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.

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.


Blogger Vertical Man said...

Wow. That's a great report on what sounds like a challenging race. Congratulations on overcoming all the obstacles and getting through it!

17/7/05 17:18  

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