Tri-ing in the Holy Land

The ramblings of a struggling triathlete in Israel

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Location: Israel

I'm the mother of 3, a teacher and a couch potato turned triathlete.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Junk meters???

I think tonight's workout qualified as basically a meaningless waste of time. I've now gone 9 days without a rest day, including a race and a couple of hard workouts. Every time I do this, I curse myself afterwards. My body needs rest. I do have at least one rest day planned for this week, but I've got a few days to go before I get there.

So I went to swim practice exhausted. It was actually an easy workout -- only form drills, no speed work. But I didn't even feel like doing the form drills. I more or less kept up until we had to swim butterfly. This is where I said no. I just hung around at the end of the pool waiting for that drill to end. I was not swimming butterfly today (and I got absolutely no argument from my coach). Then I swam 200 meters on my back with fins and my leg started to feel stiff -- this leg has been giving me trouble for a couple of weeks. So I took off the fins and skipped the next drill (I think -- at this point, I was losing track of what we were doing). In the 50 or so minutes that I was actually in the pool, I swam 1100 meters. In addition, I spent a lot of time having a nice conversation with my teammate who was also skipping half the workout (he has a much better excuse for being tired than I do, though, plus, swimming is his weakest sport, not his strongest).

We've all heard of junk miles. Well, these were junk meters, I think. I can add 1100 meters to my weekly and monthly totals, but they were mainly a waste of time, as I didn't even put a lot of effort into concentrating on my form and that's what we were working on. Maybe there is something to be gained from swimming aimlessly back and forth and I guess it felt good to be in the water, but it's kind of hard for me to even call what I did a "workout".

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Saturday - the bad and the good

Yesterday afternoon, I was informed that we were riding to Ashkelon today. Normally these things are organized in advance, so I was kind of surprised to hear about it only yesterday, as were others. I was told that there was going to be a bike cart, which means that we ride to Ashkelon and then send the bikes home on the cart. I had a ride home, so I was set. So I thought.

I got to the pool at 6:30 this morning, only to discover that there was no bike cart. There were a few vehicles accompanying us and I assume they all had bike carriers, but apparently, the plan was to ride to Ashkelon, swim and then ride back. It's 60 km in each direction. I really didn't want to ride both ways, but I didn't want to give up my bike workout and I had to swim in the sea. I have an irrational fear of swimming in open water with waves and I knew that if I wanted to do the Women's Triathlon next week (no, I still haven't decided for sure), that I'd have to first get over my fear, which meant getting to the beach. So off I went, not sure how I'd get home.

Almost immediately, I found myself at the back of the pack. Even the two guys who are normally slower than I am were ahead of me. I haven't taken a rest day since some time last week, so I guess I was kind of tired. It didn't bother me to be in the back. What did bother me was that there was no vehicle accompanying us from behind. That meant that if I had to stop, no one would even notice, or at least not for a long time. I did have a cell phone with me, but that wasn't very comforting.

About 20 km into the ride, Oded (one of the guys in front of me) got a flat tire. He and another guy, Roni, stopped to fix it and I stopped, as well, because I knew that Roni wasn't planning on riding all the way to Ashkelon and I didn't want to leave Oded by himself. It took about 15 minutes to fix the flat and then we were on our way. I started out first, with Roni right behind me and I assumed that Oded was right behind Roni. Soon, however, I discovered that Oded was not with us. At this point, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to stop, because there was no "round-up vehicle" and if Oded was stuck someplace, I'd just end up waiting and waiting and falling further behind than I already was. So I kept riding.

