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, July 31, 2005

July totals

July was a good month :-) Check out the totals:

swim: 18,900 meters (slightly higher than June, when I did 18,500 meters).
bike: 329.2 km (almost double my total distance for June, which was 118 km!!!) plus 30 minutes on the bike trainer
run: 59.9 km (more than double what I did in June. Still low mileage for most people, but I'm only running twice a week right now, so this is pretty good for me)

My August totals will almost certainly be lower, at least for the swim and run. The new coach is working with us on form, so we're doing a bit less distance right now. Tonight's swim workout was a measly 850 meters! And he's already informed us that we won't be running very far tomorrow night.

There are no races in August, so my only plans for the month are to do whatever Yigal (the new coach) tells me to do and to get ready for the Caesaria Triathlon in early September.

Thank you, Eli

Today was our last practice ever with our coach, Eli Gez. Actually, Wednesday was the last practice, but Eli decided to accompany us on a long ride today for the last time. We rode just under 75 km with Eli behind us the whole way. He had bottles of ice water in his car and when it got really hot (and it did!), he poured ice water on our heads and the back of our necks to keep us cool. He picked up a couple of riders who got tired along the way. He made sure we all had water and that we all felt ok. He spent three and a half hours driving behind us, starting at 6 a.m. No one paid him to do this. He just did because he's Eli.

Eli Gez is one of the most amazing people I've ever met. He's warm, encouraging and motivating. He's the type of coach who makes you believe you can do anything. At every race, I'd come around a corner and find Eli waiting there, screaming, "Go, Bari! You're a champion!" or something similar. After my first long ride, Eli called me to make sure I felt ok. When I was sick with the flu, Eli called me to see how I was doing. Eli truly dedicated himself to building the triathlon team in Lehavim. Eli dedicated himself to each and every one of the athletes on the team.

Tomorrow, Eli is moving about an hour away. We'll see him at races and we'll stay in touch, but never again will he drive behind us on a long ride or a rainy run, never again will he be waiting for us at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning, never again will Eli be there at practice to say, "Of course you can do it!"

We'll have a new coach, but we won't have Eli. Eli is one of a kind and his daily presense in our lives will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Meanderings of an Israeli Ironman

I found this article today quite by accident. The author is a 55-year-old Israeli Ironman who became an athlete at the age of 44. In the article, he describes his experience racing in the Ironman competition in Roth, Germany.

I was particularly moved by the descriptions of his mental anguish, of the "bad" voices in his head and his struggle to stay positive during the race. It's well-worth reading!

*Note: You need to subscribe to the Haaretz in order to read the article. If you don't want to use your own email address, go here and get a log-in (but don't tell anyone that I sent you!).

Oh, and about the orange swim cap reference... Orange is the color associated with those against the disengagement plan in Israel, which is why the author laughed about the color of his cap.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I've gone clipless!

On Wednesday, I drove up to the triathlon store and bought myself a present -- clipless pedals and cycling shoes (and cleats, of course). I was very excited to try out my new pedals, but much to my chagrin, I found every size spanner in my house except for the 15mm spanner that I needed, so I had to wait a day (DH went out and bought me a spanner). On Thursday, I got everything set up and tried out my new pedals on the trainer that I've borrowed from the team. Clipping in and out was easy enough, so I was ready to try out my bike on the road.

I took a short spin yesterday, to make sure everything was ok, because I was planning on a long ride today. I had no problems at all, apart from the fact that it takes me a few seconds to clip my left foot in and sometimes it slips off the pedal in the process.

Today, I went on a hilly 65 km ride with a few teammates. The pedals and shoes were great! Maybe it was just my imagination, but the hills seemed a bit easier. However, I did fall over once. I was stopping on the side of the road to wait for the teammates who were behind me. I was already clipped out on the left, but I wanted to put my right foot on the sidewalk and I was leaning right. I was trying to clip out, but it didn't happen in time and I just toppled right over. One teammate was standing right there watching me and much to my embarrassment, two more had just reached the traffic light and saw me fall, as well. However, they said that fall was so silly that it didn't even count. LOL.

I was very happy not to fall over while riding up some of the steeper hills, which is what one teammate told me happened to her when she first went clipless. I think this will become second nature to me in no time at all!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Ashkelon Triathlon - 15 July 2005

Thanks again to TAN for this picture and for the one later on

I think this race was a test of my ability to stick with it when everything goes wrong. Well, not everything, but two things, neither of which were in my control and both of which affected my race performance. I'll start from the beginning of the day...

