July 17, 2014

Race report - Toronto Triathlon Festival, Olympic Tri

July 13, 2014
Finish time 3:04:50 (18th place AG)
Breakfast: instant apple/cinnamon oatmeal, tea, banana with peanut butter, water

Turlicious, the good-luck turkey

This was another weekend of firsts. My first Olympic distance triathlon, as well as my first time at the Toronto Triathlon Festival . The morning started with the weather looking threatening, and I had just enough time to get my transition area set up before the skies opened. Anyone not already in their wetsuit grabbed for it -- because all the Body Glide in the world won't make pulling a wetsuit onto wet skin suck less. We got a full-on soaker as we headed down to the swim start, which was delayed. I'd seen lightning, which may have influenced the hesitation to throw that first wave of folks into the lake.

After a chilly swim the day before -- cold enough to make exposed body parts ache -- I pulled both my swim caps solidly over my ears to keep as much water out as possible. As our wave jumped in, several ladies shrieked at the cold. I didn't find it too uncomfortable, but I heard a number of people ended up being pulled from the water. According to the same report, at least one person got straight back out after entering the water, quitting the race before even starting the swim. As we bobbed around waiting for the start, a fellow dipped some kind of device on a pole into the water between the swimmers and the dock. If this was where they were measuring the temperature, it explains why they got a 17 degree reading in water that felt much colder. Someone probably peed on the thermometer.

Women's 40-44 swim start

The start was uneventful, as athletes eased into getting their bodies moving and lungs working. Unfortunately the narrow course converged early at the first turn buoy. I got sandwiched between a couple of folks, and took a blow to the face that cut my cheek and knocked my goggles off. I was glad to have layered the strap between my two swim caps, so they didn't go far. Still took me a moment to empty the water and re-seat everything. Once out in the open channel, it got very choppy. Waves came over the breakwall, and breathing was best done toward the shore side -- especially on the away leg. I got passed a lot, and didn't have much luck finding or keeping feet. On the last half of the return leg, I started to encounter people having worse luck than I was. I passed a few breaststrokers, someone treading water, and another fellow clinging to a kayak. 

Around the final turn buoy, I made a beeline for the exit ramp -- ignoring the boat transoms and trying not to think about the careless graywater pumpout, spilled fuel, and other harbour staples that go with them.

This was not a good swim for me. I wasn't able to get into a decent rhythm, and didn't feel like I was making any kind of headway for the effort I was expending. 

Swim time: 42:48
T1: 3:02

Transition was more fiddly than usual, as I had my shoes stuffed in plastic bags to keep them dry. The steep ramp up to the mount line was made a little dodgier due to the rain, but I didn't see anyone wipe out in their cleats. A quick jaunt through the CNE grounds brought us out onto the Gardner Expressway. I soon heard "On your left!" -- but between the narrowed lane and potholes full of water, I didn't have much space to maneuver. Electing not to get run over, I hit a hole and my BTA bottle went flying. As I pulled over to stop, a nice volunteer grabbed my bottle and ran it up to me. I thanked her, and we commented on the minefield of gel wrappers and ejected water bottles that littered the road. I've never been at a race where people tossed so much garbage on the bike course.

We soon turned north onto the wide, smooth Don Valley Parkway, helped along by a generous tailwind. I had confidence in my bike's ability to handle the wet, and it didn't disappoint. Have you met my bike? Its name is River -- after the Serenity character. Graceful, beautiful, and a little twitchy... but kicks ass and has your back when the chips are down. Good bike, mine is.

Meet River

The turnaround at Eglinton came surprisingly quickly. I crouched down in aero and made myself as small as possible in the face of what was now a substantial headwind. The rolling course was more downhill than up on the way back, and before long I was back at the Gardner heading up the on-ramp. I'll spare you the details of my fight to get a waffle package open with my teeth at this juncture, but I will confirm that I failed to get this done before the headwind turned into a crosswind. I tried unsuccessfully to stuff the rest of the waffle into my trisuit pocket, and it seemed like I might be doomed to ride the rest of the way on the basebar with half a waffle in one hand. Finally crammed it into my bento and got back down to business. 

I was feeling good, and allowed myself to turn it up a notch on this last part of the course. "Left," I called as I moved to pass a couple of guys. Contrary to the stereotypical -- but thankfully rare, in my experience -- male response to getting chicked, the fellow closest to me said encouragingly "Yep, go ahead... go get 'em!!" It's amazing how energizing it is to have a fellow competitor root for you. Off I went. "Time to drop the hammer!" He called out as we crossed paths again on the last Gardner turnaround. The final hairpin turn into the CNE grounds was awkward, and I lost speed clipping out and being a little conservative on the wet pavement. I wound my way back toward the dismount line and shuffled down the ramp on my cleats, satisfied with my bike leg.

Bike time: 1:23:00
T2: 2:23

Thankfully, my running shoes had stayed snug and dry in their plastic bag. I saved some time in transition, electing to skip the visor and sunglasses. I did grab the last of my waffle and gulped it down on my way out. Made for an unflattering photo at the run exit, but what are you going to do. My legs felt good. I told myself I had new legs for the run... my bike legs were left behind. The run course down Lakeshore was great... I watched the waves come over the breakwall into the channel we had just swum in. The running path was scenic, and passersby out for their morning jog or dog walk smiled encouragingly at those of us wearing numbers. 

I felt great, and just gave it all I had over the 10k distance. I've never raced an open 10k before, nor one in a triathlon for that matter... but I had the first 10k of my half-marathon as a benchmark, and I beat that time by about 4 minutes. Shortly after I finished, the skies opened again. I let the rain wash away the sweat, Lake Ontario water, and Gatorade, then it was over to the tent for a massage -- the perfect way to end a great race.

Run time: 53:38

Mmmm, Hero burger!

Need a goalie mask for the swim next time

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