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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reflection on the Women's Triathlon

Yes, another reflection post. Same questions, different race...

Did you enjoy the race?

Yes. The run was a bit tough for me, but this is one of my favorite races and I had a good time.

Which parts of the race were easy and which were hard?

The bike was easy. Probably too easy. I passed a lot of people and did so without a whole lot of effort. I could have passed more.

The swim wasn't "hard" but it was hard to actually swim -- I got stuck in a big group and I couldn't get out.

The run was a bit tough. My legs were sore and it was hot on some parts of the course. However, I don't think it was really as bad as I remember it. I had no trouble running the whole thing and I was even able to pass someone going uphill right before the finish line. Maybe running is harder in my head than it is for my body.

Did you learn anything from the race? If so, what?

Yes, I learned that I have to find a way to stay out of the crowd when I'm swimming. I'd rather swim a slightly longer distance than spend 750 meters mainly treading water and swimming breaststroke in order to avoid getting beaten up. In my next open water swim, I'm going to try going into the water as far over to the side as possible.

I also learned to pay more attention to the exit routes from the transition area before the race actually starts. I lost several seconds running the wrong way down the rack in T2 and then having to run back the other way. As a rule, I do normally check out the transition area carefully. I think I wasn't careful enough in this race.

Which part of the race did you enjoy the most?

The bike. First of all, there were lots of spectators because the course was short. I had three or four men out there cheering me on every time I went by (and telling me that I was doing great) and my husband and son out watching (they don't cheer). I passed more people than I could possibly count and felt great on the bike. I was sorry to get off.

What do you think you did well?

My transitions were very good, apart from the run out of T2.

I entered the water well despite the long run before we could actually swim. In addition, thanks to lots of active recovery practice in workouts, I had no problem starting to swim after all that running -- no shortness of breath, nothing.

I also managed to stay well hydrated during the race, remembering to take my gel and to drink on the bike.

What could you have done differently?

I could have tried harder to escape the crowd during the swim and actually raced the swim instead of swimming at a leisurely pace.

I could have pushed harder on the bike. I don't know why I didn't, unless it was those thoughts of "How am I going to run?" that kept me from riding my fastest.

I could have pushed harder on the run. Yeah, it was a bit tough, but I also made a conscious decision not to push too hard. I wanted to achieve my time goals and as soon as I saw that I was going to, I stopped pushing. At the very least, I could have done the last kilometer a lot faster than I did.

Reading the above three paragraphs, I realize that I'm not racing my hardest. I don't know what's holding me back, but I imagine that it's fear -- fear of not finising, fear of running out of steam, fear of going the fastest I possibly can and then not being happy with my time. Now there's some food for thought.

Bad day, good day

It's a good thing that a bad workout is often followed by a good one.

Sunday's swim was awful. It started with me not really wanting to get in the pool. Everyone was halfway finished with the warm up before I even started. I never did finish the warm up (I did 550 meters out of 1000) because we had to start the main set. I didn't finish that, either.

The main set was 10 time 50 meters with 30 seconds rest in between. We were supposed to swim at 90% effort. I did the first two at closer to "all out" effort than 90%. My times were awful. I was tired. I stopped. I swam 150 meters slowly and did the last two 50s. On the second to last, my time was a lot better. On the last one, I started having trouble pulling with my right arm. I couldn't seem to complete the pull -- it was my shoulder acting up again. Great. Just what I need.

I got out of the pool feeling frustrated and depressed. I used to like swim workouts. This one had made me miserable.

I wasn't all that excited to go to my Monday run, either. Running is hard and it's my weakest sport. But went. We started with a 3 km warm up. I did it with three teammates. Only one of them is actually a faster runner than I am, but I didn't like their warm up pace -- it was too fast for me. Warm ups are supposed to be slow. So I held back a bit and did it at a pace that felt more comfortable to me.

The main set was 1 km fast, 1 km slow, 1 km fast, 1 km slow. I wasn't sure how I would fare because the warm up had been too fast for me. Well, I must have been right to slow down the warm up because the main set was great. I expected to do between 5:30 and 5:40 on the fast kms. I did the first one in 4:54. The slow km was very slow -- 6:45. The second fast one was 5:02 and the second slow one was 6:35. I was able to do this without a break and I could have gone faster (coach said to run at 90% effort). I finished feeling strong and really good about the run.

