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, September 17, 2005

Netanya Triathlon - 16 September 2005

That's me on the left. Thanks once again to Tan for this and the following pictures.

This was a small but really nice race. We had been promised a heatwave, but instead, we got beautiful weather and a calm sea. In the morning, it was actually a bit chilly. By the time we were finished, I'm guessing it was in the low 80s -- very comfortable around here.

There were fewer than 100 people in the sprint, so there wasn't much pushing and shoving during the swim. However, there was a fairly long run into the water and I didn't start out well. I tried swimming too soon and also lost my balance and fell twice. When I finally did start swimming, I was so out of breath from running that I was on the verge of panic. It took me a while to regulate my breathing and start swimming normally. Once I did, though, I was fine.

Swimming around the first two buoys was a piece of cake. I actually managed to swim in a straight line. LOL. However, after rounding the second buoy, I had the sun in my eyes and this made things a bit more difficult. I sighted the rope that was holding onto the buoys on my right, so I decided to swim right next to it to avoid swimming too far out. This would have been a good strategy if a guy hadn't come up on my left. He was too close to me and he kept pushing me into and under the rope. I couldn't use my right arm at all because I couldn't get it out of the water. He actually stopped and apologized, but until I managed to move past him, swimming was rather difficult.

Getting out of the water was a bit difficult, as I'm really bad at running in water, but the really hard part was running up to the transition area. We had to run up a very steep hill (so steep that I'd found it uncomfortable to walk down it earlier). People all around me were walking, but I was determined to run up the hill and I did. I don't remember anything else about the transition, apart from the fact that I ran past my bike and had to turn around and go back (I realized I'd run past it pretty quickly, so I didn't lose more than a couple of seconds). My actual swim time was around 17:30 or so (according to my watch) -- not great for 750 meters, but not terrible for me. My time including transition was 20:51 (2/2 women 40-44, 63/91 overall).

After grabbing my bike and running up a tiny little hill, I clumsily got on it and eventually managed to clip in (I need to work a lot more on transitions and with the weather cooling off, I'm running out of excuses not to do this). The bike route was three loops for a total of 23.4 km. It was mainly flat with a few slight inclines (which we got to go down, too, of course). There was one very tight turn (the turnaround on one end -- I had to slow down to almost a stop to actually turn) and a few corners. Unfortunately, I had sent my bike on the bus in the morning and then driven up with a friend, so someone else took my bike off the bus and put the wheel back on and when they did so, they must have moved the sensor for my bike computer, so when I got on my bike, I discovered that the computer wasn't working. I had an idea of how far I'd gone because we were going in loops, but I had no idea how fast I was going. If I had known, I may have pushed a little harder. In any case, I actually felt pretty good on the bike and apart from the fact that I looked like a complete dork getting on and off, as far as I was concerned, this was the best part of the race for me. My time was a bit of a disappointment, though -- 56:14 (2/2 women 40-44, 73/91 overall), for an average of about 25 kph -- slower than I would have liked, though not terrible considering the number of turns.

During the bike to run transition, the little round plastic thing that holds my number onto the race belt popped off and rolled away, never to be found again. This was not a good start to the run. And it took me forever to get my shoes on. I think that was psychological -- the run was next to the bike route and I knew that the first part was a gradual incline and I didn't really feel like running it. I managed to get myself together, though (and to have a conversation with one of the officials, who is also the wife of the manager of my team) and to get out of the transition area.

The run started off badly. My heart rate was a bit high at the beginning, so I slowed down a bit, but then my shins started hurting. And I kept playing with my number, which was flapping in front of me because it was only connected on one side. At some point, I just stopped running. Walking was hard, too -- my legs really hurt. I walked and ran and walked for a bit and took advantage of the walk breaks to fix my number so it would stop flapping. A few people encouraged me to start running again (as they ran by me) and about halfway through the run (which was two loops), I picked up the pace. I slowed down one more time at the water station, but that was it. Then I really picked up the pace and finished the run the way I should have run the whole thing. My legs stopped hurting (I sometimes get pain in my shins when I'm not warmed up) and I actually felt good, though a bit pissed off at myself for having stopped running at all. And to keep my spirits up I sang a bit, both in my head and outloud (when no one was within earshot! LOL!). When I reached the water station for the last time, the volunteers offered me water and I refused, telling them that I was near the end. That was all they needed to hear. They started cheering me on just like my former coach used to do and they gave me the motivation I needed to sprint to the finish.

