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.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

April totals

Swim: 23,050 meters - Slightly higher than last month and actually my second highest monthly total in the last year. Too bad I'm not swimming faster! I should mention, though, that I felt really good in the pool tonight.

Bike: 198.75 km road bike + 12 km mountain bike - This is less than half of what I did in March and not a great total, but I have an acceptable "excuse". Our team bike workouts are on Wednesdays and Saturdays (Wednesday is actually a bike/run). One Wednesday was cancelled because of rain and I didn't have the team trainer that's usually at my house (I did run that night). Two more Wednesdays were cancelled because of Passover (one was the seder night and the other was the second "holy day" of Passover). There were five Saturdays in April, but two of them were races (meaning shorter rides -- 20 km each) and one was a practice race. That left two long rides and I did both, but one of those was a 40 km time trial, so it was a bit shorter than our normal long rides. In short, April was not a bike-friendly month for our team, but it could have been worse. It was a lot more than I rode in December, January and February.

Run: 75.8 km - An all time high for me, beating my previous all-time high (January of this year) by a mere 500 meters :-)

I'm glad my running mileage is back up, but I'm a bit concerned about the bike thing. May won't be much better, as I'm racing on two of the four Saturdays (and one of these races is an important one, so we'll probably be tapering next week -- the week before the race). We're also missing another Wednesday workout because of Independence Day (this Wednesday).

It seems that whenever I up the volume in one sport, another one suffers *sigh*

The joy of suffering

Last night at the team dinner (after our long training day), I asked someone, "Why is it that when we look back on a really hard workout or race, we always say it was great and the more we suffered, the better it was?"

That pretty much describes yesterday.

We started the day off at 6 a.m. with a practice race. We had a heatwave yesterday (the kind you get in the desert with terrible hot winds) and I knew it would be a tough workout. I started off by running a short warm up and the muscles in my legs were very tight -- not a good sign.

The 750 meter swim in the pool was ok. I didn't do a great time, but it wasn't bad. The first transition went well, but just afterwards, things started falling apart. First of all, I'd forgotten to put mybike into a low gear (I'd ridden downhill to the site of the practice race) and I had to mount on a slight incline into the wind. That was a disaster and I'm not sure how I avoided falling off.

Once on the bike, things didn't go much better. We had to do 8 loops of just under 2.5 km and then another 1.5 km loop. Each loop starts with a gradual but annoying hill and we were riding right into thathot wind. The wind was strong and riding up that hill was a nightmare. I passed a couple of people at the beginning, but I ran out of steam quickly. It was hot, my mouth was dry and I kept thinking, "Gee, I should really drink something," but I never seemed to find the "right" place to drink. This is always a problem with me on the bike -- I don't like pulling out my bottle and drinking while I'm riding. I generally do it someplace flat, but this entire course was either uphill into the wind or downhill with the wind at my back. I was working too hard going uphill to try to drink and I was scared to death to pull out my bottle when I was going upwards of 45 kph. I did drink eventually, but it was too little, too late.

I finished the ride in the one of the worst 20 km times I've ever done and a personal worst on this course. The transition was ok (apart from the fact that I couldn't find my spot in the transition area), but about 500 meters into the run (again, into the hot, dry wind), I'd had it. I was hot, every muscle in my legs was tight and it was hard even to walk, much less run. I finished the 2.5 km loop (I walked much of it and I even stopped a few times to try to stretch out my legs a little, but nothing helped) and I stopped the "race". Unlike most of my teammates, I raced last week, so I didn't really "need" the practice race yesterday. I felt miserable and I apparently looked it, too, because no one, not even my coach, tried to convince me to finish the second loop.

After the practice race, we had a team breakfast and then at 10 a.m., we headed out on mountain bikes. Yet another disaster. My legs did NOT want to cooperate and the entire ride was hard for me. Also, by this time, it was not only windy and dry, but really really hot. I had the hardest time at first, but at some point, everyone was suffering and we actually cut the ride short.

I went home, rested a bit, showered and headed off for the 2 p.m. team lunch, which was nice. Then, at 6 p.m., we had a run workout. We didn't actually run much -- mostly it was exercises and drills and then some stretching. At 8:30 p.m., we had a team dinner, which was the nicest part of the whole day.

I've decided that when I put aerobars on my bike (soon), I'm going to attach a bottle holder to them (whatever you call the drinking mechanism that attaches to the aerobar making it possible to drink without having to remove the bottle). I was really really dehydrated today -- so much so that I could barely eat breakfast because I was nauseous and I peed once, I think, between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Also, I weighed myself before heading out on my mountain bike and discovered that I'd lost 3 pounds since last night. Not a good sign.

Oh, and some advice: If you make believe your very warm sports drink is tea, it goes down a lot easier.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Am I sane?

I must be out of my mind, because no normal person would spend their Saturday the way I'm going to spend mine.

6:00 a.m.: Meet at the pool to set up for the practice race
6:45 a.m.: Practice race start - swim 750 meters in the pool, ride 20 km around town while the neighbors are all still fast asleep (at least they won't be out gawking), run 5 km around town (and hope the neighbors are still asleep)
8:00 a.m.: "Healthy breakfast" at the pool. I guess I don't get to eat -- I can't finish a sprint in an hour and fifteen minutes ;-)
10:00-12:00 noon: Mountain biking (in what is supposed to be a heatwave)
2:00 p.m.: Healthy lunch with the team
6:00 p.m.: Run and exercises
8:30 p.m.: Healthy dinner with the team

In between all those healthy meals and workouts in the heat, I might actually get to see my family, put up a load of laundry, whatever.

And for those non-Israelis who are thinking, "Oh, no big deal -- you can rest on Sunday," I should mention that Sunday is a work day in Israel.

