Tag Archives: race report

Five lessons learned from my first Olympic distance triathlon

I did it! I did it! I did it!

Tori finishing her first Olympic distance triathlon Here are the numbers:

  • Swim 1500m 38:33
  • T1 4:10
  • Bike 45 km 1:51:45
  • T2 1:45
  • Run 10 km 1:05:28
  • Total: 3:41:39

A solid back-of-the-pack performance!

Three weeks ago during my first open-water tri – the sprint distance at Shawnigan Lake – there were several achievements I left “locked” for next time. I think I did well in learning those lessons this time around, during the Subaru Victoria Triathlon.

Lesson #1: relax and trust your training

Achievement already unlocked 🙂

Yep – I got this one down. I was more excited than nervous going into this race, and having the Sprint under my belt helped. Also helped that the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for Sunday’s race: warm but not too warm and no wind with a few clouds.

I got butterflies the day before the race when I took my bike out to set up in transition area overnight, but those went away once I got in the water for our 10-10-10 pre-race workout (10 minutes each sport, just to shake out any nerves and warm up the muscles).

The swim wasn’t as fast as I would have liked (I was hoping for 36 minutes) but I think I went wide trying to avoid all the bodies in the water. Swimming over and through a bunch of other people is something I’ve practiced with the team, but am not comfortable with quite yet. I didn’t find anyone to draft.

Here’s the best part about the swim: no nausea, no dizziness, no confusion at T1. I attribute this to earplugs. I had scoured the triathlete discussion boards and found I am definitely not the only person who gets dizzy in open water, and this was the #1 tip. (My friend Erin also told me that during Ironman races she takes a quarter of a Gravol pill to cut her nausea. If I ever do a Half or full Iron distance I’ll try a training swim with gravol if needed.)

Lesson #2: be redundantly, excruciatingly early to set up transition area

Achievement unlocked 🙂

I was up at 5, out of the house by 5:30 and set up in transition area by 6:15, a full hour before I had to line up on shore. Being relaxed and ready is so much better than being panicked.

Lesson #3: know your strengths

Achievement still unlocked 🙁

Is this one ever really achieved for any of us? I know I have so much potential deep down, but I still found myself during the first half of the bike saying things to myself like:

  • Why the hell am I doing this?
  • This is hard.
  • Legs tired already; maybe I’ll just finish this stupid bike course and not do the run.
  • You know, I can just quit.
  • I could just do this race and never do an Olympic distance again.
Tori on the bike

By the end of the bike portion I was back in my happy triathlete zone.

Obviously I talked myself out of it. This was all during the first 15-20K of a tough bike course with lots of hills at the start. Also, this was not the time to be discovering that Shot Blocks make my tummy sore, and I can’t chew waffles while I’m breathing hard. Thanks be to awesome triathlon race organizers who had two aid stations with PowerGels available. After the first gel kicked in I was saying things to myself like:

  • Well geez louise, this is a RACE, it’s SUPPOSED to feel like I’m working my ass off!
  • This is one of the most beautiful bike courses in triathlon. Enjoy the day.
  • I know the humiliation of just quitting would last forever. Even if I get two flats and/or have to walk the run course, I know I’m going to finish this race, because that’s just how I roll.
  • Shut up legs!

By the time the course flattened out, at the airport, I was fine. I spent much of the last half of the bike in my drops (no triathlon bike for me just yet) trying to make up time. Once again, the bike turned out to be my strongest of the three sports and the part I enjoyed most about the day.

Lesson #4: make it so you don’t have to think at transition area

Achievement unlocked 🙂

My transition times could use some improvement, but in general I didn’t think about it, I just switched from one sport to the next without second-guessing my choices or looking around for gear. I’ve also mastered the art of getting my wetsuit off while still standing. Practice makes perfect!

Lesson #5: Bricks are your friend.

Achievement unlocked 🙂

I felt great on the run pretty much right from the start. No side stitches, no legs feeling like they were someone else’s. I was tired, for sure, but that was because I had already been exercising for 2.5 hours by the time I got to the run. It didn’t stop me from pulling off a respectable (for me) 1:05 for the 10k run. Astonishing considering how little I’ve been running lately, compared to when I was marathon and half marathon training.

Triumphant smile at the end of the race

After the race I went for a dip in the lake. Ahhh! All photos by Connie Dunwoody by the way – she always brings out my biggest smiles. 🙂


I can’t wait for the next race. I’m not sure when it will be, but I know I want to do the Banff Subaru triathlon in September. No definite plans yet. Stay tuned!

*Note: This post has been edited from its original version as of May 2015.


Team TriStars with their medals

TriStars who got on the podium – and that’s not all of them – my team is awesome.


A farewell to 42.2

Note: Before you read this post, I may have to call bulls**t on myself. I received two running books in the mail today after scheduling this post: “Relentless Forward Progress: a guide to running ultramarathons” and “Born to Run.” So I’ll see you on the trails this summer …

May 1, 2011: a perfect day for a marathon in Vancouver.

Weeks ago in the midst of training I sent my boyfriend Chris a message that said “No matter what happens on May 1, this will be my last marathon for a while.”

I did finish. That makes two finishes and one DNF. After last year’s DNF, I was relieved, happy and tearful Sunday when I crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 39 minutes and 27 seconds.