The bike cart was leaving at 3:45 a.m. because the kids' start was at 6:05, but since there was no bus and I already know I can fit my bike into my car and I was starting at 8:05, I decided to get some extra sleep and leave for the race at 5:00. I got there at about 5:50 or so and someone passing by helped me get my bike out of the car and my wheel back on (both of which I can do by myself, but it's always easier when someone is helping you). Then I went to the transition area and discovered a very long line. I must have waited half an hour to get into the transition area, but while I was there, one of the guys on line wrote my number on my arms and legs (I did his, too) and I chatted with a few people. Finally, I got into the transition area and got my stuff set up on a rack that was very close to where we came in from the water, but very far away from where we had to get on the bike. However, the entire sprint section was far away from the bike start, so I didn't really have that big of a disadvantage.

Walked around for a bit and watched the start of the Olympic distance race. I also finished up half a liter of water -- I was NOT going to get dehydrated again today! Then I went to the bathroom and got ready to warm up for the swim.

We swam in the marina, so there were no waves at all. The water was pretty dirty and disgusting, something I'm glad I didn't think about when I swallowed so much of it during the swim! I did a quick warmup and then we had to get out of the water so that they could start the Maccabian Games youth sprint (this race was also part of the Maccabian games, but I did the open race -- as in open to anyone who wants to enter). Soon enough we were back in the water. I chose a place over to the right, because it was the only area where I could actually stand and I didn't want to spend three or four minutes treading water before the start. Before I knew it, they were counting down and off we went.

Apart from the fact that one of my teammates kicked me in the shoulder right at the start, the beginning of the swim was pretty good. I went out a bit faster than usual and had to slow down a bit to catch my breath, but then I was fine. I even found someone to draft off of. I swam at his feet (probably annoying the hell out of him) for quite some time until he switched to breaststroke, at which point I passed him. I passed a few teammates and I was swimming really strong. Around the buoy and all was well. And then I felt the water in my goggles. At first it wasn't too bad. I just ignored it. But it got worse and worse. I have never once been able to readjust my goggles while swimming in the pool, so I didn't even bother trying (I can swim on my back, dump the water out and get them back on, but as soon as they go back on, they fill up with water again). I just kept swimming. But soon I couldn't see anything. Everything was just a big blur. I looked for other swimmers, but I was having trouble spotting them. Then I saw a cable and I figured it must be the one holding the buoys and that if I swam parallel to it, I'd be fine. Wrong. Next thing I knew, I was pretty far off course (I managed to sight a few swimmers way off to the right). I swam back onto the course, but I'm sure I lost quite a bit of time. The goggle situation was no better and I had a really hard time even seeing where the end of the swim was. I just kept feeling for the bottom with my hands and finally, I was able to stand up and run up the ramp. I cursed as I pulled off my goggles (notice that I don't look very happy in this picture) and started mentally preparing for the bike. I did look down at my watch and notice that I'd had a pretty good swim time. I knew I'd been swimming strong -- too bad I wasted so much extra time. My chip time for the swim, which included the transition (which was long, as it was a long run with the bike to the mat) was 18:14. I think my best ever time in the pool for 750 meters was 17:30 and I definitely beat that today, but I also swam more than 750 meters.

After running for what seemed like forever with my bike (it had to have been about 200 meters, if not more), I got on and started riding. The course started out uphill, but this was no surprise, as I'd ridden it last Saturday. After getting up the hill, I slipped my feet into the toe cages and all was well. We went around a couple of turns and then up a pretty hard hill (had to shift down into "granny gear" for this one). Once up that hill, I thought it would be a nice, easy ride.

It really did start out ok, but there were lots and lots of traffic circles and turns on the bike course and I had to brake going around a few of them. That's when I first noticed that one of my brakes was squeaking. I have no idea why -- maybe there was some sand in it, as I'd had to park my car on sand. I was very concerned that the brake wouldn't work when it was time to get off my bike, but there wasn't much point in thinking about it while I was riding, so I just kept going. The noise from my brake did distract me a bit, though, and I don't think I was riding as well as I could have. People were passing me, but I was passing people, too. There were also cars on the course -- there were policemen stopping them, but Israeli drivers don't always listen to policemen and I almost rode right into a car that decided to go around a traffic circle despite being ordered to stop.

