Weather the Storm
Last Sunday morning, I woke up to a torrential downpour. Normally, I wouldn’t mind so much, it’s been a dry, hot summer, and the crops and forests need it. However, Sunday was my second Toronto Triathlon Festival, so I was, understandably, less than thrilled. After six months of training, however, skipping out on this triathlon was not an option, and the thought never crossed my mind. I drank my coffee and packed my bag, and forged forward into the pouring rain.
I biked over to the festival, and by the time I arrived, my shoes were already soaked through (lesson #1 folks: if you’re racing on a wet day, put your race shoes in a plastic bag. Keep them there until it’s time to race. This was an error). I set up my T-zone, and went to meet my friend David who was bravely racing in his first tri in brutal conditions. Together we found a little patch of shelter and laughed with other triathletes at the absurdity of it all. Triathletes are a wonderful, friendly, supportive community, and there was an enhanced sense of camaraderie through shared suffering.
Eventually, David, who was in an earlier wave than me, went over to the swim start, and I went to finalize set-up of my soaking wet t-zone. I had carefully laid down a plastic bag under my towel, and one over it, and yet, everything was still drenched before I even started my race. Note to self: next time, bring a bigger bag! I flipped over my shoes and shrugged my shoulders, resigned to the fact that there was nothing I could do, and headed down to my swim start.
At the dock, I chatted with a few of the women who were in my wave, and one asked if I was nervous. I realized to my surprise that I wasn’t. My expectations for the race had been completely dashed by the weather, and oddly this left me calm. I knew that the likelihood of reaching my goal time was low given the weather, and I also felt confident that I’d finish, so there was nothing left to worry about.
Soon it was time for my wave to start, and the winds began to pick up. Fortunately, however, the winds were working with me, and the currents gave me a boost on the first part of the swim. This meant that on the latter part of the swim I wasn’t tired and still had plenty of energy. I remembered being so stressed in the swim of my first tri, but this time I felt like I had space and room to breathe, even when I was swimming against the current on the way back.
After my swim, I ran to my transition area and noted that, as predicted, the wind gusts were getting stronger. I switched into my bike gear and ran to the mount line, and began the 20km ride; man was it intense! My first tri, the bike ride was my favourite part of the race, but this time, the outbound bike was brutal. The first stretch took me uphill into the wind, and I think at one point I probably was biking almost as slowly as I run. As I struggled and pushed to find my rhythm, fighting the wind and misting rain, I was shocked to see a friend of mine up on the Gardiner cheering on racers. It was so lovely in that moment, one of intense challenge, to have someone I know cheer for me (thanks Jen!).
When I finally hit the turnaround point, I said a prayer of gratitude, and started to really fly; the same winds that had been in my face were now pushing me. This part actually was fun! I waved to my friend again as I rode by, and her companion took a sweet pic of me (see above). The bike was crazy with the wind, rain and wet roads. I saw four people by the side of the road changing tires that had blown and thought… I really need to learn how to do that. If I’d blown a flat, my race would have been over. Fortunately, I got out of the ride unscathed, and transitioned into the run.
My run was surprisingly okay (high praise from this non-runner)! It wasn’t the best, because it was raining sideways, and my insoles had come unstuck in my shoes and were sliding up the sides of them, and my soaking wet race outfit was chafing in a variety of places. But, you know, my legs did okay. I only had to stop a few times to walk (as opposed to multiple times a few years ago), and all in all, I didn’t totally hate my life and regret all my choices.
I did, of course, feel done before I actually was, when there was about a kilometer left and the wind was blowing rain in my face. At that point, I really badly wanted the finish line. The best part of the run, however, was the strangers who cheered me on from the side of the road and other racers who ran with me and offered words of encouragement. Everyone does their own race with whatever goals they have, but there is a sense that we’re all in it together.
When I finally rounded the corner to the finish line, it wasn’t like my first tri. There weren’t tons of other racers holding up signs and cheering; the sheeting rain discouraged lingering. Most of us didn’t even bother hitting the beer garden. But still, as I finished the race, I saved a bit of steam and ran the hardest I could. There, my two amazing friend rockstars Ilda and Andrew were waiting, drenched in the pouring rain, cheering for me. Thank you, my dears. Your presence despite the elements meant the world to me and made me feel truly loved.
Triathlon is an incredible sport, filled with a wonderful community of people. Competing in these races makes me feel strong and brave, and shows me that I have the will and ability to persevere through challenges and obstacles. My first rainy and windy tri gave me another opportunity to face down a new challenge, to suffer through discomfort, and to look back and laugh. What a crazy race that was, and I finished with a smile, only two minutes slower than my original goal.
I may not have crossed the finish line first, but still, I feel like I won!
The banner image was from the Gravenhurst triathlon the week before, as I didn't have a finish line pic from the TTF.
Credit for the swim wave pic goes to @illmitch.
Credit for the bike image goes to Tribe Fitness.
Credit for the running image goes to FinisherPix.
Credit for the last image of me goes to Ilda Fida.