Toronto Triathlon Festival: Race Recap

Jenna Triathlon 1I 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.

Jenna Triathlon 2

Photo Credit: Tribe Fitness

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.

Jenna Amber

Photo credit: Tribe Fitness

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!

Photo credit: Tribe Fitness

Photo credit: Tribe Fitness

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!

I’m A Triathlete: IronGirl Canada Race Recap

Jenna IronGirl SwimThree days ago I completed a triathlon. 10 weeks ago this wasn’t in the plan. I had no intentions or desires to complete a triathlon until my training buddies from Tribe Fitness (ahem, Jenna and Emily) brought up the idea of doing IronGirl Canada. IronGirl is a race put on by the IronMan brand and it’s a Sprint Triathlon (500m swim, 20k bike, 5k run). After signing up for the race I had two very important things to do: learn to swim and get a bike!

Getting a bike was easy. I went to Giant Bikes in Toronto and purchased my lovely and fast Giant LIV Avail 3! Riding a road bike for the first time was scary, I’ll admit it. My first official ride on the bike had me riding an average of 15k/hr; on Sunday at the Triathlon I completed my 20k in 42:47, with an average of 28k/hr. Swimming was a bit more tricky, but thanks to my awesome group of training buddies and FREE pool access at the Regent Park Pool, I was able to get into the water at least twice per week for lane swim. I remember the first time I swam, I was completely out of breath after one lap, or 25m. On Sunday I completed my 500m swim in 14:47, without stopping! Yeah! The “easy” part was the run, although it didn’t feel so easy after 20k on the bike, but I completed that in 29:04 for a grand total triathlon time of 1:31:35.Jenna IronGirl Run

Going into the race, I told myself that my goal was “just to finish” at least under two hours, but secretly I wanted to finish well. Training for this triathlon has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done and it’s only in these past 10 weeks that I’ve truly come to feel like an athlete. Coming off the bike, I knew I was in a good spot to finish around 1 hour 30 minutes because I had completed the combined swim/bike portion in one hour. My goal for the run was to complete it in around 27 minutes, but I didn’t really anticipate how heavy and tired my legs would feel, and even running at a 5:40 pace for the first half of the run felt like the slowest and hardest pace ever. One thing I would do differently for my next triathlon is practice more bike/run brick workouts so that I can get used to running on fatigued legs and learn how to push the pace. My run was pretty uneventful until I wiped out at 4k on the trail portion of the race. We were on completely flat ground, I was running with a lot of room around me, but I think I must have just tripped on something and went crashing to the ground. The wind was knocked out of me for a few seconds, but I dusted my dirty self off and picked it up for the last kilometre and finished the run in 29:04.

Jenna IronGirl BikeThe amazing thing about this race is I finished within a minute of my fellow Tribe Fitness training buddies, showing that we really pushed each other to excel and that we had all competed to the best of our abilities. I am SO  incredibly proud of Jenna, Emily, Kate, Ali, and Alisha, and I could never have done this without them.  I feel so incredibly lucky to belong to such a wonderful community of athletes. The Tribe Fitness men were also out in full force, cheering us on and giving high fives from the sidelines. Best cheer section in the race, if I do say so myself. My two sisters also joined me for the race and they totally rocked their first triathlons, too! How cool is it that my parents can say they have daughters who are triathletes?

A big THANK YOU must also go out to my Coach Brock Armstrong of Skywalker Fitness!  I started training with Brock late last year, and although the 2014 training year started off pretty rough with my allergy attack, the gains I’ve made as an athlete would never have happened without his expertise, understanding, and support. From my very first email to him about this “crazy triathlon idea” to the hundreds of questions that followed, this never could have happened without him.

I know that training and racing changes you, and the way I feel after completing IronGirl is so incredibly amazing that I wish every person could feel what I feel. I feel like I can do anything. If you asked me to sign up to do an IronMan 70.3 in 2016, I would! Well, that’s the plan at least. If any of my friends, seriously any of them, came up to me and asked me if they could do a triathlon in six months or a year, I would say YES because I truly believe that anyone can do this. I know it sounds cliche, but achieving “crazy goals” is possible. With the right friends, the right training plan, the right cheerleaders/support team, and an iron will to succeed, you can do anything.

Jenna IronGirl Friends