I was still managing more or less ok and even had one really great downhill section where I picked up quite a bit of speed (and enjoyed every second of it!). Just after going down that hill, though, I heard something odd. It sounded like a flat and it was coming from the front of my bike, but when I looked down, the front tire looked fine. So I leaned down to hear better and ended up riding over either a pothole or a manhole cover. Whatever it was, it really bounced me off of my saddle, but I managed to keep control of the bike and keep going. I never did figure out what that noise was, but it went away. So did the squeaking in my brake. But then, with about 5 km to go, I shifted down and my chain fell off. Obviously I had no choice but to get off the bike and fix it. I did, and apparently I fixed it too quickly (I also dropped my bike while trying to fix it), because when I got back on and started riding, it fell off again. So I got off my bike again. At this point, one of my teammates passed me (I'd passed him on the difficult hill at the beginning of the course) and asked what was wrong. I told him my chain had fallen off (twice) and he gave me the best advice of the day -- put it back on SLOWLY. I followed his advice and after I'd put the chain back on, I noticed that my bike bag was falling off my bike. It probably would have been fine, but it was hanging and I didn't want to lose it, so I took another few seconds to secure it. I wouldn't even race with the damn thing, but my extra tube is in there, so I figure I'll be prepared if I have a flat. This is probably stupid thinking, because if I got a flat during a sprint, the race would be over for me regardless of whether or not I had a tube -- I'd never be able to make up the time it would take me to fix it.

I completed the rest of the bike course without any further incidents, got off the bike and ran that very long run back to the bike rack. Total bike time (without transitions, I think): a pathetic 49:09 for 20 km. As I was running with my bike, I remember thinking that the swim and bike had been pretty screwed up, which is why I was going to have a GREAT run (I've been working on positive thinking). At least there are very few technical things that can go wrong during the run, apart from having a shoe fall apart or something. LOL.

I don't remember a whole lot from the run. I was very busy during the entire run trying to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. This was tough, as it was very hot, they had run out of water at one of the water stops and we were running mostly on sand. Other people were walking or running and suffering. I was determined to run the entire course, because walk breaks do NOT work for me -- once I take one, I never get back my momentum. I passed one of my teammates who is very slow on the run. Then I caught up with one of my younger teammates who was doing the Olympic distance and was on the second half of his 10k. He had been sick all week and was running pretty slowly. We stayed together for a while and then I passed him and he never caught up with me. I caught up with another teammate doing the Olympic distance and promptly ordered him not to let me pass him. LOL. He did let me pass him, but then he dug a little deeper and managed to pull ahead of me. At this point, we were very close to the finish, so I didn't catch him again.

At the beginning of the run, I passed one of the women in my age group. However, later on, a different woman passed me. This woman has never beaten me in a race before, but once she passed me on the run, I knew I wouldn't catch her, as she is a much faster runner than I am (she's just a lousy swimmer and not great on the bike, so normally, there's a big enough gap between us for me to stay ahead of her). Her run time was six minutes faster than mine.

When I saw the finish line, I gave it everything I had left and finished strong. I also remembered to stop my watch. LOL. I looked down and saw that I'd finished in 1:41:51. My chip time for the run was 34:27, but I'm pretty sure that this included the transition time (a 200 or so meter run with my bike and then the run out of the transition area), as that's a very slow 5k time for me, even if most of it was on sand.

I was 5/8 for women 40-44 and 162/197 overall (men and women), which was somewhat of a disappointment to me, as I was hoping for better. And, in fact, although first place was way out of my reach, the woman who finished second finished just over four minutes ahead of me. I could have made up those four minutes in my swim and on the bike, had things gone smoothly (even just on the bike -- I've been doing 45:00 for 20 km). However, I have to admit that the disappointment was short-lived. I was really happy that I'd managed to finish this race with a positive attitude (and a smile -- I even smiled and waved to one of the photographers, who thanked me when he was finished taking my picture), despite the unforeseen difficulties. Once, those little things would have been enough to make me give up on the race all together. Also, I was fairly happy with my swim time. I finished 3/8 in my age group for the swim and 125/197 overall. This isn't great, but I've actually done rather poorly on the swim in other races and this time, my swim position was good relative to my bike (6/8 in my age group and 171/197 overall) and run (4/8 in my age group and 140/197 overall) positions.

So that's it. Another race, another learning experience. No hardware, but a successful exercise in positive thinking.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Handlebar palsy

When I started riding my bike, I thought about possible injuries to my knees or injuries caused by falling. It never occurred to me that I might injure my hands. However, hand injuries are apparently the most common among cyclist and the most common among hand injuries is ulnar neuropathy also known at "handlebar palsy".

