Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ontario Women's Triathlon Race Report

My first ever running race was a women's 5K and it had chocolate, firefighters and medals that looked like silver keychains (I don't even remember getting one). I said never again. The marketing towards women of all things bubbly and pink was making me gag. No surprise since I am more of a tomboy myself and I don't get fashion, makeup and high heels. Whatever, that's not the point here. Ever since that first race, I was turned off by women specific races. It just seemed that they were getting more and more ridiculous as the time went by.

When Iron Girl came to Ontario a few years ago, I rolled my eyes three times inside my head when I saw the pink glitter on the medal. Only Swarowski crystals were missing from it, or was there a big, fat one in the middle?... I don't remember. Maybe I am just jealous that I didn't get one... A couple of years forward, and Multisport announced that they were going to have their own women's tri and I was very reluctant to participate. However, once I heard that Paolina Allan was going to be race director, and knowing her badassery, I started wondering if it was worth giving it a try. Only idiots don't change their minds, the saying goes. Phaedra said she was going to go, a few women from our tri club were interested as well... I said, what the hell, let's make it a party! (with a good dose of estrogen thrown in it, yikes).

Honestly, the lack of medals in triathlon has started to get to me. I race for bling, ok?? And it does not have to be pink, or to be covered in glitter, to be worth fighting for. While I have gotten into the top 10 often enough, I only made it on a triathlon podium once, and it was at Barrelman swim/bike last year thanks to a field of 20. So anyway... this race had medals, yay!! And they were going to be ... pink. *sigh* Beggars can be choosers, right? Yet another reason to toe the line.

The morning of the race started like any other weekend for a triathlete... alarm clock at  6am to head out for a workout. Given that I was going to drive for over an hour, I was very thankful for the 10am late start. I took my sweet time to eat breakfast, pack my transition bag, fill my water bottles etc... Zin helped me with my bike, then off I went. I was still undecided what to wear, so I took both my FMCT tri kit and my TRS Racing team bike jersey and tri shorts. The weather gods promised to dump copious amounts of water on our heads, but I was still unsure about the temperature. I decided to wait to arrive on site to make a choice.

Once there, I racked my bike, then proceeded to pick up my race kit, chip and get body marked. Once again, the 42 on my calf smiled at me. The "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" according to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In a few days from now, I may even start glowing in the dark, you'll see. I made a portapotty stop, hugged my friends, listened to John Salt and Paolina doing the race briefing (I didn't even bother look at the race maps, oops), then squeezed into my wetsuit as the first raindrops were starting to fall on us.
FMCT models. I want to be Barb when I grow up. 
I headed to the beach, trying to figure out where the run back to T1 was going to be. Someone said that we're going through a tunnel?? Oh, there it is! It goes under the road... that's cool, I guess. I was going to be in the second wave with the 40-49 ladies. The lack of men in the race was a little confusing, but in the end everyone in wetsuits and swim caps looked just about the same, with a little more curves and spunk. The energy was awesome to tell you the truth. Not only it was going to be one of the largest Multisport races, but it had 250 women and that was truly impressive. To put it in perspective, the last Olympic tri of the season had 173 participants altogether. The thought of a larger age group gave me an even bigger motivation to race hard and see how I can hold my own out there, despite my serious lack of training this season.

With all the excitement around, I had little to no time to warm up. I was still trying to figure out the course buoys and how many dolphin dives I was supposed to do, thanks to the shallow water that went on forever. I did manage to get in the water for a minute or two, just enough to get water inside my wetsuit and on my face. I watched with amusement the first wave start and how many women ran all the way up to the first buoy. But I could hear Paolina in the back telling us that's better to swim as soon as we can and I took a mental note. Not even 3 minutes later the gun went off and it was our time to run through the waves, even though there were none that morning.

Went to Hell and back
I ran for maybe 20 meters, then did 2-3 dolphin dives and started swimming pretty hard, while a bunch of feet were hitting the ground all around me. And for the first time ever in my open water swimming experience, I could not breathe. I could feel a panic attack building up and I was unable to take deep breaths. Usually big breaths are supposed to help with regaining your calm, but it was impossible to do so at the time. I faced two options: stand up and walk, or just keep swimming... just keep swimming... just keep swimming... I opted for the second option just because Ellen always makes me laugh. It took at least 200m to finally be able to breathe somewhat normally. However, given how hard I was swimming, there was no time to take peaceful breaths. I was in full race mode, alright. Thankfully the course (500m) was very short and I knew that I only needed to survive the ordeal for 10 minutes or so. I swam until my arms hit the sand, then stood up and ran towards the shore. You can tell by the photo above that was not my most blissful swim. As a matter of fact, it was my fastest swim this year!! Where is T1 again??