Just a note on those "slow" kilometers. When I first started running, my training pace was around 7:30 per km and I never felt like I was running slowly. I finished my very first 5k in 2002 in 35:19 -- 7:04 per km. And this was a race. Last night's slow kilometers really were slow. I was able to lower my heart rate and I felt like I was doing a very slow jog at almost no effort. "Slow" for me now is faster than "fast" was less than four years ago. Maybe there's hope for my running afterall!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Girl Power

Here we are -- the women of the Lehavim Triathlon Team. On the left is Ronit, in the middle is Ella and that's me on the right. My husband took this picture on his cell phone (thus the poor quality, though I did try to fix up the colors a bit -- kind of hard to do when your computer monitor isn't so great, either) at the Women's Triathlon yesterday. My finisher's medal had already been adopted by my son, which is why it's missing (I did finish -- really!).

So do we look like we had fun?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Women's Triathlon, Herzliya - 27 May 2006

Thanks to Shvoong for this and the following pictures

The Women's Triathlon is one of my favorites. I enjoy being out there with so many women (and so many male spectators). This year, I managed to convince my husband and my youngest son to come along -- this is only the second time they've ever seen me race and the first time was a year and a half ago.

My goals coming into this race were to beat last year's time, to hopefully go under 1:30 and to have fun.

We got to the race site at about 6 a.m. and I had just enough time to get myself set up in the transition area, pick up my goody bag (nice shirt and very nice hat which, together, are worth a whole lot more than what I paid to enter the race) and do a short warmup -- much shorter than I would have liked. I only had time to run about a kilometer and then do a short swim. I didn't even have time to visit the bathroom, so I, uh, took care of the problem in nature's bathroom.

I had remembered last year's swim as being easy without all the pushing and shoving that normally goes on in mixed swims. This year was different. This race grows every year and there were over 200 women in the sprint. The water was crowded and although I didn't get pushed and swum over in the rough, threatening way that men tend to do it, I did get kicked, have my legs grabbed and I even got hit in the head once. It wasn't at all frightening to me, but it was exceptionally annoying and I ended up "stuck" in an area full of other swimmers with no way out. No matter how I tried to "escape", I ended up with someone pushing me or just swimming slowly in front of me with no way for me to get around her. I didn't push hard on the swim at all -- I was too busy trying to find my own spot.

In any case, the swim seemed very short to me (and to others) and it was over fairly soon. I was happy to get out of the water. On my way out, I was greeted by a dog who was either looking for its owner or just liked running into the water to greet each swimmer on her way out. The dog made for some nice pictures of women smiling and laughing. Mine is very blurry, but I had to include a picture of me smiling!

I forgot to look at my watch when I came out of the water, but my time for the swim plus the transition was 17:06 -- 8/35 women 40-44, 66/207 overall. This was about a minute faster than last year.

The bike has officially become my favorite part of the race. This was a rather tough course -- five loops of 4 km each. There was one slight uphill section and a bit of headwind, but there was also a nice downhill section. Unfortunately, there were also some traffic circles that needed to be carefully navigated and a lot of inexperienced cyclists on the course who made it difficult to pass safely. I spent much of the ride yelling at women to move to the right so that I could pass them. Lots of mountain bikes and even one woman riding in sandals (this is a total mystery to me -- what's the point of riding in sandals -- if you don't have cycling shoes, doesn't it make more sense to ride in your running shoes so that you don't have to change shoes twice??). The fun part of doing five loops of a short course is that you get to see the spectators a lot. I had a bunch of men cheering me on -- a few teammates (including the same friend who came to see me in the Palmahim Triathlon last month), the husband of a teammate and my own husband, who doesn't yell, but was out there watching with my son. My friend and teammate, Gil, told me that I looked really good on the bike. I felt good, too. However, I had to brake a lot more than I normally would (normally, I wouldn't brake at all, except to turn around and to stop!) and it affected my time. I finished in 41:59, three minutes faster than last year, but not my best 20 km time (not too far off, though). I was 9/35 in my age group and 76/207 overall.

The run. Ugh. It started off badly -- I ran the wrong way down the aisle between the racks and I had to turn around and run back around them. Once out of the transition area, my legs felt heavy and kind of achy and I wasn't having all that much fun anymore. I tried to make the best of it, though. I knew that I could go really easy on the run and still achieve my race goals, so that's what I decided to do. I got passed by a lot of women on the run. Apparently, a lot of the newbies out there today were runners. Some of them really whizzed past me. I just kept plodding along. At about 3 km, the same woman who passed me in the Jordan Valley Triathlon passed me again, calling out to me as she went by. I called out her name, as well, cheering her on. I didn't bother trying to catch her -- I knew that neither of us was a podium contender today and I just wanted to achieve my personal goals.

