Toronto Triathlon Race Recap – Part 2

The first thing I felt was a searing burning sensation in the bottom of my feet. This sensation spread instantly up to my hands and my face, the only areas not protected by my wetsuit.

The water was absolutely FRIGID, ice cold, and I’m not talking about “squeal when you jump in the pool because it’s a bit chilly” cold. I’m still scratching my head over how on earth it’s possible for that water to have been so frigid when it’s been so ungodly hot in Toronto for the last 2 weeks straight….

When I came up to the surface, I took a huge gasping breath. The water was so cold that it had literally taken my breath away! I immediately started to panic. There was no way that I could swim in this water. The thought of even putting my face back under the water was so horrific that I couldn’t even imagine doing it even one more time. I turned to the girl beside me and started rambling about how totally freaked out I was and how cold it was. The total stranger reassured me that it would warm up when we got going.

What would I do without the advice of total strangers eh?

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long and the airhorn went within about 15 seconds to send us on our way.

For my first three strokes, I kept my head above water and then I finally took the plunge and stuck it back under. I realized within about 30 seconds that the girl had been right, and that the cold wasn’t so awful when you got moving. I stayed towards the back of the pack and started to truck along.

I started off swimming 3 strokes to 1 breath (the optimal stroke, I know), but I found that my breathing was getting a little bit panicky and shallow, so I made the conscious decision to switch back to 2 strokes to 1 breath (so non-optimal, but whatever). My breathing calmed down a lot, and I felt much more comfortable, so I decided to stick with this for the rest of the swim and just be very careful to lift my head to make sure that my lopsided breathing wasn’t steering my off course like it did in the Milton Triathlon.

I knew that I was towards the back of the pack, but I felt really good in the swim. My strokes were consistent and although I kind of wondered when we would be done a couple of times, I was never really “uncomfortable” while I was in the water.

Well, there was the breath that I took when I turned my head to the side and caught a huge piece of slimy, green algae right in my mouth….that was somewhat uncomfortable. I’m sure my children will all have mutations now that I’ve swam in (and ingested half of) Lake Ontario. Shudder.

I got to the stairs and was very grateful for a hand out of the water from a poor, poor soul who was standing up to her waist in the water to help us get up the steps. She must have been frozen like a Popsicle from the waist down, the poor girl wasn’t even wearing a wetsuit.
I got out of the water and felt like I had been drinking tequila for about 8 hours straight. I’ve been finding that when I get out of the water after swimming any distance I’m really dizzy and a bit disoriented, so this was nothing new, but there are some pretty funny pictures of me with my hands out trying to “steady” myself as I’m tip toeing across the concrete towards the transition zone.

Sara swim

Sara Mariane swim

Matt and my friend Mariane (who was signed up to do the Sprint distance race later that morning) were standing right there about one foot away from me when I came out of the water (you can actually see Mariane in the picture above, she’s the one clapping her hands in the gray sweater!).

While I was changing for the bike, Matt was yelling out to me from the side of the fence that I had only been 38 minutes in the water. I was so thrilled to hear that, especially after having been so nervous about getting swept for not making the 70 minute cut-off! Some quick mental math told me that I had doubled the distance I swam in Milton in much less than double the time, so my pace had improved quite significantly as well! I was thrilled, and it put me in a good mind frame to set off on the bike.

The Toronto Triathlon Festival (somehow, someway) managed to get approval to close the Gardiner Expressway going East bound for the morning of the race so that we could actually bike on the highway! It was really cool to go down the on ramp and see the whole Gardiner full of bikers.

The course was 20km out and 20km back. The first 20 kind of sucked because we were battling a brutal head wind, and a very, very slight uphill grade (my definition of “hill” has totally changed ever since the first day I biked on the Muskoka course, but maybe some people would have called the first half of this course “uphill”). I struggled a bit on the way out, it was my first experience battling a headwind, and it sucked. But if your mind works the same way that mine does, and you’re realizing that we had a head wind and an uphill grade on the way OUT……and the course is an out and back course….

