I was at Gears Bike Shop collecting my mountain bike after they had finished their post-Tour Divide servicing when I saw a fellow wearing a triathlon shirt. “Are there any local races coming up?” I asked. I needed something to console myself after not being able to return to complete the Tour Divide. He told me that the following weekend was the inaugural Toronto Triathlon Festival with an Olympic distance (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike ride and 10 km run) event. Within an hour I was registered, even though I had not swum at all, nor run more than twice, in the two months since Ironman Brazil.
An advantage of doing a triathlon on the spur of the moment without training is that one has (or should have) no expectations of a good performance. Of course being somewhat competitive I would still try my best, but I would definitely not be aiming for a personal record (2:27:39) for the distance.
I did a few runs through the park near where my parents live to stretch the legs. Based on these I decided that I would aim for a 4:30/km pace. For swimming I popped over to the pool at the LA Fitness Centre and swam 1.5 km at a relaxed pace just to make sure that my body remembered what it felt like to swim. I figured 35 – 40 minutes was realistic for the swim.
When I went to the Race Briefing and Expo I was not on the list as having registered, but they sorted it out. The Expo was a non-event; after the Boston Marathon I have been spoiled for life. The race briefing was interesting as they described the challenges it had taken to get the race organized. The swim was in Lake Ontario at Ontario Place, the bike ride was along the Gardiner and Don Valley Expressways, with the northbound lanes closed to all traffic. The run was along the waterfront to the west of Ontario Place.
The morning of the race we were up early. Lis and I left home at 05:00 and found our way to the Don Valley where we enjoyed cycling down the closed lane. We only saw one other cyclist.
We got to the transition area and it didn’t take me long to set up my gear. I was in the middle of the women, as they had given me the number of a woman who had withdrawn in lieu of my missing entry. I wandered down to the water to put on my wet suit. I hadn’t even unpacked it after Ironman Brazil and I still had the label from the race with my race number which had rusted to my zipper. Lazy of me or what!
The swim was a group water start from under the walkway to Ontario Place. Mine was the third men’s group which would be followed by two women’s groups. I liked the arrangements as it suggested that I would not be swum over as much by faster swimmers as I have been at some races.
Soon we were off in the melee that characterizes any triathlon swim. The course was very calm as it was protected by the harbour wall. The water was surprisingly warm and the only disconcerting thing was the detritus one could see at the bottom of the water. One fellow reported later seeing a fridge! This area is on reclaimed land.
One thing which I have been working on over the last two years or so is improving my sighting. I have a propensity to pull to the right since my right shoulder has never fully recovered from the injury before Ironman Australia. I’ve learned to get into a breathing rhythm and regularly site the buoys. I had no problems doing that this race and I saw quite a few others going all over the place (as is my natural tendency). I found the swimming difficult for the first 3-500 metres, no doubt because of my total of 45 minutes of swimming in the last two months. After that my body settled into race mode.
The last 300 metres of so of the swim took us through the marina and we navigated a path around the boats. Fortunately, there was no petrol in the water. The rising sun made sighting difficult at times, but before too long I was at the exit and ran into transition with a 28:07 for my swim. My fastest time ever for the distance! Pays not to train it seems ….
As always I struggled out of my wet suit but eventually had it off and was running up the hill out of transition to start the bike ride. The course was moderately flat for the first 6+ km and I made good time. I was passed by quite a few serious triathletes on killer bikes so that told me I had a really good swim time. I was using my road bike that I leave in Toronto and really missed having my time trial bike: the race leant itself to a fast aero bike.
I passed quite a few people; and was passed by quite a few as well. As I neared the turn around my aero bar came loose so I had to stop and tighten it. Better to waste a minute than risk a crash. The return leg was downhill, but there was a very strong headwind, so it was a lot of work to get back to transition. I only managed an average of 32.5 km/h for the ride which was a disappointment; a lot less than the 35.7 km/h on my last Olympic race. Blame the headwind and the bike 🙂
After a quick transition I was out on the run course. I love the run for two reasons. Firstly, the suffering is almost over – you only have to run 10 km. But I’m also generally one of the faster runners and I enjoy picking off people ahead of me. I was passed by only three runners but passed quite a few. The trail was shared with other Sunday recreationalists so a few times one had to dodge the slow movers, but it was workable. I ran with Mike – one of the three who passed me – from km 6-8 when I ramped it up for the last two km and left him behind. I did the 10 km in 45:35, only 4 seconds/km slower than my target.
My final time was 2:31:16 which gave me 6/25 in my age group, and 174/496 in total. This was my second fastest Olympic distance race. So it obviously pays not to train so much and do these on the spur of the moment.
This is a really nice race which has potential to be very popular. Except for the swim, with its looping through the boats, the course is great. If I’m around next year and it’s on I’d do it again. Hopefully with a better bike.