by Joe Merrill
In January, Katie Humphrey and I flew to an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to take part in the Bermuda Triangle Challenge. The Challenge is comprised of three races. On Friday night is a 1 mile race, followed by a 10K race on Saturday morning. The last race, on Sunday morning, is either a half marathon or a full marathon. This would be Katie’s first half marathon, and rather than suffer for 26 miles I chose to run with her.
After some drama with travel arrangements – let’s just say that not every airline wants to fly to and from Bermuda during January – we found ourselves jetting into St. George’s on a pleasant Thursday evening. Friday was warm (mid-60’s) and Sunny, and after hitting the race expo we took the short walk from the Princess to downtown Hamilton. We had a nice lunch and toured the small downtown, taking in some parks and the sun washed architecture. Hamilton is small but seems like a nice place to walk around and just enjoy the food and drink.
The one-mile race started at 7:00. For those participating in the challenge the race was in five waves: Katie was in wave four and I was in the last wave. I didn’t really have goals for any of the races, other than to finish and have fun. I kind of hoped I could run a sub-8:00 in the mile, but with two more races to go I wasn’t going to kill myself. However, this was a fast wave, and after a couple dozen people flew by me in the first tenth of a mile I was in competitive mode. The course was up and down Front Street, with a fun, slightly downhill finish. I surprised myself with a time of 7:06, which was easily a PR. Granted, this was only my second one-mile race.
It turns out that the mile race was a whole thing. We stuck around and watched the elite groups go, both men and women. Both of those heats were complete in around five minutes! Then there were races for primary school, middle school, high school, and masters runners. For dinner we sat on the balcony of the Pickled Onion overlooking the start line, and watched runners go by until 10:00 p.m.
After we returned to the hotel, we were fortunate to ride the elevator with the race weekend guest of honor, Olympian and Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi. We chatted for a few moments and he was incredibly gracious with his time.
On Saturday morning we hopped a shuttle bus to the Bermuda National Sports Center for the 10K race. Weather reports were threatening; we anticipated running six miles through the rain, and things were very breezy as we warmed up on the track and started the race. When the race kicked off at 9 a.m. the wind was brisk, but the rain was holding off. Still, the temperature was around 70 degrees and humidity was 90%. It was very warm and muggy. Knowing we had a half marathon the next day, it was never our intention to strain ourselves in this race, so we enjoyed the run.
We went through some charming villages, and the crowd support along the course was outstanding. The highlight for me came about a half a mile from the finish; we were climbing the final hill and a woman shouted out “keep it going Santa Claus!” Katie and I both broke out laughing, which led another woman a bit down the road to say, “I love your energy! You’re still smiling!” Well, laughing at me, but it was fun. When we hit the six-mile mark, the urge set in for me to go on a finishing kick, so I was that guy passing a bunch of people in the last quarter mile to try to get his 10K time under 1:01.
There was a fun after party. Goslings Rum and Bermuda Craft Brewing were offering up their wares, and both were mighty tasty. I had a good buzz on by the time the noon shuttle was ready to go. And coincidentally, that’s when the storm really hit. Rain started pouring down as we walked to the bus. By the time we got to the hotel, the island was fully engulfed. 60-mph winds and torrential downpours. Instead of touring the island, we stayed at the hotel and took a nap.
Luckily the weather cleared up for the half marathon on Sunday morning. Also luckily, the start was literally on the street in front of the hotel. We were able to sleep in a little roll up to the start line for 9:00 a.m. We had purposefully taken it easy on Saturday to make sure we felt strong for Sunday. Race time temps were a few degrees cooler, humidity was down, and skies were overcast at the start. There was a little drizzle the first couple of miles. Really perfect running weather.
One benefit with the Sunday race was the Goslings Rum aid stations. Not content to just be at the finish line, the Goslings folks set up drink stops along the course, at about six miles and ten miles for the half marathoners. We were treated to Dark & Stormies along with Rum Swizzles. Not huge servings, just enough to keep you going.
As with the 10K, community support was outstanding. Islanders lined almost the entire course. The scenery was outstanding, as we ran along the south shore to St. John’s bay, and along the North Shore. We passed through numerous villages. One spectator stands out, a man driving a scooter who we saw probably six times. We would run by him, then he would scoot ahead and stop further up the course. I suspect he was cheering on somebody behind us. At one point I said, “I feel like I’ve seen you a few times before,” and he replied, “yes, and you will see me again!”
The sun came out for the last few miles of the race. There’s nothing like some bright sunshine to turn 65-degree weather into a real bear, especially if you’re not acclimated. We needed to slow down at the end, particularly climbing the last couple of hills. (As an aside, so many runners were complaining about the hills. And yes, there were some hills to navigate. But running in Vermont, we would call the course “pretty flat.”) We had the strength to run it in for the last half mile or so. In fact, Katie was able to hit a sprinting speed that left me in her dust at the finish line!
We had a blast at the after party. Drinks again were flowing, and we caught up with many of the folks we had met throughout the weekend. The sun was out, and it was a perfect afternoon on the waterfront.
I haven’t mentioned the fact that Bermuda is really frigging expensive. I *would* go back and do this challenge again – it’s easily the most fun race I’ve participated in – but I don’t know if I *will* because, you know, we aren’t made of money. But for a one-time destination race, I highly recommend.