Christopher Columbus landed on St. Croix in 1493; I followed a mere 519 years later. I waited too long.
St. Croix is rich in history; it has been ruled by Spain, England, Holland, France, Denmark, and currently the United States, having purchased it in 1917. While you can feel, see, and taste the influences of these diverse cultures, the one most apparent and deeply entrenched in St. Croix is the African culture. Africans were brought to the islands to work the sugar plantations, after slavery was abolished in 1848 they remained and their influence flourishes. The town of Christiansted itself is vibrant with colors and customs. Buildings are painted in shades of greens, yellows, pinks, and reds. Locals regularly gather for jump-ups, a street festival full of music, food, and Mocko Jumbies performing in the streets. Ironman and 500 of its athletes descended upon the island this past weekend, as they have for the last 24 years.
The destination race that is the St. Croix Ironman 70.3 is as rich in history as the Island itself. The race has been ruled by Australia, England, New Zealand, Scotland, Ukraine, Belgium, Great Britain, Russia, and currently Canada and the United States with 2012 champions Angela Naeth and Andy Potts recently being crowned. It’s been on the triathlon circuit since 1988 when Dionne Warwick sang the national anthem. Celebrating its 25th anniversary next year, this is a legendary course raced by the legends. Names synonymous with Triathlon such as Pigg, Allen, Scott, Molina, Glah, Tinley, Welch, Newby-Fraser, Smyers, Ingraham, Hobson, Riccitello, Zeiger, have all come to the island to test their endurance and resolve; as have this years participants. Many come because they love the island and the Crucian hospitality. Others come chasing glory and the challenge that is a storied and epic course.
The race starts in the salty waters of Christiansted Harbour. The water is warm and the high salt content makes for a very buoyant swim (if you aren’t a good swimmer, this could be your race). Upon exiting the wharf to a cheering and exuberant crowd, athletes transition to the bike and head east for an 8-mile loop. Riders come back through the winding streets and narrow alleys of Christiansted before heading out for the remaining 48 miles, which includes the infamous Beast. The Beast challenges the best of cyclists, a 600-foot climb shy of a mile in length, but all teeth. Its 14-21 percent grade will put the burn in your legs and salt in your eyes. The Beast is only the Dragon’s head, cut it off and you’d still have one of the more challenging courses. It’s all up and down, twists and turns, with technical descents that have ended many a racers day. The run is a two-loop course, taking athletes from the edge of Christiansted east along the rolling road heading toward the Buccaneer hotel. There, racers run along the property’s golf course and shoreline. The finish is a final stretch through town back down to the wharf where athletes relish in their days feat, or anguish about a race that could have gone better. But that, dear readers, is the sport of Triathlon, the endless internal battle over the efforts of the day. Did I leave it all on the battle field, did I estimate my opponents and the elements of the race correctly, did I have more to give, or did I execute my plan to the best of my ability and I’ll walk away proud of my accomplishment and eager to do battle again.
I’ve seen many races over the years, and participated in a few of them. There is a short list of must-do races, being from the West Coast, those are Wildflower, Vineman, and Ironman Canada. All have history as long and deep as Kona, Wildflower just celebrated its 30th year. After my visit to St. Croix, I have a new must-do race to add. Not only because of the challenging course and history of the race, but because of the island, the generosity of the locals, and the diversity of fellow athletes. Like Kona, this race draws athletes from all over the world. Americans race along side Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Puerto Ricans, Argentineans, Brazilians, Dutch, French, Spaniards, Crucians, and on. It truly is a race that reflects that in which it takes place, a melting pot of cultures united to the same end.
If you’re planning to race a ½ Ironman consider this race. It’s a journey, but I believe most of us having done this sport for a few years realize that’s what it’s all about. I will see you on the Beast.
Originally a Danish Governor’s sugar plantation, The Buccaneer was converted to a hotel and has been family run since it’s opening in 1947. There are three restaurants on site, two beaches, tennis, golf, and spa. Don’t skip the excellent complimentary buffet breakfast for athletes and guests.
From $259 (800) 255-3881, www.thebuccaneer.com
Club St. Croix
Prefer a full kitchen to do your own cooking? Club St. Croix is a condominium complex a short distance from Christiansted.
From $136 (800) 524-2025, www.clubstcroix.com
King’s Alley Hotel (Downtown Christiansted)
From $149 (800) 843-3574
Palms at Pelican Cove
From $199 (800) 548-4460, www.palmspelicancove.com
Tutto Bene (Italian)
A favorite of Lance’s while on the Island. Try the “A Taste of the Caribbean” Gold Medal winning Cumin & Jerk Rubbed Ribeye. Gluten-free options are available for your carbo meals.
Hospital Street, Gallows Bay, Christiansted (340) 773.5229, www.tuttobenerestaurant.com
A favorite of 2010 winner Terenzo Bozzone.
King Cross Street, Christiansted (340) 773-9199
Nice ambiance with great wine selection. Try the Duck Prig King Red Curry.
17 Church Street, Christiansted (340) 773-0076, www.galangalstx.com
The Courtyard Restaurant
Recommended for the pizza.
55 Company St, Christiansted (340) 773-7769
Company St., Christiansted
(340) 778-2742, www.ashashop.com
Renuatum Herbal and Natural Body Care
Christiansted, (340) 514-5425, www.renuatum.com
My Girlfriends Closet
#54 King Street, Christiansted
Buck Island is a National Reef Monument, established as a protected area in 1948 and made a U.S. National Monument in 1961 by JFK. It’s a short boat ride from St. Croix and boasts some of the best snorkeling in the world. Explore underwater reef trails and spot turtles, eagle rays, “grumpy” barracuda, lobster, and the occasional sharks (nurse, lemon, blacktip reef).
Big Beard’s Adventure Tours
(340) 773-4482, www.BigBeards.com
Buck Island Charters
(340) 718-3161, www.gotostcroix.com/buck-island/heinz
(340) 773-9027, www.llewellynwesterman.com
Mt. Pellier Domino Club
Feed the famous beer drinking pigs and enjoy some of Norma’s ROTI. Beware; the red sauce is HOT!
Rt. 76 (Mahogany Rd.) (340) 713-9052, www.stcroixtourism.com/montpellier-domino-club-st-croix.htm
Captain Morgan Experience
What would a trip to the Caribbean be without Rum and Pirates?
From $10 (340) 713-5654