I have been looking forward to the Toronto Triathlon Festival all winter and I can’t believe the race has already come and gone. Despite some fear of a cancelled swim and a predicted thunderstorm, the day was absolutely perfect and the race went off without a hitch.
I rode my bike down to Ontario Place early on Sunday morning to get in line before transition opened. We were let into the transition area around 8:00am and setting up was quick and easy. The very kind Triathlon Ontario Officials walking around checked to make sure everyone’s bike was racked properly and gave us a full hour to prep our area and warm-up before the start of the race. Around 9:15 we made our way down to the swim start at the Ontario Place West Channel and took a short dip into the water to acclimatize ourselves to the 16 degree lake temperature. To be honest, it wasn’t that bad! Compared to the 10 degree water we swam in last week, this felt like a hot tub.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a “natural” swimmer, and 365 days ago, I could not swim more than 25m without stopping. Getting into the lake, hearing the horn go off, and then seeing 750m in front of me, was a bit overwhelming and I did get a bit panicky towards the beginning of the swim. It took me awhile to find my breathing pattern (which it always does) and I kept worrying that I would bump into someone or get kicked in the face so I stayed towards the right and the back of the pack. Unfortunately that wasn’t the best strategy as I actually swam about 100m more than I should have (due to my inability to hug corners and swim in a straight line), but 20 minutes later my 750m swim was done and I was out of the water and onto the bike.
The bike was pretty freakin’ cool. We got to ride along the Gardiner Expressway, with cars zooming past us in the adjacent lane (separated by a concrete barrier – totally safe!) With my slow swim, I had a lot of time to make up on the bike and I really did try my best to keep my pace as close to 30km/hour as I could. I knew this was a pace I could maintain. It was pretty windy up on the Gardiner and my legs were feeling the burn. I did pass a lot of people on the bike, but I don’t think I really caught up to too many other people in my age group. They were too far gone and I just couldn’t make up the lost time. I ended the bike in 41:29, pedalling an average of 28.9km/hour. I love the bike, but I know I need time to get more comfortable with speed and riding with my clip-in pedals. Of course this will only come in time, but I am excited to put in the work. My huge thighs and gigantic calf muscles have got to work to my advantage somehow, right?
Once I was off the bike, I made a quick transition into my running shoes and sprinted towards the run course. Not going to lie, my legs felt like lead during the first kilometre or so and I had no idea how fast I was going, but I was going as fast as I could! When I saw the first kilometre pass by in 5:24, I got a little burst of confidence and just decided to grind it out and maintain my pace. I was hurting a lot at this point, but as the run went on, things felt smoother and a bit “easier.” It just took me a while to find my stride. Around the 3k mark, I caught up with my friend Amber who was doing her first triathlon. I knew we could maintain around the same pace to the finish, so I ran up beside her, told her we were going to maintain a 5:30 or faster pace, and we conquered the last two kilometres to the finish line side by side. It was really cool coming through the finish chute together and crossing the finish line smiling, knowing that we’d both accomplished something great! My final finish time was 1:34:15.
I didn’t have a specific goal time for TTF, just to finish stronger and faster that my last triathlon and I accomplished that. My swim was 13 seconds/100m faster, my bike was 1 minute and 18 seconds faster, and my run was 2 minutes and 45 seconds faster than IronGirl last year. All in all, this was a great start to the Triathlon season and I am looking forward to working on my speed in the lead up to my next race on August 9th. I know I still have a lot of work to do, especially on the swim, but triathlon training really is so much fun and with three sports it never gets boring, so I am really looking forward to what lies ahead.
One thing I know I need to work on in addition to all the swimming, biking and running I’ll be doing is my mental game. I can’t tell you how many times during yesterday’s race I had a negative thought. It started when I looked up from the swim start and saw how far the first buoys were and actually questioned whether I could swim that far (when I have swam more than twice that distance in a pool). It continued on the bike when I was passed by a woman who looked about 60, riding a much nicer bike than me and I wondered if I was just too slow to compete. And yes, it happened on the run too during the first kilometre when I was afraid I would have to stop to walk because my legs felt so tired and my chest was so heavy. But I finished that swim, I eventually caught up to that woman on the much nicer bike, and I completed my run without stopping. So what was the point of all my negative thinking? Just wasted energy. Imagine what I could have accomplished if I never gave those thoughts any power?
I know I probably end off most of my posts with this sentiment, but I am constantly humbled and inspired every time I finish a race wanting more out of myself. In today’s society we are so used to seeing instant results and we are bombarded on a daily basis with images of people’s successes, but rarely of their failures or struggles. If you made it this far, you can know that I finished 29th out of 30th in my age group during the swim portion of yesterday’s race. I’m disappointed because I don’t think this accurately represents all the hours of swim training I put in this winter and spring, but I also know that it means that I am still a new swimmer and I have a lot to learn. Swimming has been such an incredible learning experience for me, and although at times it has been frustrating, I love that I have learned this new skill as an adult. It’s humbling to know that although you have come so far, there is still far to go, and I wouldn’t trade this lesson for anything. Can’t wait to see how I improve in another year!
P.S – Huge shout out to Mark from Tribe Fitness for taking all these awesome photos! If you don’t know Tribe, check them out at http://TribeFitness.ca! From beginners to experienced athletes, there’s a place for everyone at Tribe. Plus, we’re a lot of FUN!