Monday, August 27, 2012

Toronto Island Triathlon Race Report

This would have been my third race in three weekends if I hadn't gone and tweaked my calf at the end of July.   At the time of that injury I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do any of the races I signed up for so to actually be able to get one of them under my belt was a bonus in my book.  I was actually really looking forward to this race as it was in Toronto so I knew we'd be home by 1:00 pm at the latest.   Most of the other MSC races are at least 1.5 hours out of the city so by the time you race, collect your stuff and drive back, it can be almost a day long affair.

I had watched Gary do this race multiple times and the one thing that always struck me was just how nice the water was.  The swim takes place at Hanlan's Point just off of Toronto Island.  The water is shallow for quite a ways out and the bottom is totally sandy.  The water is quite clear and you can see the bottom all way out, until it gets too deep to see all way down.   But even then, the water is never really murky, it's just green-ish.  Of course I didn't find that out until yesterday but I always figured if it was sandy then it would never really get murky.   The one issue with Lake Ontario is that it is big.  A big lake usually means some choppy water.  It can also mean that it gets pretty cold.  Luckily I only had one of those issues to deal with yesterday.


I woke up at 2:27 am to go to loo and as I stumbled back into bed I thought to myself, ahhh, at least I have another 2.5 hours to sleep.  My eyes popped open at that point as I remembered that I was racing.  The butterflies started.  Those last 2.5 hours of sleep were fitful at best.  I don't know why but I am always so much more nervous before a triathlon than any of my running races.  Actually that's not true, I know exactly why I'm nervous.  Because I have to swim.

The alarm went off at 5:00 am and G and I stumbled out of bed.  The plan was to leave the house at 6:30 so we could park and be at the ferry docks for 7:00 am.  I ate my breakfast, double checked my bags, went to the can what felt like 8 million times and finally made it out of the house just after 6:30.  A stop for coffee and then we hit the road.  We just made the 7:00 am ferry.  My nerves were in overdrive until we stepped on the ferry.  Once I was on board, I was fine. 

A typical sprint triathlon has wave starts that usually go every 3 minutes.  Because the course is so tight on the Island, they spaced the waves apart every 12 minutes.  The first wave went off at 8:00 am.  Gary's wave went off at 8:48 am.  I was in the last wave of the day at 9:36 am.  We got to the Island at 7:15.  I had loads of time to kill.  The first thing I did was get a spot in transition.  I set all my stuff up and then went to get my timing chip and body marking.  I then went back grabbed my bike and did a short warm up to test out my race wheels, go through all my gears and make sure everything was ok.   I racked my bike, pulled on my hot pink Saucony Kinvaras and went out for a test run.  Legs felt good.  It was stinking hot out and it was only 8:00 am.  It would be cooking by the time I hit the run portion of the race.  I met up with G and we went down to the water to do a warm up. The butterflies kicked it up a notch as soon as I walked out on to the beach.  For some reason I thought Hanlan's Point was a lot more sheltered.  Almost like it was in a cove.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  It's completely wide open.  GULP.  We did our wetsuits up and wandered into the water.  It was chilly at first but once you got in, it was lovely.  It didn't look very choppy when I was standing on the beach but once you got in and starting swimming, there it was, slapping you in the face.  I panicked a little but kept swimming.  The buoys looked SO far out.  I think that's what gets me with the swim.  750m is not a long way, really, but when you see it mapped out in a lake, geez, it's kinda scary.  At least for me.  I decided not to think about that so I put my head down and started swimming.  The water was beautiful and I eventually calmed down.  Gary's wave was almost ready to start so I gave him a kiss and made my way out of the water.  I realized that I hadn't put my calf sleeves on so I was hoping I could yank the legs of my wetsuit up far enough that I could get them on without having to take my wetsuit off.   I set off back to transition as the horn went off for Gary's wave.  I had almost 45 minutes to kill.

