Sunday, July 20, 2014

#TTF2014 The Toronto Triathlon Festival

Nothing beats racing in your hometown, especially when you don't live there any more.  What a weekend this was.  Four days away from home, with more than 13 hours on the road each way to and from the city.  As many know, my mom passed away on May 16th, and though we had a memorial service for her, the family had decided to have the internment for her remains on July 12th, the day prior to the race.  It was a small family affair, along with Peter, the rector from her church, and some real close friends of mom's.  It was to last about 15 minutes and start at 1pm, but of course when we arrived there was a problem.  Despite my niece Sara calling earlier in the week to make sure all was in order, my mom's remains were nowhere on the property.  They quickly tracked them down and the  told us we would not be able to start until 3:30pm.  We all went off for a quick bite to eat at Tim Horton's and then returned.  It was a very quick event and a lovely spot that we can visit in the future if we so wish.

After a quick tour of Sara and Ronnie's new house I headed down to Toronto for the night so I would be close to the race site. I again had the privilege of staying at Marilyn and Fred's complex for the night, near Yonge and St. Clair.  They treated me to a very nice light dinner and I turned in early for the night.  The weather forecast was not looking promising calling for a risk of thunderstorms for the morning.   Worrying about the weather, I did not sleep too well and the 4AM wake-up came quickly.

My first look out the window was good, with not rain on the ground yet.  That was a good sign as the forecast had said it would start around 1AM.  Had a bite to eat (bagel, banana, and some V-8 fruit juice), packed up and headed down to Ontario Place.  It's interesting driving down Yonge St (Longest continuous street in the world) and seeing who is up and about at 4:30AM.  Getting there was no problem and I parked and made it to transition without a hitch.

Bike covered ready for the rain.
The sky was still quite cloudy, but it looked like the sun might peek out.  I did bring extra plastic bags and covered up all my shoes and my handlebars.  I had also brought a spare swim cap to use to cover my saddle.  The start time came quickly as I got on my wetsuit and started to make it down to the swim start.  Of course, just as I was heading down, the skies opened up and it started to pour.  As long as it didn't thunder or lightening, the swim would more than likely proceed as planned.  I got down to the swim start and who did I see, but Canadian Olympian, Triathlon Gold Medalist, Simon Whitfield.  We had a quick chat prior to the swim start.  Simon would later be guiding Terry Gardner on the run in the sprint race.  Terry is a visually-impaired triathlete with Won With One.  I was doing the Olympic distance race, which left first and Simon said he would do all he could to catch and pass me before I finished.  

As we got called to the dock area for the anthem, the skies opened up again.  We could barely see the turn buoys and so of course, I started to get a little nervous.  Even though there is nothing I can do to change the weather, I realized I had never been swimming in torrential rain.  The race was to start at 6:50AM and was delayed in the hopes the showers would subside a bit.  The elite age-groupers went first and then the para wave would depart (all 2 of us!!!).  

Me swimming taken by @BrendaTeamTTF
Bill Burke (race director from Premier Event Management) directed us into the water and gave us a 10 second count.  The water was colder than I had expected, but certainly not colder than Cohasset.  The difference with Cohasset is that I was able to get in and get used to it prior to the race.  This was a bit of a shock and before I knew it, we were off.

The course is counter-clockwise, which I prefer, but I didn't even make to the first turn-buoy before I was having some problems.  I was short of breath but making progress, but then I took a big mouth-full of water and started to choke a bit.  There was a paddle border nearby and I signalled for him to come over.  He got there real quick and I latched on.  I took about 45 seconds or so to catch my breath and took off again.  I worried this was the shaping up to be a Quassy flashback where I had to withdraw due to an allergic reaction to the pollen.  Was the water too cold? NO!! Was I having some allergic reaction? NO!! So I continued swimming and I got into a quick grove.  After the first turn I headed down the canal to the far buoy.  At this point, it started to rain again and I couldn't see the buoy in the distance.  It was at this point that the athletes from the previous wave caught up to me and I could follow them.  It was a long stretch to that second turn (maybe about 700m, or 750yds).  The water was noticeably colder as we neared the exit to the sheltered area.  The rest of the swim went pretty well except for one smack I received right at the bridge of the nose as another swimmer went by.  My final swim time for the 1.5km was 0:52:43 which was about 8-10 slower than I had hoped.  Given the rain and the slow start, it would do, but I wasn't sure now I would be able to finish under 4 hours.