The exact instant that I hit the turnaround point on the Don Valley Parkway, I knew that all of my troubles were over. As soon as I turned Jilly around, I may as well have just put my feet up on her handlebars and relaxed all the way home. I was trying to make up some time, so I definitely didn’t relax on the way back, but man was that last 20 ever fun. I wish that all biking was like that. Sigh.

I came off the bike just as the Junior Elite category was coming out of the water for the Sprint distance triathlon. I got off Jilly and was walking her down the hill towards the transition zone when this pack of spandex clad triathletes came FLYING up the hill towards the start of their bike course on the other side pushing their bikes, elbows flying, screaming at the top of their lungs at each other to “GET OUT OF THE WAY”. I let out a little yelp and kind of dove out of the way to the far side to get out of their way. Holy mother, these guys were intense!
Matt had his head down texting my mom about my progress, and didn’t even see me until I was standing square in front of him and all but tapped him on the shoulder. He followed me back down the hill to the fence by the transition zone, letting me know as I went that one of the elite triathletes had been disqualified minutes earlier for swearing at an official who tried to give him a penalty for having his helmet undone. Who knew triathlons were such an explosive sport?!

Sara bike finish

I had a quick bathroom break before I started out on the run, and I felt terrific as I started out. I remembered back to Milton when I started running, my legs had felt like lead, like they weren’t even connected to my body really. It took my at least half if not more of my run to even get my head around the fact that I was starting to run. Toronto was completely and totally different. My legs didn’t feel heavy, they felt strong. I had a really good feeling as I started out.

Sara transition

Sara run start

My run was far from perfect, but I felt really, really good about it. I hardly walked at all (just a little bit through water stations), and the thing that I’m most proud of is that I kept my head together the entire time. When I would start to think too far ahead (“Oh my god…I still have 7km to go….”), I would keep it together by focusing only on getting to the next water station, or only to the next big tree ahead, just around that corner. I think it’s that mentality that I’ll need in Muskoka, because the thought of getting off the bike after 94km of those hills and starting to run a half marathon is enough to….well….yea let’s just not think about that right now.

I finished the Toronto Triathlon with a smile on my face, in an all-out sprint, just like I set out to do. I was probably one of the last people finishing the Olympic distance race, but I’m really, truly okay with that. It was a really good day for me, no matter where I finished in the pack.

Sara finish

Neil had a FANTASTIC day, and absolutely crushed his goal of completing the race in under 3 hours (I think his final time was 2:43)!

Neil bike

Neil run 2

I once again just wanted to point out that none of this would have been possible without Matt and Jess, our unfailing support crew. It takes a special breed of human being to wake up at 4:30am, stand outside in pretty chilly air for 7 hours straight all for the purpose of holding other people’s heavy bags, taking pictures and cheering at the top of your lungs for all of about 10 seconds. I truly count myself one of the luckiest triathletes out on that course to have such fantastic support on the sidelines!

Since the Toronto race last weekend, the past week has been “Release Week” at the gym, meaning that I’ve taught 13 classes in the past 7 days, and now we are already gearing up for the Kingston triathlon this Sunday. This will be my last triathlon before Muskoka, so it’s a big one both mentally and physically.

Unfortunately, I’ve not managed to escape the abuse I’ve been heaping on my body completely. My right shoulder has been really acting up on me the past 4 or 5 days, and has now reached the point where I can’t really raise it over my head without pretty bad burning pain. I’ve got an appointment with my chiropractor this afternoon, and I’m trying as much as possible to lay off the upper body work this week leading up to Kingston.

On the bright side….I finally found a use for that big bag of frozen kale that’s been sitting in my fridge for months….it sat on my shoulder for about an hour last night!! 😉

Frozen Kale

Have a great week everyone – thanks for your patience (and persistence) with this long post!!

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