I'm actually looking forward to this crazy day. Off to get my bikes and bag ready and to get to bed early enough to be able to survive the day!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

This year's race schedule

Since I've been asked about it, I thought I'd post this year's race schedule for all to see (well, all three of you who are reading this...). I'm including the two races I've already done:

April 8th: Nitzana Duathlon

April 22nd: Palmahim Sprint Triathlon

May 13th: Jordan Valley Triathlon

May 27th: Women's Triathlon

June 10th: Lehavim Triple Super Sprint Triathlon (I just noticed that they managed to fit this one into the schedule, but I'm not sure whether they'll actually hold it or not because it's only a week before Tel Aviv)

June 17th: Tel Aviv Triathlon

June 30th: Netanya Triathlon

September 2nd: Caesaria Triathlon

September 16th: Hof Karmel Triathlon (I'm hoping to do my first Olympic distance here. There. I've said it.)

October 27th: Eilat Triathlon (national championships)

November 11th: Ramat Hasharon Duathlon (looks like it's going to be just mountain bikes this year, but now that I own one, I can do this)

November 24th: Petah Tikva Duathlon (I didn't do this race last year because of training camp, but since it's the last race of the season this year, I'll probably do it)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I've been meaning to post this for a couple of days, but Blogger hasn't been cooperating.

When my students finish a project, I make them "reflect" on the process, what they have learned, what they could have done differently, etc. I tend to reflect myself after each race, so I thought I'd do some out-loud reflection using questions similar to the ones I ask my students.

Did you enjoy the race?

For the most part, yes. I didn't enjoy feeling dizzy during the swim and I didn't enjoy the fact that I couldn't pee without other people watching me (ok, that was the race site, not the race). But the weather was great, the course was challenging but not too challenging and for most of the race, I felt pretty good.

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

The bike course was pretty easy. The run course was difficult, especially the sand. Overcoming my own personal difficulties during the swim was tough, though the sea was quiet and the water wasn't unbearably cold.

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

I learned that chances are, no matter how awful I feel, I won't die during the swim. I also learned the running uphill is only relatively difficult. It was easy after running in sand.

Which part of the race did you enjoy the most?

The bike, though I think I could have gone faster.

What do you think you did well?

The second half of the swim went well, even if I didn't manage to catch up to where I could have been. I swam strong, concentrating on my stroke and I passed a lot of people. My bike to run transition wasn't bad, either, though I did waste a few extra seconds in the transition area drinking (but I didn't drink on the bike, so I saved that time there). Overall, I was also happy with the run, even if I could have pushed harder (see my next answer). I ran the whole race, even the difficult parts, I passed at least one or two people and I didn't suffer all that much.

What could you have done differently?

I could have swum through my dizziness, though that's really easy to say in retrospect. I could definitely have pushed harder on the bike. And I could have pushed harder on the run -- I had too much sprint left in me at the end and even after sprinting, I didn't feel "spent".

I kind of like this "reflection" idea. It's a good way for me to gather my thoughts after a race and to try to figure out how to use what I've learned in future races.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Palmahim Sprint Triathlon - 22 April 2006

It was another one of those "what can go wrong that you've never thought about" races. I've come to the conclusion that the list of things that can go wrong is so long that if I race for the next 40 years, I still won't reach the end of it. So here's my day...

We left for the race at about 5:15 a.m. and ran over a cat on the way. Not a good start to the day. We reached the race site at 6:15 and we had to wait for the transition area to open. I got a great spot in the transition area, though, right near the bike exit. The less I have to run with my bike, the better.

Next, I went to the bathroom. Yuck. There were three stalls and none of them had doors and none of the toilets had seats. The men's bathroom was the same. I did my best to get out of there as soon as possible and decided that if I needed to go again, it would be in nature.

It was still very early, so a teammate and I decided to have a look at the run course. It actually didn't look too bad, though we'd heard earlier that it was tough. It did seem a bit short and it turned out that we had to do it twice. It still didn't seem too bad, apart from the fact that the second half was almost entirely uphill. That's because we didn't walk to the end of it.

Next, we checked out the water. We'd heard different reports -- 19 degrees (66*F), 20 degrees (68*F), 21 degrees (70*F). Well, it was one of these and none is warm, but that's not too cold to swim in, either. They were allowing wetsuits, but I don't own one. Almost no one used one.

Back out on the run course, we did a quick warm up and then smeared ourselves with oil (some protection from the cold water) and headed off to the beach again. This time we went in the water. It was colder than it had felt when I'd just put my hand in, but not too bad. I swam a bit and noticed that it was pretty murky -- I couldn't see the bottom or much else for that matter. Yuck. When I got out of the water, I was reminded of what happens when you're not used to swimming in cold water. As soon as I stood up, I got dizzy. It was very unpleasant, but not entirely unexpected and not a new experience. This happened to me when we trained in the outdoor pool last October (in fact, it was the reason we trained in the outdoor pool -- to get used to swimming in cold water and getting out of it and running). Soon, the dizziness passed and all that was left to do was wait for the start.

The sea was very calm. A few waves at the shore, but that was it. Since I'd already warmed up in the water and I knew I could handle the cold, I wasn't all that concerned about the swim. I was a bit concerned about the other 250+ people swimming around me, but I thought I'd just stay away from them. They turned out not to be my biggest problem.

The race started and off we went. Things were a bit slow-moving at first. I guess people were a bit shocked by the cold water (this was the first triathlon of the season) and were hoping to run past the waves before starting to swim. I started to swim and immediately had trouble breathing, but this, too, was expected -- it always happens to me when I start swimming in cold water. I just decided to take it easy until I caught my breath. I had to revert to swimming breaststroke for a bit, partly because of the breathing thing and partly because I couldn't seem to get rid of the people around me and it was difficult for me to move forwards. And then it hit me. As I picked my head up out of the water, I felt that same dizziness I'd felt on the shore, but this time I was in the middle of the sea, surrounded by people with nothing to hold on to.