Transition was not that great either, coming out on my bike in 04:22.  In fact, that time really sucks as I usually try and complete T1 in under 3 minutes.  Again, I had to deal with removing the plastic bags off of the bike and getting my shoes out as well.  The rain had stopped so I only hoped there wasn't a lot of standing water on the course.

This is BY FAR, my favorite triathlon bike course.  I grew up in this city and drove both the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway (DVP) many countless times.  Like the NYC tri, they bike course is closed, which rarely happens, so it really is a fun ride.  With the new tri bar set-up I was able to stay aero for a lot of the course.  I was passed by a lot of cyclists, but I also was able to pass quite a number myself. The roads were wet without a lot of puddles.  I don't really feel I ever had to drive slower than I hoped.  Including the roads we travel on, we pass 3 different stadiums, BMO Stadium (Toronto FC), Roger's Centre (Skydome-Blue Jays) and Air Canada Centre (Leafs and Raptors), pretty cool.

At the turn around, near DVP and Eglinton, I blew a kiss to mom.  The last place we lived together, when I was still in high school, was up at DVP and Lawrence, just a couple of miles away.  The way back is down hill and I was able to make up some speed, but at this point, we also faced a headwind.  It was at this point that a motorbike pulled up beside me and was filming, they had the camera on me for a couple of minutes, including a point where I passed two other cyclists.  The came up beside me again and asked if they could chat a bit.  Well, those of you who know me, know I wouldn't have a problem chatting to a camera! LOL.  I found out they were from TSN and are putting together a piece on WON WITH ONE, including Simon's work with the team.  I found out it will be aired in Canada sometime in August.

When I returned to T2 all was going well.  My bike leg was 1:35:36, more than 5 minutes faster than 2012, so I was able to make up some of my slow swim time.  T2 was 4:23m again, WAY TOO SLOW.   I need to be A LOT FASTER in transition.  Again, I don't know if it was all the rain, but that is something I must remedy.

I took off on the run and things went well.  As I ran along the shore, I looked out on the water, as at this point, the last of the sprint racers were starting their swims.  It was then I noticed a paddleboarder was waving at me and cheering.  It was the guy who had come along to me while I was in the water.  He was REAL HAPPY to see me out there on the run. Sure made me feel good!!!!

I was able to start out running for 1:30 and then walking for 0:30.  As time went along and things felt good, I was able to switch to 3:00 of running followed by 1:00 of walking.  There were lots of great kids manning the water stations cheering us along.  GREAT VOLUNTEERS for sure!!! It had started to rain a little around the 3K mark for me and then the skies opened up to a total downpour.  For the next 4-6K it literally poured buckets.  I was running through 2-4 inches of water and was totally soaked.  I soon realized I would not be breaking the 4 hour barrier, but being so wet, I started to laugh.  Getting to the water stops, it was a delight to see the kids still out there cheering us on.  As people passed me, I would yell out, "SWIM, BIKE, SWIM".  Got a few laughs!!
My finish taken by Jan Ditchfield

As I neared the end I was still feeling real good without any back or leg pain.  As I neared the finish, Marilyn was there and as I entered the finish chute, I could see a large group from WON WITH ONE, waiting for the sprint finishers.   I was really happy to find out my run time was 1:29:44, 3:30 faster than 2012.  So really, if I had been able to have quicker transitions and a slightly faster swim, I would have beat 4 hours.  My final time was 4:06:47.  Given the crummy weather, this was a REALLY GOOD RACE!!!

With Jan Ditchfield
Wouldn't you know it, but about 1 minute after my finish, I saw Simon and Terry coming down the chute.  For the second year in a row HERO BURGER offered free burgers to racers.  When I got in the line, it didn't move, so I gave up on that idea.  I hung around for a while with Marilyn and she stayed long enough to see me get my finisher ribbon and flowers for 2nd place in the PC division.  I would later find out the 1st place finisher was not a PC racer and had registered that way by accident.

I got back to transition to get my WET gear and bike and then took it all to my car.  The drive back to Orangeville was uneventful and as soon as I got back I took a refreshing dip into Bonnie's pool.  We had a long day ahead of us on Monday, having to drive the 500+ miles back to MA.
Getting my award with Steve Fleck
(taken by M. Fennell)

Finally meeting fb friend Irina!!


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