At the turn towards Ashkelon, Roni went left and I went right and I was on my own. I rode the entire rest of the way alone, fuming. If I wanted to ride unaccompanied, I'd go out on my own. At the turn into Ashkelon (this was about 15 or 20 km after I'd left Roni), one of the cars did show up for long enough to beep at me to turn left. About halfway down the road to the beach, that car passed me with Oded's bicycle on the back of it. I rode down to the beach where we'd been last time, but when I pulled into the parking lot, I heard someone calling my name. Turned out they'd decided to go to a different beach, so I pulled out of the parking lot and rode another kilometer or so until I got there (at this point, one of the lead vehicles showed up to show me the way). When I finally arrived, I learned that Oded had had another flat and he'd had to call the team manager at home in order to get in touch with someone in one of the cars who could come pick him up. If there'd been a round-up vehicle, that wouldn't have happened. Oh, and I wasn't the last one to arrive. Nicky, another team member, wasn't even sure which beach we were going to, so he rode to a beach that's before Ashkelon (he hadn't come with us on the previous ride to the beach). He got there and didn't see anyone, so I guess he called to find out where we were. He arrived a few minutes after I did.

I was pretty upset about having made the entire trip on my own and I wasn't relishing the idea of having to ride back, presumably alone again. I calmed down, though, went to change my clothes and headed for the water.

The waves were very small, but as far as I was concerned, they were tidal waves. I just kept looking at the water and thinking that there was no way I was going swimming. The last time I'd tried swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, I'd had trouble breathing and hadn't gone very far. I didn't think this time would be any different. But then my two teammates, both of whom are weaker swimmers than I am, went in. So I followed them.

The first thing that I noticed was that the water wasn't very cold. This was a major factor, because it was apparently the cold water that had caused my breathing trouble last time. Then I noticed that I was swimming right through those tiny little waves with no problem at all. Well, almost no problem. My goggles were leaking. I tried adjusting them and even flipped over onto my back so that I could use both hands. Nothing worked and my eyes started to sting. I headed back to shore. I had to swim much of the way with my eyes closed and although I wasn't panicking and I wasn't tired, I did wonder if I'd ever get there. Finally I got to where I could stand, I took off my goggles, rubbed my eyes, put them back on and headed out to swim again.

With no water in my eyes, the swim was fun. It was almost effortless, the water felt great and I was completely relaxed. In fact, it was so enjoyable that I really didn't want to get out, but unfortunately, I had to, because it was time to go. I decided that the only problem I might have in the Women's Triathlon would be that I might not want to get out of the water at the end of the swim!

I went back up to where the bikes were and the coach (not my coach -- the coach from the youth team was with us today) asked me if I was riding back. I told him that I hadn't decided yet and he said it probably wasn't a good idea, as it was getting very hot and it was a long ride and he thought it would be hard for me. That was all I needed to hear. I found someone to take my bike and I got a ride home and even got to stop on the way to buy ice cream! My bike arrived home at 1:30 and all I could think about was how there was no way I'd want to be out riding at that time of day in the heat. I was very happy to quit after 60 km.

So I got in a good bike workout (even if I didn't like the conditions under which I had to do it) and the swim was very successful. I'm actually looking forward to my next trip to the beach! I guess I can say that it was a successful day, overall.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Training alone

I don't know how you folks who train alone do it. Last night I showed up for my swim workout and there was no one there -- not even the coach. It's sort of a holiday (Lag B'Omer, a holiday that I don't particularly like and tend to ignore and which, unlike most other Jewish holidays, doesn't have any restrictions regarding work and other daily activities), so I guess maybe my coach canceled the workout and forgot to tell me. It's the first time he's ever not shown up for a workout, so I'm sure there was a reason.

Anyway, since I was already dressed (actually, I was in the pool -- I often warm up before the coach gets there), I proceeded to work out on my own. It was kind of a wimpy workout. I think I've got tendonitis or something in my lower leg, so I skipped the fins. After a 300 meter warmup, I did 400 meters with paddles and a pull buoy and then I did two times 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle and then another 300 meters of freestyle for a total of 1600 meters. Not very challenging and a lot easier than my normal swim workouts. I was pretty much alone in the pool and lacking in motivation, so rather than really "working out", I was looking for a way to fill my time and I guess I found one. I did try to concentrate on my form, but for some reason, I was feeling rather sloppy.

