Toronto Triathlon Festival 2023 Race Report

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Last Updated on July 14, 2024 by Cory Kawa

My third attempt to Challenge for the Podium in 2023 brought me to the 2023 edition of the Toronto Triathlon Festival.

My last two attempts resulted in a:

My goal today was to reduce my time in transition, improve my bike power, and match my all-time best Olympic run from the 2022 Toronto Triathlon Festival.

Read on to hear about :

  • 🏃đŸģ‍♂ī¸ – Setting an Olympic Personal Best run at the 2022 Toronto Triathlon Festival.
  • đŸ’Ļ – Why the TTF is a must-do race.
  • 🏊đŸģ‍♂ī¸ – The pros and cons of the updated swim start and changes to transition.
  • 🏅 – My trials and tribulations as I attempt to challenge for the podium.

My all time best Olympic run at the ’22 TTF

Crossing the finish line with Simon
A Photo Finish at the 2022 Toronto Triathlon Festival

2022 was a race to remember:

đŸšĻ- It was a highly congested age group mass start in Ontario Place’s West Channel.

đŸŒŋ – Swimming in weeds.

🌩ī¸ – It was short and fast. With lightning in the forecast, the bike was shortened to 17.5 km.

☀ī¸ – The sun came out for the run.

As I neared the 8km mark of the run, I began to slowly catch up to this man on my left, Simon.

He was running well, and I wasn’t running much faster. As the meters lessened to feet, I looked down and saw my age group written on his left calf.

I was giving it my all to catch him, and although I knew we weren’t racing for the podium, I figured we’d be racing for pride.

My mind started running through various scenarios. Should I:

  • 🏎ī¸ – Make a move now, with a hard, sustained push past him, hoping he doesn’t catch up and surpass me.
  • ⏱ī¸ – Stand back and time my move, hoping to pass him with a final kick closer to the finish.
  • đŸĨˇđŸģ – Challenge him now, and let the best man win.

Let’s go for door number 3: Challenge Accepted.

As I pulled up alongside him, I recall saying something to the effect of… “I see you’re in my age group. Should we race to the finish?” And race we did, running side by side with some of my/our fastest 1km race splits of the year, pushing each other to glory and a shared 7th pace finish with a finishing time perfectly matched to 1:52:48.0.

If you’re curious. After putting in a decent swim, a great bike, and fast splits of around 4:30 for the first 8km of the run, that shared suffering enabled us to run a hard final 2km at 4:08 per km.

Simon, thanks for pushing me to my best-ever Olympic run that day.

I typically train alone, but as I write this, I’m thinking maybe I need to join a run club.

Why Race the Toronto Triathlon Festival

Riding Along the Gardiner with the CN Tower at the Toronto Triathlon Festival

The Toronto Triathlon Festival is one of Ontario’s premier Olympic distance events. I say this because:

🏟ī¸ – It’s Massive – With 750 Olympic racers, another 550 in the sprint, plus countless more across the various other events, it’s the largest provincial event of its kind.

đŸšĢ – The Bike Course – It’s one of the few opportunities you’ll ever have to ride along the QEW and 404.

📷 – Photos – A photo riding in aero on the Gardiner with the CN Tower in the background. It doesn’t get better than that.

đŸĒ – Expo – It’s perhaps the biggest expo around with some great deals.

🎉 – Party – The post-race celebrations are really well done.

🏡 – Proximity – It’s close to home.

What Changed in 2023

With construction about to start on the planned changes at Ontario Place, change was inevitable.

⏲ī¸ Swim Start

Last year featured a mass swim start based on age group. It was a chaos.

I love starting with my age group; it makes it way easier to know who you’re racing later on, but it was crazy. I recall having two choices: take the direct line and fight through a mass of hands and feet, or swim wide through the weeeds. I chose weeds.

This year’s swim was updated to a staggered start, with three swimmers jumping from the dock, starting every few seconds, grouped by expected finishing time. It was less hectic and a much better swim experience.

