Toronto Triathlon Festival – It’s all about the Expo

Crossing the finish line
On July 21st I raced the sprint course at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, also host to the National Championships for Age Groupers, Para-triathletes and the Elite Juniors Under 23 as well as 10 spots were available for next year’s team competing at the 2014 Grand Finale World Championships in Edmonton. It is the biggest race I have ever participated in! Athletes traveled from across the country to compete. I have never seen so many Team Canada race kits at one venue before – which helped ease my nerves as it’s the first time I raced in my team kit. The transition was massive! With the bikes racked, the racks seemed to go on forever.

Transition Zone

TTF is organized a little differently than other races I have attended. There is a mandatory race briefing and it is the day before. Biggest waste of time ever! And every athlete who came out of the briefing was grumbling about it. Unless you have never raced before there was no point in sitting through the briefing. The only key information were changes to the course from the previous year which are highlighted on the on-line course maps and that the ITU drafting rule of 12m on the race course would be enforced which can be shared via email. For athletes travelling from within the Golden Horseshoe or further it meant 2 hours of driving, an extra $20 in parking for a 12 minute pointless meeting followed by a forced walk through of the Expo. So in other words, you were forced to attend (anyone who did not attend would not be permitted to race and would not be refunded their race fee) a pointless meeting to guarantee “x” many athletes walked through the Expo to see all the vendors. You actually had to walk past each and every vendor to get the second part of your race kit. Unlike other races your parking on race day is not included with your race entry. If you choose to race this event next year add $40 to the race fee to cover the parking for the briefing and on race day.

The wave set up is a little different to other races. All the men are grouped first and all the women last. To keep the waves divided by gender the wave 30-44 for both genders were oversized by 40%. Normally it’s not really a big deal and I have swam in much larger waves but in this case the swim course is around the docks at Ontario place. It’s a very narrow, zig zag location so the swimmers in those waves were literally being squeezed together making it difficult to move forward never mind pass. When you factor the panic a lot of swimmers were experiencing from the unusually cold water it was like trying to swim through pea soup. The buoys were difficult to sight once you cleared the west channel with the sun being directly in your line of sight and obscured by boats and the congested swimmers. Most importantly there was nowhere to warm up in the water, which considering the temperature of the water that day would have been a huge benefit. Actually, I should say the women were unable to warm up. There was enough of a gap between the olympic distance and the sprint that the men and the Elite Juniors Under 23 were able to warm up but not the women. The women’s waves didn’t start until half an hour after the first gun for the sprint. So the men were primed and ready. The women, it felt like were an after thought without the clear advantages the men experienced that day. For a national event, championship and team qualifier the discrepancies between gender are unacceptable. When the race organizers were questioned about the discrepancies they could not or would not provide an answer. They need to address these issues moving forward as most women were extremely frustrated. Had this not been chosen as a championship race or qualifier the number of entrants would have been significantly less. Changes need to be made going forward if this race wants to have the success and stamina of other races in Ontario like Gravenhurst and Guelph Lake.
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So what did I like? The bike course is amazing! You feel like you are flying. It was 1.5km short based on my Garmin 510 but it was fast and fun. There was more officials on the course ensuring everyone raced a fair, individual race. The transition was well organized and close to the swim exit, giving a more accurate swim result. The transition was easy to navigate except for when the organizers shut down the centre aisle while out on the bike course screwing with your navigation off the bike. The transition and course were lined with country flags stressing the significance of the race. The run course had plenty of drink stations, it was easy to see where you were in the race. The km markers were difficult to see. Maybe making them brighter, larger or more in your direct line of sight? You knew where you were based on the drink stations. The finish line was a party! Every racer received a finishers medal and recovery food/drink was right there when you crossed the line. And for my family, there was a lot to do which my husband was grateful for. At the end of the day when you packed up your transition you had to have your wristband with your race number matched to your bike before you left. It was a nice detail that I think should be instituted at all races.

The police, firefighters, Maple leaf mascots and more were at the Kid Zone

The police, firefighters, Maple leaf mascots and more were at the Kid Zone


This race has the potential to be a great race but they need to make some significant changes going forward.
*The waves need to be more evenly distributed and stay small in order to navigate the harbour.
*Everyone needs to be provided with a satisfactory warm up.
*Ditch the mandatory briefing and the obvious walk through of the expo; if the briefing is necessary then provide free parking and omit the expo walk through. Let athletes make up their own minds if they want to visit the expo.
*Figure out the parking scenario. There should be a discount or parking should be free. The race is fee is higher than most sprint races to begin with and those races include entry into the park and parking for athletes.

If this hadn’t been the national championships I wouldn’t have signed up for the race. And it won’t always host the championships …

Celebrating my finish with my family. My Aunt came down to cheer me on. I could hear the extra voice. Thank you!

Celebrating my finish with my family. My Aunt came down to cheer me on. I could hear the extra voice. Thank you!