Toronto Triathlon Festival

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Races
  • 1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
  • Goal Time = 2:30:00
  • Chip Time = 2:24:12 (click to see official Sportstats page)
  • Category Place = 13/59 (M 40-44)
  • Overall Place = 105/495
  • Fuel: 1 btl. Perpetuem (pre-race ), 1 (57 ml) btl. 5-Hour Energy Shot (pre-race), 1 btl. Perpetuem (bike), 1 pkg. Chomps (bike), 1 GU gel (run)…and 2 cups water (run).

The prime motive this summer has been going long in preparation for September’s big A-race so, as such, smaller, shorter distance races don’t always offer the best training opportunities.  Sure they help with transitioning, race day nutrition simulations and such, but they seldom provide that long distance conditioning that I need in order to prepare for Wales.  For example, I decided to drop out of this year’s planned Shore-to-Shore triathlon in August since, as per my current training schedule, I also need to be doing a big simulation day that weekend that involves a 70 minute non-stop swim, a 5 hour bike ride and a 2 hour run, and, quite possibly, followed up with a full blown cardiac arrest.  So on that magnitude, an Olympic distance event of a mere 51.5k would simply fall too short of that goal.

Personal Note:  Man, did I ever see the day coming when I’d view 51.5k as “short”?

I remained steadfast this weekend however in competing in first inaugural Toronto Triathlon Festival despite my current training demands as, ‘all work and no play…’, well, you get the idea.  I do need to practice my transitions at some point, right?  Besides, how often will I ever get to say I was in an event with two Canadian 2012 Olympic hopefuls (Simon Whitfield and Paula Findlay)?  Oh yeah, there is also the feature of getting to time trial past the expansive downtown Toronto skyline along the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway as well.  How much fun will that be?  So with all this in the master game plan, we packed up Lucille and the rest of my tri-shit and headed to the big T-dot for the weekend.  Hogtown, here we come!

We arrived uneventfully on Saturday afternoon and checked into our hotel before making our way to the Westin Harbor Castle Hotel downtown for our mandatory pre-race briefings and a quick opportunity to drool over all the triathlon schwag that I’ll probably never be able to afford.  With my race packet in hand and a wealth of information about the race (not to mention a second mortgage worth of parking costs downtown) we spent the rest of the day running a few errands, hydrating, fueling and napping back at the hotel room.  Basically, we did as little as possible as is the customary routine; easily my favorite part of the sport.


Race day started with a 4:15am wake up in order to be on-site for bike check in at 5:30am.  Let me tell you, this is the worst part of triathlon.  I understand why it has to be, of course, but getting up before the dawn is never a fun thing to do in my opinion.  It’s right up there with, say, eating Habanero peppers and then pooping afterwards.  However, we did make it to the race site easily and began the process of checking in, finding my position in transition, setting up, arranged my race nutrition and…still 1 hour and 20 minutes to go?  Someone remind me why we’re here so early again.  At least I had a few unobstructed visits to the Porto-lets before the real crowd of athletes began to show up on site I guess.  I do have to say, the race organizers were beyond friendly and helpful that morning.  I’m not sure what was in their coffee that morning but they were otherwise polite, engaging and more than helpful and everything ran extremely smoothly right up to the start of the race itself (always a good start to any race).  Bravo TTF!

My usual transition set-up complete with two left socks.

To pass some time I participated in what I called the ‘Olympic Fueling Game’, which was modeled after any number of drinking games I played back in University.  It goes a little something like this:  each time the race announcer made reference to Simon Whitfield over the microphone (which was, like, every 3.6 nano-seconds or so) I took two big swigs of my pre-race fuel drink.  Each time he mentioned Paula Findlay, I took one sip.  After about 20 minutes I had completely finished off my 1 liter bottle of energy drink and was more than ready to set a new PB…not to mention hit up the Porto-let one last time.

Approximately 20 minutes before race time, largely thanks to my sister for sacrificing her position in the Porto-let line-up, I began to get suited up into my new Rogue Nineteen wetsuit (product review to come).  Thankfully, my girlfriend is becoming quite the ace at helping me into my suit which has now become a total two man operation.  Completely kitted out in rubber gloves and semi-covered in baby powder she pinched, pulled, tweaked and inched my suit over my bulbous frame perfectly… and all with minimum plucked arm and pit hair I might add.  Am I a lucky guy or what?  After a quick ‘Swim Start Demonstration’ by our Olympic hopefuls that I was too far back to see and a playing of the National Anthem (which was a total new experience but a welcome touch), my M35-50 wave (the second) made our way into the West Channel of Ontario Place off the shores of Lake Ontario.  Whatever butterflies I had been experiencing up to that point completely dissipated as they typically do the moment I got in the water.  I positioned myself along the inside of the starting line about mid-pack as I usually do, quickly wiped out the inside of my goggles (as per my lesson learned last month in Welland), and braced myself to begin alongside 59 other very capable and fit-looking triathletes.

