Picture courtesy of TAN
I was hesitant about doing this race for several reasons, most of which had absolutely nothing to do with the race itself (fear of swimming in the sea, having over 200 exams to grade before Monday, having to provide my own transportation, etc.). I'm glad that I decided to do it. This is a wonderful race. I had heard great things about it, but I just didn't understand what could be so different about a women's triathlon. I was so wrong! First of all, seeing only women around me made me a lot more competitive. It was also very empowering and I can't even explain why. In addition, there were lots and lots of spectators. I'm sure many of them were the men who couldn't compete in this race. They were everywhere, cheering us all on. Also, this is the only race I've ever done that gives finisher medals. Usually, no one even notices me when I cross the finish line, unless it's a very small race. This time, I crossed the finish line and was immediately greeted with "GREAT JOB!" as the medal was placed around my neck. Then, the same woman said (in English -- she was American), "You did it!!!" and I got a flower. True, it was only a sprint, but for many of the 400 women who competed today in the sprint and the "amateur" distance, this was their first triathlon. Every single woman who crossed the finish line today was made to feel proud of herself.
Now for the report...
I left the house at 4:50 to drive up to Herzliya. I was supposed to drive up behind a friend and her family, but instead of driving behind them, she rode with me and we followed her husband and kids in their car. This made the drive up much nicer. We got to Herzliya at just after 6 a.m. By the time I got my car parked and got set up in the transition area, it was about 6:30. Then I had to wait in line for 10 minutes to use the porta-potty. Starting time was 7:00 and I hadn't warmed up yet, so I completely forgot to go to the registration area. I didn't need to register (I have a permanent chip and number and I was preregistered for the race), but I did need to pick up my race packet (I love my race t-shirts). I ended up doing that after the awards ceremony and, of course, ended up with a size large (fortunately, the shirts are pretty small).
After the porta-potty (there was actually toilet paper and lots of it! You could tell that this was a women's event!), I did a very short run (basically from the transition area to the edge of the water) and then a short swim warmup. The water was pretty calm and I felt confident about the swim.
I started the swim in the middle of the pack this time, rather than off to the side. It was quite a long run in the water to the point where we could actually start swimming, so I figured by the time we started to swim, we'd be spread out enough to avoid any serious pushing, kicking, etc. I was more or less right. It was a bit crowded when I started to swim, but I just forged ahead. I didn't swim quickly, but I swam confidently, trying hard to swim in a straight line. I felt like I was swimming really slowly (and I wasn't making much of an effort -- I'm still getting used to swimming in open water and I don't feel confident enough to actually try to swim fast), but when I got out of the water and looked at my watch, I saw I'd finished in around 16 minutes or so. When I stood up because the water was too shallow to swim anymore, I got hit in the back by a nice sized wave which really gave me a nice push forward. I was fortunate not to lose my balance. Instead, I took advantage of that push and ran as fast as I could out of the water.
The run to the transition area was on the beach and then up over a short bridge. When I got there, my feet were covered in sand. I had a water bottle that I'd prepared to wash my feet, so I splashed some water on them and then wiped them as well as I could on my towel. Then I put on my shoes. This transition was a bit slow, but I took advantage of it to get my heart rate down (it had shot up running through the water and across the beach and over that little bridge). My swim + transition time (chip time) was 18:18.
The start of the bike route was a small hill. It was a bit hard for me to get the momentum I needed, so I started out kind of slowly. I also had some trouble getting one of my feet in the toe cage (I'm going to get clipless pedals soon -- I swear! Check out the toe cages in the picture above). Within a minute or two, though, I was ok and on my way. Then I discovered that my bike computer wasn't working (again -- this happened on my long ride last week and I have no idea why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't). This was not good, because the bike route was five times around a 4 km loop and even though counting to five should be easy, it isn't when you're in the middle of a race. The route was mainly flat with a few slight inclines and one nice downhill section (that we never had to go up, as we were going in a loop). There were lots of women on mountain bikes and a few of them even passed me, but none of them passed me and stayed in front of me. I passed quite a few people and was passed lots of times by very fast women. It was impossible to tell who was in front of me, as I had no idea which loop the other women were on (and some of them were doing the amateur" distance -- they did two loops of the same course). So I just kept riding and passing as many people as I could. In order to avoid drafting, I decided to count as I passed. So every time I passed someone, I counted out loud (in a whisper -- I didn't want people to think I was nuts!) to make sure it wasn't taking me longer than 15 seconds. Well, 15 seconds is apparently a very long time. I had no problem passing people in a lot less.
One funny thing I noticed during the bike section. I had put a lot of baby powder in my shoes. Well, remember the water I spilled on my feet to get the sand off? Baby powder and water don't mix very well. As I was riding, I felt mud at my toes. It was pretty gross and I wondered if it would bother me during the run (it didn't). One other thing... I drank twice during the run. Both times, I thought I was going to vomit afterwards. It was a very unpleasant (and unexpected!) feeling. I managed to keep my drink down, though.
