Monday, August 24, 2015

Toronto Island Tri and Reflecting

Sunday marked the completion of my second triathlon and my second win of the 2015 season. The MultiSport Canada Toronto Island Triathlon had huge personal significance to me. First, because I won the race in 2013 - when I was at the peak fitness of my triathlon career. And, second, because it marked six months from my knee surgery. Realizing this led me to reflect on where I was, both two years ago and six months ago.

Thinking back on the Toronto Island Triathlon in 2013, I recall feeling like I was soaring through the sky, so happy and carefree compared to today. I felt untouchable, unbeatable, fast, fit and like I could achieve anything that I wanted to. I had met and even exceeded all the goals I had for that season, the main one being to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I couldn't soar forever, unfortunately. Although I am thankful it wasn't much worse, injuries, surgery, circumstance, and even people, have brought me down since then. And, even to this day, I feel like I am fighting for everything I have that is dear to me. In comparison, though, I feel like this state is more "real life" than the one of the past. And, what feels better about my win on Sunday than my win in 2013 is that, even amongst the stress, I can push through and succeed.

The other significance of this race is that, exactly 6 months prior, I was lying in a hospital bed, listening to the surgeons say that I would likely not run more than 10km ever again, and that the likelihood of me racing triathlon ever again was virtually impossible. Now, my story is not like those of others who were told they were never walk again, and then they go on to win huge cycling tours or compete at the Olympics. However, it is a significant story in my mind. And I am proud of the patience, consistency, hard work and determination I have put in to get to where I am today.

For the race report, this about sums it up: Post-race on YouTube

I also want to mention that my sister, Sara, finished 3rd in her age group! She was 3rd out of the water, then passed a girl on the bike and ended up only 20s behind the 2nd place finisher. She only just got back into training in the past 6 months (after taking a break to have her wonderful daughter, Maddy) and it's so great to see her at the top of her age group.

Lastly, congratulations to all the other great athletes out there! Especially those I have been lucky enough to get to know. It's nice to see or hear about their hard work and watch it pay off at the Toronto Island: Mikael Staer-Nathan, David Lamy, Claire Vendramini, Dan Johnson, Mike Mandel, Phaedra Kennedy and Rob Lines.

A special thank you goes out to:

- The volunteers, officials and race organizers
- Kim Lumsdon, my swim coach
- Adam, you are the reason I never stop pushing
- My parents, Maddy, Kevin, Lauren (thanks for the photos!), spectators and fellow racers for being there to cheer me on
- My sponsors: High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, The Urban Athlete, Altra Running Shoes, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

A few pictures:

Ms Maddy is getting a ride on Nonno's shoulders. Ideal for spectating.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A weekend to remember: Orillia triathlon racing!

This past weekend was definitely full of excitement! Saturday was the Kids Of Steel triathlon and the kids were competing. Sunday was my race, exactly one year from my last triathlon and 6 months from my knee surgery. Although the weekend didn't go exactly as planned due to some unexpected events (which I should be used to by now - why don't hateful people let happy people be happy?!). Fortunately, it didn't end up effecting our enjoyment too much. In fact, it was a good test to see if I was able to maintain focus during a time of stress. And I think I did an OK job!

Adam, the kids and I drove up to Orillia on Saturday morning. We were staying at Bill and Lynne's on the Severn River once again, thanks to their wonderful generosity. The kids were in heaven with their trampoline, hot tub, river in the backyard, toys and a big TV! We relaxed for a bit before heading to the race site. The kids were up against other kids who had been training with club teams and had a lot more experience, but that didn't stop them from racing super fast. They did incredibly well and placed 8th and 10th in their age groups! Although they were anxious and nervous at the start of the race, they became strong willed and motivated during the race and all smiles at the finish line. It was very inspiring and we were all very proud :)

All packed up!

Top swim and run in his age group!

Super tough!

On the Sunday it was the Subaru Orillia Triathlon (800m swim - 33km bike - 7km run). I was both excited and nervous for the race! It would be a true indication of how my training was going. It would be a chance to prove the doctors wrong when they alluded to the likelihood that my triathlon career was over. It would be a test of whether my knee could handle the intensity of a race. It was a chance to be a true ambassador for the people who have supported me. It was a chance to show the people who have tried to bring me down, that I can persevere. All of this was at the back of my mind as I went through the motions of the morning and warm-up. Before long, I was on the start-line!

