A First Time for Everything - The Toronto Island Tri Race Report

This race is my favourite race of the season, hands down.  I've done it every year since 2012.   If you're really bored, you can read each race report here, here and here.   In 2012 it was 750m swim, 30km bike and 7.5km run but they've since shortened it to a 20km bike and 5km run due to congestion on the race course.  Toronto Island isn't that big and both the bike and the run courses are loops.  The run course used to be mostly on grass but now, because it's shortened, it's almost entirely on pavement, which is great.  It's also completely flat.  You do get some wind on the course which can make things a bit tough depending on which way it's blowing.

Because the area we race in is small, the waves are spread out more so than normal to avoid congestion on the bike course.  That generally means it's a bit of a long morning, especially for me as the last few years I've typically gone in the last wave.  This year was no exception.  We got to the Island at 7:30 am to set up.  The race starts at 8:00 am with the elites and pros.  My wave went at 9:24 am.  By the time I had started, the elites were done and packing up to go home.  G started at 9:00 am, which meant he was done as I was just going out on the run.

The day started off a bit overcast, but the sun started to peek out just before my wave started.  The water temp this year was 19 degrees vs. the 13 it was last year.  Still a bit cool for my liking but tolerable at least.  Since I had ample amounts of time, I met up with my friend David and went down to watch him start.  I then found G, went to transition, grabbed my wetsuit and we made our way down to the lake to do a warm up.  I got in and dunked myself quickly.  Yup, it was cool.   I put my face in and started swimming.  The longer I have to warm up the better for me.  I seem to be able to calm myself down a fair bit with a longer warm up.  I did some easy swimming and some harder swimming and then stopped to watch some of the other waves go off.  Before I knew it, it was G's turn to go.  I kissed him good luck and watched them leave.  I had 24 minutes to kill so I continued to swim on and off.  I tried to stay in the water as long as possible.

People started getting into position so instead of going right to the back, I positioned myself off to the side near the front.  My wave was quite large (women 40+ and men 60+) but most people seemed to be hanging back a bit.  I wanted to have a decent swim so I figured I'd dive right in and go for it this time around.  The horn went off, I hit start on my Garmin and waded into the water, waiting for the right space to jump in and start going.  I found a bit of open water and started swimming.  I caught some feet almost immediately but made my way through them. My breathing was erratic and I focused on trying to regulate it.  It was tough because of the chop created by everyone in the water.  I started breathing just to my right to avoid inhaling water when I turned to my left.  This resulted it me swimming off course slightly.  I glanced up to sight and noticed that I had passed the orange marker buoy but that I was way off to the right.  So I corrected that and tried to get back to bilateral breathing.  I eventually found my rhythm by counting strokes.  1-2-3-breathe.  The next thing I knew, I was at the first green buoy.  Time to turn left.  This is where I started to pick up the pace.  My breathing was under control, now I felt I could work harder.  I was swimming fairly wide and had to watch that I didn't swim off course again.  I tend to pull harder on my right so I end up drifting right more.  I glanced up to see the second green buoy just as I passed it so I made a sharp turn and headed towards shore.  At this point I was really working hard.  I found a pair of fast feet and hung on for a bit but my inability to swim in a straight line had me swimming off to this guys left side.  I managed to find his feet again and stay there.  I swam hard until my hands scraped the sand and then I stood up and ran.  I still had a few meters of knee deep water to get through before I hit the shore.  As soon as I hit the shore, I glanced down at my watch and saw 13 minutes.  SWEET.  I made it through the entire swim without a single freakout.  AND, I didn't stop ONCE.  As soon as I got out of the water, I knew I had a long run up to transition so that was going to give me ample opportunity to get the top half of my wetsuit off.

Swim with run up to T1:  14:41

I ran into T1 and quickly found my bike.  The ground in transition was dotted with wood chips and dirt, which made for quite the mess.  I started wriggling out of my wetsuit but lost my balance and fell over on one knee.  I quickly got up and managed to get the rest of my wetsuit off without incident.  I was going to wipe my feet off on my towel but opted not to.  Mistake.  As soon as I shoved my left shoe on and started running, I could feel a wood chip stuck to my foot.  Awesome.

T1:  1:30 

I ran up to the mount line, crossed it and got on my bike.  I was hoping I wouldn't notice the wood chip stuck to the bottom of my foot but alas as soon as I clipped in and started pedaling, I felt it.  I knew it was going to drive me nuts so I tried to shake my foot around in my shoe.  It moved the chip a bit but I didn't fall off.  Annoying.  I probably could have undone my shoe and taken my foot out but I didn't know what position I was in so I didn't want to lose time if I didn't have to so I rode with it in my shoe.  I got into my aerobars and got ready to put the hammer down.  I was really hoping I didn't get stuck behind a vehicle like I did last year.  I tucked in and started working.  Almost immediately I had to start calling out on your left.  The first bit of the course was fairly sheltered but as soon as it opened up towards the turn around, I got hit with a headwind.  And then some crosswinds, just to make it fun.  I could really feel the lactic acid building up in my legs.  My breathing was pretty ragged as well.  I tried to dial it back a bit and get my breathing into some kind of rhythm.  The course is kind of shaped like a lollipop on the top end as you go around a loop for the turn around so I got out of my aerobars here, caught my breath and eased up a bit.  Normally I would have been on the brakes through here but I wasn't.  Clearly my early morning rides with Morning Glory have paid off in the bike handling department.  At least when it comes to taking wider turns at almost full speed.