Getting seriously dizzy during an open water swim has to be one of the scariest things that can happen to you in a race. I was afraid I was going to pass out. I was nowhere near the rope (I looked for it, hoping to grab it and just hold on until the dizziness passed). I thought about raising my hand and getting pulled out of the water, but there wasn't a boat anywhere nearby and I figured I'd die before one got to me. Many things passed through my head. None of them were good. I'd never gotten dizzy like that while swimming before and I was terrified. I started treading water and then swimming a very slow breaststroke. People were passing me right and left. I was certain there was no one behind me (in reality, there were plenty of people behind me). I felt like I had the angel and the devil sitting on my shoulders telling me what to do. One was telling me to stick my face in the water and start swimming freestyle because the more horizontal I could get, the faster the dizziness would go away. The other was telling me that if I did anything but tread water and swim a very slow breaststroke, I was going to drown and die.

Soon, I was kind of out of choices. I was stuck in the middle of Breaststrokeland. It was the back of the pack. Everyone was swimming breaststroke. When in Breaststrokeland, do like the breaststrokers. I tried to swim freestyle, but I was getting pushed and kicked. Ugh. This wasn't making things any better. I had to get out of there.

The dizziness had almost passed and I saw the first buoy up ahead. I decided that I was going to get away from the breaststrokers as we went around the buoy and I did -- sort of, but not before someone frog kicked a cup or two worth of salt water into my mouth. One of the breaststrokers became a backstroker. He was swimming right next to me and next thing I knew, he was doing some breaststroking while swimming the backstroke. It was my breast being stroked. Ok, I'd had enough. I was no longer dizzy and I was mad. I took off. I started passing people. I passed more people. And even more people. At some point, I'm sure these people were thinking, "Hey, what was this woman doing in the back of the pack?!"

Around the second buoy and I was still passing people. I got out of the back of the pack and well into the middle of the pack. I couldn't seem to get away from the other swimmers -- they were everywhere. But at least now they weren't all swimming breaststroke. I was swimming strong -- really strong. I felt great -- long strokes, really throwing my arms out in front of me, making up for at least some of the lost time. I think I passed people right to the end, and even though the second half of the swim had been a lot better than the first, I was really glad to get out of the water. I peeked at my watch as I hit the beach. 18:30. This is a really bad 750 meter time for me, but after treading water and just kind of plodding along for 300 meters or so, I didn't really expect to have a PR today and I didn't much care. It was over.

Surprisingly, I was not dizzy after coming out of the water. I ran up the hill to the transition area, kind of pulled myself together (I was still a bit shell-shocked). There were a lot of bikes still there -- I guess I wasn't the only one who had a lousy swim. I got my shoes, helmet, sunglasses and number on and ran out with my bike. It was the bike -- my favorite part of the race (though not my fastest). Now I was going to have fun.

Getting on the bike was a bit tough. The course was very crowded and I couldn't find an empty spot. I ran well past the mat, but it was still packed. Finally I just stopped and got on. Since there was no way for me to run and jump on my bike, I figured I'd take advantage of the slow mount and clip into one pedal. Mistake. People were mounting all over the place and weaving all over the course and I was clipped in on one side, trying to weave around them, one foot attached to my bike, the other pushing me along the ground because there was nowhere to ride. Once I was able to actually ride, though, things got better.

I must have looked really bad, because a friend of mine was refereeing today and he rode past me on the motorcycle, slowing down to ask me if I was ok. I nodded yes and kept going. Slowly, I recovered completely from the swim and started feeling good. At one point, I remember thinking how I was cruising along so comfortably and that I must have been riding really slowly. I looked down. 45 kph. That's more like really really fast for me.

I have to admit that I enjoyed the bike course a little bit too much. I never felt like I was pushing very hard, apart from up the two hills that we had in each direction. They were short, but semi-steep (but we got to go down them, too!). For the rest of the course, I was just cruising along, talking to myself, sometimes singing to myself, thinking that I'd much rather stay on my bike for the rest of the day than have to run 5 km. A lot of people passed me, mainly men (there weren't all that many women in the race). I didn't care -- I'm used to being passed on the bike because I'm generally pretty good in the swim, at least relative to everyone else. It was over way too soon. According to my bike computer, the course was slightly short of 20 km -- about 19.8. I don't know what my official time was (there are no split times in the results for some reason), but my bike computer reads something like 43:48. That includes running to and from the transition area and also several seconds of spinning my wheel in the transition area before the race to move down to a lower gear. I'm guessing around 43 minutes, which is a good time for me. I definitely could have gone faster, but I just didn't feel like it. Yeah, I know -- it's a race. But I think I was just celebrating making it to that point alive.

For some reason that I can't remember (maybe I wasn't thirsty?), I had decided not to drink on the bike. I really hate pulling out my bottle and drinking while I'm riding and it slows me down. Instead, I decided that I'd drink during the transition, which I figured wouldn't slow me down any more than drinking on the bike would have. It would also be a lot safer. So my second transition wasn't particularly fast, but it was ok. While I was transitioning, one of the team managers, who was standing just outside the transition area, yelled to me not to go out hard on the run. This made me chuckle and I yelled back, "Yeah, like I ever go out hard!" He answered that I had to take it really easy because the course was hard. Ok, how hard could it be?

My legs weren't too bad from the bike (a sign that I didn't ride very hard), but the run course started out with a small but nasty hill. My coach was waiting at the top, just before we turned a corner. He yelled out to me to pick up my feet. Nothing new there. As soon as we turned the corner, the course because flat and then it was a gradual downhill for about 750 meters or so. This was nice. At the 1 km mark, we stepped down off the road onto the beach. It was like stepping into quick sand. The sand was up to my ankles and I was sinking more than I was running. I looked around me and saw everyone suffering. It as horrible. 250 meters to the turn-around and 250 meters back. That 500 meters was pure hell and it took forever. I thought very briefly about walking and then realized that it wouldn't be a whole lot easier to walk in that sand than it was to run in it (but it would take even longer).