  • Swim: 1500m (23:46)
  • Pace: 1:36 /100m
  • Division Place: 9/59
  • Overall Place: 70/495

Just prior to the swim start and, somewhere in there, Simon Whitfield…

Right off the hop, I wanted to test out my new wetsuit and get a proper feel for it so I had already predetermined to go out fast instead of establishing and maintaining my Ironman pacing as I normally have done this year.  From the moment horn sounded, I gave it full gas and quickly established myself at the front of the pack of other M39-44 age groupers.  I felt strong and sleek in the water and was really impressed at how well I seemingly glided through the water effortlessly.  I decided from that point to forgo my usual swim strategy of drafting off other faster swimmers and, instead, blazed my way past them being careful sot sight properly along the course to the first buoy.  Within the first two or three minutes I had already caught and begun to pass swimmers in the first wave of green caps (M20-34) that left three minutes ahead of us.  I steered around them easily enough, but after rounding the second buoy was immediately confronted by a wall of green caps immediately in front of me.  Getting through them was going to be a bit challenging.  Let the games begin.

Exiting the water with my draftees (yellow caps) just behind me…

I steered myself to the outside of the pack remembering that the next turn was going to be to my right (buoys were always on my left shoulder) I stepped up the pace to get by as many green caps as possible in the main scrum of swimmers before the congestion at the next turn.  It was at this point that I realized I was also being drafted by a small group of other swimmers from my own wave (yellow caps) by the constant tapping on my feet so the motivation to keep up the fast pace was ever-present.

I had settled into my pace and was enjoying the comfortable feel of the water and my wetsuit while sighting the boats through the channel when it happened…I ended up, literally, on top of another swimmer, face-to-face, who had the unfortunate luck of backstroking at the time.  Suddenly, here I am going totally missionary on the guy and the look on his face was like, “wtf”?   Hey, sorry bud, that wasn’t exactly comfortable for me either, so I quickly power-paddled over him and kept going.  After completing the last turning point back into the channel heading back into T1 I stepped up the pace again with the intent on dropping whoever else was still drafting behind me.  I passed about a dozen swimmers in the final 200-300m  ending up at the finish with the other yellow caps approximately another 25m behind me.  I remember glancing at my watch quickly upon exiting the water which showed my swim time at just over 20  minutes, but the official race time clocked me at 23:46  which is still respectable I guess.  Whatever, time to conquer the Gardiner Expressway!

  • Bike: 40k (1:10:04)
  • Pace: 34.3 kph
  • Division Place: 20/59
  • Overall Place: 145/495

Upon arriving in T1, I had a bit of trouble getting out of my wetsuit.  As per its design, it’s pretty tight around the wrists and ankles and so carefully maneuvering it over my watch and timing chip proved to be a bit challenging.  Finally I managed to wedge myself out of it and sat down to put on my socks and cycling shoes and made my way to the Bike Out exit…at the top of a steep ramp.  Trotting up a concrete ramp in my cleats was not fun, nor an easy feat.

Mental Note to Self:  learn to pre-clip my shoes onto my bike and get into them whilst riding.

Entering the bike course, with the Toronto skyline behind me…

I was anxious to get out onto the bike course so it was with get anticipation that I hustled through the first kilometer or as to not get dropped by the few other yellow caps from my rack that I had exited from the swim with.  There were five of us and we immediately spread ourselves out as we started the first incline up onto the Gardiner Expressway.  It was comforting to know that these other riders were also conscious of the 10m drafting rule and didn’t attempt to bunch up together as has happened in other races.  We stayed that way for the majority of the ride reaching up to speeds of 60 kph  on the downhill portions of the Expressway and Don Valley Parkway and then used our built up inertia on the uphill portions.  Truly, this was “Rush hour redefined”  as promoters had advertised.  The major limiting factor beyond the rolling hills was the strong headwind we encountered headlong on the way back into the downtown core.  You miss that aspect of the expressway while driving in your car.

I was very conscious throughout the whole ride to hydrate adequately, fuel properly and keep pace with these other riders.  The last 15k  or so were quite enjoyable as we rode past the Rogers Center, the CN Tower, as well as the other landmark skyscrapers that make up the vast Toronto skyline.  It was a very surreal experience and I had to remind myself to also watch out for the giant sized pot-holes along the Gardiner while enjoying these sites.  I had already pre-determined to make my final break within the last 5k on the last out/back portion of the course, so for the meantime I simply tried to enjoy the moment and keep up the pace being set by these other riders.

After the last turnaround, I took the last of my nutrition and made my final break past my group of riders to T2.  I weaved through the last kilometer back to the dismounting line managing to get out of my shoes this time prior to having to run down that ramp into transition.  I dismounted about 20-30 seconds ahead of the rest of my group and I quickly made my way to the rack and prepare to get out onto the run course.  Over all, I was very happy with my bike and I mentally bookmarked it as quite a profound racing opportunity, but, now, the time had come to run.