Handlebar palsy is caused by the compression of the ulnar nerve, often by leaning on the handlebars too much. There's a good explanation, complete with drawings
here. I learned about this condition while trying to find out why I had numbness and tingling in my ring finger and pinky hours after my ride (in fact, it still hasn't gone away).

At this point, for me, it's just a minor annoyance that will probably go away very soon. However, it can become very painful, so I'm glad I learned about it now so that I can try to avoid recurrences in the future. I hope someone else will find this information useful, as well.

Take care of your hands!

Hard training week

The hardest training week I can remember has come to an end! Finally! It went something like this:

Sunday: A rather long (distance-wise) swim workout which included 100 meter "sprints" and also some nasty hypoxic swimming.

Monday: Not a hard run, just a long one. One hour of continuous running, which is quite a bit for me. I think I actually did 55 minutes. This, of course, was after I'd run a kilometer on the treadmill and lifted weights at the gym. So it was a total of 9.2 km for the day. That's a third of what I ran in the entire month of June!

Tuesday: Short, but killer swim workout. Too many 25 meter sprints followed by 50 meter sprints. And butterfly. We were all exhausted by the end of the workout!

Wednesday: "Brick" workout. Bike, run, bike, run, bike, run... For an hour. I did a total of 25.5 km on the bike (including the ride to the workout and the ride back) and about 3 km of running. There was one hill that we were supposed to sprint up. That was just the icing on the cake, as the workout was tough without the sprint!

Thursday: Rest day!!!

Friday: This was a do-whatever-you-want day. I ran 2 km on the treadmill and then lifted weights and then swam 600 meters. It was the only easy training day of the week for me.

Saturday: 60 km ride to Ashkelon followed by a ride over the route for Friday's race (you can see the map
here). That made a total of 80 km, my longest ride ever. After the ride, we did a short run (it was supposed to be 4 km -- I did about 2 km). Then we ate watermelon and took a quick swim in the Mediterranean Sea (along with the jellyfish! Yikes!). Fortunately, we didn't have to ride home (nor do I think we could have -- it was very hot already).

So that was it. Our hard training week in preparation for our last race with our coach. This will be a taper week. My body is very happy about that!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Saturday's ride and more

There was a change in plans for Saturday, so I wasn't locked into a really long ride. Instead, we drove to Beit Govrin and then did a 25 km loop. This was the same route that they did at the Israeli Road Bike Championship the previous week. A few of the guys had ridden (not competed), so they were familiar with it. I asked them if it was hard and they said, "Not too bad." I asked if there were hills and they said, "Just a few small ones." They lied!

The whole thing was hills. I don't think there was one flat section on the entire loop! Going downhill is nice, but it's always so short. Uphill lasts forever. My fastest downhill speed was 52.3 kph, which is really fast for me. Going up one of the many hills, I looked down and saw that I was moving at around 8 kph. I can run faster than that! And I wasn't the only one struggling. The other slow riders around me were having lots of trouble, too.

I finished the first 25 km in about 1:05. I stopped on the side of the road, trying to decide if I really wanted to do another loop. My legs were tired, my knee was a little bit sore and it was starting to get hot. Then a teammate came up behind me and said, "Let's go!" -- so I went.

Loop number two started out better than loop number one. I was warmed up and didn't have much trouble with the first few hills, which were long but not very steep. But the sun got higher and higher and I got hotter and hotter (and the hills got steeper and steeper). At around 40 km, I decided that this would be my last loop. I just wasn't up to a third. The last five km of the route are the worst. They last forever. At 49 km, I was in the middle of riding up the second to last hill when my body screamed, "STOP!!!" I didn't listen at first, but I was very close to the breaking point. Next thing I knew, I had stopped my bike. Ugh. I got off and walked up the rest of the hill -- maybe 200 or 300 meters. Then that same teammate came up behind me again. He told me to get back on my bike because we were about to go downhill. I did, but not without some trouble. I had left it in low gear and my pedals were spinning like crazy. I finally managed to get on and down the hill and then up the final hill. That was it. I got off my bike and went back to the meeting point (so did my teammate).

So my total for the day was 50 km (of hills!). My knee was a bit sore, but not too bad and by later in the day, it was fine. I went home and took my son to the pool :-)

And today, I finally got off my lazy butt and started a weight training program. Of course, starting it on a day that I'm running in the evening probably wasn't the smartest thing on earth to do. I'll know how stupid it was later, when I get back from my run. I really want to take advantage of the summer to fine tune my weaker points (which are most of my points!. Apart from sticking to a weight training program, my other summer goal is to learn how to properly swim the butterfly (i.e. how to swim the butterfly without looking like a complete fool).

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