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.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ramat Hasharon Duathlon - 29 October 2005

Been meaning to post this for several days...

Like many races in Israel, the Ramat Hasharon Duathlon (which is also the national duathlon championship) is in honor of a soldier who died in service. Before I start my race report, I'd like to briefly tell you all about Nir Poraz, whose family sponsors this race and who the race is named for. If you really don't want to read this, just skip down a couple of paragraphs.

In October 1994, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier by the name of Nachshon Waxman (who was also an American citizen) was kidnapped by the Hamas. I remember this well -- it was just before Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat were to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and it kind of put a damper on that event. Waxman was held captive for several days and the army managed to locate him and decided to raid the site where he was being held in an attempt to rescue him. Captain Nir Poraz, who was 23 years old, led the rescue mission. Unfortunately, the rescue mission did not succeed and both Waxman and Poraz were killed. Of the many, many horrible things that have happened in Israel in the 17 years that I've lived here, this one in particular remains very clear in my mind. If the definition of "hero" is one who puts his own life on the line in order to save the life of another, then Nir Poraz was a true hero. I thought about him during the race and I think that helped me to push just a little bit harder.

Now on to the race report...

I got to the race site and got set up in the transition area, which was packed. There was no room left on the racks meant for the sprint, so those of us who were "left over" (and there were quite a lot of us) were instructed to put our bikes on the Olympic distance rack, which quickly filled up, as well. Getting set up for a duathlon is so much easier than getting set up for a triathlon -- all I needed to do was rack my bike and put out my shoes (I ran in two pairs of running shoes today so that I could throw off the first pair without worrying about having them set up to put back on after the bike, so I had to actually lay out two pairs of shoes -- running and bike shoes). No towel, no putting my number and sunglasses in my helmet, no remembering to take goggles and a swim cap -- it was kind of nice!

A teammate and I did a relatively long warmup -- it was only a couple of km or so, but that's more than I usually do, as in the past, I've been afraid of being tired out by the warmup. Today, I decided that the longer the warmup the better, but we didn't have time for more than 2 km.

As soon as the race started, people started passing me. I just ignored them and ran at my own pace. I was quite surprised when I got to the 1 km mark and saw 5:14 on my watch, as I didn't think I was running all that fast (and that's very fast for me). I did end up slowing down a bit, as the way back was on a slight incline, but I'm pretty sure that every km was under 6 minutes and I felt really good. I wasn't sure where to stop my watch to get my 5k time, so I hit it while I was on the mat just before entering the transition area -- I assume that was the 5k mark, but if it wasn't, it was pretty close. I knew I had done a good time. In fact, I could have stopped the race right there and spent the rest of the day happy as a lark. I looked down at my watch and what I was already pretty sure of was confirmed -- a new 5k PR for me -- 27:38. And I wasn't even pushing my hardest, as I still had 23 km to ride and another 2.5 km to run!

The first transition was a catastrophe. First of all, someone had apparently moved the bag belonging to the teammate whose bike was racked next to mine and I nearly tripped over it trying to get to my bike. I had to kick it away in order to get my shoes and this slowed me down a bit. I got my shoes and my helmet on pretty quickly and set out with my bike. I was a bit "wobbly" from the run, though, and I had some trouble holding on to my bike with one hand, so I resorted to using two. And getting on the bike was a complete disaster. I somehow managed to avoid actually falling off of it (which I later learned that a lot of other people did), but I had to come to a complete stop to actually mount and then my feet kept slipping off the pedals and it took me some time to start pedaling fast enough to make my bike stop moving from side to side. I knew it was bad when I heard my coach, the guy who always tells me to jump on my bike as quickly as possible and to start riding fast -- he yelled, "Take it SLOWLY!" LOL. My chip time for the run plus the transition (before I actually got on the bike, I think) was 29:31.

Once I was actually safely on my bike with my feet attached to the pedals, things got better. In fact, I found myself FLYING. I rode down the hill towards the highway at about 41 or 42 kph and once on the highway, I was going over 30 kph with no effort at all. And it wasn't downhill. I was thrilled! I kept thinking about how much I'd improved and how fast I was riding. Then I got to the turn around point and I realized that it was not my amazing skill on the bike that had caused me to ride that fast, but rather the wind at my back, which was now in my face. Yikes! This was where the race really started for me. I decided that I was NOT going to give in to the wind and I just kept pushing as hard as I could. I passed a few people and a lot of people passed me, but I didn't give up. The worst part was that I had to do two laps of the highway section of the course, so I knew I'd have to go through this again.

