Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Racing Naked: The Toronto Island Triathlon Race Report

This race is one of my favourite races in the Multisport Canada series.  The fact that it's local is a bonus.   Given the state of Toronto Island in the spring and early summer, I wasn't sure this race would even happen but as soon as the city announced that the Island was going to open, G and I signed up.

This course is flat and fast, which is why I love it.  You can really let it rip on the bike and the run.  Given my improvements on the bike over the last year, I was really looking forward to seeing what I was capable of on a nice flat course.

Having been to the Island the day before, I knew what ferry we'd need to take to get over in time for our wave starts.  For once I was actually leaving at a reasonable time compared to previous years.  And, surprisingly, Gary was starting AFTER me.  Knowing that we'd be heading out early, I packed up everything in my tri bag the night before.  I was pretty proud of myself for being super organized. I even made my one bottle up ahead of time.

Race morning we were up at 5:00 am so we could be out the door just before 6.  I got myself ready, did a bit of a warm up, ate breakfast, realized I forgot a few things, ran around and grabbed them and off we went a bit later than I had hoped.  We stopped at Tim Horton's for a coffee and headed down Jane Street to South Kingsway so we could get on the Gardiner.  I kept feeling like something was off.  A few seconds later I realized what it was and I let out a gasp.  "Shit, I forgot my Garmin".


G asked if I wanted to go back and get it and I said yes.  We had a whole debate about the time, and then me using his Suunto blah blah blah.  I realized that if we went back home to get it, then we'd probably miss the ferry which would make me VERY late which stressed me out even more than not having my Garmin.  Realistically, I don't look at my Garmin much when I am racing short course.  I look at it when I get out of the swim, when I get off the bike and then I check it while I'm on the run.  I don't use it for pacing at all.  It's a data collection tool, that's it.  So I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be racing naked and that I'd only have the Sports Stats info, which isn't always the same but so be it.

We got to the ferry docks and picked up our kits, got body marked and got in line for the ferry.  The water looked much calmer than the day before which I was thankful for.  We got into transition with about an hour to spare before I had to start so I went about setting everything up.  This year we were starting by bib number, not by age group so I had no idea who I was racing against.

G and I did a short run and then I got suited up and made my way down to the beach to do a warm up.  The water looked wavy but not choppy.   I got in and ducked under.  I let the water seep into my wetsuit for a bit and then put my face in the water and started swimming out.  Right away I could tell the swim was going to be a bit of a challenge.  The swells were noticeable.  I knew that on the way out I'd have to breathe to the right to avoid getting smacked in the face by waves.  I figured the way back in would be fast as we'd have the waves pushing us back.  Given that I get motion sickness, I thought it would be a good idea to get my earplugs so I ran back to transition to grab them.  As I got back, the wave before me was being counted down.  I found G, gave him a good luck kiss and then I got in the water.

I looked around and saw a lot of dudes.  Not the normal situation for me at that race.  So, I stood off to the side and out of the pack.  The horn went off and I waded in a bit and then started swimming.  My plan to breathe to the right worked well for the first bit but then I started to struggle and started gasping.  I was breathing in water through my nose and I couldn't quite figure out what was going on and I started to get a bit panicky.  So I slowed my stroke down and focused on really exhaling in the water.  I eventually got into a good rhythm and whatever I was doing the cause the water up the nose seemed to stop.  The pack thinned out and I found myself side drafting off a guy, which was awesome but a little nerve wracking as well.  I don't really like to have people around me when I'm swimming  even though it's much less effort.  I managed to stay calm and stick with him for a bit but I eventually pulled away.  I made it around the first buoy without incident and immediately switched up my breathing to the other side as the waves were coming in on my right.  Just past the buoy I could feel my timing chip sliding down my leg so I stopped and pulled it up.  I stopped kicking for a bit in the hopes that it would stay put but that slowed me down a bit so I resumed.  I motored along to the next turnaround buoy and got around that with no issues.  I did swim slightly off course leading up to it but I caught that early and corrected my path.

Just after I got around the buoy, I could feel my timing chip coming loose again.  I stopped once again to pull it up.  I didn't want to undo it as I was in deep water and if I dropped it, that was it.  So I put my face back in and started swimming as hard as I could to get to shallower water.  This swim is a bit deceiving in that you get to a shallow area and you think you're almost done but it's really a sandbar and you still have a ways to go.  When I got to that part, I looked up to see how close to shore I was.  Nope.  Not time to stand just yet.  I put my head down and started pushing.  Eventually the water started to get more and more shallow.  When my hand scraped bottom, it was time for me to stand up.  I got up and started running.  At this point I'd normally look at my watch.  I hoped I had a decent swim.

I started hauling up the beach and on to the sandy path while pulling off the top of my wetsuit.  The run up to T1 is fairly long and part of it is on sand, then on a wooden boardwalk and the final stretch is on grass.  Once I got out of the sand, I really started moving.  Cap and goggles were off, ear plugs were out and I was ready to strip the rest of my suit off.  I got into T1, found my bike and yanked off my wetsuit.  It came off really easily which was a nice change.  I wiped off my feet, grabbed my helmet and race belt, put them on, yanked on my shoes, grabbed my bike and was off.

Swim including run up to T1:  15:13   T1:  1:23 - which has got to be one of my fastest T1's ever!

