The BIG one...A.K.A. The Toronto Triathlon Festival 2014 Race Report

Well well well...here we are. Two and a bit days post first Olympic distance triathlon. And you know what? I don't even feel that bad. Dare I even say it? I feel even BETTER than I did after the sprint. Go figure.  Anyway, I'm very excited to write this race report because...I FREAKING DID IT! I didn't just break 3:00, I smashed that time goal. Read on to find out more! If you don't want the gory details, skip to the TL;DR at the end for the stats (but you should really read the report! You know you want to...). Of course, I am primarily writing this for myself as a kind of diary for training. But I also hope that if anyone else reads this because they are looking into racing the TTF (if it runs past 2015...or in 2015? I'm not sure if this race will happen next year with the whole Pan-Am games thing), they can find a thorough report and description of the course, which I totally found helpful when I was preparing for race day. I even scoped out YouTube and found someone's video of her racing the TTF in 2012, which was pretty sweet.  So I too am aiming to contribute to this well of knowledge! Let's begin at the beginning...

WAKE UP: 4:30am.

Holy smokes people. EARLY. In addition to the early wake up, the previous day, myself and my man friend moved into a new apartment (exciting!).  These factors left me a little extra stressed out the night before and the morning of the race. Overall, I slept okay. Not great. But just well enough to function. I stumbled into the kitchen and found a Boost shake to take in for some calories and to give my digestive system a little wake up call (it's gross, but anyone who has done a longer race knows the importance of getting it all out of the system beforehand). I also gulped down some water to ensure I was hydrated. I then double checked my gear bag for all the necessities (race bib, swim cap, timing chip, etc) before mixing up some Hammer HEED into one water bottle and plain water into another. Then out the door we go, my lovely boyfriend once again driving me to the race course in time for transition opening at 5:30am.

ARRIVAL: 5:30am.

The sun was just starting to rise as we pulled into Ontario Place. It was kind of chilly, but mostly just humid. I wheeled Candi and my bag of goodies into transition, and found my pre-assigned spot. It was SO cramped compared to Guelph 1. I felt like I had nowhere to put my stuff. I knew it was supposed to rain that day, so I tried to cover my running shoes with a bag, but that proved futile as I found out later on. Some girls next to me had a good idea on how to mark our row, and that was to look for the American flag in the series of flags they had put up for the ITU that was held the day before; so smart! I set up transition the best I could, grabbed my bag of extras and went back to hang out with man friend. We chatted for a bit, as there was a lot of time before the race started...then the downpour came. I huddled under a tent with my wetsuit, knowing that if my skin got wet, putting the suit on would be damn near impossible. Man friend then left with my bag to seek cover in a more convenient place, and that's the last I saw of him until the finish line. I put my wetsuit on ASAP after the rain, took a couple of caffeine pills and meandered towards the start as they started corralling the waves ahead of me. It began POURING rain again. I was so happy to have my wetsuit and cap on already, since it made me completely indifferent to the rain.  I was already pretty much waterproof! Soon enough I was standing in line with many many other people, waiting for my wave to be called. The race was delayed about 10-15 mins as they made the final call on the weather (thunderstorms were possible), and before long the first wave was in and off! Nerves started kicking in, but surprisingly, I didn't feel overwhelmed. I was compartmentalizing pretty well, and by that I mean I was really just trying to worry about one thing at a time. I started warming up my shoulders and stretching out my back in preparation for the swim as more waves started.  Soon enough, the announcer call my wave to get ready to dive in...
Pre-race thumbs up shot (a.k.a. masking my fear)!

THE START/SWIM: 7:25ish (1500m swim)

