By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Last month’s Steelman champions Mark Stephenson and Johanna Murphy, made history Sunday, when they also bagged the inaugural BVI Triathlon Federation Half Ironman titles, during the event that kicked off with a 1.9K cool morning swim in Smugglers Cove, then finished with a 21K Half Marathon run in sweltering heat on Frenchman’s Cay, following a 90K bike on Tortola’s south coast.
Stephenson completed the 70.2 course in 5 hours 49 minutes and 44 seconds. He was followed by Colm Rafferty, in 6:18.41 and Ray Wearmouth was third in 6:29.18.
Stephenson said it was a long race and felt good during the swim, did not challenge the leaders but felt comfortable and stuck with them. The transition run from Smugglers Cove to Frenchman’s Cay he said was a good transition for the bike segment. Though long, it felt good. “And then the run. It was hot by then and my legs were really feeling it from the ride,” he reflected. “I think that was definitely the toughest part for all of us and just getting through was a challenge but we persevered.”
He said last month’s Steelman competition, which was half the distance of the 70.2, was his first triathlon since high school and it gave him a sense of what the transitions were all about and what to expect. “It was a good lead up to this and I enjoyed them both,” he said. “It was an ambitious distance to run but it worked out well and was great to have it in the BVI.”
He added of the victory: “It was not an expectation of mine. I just really enjoy getting into this. I’ve been biking a lot lately and I think that helped me to dedicate some time to try the triathlon experience and it worked out well, so I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Phillipe Leroy who was leading Stephenson, said he bombed on the bike. “Very unlike me. I couldn’t push the power on the bike—I know I had a flat but still no excuse really,” he said. “I know I was moving slower because of the flat, but I couldn’t keep up the power and I was even cramping later on. I don’t know. It just happened, one bad day. I tried to run and see if my legs would feel better, but I felt worse so I stopped before I hurt myself.”
Murphy, who completed her fourth 70.2, finished in 6:23.20. Sue Tucker was second in 7:46.54, while Kay Reddy completed the short course in 7:14.36.
Murphy said the event went well, they had a good turnout on a gorgeous morning with a little bit of drizzle. “The run was brutal. I felt good until I started the run and the heat just got to me,” she pointed out. “But it’s June so I think that’s understandable. I felt quite dramatically different. Good swim, transition to bike but once it got to the run, I just ran out of energy. It’s a long day and the heat was always going to make it harder.”
Murphy—who’s also President of the BVI Triathlon Federation—told Island Sun Sports that the idea for the inaugural 70.2 event came about from the Covid situation where a many of the triathletes were unable to compete abroad, starting with the cancellation of a major event in Puerto Rico last March, followed by the closure of the borders. The event was born to give triathletes a competition on home soil.
Individuals: 1. Mark Stephenson, 5 hrs, 49 minutes, 49 seconds. 2. Colm Rafferty, 6:18.41. 3. Ray Wearmouth, 6:29.18. 4. Aaron Gardner, 6:43.36. 5. Reuben Stoby, 7:13.49. 6. Adrian Dale, 7:28.23 (short course). DNF. Phillippe Leroy, Shane Donovan and Dan Mitchell.
Teams: 1. Natasha Ruscheinski, Craig Allam and Ian Montgomery, 5:13.53. 2. Clinton Hempel, Jason DuPlessis, Julaine Potgieter, 5:26.05. 3. Stephenson and Tony Wood, 5:26.18. 4. Anthony Spencer, Kenton Jones and Ian Tucker, 5:30.35. 5. Shane Donovan, Von Alphonso, Sarah Latham, 5:52.43. 6. Colm Rafferty, Clifton “Tito” Forbes, Vicky Francis, 5:54.04. 7. Aaron Gardner, Dennis DeSouza and John Ayres, 6:33.38. 9. Jude Kinkead, Phillippe Leroy, Anna Kinkead, 6:45.26. 9. Louise Wearmouth, Grant Carrol, Sarah Carrol, 6:58.05. DNF: Dan Mitchell and Natasha Ruscheinksi.