Pre-race shot

Lost in thought in transition

SWIM: We lined up on the beach for the start of the race. I was feeling tough so I positioned myself optimally at the shortest distance to the first buoy. With about 20s before the start, I looked around to realize that I was surrounded by all males that were taller and stronger than me. Too late to change spots now! So, once we entered the water I was consumed by the typical washing machine effect. Limbs flailed at me from all directions, I choked on water and fell behind as I was blocked by bigger, but slower swimmers. Finally I got into some open water and started swimming towards those ahead of me. Then it was a surge - sit on someones feet - surge to the next swimmer - sit on their feet - surge, etc. etc. type of swim. At around the half-way point there was no one in my vision so I put my head down and pushed hard to the swim exit. Swim time: 10:39 (to the beach), 11:39 (to T1) - 1st place female :)

Going through my head at the swim start

BIKE: Summary of the bike -> hills, some bad roads and potholes, descents, fogged up visor, nearly falling off bike while taking on/off visor, getting passed on the hills, low points, high points, pretty scenery, eLoad = more energy, no eLoad = less energy, being sad about not having ridden over 40km in 2 weeks and not being as fit as last year. All in all, I did feel a bit flat on the bike, likely due to lack of sleep the night before. Luckily, I got a bit of a boost in the last 10km and regained my strength. I caught one of the athletes who had passed me earlier on and brought my average power up a little. I finished the bike in 57:42 and my power was a few watts higher than in my swim-bike race last weekend. Still in 1st place for the females.

RUN: I started the run with Adam, the kids, my parents and a lot of spectators cheering me on. This was just the motivation I needed to stay strong starting the run. I had done some training for this race at 4:05 - 4:15/km and had set that as my goal pace. At the 1km mark I saw my watch register 4:11. I thought I could go faster, so I picked up the pace, with the goal of catching the two runners just up ahead. Next km was 4:02, and then I settled into 4:06/km. I was comfortable, but considering my long run has been only 12km and at a much slower pace, I was still holding back a little. I didn't know how my knee would respond to this intensity. About 2km from the finish, I thought about what had been going through my mind in warmup. The following song lyrics popped into my head: "...Ain't nothing gonna break my stride. Nobody's gonna slow me down. Oh no, I've got to keep on moving. Ain't nothing gonna break my stride. I'm running and I won't touch ground. Oh no, I've got to keep on moving." And this gave me another boost, so I started to really push and I finished the final mile of the race at a sub-4:00/km pace. I was so happy to break the tape as the first female over all! And without pain :)

Off on the run

Big hugs at the finish

All smiles!

More smiles!

A special thank you goes out to:

- The volunteers, officials and race organizers
- My parents, the kids, Adam, spectators and fellow racers for being there to cheer me on
- Bill and Lynne for offering their place to stay
- Kim Lumsdon, my swim coach
- My sponsors: High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, The Urban Athlete, Altra Running Shoes, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

Interview time

On the podium

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back to racing: Bracebridge Swim-Bike!

I got my chance to return to racing this past weekend at the MultiSport Bracebridge Swim-Bike! It had been almost a year since I had raced and the experience reminded me of why I love this sport. Everything about it from the people to the venue to the swimming, biking and running was positive for me.

The weekend turned into another weekend away for Adam and I. We have been lucky to get out of the city almost every weekend this summer, thanks to the hospitality of wonderful friends and family. This time our destination was Bill and Lynne's on the Severn River. And what a beautiful home they have there! It provided the perfect setting for relaxing pre-race on Saturday. I played with my wonderful niece, practiced some transitions (it had been awhile!), relaxed in the hot tub, went on a sunset cruise and carb-loaded with Sara and Adam on Bulk Barn chocolates, sun chips, yogurt covered pretzels, Sara's yummy pasta with meatsauce and garlic bread (Kevin's recipe!).

Sunday morning we woke pretty early to get to the race. Sara (my sister) was doing her first ever Olympic distance triathlon and I was doing the Olympic swim-bike. It was a chilly morning, but looked to warm up in time for the race start and turn into PERFECT weather conditions. I was excited and happy to come back to racing with a low pressure event like a swim-bike. Sara was pretty nervous, but I knew she would do so awesome. Despite not running for the past couple of weeks due to a knee injury, she was in top form.