✅ – Pro: A much safer swim.

✅ – Pro: A more pleasant swim.

❎ – Con: Not knowing who your racing on the run.

🚧 Transition

Last year, after exiting the water, there was a short run to transition before a long run with the bikes across a bridge to the CNE grounds towards bike mount.

With construction at Ontario Place, the setup was reversed, starting with a long run across a bridge to the CNE grounds and transition, followed by a short run to bike out.

✅ – Pro: Not having to run a few hundred meters up and over a bridge with your bike.

❎ – Con: Having to run a few hundred meters to transition in your wetsuit.

❎ – Con: The run started and finished with a twisty turny section over another bridge, disrupting the sightlines to the finish and the overall flow of the run.

2022 Toronto Triathlon Festival Run Course
A Less Flowly 2023 Toronto Triathlon Festival Run Course

Past Performances at the Toronto Triathlon Festival

Last year was my first year at TTF.

  • 2022 – 1:52:48 – Age Group 7/37 – Swim 32:21, T1 3:29, Bike 31:46 (17.5km), T2 1:55, Run 43:17

Goals for the 2023 TTF

My goal for this race is to continue to bike hard, improve my transitions, and match my run from 2022. With a lack of swim training, some of these goals are aspirational, but all should be achievable.

  • 🏊đŸģ‍♂ī¸ – Swimming at 2:00 or better.
  • đŸšĩđŸģ‍♂ī¸ – Maintaining 210 watts, targeting sub 1:10.
  • 🏃đŸģ‍♂ī¸ – Running at 4:20/km.
  • 🧩 – To not suck in transition.
  • 🏁 – Sub 2:30, not on the podium, but my best Olympic yet

Ontario Place Swim – 23/41 – 31:21 – 2:03/1,526m

No Earplug Swim

I don’t recall much from the swim. I didn’t take advantage of the practice swim the day before or the brief swim the morning of.

I decided to go without earplugs this time, and as you can see, that didn’t work out well for me.

With the improved swim start, I wasn’t forced to go outside of the main line, resulting in fewer weeds, more drafting, and an all-around better swim experience.

The swim wasn’t my best, but with only six swims since Rose City and a complete lack of swimming this year, it was better than I deserved.

Lessons learned from the Swim – Always take the time to know what your sightline looks like to the swim finish. I sighted the wrong section of the dock and swam wide, adding a few extra seconds to my final time.

Top Male 45-49 Swim Times: Jonathon Cescon – 22:16, Jeremy Brasseur – 22:54, Phillip Plimmer – 24:30, Garth Nichols – 25:38, David Greenfield – 26:04

Gardiner/404 Bike – 12/41 – 1:09:30 – 199w / 204w NP

Riding in aero along the Gardiner Expressway.
Riding Along the Gardiner

It’s not often you get to ride on a closed bike course, and even less often, you can ride the Gardiner/404. It’s fast, with nearly perfect roads.

The bike truly makes this race special.

I came out strong, hitting my power targets for the first half before quickly fading.

Looking back, this was an interesting one where my power levels didn’t quite match my HR, perceived effort, or overall performance.

I rode to my fastest Olympic time so far at 1:09:20. I set numerous HR records for 2023, including best 10/20/60 minutes HRs, all while averaging 34.5km/hr on the bike.

My power was a disappointing 199 watts, with 5km power intervals of 208, 204, 207, 202, 194, 199, 194, and 181.

As a sidebar, I recently signed up for Best Bike Split, which predicted an expected finishing time of 1:09:53 at 199 watts. If I hit my goal of 210 watts, my anticipated finishing time would have dropped to 1:08:53.

Lesson learned: No major gaps today. I just need to bike more.

