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TRIATHLON FEVER IS CATCHING ON, WITH PLEASURE

May 3, 2002 – As Sunday's Half Ironman events get closer, the tempo is picking up for participants and planners alike.
Plans for Friday night's Christiansted Jump Up had businesses hopping with joy as they looked forward to welcoming more than 900 race participants and their families and friends. Ian Sweet, triathlon media relations person and race announcer, says support for this year's event has been great. "This is the biggest and best we've ever had. Everything has worked out well," he said.
The other big Friday night attraction is the big annual "Carbo Feast," a meal planned to allow competitors to fuel up on carbohydrates. This year, those registered for the triathlon got tickets entitling them to select the dining spot of their choice for the dinner. The participating restaurants are Luncheria, Stixx, Tuto Bene, Fort Christiansted Brew Pub, Indies Restaurant and Rum Runners.
Joe Decker at the Fort Christian Brew Pub said he put together several entrees including jambalaya, pasta primavera and seafood pasta. "It is going to be a great time going on in here tonight," he said, noting that the Code 9 Band would be providing music.
Stixx chose to serve Chicken Alfredo, veggie pasta and clams Alfredo, Choo Wineman said, adding, "Whatever we can do to be a part of our community — we just help out."
Mark Hall, project director for Cheney Bay, one of the more than 100 corporate and business sponsors of this year's triathlon, said, "We wanted to be a part of it. We've been a part of it for years." He said Cheney Bay supports events that showcase the beauty of the island and its people. A couple of the athletes are lodged at the resort, he said.
This year, Hall's enthusiasm rubbed off on his 9-year-old daughter, Victoria, who has signed on as a volunteer for Sunday's race. "A couple of days ago my dad told me about it," the third grade student at Country Day School said. "I thought it would be fun to pass drinks to people."
In the midst of all the hoopla, local residents are having the pleasure of driving on the smooth, brand-new asphalt surface of roads as they glance out across a litter-free landscape. The Public Works Department's ongoing road repairs project os beneficial to the race participants, too, of course. "It just worked out well for us," Antonio Messer, a Public Works technical assistant, said. "Our concern is road safety for our residents as well as visitors."
Crews have cleared debris, trash and shrubbery from 75 percent of the roadsides. Paving has been completed on the West Airport Road and on the East End and will continue on the Queen Mary Highway and the North Shore Road.
For anyone wanting to catch an aerial view of the race course, Seabourne Aviation is offering a 30-minute tour for up to 12 passengers. Tour director Chris Haigh said the breathtaking ride following the course from east to west across the island is a great way to see the race.
The Police Department has put together a team of 82 personnel to support the weekend events from Friday night down to Sunday night's awards banquet at Hotel on the Cay. For the actual race, police teams will be stationed at strategic areas around the course, from the Cramer's Park intersection on the east to Golden Grove in the west. Law enforcement personnel will include school guards, traffic bureau personnel and special operations staff.
"Everything is in place," Deputy Chief Angel Santos said. He said Lt. William Harvey, a traffic officer and the triathlon team chief, supervised the inspection of all police vehicles Friday to make sure they were ready to go. "Some of those cyclists move as fast as our vehicles," Santos commented.
Volunteers always have been a key factor in the triathlon. Volunteer coordinator Shawn Hendricks said Friday that he has about 120 folks signed up and ready to go, but "we can use a lot more." His helpers were on the telephone Friday assigning each of the volunteers to one of seven sectors around the island.
Hendricks, a former St. Croix runner and cyclist, now directs operations behind the scenes both as volunteer coordinator and as president of the V.I. Triathlon Federation. He said volunteers still are needed to work at the three first-aid stations, guide traffic, monitor the course and just cheer the triathletes along.
"I started as a sector chief with Wallace Williams when it was the America's Paradise Triathlon," Hendricks said. "It's a great experience. As a volunteer, you meet athletes from all over the world."
As far as local athletes taking part in the Half Ironman, officials said it's too soon to say, as registration is ongoing. In the past, amateur local participants were allowed to team up — with one person swimming, another bicycling and the third running. But that has changed. "This may affect the number of local applicants," Hendricks said.
For the professionals — those who come from off island looking for glory, a winning purse and qualification for bigger, badder Ironman events around the world — being a triathlete is a career. It is hard and arduous training that requires a full-time commitment to physical training.
To sign on as a triathlon volunteer, call 773-4470.

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