It was absolutely gorgeous weather. We had a clear view of the north shore mountains and it wasn’t too hot.

I started out with a 6:10 first kilometre but knew it was a little fast and tried to slow it down. The 4:30 pace bunnies caught up to me within 3 k. I fell into step with them. I met someone from New York City and someone from Utah. We chatted as we ran. For someone used to running with a group, it was nice. I felt strong, I felt good. I felt like my goal time of 4:30 was well within reach.

I was momentarily clock-blocked by a homeless guy crossing the street somewhere in the downtown east side. I was rounding a corner and he was blithely crossing the street as if nothing unusual was going on that day. I just laughed and carried on running.

I was grateful for my fuel belt in Stanley Park because they ran out of cups for the water stations. I just refilled my water bottle. The other people around me were gulping straight from the jugs, and picking up used cups. Tsk tsk race organizers! Stanley Park is often the place where something goes wonky during the race, because it’s so hard for the organizers to get in there and replenish supplies after the race has started.

Coming out of Stanley Park my pace was faltering a bit but I really wanted to stay with the 4:30 pace bunny. Just before the Burrard Street Bridge Chris was there with his camera, fresh water bottles, encouraging words and a kiss. But as I turned to resume running I couldn’t spot the pace bunny group. I never did catch up.

The bridge wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Or rather – it was harder than I imagined? I couldn’t keep up my pace over the long elevation gain. I put on my music, but by the time I crossed I knew I was going to have a hard time achieving 4:30.

At 30k (the point that marked my longest training run) the hurt set in. Unlike my first marathon, there was no stabbing pain of muscles seizing up – it was just fatigue. I could feel my SI joint, my quads and calf muscles tightening. I felt like I was trying to run on wooden legs.

I had hit The Wall.

I took my last gel and kept going. A lot of the time I was grunting with effort. My pace dropped to about 7 minutes/kilometre and it seemed there was nothing I could do to step it up. I knew I had to run over the bridge again, but I knew it wasn’t as steep as I had imagined, so I would be OK.

I concentrated on my form and kept pushing, trying not to stop and walk. I imagined my legs being pulled up at each step, and that propelled me up to the bridge, which is at the 39 k mark. On my way down, I knew I was so close, that the pain would be over soon, that I was about to finish another marathon.

I started to cry.

That last 3k seemed really long, but suddenly there was the finish line and I heard my name being called. I cried even harder and tried to raise my arms in victory for the finish line camera. Sobbing, I walked through a line of volunteers handing out finisher medals and spotted a little girl.

“Can I have my finisher’s medal?” I asked. I think she was a bit scared because I was crying, but she handed it to me.

“Thanks sweetie!” I said, smiling as I put it around my own neck.

Then I went to find Chris, who was carrying the flask of Irish whiskey. It was the best finish ever.

I’m serious about the no more marathons pledge. The training takes up so much of my time and pretty much kills my social life. Plus, it’s HARD to run 42.2 k at a time. As in – painful, gruelling, grinding. It’s a long, long way to run.

Half marathons, on the other hand, are perfect. It only takes me about 2 hours to run 21.1 k – a nice morning’s run, and just hard enough to accomplish. The training is fun and it doesn’t kill my social life (which does include non-runners!). I still get a medal when I finish.

Last Sunday’s Vancouver Marathon was a great race to end this leg of my marathon journey.

Photo by Christopher Mackay


Race report: Oak Bay Half Marathon

First, the quick recap:

  1. Official time: 2:08:04
  2. Personal best by 4:20 (previous PB 2:12:24)
  3. By any measure, that’s a huge jump in performance.

Why am I not really satisfied?  (Or more importantly – I’m feeling guilty about not being satisfied because in fact today was quite an accomplishment! At age 45, I have never run so fast for so long in my life, and I know I could run faster! Isn’t that amazing when you really think about it?)

Because I think I could have done better; because every other person I trained with (except one) finished faster (look at that handsome bunch of healthy people in the picture!), because I knew I wouldn’t hit my “A” goal just after the 5K mark, and I knew I wouldn’t hit my “B” goal before the 15K mark, even though my pace was stronger than ever before. It’s tough to recover from negative self-talk like that in the middle of an endurance race.

Let’s back up: here were my tiered goals for today:

  • “A” goal that I set in January: sub-2 hrs. Reward: that tattoo I’ve been wanting for 10 years.
  • “B” goal: sub-2:05. Reward: 2 summer dresses + necklace I picked out at Lark & Sparrow yesterday.
  • “C” goal: sub-2:10. Reward: 1 of the dresses. No necklace.
  • “Just finishing:” A spa day with a friend. Ok ok, I was going to do that anyway.

So – even though I realized that my stretch goal of sub-2 hrs was improbable, my goal of 2:05 was well within reach.

I felt crappy from the start. Even though I came to the first 5 K at about 29:00 I felt like I was pushing it too much, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough for those tough hills at the end of the course. I got a stitch in my side that took from the 7 until the 12 K mark to disappear. My legs felt heavy and tired. Many times, even before the first hill, I wanted to quit.

You are what you pay attention to: this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I did the same workouts as my pace group friends who came in ahead of me; I was trained and ready. My own brain failed me: we now know that our brain tricks us into experiencing fatigue and pain when in fact our muscles are far from failure.

Brain training starts next week, find out how after the jump…