The Mindfulness of Triathlon

One of the perks of being part of the Toronto Triathlon Gold Member Club this race season was the opportunity to attend a member only event with Simon Whitfield.  Simon won 10 consecutive Canadian Triathlon Championships titles, attended four Olympic games (winning Gold at the Sydney Olympics and Silver at the Beijing Olympics), and carried the Canadian national flag during the opening ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The Gold Member event took place on the Saturday before the race and involved a panel discussion featuring Simon as well as a short shake out run which he participated in as well.


Toronto Triathlon Festival Ambassadors with Olympian Simon Whitfield

What really stood out to me from what Simon shared was his connection to yoga and mindfulness. Simon was asked what advice he would give to younger triathletes and his response – yoga. Simon shared “I think if I had done that throughout my career I would’ve avoided some of the pitfalls – physical pitfalls and mental pitfalls.”He went on to highlight the need to complete “daily diagnostics” where every morning he finds quite time and space and tunes in to his body – how he feels physically and mentally – he unplugs from his devices and simply tunes and turns in.

Simon shared how initially in his training he thought yoga was simply stretching, but has since learned the true benefits for him which have come through the connection to mind, body, and daily reflection. Simon shared “there’s a lot of pressure involved in any level of sport and the routine of being isolated to your own mat, your own space, would be helpful in the morning and at night keeping out that negative self talk.”

He also shared how mindfulness and reflection would’ve helped him in his interactions with colleagues, coaches, and family sharing “If i did yoga throughout my career I would’ve avoided pitfalls on the mental side of it and the human interaction side would’ve been less up and down as it was.”

I was really surprised by Simon’s continued connection back to yoga and the impact it’s had on his life after Triathlon, and his push for those to give it a try to enhance their training and life. I really enjoyed hearing Simon share this information as well as the rest of his story as a four time Olympian, and life after the Olympics.

To become a TTF Gold Member is simple – simply register for the race early before the deadline and the perks (which included many great prizes) are yours!

Watch the entire panel here as recorded by Michelle Clarke.

Race Report: Toronto Triathlon Festival

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

FullSizeRender(29)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.

Race Day

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.

  1. There is only one person beside you which means less choas in transition
  2. 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
  3. 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

IMG_2575The 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.

Let’s Ride

IMG_2592My 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.

Run Time

IMG_2595My 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!

Road to 70.3: Week 9

This week was absolutely divine. Most of it was spent at our family cottage which meant the car was packed to the roof with training gear, cottage gear, and my new stand up paddle board – and yes, training gear included my wet suit and my bike – it was packed!

We we’re at the cottage from Wednesday to Saturday and after a bike issue early on (both Mark’s motorcycle and my bicycle) I kept trying to remind myself we were on cottage time – which I was trying to convince myself meant no timeline at all – and for most of the week it worked.

Here was last weeks plan:


So I had this really great idea that I would be able to get all my swims done while up in the open water of Lake Huron. What didn’t occur to me was the temperature of the water, length of my swims, or even the water conditions. So as you can see -swims were out – but they also weren’t the only thing to get missed. So here we go…

MONDAY: Today’s two crew runs we’re a shorter workout which only included a combined time of 8km. It was very hot out and both groups were feeling the heat. I was also inspired by my sisters crew run the week before and we added some ABC’s to both groups as well as combined a variety of intervals with strength training for our Tribe run.

TUESDAY: Tuesday is typically my big brick day, but as we were headed for the cottage I had to work during the day. I had thought I had a media preview event this evening (turns out it was in July) so even after my evening became clear, I choose instead to pack for our weekend away.


WEDNESDAY: After training my morning client, Mark and I made our way to the cottage. We had a few stops on the way for business and lunch, and after 6 hours arrived. My brother-in-laws girlfriend who recently got into Triathlon was at the cottage and while I thought we might get in a workout together she had to take off, so I hoped on my bike and did a little out and back along the main cottage road into town.


THURSDAY: After yesterdays ride I couldn’t believe how quiet the roads were. I saw maybe 6 cars the entire hour. This inspired me to move my long ride up from the weekend and get it done now. I rode out to a city we pass through called Hollyrood. There is a popular ice cream place there (no I didn’t stop) and I wanted to see if I could get there in the 65 minutes I had planned – I could. The ride turned out to be much more hilly then I thought. The local farm lands provided much entertainment, as did being chased frequently by red wing black bids. This ride was bricked with a short run, and although my legs felt tired I challenged myself to hold what was my Ekiden race pace. It was a hot one!


FRIDAY: Today was rainy and ick, and the only marathon that happened was on Netflix – this was only my second time ever watching Netflix and boy did time fly – 6 hours of watching disappeared. I enjoyed the break, but could see how people could get into a chilled out lifestyle on the regular. So I decided to take today as a rest and did lots of stretching instead. 

SATURDAY: Today’s long run was all about checking out our scenic cottage views. 17km of an out and back which included dirt roads, regular roads, a boardwalk, and a wooded trail. It was awesome. My legs felt heavy and the entire run was slower then I would’ve liked – but something the workout is just about getting it done with. Later in the afternoon I got out on my stand-up paddle board – in my wet suit because it was so cold – I had decided I would swim when I got home, but that didn’t happen either. Tomorrow is the start of our outdoor YogaJam and I just wanted to everything to be perfect.


SUNDAY: Today was the day many people have been waiting for for months – the return of our Tribe Fitness YogaJam, this year with sponsorship from New Balance. I taught the 60 minute class in the morning, and after brunch hit the hay. Up’d mileage, almost 10 hours of driving, plus our first YogaJam had me spent. The break was nice, especially while away with Mark and while I might not have gotten in all my physical training – my mental health definitely needed it.

Next Sunday is the Toronto Triathlon Festival, so I look forward to a week of extra stretching and rest. Check out their page for fun community events happening on Saturday at the expo.

Missed a week of my training?

Week Eight    Week Seven  Week Six  Week Five  Week Four

Week Three  Week Two  Week One