I managed to get my calf sleeves on without much trouble, guess that's what happens when you lose 15lbs!  My wetsuit is "technically" too big for me.  I quite like it like this because it means it comes off a whole lot faster!  Sure it fills up with water a lot more but whatever, it keeps me warm!  I spent the remainder of my time chatting with a bunch of women in my wave and taking pictures.  Before I knew it, it was time to head down to the beach.  I had also somehow managed to miss Gary leaving transition.  Guess I was too busy talking.  Bad wifey!

My view in transition. 

The Swim:  750m

I made my way down to the beach with a few of the ladies in my wave.  I had to get some help getting my wetsuit zipped back up.  With that done, I headed back into the water to get used to the temperature again.  I was starting to get really nervous again.  Everyone started lining up so I stayed off to the side, towards the back, like I usually do.  I don't like to get caught up in the melee, I'm  perfectly happy to wait till people spread out a bit. The horn went off and I waded into the water.  I would have walked a lot farther than I did but I figured swimming would be faster so I dove in.  Within a few strokes I was in deeper water and I was surrounded by several other women.  Add that churning to the choppiness of the water and panic took over.  I started to breast stroke.  The further out you got the choppier it was.  I stopped and tried to catch my breath.  I was close to hyperventilating.  For a second I contemplated stopping.  Nope.  Not today.  I figured if I took a breath every other stroke vs every third stroke, then I'd feel a bit better.  So that's what I did.  Turned my head to the right with every other stroke.  That seemed to help and I wasn't getting slapped in the face so much any more.  I figured once I made it out to the green buoy and changed direction that I'd be good to go.  As soon as I hit that buoy, I found my rhythm.  I started catching and passing people.  It still felt choppy but at least it wasn't smacking me in the face.  I went back to my normal breathing and stroke pattern.  I felt like I was swimming really well.  Before I knew it, I was at the second green buoy which meant we were turning around and heading back to shore.  We had the chop at our back so that was a little extra boost.  I caught a few more ladies on the way back in.  My calf cramped up at one point but I managed to kick it out just before I touched the ground to start running in.  I got out of the water and glanced at my watch in shock:  14:38.  That's a good swim for me!

The run from the swim to T1 was a long one and it was on sand.  I saw a couple of women walking!  Screw that, I started running.  I passed the woman that came out of the water with me.  As soon as I got on to the grass, I bolted for my bike and took a quick look around.  There were a few bikes out but I didn't stop to count them.   I whipped off my wetsuit, put my bike helmet on and did it up (safety first!), quickly dried my feet, yanked on my socks, put my cycling shoes on and grabbed my bike.  Out of the group of ladies I came in with, I was the first one out of T1.  Time:  1:37.  Better than normal!  I usually stop and have a picnic in T1.

The Bike:  30km

Aside from the swim, this was the part that I was actually a little nervous about.  There is a sharp turn on the course that you go around three times and I'm not the best at taking tight corners on my bike.  I usually have to unclip and put my foot down so I don't fall over.  I know, I need to work on my bike handling skills.  More time in the saddle will help with that.  Anyway, this course is pancake flat so I figured I'd just ride as hard as I could for as long as I could.  If I started to feel tired, I'd back off a bit.  As soon as I got on to the bike course, I flipped it into my big chain ring and started flying.  15 minutes into the bike I took a GU Roctane.  I felt really good.  I had no idea how fast I was going as I don't have a computer on my bike.  I do know that I kept passing people.  I should have had a recording of me saying "On Your Left" that I could have just kept that on a loop.  On my second loop I managed to catch a woman in my AG.  Sweet!  I hadn't been passed by any one yet either.  I kept seeing a really fit woman with an aero helmet at the turnarounds but she never actually caught me.  I realized later that she was a couple of AG older than me!  Towards the end of the second loop, I started to feel fatigued so I eased up a bit.  My legs bounced back with a few km to go so I pushed the pace towards the turn around.  I rolled up to transition with absolutely no idea how fast I rode that.  I guessed I was out there for just under an hour.   And by the number of bikes that had been racked already, there weren't many women ahead of me.

