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, July 22, 2006

The slave master

Coach Yigal is getting more and more creative. Today's workout took the prize. Fortunately, didn't have to do it -- it was my turn to accompany the team in my car, so I just got to watch it.

We left just after 6 a.m. The weather was still pleasant and as the team rode towards the first segment of the workout and I drove behind them, I couldn't help thinking how much I would rather be on my bike. The first hill was on the Goral Road and it's one I actually don't mind doing. It's about 4 km long, but not terribly steep and then there's a nice, long downhill section on the other side. As I watched everyone ride up and down and then turn around and ride back up, I was very jealous. After riding down the second time, they ran a km or so. It was still nice outside and even watching them run didn't make me happy to be in the car.

Then we rode towards the next hill, the one that leads to Sansana. This one is harder. There are a few rollers, but mainly, it's a rather long and fairly steep road that winds up into the forest and then back down on the other side. The guys in front of me really suffered going up this one and I wasn't so jealous anymore. Going down looked like fun, but turning around and going back up again didn't. I didn't drive back up the hill behind those who went up the second time -- instead, I parked my car and waited at the bottom of the hill, where they had to run. It was getting rather warm and I started thinking about how running in the hot sun was probably the last thing I would want to be doing.

My teammates were starting to wilt -- I could see it happening. But it was on to hill number three: the road up to Eshkolot. I hate this hill. It's about 2.5 km long and it has two difficult sections. The first one is short, but so steep that almost every time I do it, I want to get off my bike just before I reach the top. This is the hill that we do our serious hill work on, going up and down several times. Those are my least favorite workouts. I didn't drive up the hill -- I waited at the bottom with the other two cars. I just looked up the hill and smiled, knowing that my legs weren't going to hurt after the workout (well, apart from my left foot, which was getting tired from hitting the clutch so often). They went up, turned around and came down and then went back up and down again. By the time they got to the part where they were supposed to run, it was no longer warm -- it was hot. I was hot just standing outside not doing anything. Everyone was out of water and all the extra water we'd brought wasn't enough. But they ran.

At this point, even though all I was doing was sitting in my air-conditioned car, I suggested to Yigal that it might be wise to skip the last part of the workout. He actually agreed (maybe because he was doing the ride/run, too, and he didn't look like he was feeling so great).

So off we headed to the next hill, the road up to the Joe Alon Center. This time, though, it was just one time up and no run. The hill was still hard. The kid I was driving behind got off his bike and walked. I could imagine precisely how he was feeling -- I've been there. This is another hill that I don't like, by the way. It's not as steep as the Eshkolot hill, but it's a bit longer, I think, and it's also always the last hill we do before we go home, so I've only done it when I've been tired.

I got home just after 10:00. It had been a four hour workout, much of it in the heat. As much as I like the feeling of satisfaction after finishing a hard workout, I can honestly say that I'm not sorry I missed this one. With all these exams to grade, the last thing I needed today was a workout that would knock me out for the rest of the day. But remember my friend, Gil? Well, this was how he got to spend his birthday and he looked quite pleased about it. Strange man... ;-) I hope he at least treated himself to some birthday cake after the ride!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stress and hills -a bad combination

Although I'm not directly affected by it, the situation over here is really starting to get under my skin. My youngest son is showing signs of stress and he's driving all of us nuts. He's not quite sure where "north" is and he keeps asking if the ketyusha rockets can reach us.

And there was a problem with the electricity all over the country today, causing blackouts on and off for hours. I had to drive up to the Tel Aviv area and half the traffic lights were out. And the policemen, rather than directing traffic, were standing at the intersections looking completely lost. That was helpful.

And as of tomorrow, I'm grading matriculation exams again.

And my family is supposed to be coming to visit on August 12th, but I don't know if they'll actually be arriving or not, due to the current situation. They're coming for my middle son's bar mitzva, which will take place with or without them.

So I'm a bit stressed. I got to my workout tonight, heard "hills" and freaked out. I just didn't even want to get on the bike. Actually, I had a hard time getting on the bike before I ever got to the workout. Just after I walked out the door, my chain somehow slipped off, before I ever got on the bike. I got quite dirty getting it back on and I was late for the workout. Just before I got there, I realized that I'd rode all the way down without a helmet -- something I never do. Fortunately, the team manager was at the workout site with his car, so he quickly drove me home to get my helmet. Anyway, then we started the workout and I just wanted to go home. The coach made us go up the damn hill in the big chain ring. I told him that it would be too hard for me, so he told me to use the small chain ring. So, of course, I used the big one (and it wasn't too hard -- I think I was just looking for excuses not to work out).

The workout wasn't really too bad. But my mood didn't get any better. I'm off to shower and bed so that I can swim early tomorrow morning with Michaela and then drive back up to the Tel Aviv area again (hopefully there will be traffic lights tomorrow).

