TriStars volunteers desperately needed for the Victoria Triathlon June 15

I am taking part in this Ironman Canada 70.3 race as a swimmer on an Olympic distance relay team. PLEASE CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING…

Triumphant smile at the end of the race

After last year’s Victoria Triathlon (my first Olympic distance) I went for a dip in the lake. Ahhh!

Just like last year, Lifesport is offering a $500 honorarium to teams that provide a minimum of 25 volunteers. The $500 that TriStars (my team) received last year was applied to the costs of our Christmas party, to which TriStars volunteers are invited! Last year I danced all night. :)

The honorarium applies to set-up crew on Friday (8:30am-12:30pm or 12:30pm-4:30pm) and Saturday morning (8:30am-12:30pm), tear-down crew on Sunday afternoon (2pm-6pm), and bike/run marshals during the race.

If you’re interested in volunteering please sign up using the link below, and make sure to choose TriStars as the “Group” under the Volunteer Registration section. Please note that each volunteer needs to register with a unique email address as this ensures that the volunteer captains are able to communicate with their respective teams. Thanks!!

A day and a half to fall in love with Vancouver all over again

Sometimes good deeds are rewarded. Last year I volunteered for the Victoria Marathon; while at the orientation event I entered a draw sponsored by Diggit Victoria and I won a one-night stay in a downtown condo and a $100 gift certificate to the Glowbal restaurant of my choice.

I was finally able to take advantage of my prize on May 16-17. I took the day off work and booked a Harbour Air flight. Then I promptly fell in love with Vancouver all over again during my 36 hours there.

My first order of business was to visit my tenants at my Marpole condo to check things out and help with a minor repair. I realized, as I took the Canada Line, that it had been almost two years since I’d been in Vancouver for personal reasons. Every other time has been a business trip.

It was a sunny, dry day, and in the middle of the day the train was not full. When I lived there, I began to resent the crowded train ride twice a day, but I did get a lot of audiobooks read …

Rather than take the train back downtown after my visit, I took the bus back up Granville Street. Marpole has changed quite a bit in two years. The Safeway on Granville is completely rebuilt with a condo tower above it. I think it can only enhance the neighbourhood by bringing new residents, new businesses. I was glad to see Mirchi (my favourite little East Indian restaurant) is still there.

I walked from the bus stop downtown to the Lions building where I was staying, in the West End. The condo is a privately-held property – I had originally thought it was a vacation rental property, but it doesn’t seem like it – my guess is it’s for frequent business travellers. It’s a cute, small, completely self-contained “junior” suite, which means it has a tiny bedroom with a single bed, and really psychedelic wallpaper! Good thing I didn’t come here with someone else as I had originally planned, back in January-February; this is not a romantic get-away-type place.

False_Creek_May_2014I promised Connie from Diggit that I would document my stay. Unfortunately, I had issues with my phone battery and was unable to take a lot of pictures, but the apartment is super-clean and modern, with a lot of windows, a huge-screen TV, wifi, a kitchenette with stainless steel appliances, and a full bath. There is a concierge at the front desk and parking available (including locked bike parking). I contacted the owners afterwards to see if they’re in the market for new short-term renters and they said no, so I won’t advertise any more than that. Suffice it to say this tiny apartment is adorable.

I stashed my bag and went off in search of a bike rental place. I ended up at English Bay Bike rentals where the friendly and helpful staff fitted me with a cruiser bike with balloon tires, a helmet and U-lock. They’re located right on Vancouver’s waterfront bike path and rates are quite reasonable – almost a third less than another place I checked out in the West End. I took advantage of the glorious weather to cruise the path all the way around False Creek to Granville Island – a route I ran many times when I lived in Vancouver.

At Granville Island I ambled, and shopped, and had tea, and ambled some more, until I realized I had to meet a friend at 6. I made my way back via the Burrard Street Bridge, which is a great bridge for cyclists – but they’re making it even better – WTG Vancouver! Realizing a) I was exhausted and b) I still needed to shower and get ready for dinner, I postponed pre-dinner drinks and took a cab met my friends at the restaurant.

dessert platter


Trattoria in Kitsilano is part of the Glowbal group, which has several Vancouver restaurants. If they’re all as good as this, I’d like to get to them all eventually. I rounded up two Vancouver friends to accompany me and, in short, that was one of the most delicious, enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. I had the special of the day: a vegetarian risotto which was the best I’ve ever tasted (and I dated an Italian guy for a while who was an amazing cook, so I know my risotto). My friends loved their meals too: K had a steak which, according to him, was very good, and I honestly can’t remember what B had, but I know she loved hers as well. We shared a dessert platter afterwards. I couldn’t eat a lot of it because of the preponderance of dairy, but what I did taste was nothing short of exquisite. Our waiter, Faraz, was funny and personable and was a big reason why our meal was so great.