Towards the end of the run, I saw Gil. He did not like the way I was running at all and made a point of telling me to pick up my feet and start moving. After the race, he told me that I looked bad during the run (in stark contrast to the way I looked on the bike). Just before the finish line, there was a rather steep hill -- I remembered it from last year, so I wasn't surprised this time. On that hill, I saw a woman in my age group. It occurred to me that she wasn't running all that fast and I'm good on hills and I passed her and held a decent pace until the end. I finished in 28:17 including the transition, five seconds slower than last year (but last year I rode in my running shoes, so my transition was faster). I was 17/35 in my age group and 107/207 overall.

When I crossed the finish line, I looked down at my watch and smiled. I'd achieved all of my goals. I'd finished in 1:27:23, bettering last year's time by four minutes and going under an hour and a half. And apart from some uncomfortable moments on the run, for the most part, I'd had fun. I finished 10/35 in my age group (where on earth did 35 women come from?! Normally, if there are 10 in my age group, that's a lot!) and 82/207 overall.

It was a fun race and a fun day. I have to admit, though, that I'm frustrated with my running. Whereas my times have dropped on both the swim and the bike, my run times seem to be "stuck" and the run is by far the hardest part of the race for me. Even my running pictures are awful. Once again, I need to take an honest look at the quantity and quality of my training as far as running is concerned. I know I need to change something -- what remains to be seen is whether or not I have the determination to actually change it.

Friday, May 26, 2006


No, not the flying kind -- the kind I get in my stomach before every single race. The kind that make me think, "Why am I doing this?" The kind that keep me up at night.

Tomorrow's race isn't even all that "important". It's the Women's Triathlon in Herzliya. This was one of my favorite races last year because I loved competing with no men. Don't get me wrong -- I don't mind competing with men. In fact, I generally like it (especially when I pass them!), but I enjoyed swimming without big, threatening bodies around me and I enjoyed seeing so many women out there.

This year's goal is to equal or better last year's result. That sounds easy enough, but it might not be -- last year's time was my best time ever for a sprint triathlon. I have another goal, too -- to enjoy myself. If it's not fun, then why do it?

So wish me luck -- I'm off to get my stuff ready.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The things I'm good at

Some of you didn't like the last list, so here's the other one I promised:

  • I'm good at focusing. I can completely ignore everything around me and just focus on what I'm doing. Other people don't always think this is a great trait (like when they say hello as I run by and I completely ignore them because I didn't see or hear a thing). It's probably not a great thing when there are road blocks in front of me, either, but the rest of the time, I think it's a pretty good skill to have.
  • I'm good at keeping my cool, even when things start to go wrong, or at least in a race (I need to work on this skill in other aspects of my life). I've had a few "this is the time to start panicking" moments during races and I've never panicked.
  • I have excellent swimming form. I may not be all that fast in the water, but at least I look like I know how to swim!
  • I'm pretty good at swim to bike transitions. In fact, I actually pass people in the transition area.
  • I'm pretty good (and getting better) at reading the terrain and knowing when to shift gears on my bike. This isn't a big deal in road biking, but it's very helpful in mountain biking.
  • I've learned how to move my chain back onto the chain ring when it slips off without having to get off my bike. The actual process (shifting up) isn't a big deal, but the trick is to realize what's happened and to shift before the bike stops moving forward and falls over. Fortunately, I don't need to practice this skill very often.
  • I'm good at conserving strength for later on in the race and I almost always finish strong. This may not be a big plus in sprints, where I should be giving almost everything I have right from the start, but I suspect it will come in handy as I move on to longer distances.
  • I'm good at hamming it up for the camera. In many of my race pictures, I'm smiling and/or waving. Rest assured that the bigger the smile, the more I'm suffering!
  • I'm consistent in my training. I rarely miss a workout and when I do, it's almost always for a good reason. I do what my coach tells me to do (ok, so I whine a little, but I still do what he says) and I work hard. I'm not a professional athlete, nor will I ever be, but I try to think like one when I'm training. I saved this point for last, but I think it's the most important. I truly believe that consistency is the key not only to success, but also to enjoying the sport.

Where does he come up with this stuff?

I think my coach sits around all day trying to come up with original (torturous) workouts. Take last night's swim, for instance...

All of the following without a break:

15 meter sprint
35 meter recovery
25 meter sprint
25 meter recovery
35 meter sprint
15 meter recovery
50 meter sprint
50 meter recovery

Yeah, I know, it's only 250 meters, but sprinting 35 meters, recovering only 15 and then sprinting 50 meters is hard! Yeah, yeah, I know -- "train hard, race easy" (or something like that), but still, couldn't we have done 250 meters of butterfly or something instead? Oh, that's right, I forgot -- we did 250 meters of butterfly on Thursday... (actually, it was 200 butterfly and 200 IM, but that works out to 250 fly).

Anyway, we did the above set twice and to be completely honest, it wasn't quite as hard as it sounded like it would be. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it --but please don't tell my coach that!