Immediately after jumping in I realized that this water was likely going to cause some DNFs. It was really cold. I am used to cold water after doing some swimming in the Pacific Northwest, and this water was a similar temperature. I would guess ~15 degrees celsius. We had to tread water for about a minute, and during this time I took the opportunity to keep my face in the water and control my breathing and heart rate. Jumping into cold water like that can cause spikes in both, so I knew I had to take the time to get everything settled down before the start. I took deep breaths in and exhaled with my face in the water. Before long, I felt calm. My feet and hands were numb, but my body felt primed and I wasn't panicked. I positioned myself near the front, and they announced "15 seconds to start"...then air horn: HOOOONNNNKKKK.  I took off.  I powered out about 50m to lose some of the other people around me, and then settled into a nice, smooth rhythm. I consciously slowed myself from a natural pace, so as to ensure I didn't blow up my race on the swim.  My course left something to be desired...I could barely see the yellow marker buoys in the fog. I tried to just focus on finding the big orange turn buoy. The course isn't straight, so I had to sight more often than I usually do.  It wasn't too frantic at all really. Before long I caught up to men from the previous wave.  This boosted my confidence in my pacing, and I sped up just a touch. Word of warning...the course is kind of shallow, and I could totally see the lake weed all up in my business. So creepy. Looks like the black lake in Harry Potter, for real. I actually closed my eyes when my head was in the water because they bottom of the lake freaked me out so much! I'm a big baby. Anyway...before long it was turn around time! I was still feeling really strong. Cold, but powerful. On the way back, the waves felt more prominent, and it started feeling like I was swimming in a washing machine. Triathlon wetsuits make you quite buoyant, which is awesome for speed, but also makes you bob like a cork in the waves. My tummy wasn't happy with that...but I just kept my head down and powered through. I passed some people in the wave that went 2 ahead of me, which was pretty sweet. I hammered home the last 400m or so because I was ready to be out of the weedy mess and the cold. I kicked hard until my hands touched the metal ramp for the swim exit and off I ran to transition.

Swim time: 27:56 (1:52/100m)

T1: 2:52

Obviously not the best T1 in the world, but every single surface was slippery from the rain, and my hands and feet were numb. I took my time to prevent slipping and falling etc. I executed the transition the best I could with as much care as possible. I have to say...my wetsuit is the best. It really does come right off! No issue there. Plus, I have no chaffing to speak of. Double win! I took Candi up the steep ramp to the pedestrian bridge with my (wet) cycling shoes on. I hopped on my bike and took off pretty slowly as it was a no passing zone, and there were tight turns such until hitting the Gardiner.

THE BIKE (40km bike)

After the curvy bits winding through Ontario Place, I hit the Gardiner. Whoop whoop!  The roads were wet so I worried a bit about my tires slipping around, but that was a non-issue. This was a fun ride. It really was. My heart rate was fairly even, I felt strong and there were no sharp climbs. Obviously riding up to Eglinton is mostly uphill, but I love me some gradual climbs. I was passed by some speedy folks, but not many women. The women who did pass me looked INTENSE. Aero helmets, Cervelo P5's and so on. Pretty cool! I totally look at everyone's gear. I don't have much to report about the uphill portion other than it was really not as hard as I thought it would be, and I was definitely feeling good. I had my gearing figured out, cadence at a good rate, and I FINALLY figured out how to hydrate on the bike. I drank about half of my waterbottle of HEED on the way up.  Then the downhill portion happened. Man...the downhill  portion kind of sucked. I was really excited about gaining some speed on the way back but the WIND!!! Holy s#$%balls the wind.  It swear it was just a constantly gusting headwind the whole way back. I was having a heard time making myself more 'aero' on my bike without being super hunched over, but I really did try my best. It was a fight to keep my average pace from the uphill portion.  I held on to another competitor ahead of me more or less the whole way back, which was good because at least it meant I wasn't slowing down too much. This was a time I wish I had aerobars, because I feel that would have helped reduced the whole 'human sail' feeling I had.  One dude who eventually passed me near the Spadina exit was like 'Holy shit the wind, eh?!' and I was like 'Yeah...it sucks'.  Before long it was time for the sharp turnaround back into Ontario Place. crossing back over the pedestrian bridge is a no-passing zone again, so you don't have much control over where to stop if the person ahead of you stops. The guy ahead stopped and took his shoes off so I got off too. It was like MAYBE 10m from the dismount line. This lady behind me was like 'It's a no-passing zone! Why are you stopping here? COME ON.' Listen, lady: 1) It's not my fault, it's the guy ahead of me. 2) The ~10m to the dismount line isn't going to make or break your race. 3) It's not the Olympics, everything is slippery as shit...I don't blame the guy for wanting to give himself extra time. There is NO space after the dismount line to get anything done. The pedestrian bridge is so narrow, that it really didn't matter where he stopped, because she would still be stuck behind him for some time. Rant over!  I ran (trotted) barefoot down the ramp back into transition with Candi, getting little bits of gravel on my feet. No big deal, right? WRONG. We'll see why when I discuss the RUN.

