis, smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean.

With megaphones blaring from passing cars announcing the start of the event, tons of volunteers with wonderfully welcoming smiles and enthusiasm, and the sound of reggae mixed with Caribbean music floating through the air, the competitors hit the water!

The 1km swim veered around the first buoy past the ferry pier and parallel to Hunkins Drive, making the athletes turn at the second buoy to head back towards the dinghy dock. Within 15 minutes or so, the swim was over and Ben came racing out of the water in sixth place without having gulped much salt water in the process, which can really slow a swimmer down. Pro triathlete Wolfgang Guembel came first, followed closely by Macca, the world champ.

Climbing out of the water, Ben raced along a red carpet that was laid out along the dock and into the transition area from the swim, briefly making him feel like royalty or a Hollywood celebrity. Ben grabbed his “bike bag,” which contained his helmet and shoes, and ran onto Hunkins Drive and into the bike transition area to start the 100km cycling stage of the race.

Directly out of transition, the cycling leg wove through the small capital of Nevis, Charlestown (the entire island has a population of about 50,000), and then kicked up into a brutal 5km climb that the locals call “Anaconda,” which curves up into the mountains and, as legend has it, anaconda snakes or boa constrictors have devoured animals as big as donkeys along the road.

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Handily avoiding a variety of large and small animals that were sauntering on or along the road while cresting the climb in his stiff Gray Storm TT all-carbon bike frame, Ben rode into fourth place just behind top racers Macca, Olivier and Wolfgang. Ben had learned his lesson about dehydration in an earlier race and made sure he drank plenty of fluids, consuming 30 ounces of water while on the bike. Staying hydrated despite the 28 degree Celsius heat was crucial to racing this event and finishing strong.

This was promising to be a great race for Ben when disaster struck at the top of Anaconda, on the third and final loop of the cycling stage, as one of Ben’s tires went flat. The flat itself wasn’t the issue, as Ben replaced the punctured tube in record time. It was the empty CO2 cartridge that forced him into a waiting game until he was finally able to get a spare CO2 cartridge from the eventual first place female pro (Emma-Kate Lidbury) as she came riding up the hill.

As Ben recalled, “I put on my best pitiful, desperate-looking face, and begged for a spare CO2 cartridge. She graciously tossed one in my direction (thanks, Emma-Kate), I filled my tire and I was off and riding, once again wildly dodging goats, monkeys, donkeys and honking motorists!”

But a mere eight miles later, Ben’s tire went flat again. In the heat of the race, he may not have checked the inside of the tire for any sharp objects that may have remained from his first flat. Ben changed the flat once more, this time using a pump he was able to borrow from a fan.

Riding on, Ben approached the final 5km loop of the cycling stage and flatted out yet again!

Despite being out of spare inner tubes, Ben did not despair. He pushed his bike into the transition area, where another participant from an earlier, shorter race saw him and offered up his bike. Elated, Ben raced to the finish of the cycling stage on the borrowed bike and dashed like a wild man with his hair on fire to finish off the 10km run in a blistering 56 minutes and 7 seconds.

Despite the challenges and the loss of 20-plus minutes in mechanical issues–namely flats–Ben took fourth place in the overall men’s category and first place in the 30–35 age group division, a great start to a promising new season ahead.