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  • Writer's pictureJason Fonger

Toronto Triathlon Festival 2018 Race Recap

Big smile when I see my family cheering me on at the bike mount coming out of T1.

I came to Canada 12 days before this race and the weather has been flawless. Mostly sunny, warm, and generally pleasant. Perfect for being outside doing whatever outdoor activity you prefer. Then comes this morning. Wet, windy, and ‘fairy cool’ as Torontonians would probably describe it. It was certainly cold for those of us used to tropical weather. I was extremely lucky to have a VIP limo and 2 professional chauffeurs escort me to the venue. My parents drove me down in my mom’s car so that I could stay warm until it was go time.

Once transition was almost going to close, I took only the essential things needed for the race, and stepped out into the rain. I set myself up in transition, and had just enough time for a very short warm up jog to the swim start. On my way to the start, I had a chance to say a quick hello to my mom, dad, brother, and his girlfriend, all of whom had come out to show their support. My wave was called into the water, and a few minutes later we were off. Right from the start of the swim I just swam as hard as I could to try to get in a decent position. I swam with a few different people in the first 400m but then settled on what I thought to be a good pair of feet for the rest of the swim. I came out of the water and ran as fast as I could to my bike, taking off the top half of my wetsuit along with my cap and goggles. Once I got to my bike, I stepped out of the rest of my wetsuit while putting on my helmet. Then I took my bike and ran with it out of transition to the bike line which was at the top of a hill. At the top of the hill was the start of a bridge which marked more or less the bike mount line. I crossed the line, slipped my feet into the bike shoes, and got rolling across the bridge. The first few hundred meters of the bike leg were on footpaths and so I had to take it a little easy at first, but after a few turns through Exhibition Place, I was turning down the onramp at Jameson Ave to the eastbound Gardiner Expressway. Perhaps the coolest part of the race is cycling on the Gardiner Expressway. It seems like I was dreaming when I think back on this part of the race. The rain and wind in my face for the first part of the bike, heading east. I knew that it was important for me to remain aerodynamic to minimize the loss of speed due to headwinds, and that it was also important to hold my target wattage and not get too discouraged by the low speed. Once I passed the first turn around which was at the ramp to the Don Valley Parkway, I felt the wind at my back. It was slightly downhill with a tailwind for the longest straight section of the bike course. I put my head down low, kept my eyes up the road, and averaged about 50kmph for the next 8 minutes before hitting the 2nd turnaround point, doubling back up the same Jameson ramp we had come in on, and retracing back through Exhibition Place and over the bridge to Ontario Place. It was then time to hop off the bike, run down the hill, and rack my bike in transition. Once my bike was racked, I put on my shoes, grabbed my watch and bib, then was off on the run. In training, I habitually look at my watch a lot. Today though, I had decided that I would run the first kilometer by feel, just focusing on good form. At about 500m into the run, I wanted to just glance at my watch to make sure that I had started it. I saw it was on, and my brain also picked up the pace read 3:10/km. My brain says that’s too fast for me at this stage in my training and rehab, but it didn’t feel that hard. At around the 2km mark, I felt something in my right hamstring that was not good, but also not terrible. I eased off the pace a bit into something more manageable, bringing my attention back to focus on economical running with good form. I settled in and ended up averaging 3:33/km for the 5km run. All throughout that 5km, I kept reminding myself of the fact that although I appeared to be in the lead from my wave (men under 29), there were additional waves which started the race several minutes after I did, and that people in these waves could still potentially post a faster overall split than me. I knew that this had been done the previous year by Lee Rantala who is in the 40-44 category. It was a challenge to continually remind myself that although I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me, I could very well be neck and neck with someone, and that I should push myself to the absolute limit. I think I can say that I did push myself more in this race than perhaps in any other. However, looking back, I can see tons of room for improvement when it comes to my mental capacity to squeeze every last drop of power out of myself. On the one hand I could have averaged 10-20w higher on that bike ride if I set my mind to it. But on the other, I think I can truly say that I did all that I could to run a solid 5k without injuring myself too badly. Who knows, maybe if I had pushed the bike that extra bit, I might have really struggled on the run, or had a more severe problem with my hamstring.

While I feel good about the way I raced, and the extent to which I pushed myself, it was not enough to take the overall win today. The reigning champ Lee Rantala ended up posting an overall time that was 30 seconds faster than mine. Congrats to him for defending his title.

I did win my age group which, if I understand correctly, qualifies me for the 2019 ITU grand final in Lausanne, Switzerland. That’s cool to know! Also, and most importantly, I got to take part in this terrific event in one of the coolest cities in the world with the support of the people I love the most. I’m so grateful to have had this experience and I will treasure it for years to come. My mom and dad are truly the best, and I cannot thank them enough for all of their love, guidance, and help. My brother and his girlfriend who came out to cheer me on today in the cold rain are also two of the most incredible people on the planet. I’m very grateful to have such a warm, loving, understanding family. It’s an honor to now be training with the C3 Canadian Cross Training Club. There is a wide variety of inspiring people who belong to C3 and I am already seeing huge benefits from just a week or so of training with their high-performance triathlon team. This was my first race on my new Cervelo P2 from Caledon Hills Cycling and I absolutely love it. The guys at the shop there got me hooked up with some proper tri shoes, a Giro aero helmet, and a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt too. First time racing with di2 electronic shifting. Also, first time racing with the Assioma Favero power meter. I may post more detailed reviews of all of these but suffice to say overall, I really love my new bike setup and it served me well in this race. Finally, it’s great to race with the vegan flag and to represent the legendary plant-based restaurant “Vegan Heaven” which is in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Raising awareness about veganism is a big part of what motivates me to race, and the people at Vegan Heaven share my passion for getting the vegan message out there in a positive way. The next big race on the calendar for me will be returning to Orillia Triathlon to defend my title. I only won by 3 seconds last year, also without knowing that someone from another wave was 3 seconds behind me! The waves starts are usually self-seeded at Orillia if I remember correctly, which should mean all the fastest guys will be at the front racing each other, and that is obviously a more exciting format for racing. If you’re racing this year at Orillia, I would love to know! If you read this post all the way through, thanks for taking the time to do so and I hope you got something out of it. If you’re thinking of taking up running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, or any of the above, I highly recommend doing so. If you are looking for a coach, I do offer coaching services so please get in touch if you are interested in that. Best wishes to all of you on your health, fitness, and wellbeing journey.

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