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, March 25, 2006

Quatre Peaks

This is what someone on my team with a sense of humor calls the route we did today. I just call it hard.

The four "peaks" are four of the bigger hills in this area (and we've been blessed with some tough ones, though none are as tough as the one I didn't manage to get up in Eilat). The first hill is called Goral Road. It starts about 10 km into the ride and it's the easiest of the three. I've done it lots of times before (including twice round trip last week). No big deal.

Second hill: Sansana. This was the first time I'd done this one. It doesn't look too bad, but boy can you feel it. And it goes on forever. The road starts just past the road block that takes you across the "Green Line". I believe that it's actually on "our" side and that the road block is placed within "Israel proper", but we still had to go through it. Apparently, cyclists don't get checked ;-)

By the end of Sansana, my legs were aching and I didn't really want to do hill number 3, Eshkolot. I hate this one. It's the one I did three times in a row a couple of weeks ago. It's also the only one of the four hills that doesn't actually take you anywhere (well, it takes you to the town of Eshkolot, also over the Green Line, by the way, but you have to turn around and go back down the hill to leave). I thought about waiting at the bottom, but my coach was right in front of me and he didn't even hesitate before heading up, so I went up, too. In the middle of the first section, I had to stop to give one of my young teammates and inner tube. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get back on the bike heading uphill. Unfortunately (or so I was thinking at the time), I was able to get back on without a problem. I cursed the whole way up the hill. I thought about getting off my bike. I didn't. I made it to the top, turned around and headed back down.

Just one to go. But first, we took a little "excursion". Since the excursion wasn't actually on the training plan for the day, I didn't go quite to the end. I waited until I saw my teammates coming the other way and I turned around. Off to the fourth hill, the road to the Joe Alon center for Bedouin studies, up into the Lahav Forest.

We stopped before this one. Some of the kids started complaining that they were too tired and they couldn't do it. I stood there quietly, hoping that the coach would give in to the pressure. He didn't and off we went. I rode up right behind my coach. It hurt. I was tired. I kept thinking about those kids who had complained how tired they were and who were still going. I kept thinking about how it was hurting them as much as it was hurting me. And I thought about how many times I'd gone to the top of this hill through the forest trails on my mountain bike (that thought wasn't all that comforting -- it's easier when you have a triple!). Finally, we reached the top. So I thought. Someone decided that instead of turning left towards home, we had to first reach the very top of the hill, another few hundred meters. I'd gotten this far, so what the hell -- up I went.

We stopped and rested at the top for a minute or two. All I could think about was the fact that I'd done Quatre Peaks and lived through it and that I hadn't even complained once (well, not out loud, anyway!). And I'd even managed to keep up with the team. I was last for most of the ride (after one of my teammates skippped the second hill, met us at the third hill and then skipped the fourth hill), but no one had to actually wait for me. For almost the entire time, apart from when I had to stop to give someone an inner tube, I was right on someone else's tail, or pretty close. There wasn't a single point in the ride that I can remember when I couldn't see the person in front of me. That's a new experience for me. Usually I'm stuck way in the back with the slow people. I was the only slow person on the ride today and even the people who are normally not too far ahead weren't there. I had to keep up with the "big boys" and I did -- for 70 km!

Speaking of which, we had a test (bike) on Wednesday. I took another 29 seconds off my time, finishing in 45:20. I'm so excited about my progress on the bike!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sometimes you just need to have some fun

My shoulder tendinitis seems to be back, so I was forced to take a day off from swimming yesterday. Today was supposed to be a rest day, but since I took one yeserday, I decided to go out mountain biking with my husband. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. The route was pretty easy (though I did manage a small tumble) and I rode pretty slowly, just enjoying the weather and the view. Sometimes I just need to do something that's not on my training schedule!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Three times

Today's ride represented yet another milestone for me. It was a hill workout on the steepest hill in the area -- about a 2.5 km climb, one part of which is very steep and one part long and difficult. I'd done the hill before, twice, I think, but on my old bike which had a triple. Now I had to do it on my new bike -- no triple. Yikes!

The ride to the hill itself is also uphill. It's a 4 km climb, nowhere near as steep as the hill we'd be riding up and down, but long and annoying. And today it was hard. I had no idea how I'd get up that steep hill.

The workout called for 10 times up and down the hill, but the coach told me that that was for the varsity team and that I should do it as many times as I could. I told him I'd be happy with one time. He said that would be great. (Note: The coach was not with us today because his father passed away last week and he's still in mourning.)

We finally got there and up I went the first time. Ronit was right in front of me and at some point, I had to pass her, as I tend to take hills a bit faster than she does and if I slow down, I lose momentum and have trouble getting up. As I passed her, she said, "I can't do this." That's very atypical of her -- it's usually me complaining about how hard something is. So I quietly replied, "You can." Those two words resonated in my mind for the entire ride up. "You can. You can." When I thought I'd never make it up that steep section without my triple, I heard, "You can." And I did. And on that never ending difficult section, I heard, "You can." And I did. And before I knew it, I was at the top.

I turned around and rode back down, not at all certain that I wanted to repeat this experience. Ronit made it up and down, too, and when we got to the bottom, we decided to ride up one more time. Just once more. I had never done this hill twice in a row, so the idea of doing it twice was challenging.