Back on the path, I had to run uphill for about 750 meters, but after the sand, running uphill was easy. Just before turning the corner off the path, a surprise was waiting for me. My best friend, who had had to sit out this race for bureaucratic reasons, had ridden his bike almost 90 km to come cheer me on. I was so happy to see him and I even asked him if he wanted to run the second out and back for me. Well, he didn't want to do that, but he yelled a lot of encouragement in my direction and really motivated me to keep going.

The second time was easier. It always is. The sand was horrible again, but I knew that once I was through it, the rest of the run would be a piece of cake. Apart from my calf muscles, which were starting to tighten up from running in the sand, my legs felt fine. I wasn't breathing all that hard, either, but I kept holding back, thinking if I let go too soon, it would be hard for me to get up the hill. As I turned towards the finish line, though, I really let go. Amazingly, there was still a lot in me. I sprinted hard and I could have kept going for another couple of hundred meters -- a good sign that I probably hadn't run as hard as I should have, but hey, I hadn't biked as hard as I should have, either. As I passed my coach, I thought I heard him yell, "You're first!" but I figured either he was making it up (how would he know who my competition was?) or I had heard him wrong. I finished in 1:36:46 -- not a stellar time for a sprint, but not bad considering the conditions. In fact, this is only 13 seconds slower than one of my best races last year on a much easier course.

Oh, and I'd heard my coach right. I took 1st place in my age group. I was first out of only two women (there were supposed to be three -- one didn't show up), but I can only beat the people who show up for the race, right? Instead of the standard trophies, they gave out alarm clocks -- a round, colored clock face (mine is pink, but they came in all kinds of colors) on a spring that stands on a base with a little plaque (name of the race and placing) glued to it. It's very cute, though it does look a bit odd among the rest of my trophies!

So overall, if you don't count the dead cat, the disgusting bathroom, nearly being buried at sea and having to run in quick sand, it was a pretty good day. I enjoyed it, anyway :-)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

That's better

My swimming slump may be coming to an end. I did a timed 200 meter swim today at 90% effort. It wasn't all out, yet I still think it was a personal best for 200 meters -- 4:01. Ok, so I still can't qualify for the Olympics, but at least my times are going down rather than up.

At the end of the workout, we did an all out 50 meter swim with fins and paddles. I have like no upper body strength, so paddles seem to make me slower, rather than faster. My time was actually slower than my personal best for 50 meters with no "accessories". It sure wasn't the fins -- I think I have the best kick on the team and if I swam 50 meters with fins and no paddles, I suspect my time would be a lot faster. Just imagine how much faster I'll swim if I start building up those muscles in my upper body!

And who on earth is the "old friend from the US" who left me a comment? Any old friend from the US would be too busy recovering from the shock of discovering that I've become an athlete in my old age to be able to leave me a comment!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Maybe things are coming together

On Sunday night, swim practice wasn't so bad. It wasn't fantastic, but it was ok. I actually did one of the fastest timed 400 meters that I've ever done and I wasn't swimming "all out". My swimming still wasn't quite "there" and my coach even told me that he expects better times from me (that wasn't criticism, but rather a statement of the potential that he feels I have. This is the same coach who, just a few weeks ago, gave me the outstanding athlete award for "seriousness and perseverance", so I know he appreciates how hard I normally work), but it's starting to feel better.

And last night I ran 10 km and it was easy. I didn't run fast, but I ran at a decent pace and I actually had a hard time getting my heart rate up (I've always had a hard time keeping my heart rate down while running, so this is an interesting change). I wasn't even planning on doing the entire 10 km workout -- I thought I'd do 8 km. I was glad that I changed my mind. I ran 10 km last night -- 5 on Saturday should be a piece of cake.

Today I did the swim workout alone (sort of -- there were other team members at the pool, but we all got there at different times). Something felt "different" in my swimming. I don't know if I was actually moving faster because I didn't time myself, but I felt like I was moving through the water more easily and that my strokes were longer. When the cold water knocks the breath out of me on Saturday morning, I hope I can recreate that "gliding through the water" feeling (and that it will replace the panic!).

I like doing workouts that feel "right". The season is starting and I really think I'm in a good place. Of course, from where I ended last season (on my butt in the middle of the road, my wrecked bike next to me), there was only one way to go -- up!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Another Saturday, another ride

I hadn't been on my bike in a week because of Passover and family stuff, so I was happy to get out for this morning's ride. The weather was horrible -- hot at first and then windy and dusty as it started to cool off. Ugh. I didn't like the ride all that much, either. We did some speed work and it was pretty boring (back and forth several times on the same road). But I did it and then I managed to shuffle through 3 km in running shoes. I can't say I particularly enjoyed the run -- every muscle below the knee was screaming "STOP!" -- but I finished it and then I went home and passed out on the couch for an hour or two.

So it wasn't the most exciting or most enjoyable workout ever, but after three days of doing nothing but eating (and that one run), my body thanked me for making it work a bit.

I need to make a decision about next week's race, so I've tentatively decided yes. I can still change my mind, I think. Mich asked what the race organizers are saying about non-wetsuit wearers. They're not really saying much of anything. I think most people will probably show up without wetsuits because most people here, at least age-group competitors who race sprints (this one is only a sprint) don't have them. This is Israel -- how cold can the water be? I hope I don't live to regret those words...

Friday, April 14, 2006

To race or not to race

The first triathlon of the season is a week from Saturday. The water is going to be cold and I don't own a wetsuit, nor do I have any intention of buying one (completely unnecessary for racing sprints and Olympic distance tris in Israel). I haven't done an open water swim with waves since September. There will be waves. So I'm asking myself, do I want to do this race?