As I got to the end of the 5th loop (or what I hoped was the 5th loop!), I started preparing for the run, spinning in a lower gear. I don't remember actually getting off the bike, which means I must have done it pretty easily. I do remember looking at my watch, which read just over 1:03. That meant 45 minutes or so for the bike. Usually the mats are placed at the beginning of the run, after the transition, but today, the mat was before the transition, so my chip time reflects the exact amount of time that I was on the bike course: 45:00. That's a good time for me -- more or less the same time that I did at the Jordan Valley Tri two weeks ago.
I went into the transition area, racked my bike and then, seeing that it was crooked, straightened it out, took off my helmet, turned my number around and set out for the run, only to be stopped in my tracks by an official who was trying to tell me something. The only thing I'm really capable of processing in the middle of a race is someone cheering for me (when they call my name), so I had no idea what he was saying. He was telling me to run around the back of the racks, so that's what I did.
The first thing I noticed during the run was that my legs didn't hurt. Not at all. In fact, it didn't even feel like I'd ridden my bike at all! So off I went, incredibly happy to be pain-free! The run was along the marina, past the back entrance of a shopping mall. There were lots and lots of spectators along the route (and lots of boats, too!). It was a very nice run, though there were several twists and turns and I was very glad that there were volunteers directing us! Although I was in no pain, I don't particularly love to run, so I was very anxious to get to the turn-around point. Finally, I was there and I knew there were only 2.5 km to go. That's when I noticed how many people were behind me. Lots and lots of them. I couldn't believe it. Oh, and I was passing people, too. Lots of them. I got passed a few times, but I was too busy being amazed by the fact that I was running past people to be bothered by those who were running past me.
With 1.25 km to go, I got to the turn-around point for the amateur distance. That's when I saw my friend Ella, who was doing her first triathlon. I screamed her name (I actually screamed as I was running -- does that mean I wasn't running hard enough?!) and she turned around and saw me. I ran faster to catch up with her and tried to pull her along with me, but she was too tired to run at my pace. And since I was already running fast (and passing more people!), I decided that it wasn't all that much further to the end, so I'd keep running fast. And I did. My heart rate monitor was beeping like crazy. I have no idea how high my heart rate went because I couldn't be bothered to look down at my watch. I just kept running. Hard. 1 km is a lot longer than it sounds. I was getting tired, but I kept running. I kept thinking I'd see the finish line around the next turn. It was never there. Then I saw Danny, Ella's husband. He cheered me on, telling me that there were only 200 meters to the end. Two thoughts came into my mind. The first was that when we cheer people on, we always tell them, "200 meters to go!" even when it's more. The second thought was that I was never going to be able to keep up this pace for 200 more meters because I was dying. But I kept going. Then I saw the hill. The only hill on the entire route, about 50 meters or so before the finish. A hill?! Yikes -- I was never going to make it up that thing. So I didn't look up the hill. I looked down at the ground and just kept running as fast as I could. Then I saw the finish line and then I was across the finish line!!! I looked at my watch. 1:31:31 (my official chip time was 1:31:32). A quick calculation told me that I'd finished that run in way under 30 minutes. Later, when I looked at the results, I saw that I'd done the run, including the transition (remember the official who stopped me in my tracks?) in 28:12. That means that the run itself was under 28 minutes! My previous PR was just under 30 minutes. I took about two minutes off my fastest 5k time and I did it in a triathlon, after swimming 750 meters and cycling 20 km!
Of course, I also shattered my best time for a sprint tri. I've only done one other in a race (two weeks ago) and my time for that one was 1:43. I realize that the courses were different, but 12 minutes is still quite a big difference!
There were lots of fast women there today. I was 10/19 for women 40-44 and 78/122 overall. I was 78th in the swim, 76th on the bike and 77th in the run. Talk about being consistent!
A couple more achievements...
There's this one woman who's not in my age group, but who finishes just ahead of me in every single race. She's been around for quite a while (much longer than I have), but she's also quite a bit older than I am. It drives me nuts that I'm always so close to beating her but I never do. Well, today, I saw her up ahead of me on the run. I took off. I beat her by 1:15 (eight places).
And the second achievement: In the Eilat Triathlon six months ago (my first), I came in 3rd in the super sprint. The girl who came in second was a team mate, quite a bit younger than I am, who passed me at the end of the run. The woman who came in first was my age and she
beat me by about a minute and a half. As I was looking over the results for today's race, I came across her name (I was looking at the other women in my age group). I beat her today by eight minutes (and five places in our age group)! Six months ago, I resigned myself to
the fact that she was better than I was. Well, she's not anymore!