  • Run: 10k (47:08)
  • Pace: 4:43/km
  • Division Place: 22/59
  • Overall Place: 181/495

I’m getting pretty good at my T2 transitions now and was out on the run course in 53 seconds flat, approximately about a minute ahead of the other members of my riding group.

Entering the run course from transition with my mom cheering me on, or was she still excited about seeing Simon Whitfield?

It’s no secret by now that running is not my favorite thing about triathlon, but I do enough of it now to have some degree of overall comfort with it.  I have been working primarily on running for distance lately and as such, have done quite a few long distances bricks by this point.  So I instinctively fell back into this pace within the first 1-2 kilometers.  Going fast was never my thing, and I was soon passed by all five of my initial riding group.  Oh well, better stick with what I know and within my own comfort zone.  In fact, I was passed quite a bit during that first few kilometers on the run and I tried to not let it get to me.  I hydrated at the aid stations, acknowledged the cheers from onlookers and avoided the on-coming traffic of pedestrian cyclists, roller-bladers and dog walkers.  I tried to put time/pace out of my mind and just settle into what seemed comfortable.  Eventually, my legs seemed to loosen up and my breathing and heart rate fell back under control and before I knew it, I was running much easier than I was in the beginning…fast even.  For me, that is.

Just before the 5k turnaround, I saw all five of my original group on the way back and realized that some of them looked to be suffering.  Hey, maybe if I could just keep this pace I might actually catch some of them.

I caught the first member around the 6k mark and another at about the 7.5k.  Both had really dropped from their original pace where I felt I was actually running quicker.  I worked at maintaining my pace despite my heart rate which was beginning to accelerate, and I worked to keep the pace on the short uphill portions of the run using the opportunity to reel in other runners who also seemed to be entering the ‘Hurt Zone’.

Entering the finishers chute with 206, just prior to the last sprint…

By 8k  I had caught all but the last member of my original group (206) and he was just ahead by about 400m or so.  I decided to give myself one last kilometer to keep my current pace and then punch it to catch him in the final kilometer.  At the 9k marker I accelerated my pace to within 100m or so of him before a passerby mentioned, “One more kilometer to go!”   Wait…what?  Sure enough, I passed another 9k  marker by the side of the path…then another.  What the hell?  I was nearly spent giving it my last bit of gas, but I couldn’t see the finishing chute yet.  The fuck?  Plus, 206 was still a bit ahead of me.  Crap!  Had I slipped into a weird triathlon space/time continuum or something?  Was Rod Serling waiting for me at the finish line?  Finally, I rounded one last corner and I was entering the finishing chute with 206 just mere meters in front of me.  I gave ‘er full gas one last time and he rose to the challenge as we sprinted in together past the crowds of excited spectators.  I thought my heart was going to explode but somehow I managed to just edge him out at the line.  In fact, I finished with a time of 2:24:12.55,  and him: 2:24:12.90.  That’s, what, less than a quarter of a second?

I had no idea what my run time or pace had been, but I knew I had pretty much left it all on the course judging by the sudden wash of fatigue that swept over me.  It wasn’t until I got home later that I checked the website to see that I had run a sub-50 minute 10k at a pace of 4:43km…a new off-the-bike PB at that distance.  A nice surprise indeed!  Here’s the funny part though.  Riddle me this:  regarding participant 206, he clocked in a fraction of a second behind me, yet his run time was measured almost 2 minutes faster.  How does that work?   Hello, Rod Serling?

Doo doo doo doo doo doo….

So, apart from slipping temporarily into the Twilight Zone time-wise, it was good day out and, besides being limited to one slice of orange and a single half bagel with peanut butter afterwards (Really?  That’s it?!)  now I can once again to my sights back to going long for the rest of the summer.  I have one last opportunity as part of a relay at the Niagara Triathlon where I am going to do the bike leg up Park Hill, which, I am using as an opportunity to condition myself for the hilly course in Wales.

Happy to be finished!

I also realize now that I LOVE racing and genuinely miss competing in events of this nature that don’t necessarily lend themselves well to long distance training. So, who knows, where I will definitely return to Toronto next summer with a vengeance, look out, because I might just be primarily focusing on these Olympic distance events.

  1. Jeff says:

    Well done Terry! That is a great result. Too bad about the time tracking issues, makes you wonder if you actually finished faster than what they said! Too funny about your ‘intimate encounter’ during the swim….could have gone much worse! lol


  2. Kelly says:

    Great job Sweetie ! So proud of you and your great race !
    (and yay me for getting some really good photos ….. I didn’t even realize that your mom was in the one of you leaving T2 !)

  3. Jan says:

    Terry, I was sitting on the edge of my seat reading your write up. Look how strong and ready you are, passing people and sprinting at the finish line to beat the last one of your group. That was astounding. I’m bursting with pride!! Congrats !!! Can’t wait for the Wales write up. Is anyone else from your group going to Wales too?

  4. mom says:

    I was cheering you on. Terry!!! ( Simon has already gone bye ) LOL

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