Before long we were ready to start! Bracebridge is a time trial start, so the athletes start the race 5s after one another. This can be great for weaker swimmers (I strongly recommend this race or the Sprint to athletes who are not as strong in the swim or first time triathletes or those who get anxious at the swim start). However, it also means that you don't really know exactly where you stand compared to others in your age group during the race. Sara was #44 and I was #64 - numbers allocated from youngest to oldest. We lined up alongside the dock and John Salt (the race organizer and an all-around super friendly and great guy!) was starting us off. Sara and I said our final good lucks to one another and then it was time to focus...

I started the swim a little tired from a relatively big week of swimming. Also, having not raced in awhile I found I didn't really have an extra gear. So, I just focused on catching the people in front of me and eventually felt like I was moving at a pretty good pace (or maybe that was because I was swimming downstream!) After the turnaround I saw myself being passed by a male swimmer so I thought "this is my chance to pick up the pace." I did everything I could to stick with him. I did end up accidentally touching his feet while trying to stay with him, to which he responded by attempting to kick me (really hard!). I dodged his kick a few times and then made sure NOT to touch his feet again as I followed him to the swim exit. I exited the swim in 21 minutes, which is far from a PB, but a time I am happy with considering I have been swimming at 50% of the volume I have in the past.

I had a fairly smooth transition and then I was off on the bike. The male swimmer I had chased was just up ahead and our spacing was staying the same through the first few kms, so I made it my goal to try and stick with him during the ride. The course was really nice, a few climbs and mostly smooth roads. I did get stuck between a couple cars turning onto Highway 118, which forced me to a stop for 10-20s (frustrating!). But I pushed hard (maybe too hard) once I got passed them to keep the other cyclist in my sight. At the turnaround of the out and back course there were 3 of us riding a few hundred meters apart and, even though my legs were not happy, I pushed hard to continue to ride at their pace. I ended up being the first back into transition in a time of 1hr10mins for 42km - second fastest female bike split. My normalized power was lower than I was hoping for, and lower than my 90km power in past half-ironmans, but very good considering I was doing very little biking last fall and winter :)

After the bike I handed in my chip and then I did an easy 10km run on my own. I ran on the bike course so I could watch the cyclists coming in through the last 5km. As I ran out I cheered on a bunch of athletes, including Sara, who was having an awesome race! I was happy to be running at 150bpm heart rate (Zone 2) and at a pace of 4:35/km. I was even happier to be running with ZERO KNEE PAIN! I finished my 10km in a time of 46 minutes, with lots of energy to spare. I finished my unofficial Olympic triathlon in a time of 2:22 :)

I ended up coming first overall for the females and males in the swim-bike. It was awesome to be standing on the podium again!

After I finished my race, it was time to go cheer Sara on! We weren't sure before the race whether or not she would be able to run. She hadn't been able to complete a 6km run on Tuesday without pain. She saw Greg Lehman at The Urban Athlete on Wednesday and he treated her and gave her the go-ahead to run in the race, with some plans for what to do if she did feel pain. When I saw her in the last 500m looking strong I started to tear up. Not only was she about to finish her first Olympic distance triathlon (and pain-free), but she was going to finish super fast! I ran with her through her last hill and saw her cross the line. In true Tomenson style, she just wanted to know what place she finished! Her time of 2:48 put her as 7th in her age group and 19th female overall. A stellar performance! I also want to mention that she did almost all her training for this race at either 5am or 7:45pm to fit it in!

Sara finishing the bike! - photo courtesy of Kevin

Next up for me: Orillia Triathlon next weekend!!!

Thank you so much to:

- My sponsors: High Rock Capital Management, WattsUp Cycling, The Urban Athlete, Altra Running Shoes, Fitt1st Bike Fitting

- Bill and Lynne for generously accommodating us and cheering us on at the race

- Kevin and Maddy for cheering, Adam for being my coach and Race Sherpa!

- Kim Lumsdon and her swim group for keeping me motivated

- John Salt and the other staff and volunteers at the MultiSport Bracebridge event