Bike time: 1:17:49 (30.8km/h)

T2: 2:22

I took my sweet time here, to avoid slipping on the ramp, and to make sure I was ready to run. Nothing went wrong, I was just being slow.

THE RUN (10km run)

After racking Candi, I put on my running shoes, with no socks because said socks were soaking wet.  I wrongly assumed that no sock would be better than wet socks. I slapped on my visor, shoved my gross wet bun of hair over top, and jogged out of transition.  On the way out I passed age group waves about to start the sprint race. Here I saw Team TTF member Brenda Santos, the nicest person ever, who gave me a big cheer. I was sad to hear she had a panic in the water and had to discontinue her race, but I know she's gonna kill it next time. Her dose of positivity gave me a little mental boost that allowed my brain to say "I CAN do this! This isn't so bad!".  The run was mostly uneventful, which was a nice change from the last race. I felt relaxed for about 4km, and I stuck with another woman who had a good pace going.  I hope I wasn't annoying her by running right with her, but it really did help me out. The tricky thing about this course is that there are basically no KM markers at all. And the turnaround point is less than halfway.  It is kind of disheartening to turn around and about 5 mins later you see the 5km to go marker and then you are all like "SAY WHATTT?!? I've been running FOREVER!!!". But since this run was in my old 'hood, I knew the route by heart, and knew I had to mentally dig in for the one semi-major hill in the run which is about 6.5km in. I was super proud of myself for not stopping up this hill. I was dreading it, and instead of quitting, I picked up the pace and charged up the hill, knowing that there was only about 20mins to go in the run.  It was at this point the nagging pain in my foot went from nag to "STOP F*^&ING RUNNING ALREADY".  I knew two massive blisters were forming on both sides of my foot from the little bits of gravel left in my shoes. Every step was fairly agonizing, but somehow I was able to ignore that and keep moving (maybe my rower brain is returning after all...blisters are no stranger to me!).  Before long I saw the 1km to go marker. I thought, "Only 1km! Sweet!" but it was the longest kilometer of my life. The finish requires you run around Coronation Park before running straight through the finish chute. I tried my hardest to finish strong, and compared to last time, I think I did. I powered my knees forward, and gave what I could. I felt like my speed was definitely hampered my my burning foot, but I am still proud of how I finished. I gunned it through the chute and then hobbled over to the TTC tent. I had no idea how I did for a while (I don't like watches/timing devices. It can mess with your head), and then boyfriend said, "Wow buddy..." with a frown. I was like...shit...I was slower than I hoped. But then he showed me his phone and there I saw it:
I don't look that bad here. My face says it all though...my foot was killing trying to sprint

I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon in 2:47:25! WHOOP WHOOOOOOPPP!!! Way better than my goal. I was so stoked.  My run time was 56:27, which isn't even that bad for me.

AFTERMATH

No ER! I was even able to eat. I only had some minor cramping and nausea, but I was able to abate them by continuing to eat little bites of food and drinking some water and Gatorade. I had some pho for lunch, and proceeded to watch the FIFA World Cup final with some friends (I was even able to enjoy some drinks!).  I will have to say that this was my most successfully executed endurance event ever.  The funny thing is too, is that my Olympic time is proportionately faster than my sprint time. In my age group I was 5th out of the water, 19th on the bike, and I think 32nd on the run. Obviously swimming is my thing. I really wasn't trying that hard, so if I can pull that 5th place off, that's pretty awesome.  Now if I can just learn how to run and how to squeeze more speed out on the bike, I might even break 2:40 one day!  Thanks for reading this essay if you did! I'm definitely hooked on this triathlon thing...it's a lot of fun, and generally everyone is so friendly and supportive on the course.  I'll also say a huge thank you to the volunteers who got up early and stood in the pouring rain to help us athletes out with water/first aid/cheers.  I can't wait for my next race, and I am definitely thinking that this coming winter/year I'm going to get a little more serious and fix my glute/hip weaknesses, strength train and learn how to run properly.

Happy Wednesday y'all!

TL;DR: Swim: 27:56 (1:52/100m), Bike:1:17:49 (30.8 km/h), Run: 56:27 (9:05/mi)


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