Needless to say, I was very happy to see the next turn around point. With the wind once again at my back, I was able to rest a little bit. Once again, I was "flying" (well, it was fast for me, anyway!). Before I knew it, I was riding into the wind again and I spent the next 5 km or so playing leap frog with a guy who was suffering as much as I was. Once off the highway, things didn't get better. Now I was riding up the hill that I'd flown down before. I couldn't actually see the hill, but it was there -- I went 41 kph down it and I was struggling to get up it at under 20 kph. My legs were starting to burn and I was starting to wonder how on earth I was going to be able to run after working so hard on the bike. Fortunately, the last 500 meters or so were downhill, which gave me a minute or so to rest my legs before getting off the bike. The course was supposed to be 23 km, but my bike computer read 24 (and there had been a slight change in the course, which might account for the difference -- or I might need to slightly adjust my bike computer). I finished in 54:56 -- not the fastest time per km I've done in a race, but certainly respectable, considering the amount of wind on the course.

It took me a while to get my shoes on (and to get Gil's bag out of the way again!). The entire time I was in the transition area, I heard one of the girls on the team cheering for me. I have no idea who it was -- I could only hear her, not see her -- but it's always nice to hear someone cheering for you. I set out on the short, 2.5 km run. My legs weren't as bad as I thought they'd be and 2.5 km is short -- or so I kept reminding myself. Once again, I wasn't sure when to hit my watch. I hit it just after exiting the transition area, but then I saw the timing mat again, so I hit it again when I got there (about 40 seconds later). And then I just ran. It didn't feel fast or pretty and I was having trouble picking up my feet, but I kept reminding myself that in 15 minutes or less, it would all be over. What's 15 minutes?

I got to the turn around point, grabbed some water and tried to pick up the pace a bit, but it was hard because now I was running up that incline. I promised myself that I would really pick up the pace at the turnoff to the finish line. If I ever got there. LOL. Actually, it never even occurred to me to walk today -- I think I did see a few people walking at some point, but that seemed very silly to me. Before I knew it, I was at the turnoff and a teammate was there to meet me (he had already finished the race and he was cooling down). He ran behind me, encouraging me. This was absolutely the hardest part of the race. It was about 400 meters or so to the finish and those were the longest 400 meters I've ever run in my life! My legs felt like lead and I was trying my hardest to sprint, but I didn't have much left. And I kept looking for the finish line and it was never there. I remember reminding myself that everyone around me was feeling just like I was and that it was almost over. And Ilan was behind me, telling me that there was just a little bit to go. And there it was -- the finish line. I did have a tiny little bit of oomph left in my and I took off as fast as I could and then it was over. My watch time for the 2.5 km (from the timing mat) was 13:02. Even if I add the 40 seconds or so from the exit out of the transition area to the mat, that's a pretty good pace for me. And on really tired legs. My final time was 1:39:24.

There were five women signed up for the race in my age group, but one of them, my teammate, had to drop out because she had a car accident on Thursday. I was 2/4 in all three parts of the race and also in the final result. I would have been 2/5 had she raced, as I'm much faster than she is (though I think she might have been able to beat the two women I beat). The best part of the race for me was going to get my trophy -- I took a look at the woman who had come in third and I almost fell over. She looked very athletic and fast. All I could think was, "I beat HER?!"

So it was a great day. A new 5k PR, a good ride and hardware (a very nice trophy, btw, that says "Israel Duathlon Championships" in big letters). The muscles in my legs are very very sore, which is a good sign. I don't remember the last time I was this sore after a race! In addition to the PR and hardware, I had a great workout, too!

Just one final comment... This is very strange, as running is the part of triathlon that I like the least and the bike is my weakest part, but I've decided that I really like duathlons. I like not having the stress that always seems to come with the swim (all those people standing around me about to try and drown me in the middle of the sea!). Since swimming is the one thing that I do kind of know how to do, I won't be giving up triathlons any time in the foreseeable future, but I do like having the occasional duathlon mixed in -- it's a refreshing change.

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