It has been awhile since my last update and I thought I would write a little bit about my training back home, these past couple of weeks...
While it was AMAZING to be living and training in the southwestern US, there were a few things missing: training partners, family (like Maddy!), friends and familiarity. When I originally made plans to spend the winter away, I underestimated how important these are to me. The last few weeks I was away I was as lonely as I had ever been. Even though Kirk and Charity were amazing and offered me a comfy room and great food at their house, there really is no place like home.
So, you may wonder what makes Toronto such an AMAZING place to be a professional triathlete? Let me tell you what the highlights of living and training here really are:
1. The University of Toronto Triathlon Club! This group of athletes range from beginners to elites. The camaraderie among the club is amazing. The elites have no problem offering advice to the beginners and the beginners gain an advantage from training with those with more experience. I started out as a beginner in this club in 2008 and look at where it brought me! What I love are the 2 hour swims in the 50m U of T pool, offered 3 times a week with awesome and experienced coaches, who REALLY do care about us athletes. I have found two awesome swimmer mates to push me and the difference it has made in my swimming in two short weeks is very exciting! There are 2 organized outdoor bike rides, 2 organized runs and a brick workout offered each week. As well as unofficial long rides and long runs coordinated by members of the club.
2. The run routes! No matter where in the city you are, you can always find a trail to run on with no stop lights. There are tons of hidden trails through parks and the lakeshore path goes on forever with a beautiful view of the city. Usually there are water fountains and washrooms along the way. So you don't need to worry about bringing fluids with you or what you have to do if you have to pee :) I have lived in almost every part of the city, from North Toronto to the Annex to downtown to the Beach to the west end. I think my favourite run route is through Taylor Creek Park and the Don Valley Trail system.
3. The secret in-city biking! Being a coach with the U of T triathlon club and being a past member of the Morning Glory group meant that I have learned some of the best places to ride right from your doorstep - if you live in Toronto. I have never been an advocate of riding in Toronto and I only recommend it during the early morning hours (when there is enough light out) or other times when traffic is light. The best spots for hill repeats/hard efforts: Ellis Ave (west end/high park), Brimley Hill (east end/scarborough bluffs), through the Bridle Path (North York) and Poplar Plains is OK (for the downtown Torontonians) and the best spots for flat intervals is probably the Direct Energy Center loop (be aware of the stop signs though!) I also have to mention here that it is so important to obey traffic signals and keep your head up for cars and other obstacles when riding in the city.
4. The north of the city biking! The best part about living in Toronto is that on weekends and even weekdays there are always tons of cyclists out on the roads in King City, Aurora, all the way north to Lake Simcoe. There is an unspoken companionship between cyclists and triathletes. Even though you don't know another rider you may pass on the road, you always wave or nod your head to each other to acknowledge and appreciate the other person on the road. I don't know about other riders, but this always helps me to push myself a little bit harder.
5. The indoor cycling possibility! Right now my basement is set up with 2 computrainers, a top of the line treadmill, 2 high powered fans, a stereo system and a flat screen TV. I can ride or run anytime, even when it's thunder storming, rush hour, freezing rain, snowstorms, etc. For those not fortunate to have such a set up, WattsUp Cycling has tons of classes each week, 24 computrainers and 6 sets of rollers. Oh, and even if you do have a trainer at home - but lack the motivation to use it, WattsUp also offers a HomeCycling program, that can help with that problem. The HomeCycling offers 1 to 4 different workouts a week (as part of a 52-week structured program) for you to do on your own trainer.
6. The triathlon/cycling/running/swimming community is SO small! For such a big city, everyone seems to know everyone in the endurance community in some way or another. And everyone is so friendly - willing to lend equipment or advice or introduce you to a knew training partner or find you someone to carpool to races with. And the talent among these athletes is incredibly motivating. It always feels special to be among this part of the Toronto community.
6. My RMTs (Brad and Diego), chiropractor (Bill Wells) and doctors are here! It always helps to know that I can push myself and my body to the limit, when there are people around to fix me/keep me healthy.
7. The Food. First, my Mamma's cooking is here: lasagna, homemade pizza, pasta with meat sauce, sausages & frico (with or without potato...), etc. Second, the world's best muffins (I think) are here. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not go ONE day without indulging in my favourite food, muffins - preferably chocolate chip. So far, I have not found a place that tops the Pickle Barrel for Chocolate Chip Muffins or Sanremo Bakery.
8. Last, but most important, what makes me love training in Toronto more than anywhere else is my family.
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