Time:  54:32

I bolted into transition, racked my bike, pulled off my helmet and cycling shoes, yanked my running shoes on, grabbed my visor and my last Roctane and hit the road.  T2: 1:19.  Not bad.  I think I can get this down to under a minute.

The Run:  7.5km

This was going to be the BIG test for me.  Was my calf back to normal?  Could I go fast?  I wasn't going to run this easy.  I can't do that in a race.  So I went flying out of T2 and proceeded to pick people off.  There were a ton of runners out from the previous waves, mostly women but there were still a few guys out.  It was hard to tell who was in your AG because most of the marker had rubbed off the back of people legs.  I had my age covered up with my calf guards so everyone behind me was in the dark! I figured that any of the women whose race number was in the 540's-550's would be in my age group so I kept my eyes peeled for those numbers.  The run was mostly on grass but there was some sand and some pavement thrown in.  The grass was perfect.  I felt I ran much better on the grass than I did on the pavement.  The run was 2 loops.  As I was coming back from the sandy bit, I saw Gary sitting on a rock.  He said Lookin Good Babe!  I was feeling pretty good at that point.  The heat hadn't gotten to me yet.   I ran out along the grass towards the pavement.  I came up on a woman who looked familiar.  I remembered seeing her milling about in transition a few bikes down from me.  As I got closer, I checked out her calf.  44 years old.  YES.  I caught her and flew by.  One down and who knows how many to go?  I kept pushing but as soon as I hit the pavement, I felt myself slow down.  It was so hot it just sucked the life out of me.  The sun was beating down on me.  We went through patches of shade but it was ugly.  I grabbed water at every aid station.   Some of it I drank and some of it I wore.  Luckily we weren't on the pavement for too long.  I made the turnaround and headed back towards the grass.  Once I got on to the grass, I picked up the pace again.  I saw Gary again at that rock.  My rock, on a rock.  Ha.  He started yelling Go Get 'em!!  Not sure who I was going to get but whatever, I was going to get someone.  Sure enough as I came through the sandy bit, I came across another woman in my age group.  Ding!  Buh-bye.  I passed her and motored along, around the bend, back through sand again (you went through it 4 flipping times) and back on to the grass.  Gary was here once again and once again he was yelling.  I don't remember what he said exactly because I was so focused on being done.  I was also trying to guess my finishing time.  When I'm trying to do math in my head, I have to tune everything else out.   I knew I only had about 1.5km left.  Only about another 6.5 minutes of pain.  That's what I kept telling myself.  You can do anything for 6.5 minutes.  Except maybe a plank....ha ha ha.
Back out on to the pavement and around the round about.  I see the 7km marker.  Only 500m to go.  I pass one younger girl on the way in and then I catch another one.  She looks back at me and starts to go.  I glance down at her calf and I see 18 on it.  I say "Don't worry I'm not in your age group, not even close."  She says "Oh, ok" but sprints off anyway (I probably would have done the same, I wouldn't want some old broad schooling me at the line either!).  I had nothing left so she crossed the line ahead of me.  Literally right in front of me.  So I have no finishers photo.  Oh well.  Kudos to her for an excellent finishing kick.

Time:  34:17 - 2nd fastest run split in my AG.  Woohoo!

Total time:  1:48:17  Much better than I had anticipated.  The best part, I raced pain free.  No calf issues what so ever.  I am officially back.  Oh, I also managed a 4th place finish!  4th of 21 women in my AG.  YEAH!

The second best part was realizing that Gary only beat me by 1:59:03.  Less than 2 minutes separated us.

Not that I'm competitive or anything. 

I would definitely do this race again.  I totally love this series.  Lots of great draw prizes, always really good venues and having Hero Burger as one of the main sponsors is amazing, especially since burgers are my favourite post race food!  John Salt and his team are incredibly passionate about the sport and that passion really comes through in all of their events.  Top notch in my books!


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