My run time was pretty bad -- 34:06 for 5 km plus the slow transition (I'm guessing the actual run was closer to about 32 minutes -- still slow for me). However, I did have a negative split -- according to the chip splits, the second half of my run was much faster than the first half. The run was the worst part of the race for me relative to the other participants (and in general, too) -- I was 2/2 in my age group and 81/91 overall.

My time for the race was 1:51:12 (a minute faster than I did the Caesaria Triathlon two weeks ago, although the bike route in Caesarea was more than 3 km shorter. Note that the clock time in the picture above is off by 30 minutes -- this must have been the time for those doing the Olympic distance). I came in second in my age group (big surprise -- if you've been following the report, you know that I was 2/2 for the entire race!) and 80/91 overall.

For the most part, it was an ok race for me, but not great. I had no expectations of getting anything other than second place in my age group (the woman who came in first is really really fast -- the guys on my team were amazed at how fast she was on the bike and she later told me she'd had a bad ride!), but my poor entry into the water and my mental breakdown during the first half of the run were disappointing. The run thing especially bothers me, as I've had this same problem over and over and it's the run that's going to keep me from moving up to Olympic distance any time in the near future. I can handle the 1500 meter swim and I've done 40 km on my bike plenty of times, but there's no way I'll be able to finish up with a 10k run until I've upped my training mileage and done some serious mental training.

My coach actually asked me after the race when I'm going to do an Olympic distance tri. I don't know if he was serious or not, but he did say that when I do it, he'll do it with me (that part was serious).

Back to the race... Despite my disappointment with parts of my own performance, I really enjoyed this race. I like the atmosphere of the smaller races and it was really fun to be there with such a small group from my team. I have no idea why, but some of the parents and kids who were watching instead of participating this time brought cameras and they were snapping pictures of us all day long. It was rather amusing to watch them running around with the cameras. I suspect that there will be several pictures of me in the next team Powerpoint presentation.

The next race is two weeks from today at Carmel Beach. That's it for triathlons until the national championships in early December, but there are two duathlons coming up. The idea of doing a duathlon doesn't appeal to me all that much right now (the running...), but I will probably do both of them because it will force me to start running more and hopefully build up my confidence a bit before Eilat in December.

My two coaches

Kinda like the TV show "My Two Dads"...

I just had to post this picture that I found in the race pictures for the Netanya Triathlon (report coming up next). My current coach, Yigal Dahan, is on the left (the one with the yellow bicycle pump -- that thing didn't leave his hand for the entire day!) and my former coach, Eli Gez, is on the right. The photographer, Eyal Moyal, caught a really great moment. I just hope they're not laughing at me! ;-)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Nike Caesaria Triathlon - 3 September 2005

Thanks again to Tan for the picture

The setting was beautiful and the sponsor was great -- there was a free dri-fit shirt, a free massage, unlimited free icicles, pillows under a tent to sit on during the award ceremony or whenever and nice prizes for the first three places in all of the children's categories and for the Olympic distance.

It's good that something was great.

When we arrived in Caesaria at 6 a.m., I got off the bus, looked at the water and said "No way." The waves were already about a meter and a half high and it didn't look very swimmer-friendly. It wasn't quite as bad in the area where we had to swim. We still had almost three hours to wait, though.

There was some confusion about the starting time. It had been changed from 7:30 (I think) to 8:55, but a lot of people didn't know this (it had been announced on the Internet). Then, this morning, they changed it to 8:30. And then they changed it again to 8:50. And then they changed it back to 8:55. Somehow, everyone managed to get to the start at the right time.