Before joining the team, I spent a long time working out on my own, but I wasn't actually training for anything, because apart from one 5k back in 2002, I wasn't racing. Since joining the team and working out with a coach and other people, both my swimming and running have gotten much faster (I wasn't riding a bike before I joined the team). In fact, even after swimming 750 meters and cycling 20 km, I can still run faster than my pre-triathlon team PR, which I set in October 2003 and was never able to get close to again until recently. I never skip workouts because I know other people are expecting me to be there (I do occasionally skip the ones I have planned to do on my own) and my coach and teammates motivate me to go faster and faster.

I admire those of you who are able to do it on your own -- I'm not sure I could. My coach is leaving us in August and I have no idea if he'll be replaced, but I'm comforting myself with the fact that my teammates are not leaving, so I won't be working out alone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Women and triathlon

Nancy sent me a link to this article on women and triathlon in Israel. It was a very interesting read, but I don't really identify with the women quoted in the article. I had actually planned to go to the women and triathlon meeting that the article talks about, but I couldn't find anyone willing to make the drive with me, so I stayed home. I wonder if all of the women there felt the same way as those quoted in the article.

Personally, though I enjoy training with my women friends, I often prefer training with the men or in a mixed group. Yes, the men are faster and I sometimes feel pressure to keep up with them, but I also feel an incredible sense of achievement when I finish one of these harder workouts, something that rarely happens when I train with the women. The article talks about women "feeling like a burden" and lagging behind during bike rides. Though I have finished a few rides way behind everyone else, there are at least a couple of guys on the team who are slower than I am (I guess they weren't there those days that I got home last!) and none of them has every expressed discomfort with being "slow" or said that he "felt like a burden", so why should I? I can't speak of all men, but the guys on my team are incredibly encouraging and helpful and I enjoy training and competing with them. In fact, I think that in some ways, I enjoy it more than I would enjoy training with a group of good women triathletes, as I would always view the women as competition, whereas the men are just teammates. In a race, it never bothers me to be passed by a man, but I hate being passed by women.

There was one thing mentioned in the article that I do agree with. Susie Dvoskin stated that "Realizing one's own potential in a triathlon gives one a great sense of power and self-esteem that later pervades other areas of one's life." This is very true for me. Since I started triathlon training, I have completed three triathlons (a super sprint, a triple super sprint and a sprint), two duathlons (sprints), two 10ks and a 3k. In the last six months, I've stood on the podium to receive an award five times. I actually have a trophy shelf in my house! And I used to get out of breath walking up the hill to collect my mail. Every time I look up at that trophy shelf, I know that I can do absolutely anything that I want to do and I feel good about myself. However, I don't think the way I feel about myself has anything to do with the people who are training or competing around me. Maybe after having actually competed in the Women's Triathlon, I'll feel differently (I haven't decided yet if I'll be competing this year).

One more thing bothered me in this article. Alona Friedman claims that she "hates sports" and that she would "prefer a world where 1,000 calories could be burned in an hour of television viewing or lying on the couch." And Tali Laor says that she does not consider herself to be an athlete. The underlying implication in both statements seems to be that it's not "ladylike" to do sports or be athletic. Alona, why on earth do you spend so many hours doing something you hate?! If your main goal is to burn calories, then go for a 45 minute walk every day. It's a whole lot easier than training for a triathlon! And Tali, you can call yourself (or not call yourself) whatever you want, but anyone who has completed 12 triathlons in an athlete. I might not be a particularly talented athlete, but every time I put on my running shoes when it's pouring outside or get in the pool when just the thought of taking off my winter coat makes me shiver or get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday so that I can get in a long ride on my bike, I know that I am an athlete. Yes, I have muscles and I sweat (rather than perspire) and I have conversations with people when I smell bad (they usually smell pretty bad, too) and none of this embarrasses me. I am 100% woman and I like sports and I'm an athlete -- I don't see any contradiction here and I refuse to make believe I don't enjoy what I'm doing or deprive myself of a title that I deserve in order to sound more "feminine". I support the Women's Triathlon as a way of getting more women interested and involved in the sport, but I don't view it as a replacement for mixed competitions and I can't imagine preferring it over any other race.