To my "old friend"

Sorry to go completely off topic here, but I'm not the type of person who can go through life thinking, "Oh, great, an old friend is reading my blog" without actually knowing who the old friend is. So now he's told me that his name starts with a W. I know it's a "he" -- I read his profile. In fact, after doing a bit of research, I think I know who he is.

"Old friend" (or should I call you "W"?), I don't want to blow your cover, so just tell me if the following mean anything to you and if so, I'll know I'm right: high school (the name of the school ended in "West"), "the Pit", marching band, pit band -- I actually remember a whole lot more, some of which I'll let lie. And if I'm right, you might want to know that we have a mutual friend (initials were RB in high school and she lived down the street from me) who also lives in Israel and who I'm still in touch with. And on the off chance that I'm wrong, give me another clue, please.

Back to training (actually, I'm off to sleep!).

A swim with Michaela

I've mentioned Michaela several times. She's a woman in my age group who has this nasty habit of passing me just before the end of the run (though I seem to have broken her of that habit). You can see her in the picture with me from Netanya. Anyway, Michaela lives up north where ketyusha rockets are falling, so she and her family have taken refuge at the home of friends on a kibbutz very near here. She called me the other day to tell me that she was here and this morning we met for a swim. Since we didn't expect to see one another until our next race in September, it was very nice, despite the circumstances.

When we finished swimming, she told me that she'd be happy to do a long run with me one morning. I replied that that might not be a really good idea, as there's no way she'd be able to run at my pace. She said she does her long runs very slowly. Hmm... I can see it now -- me panting away, trying to keep up with Michaela on her "slow" run. I do hope to see her again this week, but I don't know if it will be for a run!

I swam again tonight for a total of 3400 meters today (this morning's swim was short, as I had to teach at 9:00). And good news -- after all that swimming, my shoulder felt fine.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Too much excitement for one day

On our long rides, we always have three cars accompany the riders. The drivers are either team members (the adult team) or parents of team members. The team manager puts out a schedule a few times a year so that we all know when we'll be driving. Today was supposed to be my turn, so I did my semi-long ride yesterday in town. 46 slow km with hills -- my legs were aching at the end of the day.

I was kind of bummed out about not being able to do today's ride, because we were riding to the beach -- my favorite route. Then, last night, I got a call from a teammate. His brother was bringing his sons to ride with us and had offered to accompany the team with his car, so he would fill in for me so I could ride. I wasn't sure my legs would be up to it, but I decided to go for it.

The ride was supposed to be at an "easy" pace. Today, it wasn't just our team. We're hosting a team from up north so that the kids can train instead of sitting in bomb shelters, so they rode with us. I guess the faster riders on our team wanted to show off, so the "easy" pace was really fast. I was way at the back, but I was flying (relative to my usual pace). The ride was very pleasant until we got to the area of Sderot, which is where kasam rockets have been falling for quite some time. A few kilometers after Sderot, we heard a loud boom, followed by two quieter booms. Apparently, a rocket had fallen not far from us. This must have inspired us to ride even faster, because I found myself flying downhill at 55 kph.

I got to Ashkelon faster than I ever have before, averaging 30 kph, despite several hills on the way. My top speed was around 61 kph. I think that's the fastest I've ever ridden.

Once there, we ran a bit and then went swimming. Or tried to. The waves made it very difficult to swim and we couldn't get anywhere near where we'd swum to just three weeks ago. The lifeguards weren't really letting people swim out too far, anyway. And the jellyfish... They were fairly small and blue -- not the same jellyfish we'd seen three weeks ago at this beach. In fact, these were rather cool looking -- much more solid, kind of like a baby's toy. At first, there were only a few, but after eating watermelon and hanging out for a bit, we went back in the water and saw a lot more, both in the water and on the beach. At one point, I was just about to tell my friend that there was a jellyfish next to her when she kind of fell into me. Then we looked down and saw jellyfish everywhere. I have never run out of the water so fast in my life. Too bad my coach missed it. LOL.

On the way home, we passed an accident and realized that it was the father of one of the kids on the team. He had his son and three kids from up north in the car. We stopped to see if they were ok. The car was a mess (totaled, I believe) and the father was complaining of neck pain, so they took him to the hospital. His son was very scraped up from the seat belt, so he was taken to the hospital, as well. That left the three kids from up north with no way to get home. All the cars were full, so there was no place to put them. I called my husband, who drove half an hour to come pick them up (I waited with two of them and the third took my spot). So the three of us waited there on the corner in the heat in the middle of the day for half an hour. And where was this corner? Pretty much in the area where the kasam rockets are falling. Fortunately, we didn't experience or even hear any rockets while we were waiting.