At around 8:30, I went down to the beach to warm up. The first thing I noticed (besides the waves) was the rocks. One of my young teammates had cut his foot on one of them while warming up. It was very hard to find good footing in the water. I went in, though, did a very short warmup and swam back out. The waves were hitting the beach very hard and taking stones with them. Some of those stones were rather large and they were hitting me in the feet and legs (and I couldn't move back any further). One actually cut and bruised my ankle. And the race hadn't even started yet!

For some reason, the swim route was only 375 meters, so we had to do two loops. It was very hard to hear the briefing and I wasn't sure if we were swimming inside the buoys or outside (apparently, no one else knew, either, because people were swimming everywhere!). Doing two loops wouldn't have been so bad, but there were over 300 people on this very short course and the swim was wall to wall people or, as one of my teammates put it, "people soup". I had been concerned about the waves and undertow, but those were nothing compared to the human wall. I was kicked, pushed and swum over and I couldn't move forwards. I found myself treading water several times, not because I needed a break, but simply because there was nowhere to go -- there were people stopped in front of me and all around me. I actually had conversations with people during the swim. And if the sheer number of people trying to navigate the course wasn't enough, there were those who insisted on stopping to turn around and yell at those who had accidentally bumped into them. This slowed things up even more. The whole experience was very tiring and very frustrating. Some time during the second loop, I was finally able to swim normally. I suspect, though, that I went a bit off course, because the three teammates that I'd been swimming with (two of whom are slower than I am) all came out of the water way before me. I didn't even see them pass me. I couldn't see the course because of the waves and I didn't know which side of the rope I was supposed to be on (and, as I mentioned, there were people swimming on both sides), so I just followed the people closest to me. Probably a bad move, but even in retrospect, I'm not sure what else I could have done. The first words out of my mouth when I got out of the water were: "What a nightmare!"

My swim time, which included a very long transition from swim to bike, was an embarrassing 26:26. However, ALL of the swim times were really bad. I was 7/11 for women 40-44 and 243/315 overall. This was not a good start, as the swim is usually the best part of the race for me. Not only had I been slow, but I came out of the water frustrated and not feeling much like going on.

My transition was a bit slow, but not too bad. However, it was a VERY long run with the bike to the start of the course -- at least 200-300 meters. Uphill (well, a slight incline), on rocks which were covered by a rug, but the rug was blowing in the wind and at some points, it was impossible to run on it. This was the first time I'd ever done a transition in cycling shoes. Running in my cycling shoes on rocks was not fun.

The bike went ok for me. Not great, but ok. There were several speed bumps and a lot of turns, all of which slowed me down (I'm still afraid to take turns too quickly). It was mostly flat with a few small hills here and there, but there was a lot of wind. In fact, there was so much wind that people were losing things all over the course -- I saw several pumps and a lot of bottles. And my bottle joined the others about 5 km before the end, when it flew out of my hand. Fortunately, there was no one behind me. I should have stopped to pick it up, but I didn't -- it took me a few seconds to actually realize what had happened and I couldn't have safely ridden my bike back, as the road was split at this point and the traffic was in one direction. And I was having a hard enough time controlling my bike in the wind. My bike split was not particularly fast, either -- 47:59 for 20 km. I was 6/11 in my age group and 240/315 overall. This was surprisingly my best section of the race. Go figure.

It was another 200-300 meters back to the transition area, over those same rocks. This time it was a slight downhill, which was actually harder than uphill. I could barely run and reverted to walking at some points. The transition itself was fairly slow. I was tired and feeling sluggish. I managed to get my shoes on, though, and to start running.