So yes, "Go girl!" Get out there, enjoy what you're doing and do the best you can regardless of who is swimming/cycling/running next to you. Enjoy the company of both men and women, enjoy the feel of the water, the breeze in your face, the adrenaline rush. Love the sport, love what the sport does for you and love and be proud of the person you have become because of the sport.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The day after

Isn't everything supposed to hurt the day after a race? Well, nothing hurts here. In fact, the only reason I'm even a little bit tired is because I stayed up very late (past 1 a.m.) to see the results of the Eurovision Song Contest (Israel came in 4th!).

I went to my swim workout tonight and the guys were all complaining of aches and pains. And those were just the guys who showed up at all -- there were only four of us there! My coach says that I'm racing the "smart way" -- not pushing too hard, pacing myself and gaining experience. He says I shouldn't start racing to win yet. But I still feel like if it's a race, I should be racing, not treating it like a workout. At the very least, shouldn't I be sore the next day?!

Well, I guess the positive side to this is that I managed to do even better than the time goal I'd set for myself and still feel good the next day, so when I'm "ready" to race to win, maybe I'll find out that I'm actually fast!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Jordan Valley Triathlon

Just after the bike to run transition

We arrived in the Jordan Valley yesterday afternoon and our coach took us to check out the transition area and the bike route. We took a walk down to the starting area, as well, so that we could walk from the water to the transition area. This was a particularly long distance for a transition -- I'd say about 600 meters or so. It was also mainly uphill and also through a tunnel and up stairs. That's a pretty long distance to run barefoot.

After driving the bike route, we went back to the Sea of Galilee, hoping to get in a practice swim, but the beach was closed and they refused to let us in, so we drove up to the youth hostel where we were spending the night and had some time to rest.

The "pasta dinner" was a disaster. The food was awful -- I didn't know pasta could taste so bad! At least none of us was too full to fall asleep last night! I slept in a room with Ronit, the other woman on the team who competes, and three girls from the youth team. There were three bunk beds in the room and since Ronit was afraid to sleep on top, I got the top bunk. We turned the lights off at about 9:45 and that's when we heard the cats. From the way it sounded, a cat had given birth to kittens under the roof, right by this overhead cabinet in our room (which we couldn't open because it had been painted shut). The damn kittens were wailing and it sounded like they were in the room with us. I don't know if they kept it up all night, as we eventually fell asleep.

Wake up was at 4 a.m., my least favorite time of day. We got dressed and were out by 5. By about 5:30, we were all set up in the transition area, so we went to see the start of the half ironman, as two of our teammates and another guy from our town were competing. We watched them start the swim and then cheered for them as they ran through the transition area. Soon after that, we went down to the water to warm up.

This was the first time I had ever swum in the Sea of Galilee and I was very nervous about it. Despite the fact that they had announced that the water was 22 degrees (that's about 70), it seemed to be a lot warmer. The problem wasn't the water temperature, but rather the fact that the water was brown and it was impossible to see anything -- I could barely see my own hands. I did a short warmup and decided that I was going to start far away from everyone.

Before I knew it, we were off (in fact, I almost missed the start!). I stuck with my plan and stayed in the back and on the left. I didn't have any serious collisions and, in fact, hardly anyone touched me for the entire swim. In fact, I got more beaten up in the practice race at the pool last week. I have no idea where the other 250+ swimmers were, but they weren't swimming next to me. Since I was so nervous about the swim, I took it slowly, occasionally switching to breaststroke to check out my position, have a look at the people around me and make sure I was swimming towards the buoy. I rounded the first buoy and then the second one and then I tried to concentrate on swimming a little bit faster, as I had been swimming really really slowly. However, at this point, there were more people around me and although I wasn't really getting pushed around, I was having a bit of trouble manipulating myself through them. A couple of times, when I swam breaststroke for a few strokes, I kicked people behind me fairly hard. Soon, I saw people around me starting to stand up, but when I looked up, I saw we were still pretty far from the shore and I didn't see any point in trying to run through the water when I could keep swimming through it. I couldn't see the bottom, so I just waited until my hand hit the bottom and then I got up and "ran" out of the water.