Well, the second time up was actually easier than the first. That seems to be a theme with me these days -- I had a similar experience running hills on Monday. And when I got to the bottom, I began thinking about what would happen if I did it just one more time. Apparently, Ronit was thinking the same thing and next thing I knew, we were on our way up again.

The third time wasn't as pleasant, as we met some sheep being herded across the street (and the dogs that were helping to herd them). Fortunately, I only met them on the way down, but Ronit, who was behind me, met them on the way up, which really slowed her down. We both made it up and down, though, and it wasn't too terrible. At this point, we decided to leave the varsity team (and the "braver" adults -- all men) to do the rest of their hills and we took off for a 10 km ride to loosen up a bit. After that, we headed home.

I don't feel the least bit bad about not doing the hill 10 times. I had no intention of doing it more than once and I ended up going up and down three times -- a new record for me and with no triple. Actually, I actually found the hill easier on this bike than on the old bike, despite having fewer gears. Go figure. We did a total of just under 55 km -- a nice Saturday ride.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Longest ride to date

Two and a half months after buying it, I finally took my "new" bike on a long ride outside of town. I was worried that without the triple, I'd never make it up the hills. I had nothing to worry about -- the new bike is actually easier to ride than the old one.

It was supposed to be a team ride, but somewhere along the way, Ronit and I lost the team. There were two guys and a girl behind us, but we had no idea where, so in the end, the two of us did the last 40 km of the ride alone. It was great! The weather was beautiful and the desert is blooming. In our area, there are actually carpets of red flowers called anemones (I had to look up the translation for that -- the Hebrew name, "kalanit", is much nicer). They look like the red flower to the right.

My longest ride before this had been 89 km back in October. Today's ride was supposed to be 100. We decided, though, to add a short section and we ended up riding just over 105 km. At around 75 km, I started to feel tired, but some time after that I got my "second wind" and I finished strong and thrilled to have completed my longest ride ever!

Friday, March 03, 2006

February totals

My February totals are pretty pathetic, but it was a short month and I took a week off because I was sick. Here goes:

swim: 17,000 meters
bike: 86.8 road bike, 23.5 mountain bike
run: 45.5 km

That run total is pretty amusing, as 22 km of that was races and warming up for races. And the bike total, well... Imagine how much better my bike test would have been if I'd actually ridden my bike in the past month! We have a 100 km ride planned on Saturday -- that's more road biking than the entire month of February! March is going to be a good month.

Race reports: Omer 10k and Ein Gedi 10k

This is going to be the very short version.

The Omer 10k was on February 11th. Omer is a town very near to where I live. Most of the team went there by bike, but because I hadn't been feeling well, I drove. I really wasn't sure if I wanted to run or not, but I decided to use the race as a training race for the 10k the following week.

The race was a bit screwy, to put it mildly. The km markers were completely off, so I really had no idea how far I'd gone (and I didn't even realize they were off till near the end of the race). For this reason, I couldn't properly pace myself. My goal was to finish 10k in under an hour. As I approached the finish line, I saw that I was going to achieve my goal of under 1:00 -- I finished in 59:54. Unfortunately, the course was off and was about 300 meters short, so this translated to about 1:01:30 or so. Ugh. Still, last year I did 1:03:19, so this was an improvement in any case.

The following week was the Ein Gedi 10k. I was feeling a bit better, but I'd taken the whole
week off from training. It was a windy day and there was a bad head wind on the second half of the out and back course. I finished the first 5 km in 30:01, but when I felt the wind, I knew my dream of going under an hour was shot. However, the entire way back I passed people, including my coach (who was accompanying his wife). In fact, I ran so well on the way back that my coach later commented that I hadn't gone out fast enough.

At 9 km, I looked at my watch. It read 55:45. I wanted to finish in 1:01:30 (my "converted"
10k time from the previous week, as this course really was 10k), so I picked up the pace a bit. Well, I picked up the pace a bit more than a bit! When I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch, I saw that I'd run the last km in just over 5 minutes! I finished in 1:00:48 (as you can see on the clock in the picture! Thanks to for the picture, by the way).

So Ein Gedi ended up being a pretty good race for me. I took over five minutes off of last year's time (1:06), which made me really happy, even if I didn't break an hour.


February was a very stressful month for me. I spent the entire month grading matriculation exams -- in addition to teaching and my private students. My body reacted accordingly and I got sick :-( Unfortunately, I managed to get sick just before my two 10ks. I took a day off from training and then a rest day before the Omer 10k and then, after going to one swim workout, I ended up taking off the entire next week until the Ein Gedi 10k. So I didn't get a lot of running in before my races. Stress and training do not go well together.

The stress took its toll on my tests at the end of the month, too. The swim test was the worst. I actually quit during the 400 meter test -- I only swam 300 meters. I just couldn't go any further. The 100 meter test was very slow -- 1:49 and the 50 meter test was even worse at :50. Those times were five seconds off the previous month's test times. And I quit my run test in the middle, too, mainly because I saw that my time was going to be bad -- I was already at 14:45 at 2.5 km. My bike test went well, though. I took three minutes off last month's time and finished the 20.2 km in very difficult conditions (dark, lots of turns, cars, potholes, etc.) in 45:49. At least something went right!

Race reports to follow in a separate post...

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