It took me a while to summarize this race, it was an important one for me, a personal milestone and a big #goalrace for many of our Tribe Fitness crew on July 10th, 2016.
Training Leading Up to Race Day
When I had signed up for TTF in December of 2015 I had committed to the Olympic distance, it seemed like a great challenge having completed a duathlon last summer and having two half marathons planning for the spring racing season. Over the winter months I committed to swimming weekly on Tuesday evenings with the Tribe Fitness family and was averaging 1.5km per swim in around 30 minutes, my running was getting stronger with all of my half marathon training and getting on the bike a few times a month wasn’t too difficult.
As the winter progressed I was feeling really confident in the Olympic distance, it was mileage that was becoming normal for me and I was ready to start brick training in May, along with transitioning my swims to open water. As many things in life sometimes we make changes to our plan and for me as much as I was ready for the Olympic distance I made a decision in June to switch to the Sprint distance for two reasons (1) I really wanted to be on the route at the same time as my Tribe Fitness ladies who were running their first triathlon – at TTF the Olympic start time is much earlier than the Spring and (2) I was aware that things at work would be picking up and I didn’t want to be worried about trying to squeeze workouts in/rest when I was trying to focus my efforts on important projects at work. For me it came down to wanting race hard but also share this day with my Tribe family!
The few weeks leading into the race I felt really good – I had gotten my wetsuit on and zipped up, I had joined the LOST Swimming Club in Oakville thanks to my fellow #solesister Kim, I had been getting in long rides with my Dad and was finally feeling comfortable in swimming in open water that was unpredictable in temperature. I really felt confident in my training and the effort that I had put in leading up to race day.
On Race Weekend I experienced a few hiccups/things out of my control – which I decided during the bike portion of the race that I do not want to dwell on in this post. Long story short my wetsuit sleeve ripped during my shakeout swim on Saturday, and my ripped it really split right down the middle, probably because I’m so jacked right? Haha.
On Friday night I went to pick-up my Race Kit from the westside of Ontario Place, which to be honest was a bit inconvenient due to the lack of public transportation through Exhibition Place, how far off the main drag the Expo was located from downtown and of course wading through crowds of Keith Urban fans on their way to a concert in sweltering heat. Either way I made it to the Expo Friday after work to pick-up my kit, checkout the Expo vendors where I managed to snag a great deal on some Genuine Health Protein Bars @ 12 for $20!
Race Day – Pre-Race
Based on my kit lay down, visually you can see that I was prepped for the race in terms of my gear and equipment. Having done this one before as a newbie and spent this training season refining my attire, fuel and equipment to the best formula I could put together I felt very confident in my preparation the evening before as I packed my race/post race bag, took a trip to the Running Room to get my fuel, tuned up my bike, applied my stickers where necessary and made an last minute tweaks to my set-up.
Alex kindly offered to let me carpool with her to Toronto on race day, it was an awesome way to pump-up prep race and help each other keep our nerves at bay. Alex wanted the full pep-talk in the car but I told her that she had 2 hours before the race and I had to save some decent motivational quotes for later!
Upon arriving at Ontario Place mentally I was feeling good, I had fuelled in the car, was working on my water and had arrived with plenty of time to set-up my transition zone, or so I had thought. When I arrived at my numbered rack – 1087 – I was surprised to discover someone else’s gear in my area, the two girls on either side of me mentioned it was their friend and she wanted to rack with them, unfortunately that’s not how this works. I reached out to a TTF staff member while the man on the mic announced that we had 10 minutes before the Transition Zone would close, I didn’t panic because that usually means they close entry to the Transition Zone and you get to stay in until your waved started, little did I know that at TTF it means you leave the Transition Zone for good, with your wetsuit and head down to the dock to wait for the swim. Instantly I panicked a bit, I hadn’t unpacked ANYTHING and no one wanted to help me relocated this girl – she was no where to be found, I didn’t have my race shorts on, I had to go to the bathroom. Needless to say my chill was disappearing by the second.
Finally with mere minutes left to exit the gal showed up and casually moved her stuff while I tried to throw down my transition gear and organize my items in some way as the man on the mic was reminding us to leave NOW! I managed to get to a porta-potty to change my shorts, grab my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, part of my sanity and my girls and head to the swim dock.
Race Day – Pre-Swim
Typically I show up to a race pretty chill, I come with the mindset that I’ve done what I can in my training and there is nothing else to do but commit to the race that’s ahead and put my faith in the work. I try not to get worried about what I could have done, should have done or think about things that I have no control over. TTF was a whole different experience for me.