Friday, May 19, 2006


Motivation comes in many forms. Apparently, lack of it is very apparent.

I missed my Monday run because of Lag B'Omer (a very stupid holiday on which we light bonfires and then run after our kids to make sure they stay away from them). There was way too much smoke in the air to be able to run outside and I didn't manage to get to the gym on time. So I decided that I'd do my Monday run on Friday, my rest day.

Friday is a long way away from Monday, of course.

By Wednesday, my birthday, I had a cold. I was still thinking about Friday. Maybe I'd skip the run. I'd still have a cold on Friday.

On Thursday, teammate, neighbor and very very good friend, Gil, returned from a business trip abroad. He'd missed Monday's run, too, but unlike me, he's a really good runner. When I told him that I was planning to run on Friday morning, he said, "Oh, then we'll do it together." Uh, yeah, right, Gil. My all-out pace is his warm up pace. How on earth were we supposed to do it together? Nothing bothers Gil, though. He said we'd run the same 1.5 km loop so we'd be in pretty much the same place at the same time. Uh... ok...

But then he said he wanted to run early. I had to take my son to school and couldn't run before 8. He said that was late, but then he said, "Well, maybe not. We'll see... Call me when you're ready." I was still trying to figure out why on earth I had to do this run with Gil when I wouldn't even see him while I was running. I said we'd just meet there. Maybe.

Friday morning. The cold was really bad. My nose had run all night. I actually put on my running clothes -- I don't know why. Maybe it was because I thought maybe I'd see Gil and I'd barely seen him all week. Or maybe it was just because I'd already declared that I was doing this run and I'd have a hard time making up a good excuse for not doing it (of course, there was that stuffy nose...).

8:05. My cell phone rings. It's Gil. "I'm leaving for my run now. Are you coming?" I told him I'd be ready in five minutes and five minutes later, he was in front of my house. We ran down to the starting point together (Gil, very pleased with himself that he could run at my pace and me panting). We did the run separately -- three 1.5 km loops, each one with some kind of speed work.

Actually, that's not accurate. He did the three loops. He finished his third before I'd started mine, so he did the last one with me. "You see? I'm good at running slowly" (this was supposed to be my slow section and my heart rate was up to 165!). Then he started race walking (did I mention that he used to be the Israeli race walking champion before he switched to triathlon?). At moderate pace. This quickly put him way in front of me, so he waited. LOL. And then we finished and walked home together (no more race walking!).

No, Gil, you're not really good at running slowly, but you sure know how to keep me motivated. How is it that you knew that I wasn't very motivated? Must be another one of those things that's written all over my face.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

An easy brick

Wow, I don't remember the last time I thought a brick was easy. Ok, so it was just an easy workout -- this is recovery week. It was also a birthday workout -- thanks, Coach, for making it so much fun.

Last night's workout was a 10 km ride followed by a 3 km run. The ride was a 2.5 km warm up followed by 1:00 at 80 RPM and 1:00 at 100 RPM for the next 7.5 km. The run was 4:00 easy, :30 hard for 3 km. The whole thing was so easy that when I finished, I didn't even feel like I'd really done a workout.

I guess that's how some workouts are meant to be. But I'm pretty certain that a year or two ago, I would have been sore for a week after that one. Sometimes, especially when I'm frustrated over a slow swim time or a bad run or whatever, it's really helpful to remember how far I've come.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand words

Thanks to Shvoong for the picture

I found this one from Saturday's race. The look on my face here says it all. As I was taking out my ear plugs, I glanced at my watch. "Huh? That can't be right?! I thought it was a good swim!" It was right, but lots of people complained of slow swim times, so it wasn't just me.

I don't think I'll be framing this picture, but I at least now I know that whatever's going on in my head is written right across my face.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some pictures

The father of one of the kids on the team sent me a few pictures that he had of me on his computer from various races. Since I've already posted most of the good pictures in my race reports, I thought I'd just post this collection separately.

This first picture is over a year old. It's from the second triathlon I ever did, the Lehavim Triple Super Sprint. Notice that I'm about to get on my bike in running shoes. This is, of course, my old bike (the one I crashed seven months later). Notice the big, ugly helmet, too. I'm holding onto my bike with two hands, praying I won't drop it. I've since gotten a lot better at running with my bike and I generally use only one hand ;-) The guy behind me is my teammate, Nicky. This must have been the first round of the triple that started with a run, as that's the only way I could be in front of Nicky after a swim - he's a very fast swimmer (but I run and bike faster).