The long run to the transition area which had worried me so much didn't seem so long. It was a bit muddy and slippery at the beginning, so I ran very slowly in order to keep my footing. Before I knew it, I was up the stairs and in the transition area, running towards my bike. This is when I remembered to start my watch. Oops. I had completely forgotten to push the button at the beginning of the swim, so I had no idea how long my swim had been, though I was pretty certain it was slow (and I was right). I got my shoes, helmet, sunglasses and number on and I was off. There were lots and lots of people around me -- I'm so used to being in the back at smaller races that this was kind of strange. I got on my bike, started riding and managed to get my feet into the toe cages on the first try (no, I still haven't switched over to clipless).

The bike section went really well, despite problems with my bike. It was making a lot of noise and the back gears kept shifting on their own. However, I was going fairly fast (for me), averaging just over 27 kph. The route was basically flat, which was nice. It was also very pretty -- right along the Sea of Galilee. I passed a lot of people and a lot of people passed me. There were a few people who kept passing me back after I passed them. The bike route was very crowded and it was very hard to avoid drafting. Several times, someone passed me just as I was about to pass someone else and then I kind of got stuck waiting for that person to pass the person in front of me (who was riding slower than I was) so that I could pass. About 1/3 of the way through, I caught up with Ronit, who is normally much faster that I am on the bike. I passed her and she woke up and just before the turn-around, she took off and I wasn't able to pass her again, though she was never too far ahead of me.

Before I knew it, the bike section was over. Although this is probably my weakest part of the race (I've spent the least amount of time cycling), it's also my favorite. I love being on the bike with the wind in my face, passing pretty scenery and even passing other cyclists once in a while! LOL! The run is my least favorite part. But it was time to run. I racked my bike and took off my helmet and took a second to drink. Then I actually remembered to turn my number around without being reminded and I was off running. The first 2.5 km were horrible. My legs hurt and although my brain kept saying, "Pick up your feet!" my feet kept saying, "Leave us alone," and I settled for just moving forwards. Several times, I thought about walking, but at this point, everyone was still running, so I kept running, too. Fortunately, the route was flat, so I didn't have to run up any hills, but it was also on a concrete path, which didn't help my legs recover from the bike very quickly. Finally I got to the turnaround and then I started feeling better. I knew that would happen -- it always works that way for me. The second half of the run was bearable. I managed to tune out the negative thoughts and concentrate on not letting any women pass me (as it turned out, it didn't make a big difference, anyway, as the only woman in my age group who was anywhere near me had been disqualified, but I didn't know that at the time and at the turnaround, she was right behind me). Then I got to the turnaround point for the 14-15 year olds and I knew there was only 1.5 km to go. Then the turnaround point for 12-13 year olds -- just one more kilometer! Then the turnaround for the younger kids -- I didn't know if that was at 750 meters or 500, but I knew it meant I was almost there. I started to pick up some speed. About 200 meters before the finish, I saw my coach. He was cheering for me and I dug deep and gave it everything I had and found myself not only finishing strong, but doing it fairly easily. Before I knew it, it was over. I had completed my first sprint.

My goal had been to finish in 1:45. Because I hadn't started my watch at the beginning of the race, I had no idea how close I was to my goal. When I crossed the finish line, I turned around to look at the clock. 1:42:21!!! I was VERY happy!