I knew that when I got out on the bike there would be a lot of ON YOUR LEFT.  That's usually the case at this race.  I could have paid an extra $5 and started earlier but I figured that might not give me that much of an advantage.  It wasn't terribly windy this year so I figured I'd get some good speed going.  My legs were screaming at me within the first 5 minutes of the ride.  I was giving it.  Ride like you don't have to run is what I like to say.  That's how you race a sprint.  That's how you test your limits.  I was riding so hard I had forgotten that I didn't have my Garmin and that I wouldn't be able to see any of this data on Strava or Garmin Connect.  Ha.  The course changed slightly from the last time I did it and the far turnaround was through a different driveway.  At least it seemed different than what I remembered.  There was a bit of congestion going through here and I slowed down a lot.  Eventually I got around some of the slower folks and started hammering again.  A girl had passed me just as we got out of the turn around and I was trying to catch her to see what AG she was in.  I couldn't see a number on her calf and didn't want to get any closer so I didn't violate the drafting rules.  We pulled up to the tight turnaround on the other side and I couldn't quite turn tight enough and ended up on the grass.  More speed lost.  Then as we made our way back, the girl in front of me turned off and I started to follow, for some reason thinking that was the way I had to go.  I then realized that was wrong and had to ride over the grass to get back on course.  MORE speed lost.  I was so mad at myself.  I've done this race 3 times, you'd think I'd remember.  Anger fuelled the next few km's of my ride and before I knew it, I was at the turn round.  This time it was much less crowded and I got through here pretty quickly.  My legs were hurting but I kept grinding.  I knew the run was going to suck but I hoped I'd be able to get into some sort of groove as I went along.

I came up to the final turn, got around that without too much difficulty and turned off towards the dismount line.  I rolled up, hopped of my bike and ran into T2.  I really need to learn how to do a flying dismount.  I think I lose a lot of time running in my cleats.  I racked my bike, took off my helmet and shoes and then almost fell over TWICE trying to put my running shoes on.  I was a little off my game.

Bike time:  33:20 for 19.1km.  Average speed 34.38/kph.   T2:  1:04 - I was very disappointed when I saw this bike split.  It was much slower than I had anticipated.  Previously I averaged over 35 kph on this course.  Had I not ridden into the grass or gotten slowed down in the first turn, maybe I would have been closer to that.  I gave it my all, and I guess that was all I had that day.  

I ran out of T2 and onto the grass and my legs immediately felt like garbage.  They didn't want to turn over at all.  Normally they hurt but they will at least move quickly.  Not today.  Not on the grass anyway.  Once I got out onto the pavement, my pace picked up substantially.  In previous years, I've always miscounted the laps but this year I vowed to get it right.  I started reeling people in.  Passing people is good motivation to keep pushing.  I'm not gonna lie, I was dying and my breath was coming in shallow gasps but I didn't want to let up.  I love this run course because you get to see people multiple times.  I saw Jana P killing it out on the course.  I saw my athlete Charlotte also killing it.  I saw Wibke L (aka Triwhippie on IG) and high fived her as we passed each other.  I also saw another one of my old athletes, Stacy, who was doing her first triathlon.  We had never actually met in person until AFTER the race that day!  We had spoken on the phone many times but never seen each other in person so that was fun.

They changed the course slightly compared to previous years.  Usually you'd run around a pylon, run up on the path a bit and then turn off after your 4th lap.  This year, you'd run around the pylon and then after your 4th lap you'd turn off right away.  This was a much less confusing set up and I managed to make it through the run without questioning what lap I was on.  Good thing because in previous years, G was usually done and cheering me on so he'd count my laps for me, ha ha.  I came around my fourth lap feeling like I was running well.  I made the turn onto the grass and barrelled towards the finish line.  I could see a couple of women ahead of me so I pushed the pace to catch them.  I crossed the finish line and was greeted by Nate, whom I had tag teamed with the day before in my stint as Race Director for the Women's Only tri.

I went and got something to drink and chatted with Jana for a while at the finish line.  I then went off to find G.  He started 10 minutes after me so I figured he'd be coming in soon.  I spotted him a few minutes later and we went off to get some food.  He told me he finished in 1:09 and change which is a huge PB for him on this course.  I had to wait until the results were posted to see where I ended up.  We sat down and ate and that's when Stacy came over to say hi.  We chatted for a bit and then she went off to find her friends.  I saw a bunch of people at the results wall so I went over to see if my time was up yet.  I scrolled down the rows and found my name, surprisingly not too far from the top.  I saw a 2 and and 1 and then looked further down the row to see 1:10:45.  A PB on this course for me!  It had my run time listed as 19:44 for 5.5km which I knew was completely impossible.  That would mean that I ran 3:35/km for 5.5km.  I have NEVER run a 3:35/km even for 1km let alone 5.5.  So the course had to be short.  G checked his watch and said that he ran 4.6km.  Our run times were 1 second apart.  He beat me by 1 second on the run!  So based on that, we both averaged 4:15/km for the 4.6km run.  Not bad.

I also got to see Charlotte finish and hung out with her for a bit post race.  She is HOOKED and I'm so glad that she enlisted me as her coach.  It's so nice to see other people enjoying the sport as much as I do.  If I can spread that joy and enthusiasm by helping someone prepare properly for a race, then that makes me one happy camper.

I ended up 2nd place female overall and 1st place in my AG.  G ended up 2nd place in his AG. That race is always a fun one and I will definitely be back next year, WITH my Garmin.

Thanks to John Salt and the entire Multisport Canada crew for putting on a top notch, well organized event, and to Zoomphoto.ca for the FREE race pics.

Overall podium

Age group podium
We've got one more race left this year (oh yeah, Lake Placid 70.3) and then it's time to chill for a bit before cyclocross season starts.  The fall is going to be filled with all sorts of adventures of the OFF ROAD kind so watch this space.

Have you ever raced without a watch?  How did that affect your race?  Did you go harder or easier than you would have if you had worn your watch?

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