The next picture is from this year -- the Nitzana Duathlon. This is the bike dismount and there's a lot to be learned from this picture. I think I'd get moving a lot faster if my feet were pointing forwards. I need to work on that dismount. Notice the differences from the previous picture -- cycling shoes, different bike, more normal-looking helmet.

Picture number three is one of my favorites. I rarely have a good running picture, but apart from the fact that I am an obvious heel-striker, this picture almost makes me look like a runner. It's from the Palmahim Triathlon last month. I'm running towards the finish line. The woman standing behind me (with all the hair) smiling is Ruti -- we work together and her son is on the team. She and her daughter (standing next to her) really cheered me on into the finish line. It was great.

One more from Palmahim. Look at my left leg -- I'm actually picking up my foot! I don't think my coach saw me running towards the finish line -- he was a few hundred meters back. Too bad, as he's always telling me to pick up my feet. Maybe I should print this one and frame it for him.

The quality on this one isn't great, but I had to include it. This is me getting my first place trophy at Palmahim. It was the first time I ever actually beat someone in order to get first place (my other "first place" finishes have been first and last place). I've managed to beat out others to reach second and third place several times, but that first place spot ahead of other competitors had always eluded me until this race. I hope this was the start of a trend!

Reflecting on Jordan Valley

I liked the last reflection post so I thought maybe I'd make this a regular thing. Same questions, different race...

Did you enjoy the race?

Absolutely. This was one of the most enjoyable races I've done. In fact, one of my teammates commented that this was the first time he had ever seen me smiling during the run. I had a really great time.

Which parts of the race were easy and which were hard?

The bike was easy -- maybe too easy. I spent a little too much time enjoying the scenery, I think!

The swim was slightly harder. For some reason, I was a little bit short of breath, but nothing that made me panic. The hardest part of the swim was moving forward in a straight line. Also, I prefer swims in salt water (this one was in fresh water).

The run was probably the hardest part, though it wasn't all that hard. I pretty much took it easy. The hard part was trying to run fast after being passed by a woman in my age group. Running fast isn't one of the things I'm particularly good at. Overall, though, the run wasn't really "hard". Just a run.

Did you learn anything from the race? If so, what?

One thing I learned is that I'm a lot better at transitions than I thought. My first transition was really calm and fast. I also learned that staying properly hydrated makes a huge difference in a race. And I learned never to underestimate the competition.

Which part of the race did you enjoy the most?

I enjoyed the entire race, but the part I enjoyed the most was the bike. Since getting a better and smaller bike, I have learned to really love every cycling minute.

What do you think you did well?

My first transition was excellent. If my coach had seen it (he was accompanying his wife, who did her first triathlon), he would have been proud. I also did well on the bike (PRed, even!), although I always finish with a feeling that I could have pushed a little bit harder. I'm pretty certain that I haven't even come close to my true cycling potential yet. I did a great job of staying hydrated (sounds silly, but this is a very big deal for me) and I drank on the bike several times, both from my gel flask and from my bottle. The run wasn't bad, either, though I think I probably could have pushed it a little bit more (but I really didn't want to!). Once again, I ran the entire race without a problem.

What could you have done differently?

My swim time was lousy, but I'm not sure how I could have finished with a better time -- I thought I was swimming well enough. Apart from having a better swim, I don't know if there's something I could have done differently, or at least not something major. I probably could have biked a bit faster and also run a bit faster, but it's so easy to say that after the race. Overall, I pretty much did everything I had set out to do.

Now there's one thing I could have done different after the race. I could have not been in the shower when one of my teammates finished his first half Ironman distance race. This is a guy who cheers me on every time he passes me or sees me during a race. Always. I did see him come out of the water (in second place!), but I missed his finish and I really wanted to be there at the finish line to cheer him on. If I could change one thing about the race, that's what I would change -- my own race was great, but I should have been there for the end of his race. This was very bad timing on my part.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Jordan Valley Triathlon - 13 May 2006

Things did not start out well for this race. We slept at a youth hostel in Tiberias and the room I shared with four other people faced the main road. All night long we heard traffic, including sirens, very loud car stereos, honking, etc. It was awful. In addition, my teammate's daughter was in our room and she was wearing a watch that beeped every hour. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of sleep. In fact, I hardly got any sleep. I had no idea how I was going to race today.

I was nervous long before we ever got to the race site. I have no idea why, actually -- I'm normally a little bit nervous before a race, but this time I was on the verge of tears. I kept thinking about all the things that were going to go wrong. A friend sent me to off to meditate, but I didn't go -- I was way too antsy to sit still. What did finally calm me down a bit was the warmup that I did on my own. I ran a couple of kilometers and then rode the stationary bike for a few minutes (not too long -- I was starting to drip sweat and it was time to go down to the water). From this point, things started to get a lot better. I didn't get to warm up in the water -- they wouldn't let us in for a warmup. Instead, I did some warmup exercises for my shoulders.