My splits were more or less as follows (the site with the results is down and I remember minutes without seconds, but this is close enough):

750 meter swim, including the transition to the bike (this is very sad -- I'm not a fast swimmer, but I normally do 750 meters in under 18 minutes): 26:13

20 km bike, including the transition to the run: 45:36 (a very good time for me)

5 km run: 30:31. This is an excellent time for me, especially considering how miserable I felt. In fact, until recently, this would have been a PR for me for 5k. I don't know how, as I haven't been running all that much, but I've gotten faster recently. This is kind of encouraging, because I plan to spend a lot more time working on my running, so hopefully, I'll get even faster.

At first, they combined two categories and I was 9/16 for women 40-49. Then they split the categories (which is how it should have been) and I was 5/9 for women 40-44. Two of the women I beat were the same women that I beat at the Galei Hadar Duathlon. The woman who came in 4th beat me by about a minute and was slower than me on the bike and run. If I had done a decent swim, I would have beaten her, as well. The 3rd place woman finished 10 minutes before me, so she was out of my reach today. Ronit, who was in the 45-49 category, finished less than two minutes ahead of me. I was able to see her back for almost the entire race (and I wasn't really trying to beat her, as we weren't supposed to be in the same age category).

So no hardware this time, but two goals achieved (one of my goals for 2005 was to complete a sprint triathlon and my goal for the race was to finish in 1:45 or less), so it was a successful day.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday morning

I have to leave in one hour and 40 minutes. All that's left to do is the following:

1) Pack
2) Make sure there's enough air in my bicycle tires.
3) Fold a week's worth of laundry and put it away.
4) Clean up the house.
5) Well, I'll spare you the details of number 5. Suffice it to say that it will take me several minutes.

Hey, at least I'm up and dressed and I've had breakfast...

On the schedule for today is a long drive up north (3 to 4 hours) on a bus with a lot of kids, checking out the bike and run routes and hopefully a quick swim in the Sea of Galilee. Then we'll check into the guest house and rest a bit. The pasta dinner is at 8, briefing at 8:30, lights out at 9:30 (I assume that "lights out" is for the kids, but I hope to get to sleep at around that time, too). Wakeup call tomorrow at 4 a.m. and out the door at 5. Fun. The weather is supposed to be hot today (Israeli hot -- that's unbearable for most of you, I think) and will hopefully cool down a bit tomorrow, as it's even hotter up there in the Jordan Valley than it is down here in the Negev. Ugh.

Ok, I'm off!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Out of here in the morning

At 10 a.m. tomorrow morning I'm out of here -- on the bus, bike on the bike cart, headed north. There's something nasty going on in my stomach today -- I hope it's gone by tomorrow.

I'm not really too nervous about Saturday, apart from one "small" detail. There are 257 people participating in the sprint.
That's 257 people in the water at the same time, as they don't start us in waves over here. Yikes. That's 514 arms and legs all going at once. Scary. I plan to stay way over to the left and in the back (which will probably make my 750 meter swim a lot longer than 750 meters).

So if I survive this stomach thing, the 4 a.m. wakeup call on Saturday and the swim, I guess I should be fine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ok, so what now?

This is my very first post to my blog. I've always thought blogs were kind of silly, which should explain why I've decided to start my own, right? So why am I really doing this? Well, I don't know... Maybe it's so I can put all of my triathlon ramblings in one place so that anyone who actually wants to read this stuff (there must be one or two of you out there!) can. So now I'll start rambling...

Yesterday I turned 40. On Saturday, I'm doing my first sprint distance triathlon (the one we did in training didn't count). Should be a piece of cake after the "triple super sprint" that I did a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, right. It's never a piece of cake! Tonight I did my last run before Saturday's race and I had to cut it short because something hurt. My knee or my shin or some muscle in my lower leg -- I'm not sure what. So while the rest of the team did a 2.5 km cool down, I walked back in the other direction (it was a lot shorter). Tomorrow is a rest day and then on Friday it's up to the Sea of Galilee to get ready for the race. Wish me luck!

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