The part of me that's hesitating s saying that the cold water will make it hard enough for me to swim and the waves can be scary at this time of year. The rest of me is saying:
  • I've swum in cold water before. We did a workout in the pool in October when the water was something like 18 degrees (that's about 64 for you North Americans). It was cold, but did it, even getting in and out of the water multiple times.
  • I can swim in waves. I used to be afraid, but I'm not anymore. I'm a relatively strong swimmer (relative to the other age group competitors over 40, that is). If everyone else can swim, so can I and if they don't cancel the swim, it's not too dangerous.
  • I'll be disappointed if I skip the race and then hear about how great it was. I won't be sorry if I do it and it's awful -- I'll just have a story to tell afterwards (assuming I live through it...).
So do I race or not???

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Getting in the kilometers

Nancy commented:
34 km total last month running, and 32 km in 10 days this month already? This sounds like a pretty darned fast ramp-up and perhaps a recipe for injury! Be careful out there!
Actually, my March totals were way down. That was the lowest monthly total I'd had since June 2005, when I was injured and had to cut back (not including December when we were on a two-week training break). I don't think I've "ramped up" but rather that I had "ramped down". Also, I don't normally run more than five kilometers on Saturdays and lately, it's been less -- just two km or so after my long ride. Because I had a race this past Saturday, I ran nine (seven and a half in the race and one and a half warm up). That's a big chunk of my monthly mileage right there. My weekly training mileage is pretty much where it normally is during the season and no higher than it was in January (February was a weird month because I was sick for a couple of weeks -- my main mileage was in two 10ks, but the training runs that I did do were actually longer than the ones I've been doing).

But I'll be careful :-)

Swimming slump

I've known for several weeks that my swimming has been "off". I've been avoiding discovering how "off" it's been -- I've intentionally not timed myself. Today, I had to stop avoiding the issue, as my coach pulled out the stopwatch.

It was bad. Really bad. My 25 meter time was ok, for some reason, but my 50 meter time was six or seven seconds off my personal best. That's a lot of seconds for just 50 meters. Fortunately, we ran out of time before we got to the timed 100 meter swim. I really didn't want to know.

My coach says my stroke is off and I'm not pulling through the stroke. Ok, so I have to work on this. But here's the thing... I used to love swim workouts. Tonight, I realized that I wasn't even having fun. I've long claimed that all the speed work and even much of the form work we do in the pool contributes very little to races. When I swim in open water with waves and undertow and a lot of people, the last thing I'm thinking about is whether or not my elbow is pointing up or if I'm pulling through my stroke. Ok, so I may get in a bit of a sprint at the end. That takes five or ten seconds off my time, but I pay for it with a slower transition. I'm having trouble making the connection between really hard work in the pool and payback in races.

I do believe that there is value in swim workouts, of course. Better form and stamina in the pool do a lot for your confidence when you get into open water. But the thing is that I can swim 2000 meters at a steady pace without a problem. I can even do it after I've done a hard workout (the pace will be slower, but the distance doesn't bother me). This is in stark contrast to some of my teammates who have greatly improved their stamina in the water due to a lot of form drills and even speed work.

So where am I going with this? I don't know. My teammate and best friend says it's just a slump and once I get through it, I'll stop thinking so negatively. He compared it to his own cycling slump. But when we do a bike workout, he can see a direct connection between the damn hill that we have to ride up ten times or riding at 90% effort or riding 100 km and his race times. He knows that if his legs are a little bit stronger or if he pedals a little bit faster that he'll take 10 or 20 or even 60 seconds off his 20 km bike time. He knows that if it's not working for him this month, it'll work for him next month. I don't know that doing yet another dreaded anaerobic sprint in the pool will help me keep ahead of the pack and possibly swim fast in a race. What I do know is that I'm frustrated and angry and that's making me swim even worse. In fact, my coach told me that I'm so angry that he actually saw me balling up my hands as I swam and he emphasized that I'll never get my speed and form back until I relax.

But how on earth can I relax when I'm so damn frustrated?!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Run, baby, run!

As the first third of April comes to an end, I am only two km short of my running total for all of March. 32 km in 10 days. Ok, so some people do more than that in one day, but it's a pretty decent total for me!

Last night's run (a total of 8.5 km) felt good. One thing I dislike about running is that it takes me so long to start feeling good that I tend to stop before I ever get there. I had run at least four or five km yesterday, I think, before I really got into a rhythm and stopped feeling like I was struggling. The other thing I dislike is that I look so silly running. No, not silly like swimming the fly -- I just feel silly doing that. My running form is so bad that people constantly comment on it: "Pick up your feet!" or "You look like you're running while sitting down" or my all-time favorite, "I saw you out walking last night." Uh, no, that was running.

There are positive comments, too, though. My coach is always telling me that I save a lot of energy while running, definitely a good thing on the days he tells us to go out and run 12 or 15 km (a long run for me). But my truly favorite comment (no sarcasm this time) is this one: "Wow, it didn't look like you were running very fast, but I couldn't catch up with you!" On more than one occasion, I have surprised people with my ability to move a lot faster than I look like I'm moving. That might actually come in handy in races when people think they'll have no trouble catching me and then never manage to do so. Maybe untraditional running form isn't so bad afterall!

Oh, and I am happy to report that there is at least one person out there in blog-land. Thanks, Kylie for letting me know you're reading. And by the way, my coach is also a triathlete (or a multisport athlete!), but he's both a triathlon coach and a swim coach, I believe, and his swimming philosophy apparently comes from his swim coach training. I wonder how much fly is in store for us tonight...

Monday, April 10, 2006


No, I haven't learned to fly, or not yet. But we've been swimming an awful lot of fly lately. You may ask why a triathlete needs to swim the butterfly. Coach Yigal doesn't believe in "triathletes" -- I believe if I ever spoke to him in English, he'd probably refer to us as "multi-sport athletes", meaning that we're swimmers, cyclists and runners. Swimmers, of course, need to know how to swim the butterfly (and do flip turns!). Lucky us.