After walking to the swim dock with my wetsuit in my arms, wishing I had a disposable water bottle to push some extra fluids and trying to get my head together the tables turned on my for the first time every at a race. Instead of being the gal in the tribe helping everyone calm their nerves I was the one who was anxious and a little misty eyed about how the last half an hour had gone down, I was a bit frazzle to say the list.
I managed to pull my wetsuit on – it was a SUPER hot day and if you’re a frequent wearer of a wetsuit you know for a fact that if your skin is even the slightest bit moist it’s a chore and a half to get the suit on. So here we were the Tribe ladies all working together to try to help get one another suited up and ready to go.
Minutes before my warm-up swim my head was running a thousand miles a minute – I was concerned about my transition not being set-up right, I was a bit worried about how cold the water would be, I wasn’t sure if I could hear for them to announce me warm-up time and I was still reeling from someone I had heard from earlier that morning. Melanie was a real #solesister this morning, she gave me a minute to vent, shake it off and clear my head so that I could get into the water to do what I came here to do and nothing was going to hold me back from that!
Race Day – Swim
Photo Credit: Jason Hervey
The swim warm-up was fast and furious, everyone wanted to get into the water to get a feel for how cold it was and we were told that we would have 5 minutes to swim a few laps around the box before we made our way to the starting area. As the waves starting rolling into one another the amount of time for a warm-up decreased significantly which caused panic for some. Once I was given the green light to get into the water I jumped in with no regrets, I was either going to do this now or worry about it for when the race started. I completed one loop of the small area for getting out to make my way to the doc that we would be starting from.
As soon as I heard the air horn signal the start I start to swim, I held back a bit at first to limit my exposure to those who wanted to claw their way to the front right away, my plan was to go out, catch my breath, fall into a nice groove, hold a steady pace and swim all the way to the finish. The only thing that I found difficult about the swim was that the markers were hard to see, I couldn’t determine if it was a result of them not being big enough or bright enough but it was tough at times to stick to the straight and narrow.
I was very happy with my swim, I didn’t have any collisions with fellow swimmers, everyone seemed to mind their space and the water was not too cold – even with my newly added vent of a ripped sleeve. I felt strong in my swim and without looking at my watch knew that I was around my goal time of 15 minutes for the 750m based on the cadence that I had managed to maintain throughout.
Once I was out of the water tearing down the transition path I took a glance at my watch and realized I had swam almost an extra 160m, while part of it is the rookie in me, many of the competitors commented on how they had accumulated some extra mileage during the swim portion of the race.
Race Day – Transition from Swim to Bike
My transition out of the wetsuit was something to be proud of – I didn’t get stuck! I managed to get my watch off in order to peel of the suit, stand on my towel so that my feet would dry while I put on my tank and consume a few Honey Stinger bites while I was working through changing my gear. I did managed to get tangled in my tank top, I don’t know how but there was a bit of a struggle that ensued which Linda got to witness first hand and when I put my watch back on I was disappointed to see that at some point I had bumped that ‘lap’ button and now my tri-setup was not going to be accurate throughout the duration of the race. Either way I would have my total time still being counted, I just wouldn’t have the breakdowns per section that I was aiming for. By the time that I was ready to slip my socks on my feet were dry from standing on the towel, I put my shoes on, slipped my gel into my bra strap, did-up my helmet as per protocol and made my way to sprint up a hill to the bike section of the race.
Race Day – Bike
You heard that right folks the transition zone exit was up a ‘hill’ I mean some might not refer to it as a hill but either way it’s not common that you have to run the bike up a hill before attempting to mount to kick-off your ride. At the top of the hill I was greeted by one of my former coaches Jay – Lead Volunteer for the Bike Transition Zone – he threw me a high five as he told me to go and kill it on this section of the course!
The bike is a good section, my plan tends to be to settle into a steady pace, get myself fuelled/hydrated, even out my heart rate and keep an eye out for my tribe to show them some love. Mother Nature had other plans for us on this day, as I came down the Jameson on rap to Gardener I was immediately hit with a cruel headwind as I worked on my first incline of the course. What I can tell you is that the wind did not let up for ONE second on the whole 10km out to the DVP, at times it was difficult because you were putting so my effort into maintaining some speed to not lose time, while I was also attempting to maintain some energy in my legs for the run.
Once I reached the turn around point it was a different story, for a good part of the 10km back there was very little head wind and I believe that I was able to make up some of the time that I lost in the earlier half. The best part about the second half of the bike was keeping watch out for my ladies and the anticipation of them approaching so that I could show them some love as they whizzed past me. My coach also threw my some advice as she came by me, she told me to stay as low as I could for the out in cut down on the wind and remain as aerodynamic as possible. Moral of this story, I would love to get aero bars/arm rests for next season to ensure that I have an alternate position for my upper body to rest as I try to maintain aero during these tricky windy sections.