The horn went off and the race started and I started to swim. The water wasn't too cold, but it was very very murky -- I couldn't see a thing. I remembered this from last year, so I wasn't too upset about it. I got pushed and shoved a little bit, but nothing too bad. All in all, the swim was pretty uneventful and felt pretty good, so I was very very surprised when I got out of the water and saw 19 minutes on my watch. 19 minutes for 750 meters?! I swam faster than that three weeks ago after treading water for a while and swimming breaststroke almost the entire time. Either the swim was longer than 750 meters or I swam in zigzags. The latter is very possible, because the buoys were set up with anchors rather than on a rope and there weren't enough of them to be able to follow them back to shore in a straight line. Whatever. I didn't care all that much -- I was glad to be out of the water, as this is the most stressful part of the race for me, although I did realize that my dream of going under 1:30 was shot (this was a dream, not a realistic goal for this race).

It was a bit of a run to the transition area, mostly uphill and then up stairs. I did an amazingly quick transition, despite the fact that I dropped my number (I stayed completely calm, bent down, picked it up and quickly snapped it on). I passed two teammates in the transition area and later on, one of them couldn't stop talking about my great first transition. My time for the swim plus the transition was 22:36 (5/9 women 40-44 and 68/149 overall in the 40+ sprint category, including the men). Not fast, but still in the top half overall and almost four minutes faster than last year's time. Ok, I was still on track for achieving my main goal, which was to better last year's time.

The bike was... Well... Great! I loved every second on the bike. I tried something new this time -- rather than a bottle of sports drink, I took a bottle of water and Hammer Gel mixed with water in a gel flask, which I attached to my top tube with velcro and a piece of elastic. This worked out really well. It was easy to get to the gel and to put it back. I took half the flask (the equivalent of one gel) at the beginning of the ride and the rest at the end, just before the run). I also managed to drink water twice during the 20 km ride and for the first time ever, getting my bottle out and putting it back was easy (maybe because it wasn't entirely full). Anyway, I felt really good on the bike and the course was beautiful (right along the Sea of Galilee). I passed a lot of people and some passed me. I noticed that I was riding pretty fast and towards the end, I realized that I was going to PR. I really wanted to get under 40 minutes, but it didn't happen today. It will happen some time soon, though -- my bike time today was 40:34 (5/9 in my age group, 105/149 overall). This is over a minute faster than I rode in our team time trial last week at pretty much the same distance (it was actually very slightly under 20 km -- about 19.85 or so). It was also over five minutes faster than last year's time on the same course. Woo hoo!!!

The second transition was a little more problematic than the first. I had some trouble getting my running shoes on -- it felt like there was a fold or something in one of them, but I decided to ignore it. I would pay for this later on -- for the first time ever, I ended up with a couple of blisters on my foot, but they didn't bother me during the run. I started the run slowly, deciding that I would take it easy until the turn-around because I really didn't feel like suffering and ending up walking. I just kept a nice, steady pace. I had some pain in my lower legs at first, but it went away and then I felt fine. In fact, I don't remember a whole lot about the run, at least not until the end. Just after the 4 km mark, a woman in my age group went whizzing past me. She's a much faster runner than I am, but she almost never beats me because I'm faster than she is on the swim and bike, so I was very surprised to see her. I passed her back and both of us were kind of laughing. I couldn't hold that pace, though, and she passed me again. I called out to her, "Way to go!" and she waved at me to catch up with her, but I told her that there was no way I was going to beat her today. She said, "That's ok, we're at the end!" and we were. She beat me by 19 seconds.

I finished the run, including the transition, in 30:31. This is exactly the same time I did last year -- to the second! However, last year's transition was quicker because I rode my bike in running shoes -- this year I had to change my shoes after the bike. It wasn't a really fast time, but that is a pretty good time for me at the end of a triathlon. In fact, I'm pretty sure that on the run itself, I went under 30 minutes -- my fastest ever 5k time was just under 28:00, I think, and that was at the beginning of a duathlon. So I was happy. I was 5/9 in my age group on the run and 109/149 overall.

As I mentioned, my goal had been to finish the race faster than I did last year. My very ambitious goal was to do 1:35. I finished in 1:33:41. When I looked down at my watch after crossing the finish line, I'm sure I broke out in a huge smile. This was an excellent time for me. I had some very tough competition today and ended up 6/9 in my age group (last year I was almost nine minutes slower and I was 5/9 in the same age group!), but I didn't care. A good race is worth so much more than a trophy. I was 97/149 overall -- including mostly men. I was 14/28 among the women -- right in the middle.