So that was my day. Kasam rockets, jellyfish, a car accident and waiting half an hour for a ride in the middle of the day in an area with no shade. Never a dull moment. I think these kids may be ready to go back to their bomb shelters!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Back from vacation

We spent four days in Eilat where it was very hot (like over 100*F all the time hot). Despite the heat, it was a nice trip, but I'm glad to be home.

I didn't get much training in during our vacation. I did go swimming in the Red Sea, only about 750 meters or so each time (my shoulder is bothering me again) and I ran 5 km on the treadmill at the gym of the hotel adjacent to ours. Oh, and I spent 10 minutes (about 5 km) on the stationary bike on the gym. We walked a lot, but I guess that doesn't count. So today was my first workout in over a week. We did a 40 km ride, which started out easy, but got progressively harder for me. This might have something to do with the fact that I accidentally rode up a long hill in my big chain ring. Anyway, the ride was followed by a 5 km shuffle/walk (which was supposed to be a run). My legs felt like lead.

I'm writing this off as a bad training day and I don't intend to give it much more thought. Gotta' take the bad with the good, I guess.

The trouble's not with Blogger

I've finally figured out that my problems with uploading images have nothing to do with Blogger. It's my computer, or, more accurately, my browser. I've just installed Firefox on this computer and now I have no trouble uploading. Go figure.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Netanya Triathlon - 30 June 2006

Although my start time was 9:10, the bus left at 4:15, so I had to be up and out very early. When I walked out the door, I found myself in total darkness. There was no moon and all of the street lamps were out. I had planned on riding my bike to the meeting spot, but I was a bit afraid because I had taken the light off my bike and I was wearing a black t-shirt and in total darkness, the chances of an approaching car seeing me were pretty slim. However, if I didn't ride my bike, I was going to miss the bus, so after turning off of my street, I got on and prayed. I could hardly see the road and I was afraid I was going to ride over something. Fortunately, it's a very short ride to the square that I had to cross and I knew there would be no cars there (there were no cars anywhere at 4 a.m.) and the street lamps were on in the square and in parking lot where we were meeting. I don't know what happened to them here -- some kind of electrical failure just in a small area.

I managed to get a bit more sleep on the bus and because we'd arrived so early, I got a very good spot in the transition area. That left me with two and a half hours to burn. So I spent two and a half hours walking down to the beach and back up, making a short trip to the bathroom, walking the run course (barefoot) and doing I don't know what else. Eventually, I did a short run (barefoot on the sidewalk -- they wouldn't let us into the transition area) and then headed down to the beach again for a short swim.

I was almost sorry I'd decided to go in the water before the race. The sea was much rougher than it had been at this same race last year. There were waves and a strong current. And to make matters worse, there were lots of jellyfish. I didn't actually see them (other people did), but I could feel tiny stings. Everyone got stung today, though it was mainly tiny little stings, which are annoying, but not painful.

The race started and I prayed. I don't think I would have done the swim alone, but with 150 or so other people, I felt a bit more comfortable. There were waves hitting me in the face at first and I was swallowing water. Yuck. I wasn't getting beaten up too badly, but the water was throwing me around quite a bit. I'm at a big disadvantage in choppy water, because although I have good swimming form, I'm not a physically strong swimmer. I just kept my cool and kept moving forwards.

At some point, when we were out far enough for the water to have calmed down a bit, I realized that I was just kind of swimming along at a leisurely pace. "Umm... Hello??? This is a race!" Oops. I started to swim a bit harder. It was still a bit choppy, though, and I was very glad to see the first buoy, until I realized that it wasn't the first buoy for us -- it was the buoy for the youth "mini-sprint" (they swim 500 meters). So I kept going, looking for the orange buoy, which eventually appeared.

I thought that once I got around the buoy, things would get better. Nope. The water felt just as choppy swimming parallel to the shore.

Around the second buoy, it was a bit better. The waves were behind me. But now I was being pulled to the left, towards the rope. They'd actually changed the direction of the swim because of the current. I tried to stay away from the rope, but every couple of minutes, I'd find myself back up against it. At one point, I got pushed over the rope and when I went back to the other side, I noticed people standing. I normally swim in as far as possible, but I'd had enough. I got up, too, and that's when I saw my teammate, Gil, right in front of me. It was comforting to know that my swim couldn't have been too bad, as he'd gone into the water way ahead of me. I ran/walked out carefully and then glanced at my watch. Ugh -- 17:45 for 750 meters. Definitely not my best time ever -- not even close. But it was over and I was happy to be out of the water.

The run to the transition area is up a steep hill. I was really panting when I got to my bike. I got my shoes and helmet and number on and headed out, together with my teammate, Ronit, who had had a better swim than me, but is slow in the transition area. Time for the swim plus the transition: 21:17. Last year I did it in 20:51, but last year, the water was a whole lot calmer. I was 1/4 in my age group for the swim.