I started to make my way back to transition for lap number two and was pleasantly surprised to feel a bit of wind at my back.  I glanced down at my Garmin to see that my current average speed was just over 34kph.  Not bad.  I figured I was capable of faster than that so I put my head down and pedaled harder.  The slight tailwind was a nice bonus.  I hoped that it was there for my second lap.  I motored towards the turnaround point, surprised that I hadn't yet caught anyone in my AG.  Could I have been first out of the water?  No way.  THAT would be a first for me for sure.  I slowed up as I got to the sharp turn and at the last minute, unclipped.  Guess my bike handling skills still need a bit of work, ha ha.  I rounded the bend, clipped back in and got back into my aerobars.   Hammer time, part two.  My legs were really feeling the burn and when I hit the open area, there was a decent head wind, followed by some gusting crosswinds that actually blew my front wheel a little sideways.  My legs were screaming at me at this point but I could see my average speed was close to 35kph so I kept pushing.  I flew through the roundabout / turnaround and motored along.  There was a great tailwind for a couple of km's that made me feel like I was flying.

I made my way back round the turnaround and turned off towards the dismount line.  I unclipped and jumped off my bike.

Bike:  33:52 for an average of 35.43/kph - a new PR on that course.

Photo courtesy of Mike Cheliak - My Sports Shooter
I ran into T2, racked my bike and pulled my shoes off.  This time I took the time to wipe my feet off.  I had to get rid of the wood chip and all the other crap on my feet.  I then took the time to put body glide on my feet as my Zoot shoes have been giving me blisters.  So T2 was longer than I would have liked but whatever, you gotta do what you gotta do!

T2:  1:14

This run course is fast.  My current 5km PR is on this course, OFF the bike no less.  I knew that I probably wasn't going to come close to beating it given my lack of regular speed work but I was definitely going to push it.  They changed the course slightly this year as well.  Last year it was 4.8km but this year they added a little "hump" to the loop that added the extra 200m.  Every year I'd always get messed up with my loop count but for some reason the addition of this little hump, made it easy for me to remember what loop I was on.   I booked it out of transition and made my way along the grass to the bike path.  I heard my name and looked up to see my sister & brother in law and my niece and nephew.  YAY!  I waved as I went flying by.  My legs didn't feel great but that's not surprising.  I've done no real brick training since Eagleman.  I figured they'd sort themselves out after the first km or so and I wasn't wrong.  I motored along like a crazy woman, checking out the calves of almost every woman I passed.  Still no one in my AG.  There's usually SOMEONE ahead of me.   Loop one, done.  Still no one.  G yells "Hurry Up" as I run by.  I stick my tongue out at him.  Onto loop two.   There are a few more people out at this point.  So more calf checking ensues.  Still no one.  The thought pops into my head:  "What if I've been in the lead since the swim??"  Nah.  I keep chugging along.  I see my friend Paula who is always such a bundle of positive energy - she yells "You're looking great!!!"

I finish loop two and head out onto loop three.  My legs have found their groove.  I'm definitely working hard.  I could feel my shoe rubbing slightly on the ball of my foot.  It's not painful, just annoying.  I keep digging.  I'm not paying attention to my splits, I'm just running.   As I head out onto loop three, the volunteer that is marshaling yells "you're Killing IT!"  as I run by.  That made me laugh.  I could feel my form starting to fade.  My shoulders were rolling forward.  I pushed them back.  As I rounded the corner by the ferry line, the announcer there said "here she comes again, looking STRONG".  Nice to get a little support on the top end of the course.   The course had become a lot busier as the Island was getting busier with people coming to spend the day there.  I had to dodge a few folks here and there but nothing that really slowed me down.  I went over the timing mat and saw lap 3 come up.  One more to go.

I still hadn't seen anyone from my age group.  It was kind of strange.  Even though I was tired, I just really wanted to be done so I tried to pick up the pace.  My lungs felt like they were going to burst.  I certainly don't have that top end speed / fitness that I had last year.  Use it or lose it, so the saying goes, and I haven't been using it.  At least not very often.  I came around the top end of the course and had to wedge my way through a small cluster of people.  It would have taken more energy for me to get around them so I said excuse me and ducked through the middle.  Gotta take the most direct route to the finish line.  There were even more people on the path now so I had to do some bobbing and weaving.  I made the little turn, hit the timing mat and saw lap 4.  YESSSSSS.  I rounded the bend, saw G and yelled, "heading to the finish!".   I turned onto the grass and made my way towards the finish line.  There was no one in front of me.  As I rounded the bend I saw a couple of guys finish but the finishing chute was totally wide open.  That has never happened for me at this race.  Steve Fleck spotted me and announced that I was finishing.  I could hear my niece and nephew cheering.  I crossed the finish line and immediately looked down to stop my Garmin.  And it was all caught on camera.  At least they got a good action shot before I crossed the line, ha ha.



I shook hands with Jason Vurma, one of the race organizers and wandered off to find G and the rest of his family.  I couldn't find them but I did find my friends David and Mike.  David asked me how I did and only then did I look down at my Garmin to check my final time.  1:12:04.  I was pretty sure that was a course P.R.  We stood around and chatted for a while.  Mike ended up getting second in his AG.  I eventually found my crew.  I waited around a bit and then went to check results.  I ended up being 1st in my AG and 4th female overall.  The best part?  I led the race from start to finish. I was first out of the water, first off the bike and first in the run.  THAT was a first for me, ha ha.  Normally I have to climb my way up the standings when I get on the bike and then I seal the deal in the run.  Not this day. 


I can't think of a better way to cap off my season than this.  Despite all of my issues, I've still managed to have a really solid year of racing.   That and I hit a new power PR on the bike.


The Morning Glory rides are definitely paying off.  I do think it's time for me to do another FTP test, just to see where things are at.  Perhaps just before I hunker down in the Pain Cave for the winter.  Now it's time to get some more running back into my life because Scotia is a mere 7 weeks away.

Time to get some longer km's under my belt!