April 27, 2005 They are all over. You see them while you are driving on the highway, taking the dog for a walk, getting a bite for lunch. Svelte figures hunched over sleek racing bikes, sucking on water bottles; bikini-bottomed runners hugging the shoulders of narrow island roads; Speedo clad swimmers maneuvering around sailboats in the harbor.
St. Croix's premier annual sporting event, the St. Croix Half Ironman Triathlon, is set to get under way at 6:30 a.m. Sunday with the start of the swimming component. Athletes will continue to the grueling bike section and then the run course. The best 30 athletes in their respective categories will qualify for slots in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
The race has grown in popularity each year. Project St. Croix, a not-for-profit organization, has produced the triathlon since 1992. Tom Guthrie is the go-to guy for the local triathlon and has been involved in the race since the beginning. "We have between 800 and 950 athletes participating in Sunday's race," Guthrie said this week.
The race is known all over the world as the "Beauty and the Beast." Professional athletes have commented that the course is one of the most scenic and toughest in the world.
They come to conquer "the Beast," a 600-foot climb in a 0.7-mile stretch of highway with a grade of 8 to 14 percent. Another factor that separates the men from the boys is the St. Croix heat and humidity. Most athletes prefer 50 to 60 degree weather with a spattering of rain throughout the course. On St. Croix athletes will encounter hot tropical sun and strong trade winds. According to www.weather.com, Sunday's temperature will be 86 degrees with 30 percent chance of showers. Average humidity will be between 72 and 82 percent.
The race course
– The swimming component consists of a 1.24-mile (2 km) race in Christiansted Harbor.
– It will be followed by the 56-mile (90 km) bike course which departs Christiansted, loops around the East End to Southgate Road, returns to Christiansted, travels north up "the Beast" and returns to the transition area in Christiansted.
– Then the competitors move into a 13.1-mile (21 km) two-loop running course.
The short course alternative
For athletes who want to test their endurance but are not ready for the Half Ironman, there's the option of competing in the concurrent Cingular Wireless Short Course. This involves a less-demanding 750-meter swim, an 8-mile bike course without "the Beast," and a 4-mile run. It gets underway with the swim component at 7:45 a.m.
There will be four aid stations in the start/finish area and four along the bike route. The run course has aid stations located about every 0.6 mile. Volunteers at the stations will be serving water, Gatorade, GU (an energy gel), bananas, orange slices and pretzels. More volunteers are being sought to help at the aid stations. For more information, call Guthrie at 773-4470.
Race week schedule
Wednesday, 11 a.m. — organized training swim at the Christiansted wharf.
Thursday, 11 a.m. organized training swim at the Christiansted wharf.
Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Registration at the Scale House, Christiansted.
Friday, 11 a.m. — organized training swim at the Christiansted wharf.
Friday, 5:30 am — Paradise 5k run open event. Sign up at the Buccaneer guard house before the race.
Friday, 7 p.m. the traditional Triathlon Jump-Up street fair in Christiansted; stores and restaurants will stay open in the evening and several local bands will provide music.
Saturday — mandatory pre-race registration and check-in at the Scale House in Christiansted.
Saturday, 1 p.m. course talk; an overview of the race course at the Buccaneer
Sunday, 6:30 a.m. — Half Ironman begins at the Christiansted wharf.
Sunday, 7:30 a.m. short-course triathlon begins at the Christiansted wharf.
Sunday evening — awards banquet
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