I think the main thing that kept me feeling good throughout the race was staying properly hydrated. When I don't take in enough fluids, I break down both physically and mentally. I can't say that my race was entirely pain-free, but I can deal with achy legs when my mental state is good. I had this same "revelation" last year after ending up dehydrated at the Tel Aviv Triathlon and solving the problem at a later race. Apparently, I forgot about this over the winter. I'm glad that the bad "race" this year was only a practice race here in town. I don't plan on getting dehydrated again this season (or hopefully in any other season).

So another long race report, but a really great day and a PR on the bike. I have to admit that when the race ended, one of the things that went through my head was that I was sorry it was over so soon. I think I'm getting the Oly distance itch!

Monday, May 08, 2006

The things I suck at

I know I should be concentrating on the things that I'm good at and that's what I plan to do -- as soon as I get this silly list out of the way. So here's the list of the things I suck at. I'm writing them down and then throwing the list out (ok, I'm typing them here and then ignoring this post):

  • I suck at running in water. This is bad at the start of a race when we have to run into the water from the beach. I don't know if I look silly, but I sure feel silly. It's not so great when I have to get out of the water, either.
  • I suck at getting on my bike. Either I forget to leave it in low gear or my feet slip off the pedals or I can't seem to get my balance. Whatever it is, I almost never have a good mount during a race.
  • I suck at turn-arounds on the bike. I once rode into the bushes when trying to turn my bike around in a parking lot (I'd just started riding a bike after a break of several decades) and although my bike-handling skills have improved, I'm still afraid to turn around.
  • I suck at drinking on the bike. I'm afraid to ride with one hand and I'm really bad at getting the bottle back into the cage.
  • I suck at getting off my bike (ok, I'm sure you saw that coming). I have to stop the bike first -- no swinging my leg over it while it's moving (I can do that in my running shoes, but I'm afraid to do it in my cycling shoes). I've even managed to fall while getting off my bike (I didn't pick up my leg high enough, I think).
  • I suck at changing my shoes. I can never seem to get my running shoes on fast enough.
  • My running form sucks.
Ok, there -- I got it all down, I think. That's my list. The next list will be the things I'm good at...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

First outdoor pool swim of the year

The water was 23°C (about 73°F). That's a bit warmer than the open water swim I did a couple of weeks ago, but I also spent a lot more time in the water this time.

It was cold. I didn't like the cold water in my ears, so I got out and went to get some ear plugs. What a difference! I can't believe I'd never tried this before. I'm an ear plug convert. It took my body a long long time to warm up after the swim, though. Even a hot shower didn't really do the trick. In fact, I felt cold for much of the rest of the day (this was yesterday after the ride). Weird.

Swimming in the outdoor pool is different from swimming indoors. There was a bit of wind and there were waves in the pool! Just little ones, but I could feel them moving me around as I was swimming. Or maybe that was Ronnie (see my whale post below) swimming in the lane next to me -- there are no lane lines up yet, so there was nothing to break the moving water.

Regardless of the cold water and the "waves", I'm glad to be swimming outdoors again, although most of my swimming will still be done in the indoor pool.

20 km PR on the bike

Ok, so it was actually about 19.8 km, but it was still a PR. We did four out-and-backs of 5 km each yesterday morning. That's seven turn-arounds. I'm really bad at turning around (really slow is more like it). But I still finished in 41:45. This is over a minute faster than my fastest-ever 20 km time.

*patting myself on the back*

Friday, May 05, 2006

Swimming with a whale

No, this is not like swimming with dolphins. Not even close.

I got to swim practice last night and jumped into a lane with some guy who was doing laps. Soon afterwards, my teammate Sammy, who often shares a lane with me, arrived. The three of us did well together --I was even surprised that the guy I'd jumped into the lane with knew how to circle. Anyway, he got out of the pool soon after and then my teammate Ronny showed up.

Ronny is this big guy (not really fat, but big) and although I really like him, I hate swimming with him. He has a tendency to take up the whole lane and he moves a lot of water around. In fact, I normally avoid him at all costs in the pool, but I was just kind of stuck last night.

The rest of the warm up went ok, but then we did a timed 750 meter swim (this is our standard sprint distance swim). Rather than staggered starts, the coach decided to start all of us together. We agreed that we'd start swimming in a circle as soon as we got spread out. So off we went.

Sammy pulled out ahead. Ronny did what is very typical of him. He went out as fast as he could. I went out at my regular pace, meaning the pace I can maintain for 750 meters. So Ronny and I were swimming side by side and no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of him. It was awful -- kind of like swimming next to a whale. I was sure he was going to drown me or just smack me with one of his big arms. He had me pushed all the way over to the left going in one direction and then all the way to the right in the other direction. Every time I was pushed over to the left side of the lane, Sammy and I would have a head-on collision. This happened so many times that I stopped counting.