From there, the evening turned into an impromptu rooftop party in Gastown. You’ve all had those evenings, right? Not a rooftop in Gastown per se: but an evening that just turns out to be more fun and interesting than you had planned; where you meet new people and have great conversations, and realize life is just amazing and the world is right here, right now and nothing needs to change. Where you get home incredibly late and wake up only slightly hungover, and think: “Well, that was fun! I couldn’t have organized anything better if I’d tried.”

I did wake up too early the next day – which was OK because I had more exploring to do before I left for home. I took the cruiser and headed around the Stanley Park Seawall: another running route I used to do nearly every weekend. Seawall_Stanley_Park_May2014The day was perfect for it.
I will note at this time the weather forecast had called for rain both days I was there. I was prepared with my rain gear, and bought a nifty rain hat at the Hat Shop on Granville Island, but there was nary a drop. It was like the weekend was made for my enjoyment. Hah.

I ended the bike ride by returning the cruiser to the bike shop, then wandered down Denman and eventually met up with B for brunch. Then I headed to the condo, packed up, took the garbage out (as instructed), handed the key to the concierge, and caught my flight home.

Thanks Connie at Diggit Victoria for the great prize – I had a blast and I am looking forward to more personal (not just business) trips back to Vancouver in the future.

Four things I knew already, but forgot, before the Shawnigan 2014 triathlon

In descending order of importance, except for #6 Extra Bonus – you could just skip to that part right now if you wanted.

1. Endurance sport is all about mental toughness, and mental toughness is a skill borne of habit and routine.

All last year, and the year before that as a runner, and the year before that as a marathoner, back to 2009 and my first ever marathon, I have a week-long (or more) pre-race routine: each morning I wake up to “Love Like a Sunset” Parts 1 and 2 and visualize race day. I close my eyes and imagine the start, the middle, the end: the hurdles I’ll face; how I’ll overcome them because of my experience and training; how it will be tough, but I’ll come through it; how I’ll want to quit, but I won’t because the finish line is so sweet. And I visualize crossing the finish line triumphant.

Shawnigan triathlon swim start

Photo by Connie Walters-Dunwoody, all rights hers, used with permission

I didn’t do that this time. I think I was in denial. My unconscious thoughts were: I’m injured and have been slow to recover; I can’t do this whole race anyway; I can’t run (in fact I’ll probably need surgery before I can run again); I’ve gained weight; I’m slower even than usual; I’m shouldn’t take this too seriously because really, what am I doing out there in the first place?

My conscious thoughts were: I’ve been swimming like a dolphin; I don’t need to think about this; this is ‘only’ 500 metres; I don’t get to cross a finish line; it’s just a little swim in the lake; I’m an “old hand” at this; I don’t need to really think about it.

I didn’t even pack my gear until the morning I left for Shawnigan, though I had meant to pack the night before, then go for a little “shake out” bike ride Saturday morning before leaving.

As usual, race morning jitters hit me after breakfast race day, but this time worse than ever. Confession: I was almost in panic mode standing on the shore an hour and a half before my wave started, trying not to let it show as my relay team-mate Darcie and I watched the Trestle Challenge and Olympic distance racers embark on their swim. I posted a photo saying how nervous I was, but other than that I didn’t know how to calm myself down.

In hindsight a better course of action may have been to find a quiet place, dial up Phoenix on my phone, breathe deeply, and visualize myself swimming confidently through the cold water to a 10-minute swim split. Then do it again and again until it was time to get in the water.

2. Swimming is harder than it seems like it should be

I worked hard at swimming this winter, because it was pretty much the only thing I could do after I got off the crutches. Yet, my time for this 500 metre open water swim was, at 12 minutes, only 26 seconds faster than last year’s performance. I was confident I would make it in 10 minutes or less this year.

