Sault Stryders
Running Club

Return to the race
Reported July 26, 2011 by Michael Purvis for The Sault Star
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Larry Tomie will be competing for closure next month.

The Aug. 13 St. Joseph Island Triathlon will be the first full such race for Tomie, 55, since a serious cycling crash four years ago nearly put an end to his athletic pursuits for good.

"It sounds corny, but it's a bit of a spiritual journey, more than anything else," said the longtime triathlete.

Tomie was badly injured in July 2007 while cycling in the Etape du Tour in France, an amateur event that allows serious cycling enthusiasts the opportunity to take on the same course, under the same conditions as the professional riders in the Tour de France.

It was Tomie's third such event and he was completing the final 25 kilometres of the 200-kilometre 15th stage when he fell while going down a mountain at high speed, landing on his left hip.

Surgery in France left him with two large bolts in his leg. A run-in with an overly-helpful shuttle bus driver at the Paris airport damaged it even more, leading to further surgery when he got back to Canada.

For Tomie, it was a "devastating" turn of events that nearly put an end to an athletic career that for him had become "a lifestyle."

An avid runner, biker, swimmer and cross-country skier, Tomie competed in numerous triathlon events between 1990 and 2005, including six Ironman events.

It made his injury tough to swallow.

"For quite a while there it didn't look like I'd ever run again," said Tomie.

He spent eight "hard" weeks sitting or laying in bed, forbidden from even putting his feet on the ground: "A long stretch to go thinking, 'What's going to happen to me?'"

And it was three years before he was able to run again, despite intense rehabilitation and training that included cycling and swimming.

In that time, Tomie has taken part in the relay event of the St. Joe's Triathlon three times, completing the swimming or cycling events, while friends did the 10-kilometre run.

This year's race will be the first time ever he has competed in the full event at St. Joe's.

"I'm feeling good about the swim and the bike, of course. I've been doing a lot of that," said Tomie. "The run? It's not going to be pretty."

His surgery means his left left leg is about three centimetres shorter than his right one. And while he has been training for the run, his recovery has meant he has had to change his focus significantly.

"Instead of high-performance training, with a high-performance goal, I've had to make my run training right for me," he said. "That part of it I kind of like. It's almost like a coaching aspect."

It means his expectations will be different than they would have been before his crash. In the old days, he would have been gunning to complete the running portion of the race around the 40-minute mark.

"This year, I'll be thrilled if I break 60 minutes," he said.

To merely complete the race will be a signal, Tomie said, that he has truly begun to recover from his accident.

"A lot of my friends are excited, happy for me, that I'm going to take this on," he said.