It took me what seemed like forever to actually get on my bike (I was still panting), and by the time I did, Ronit had pulled far away. This was a draft legal race, so I really wanted to catch up with her so that we could work together. She normally rides just a little bit faster than I do, so catching up wasn't easy, but I pushed really hard and caught her fairly quickly. Then I just sat at her wheel. I pulled ahead of her several times so that she could draft off of me, but she didn't like the feeling of not making an effort and she kept passing me back. Finally, I gave up and just sat at her wheel for the entire 24 km. This didn't bother her a bit and I'm sure we looked cute together -- two women wearing the same thing with almost identical numbers (I'm 1555 and she's 1525) doing the entire ride together. She really helped me -- it was so much easier for me to draft off of her than it would have been to do the entire ride alone. I finished in 49:48 for an average of almost 29 kph. I was 1/4 in my age group. Last year's time on the same course was 56:14, so this was a huge improvement.

By the time we headed out on the run, it was really hot. REALLY hot. People were wilting on the course. At some point, they stopped handing us cups of water and starting giving us bottles instead. I drank and poured (over my head), drank and poured. I did NOT enjoy the run, but I was determined to keep running, unlike last year. Nothing was hurting me -- my legs felt fine, in fact -- the only reason I had to stop running was that I was hot and breathing hard. That's not a good enough reason. I knew that Michaela, the woman who passes me on the run, was a couple of kilometers behind me. I'd hit the 1 km mark just as she passed by on the bike and yelled out my name. No matter how slowly I ran, she wouldn't be able to pass me. In fact, she probably wouldn't have passed me if I'd walked, but I wasn't sure who was in front of me and I wasn't going to lose a race because I was hot. EVERYONE was hot.

So I ran and ran and ran. Two out and backs. I was SO happy to see the finish line and even happier to cross it. My time for the run plus the transition was 31:17. Not a really great 5k time, even if it does include racking my bike and changing shoes, but good enough for 2/4 in my age group (only Michaela ran faster) and much better than last year's time of 34:06 (I walked part of the course last year). My final time was 1:42:23, nine minutes better than last year's time of 1:51:12, despite the slower swim.

I thought I'd finished first in my age group, so I was a bit surprised when they finally posted the result sheet and I was listed as second. I scanned the results to see who was first. It was someone who had been slower than me on the swim, much slower than me on the bike and had run 5 km in just over 17 minutes. Hmm... Turns out she had apparently only run one loop. The head referee somehow missed this, but the ITA chairman didn't and when he saw her times during the awards ceremony, he disqualified her and presented me with the first place trophy. 1/4 in my age group! Yay!!!

When I looked at the results again later on, I noticed that I'd closed the gap between Michaela and me in the run a bit. She was beating me by about five minutes. In our last race, it was four minutes. Today, it was three and a half. I'm catching up!

June totals

swim: 16,600 meters. This is my lowest total of the year and I'm not even sure why. I think I missed one or two swim workouts because of other commitments -- I can't remember. In any case, since my shoulder still isn't 100%, I don't think cutting back on my swimming a bit is such a terrible idea.

bike: 204.3 km. Better than April and May (and considering the fact that three long rides in June were cancelled because of races, not bad at all), but not quite where I want to be. I'm going in the right direction, though.

run: 60 km. This is my minimum monthly goal and I'm glad I reached it, unlike in May. Ideally, I'd like to do more running mileage, especially since I want to try an Oly distance tri in September. I'm not sure how this will fit in with the summer heat, though.

Overall, a pretty good month for me. I completed three races in June,as well, and bettered last year's times for all of them. And I somehow managed to do this while being really bogged down with matriculation exams, marking 432 a week (each with a composition --ugh!).

July will be a low mileage month for me. I'm going on vacation for five days this week and I don't know how much I'll be working out. Next week is a recovery week and at the end of the month, the team is going to training camp in Hungary (and I'm staying home -- I couldn't justify spending $950 and leaving my family for nine days). The slight break from training will be nice, as I expect to be training hard from August through October -- we have a couple of big races in September and the national championships at the end of October.

I've fallen off the blog wagon

There's certainly been plenty to blog about. For example, I ran 9 km on Monday in 50 minutes. Actually, it was three times 3 km, but at 85% effort, which wasn't too hard. I could walk the 10th kilometer and still finish a 10k in under an hour at that pace!

Other stuff... We rode to the beach last week, which was fantastic. Swam with jellyfish -- less fantastic. Shoulder's bothering me again -- not at all fantastic.

Anyway, I'll be blog impaired for the coming week because I'll be away on vacation, but before I leave, I'm going to post (separately) my June totals and a race report.

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