All those who follow me on social media are more than aware that Sunday was the Toronto Triathlon Festival. This year I was honoured to be in the role of the Director of Ambassadors. We had an awesome team promoting the race, and it was a huge honour and exciting opportunity to work with these folks and share our excitement about the race.
Saturday Was Golden
The race event for me started on Saturday with kit pick up and a “gold member” meet and greet and shake out run with Olympian Simon Whitfield. The expo this year was at Ontario Place which offered a unique environment to pick up our race kit, and walk the small outdoor expo, then in a band shell hear Simon Whitfield speak. The event was about an hour total which included Cliff Bar samples and Honey Max to hydrate. I was thankful for the Honey Maxx as there wasn’t any real shade and the race kits included sparkling water vs still water. I drank through two bottles of Honey Max – with my focus of hydration to prepare for the next days race.
A few highlights at the expo included shopping some of the great products – flashy swim gear is pretty much only available in the US, so it’s always nice to have bright and colourful gear easily available at events like this. I also got to test out some massage boots from TriTrain. Essentially you zipped into these thigh high bags that filled with air putting pressure on your legs and then would deflate and various increments. A great massage tool to help aid in circulation of the legs.
After hearing Simon speak (and he was amazing, very mindful) the group went for a 2km shake out run. I had been suffering for a few days with painfully sore calves so anticipated staying at the back of the pack, but the group was pretty close together so we mostly ran as one giant crew on a short out and back along the waterfront.
As I was racing the sprint, I wasn’t able to rack my bike and get into the transition zone to set up until 8am. We had spent the evening at a wedding in Muskoka, so the sleep in was nice. I met with Mel and we rode our bikes to the start arriving close to 8:30.The wave we were in at 9:50 was larger then others (we had a 15 year age gap) but it meant almost all the gals from Tribe were racing together. It was very cool having such a large group bonding and supporting each other.
What I like about this race is that the bikes positions are assigned. Rather then a free for all for the ideal spot, everyone is told where to go and which direction their bike should face. I walked the racks trying to find my number, my face lit up when I discovered I was assigned the coveted dream position at the very end of the rack. To me this is the perfect spot for so many reason.
- There is only one person beside you which means less choas in transition
- More space. Since you have the legs of the rack they act as a barrier and keep the person beside you a little further away
- It is so simple to find your space when racing into transition because you are at the end – so you’re are looking for your own stuff.
I got ready in my space. Something I’ve done so many times I didn’t even worry or think about it the day before. The announcer (Tribe friend and Kona triathlete Travis McKenzie) said it was time to leave the transition and head to the start line. I grabbed my swim stuff which included my wet suit, swim cap, goggles, disposable water bottle, and body butter. The racer immediately beside me still hadn’t show up which meant SCORE! I had even more space. I was definitely feeling the love from the universe and was entering the race with a great mind set.
The swim start was rushed and things moved fast. I decided to jump in and do a swim warm up because I knew the water would be freezing cold – it was. I swam about half of the available loop and realized our start was very soon, so decided to head back and get out. I was glad I did as there was a line up to exit the warm-up and Travis was announcing the start count down.
I got in the water and made my way to the front. I typically finish in the top 5 so felt comfortable with this decision. What I didn’t anticipate was the mad rush of others when the gun went off. I spent a great deal of the first few minutes be clobbered by this gal beside me. I kept trying to move away and into a clear space, but it just seemed there were so many people – all faster then me – and all trying to swim in my exact space.
This certainly took my “I got this” attitude and threw it out the window. This was my second open water swim, although I’ve been swimming up to 2km twice a week for the last 10 weeks. Going into today I had felt very confident – but now not so much. So, I did what I do when I feel anxious in the water and I rolled onto my back and gunned it. I was able to reduce my heart rate and get my breathing under control. I found an empty space and started to swim MY race.
The swim is a giant rectangle. After making the first two turns I really had my groove. I began passing many people and even found myself in the wave ahead. I was back in the race, swimming my race, and feeling confident again. I was frequently spotting where I was going and a very unusual thing was that most of the other swimmers were way of track. I spoke to three other triathletes who reported swimming 911m, 850m, and 875m during our 750m race. Spotting vs following the back is key.
I made my way up the dock, through transition and it was time for the bike.
My bike transition was almost a full minute faster then last year. I even had trouble getting my wet suit off but that didn’t seem to have any impact. The bike ride this year was no joke. There was a head wind both ways and the best option was to get in a quick gear and settle into aero and just push through. My bike felt fast. I passed many people and was only passed by a few, which was very unusual. I find that I struggle on the bike, which never really makes sense to me as I ride so much, but that seems to be how it goes.
Because it was so windy I found that I needed to keep my hands on the bike for fear of being blown off. As a result I didn’t fuel as much as I would’ve liked and I think this also come from wanting to keep pushing quick, vs slowing down to confidently fuel.
My goal for my run was to hold a 5:15 pace. This would’ve given me a faster time than last year and would’ve been on point with my last 5km race – it didn’t happen. I struggled to hold 5:30 per km. While this was certainly frustrating (to not be on goal) I knew that I was giving my best.
The course this year was changed from last as the finish line was now at Ontario Place and not Cornation Park. This meant that instead of turning before the Legion hill, we were now running an out and back which included the hill. While a hill is certainly dreaded I don’t remember the hill and nor do I remember feeling extra awful. With about 1.5km left I really was locked into my pace and just pushing a steady effort.
The finish line is great. You can see and hear the finish line party as you race past before making a sharp turn into the Ontario Place parking lot. Free hambrugers, beer, and activities for everyone. The awards also took place here and a bonus from last year was that we finished near the start, so no long walk to pick up your bike and gear.
The Wrap Up
Over all I had a great day. My transitions were faster, and while my each component of my race was between 30-75 seconds slower I am happy with how I did and my 8th place finish.
Thanks to the volunteers and race team at Toronto Triathlon Festival. It is absolutely one of my favourite triathlons and I look forward to racing it again next year. I hope you’ll join me!