Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Toronto Triathlon Festival Race Report

I know that it's been 10 days since the event and I am fashionably late with a race report, but if you just want to know whether I finished or not, I can make it really easy for you : I am now officially a triathlete for having crossed the finish line of the inaugural Toronto Triathlon Festival in 3:12:14. Below are the official results.
Are we good? Okay, I can blog my brain away now, yay! (grab a coffee, this is kinda long)

A year ago, if you asked me what a triathlon was, I would have babbled something about 3 sports, not quite sure which ones and in which order, bet it was a cousin with the pentathlon and the decathlon... that was all I knew about triathlons, until I came across Steve in a Speedo's blog while googling some random running  stuff. And then I started reading more and not only I got hooked on reading his hilarious stories and race reports full of TMIs, but also discovered a whole other world out there that looked like a lot of fun, going from water to 2 wheels and then onto your two legs without changing clothes, or very little of them. That looked intriguing and totally in reach, but back then, triathlon still didn't seem like something that I would  want to try.

The months went on and I continued training for my first marathon, had my share of ups and downs in the process and in September I started working with coach Dave who felt like a perfect fit for me for being a crazy nut himself, fresh of becoming an Ironman at Coeur d'Alene a few months prior. I told myself, he must understand me, know what it is to train for endurance, so he should definitely be able to help me shed a few pounds and cross that marathon finish line as well. After watching the Ironman championships in Kona a month later though, a seed was being planted in my brain. All those people like you and me who wanted it bad enough, they conquered the hardest of all, the Ironman. So maybe an overweight, slow poke, injury prone, mom of two like me may be able to finish a sprint or an olympic triathlon one day... and why not?

Fast forward a few months, I finish not only one, but two marathons and all of a sudden, EVERYTHING seems possible. Signed up for my first triathlon and here I am now, craving for more. This is just the start, but how well did it go?

I had been counting the days up to this event for sure, but because each individual distance was relatively short compared to how far I went in my training, it didn't feel as scary as the marathon. This was also the reason why I didn't sign up for the sprint distance, it just wasn't challenging enough for me. I don't want to sound pompous or over confident, but to keep moving forward, I need challenges that I know would make me suffer in the process (ok, now I sound totally masochistic, but anyway, what I mean is... gosh, forget it). Training for a sprint would have felt too easy and I was scared that my fitness level would actually decrease and I would have to start all over if I wanted to do another marathon (which I am actually signed up for, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 14). Coach Dave sure knew to keep the bar high for me though and at times it did feel like I was training for an Ironman, so on Sunday morning when my alarm went off, I knew I was ready. But was I going to hurt?

It didn't help that on Friday I got sick with a nasty summer cold that just went downhill from there. I tried to retaliate immediately by doubling my Vitamin C intake and by starting an All-in-One Benylin regimen right away, but on Saturday when I went to pick up my race kit downtown Toronto I was still feeling feverish, nauseous, dizzy and overall pretty weak. My cough was in full crescendo and I knew that I would not be able to participate without a good dose of cough medicine in me.

But there was no way I was going to back up because of this cold. As long as I was able to breathe and stand vertical, I was a go. So I set a few alarm clocks all around 4:30am and after a sleep that felt quite mediocre, I got up, showered, had an oatmeal frittata and banana for breakfast, woke up hubbs at 5:30 and off we went to Ontario Place where the starting line was. Hubbs dropped me off with a tire check and a kiss, then I made my way to transition where I set up my little piece of real estate and racked my bike for the first time ever, just steps away from Canada's Olympians - Simon Whitfield and Paula Findlay (man, those people are fit). I couldn't have asked for a better spot, the organizers must have given them by age groups, I swear, the oldest closest to the exit ramp, just in case Alzheimer kicked in.

I was in the last swim wave, all females 35 years old and up, plus the parathlete(s). Waited 18 minutes until the gun went off, but before that we got about 5 minutes in the water for warm up thanks to a moment of confusion during which the organizers contemplated starting the last 2 waves together, then changed their mind. The swim was rather uneventful, not much contact as the wave was thin and there was plenty of space for all of us in the canal, the water was the perfect temperature and I got in the groove rather quickly, my mind being distracted by the vegetation at the bottom of the canal, along with pieces of concrete and a few scared fish. All this resulted in a 35:55 time, the fastest for me so far.

In my first transition ever, I could not find my right biking shoe. It was there though, like THERE, under my eyes, but I just couldn't see it. Brain fart. I started panicking and turning every item on my towel over until it magically appeared to me. Not sure how much time it cost me, but compared to the other women in my AG, it felt like forever. Anyway, I regained my composure and after a T1 of 3:06, I was finally on the bike.

However, the panic never left me. Coach said to start the bike for 10min in Z2, but heart was in the 170bpm, which is Z4 and it never went down as much as I tried to relax. I got passed a few times on the bike, but some of these people were mashing hard while I was doing my spin uphill. I passed a few of them back on my way down, but also fought a headwind for the entire second half, which made me a little cranky. I wasn't sure how fast I was going, I had ran out of water in my aero bottle and I was too focussed on staying upright on the bike and eating my chomps so I don't pass out. Did I mention that it was HOT? Eventually I made it back to transition without incident and zoomed through it in 1:13, leaving with a banana in hand.

The run felt much longer than expected and the damn heart rate was still up in the 170s. It definitely decided that I wouldn't get a break. I kept on drinking every other water station and pouring water on my head, back and chest to keep cool. At the turn around I still had my banana unopened in my hand and one of the volunteers shouted - time to eat the banana! - so I opened it and managed to eat about half of it over the next 2km. Stomach wasn't feeling so great, but I knew that was going to be my only fuel for the run, so I kept on taking little bites until I felt full enough. Because of my heart rate being so high for the entire time, I never tried to pick up the pace, but rather tried to keep a constant forward motion and make sure I don't go into cardiac arrest. I felt like dragging my feet at times, but in the end I was pretty satisfied with the 1:03:13, very close to my goal of 1h.

For the last 2km a cramp also installed itself under my ribcage on the right and it became really hard to breathe. From that moment on I knew I was counting the steps to the finish line. Thankfully I saw hubbs and my boys and put on my best run in the last hundred meters for them.

Overall this has been an amazing experience, I loved being in the race, I loved the challenge and the fact that my training felt worthwhile. I am not sure why I couldn't relax or my heart rate never went down to a manageable zone, it may have been the cough medicine I took or the double dose of Vitamin C - bottom line is that the illness made this race harder than it should have been and I can't wait to sign up for another one where I can enjoy myself more.

Runkeeper Linkage:


  1. Congrats on your first tri! I can't imagine doing an oly while sick, props to you for powering through it despite not being at 100%.

    1. Thank you David, I see that you are making progress by leaps and bounds too. You will see that once you feel ready, cold or not, you will do this too.

  2. w00t! Congratulations Irina! So proud. :)

  3. Great job! I'm sorry that you weren't 100% for it, hopefully next time! Congrats!