Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Toronto Island Tri Race Report

The Toronto Island Triathlon is one of my favourite races in the Recharge with Milk race series for a few reasons.
  1.  It's close to home.
  2.  It's pancake flat so you can go fast
  3.  The swim is off of Hanlan's Point which is probably one of the nicest places to swim in Lake  Ontario in the GTA area.
There is ONE issue with the swim being in Lake Ontario though.  Because it's such a huge body of water, you just don't know what you're going to get temperature wise on race day.  Some years the water is perfect, usually around 20 degrees (68 for my American readers).  Other years, it's gotten as low as 12 (55F).  There was one year that they sent the pros and elites off on a shortened swim due to temperature and then actually switched the race to a duathlon after they came out of the water due to the fluctuating water temps. 

This summer hasn't been terribly warm and most of last week was cool-ish, with some rain and a fair bit of wind.  That didn't bode well for the lake being warm enough to swim in.   Sure enough, the Try-a-Tri event on the Saturday was changed to a Do-a-Du because the water temperature was a lovely 11 degrees (54 degrees F).   Sunday racers were told to be prepared for a duathlon and that they'd make the call on race morning.  There were 3 possible scenarios.
  1.  A duathlon
  2. A shortened swim (375m)
  3. The full swim (750m)
A duathlon definitely plays to my strengths I just find it so much harder on my legs so, despite my swimming fears, I actually prefer triathlons because the swim gives me time to warm up, ha ha.  Either way, I went into Sunday's race prepared for a cold swim or a duathlon.

Because the Island is small, they space the waves roughly 15 minutes apart to avoid congestion on the bike course.   That usually means there is a lot of standing around and waiting.  We arrived at the Island at about 7:15 or so and made our way into transition.  G's wave was scheduled to go at 8:45 and mine was scheduled to go at 9:12 so we had plenty of time.  We had been body marked on the mainland before we got on the ferry and we had gotten our race kits on the Friday before, so all I needed to do was rack my bike, set up my gear and get my timing chip.  As soon as we arrived in transition we heard the announcement that the race was going to be a triathlon with a shortened swim (375m vs 750m).  The water temperature was 13 degrees.  THIRTEEN.  Good Lord.  I had a hard time with 16 degree temps back in May so I wasn't sure how I'd fare in 13 degree temps.  Granted I wasn't going to be in the water for very long and they made the course close to shore so there were areas where you could get up and walk it was so shallow.   Needless to say I was very apprehensive.  I knew that if I switched to the DU, any points I got wouldn't matter in the standings and that would mean I'd HAVE to do Lakeside.  So I sucked it up, put on my wetsuit and got into the water.

When I first walked in, it actually didn't feel too bad.  I figured it would hurt my feet but it didn't.  The real shock came when I dove in.  OMG.  I came up gasping.  It was like a punch in the gut, it took my breath away.   We were all going to be doing our own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge.  I forced myself to swim a few meters.  Ugh.  It hurt my hands more than anything.  I forced myself to stay in the water for a while.  Then I got out, jumped up and down and tried to get my heart rate up to warm myself up.  I did this on and off until it was almost time for my wave to go.  By this point though I was shivering so much my teeth were chattering.

The folks in my wave started organizing themselves and I situated myself at towards the back.  There were a lot of folks in my wave and as usual, I wanted to avoid the chaos of the swim start.  The horn went off and everybody went in a flurry of limbs.  I hit start on my Garmin and sat there for a bit.  I started walking into the water.  Eventually I found a bit of room to start swimming.  I think I swam for about 50m before I hit the sandbar and got up and started running.  That was slower than swimming so I dove back into the water and started swimming. I stayed wide to avoid the bottleneck that was happening at the first buoy.  I got around it without incident but got stuck in a huge crowd of people.  I went even wider to get into some open water.  I was starting to lose feeling in my left hand.  Normally I cup my hands slightly when I pull through the water but I found that I couldn't really move my left hand.  My right one was fine which was odd.   I pushed the pace across the back half of the swim but I found it harder and harder to move my arms and getting around that last buoy felt really sloppy.  I was determined to swim for as long as possible though even though I was able to stand and run in shortly after I turned around that last buoy, I didn't.  I swam until my hands scraped the bottom.  Then I got up and started running.  The water got deep again and I dolphin dived until I could start running again.  I bolted out of the water, feeling a little bit woozy.  My hands were frozen.  For once I was thankful we had a long run up to T1 as I figured that would help warm me up.  I got my wetsuit off down to my waist and started running like a mad woman towards T1.  I was so out of it from the swim that I didn't look at my watch until I was halfway up to T1.  At that point it said 6:54. 