I probably could have pulled ahead of him, but I wanted to keep my pace steady. Actually, I wasn't even swimming at my best 750 meter pace, because I was having so much trouble swimming next to Ronny and I had to keep trying to avoid Sammy. Every time I thought I'd pulled past Ronny, he'd push really hard off the wall (he's big and strong and tall) and next thing I knew, he'd be next to me again.

After about 250 to 300 meters, he tired out. I knew it would happen eventually. I pulled ahead of him and finally we were able to swim normally in our lane. I actually ended up lapping him at around 650 meters or so.

The strangest part was that I did my best ever pool time for 750 meters (not a great time -- just good for me. It was 16:19). In fact, that's one of my best 750 meter times ever, including in open water. Just imagine how much better I could have done if I hadn't had to deal with Ronny and if I hadn't had all those head-on collisions.

Reminder to self: Next time, join a lane that already has several people in it, as long as none of them is Ronny.

And that said, in case he ever stumbles upon this post, I have to say, Ronny, I'm crazy about you -- you're funny and kind and a really nice guy (a smart one, too). I just don't particularly like swimming next to you!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


This post is dedicated to Kurt, who taught me the "Just F*ing Run" philosophy.

Three of our regular workouts were cancelled this week because of Memorial Day and Independence Day (all holidays in Israel start the evening before, so Monday was Memorial Day eve, Tuesday was Memorial Day and the eve of Independence Day and today was Independence Day). My coach's instructions were to do one run and take two rest days. The run was supposed to be on Monday, but there was no way I could do it then -- I had private students until early evening and we had to be at the Memorial Day ceremony at about 7:45. Note that Memorial Day in Israel is nothing like Memorial Day in the US. It's a very serious, sad day here. There are ceremonies both on the eve of the holiday and the following morning and we stand in silence while a siren sounds both in the evening and the morning. Running after the ceremony just didn't seem appropriate.

Anyway, the plan was for me to do the workout with one of my teammates on Tuesday evening before going to the Independence Day celebration. However, he called me at 6 to say he was on his way out the door and I couldn't leave for another hour (I had a student). Honestly? I didn't feel much like doing the workout on Tuesday night on my own. I wanted to go out and have fun and not be tired from running. The planned workout was hard and I knew it would wear me down.

So I didn't run. We went to the Independence Day festivities at the pool, watched the fireworks and then went to an informal party with a bunch of friends (mostly teammates). We got home at around 2 a.m.

Then it was Wednesday. I'd slept late. I'd had two rest days. The weather was perfect for running. But I still didn't feel like doing it. I'd eaten a big lunch and all I felt like doing was lying on the couch and watching TV. The workout was a warm up followed by eight 400 meter intervals at 95% effort. This is one of my least favorite workouts. It's hard and it hurts. Doing it with my teammates is a bit easier -- I get to see everyone else suffering. The idea of doing it alone... Well... Let's just say that I was not very motivated. To make matters worse, my husband, who doesn't understand why I "torture myself" (his words) said that I didn't have to do the workout and that nothing would happen if I took one more rest day.

I heard my husband. I heard my own mind saying "No, no, no!" And then I got off the couch, went upstairs and got dressed. I knew I wouldn't be sorry for doing the run. Out the door I went. I ran the warm up and then it was time to start the intervals.

The first one wasn't too bad. I felt strong, at least at the beginning. Towards the end, I started to regret that big lunch. But I finished it. Of course, the first one was downhill (or, more accurately, on a decline).

The second one was harder. I was feeling kind of nauseous. But I had to run back in the other direction to get back to the starting point (and closer to home, in case I decided to quit).

After the second one, I started to think about quitting. It was too hard. I didn't feel like suffering anymore. I hate feeling nauseous. I hate breathing so hard. I hate feeling like I want to die.


That's when I remembered. JFR.

I did the third and the fourth. I was halfway done. I hadn't vomited yet and actually, I was feeling a little bit better. But I was tired. Halfway done. I could do four more.

The next two were even harder. I could quit at six. My coach wouldn't say a word. Six was a reasonable number.


Really, it was only two more. I could do two more.

And I did. The last two were probably the easiest. I just ran. I didn't think about anything. I was having a lot of trouble running at this point -- my legs were tired, my heart was pounding and my body was exhausted. But I just ran. And before I knew it, it was over. I did another 800 meters to cool down and then I walked home.

It's taking time, but I'm learning how to turn off my mind and just do the workout. No excuses, no fear. I finished my workout. I stuck with the plan.

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