The Skeleton Lake Triathlon Festival
In January 2020, I had never been more excited for tri season. I was training hard, I started swimming with the Toronto Triathlon club, and I had signed up for my first ever Olympic distance race. By February, I had registered for my first 8k, 10k, and 15k races, and I was planning on 2-3 more tris and a half marathon in October. I had at least one race a month planned for April-October. I was driven and pumped and so ready to tackle new challenges.
And then March happened.
I knew immediately that my first and likely second races would be cancelled. I had planned to run the 8k distance of the Spring Run-Off and I had fundraised in memory of my aunt, who passed last fall. So, when that race went virtual, I ran it anyways, instead of deferring. I beat my goal time by 4 minutes and raised $600 for Princess Margaret. It was awesome. Then I did the Sportinglife 10k virtually. Meanwhile, I held out hope that maybe, I’d still get to do a tri. I continued to run and bike and did dry land swim training with the tri club. In the unlikely event that tri season still happened, I would be ready.
By the time I got the email that the Toronto Triathlon Festival was going virtual, I had reconciled myself to that reality but it still hurt. The TTF was my first triathlon four years ago and this year’s race had been my big goal. Crossing the finish line of the Olympic tri at the TTF was the image that I held in my mind as I trained through three seasons. Of course, I knew there was a chance that the race would be cancelled due to the pandemic, and when I moved back home in April, I planned ahead in the event that I’d be doing a one-person tri at the cottage.
Once it was confirmed that the TTF would be going virtual, I decided to change my registration to the sprint distance. I was out of swim shape for a long distance swim, and I wanted my first Olympic tri to be with other people, in real life. But, most importantly, by doing a sprint distance, my cousin Nicole would be able to come race with me once again, with a social distance set up. When my brother-in-law suggested that we plan a kids’ triathlon for my nieces and nephews, the Skeleton Lake Triathlon festival was born.
Pulling off the Skeleton Lake Triathlon festival (in ‘association’ with the Virtual Toronto Triathlon Festival, of course) took many hands. I was truly overwhelmed by the love and support of my family who made this possible. First, my bike had to be shuttled to the cottage by my parents and brother in-law. On the morning of the race, after Nicole and I set up our transition zone at the public dock, mom came down and set up a chair to guard our bikes and serve as our official race photographer. She snapped some pics of us wearing the awesome race bibs my nephew Noah made for us, which we tragically lost on the bike. We returned to the cottage and got ready for the swim, with my sis cheering on the dock, and my cousin’s husband LeBaron rowing our safety boat full of kiddos. The kids counted us down from the boat to begin the race.
I had mapped out a race course that had us finishing by running down to the dock, and as I passed the cottage at the end of the run, my family members who weren’t at the dock came outside cheering and applauding. My sister held a ribbon to run through for the finish line, and I was floored to find out my race time (without transitions) was just under 1:20. Later I was shocked to learn that I finished in 5th place for women in the TTF sprint distance.
In the afternoon, we held the kids’ duathlon, (not everyone had bikes so we dropped that portion of the race). I adored seeing how into the race all the kids were. It means so much to me to be able to show them that this kind of healthy activity can be fun and exciting. Mom made them lovely medals, which many of them wore throughout the rest of the day. My nephew Max adorably said “I can’t believe I won my first triathlon!” As far as finishing first, he didn’t, but the awesome thing about triathlon is that you win just by completing the race.
This year, I grieved the loss of the triathlon season, but thanks to my amazing family, I got to have the most special race ever. I am especially grateful to my cousin Nicole for coming to race with me, which helped light an extra fire and made the race so much more fun. What I’ve always loved about triathlon is that it’s about community; it is a sport of individual effort and collective celebration. While that collective celebration was smaller this year, I still got to have the high of race day because I was surrounded with the support and love of my incredible family. During this year of so much loss, this was the most joyful win I could have possibly imagined.