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!