A few months ago, I couldn't make it across the 25-meter pool swimming butterfly. That's no longer a problem, though I do normally feel the need to stop before trying to swim back in the other direction. And basically, I feel... well... silly. Yigal says I'm doing it right, more or less. He says my hands are a bit too close together on entry and that my head stays out of the water a little bit too long, but both mistakes are easily correctable (and I think I've already corrected them). Apart from that, he insists that everything is fine and that I don't look silly. I don't believe him. Of course, if I do look silly, I'm not alone -- the rest of the team looks even sillier, I think. And at least I leave some water in the pool when I'm finished swimming a length of butterfly. I've got a few teammates who think that creating a megawave in front of them and clearing half the water out of the pool are part of the workout. Passing them in the opposite direction when they're swimming fly is not recommended, by the way, unless you like the taste of chlorine.

Yigal has added morning workouts, too, mainly for the varsity team, but he informed us last night that we should feel free to do them. I was thinking about doing the morning workout on Wednesday because we won't be working out Wednesday evening -- it's the Passover seder. Then I saw the plan -- the workout starts with... 200 meters butterfly. I think I need to cook on Wednesday morning...

Just for the record, is there anyone out there in blog-land actually reading this or am I just talking to myself??

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Nitzana Duathlon - 8 April 2006

Thanks to
We left town at 5 a.m. which, thanks to daylight savings time, looks like the middle of the night. When we got to Nitzana at 6, the sun was just rising. If there's one thing I really dislike, it's arriving at the race start in the dark, but with a 7:10 start time, we didn't have much choice.

By the time I got my bike set up and went to the bathroom, I only had time for a short warmup. At 7:10, we were off. I went out at a good pace on the run -- I reached the 1 km mark at something like 5:20, which is very fast for me. I wasn't quite able to hold this pace for the entire 5 km (especially since there was a hill right before the turn-around), but I managed to hold a decent pace and keep quite a few people behind me. Just before I reached the transition area, I heard a bunch of kids from the team screaming my name. It's always fun to have the kids out to cheer me on. One of them asked, "Can you do it?" and I nodded "YES!" I looked at my watch as I entered the transition area and it read something like 28:15, I think. This is an especially good time for me considering the fact that I was saving strength for the bike.

The transition went smoothly, though I need to work on changing my shoes faster. I ran out of the transition area and reached the mat at 29:21, 47/62 overall (men and women) for the run and 2/7 in my age group (actually, I was 1/2 in my age group, but they combined two groups and I was second in the combined group).

I had a bit of trouble clipping into my pedals -- nothing unusual for me in a race. Almost as soon as I took off down the main road, I started passing people. I passed a LOT of people and in the first half of the bike course, no one passed me. My legs were feeling a bit tired from the run, but I managed to stay in the large chain ring, even going uphill. About 300 meters after the turn-around, I saw my teammate, Ela. I was a bit surprised to see her so soon -- I used to be a lot faster than her, but she's make some real improvement recently. I kept pushing as hard as I could so that she wouldn't pass me (we're in the same age group).

A couple of kilometers later, one of the guys I had passed earlier passed me. As soon as he pulled ahead of me, he slowed down. I tried to hold back a bit, but he was making it difficult and I wasn't quite up to passing him or at least not within the time allowed. Next thing I knew, I heard the motorcycle coming up behind me and then the whistle. The head official yelled something about 5 meters or 7 meters -- I couldn't quite make it out, but I got the idea -- drafting. Then he pulled out a yellow card. He didn't stop me, though -- he just told me that one more offense and I'd be disqualified.

A couple of minutes later, another guy that I'd passed earlier passed me and he, too, pulled ahead of me and slowed down. Ugh. The last thing I needed was for another official to ride by -- I didn't want to be disqualified for drafting. So I passed him back, but he wouldn't let me stay in front of him and he passed me again. At this point, I had no choice. The first guy who had passed me wasn't far ahead and there was no way I could pass this guy without entering the other guy's drafting zone and I wasn't sure I had it in me to pass both of them. So I held back, losing some time, but at least making sure I didn't get disqualified. The ironic part was that I watched these two guys draft off of each other for five kilometers or so with no official in sight.

Right at the end of the bike course, I was passed by one other person, a woman. It was just seconds before I got off my bike and I passed her in the transition area and never saw her again. My final bike time for 20 km was 43:12 -- that's a PR for me in a race and not a bad time considering the fact that I'd run before I got on the bike (it's a lot easier to ride a bike after swimming!). I was 41/62 overall on the bike and 2/7 in my age group.

I'm pretty sure that my second transition was slower than the first. It took me a few seconds to get my shoes on and to tighten them. At the start of the second run, my legs felt like logs. I could hardly move them. I had to keep reminding myself that it was only 2.5 km and that everyone around me looked and felt exactly like me. By the turn-around, my legs were feeling a little bit better, but I wasn't able to pick up the pace as much as I would have liked. Even at the end, I tried to sprint, but my legs didn't exactly want to cooperate. My time for the second run, including the transition was 16:48. That sounds really slow, but I was 41/62 overall and 2/7 in my age group (only 5 seconds behind the woman who ran the fastest). Relative to everyone else, I actually did better on the second run than I did on the first, even if the time looks slow.

My goal for this race was to better last year's time. I did that. My more ambitious goal was to beat 1:30. I did that, too. My dream goal was to finish in 1:28 and change. I didn't quite achieve that, but I wasn't far off. My final time was 1:29:22 (last year's time was 1:35:51). I finished 43/62 overall and 2/7 for women 40-49, a minute and 26 seconds behind first place.

It was a good race for me and a great day :-)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Solo run

Tonight was supposed to be a combined run/bike workout, but it rained most of the day and the roads were slick -- darkness and wet roads are not a good combination for a bike workout, so that was out of the question. I was left with several choices:
  • Do a trainer workout and skip the run.
  • Go to the gym and run on the treadmill.
  • Run outside.
The first option was a problem -- I don't have the trainer. I use one of the team trainers and right now one of the varsity team members have it (he and I share it) and he's at training camp. He lives two houses away from me, so I could have just called his mother and asked her if she knew where it was, but I didn't feel like bothering her and to be honest, I didn't feel like riding on the trainer in my stuffy house. In addition, skipping the run didn't really seem like a good idea -- I've gotten in lots of bike mileage lately but not nearly enough running. I didn't have time to do both the trainer and a run (and it would have meant a change of clothes in the middle -- there's no way I could have gone outside in the cold after riding inside -- my clothes would have been soaked!).