My official time with run up to transition was 7:57.

I struggled a bit with getting my wetsuit off and my feet were covered in sand so I took the time to drag them along my towel.  The girl who racked her bike beside me had racked it very close to mine so I had trouble grabbing my helmet and shoes.  I was a little wobbly getting myself sorted but finally got everything on and unracked Tom Sawyer and ran out of T1.

T1:  1:35

I hopped on Tom Sawyer and heard one of the volunteers yell GO Phaedra!  I looked to see my friend Paula standing there.  Oh HEY!  I said.  She yelled "Go win this thing" as I started to ride off, ha ha.  Thank you Paula!  The first bit of the bike is a no passing zone so I had to stay behind the folks in front of me.  As we were coming towards the end of the zone, I could see an ambulance coming out onto the road.  Awesome.  Sure enough it came out in front of me and proceed to block the road.  I looked around it, thinking maybe I could pass it.  No go.  I'd be cutting it too close to the centre line and there were too many cyclists coming the other way.  Great.  I was going roughly 28kph sitting on the bumper of the ambulance.  I kept poking out and trying to get the attention of the driver in their side mirror but they were completely oblivious.  Their lights were flashing so I'm not sure if they had someone in there or what was happening,  all I know is that a bunch of women were stuck behind them for longer than they wanted to be.  The ambulance kept slowing down and then speeding up which was also incredibly frustrating.  Then all of a sudden, it stopped.  I had to slam on my brakes so I didn't ride right into the back of it.  Myself and all the other women that were behind me let out a unanimous WTH?  The driver clearly had no clue there were cyclists behind him.  I pulled out and started to ride around him and only then did he realize that he was in the way so he pulled off onto the grass.  I mashed the pedals and tucked into my aerobars, annoyed.   I had hoped to have a sub 35 minute bike split here and that was not going to help matters.  It was also quite windy on the way out so I was only managing to average around 32-33kph.  I hoped on the way back I'd have a nice push from the wind. 

Sure enough when I hit the turnaround, the wind gave me a nice push but only for the first few km's.  Once we got into the more open areas of the course, I was faced with the wind again.  Dammit.  I looked at my Garmin and saw 37-38kph from time to time but knew I couldn't maintain that.  I motored along, watching for anyone in my AG.  I came across one woman but I didn't know if she was in the duathlon or not.  I passed her and continued on towards the second turnaround.  It's a tight one so I unclipped and put my foot down as I turned.  I know that costs me time but I'm not the best bike handler so that's what I do, especially if it's a narrow turn like this one.  I clipped back in and started hammering again.  Only 10km left.

I kept passing people as I went along.  I didn't see anyone else in my AG so I was really hoping that I was in the lead.  I took a Roctane on the way out as I was actually feeling a little hungry.  My legs were feeling the burn and I really hoped I had something special left for the run.  I think I rode too hard on Saturday as I didn't feel like I had my usual get up and go.  I could feel my energy flagging as I made my way to the final turn around.  I got around the turnaround to see G and my friend David cheering me on.  I rode up to the mount line, unclipped and hustled into T2.

20km Bike:  35.07 -   I should have been closer to 33 minutes but in that situation there wasn't anything I could do.

I racked my bike, pulled off my shoes and saw that my feet were still fairly sand covered.  Another couple of swipes on the towel helped to clear some of it.  I pulled off my helmet and grabbed my shoes.  Normally I have a very hard time getting my zoots on but this time I grabbed the top and the back and forced my foot in, scraping my left knuckles in the process both times.  I didn't think anything of it other than it kind of stung.  I got my shoes on relatively quickly and bolted out of T2.  It was only on the way home that I realized how badly I had bruised my knuckles.  It looked like I punched someone in the face.

T2:  1:01.  That's what happens when you dry your feet!