Race Day – Transition from Swim to Bike
Back in from the bike it was time to run down that hill and get myself ready for a 5km run before it would be time to cross the finish line! I must say coming off of the bike I was a bit hesitant to put my legs down in fear that they would feel like lead after that difficult 10k section of the course, to my surprise they actually felt quite good – thank you strength training – and I just knew that I need to not push myself too hard down the hill into the transition area to ensure I didn’t throw anything off as my legs returned to normal.
Race Day – Run
I exited the transition into the run fairly quickly as I opted to not wear clip-ins for this race, I immediately cracked open my gel to start nursing it and had my Nuun powered water bottle fastened to my arm for fuelling during the last leg. My initial thoughts once I started working into the run section was that I was so overjoyed that my legs felt so good after last year where I got off the bike and could barely run for more than a few minutes! Win!
The route for the run is interesting, you run out 2.5km along the Martin Goodman Trail before run down/up the incline a the Legion Office and then coming back to the finish in the closed lane of Lakeshore Blvd. While the back section in the lane of Lakeshore Blvd was good, I found that many folks out on the Martin Goodman Trail – running, biking, rollerblading, etc. – didn’t give much care or concern to the fact that there was a race presently in progress.
Along the run I would spend my time cheering for random strangers as they ran past, all while in my head I kept telling myself, “you’ve got this, you trained for this and you will NOT walk once this year during the run section.” What can I say, I’m Type A and I’m a tiny bit hard on myself, but the goal had been to cut out the walking this year and just push hard to the finish line. As I continued along the route I kept my eyes out for the Tribe ladies who cheers were exchanged with at every opportunity when we crossed paths. At one point a lady in front of me stopped and before I ran past her I made a point of telling her that she was rocking the race and killing the run, she had this! To me this is what this community is about – motivating both those you know and those who are putting in a good fight just life you even if you don’t know them.
All-in-all I was VERY happy with my run – no stopping, walking and minimal slowing down made for a decent pace to carry me towards the finish!
The Army I Call My Tribe
TTF brought out an array of Tribe ladies, many of whom were competing in their very first triathlon after stepping up to the challenge this winter. Ladies including my coach Heather, sole sisters Alex, Courtney, Melanie, Kim, Linda and even random strangers who became supporters along the route like Jen – these women are what made this race so incredible, the out and back loop played to our advantage in every way as we kept a watchful eye out for each other and shared the love throughout the entire course with each other and strangers alike! Please stay tuned as I summarize this incredible girl army I call my run family in a post that I am writing to highlight all of these incredible achievements throughout the training season for TTF and on Race Day.
Post Race all I wanted was some fluids and FOOD, food was top of mind! I crossed the finish line with my head held high and a smile on my face! Once I collected my medal and had my ankle chip removed I waited patiently for Jenna to cross before we embarked on the exit chute for food and to track down the other ladies who had already finished!
In true Tribe fashion we waited a the finish line for everyone to cross – Melanie, Courtney, Alex and a few others – we had started this together, we were sure as hell going to finish it together. Two of the best moments post race – besides lots of water and a pretty decent veggie burger – were the Tribe Ladies in the Relay Division walking away with 3rd place for the Sprint Distance and watching Alex + Courtney run the last few hundred meters of the race together before grasping one another’s hand to cross the finish line together! These ladies killed it!
Post-race brain is always an interesting thing and thankfully I had someone to giggle, gab, celebrate and laugh with all the way home while our bikes made a trike on the bike rack hooked up to the car – right Alex 😀
All-in-all I was very happy with my personal performance at my first Sprint Distance Triathlon. I know now where I need to make adjustments, I also know that the Olympic Distance i totally feasible and within my reach if it’s something that I would like to tackle this year before the season is over.
While my goal time was 1:30:00, I did come in just over 1:36:00 and I’m proud of that! I’m proud because it’s the first time that I’ve completed a full triathlon since the duathlon last summer didn’t quite count. Those 6 minutes are minutes that are easy to make adjustments for shaving off – swimming 750m versus 900m, biking without a headwind for half the course, purchasing some aero handlebars to allow me to be more aerodynamic during those windy periods and continuing again to work on my running endurance in the back half of these races.
TTF was certainly a fantastic experience for me, I learned a lot from this race both about myself and about what I expect during a race. I’ve got notes and things to action so that I am better, faster and stronger for the next one – which might be this summer if my life isn’t to crazy in the mean time.
To all of you who have been following this journey, who liked my pictures, sent me love and have encouraged me to continue to chase these crazy dreams of mine I would like to thank you! Thank you for being okay with the fact that I’m a bit of a scrappy hustler who isn’t going to quit because I know once I’ve started something I have to step-up to finish it!