The gym... I thought about this one for a long time. It's not cold and wet, true, but... BORING. And it's also packed in the evening. The idea of running on the treadmill in the very stuffy gym and having to smell all the sweaty men working out around me just was not all that appealing. Wonder why...

So that left the third option. I debated waiting until the morning and doing my workout then. I could run outside or at the gym, depending on the weather. I really had no intention of going out. But then my husband mentioned that it was nice out -- no more rain, not too cold. And I started thinking about the fresh air. And the new earphones that I bought so that I could listen to my mp3 player in both ears. And how guilty I'd feel if I skipped my run (and how easy it would be not to do the run tomorrow morning). So I pulled myself off the couch and at 9:30 p.m. I headed out the door.

I wasn't sorry for a minute. I don't do solo runs too often and I don't remember the last time I ran to music. I'm sure everyone who passed me thought I was nuts (actually, this is a small place and most people know me and know that I'm nuts!), because I was lip singing like crazy. I ran slowly and did a short 5.5 km. I could have done more and by the end I even wanted to do more, but I'm going easy on my legs after a month of not nearly enough running -- plus, I have a race on Saturday. I can even say that I enjoyed myself. And now there's no guilt!

I've come to the conclusion that the runs that I do when I really don't feel like running are almost always the most enjoyable ones. That's a good reason to keep getting out there!

Beating the boredom factor

Last night we had one of my favorite and least favorite swim workouts -- 2000 meters. That's it. No drills, nothing -- just 2000 meters of non-stop swimming.

The reason that this is one of my favorite workouts is because I don't find it at all difficult. I see some of the men gasping for breath and others just can't swim that far without a break (I have no idea how some of these guys do races -- I guess when the adrenaline kicks in they're able to swim farther!). For me, it's nothing -- back and forth and back and forth and back and forth -- I could do that all day.

But this is also why it's one of my least favorite workouts. It's so boring! That never-ending back and forth is so monotonous. I have trouble counting that many laps and I normally lose count somewhere in the middle and end up adding extra laps (more boredom). Last night, it went something like this:

50 meters -- Wow, this is going to take forever! I've got to do this 39 more times!!!

200 meters -- Was that 200 or 250? Ugh. I'll just call it 200. Why on earth can't I count?

750 meters -- Great, I've done my sprint distance swim. Now I only have to do it one more time plus another 500 meters. Is this ever going to end?

900 meters -- There's Yossi. Can I keep up with him. Sure! Piece of cake.

1200 meters -- Ok, enough of keeping up with Yossi.

1500 meters -- I wonder how many times I've passed Roni... Poor guy -- he's going to be here until midnight if he doesn't pick up the pace a bit!

1700 meters -- It looks like Yigal [the coach] has gone home. Hey -- he didn't leave us a swim workout for Thursday and he won't be here [he'll be away with the varsity team and the kids' teams at training camp]!

1800 meters -- Look at Ronit -- she's swimming freestyle [she broke her elbow 3 1/2 weeks ago]! Now I'd better not let her pass me! She can hardly swim with that bad elbow. (Note: She didn't pass me, but she did manage to keep up a pretty good pace and later commented on how slowly I'd been swimming and asked if it had been intentional! I have no idea how slowly I was swimming, as I didn't bother timing myself, but I didn't think it was that slow!)

1950 meters -- It's almost over! Thank God!!!

2000 meters -- Now that wasn't too bad! LOL.

Yigal, by the way, did leave a workout for Thursday. After I saw it -- 10 times 100 at "standard 5" (90%) among other things -- I decided that 2000 meters non-stop isn't so bad!

So what do you all think about when you do these long, non-stop swims? And when you start thinking too much, how do you keep track of the laps? I can't see a thing with my goggles on, so hitting the lap counter on my watch doesn't help much (I can only see it when I stop), plus, I often forget to hit it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mary Poppins

That's who I would have been today if I'd had an umbrella!

I missed last night's run because I was busy on my exodus from Egypt (yes, it seems that we must leave Egypt once again, or at least the 3rd graders at my son's school and their parents have to experience this once more). Check out Moses and Aaron. We even crossed the Red Sea -- made of blue crepe paper. Anyway, I had to make up last night's workout this morning. I had been listening to the wind outside since 5 a.m. (when my husband jumped out of bed, throwing the blanket over my face in the process, sure that there was a band of thieves in our house -- must have just been the windows and shutters banging in the wind). I stayed in bed for a long time, thinking maybe running wasn't such a great idea. I finally managed to get up at around 9 a.m. (really!) and it took me a long time to get out the door, but I did it. In the meantime, the wind had gotten worse.

The workout was a warmup followed by five 1000 meter intervals at 85% of my maximum heart rate. I had trouble keeping my heart rate down while running up an incline into the wind. By the fourth interval, I was just having trouble running into the wind at all (it had gotten even stronger). It pretty much sucked and knowing that I would have the wind at my back in the other direction wasn't much of a comfort.

I finished the workout, though. My times for those 1000 meter intervals pretty much sucked, but I was long past caring. On my way home, I could hear the wind howling like in a horror movie. I'm sure that running in the wind builds character or something. It certainly makes you feel dirty (especially when you live in the desert) -- I'm off to take a shower.

Monday, April 03, 2006


My coach couldn't be at last night's workout, so he left it for us on the white board at the pool. I knew it would be a tough workout -- he'd already told me on Saturday. But when I looked at the board, I panicked. Fear set in. Fear of what? I have no idea.

Maybe it was fear that I wouldn't be able to do 50 meters of butterfly because my shoulder still isn't 100%. How silly, though -- changing strokes is not a problem, even in the middle of the pool.