Tori peeking around other swimmers to mug for the camera

Photo by Connie Walters-Dunwoody; all rights hers, used with permission

I had a good warmup, which calmed my nerves. Then we stood on shore for 15 minutes waiting for my wave (the final wave) to start. I joked around with my teammates, and mugged for the camera a couple times, but I was shivering when we finally got in the water. Then the horn sounded, and I swam. I went out fast, trying to follow a speedy swimmer’s bubbles (the lovely Donna Morrisey actually), trying to see what it is like not to hang back, not to swim wide trying to avoid other swimmers.

I had no trouble being with the other swimmers, but I froze up 50m out from shore. I had gone out too fast; I wasn’t relaxed.

Full blown get me the f**k out of here panic.

Gasping for air, disoriented and thinking “I can’t do this, I can’t do this,” I stopped completely, floated in place and watched other swimmers pull away from me. Breathe. Breathe again. Sighted the first buoy. Told myself “I CAN do this. I’ve done it before, many times, in water colder than this. Get a grip, calm down and just swim. No-one cares if you win or not. No one even cares if you finish. No pressure. Just. Swim.”

So I did. At my own pace. To my surprise I aimed straight for the buoy and actually almost hit it. I rounded it, went straight for the next buoy and almost hit it too – no zig-zagging (my biggest problem last year.) I relaxed and tried to let go of expectations. I swam to within 3 steps of shore and exited the water, and then had trouble getting my wet suit off. Erg.

3. Leave the arm warmers off, or wear them under the wetsuit.

Tori in transition @1 swim to bike

Yeah, those arm warmers ain’t doing jack, and it took 150 seconds to put them on. Photo by Darcie Nolan-Davidson; all rights hers, used with permission.

It was a chilly, rainy day and I wondered how to get an extra layer on in transition for the bike. I rolled arm warmers like I roll my socks – all ready to unroll up my arms (or feet). But it took too long. I spent nearly 5 whole freaking minutes in T1, most of it trying to get arm warmers on wet arms. Gah.

Iron distance finisher and teammate, Coach Lindsey, told me later she just puts them on under her wetsuit – they dry as fast as a trisuit anyway. Double Gah.

4. It doesn’t f**king matter if it’s a bit chilly

I didn’t even need the arm warmers. I didn’t wear socks. I didn’t wear gloves. I didn’t even need sunscreen because it was cloudy. Transition could have been 2 and a half minutes, not 5, and it would not have mattered one little bit to my bike time. Racing is different from just being out for a ride. I’m working harder, I’m more focused.

5. Bonus: I love cycling

My bike split was 57:29, an average pace of 23.1 km/h on a rolling hills course; nearly 8 minutes slower than last year. I got passed by a hybrid AND a mountain bike at first! (I overtook them on the hills later…) And yet, I was happy with this performance. I only started cycling “for real” again about two or three weeks ago, getting off the tame, flat Galloping Goose trail to do the slightly more challenging waterfront-mid-peninsula routes I was doing regularly at this time last year. Heck, I had done a metric century ride in March last year leading up to triathlon season!

My physiotherapist still wants me to take it easy on the hills, and in truth I have no choice – I’m outta shape! But not as out of shape as I thought I was. I only had to ice my knee a little bit after I got home …

6. Extra bonus: Darcie is my hero

Tori, Darcie and Connie

Limp, Grunt, and Gasp. Selfie by Connie. Use with caution. :)

My team was called TriStars Limp, Grunt and Gasp. I was the Limp because of my knee injury, and Connie was the Gasp, because when she signed on to do the run portion of this relay team she was sick with a bad flu AND recovering from wrist surgery. Unfortunately, she had a coughing relapse a couple of weeks before the triathlon and couldn’t compete, so I ended up doing the swim and bike while Darcie – the Grunt – did the run.

Tori and Darcie

Tori and Darcie

But get this: Darcie was Grunt because six weeks before Shawnigan Triathlon she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. SIX WEEKS POST-PARTUM PEOPLE. If that’s not determination I don’t know what is. Baby Abby has one helluva superhero mom, don’cha think?

See you at the Victoria Subaru Sprint, Olympic and Half Ironman in June! I’ll be swimming the Olympic relay distance as with Peter and Connie as part of TriStars Team Scrambled Legs.

Note to racer #799 with the Aussie accent:

… did you get a timely ride back to the finish? Bad luck with that flat and no spare, sorry I couldn’t help you out more. ’Til next time!