My legs felt heavy as I started running out of transition.  The first part of the run is on grass so I really had to watch my footing.  I thought about my form as I ran along, focusing on keeping my arms low and my pelvis tucked in.  I was tired so it was difficult and being on the grass didn't help things either.   I motored along the grass as best as I could.  I was grateful when I hit the pavement as that meant I could really start to motor.  The run course is 4 loops that are pancake flat.  I love me a flat run course because I really like to go fast. My legs started to feel better once I got onto the pavement and I really started to fly.  I kept looking for women with a 40-something number on their calf.  I found one and passed her.  Again, I wasn't sure if she was in the duathlon or not.

I made it around the first loop and saw G and David standing along the side of the path.  As I passed there was a lot of yelling:  "Go faster" and "Work harder".  I love that kind of encouragement, ha.  I actually felt pretty good by the end of that first loop and I hoped that I'd be able to maintain that pace.  Thankfully it wasn't too hot out so I didn't have to worry about overheating.  Last year it was stinking hot and I kept dumping water on my head.  This year I bypassed the aid station completely.  I finished my first loop and headed out on my second with more "encouragement" from David and G.  That second loop flew by.  Seriously.  I don't know where the energy was coming from but wow.  I felt strong.  I passed a younger woman who said Go Phaedra - I said thanks - I never found out who that was - but if you're reading - THANK YOU!  On the third loop there was a bit of wind and I felt my energy start to flag a bit.  A quick glance at my Garmin showed me running 4:07's.  I had been running sub 4:00's.  I noticed at that point that my form had started to slip so I focused on dropping my shoulders and holding my abs in tighter.  Much better.  I started to pick up the pace once again.  I was finally heading out on my last loop.  I was hurting but it was like I was detached from the hurt.  I don't know how else to explain it.  It was there but it didn't seem to affect me.  I hauled it around the top end of the loop passing an older guy who said "Nice Work"  as I passed him.   I came barreling down the road and made the turn onto the path, when I heard a spectator yell that I was supposed to go straight and round the timing mats.  I turned and said I was on my last loop.  D'uh.  That was a serious case of the race stupids.  I took two more steps and realized my mistake so I backtracked, got back out onto the pavement, ran around the bottom turn around and the timing mats, THEN made the turn off.  Ugh.  I ran booked it down that path.  As I got closer to the finishing chute, I saw another woman with a 42 on her calf.  DAMMIT.  I found another gear and passed her, not knowing if she was in the triathlon or the duathlon and not wanting to take any chances.   I heard Steve Fleck announcing my name as I came towards the line.  I crossed the line and stopped my watch.  Only then did I realize what I had done.

 I had just set a new PB for 5km.  Off the bike no less.  I was 20:07.  My previous 5km PB had been 20:17.  It's my goal to break 20 minutes for 5km.  Give me a flat 5km with no swim or bike before it and I think I could do it.  I found out after I finished that the run course was actually 4.8k but I think my little mistake added the additional 200m.  It also cost me second place overall.  I missed that by a measly 21 seconds.  Oh well.  I ended up snagging first place in my AG by a whopping 8 minutes and taking 3rd place female overall.  I can't complain about where I placed overall.  I was the oldest woman on the podium by a long shot.  The closest woman to me in age was in the 30-34 year old age category.  The rest of them were all under 30.  

I found G and David right away and chatted with them.  We then ran into Adam, G's friends son who did his first duathlon.  He was pretty pumped with his 5th place AG finish.  Pretty awesome for a first timer!  I saw another friend of mine, Brad, who also had a great race.  G felt he had an awesome race and wanted to go and check the race results because he was pretty sure he podiumed.  Sure enough, he got second in his AG.   I was so happy and proud to see him up there.  He's finally coming back to the form he had before his crash.  As luck would have it, I also ended up winning an awesome draw prize from Rudy Project.  Looks like I'll be getting a new helmet!  Good thing as my old one is REALLY old and definitely due to be replaced.



It was a great day of racing and I got to meet a couple of folks that either read my blog (hey Oscar!) or follow me on Instagram (hi Natalie!).  So FUN!

Chatting with Oscar!  So nice to meet a reader!  Thanks to Mike Cheliak for the shot.
I'm hoping that this AG win was enough to secure top spot in my AG for the overall season winner but we'll see.  I'm mentally preparing myself to do Lakeside.  That will mean an action packed mid September.  There are some other race plans that materialized yesterday that should prove to be a whole lot of fun.  It means that I'm really going to have to get back to 3 days a week of running though.  Don't worry folks, there will be an entire post dedicated to this upcoming adventure so stay tuned!




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