It seemed like it took forever to get back, as we almost ran a full circle around the transition area. That's ok, more time to appreciate how I did not die. Yay me.

Back in transition, I found my spot without too much effort and quickly put on my helmet and bike shoes. By then the rain was in full force, but having thought to cover my mat with a large garbage bag before the race start, I was glad to see that both pairs of shoes were not yet soaked. I trotted my way out of transition and right away got in aero and dropped the hammer. The ride was an out and back along Lake Simcoe and I was joyfully reminded of the ride I did with Zin, Paul and Mellen last year that brought us to Jackson Point on a cold fall day. This time it was quite warm, despite the buckets of water being dumped on us. I love riding in the rain, especially when the course is flat and I am not freezing my ass. I kept passing girls and lost my voice shouting "Left!". During the entire ride I was only passed twice, once by Clare and once by Felicia. I took a note of their names and wondered if I was going to see them again that day, but given the difference in speed, it was more like... buh bye!! Enjoy the podium!
My bike Trinity and I having fun in the rain
I did not look at my watch once, going only by feel and asking myself every once in a while... can you push harder? Obviously my fitness is nowhere near where it was before, but I still felt quite powerful passing so many people out there. Obviously, this was a race targeted towards beginners, so I cannot really compare, but still... an average of 30.5kph is not too shabby. I took a gel halfway and a few sips of water. I had never done such a short race and I kept wondering if I wasn't supposed to drink more, but the rain kept me hydrated, I guess.

And so I was back in transition in just over 29 minutes. Question was, how much was I going to hurt on the run? I quickly changed into my running shoes and put on my bib, then ran out. I waited a few minutes to settle into a groove before looking at my watch. I saw some numbers in the 5:30/km and decided to try and stay on that pace until the end. I knew that I had run faster earlier in the season, but not after a bike. This was going to be a challenge, but doable I thought. I passed a few women and gave myself a virtual pat on the back. 4km... that is less than a Taekwondo run around the block. I can do this!!

Once I got to the turnaround, I passed a woman in my AG. Honestly I wasn't sure whether she was in the du or the tri, but it made me run scared. From that moment on, my goal became to keep ahead of her. I did not look back, but I kept pushing forward.
You can clearly see how I kicked it into the second gear by my heart rate trace, for a beautiful negative split.
In the end I met my goal of 5:30min/km, but I was spent!! I kept wondering in the last km if I was going to puke at the finish line again. I crossed the mat exhausted but relieved to be done. Can you tell? Thanks to this effort I finished 5th out of 32 in my age group and I could not be happier with this result.
That was a hard fight, it deserved a fist pump!
Paolina gave me my medal and I instantly forgot that it was pink. New distance (my shortest race ever!), new PR, sweet medal, great company, fantastic venue. When can I do it again?? It was truly amazing and I could not be happier for Multisport and Paolina for such a success. I heard that they are going to add more women's races next year and I say, bring it on!! You made me a convert and I love it how they encourage more women to join the sport. I will be more than happy to represent!

After the race I made sure to change clothes since I was soaked to the bone, then went to grab some food and a glass of bubbly. I watched the awards ceremony and I was super happy to see Barb, Phaedra and Amanda on the podium. So much fun!!
I won the crazy hair competition this time, yay! Phaedra must be impressed.
Then I went home and hang my new medal along with all the other ones. I may not have many, not even a rack to display them properly, but this one truly brought a smile to my face for everything that it represents. I made some awesome friendships thanks to running and triathlon and this medal shows how I finally embraced the community and the joyful spirit that brings us all together in competition and outside of it. It may be pink, but I love it.


  1. Incredible race, Riri! Way to give it all you had! Sounds like a pretty awesome event - pink medal and all. :)

  2. Congrats, what a great race!! I like the bling, it's bright and cheerful hanging there with the others!!

  3. You're so funny. And great race - nice run!