Maybe it was the 10x50 meters at 90% with 15" rest after each. Yeah, this is hard. So what? Will my training be completely destroyed if I have to slow down or take slightly more than 15" rest? Certainly I'm not going to drown in the middle of the pool while swimming only 50 meters at a time (or any other distance for that matter!).

Maybe it was the 100 meters "best time". So if my "best time" isn't the best of all times, will they throw me off the team?

Honestly, I'm not sure what it was. Maybe I'm just afraid of not meeting my own expectations or someone else's expectations. Maybe I'm afraid of "failing". This fear, the feeling of uncertainty, is there for almost every workout, or at least almost every run and swim. For some reason, on the bike, my weakest of the three sports (or at least it was last year), I'm a lot more confident. I'm never afraid of the workouts and, perhaps not surprisingly, I almost always achieve my goals. I need to find a way to take that confidence and that focus into my runs and swims.

I didn't quite finish the workout last night because I ran out of time. But I did most of it and I survived.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What I hate about daylight savings time

We went on daylight savings time between Thursday and Friday. I know that sounds strange, but Sunday is a work day in Israel, so we can't change our clocks between Saturday and Sunday like Americans do (who wants to go to work on one less hour of sleep?) and religious Jews are not permitted to change their clocks or do anything else that involves electricity, electronics, etc. from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, so doing it between Friday and Saturday is out of the question, as well. That leaves the night between Thursday and Friday. Friday is a half work day for some and a day off for most. Schools are open on Friday (we have a six-day school week), but school lets out earlier than other days. Unfortunately, it doesn't start later, so although I don't teach on Fridays (it's my day off), I still had to get up early enough to get my kids off to school and I had to do it on one less hour of sleep. But that's not my problem with daylight savings time.

My problem is possibly best illustrated by the following picture of me (in the front) with my teammates Jean Marc (on the left) and Ela (next to me):

It's 7 a.m. (formerly 6 a.m.) on Saturday morning. Jean Marc looks like he's dressed for the middle of winter. Ela and I just look like we're about to freeze to death (no, I don't normally stand like that with my shoulders hunched and my body stiff -- I actually had my arms wrapped around me until I was told to smile for the camera). And although we did see the sun somewhere down near the horizon, at this time of the morning, it provided no warmth whatsoever.

Now this wouldn't bother me so much in the winter. I'd just dress warmly and stay that way for the whole ride. But by the time we'd ridden 9 km to the gas station that was the starting point of our time trial, it had already started to warm up. That's when I had to prove my acrobatic abilities -- in front of the whole team, while listening to the "briefing", I managed to get that black shirt off and out from under my jersey. Ok, so maybe I should invest in some arm warmers, but those wouldn't have kept my body warm, meaning I would have needed an undershirt under my jersey, which would have made me very warm during the workout. I was more than comfortable in my short sleeve jersey once the sun truly came up.

And I won't even get into how hard it was to get up in the dark. Really -- who needs daylight savings time?!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Time trial

Today's long ride was a 40 km time trial. I've never been timed over more than 20 km or so, so this was something new for me. The course was mainly flat, but there were a couple of annoying hills and a bit of an incline at one point (but we got to go down that in the other direction). There were also three turn-around points and the possibility of having to wait for cars to pass first, which I did at one turn-around. There is generally a lot of wind on this course and today was no exception. I was aiming for under 1:30, which may seem slow to a lot of people, but my best-ever time for 20 km on a flat, easy course was 44:04, so 1:30 on a more difficult course that was twice as long was a reasonable goal.

We started at 30 second intervals. Since I was the slowest person doing 40 km (the people slower than me were all doing 20 km), I started first. That way, the team wouldn't have to wait too long for me to finish. I managed to ride about 6 km before the first rider passed me -- one of the kids on the varsity team. A few more kids passed me after that, but it took about 15 or 16 km before the first adult passed me.

It was a bit tiring, but not too bad. At one point, when I felt like I'd had enough, I came up with a brilliant idea: I told myself, "You'll finish sooner if you ride faster." Hmm... Wonder why I'd never thought of that before! What an original idea. And what strange things the brain comes up with when it's deprived of oxygen!

At the second turn-around, I thought I was last, so I was surprised to see one of my teammates still behind me as I rode back in the other direction. I actually managed to keep him behind me for the entire ride and when we finished, he came up to me, patted me on the back and told me he'd spent 10 km chasing me like a mad man, but he couldn't catch up. He finished faster than I did (he started four and a half minutes after me), but not by a whole lot. The course turned out to be 39.5 km rather than 40. My time? 1:24:51. That's an average of just about 28 kph, which is faster than I did in any race last year, despite the fact that I rode several courses that were much easier than today's.

So I achieved my goal and actually bettered my 20 km time on a 40 km course. But the highlight of my day came later on at the pool. I met the kid on the varsity team who had been the first one to pass me. He also happens to be a private student of mine. His first comment to me was that when he'd passed me, I hadn't been riding slowly at all. And then he said, "Yigal [the coach] said that your cycling has improved incredibly." I plan for it to improve even more.

March totals

Ok, so what's wrong with this picture? And what's very right about it?

swim: 22,950 meters - Not a bad total for me. In fact, it's my 4th highest monthly total of all time. I'm not sure how I managed to pull this off with shoulder tendinitis, as I wasn't able to do all the workouts in the last couple of weeks and I spent a lot of time kicking.

bike: 402.35 km road bike + 27 km mountain bike. Even without the extra 27 km on the mountain bike, this is an all-time high for me :-)

run: 34 km. I'm not even sure how this happened, as I think I did all the workouts apart from one very short recovery run. No excuses and no promises, as I never seem to keep them anyway. If I want to improve my running, I know what I have to do.

So, a great cycling month, a lousy running month and not such a great swimming month, despite the decent total -- my times are way down and I've lost some strength in my shoulder. On to April and the start of the racing season.

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