Top Male 45-49 Bike Times: Michael Telpner – 1:03:40, Andrew Graham – 1:03:58, Mike Medeiros – 1:04:06, Walter De Wet – 1:04:16, David Greenfield 1:04:30

9.9km Martin Goodman trail Run- 7/41 – 44:21 – 4:29/km

Crossing the Finish in the CNE Grounds

I had a simple goal: Meet or beat last year’s 43:17.

With the longer bike and no one to race me to the finish, I didn’t have it in me.

I needed to average 4:20 and barely managed to hit it once.

1km Splits: 4:24, 4:29, 4:33, 4:28, 4:28, 4:33, 4:37, 4:32, 4:26, 4:18.

Lesson learned: It’s faster when you have someone to race.

Top Male 45-49 Runs Times: Andrew Graham – 37:54, Walter De Wet – 40:07, David Greenfield – 40:34, Mike Medeiros – 41:16, Garth Nichols – 42:52

Note on the run – According to SportStats, two people ran a world record 10km. I’m assuming they quit after the first lap or had a chip error. I have not included those times.

Transition – 9:17 (T1 6:56, T2 2:21)

Faster Transitions with Lock Laces

Transition changed this year. Last year, it was only a few steps from the water to my bike. This year, it was closer to 500m.

After a horrible transition at Rose City, where it took me a few minutes to untie my laces, I decided to pick up a pair of Lock Laces at the race expo. They work and work well. I’m able to get them tight enough for a comfortable fit, and with some practice, they go on quick.

I believe the motto for race day is to “not try anything different on race day.” With the lock laces, I did, and things did go wrong. As you might be able to see in the top lace, in my rush to change, I pulled the laces with such force that I ripped the cosmetic lock right off, adding another minute to my time as I attempted to fix the problem.

In general, I continue to suck at transitions. If you are new to Lock Laces, I would definitely recommend practicing transitions with them a few times before race day.

Here are my post races thoughts on improving my time in transition:

😴 – Hustle. I’m using T1 as a rest break to recover from the swim, slowly jogging into T1

👟 – I need velcro shoes. Shoelaces haven’t been kind to me this year.

❕ – Know where you’re going. I didn’t pay attention to where run out was and ran to the wrong side of transition.

Lesson learned: When using lock laces, pull the lace, not the lock.

Final Result – 15/41 – 2:34:29

6/23 (M 45-49) at Gravenhurst Olympic Triathlon in 2023

I had a decent day with a faster swim and bike than last year, offset by a slightly slower run, and came in 15th.

As I look back at this race, I always felt that my result was beyond my control, that the big boys came out to play, pushing me from 7th in 2022 to 15th in 2023. That’s just not true.

With better execution in transition, a slightly speedier swim, and a bit more legs on the run. I could have broken 2:30, slotting into 7th place.

That’s why we race.

Top Male 45-49 Finishing Times: David Greenfield – 2:14:52, Andrew Graham – 2:15:22, Garth Nichols – 2:17:51, Walter De Wet – 2:18:18, Mike Medeiros – 2:18:24.

Top Overall Finishing Times: Ethan Johnson-Skinner – 2:00:41, Evert Lamb – 2:01:38, Pablo Casuso – 2:05:57, Eugene Klyshko – 2:07:31, Malcolm Hudson – 2:07:52.

Final Thoughts

I love everything about TTF. It’s a great race that’s a must-do event for anyone in the GTA.

As for the race, this was a hard one. I came out with hopes and felt pretty good about my execution, but simple mistakes continue to hold me back.

My opportunity to stand on the podium in 2023 continues to look more remote. As I look to Kingston, Wasaga, and Lakeside, I’ll need to:

📊 – Execute in Transition – Practice getting out of the wetsuit, untie my shoelaces, and hustle.

🏊‍♂ī¸ – Swim Practice – I’ll copy this from Rose City – I’m a triathlete. Triathletes swim. This is my biggest opportunity for improvement.

Although the podium continues to be out of my reach, a competitive finish is not.

Thanks for reading,


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