The run started out ok. It actually felt great to be running without my bike in tow. However, that didn't last long. Before I'd even finished the first km, I got the urge to walk. I kept running, promising myself that I could walk at the water station, but it just never seemed to appear. Finally, there was water at about 1.5 km or so. I slowed to a walk, took two cups, poured one over my head and downed the other and then started running again. This helped for a while, but then we started running on sand. Ugh. I managed to keep running until we got to a small bridge, where I decided I needed another walk break. I walked over the bridge and there was water on the other side. Took another two cups and kept going. Things went downhill from here. The run was two loops and after finishing the first one, I had had enough. I slowed to a walk and ended up walking for quite a while. There was a woman in my age group behind me and my goal was not to let her pass me. That was it. Little did I know that there were two more women in my age group not too far up ahead. I walked and ran and walked and ran most of the rest of the route. Just after the second time over that little bridge, I took off running as fast as I could and sprinted to the end. I was VERY happy to cross that finish line. I wasn't so happy when I saw the clock -- 1:52. Yikes! This was by far my slowest sprint time ever. The 5k run including that long, slow transition took me 37:35. My PR is more than 9 minutes faster than that. Of course, I didn't set that PR running on a hot summer day at almost 11 a.m. I was 6/11 in my age group for the run and 262/315 overall.

For the entire race, I came in 7/11 in my age group and 254/315 overall (note that "overall" includes men and women). I can't say I was happy with my results, especially after I saw how close behind 5th and 6th place I'd been. If I had run the run, I could have beaten both of them.

After the race, I got a massage that seems to have gotten rid of all of the stiffness and pain that I've had in my neck for the last two weeks, so something good did come out of the day :-)

My coach says that you learn something from every race. I learned several things from this one:
  1. All the swim training in the world can't prepare you for all of the challenges you may meet in the swim. I'm a decent swimmer and the swim leg really sucked for me today, though I can't say there was much actual swimming involved...
  2. I need to start taking running more seriously and I need to talk to my coach about getting my mileage up. Longer runs make 5k seem like a piece of cake, but all of my runs in the past month were short and that 5k, which should have been short, seemed to last forever.
  3. When I grow up, I want to be Gil (my teammate who I love dearly and who took 1st place in the men's 45-49 category -- he's the guy who called the swim "people soup")
The next race is in just under 2 weeks in Netanya. I haven't decided if I'll be doing this one or not. There's another race two weeks after that, then a couple of duathlons in October and the Eilat Triathlon in December to close the season.

August totals

My August totals are way down from July, mainly because the new coach has been working a lot on form (swimming and running) and also because one long ride this month was replaced with a mountain bike ride that I didn't do. I also cut Wednesday's run/bike workout short after falling while running with my bike (I don't know how it happened, but my bike went down and I went down on top of it -- ouch! And to make matters worse, it fell on it's right side and my gears got messed up again, but I was able to turn the screws with my fingernail -- my coach was very impressed and is now thinking about growing fingernails of his own!).

So here goes...

swim: 15,100 meters (this isn't too bad -- it was 18,900 last month, but I believe that was actually down from June. Still a fair amount of swimming, in any case)

bike: 223.9 km (way down from July, but July was an all-time record for me and it was more than double what I had ever done before. This is my second highest monthly total of all time and it was minus one long ride. Next month will be even lower because two long rides will be replaced with races -- just 20 km of riding each race)

run: 42.5 km (down from 59.9 km in July. Have I mentioned that I really don't like running all that much and even less so in the summer??)

I also have a record number of bruises on my legs this month! I added several more last night and the old ones haven't gone away yet, so my tri-suit won't be the only purple and black thing I'm wearing at Saturday's race!

Additional August achievements: I learned how to properly swim the butterfly, I learned how to do flip turns and I learned how to properly get on and off my bike. Unfortunately, I won't be using any of these newly learned skills in my race this weekend -- flip turns and fly aren't really necessary in the Mediterranean Sea and I still haven't gotten the hang of getting on and off my bike with cycling shoes (I learned with running shoes for better traction). Oh, and I also fixed my freestyle enough to take several seconds off of my 25 and 50 meter times, which I hope will translate to a minute or two off my 750 meter time. Overall, not a bad month, despite the lower totals.

September goals: Ummm... Run more???

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