The race season had started off well for me, finishing 5th at both Woodstock, as well as Welland and I had been improving on my personal best time by a few minutes each race. Progress is never a bad thing, no matter how slow it may come. I had a tough time throughout July, fighting a lack of motivation and sense of depression, that always seems to poke its head up in the heart of the summer. Having trained harder then ever before and cycling over 4,300 Km’s so far this year, I decided to visit my doctor and have him run some extensive tests to make sure all of my levels were ok. The tests came back and I was right where I need to be and I had been on point with my nutrition plan. This was great news to hear and it seemed to snap me out of my slump.
The weeks leading up to Toronto Island, I had been running as much as possible and felt stronger. I went for one last run on Friday night, knowing it would be my last chance to train before our busy weekend and took one last ride on the TT bike to make sure I had finally dialled in my positioning. I felt ready. My wife and I had planned on driving up to Brampton to stay at our friends Justin and Shannon’s house the night before race day, after we I finished work and we attended our friends wedding. We made it to Brampton late Saturday evening and even with the best intentions found ourselves staying up till 2am catching up. Lol
After 3 short hours of beauty sleep, which seems to be a trend for me before race day, I pulled myself out of bed and prepared my gear for the unpredictable day that stood before us. We arrived at the Westin harbour castle ferry docks just before 6:30am and I was quickly greeted through my half closed eyes by the infamous and inspirational Larry Bradley, whom would be my second biggest motivator on the race course next to my wife, as he was volunteering at the registration tent. I also had a chance to chat with fellow Multisport Canada Ambassadors Billy Bostad, who was there to volunteer, as well as Emma Plater who was there to race in the Sprint Triathlon. It was great to see so many of our fellow racers, family and friends of the Recharge with Milk Triathlon series, step up and volunteer there time to make sure the day went smoothly. Without you all, we wouldn’t be able to race with the high level of organization and safety that we all have race after race. We made our way across to the island on a unbelievably packed ferry and walked towards the race site, where the day’s preparations were well underway.
Upon arriving, John Salt and team were hard at work as usual making a very tough decision to cancel the swimming portion of the triathlon, due to extreme winds and a safety concern after the event staff could not set the swim course guides. The result would be a Duathlon of epic proportions, while mixing both the Sprint Duathlon and the Sprint Triathlon on the same course in carefully planned out waves. I hit the transition and set up my area and ran into a few fellow athletes, Dempsey, Darren and Garvin, before making my way over to the start line with my wife. The sky was overcast but I thought for sure that the rain was going to hold for the morning. I was very, very wrong as we stood under with the sport stats tent scrambling to move the timing equipment as the torrential rain started to come down soaking everything and everyone around me. It only lasted for about 10 minutes, just enough to wash out the course and make the day that much more challenging for us all. I had anticipated the rain and prepared accordingly with my all weather tires and clear helmet visor, hoping to have that extra edge in poor conditions and it paid off huge.
Over 100 athletes were signed up to race in the Duathlon and we took our spots at the start line. I decided to run my own race and not burn the extra energy chasing down the lead pack as I had done in the past. On both the second and third laps I could hear Larry cheering me on as he made his way to the race site. I knew I was in 23rd overall coming in from the first 5k but had looked down at my watch only to see I had beat my personal best by over 30 seconds running in at 23:03 averaging 4:36/km! Man I was pumped after that. It was go time, knowing the bike was my strongest attribute and my legs felt great.
I made a fairly quick transition, throwing my rain soaked shoes on and darting out onto the bike course. As I ran up to the mount line, I leaped through the air attempting my first flying mount with great success only to have the bike Marshall yelling at me mid air, as she thought I was going to get on the bike early haha. I turned my head back, smiled and politely said “No penalties for this guy” as I hammered away on to the course. The wind was easily in excess of 30km/h and coming from all directions the entire first lap, as we all dodged massive puddles and tourists who decided it was a great idea to ride with us. I spent the entire first lap in the middle of the road passing as many people as I could and narrowly missing the athletes coming in the opposite direction, who had the same strategy as me. I have to say that the lap format at Toronto island is extremely exciting as you pass the spectators all over the place, numerous times. I kind of felt like pulling over, grabbing a chair and watching the action as what looked like rocket ships flew by in all directions on that narrow path. I had opted to run a low profile 38mm front wheel and a 88 mm Blade Carbon wheel on the rear to cut through the wind while still keeping it safe and my bike, rubber side down. It was the right decision, as I pulled a 38km/h average over the first lap and kept it as close to that for the entire second lap as I could. I could see how close I was getting to Darren, Dempsey and the lead group on the final lap and had passed a pile of my competition who had left me in their dust on the run. I flew into T2 in 9th place overall and had crushed my personal best bike split by almost 3 minutes at 33:13 with an average speed of 36.09km/h! At this point my calves and hamstrings were pulsing and it felt like I had the biggest Charlie horses in the world but I changed into my shoes dumped my entire bottle of water on my head and ran out onto the course as my wife followed me around the transition fence telling me how proud she was and how great I was doing. Thank you Sam, I love you to the moon and you and our beautiful little daughter give me the support and encouragement to keep pushing myself harder and harder everyday.
I made it about 800m into the final 2.5km run before I started to feel a severe cramp starting to develop in my abdomen. I tried to push through it but once I made it to the aid station it was so bad I had to slow it down and speed walk for 30 seconds in between 3 minute hard efforts, trying to throw every bit of energy I had left to make it to the finish line. After the first lap I looked behind me and could see a small group of 6 that had caught back up to me and were gaining back the time I had made on them. I managed to keep myself between that group and anyone else behind me stumbling through the grass and crossing the finish line to the congratulations from Jason Vurma and the token Multisport Canada hand shake that I am thrilled to receive after every single race. I looked down at my watch and couldn’t believe my eyes. Even with my difficulty on the final run and some slower then usual transitions I broke my personal record by 3 minutes once again this season, at 1:16:13 and finishing 1st place in the 30-34 age group, 6th in the 30-39 age group, 13th in the overall men and 15th overall out of 115 athletes!
After the race I got a chance to talk with some of the fellow duathletes, get to know them and meet their partners, which is normally a difficult task with our busy schedules and post race engagements. It was a refreshing change. I even had a fellow racer come up to me and tell me how impressed he was with how I raced throughout the day, saying how he kept trying to catch up but I was long gone. I’ve never had someone come up to me like that, I’m usually saying it to someone else, like I had been after our race was over. It felt even better to be on the receiving end of the compliment and it is something I will never forget. Always make a point to encourage others no matter their speed as they are out there giving it all they have to give!
What an amazing day and I am on cloud nine right now. All the blood, sweat and tears over the last 3 years has been 100% worth every second and I can’t wait to see how much further I can push myself and what I can accomplish. I am happy to share I am officially 155lbs from the 195lbs I was in June of last year and healthier and happier then ever. Thank you to my wife and daughter, family, friends, my sponsors Sport Chek, Blade Carbon Wheels, County Cycle, First Endurance, Multisport Canada and the Recharge with Milk Triathlon Series and fellow ambassadors and athletes for believing in me. Without your encouragement and support, I wouldn’t be the man and athlete I am today. Next up is the Wasaga Beach Triathlon Weekend, next weekend where I will be volunteering on Saturday and racing on Sunday! If you are in the area and can volunteer please visit the Multisport Canada website to sign up!