Sunday, August 16, 2009

Race Report: Toronto Island Triathlon - Aug 16, 2009

Race Report: Toronto Island Triathlon
750m Swim 30km Bike 7.5km run.
444 Participants
Clear skies hot and humid

I feel great. I just won my 1st ever triathlon in my 6th race. Yes it was a shorter race. Yes the top guys in the area who have beaten me in other events were not at the race. It doesn't matter to me right now because today everything fell into place and I put together an all around great effort. Tomorrow I can start training for and thinking about the next events.

Summer has finally arrived Toronto, the temperature is hot and humid. I did not sleep particularly well as almost none of the cool air from the air conditioner makes it up to our bedroom. I woke up at 6am got myself organized and out of the house by 6:40. I rode my bike to the ferry terminal which is 15 minutes from my house so that I could get on the 7am ferry heading over to Hanlan's point where the race was based out of on the Toronto Islands. There was a big line-up of competitors waiting to board the ferry and another line for people to pick up race numbers. I got in line to pick up my number and watched as the other line began moving as people boarded the ferry. It became clear that there was no way I was going to move through my line in time to catch the ferry. The ferry filled up and many people were left waiting for the next trip 30 minutes later, including me. When I got to the front of the line registration line, I asked the organizers if I could move up from the 4th wave to the 1st wave in order to compete directly against the potential top competitors. I was told that if I moved up and was not an elite registered athlete then my results would not count. Given that I had missed the ferry and what I was just told, I decided to stick with my wave M40-44 which would start out at 8:48am, 36 minutes behind the 1st wave. I sat down on a bench at the far end of the ferry terminal and tried to relax while waiting. When the Ferry returned and was ready for boarding one of the employees shouted out "Have your tickets ready". Initially I could not find my ticket and began to frantically search all of my pockets. Ultimately I found the ticket in my left front pocket after a triple search, how it eluded me on the 1st two passes I may never know. Unfortunately I surrendered several spots in the queue during the small ordeal. Just as neared the front on the line the workers shouted out that they were full as they began to swing the two iron gates closed on the several hundred people still in line with me right in the front. I made a quick shuffle to the left avoiding the 1st closing door and slipped through the right side with a few others just before the second door closed. No one ever took my ticket. Thankfully we all made in onto the ferry squeezed in like sardines.

After setting my gear up in transition I headed down to the lake front in time to see the 1st wave start. It was interesting to watch the lead swimmer take a bizarre tangent to the left for no apparent reason. All of us watching from the beach were urging the swimmer to head to his right. When the leader finally popped his head up to see where he was going he made an adjustment and then started heading too far to the right. I was sitting in the shade just beside the swim exit and was surprised at how much trouble many of the swimmers had marking the swim exit. The poor confused guy in the lead must have swum an extra 100-200 meters zigzagging his way across the swim course. The group of swimmers who followed closely also swam a bit off course just as they partially relied on the leader for direction.

I delayed putting on my wetsuit so as to keep relatively cool for as long as possible given the heat. I could have easily have swam without a wetsuit given the water temperature, but there is a big advantage to wearing one given the amount of buoyancy that it adds. One of my biggest swimming flaws is the amount that my legs drag down in the water, which is offset when I wear a wetsuit. I got the suit on and warmed up with a 150 meter swim. There was a lot of shallow water and I had witnessed many competitors struggling with how to deal with moving through the shallow areas both swimming and running. Fortunately earlier in the week during my swim workout, one of the instructors had shown me how to do a dolphin dive repeatedly in shallow water. After my warm-up I practiced several of the dolphin dives, I even tried out the move from the start line determining that I could execute 3 before the water got too deep at the start. I set up on the inside just like the last race but this time inside of the buoy despite the fact that another swimmer had already claimed that coveted spot. I accomplished this by edging the buoy backward with my back so that I was now at the inside most position. Our wave only had 45 people in it so there was significantly more room than in all of the previous races. The horn sounded and I executed my 3 dolphin dives followed by breaking into a fast yet sustainable pace. 30 meters into the race the water got shallow again, so I switched over to the dolphin dive move again for good 5-8 dives. By the time that the water got deeper again I was out in the lead for my wave, a position that I maintained for the entire swim. When I started heading back towards the shore I realized what the earlier waves had been struggling with in trying to locate the swim exit, the sun was shinning directly into my eyes and there seemed to be no clear indication of where to exit the water. Fortunately I had the advantage of knowing exactly where the swim exit because of what I had observed just prior to the race, so my path was fairly direct.

I exited the water before the next wave started indicating that I had completed the swim portion in less than 12 minutes (waves were spaced 12 minutes apart). My goal was to complete the swim inside of 12 minutes improving on my time from the prior week. My official time was 12:51 including quite a long run from the water to the transition area placing me 11 out of 444 overall for the swim an improvement from 42 out of 400 from last week. I really enjoyed the feeling of coming out of the water first, with some more training I hope to be able to repeat the experience.

A big advantage of being 1st out of the water is that I was also 1st onto the bike course which included a 300-400 meter section of no passing right at the start. I was able to go at my own pace through this 1st section without delay. Once I got out on to the main course (3 times around a 10km loop) I focused on keeping my speed as high as possible. The course was pancake flat including 2 turn-around and 3 no-passing zones per lap. I got stuck behind a much slower rider for the 1st turn around, but was fortunately able to avoid a similar situation all of the other no-passing sections by putting in maximum efforts when needed just before the no passing zones to get ahead of slower cyclists. I completed the bike without incident and transitioned out to the run with no idea of my overall time. There were people out all over the course thanks to the spacing between the waves, as it turns out the organizers did a good job of spreading out the traffic as I witnessed no drafting or large bunches of riders.

The run course had sizeable sections in soft grass and even few spots of sand. My goal was to run under 3:50/km improving on my time from last week. I felt as though I was running a bit faster but my average speed slipped to 3:56/km however my run split improved from 12th overall to 3rd. I think that the grass sections did slow the times down a bit. Much of the run course was shaded which helped given the conditions, however, when I did run through the non shaded sections, I really felt the heat. I increased my pace for the final 400 meters and pumped my fist after finishing knowing that I had turned in an all-around good effort.

There was no real way of knowing how I had finished overall aside from waiting for the updated results to be posted, which took about 20 minutes. I was ecstatic to see my name posted at the top of the list including a fastest bike split of the day averaging 44km/hr. I finished almost 3 minutes ahead of second place and almost ten minutes ahead of the next competitor in my age group. This was a big step forwards and I hope to build on this experience going forward.


  1. great race, bruce! i didn't realize you were out there racing that day until i was packing up and leaving during the awards ceremony, and heard your name called for overall winner of the triathlon. bruce bird? the duathlete? i thought to myself.

    keep up the impressive work. and you're right, a win is a win no matter how you look at it. i'm out with an injury for the rest of the season but the next time i'm at the same event as you i'll make an effort to introduce myself.


    tommy ferris

  2. Thanks Tommy.
    Sorry to hear about your injury. Speedy recovery.