Aug 23 2012

Toronto Triathlon Festival 2012 – Race Report

The inaugural Toronto Triathlon Festival came to fruition as one of the conditions of the city being awards the 2015 Pan American Games. This year was a test run, the next two years would be the site of Canadian Championship, where the last one before the Pan Am Games would serve as an official trial.

Transition area all set upI arrived early to park at Liberty Village instead of the ripoff price Ontario Place charged near transition zone, then took a leisurely ride across Exhibition Place.

It was an hour before the race start, so there were only a few people. I could take my time to set up in peace.

I was happy to discover my spot was right by the swim exit. I would never know how disoriented I would be coming out of the water, so this was welcome news!


After a long wait for the portajohn, I made it to the starting pontoon as transition zone was closing. I heard Paula Findlay and Simon Whitfield, the celebrity triathletes who will be heading to the Olympics, jump in, but couldn’t actually get a good view.

Some anxious people jumped in as race was about to start, but hilarity ensued not long after, they would all have to scramble back on to shore to activate their chips on the timing mat.

When the horn went, I have to admit there was a moment of panic as everything started thrashing all around me. I swam head-up front crawl for a minute or so, until there was a little breathing room, before putting my head down.

The water was surprisingly warm and clean – words I never imagined to associate with Lake Ontario.

I would try to draft behind someone, that someone got too far ahead, then try to draft behind another person, until the first orange turn buoy.

Well it turned out there were two orange buoys marking a U-turn, and I was sighting the wrong one!

It didn’t take me too long to get back on course, but by this time, I notice the water was getting crowded again. The next wave in yellow caps had caught up to me. There were more incidental bumps but nothing serious.

Heading east now, I was looking directly at the rising sun. Sighting was impossible. The scarcity of guide buoys didn’t help at all. Everyone in the water was hoping the person in front was going the right way.

I finally got comfortable at this point, getting into a nice rhythm, and going back and forth with another slow green cap swimmer. Now the 3rd wave in white caps was catching up to me. It was frustrating getting passed all round. When would the swim finish?

The course took me around the yachts anchored in the harbour, then turned back west towards swim exit. The other green cap guy was still beside me; neither of us could pass each other.

Not long after, I looked up to see a bunch of swimmers crowding on the near side. I swam that way and almost hit them, not realizing they had stopped at the swim exit stairs. Finally!


I was definitely shaky out of the water. I had trouble removing the wetsuit legs, and only managed with much persuasion. I was slow drying my feet, slow putting on socks, and slow putting on cycling shoes, but at least I didn’t forget anything.

With helmet on, I carefully walked up the steep incline towards the pedestrian bridge and mounted without incident.


Getting out on the bike course
After getting out of the no pass zone, I immediately got on the big ring and started working.

I knew this bike course well, given that the Gardiner and DVP sections were part of the Ride for Heart I rode three years in a row.

Having a slow swim meant I got to pass a whole lot of racers. In any incline or flat section, I could stay on the left and pass 4 or 5 riders at a time.

Burying myself on the DVPI’m not going to lie: it was satisfying to dispatch the guys with expensive TT bikes and aero helmets with my lowly steel Kona!

There were so many riders that it was impossible to stay out of draft zones – people were going 3 or 4 wide at times, while dozens of riders bunch up at certain points.

At the turnaround at Eglinton ramp, I estimate I had passed over 50 people in the mostly uphill route so far, and none had passed me. I would not be as successful on the return downhill.

Attacking the turns back in Exhibition PlaceI struggled to keep up on descents, as a few riders would surge ahead, but I was able to reel them in whenever the road flattened out again.

Returning on to the Gardiner Expressway, I kicked it up another gear while I was still feeling good. I kept up the effort coming back to Exhibition Place, throwing my bike around the corners and just about overcooked the last turn.

Waddling down the hill awkwardly in my cleatsThe worst part came at the very end, when I had to waddle my way down the same steep incline I walked up from T1 with my cleats. The smart people who removed their shoes ran right by me…


The cycle to run transition was less clumsy. Bike shoes off, running shoes on, GPS watch on, and I was ready. But I took my time to eat a gel and some Shot Bloks, so T2 time ended up being quite slow at the end.


I was able to get up to pace almost right away – those brick runs I did throughout the summer certainly helped.

I was doing well until the downhill section along Lakeshore Road heading west from Exhibition Place. I started getting stomach cramps, so I took it easy going down that hill. Just as well, since I was feeling low in energy, and the gels I took at T2 didn’t kick in yet.

After that, I slowly ramped up the pace, hoping that would keep the cramps away. That worked until about 6km, beyond the turn around. The stomach cramps returned with a vengeance, even more severe than last time, forcing me to slow to walk for a few seconds. The few guys I passed earlier went around me at this point.

Outside Princes' Gates, about 1km to finishFor the next 2km, I settled on an easier pace, trying to nurse it home, while the few guys just ahead of me acted as carrots to keep me going.

There were lots of other trail users, since the path was not closed, but they were particular problematic after the turnaround. At least two cyclists forced their way by, almost running me from behind. Then an SUV of a baby stroller left absolutely no room to get by.

All of this combined with my cramp issues were really putting me in a sour mood. The next cyclist who squeezed by would’ve got a taste of my elbow!

With 1.5km to go, I passed the transition area where the race started. I felt ok at this point, the gels finally kicking in at full force, and started the kick early.

Crossing the finish lineGoing past the Inukshuk on the Waterfront Trail, I was on the final stretch towards Coronation Park finish. I kicked in another gear, using energy I probably saved with the stomach cramps, and breezed by a dozen other people before turning on to the final grass path towards the finish.

My finish time was 2:38:52, well under the conservative goal of 3 hours. However, I knew I could do way better in the run, without the pedestrian slalom and without stomach cramps.


At the finish, I was given exactly half of a bagel, half of a banana, and one slice of orange. I wanted another banana, but a firm “NO” was the answer. Where’s my burger?

I couldn’t stay for the awards because I really needed to eat, so when transition was reopened again, I walked the 1.5km back to get some Clif bars and start packing.

There are few things organizers can do to make this event better.

Most crucially, the run course needs to be closed to racers only to ensure the safety of everyone.

There needs to be more race nutrition at the finish line, or at least provide some food vendors on site.

If possible, reroute the start and finish of the bike course to avoid the steep approach to the bridge, and the narrow pedestrian bridge itself. Perhaps some traffic control to cross Lakeshore Road on street level.

1 comment

  1. Cherry

    Too bad that last cyclist didn’t come squeezing through – would’ve been fun hearing “that” story. Wow, they are so cheap in food.

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