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.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm not going to complain

I just want to say that it's good that I'm not training for anything in particular, because now I don't have to be disappointed about my plans going down the drain. Yeah, there is that pesky Olympic distance tri that I want to do (it doesn't matter which one -- any Oly distance will do) and that will get done eventually -- when everything stops hurting. Not that I'm complaining or anything. At least I got some sleep last night -- I took a pill before going to bed and that seemed to do a nice job getting rid of my back pain.

In any case, if I had to pick a time of year to be injured and/or just in general pain, this would be the time. It's way too hot outside to do anything (it's supposed to be 41°C today -- that's 106°F). There aren't too many races in the summer -- just the Lehavim Triple Super Sprint on August 24th and if I can't race then I'll volunteer, since it's right here in town. We've got a training break coming up anyway, so I don't have to train (thanks, coach Yigal). I'm buried in matriculation exams again, so I really don't have time to train (or eat or sleep or even breathe for that matter). The pool is gross in the summer because of all the little kids who use it all day long.

So you see? Nothing to complain about!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My bike has a story

My bike has a story.  Yeah, I'm sure every bike has a story, but my bike's story is so typical of me that it's just downright funny.  Anyone who knows me personally will understand.

My bike saved my cell phone.  Really.  Here's the story...

I bought my bike in January 2006 after totaling my previous piece of junk in the Eilat Triathlon.  Funny how things happen.  I really hated that old bike.  It was too big, the Sora components gave me a lot of trouble and I never really enjoyed riding it.  I wanted desperately to replace it, but I'd only had it for just over a year and I couldn't justify the expense.  Well, at least not until I totaled it.  Flying over the concrete road block wasn't fun (I've still got a scar on my knee) and I'll even admit that I cried over my one and only DNF, but in the following weeks, it became clear to me that that road block had actually been my friend.

There was this woman who had been on our team and had quit triathlon for various reasons.  She had purchased a new bike not long before she decided to leave the sport and she was no longer riding it.  Actually, another teammate, the one who had advised me on my first bike purchase (I should have paid more attention to details), had picked out the bike for her.  It was quite a bit nicer than the one I'd destroyed.  And now, she was selling an almost unridden bike.  An almost unridden bike that was just my size.  An almost unridden bike, just my size, that she was willing to part with for about half of what she'd paid for it because she needed the extra cash to plan a wedding.  And I needed a bike.

So I bought the bike that was to become my best inanimate friend, the bike that would make cycling the best part of the race for me instead of the worse, the bike that would make me look forward to long rides.  But there were a couple of hitches along the way...

Since she had had no success selling the bike on her own (she had originally asked for a lot more money and there aren't too many people around here looking for a 50 cm road bike), she'd decided to bring it up to Israel's only triathlon store in Rishpon, which is about an hour and a half north of here.  I had to drive up there to pick up the bike.  So on a rainy Friday in January, I made the drive in my Fiat Punto (for those who aren't familiar with it, it's a very small car, especially by American standards). In order to take the bike home, I had to remove the front wheel and fold down my back seats.  No big deal.  While I was there, I bought myself a brand new helmet, too.  I took the bike and the helmet and put them in my car, which was parked on the side of the road.  Then I set off for home.

There's an exit for Rishpon on the northbound side of the main road, but not on the southbound side (or not that I know of).  To get back on the road going south, I had to actually go north first, up to the next exit.  After finally heading south, I suddenly had a strange thought.  Had I put the front wheel in the car???  Oh, come on, of course I had!  Who would forget something so important???  (Can you hear all my friends shouting, " You!"??)  So I peeked back and I didn't see a wheel, but it was hard for me to see anything.  It was drizzling and there was a fair amount of traffic and I was on the main road, so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to pull over before taking a better look.  I pulled over, turned completely around and there was no wheel.

"Ok, don't panic," I told myself, "Just call the store and ask them to go outside and pick up the wheel.  It's right there at the side of the road.  It hasn't been that long since you left -- chances are it's still there and hopefully no one has run it over."  So I went to take out my cell phone, but it wasn't in my bag.  Not in my bag?  It had to be in my bag!  I knew I'd taken it because I'd used it while I was in the store.  Where could it be???  I dumped out the contents of my bag.  No cell phone.  No wheel, no cell phone.  And no exit.  I had to drive all the way down to Herzliya, get off, turn around and then drive back north up to the Rishpon exit.  It was going to take me at least another 15 minutes or so, if not longer. 

"Don't panic, don't panic!" I kept repeating.  "It's just a wheel and just a cell phone.  How much does a new wheel cost?  How much does a new cell phone cost?"  Now I was really panicked!  I'd barely scraped the money together to pay for the second-hand bike!

It was still drizzling.  I was thinking about my wheel and my phone lying out there in the rain.  Or not...  I don't remember much of the drive.  All I could think about was how, exactly, I was going to explain this to my husband.

I got to Herzliya, turned around, drove back up to Rishpon, got off and drove through Rishpon in the direction of the store.  As I was approaching the store, I saw a car coming in the other direction.  The car stopped right around where my wheel and phone should have been and the driver got out.  He bent down and picked something up.  My phone!!!  I kept driving towards him as he took my phone and started to get back into his car.  I was screaming out the window, but he couldn't hear me (I'm sure all the rest of Rishpon could, though!).  So I started honking my horn like a maniac.  Now people were looking at me and at him.  I screamed out to him, "That's my phone!  I dropped it!"  This time he heard me and since people were standing around looking, he looked at me innocently and said, "Oh, I wasn't going to take it, I was just going to try to figure out who it belonged to."  Yeah, sure you were...  In Israel, if you leave a cell phone lying around unattended for more than a minute or two, chances are very good that it will disappear forever. 

So the guy gave me back my phone.  And then I saw my wheel, lying on the side of the road.  I rushed out of my car and picked it up.  It was completely unharmed.  All of the stress that I'd been feeling for the last half hour or so just flowed out of me.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Yes, my bike saved my cell phone.  If I hadn't forgotten the wheel, there's no way I would have noticed that my phone was missing.  There's a continuation to this story, though.  A few months later, my phone suddenly stopped working.  It turned out that there was corrosion inside the phone.  Water damage.  Since my phone had met no water apart from the rain on that drizzly day, I have to assume that that's where the damage came from.  It was insured (it wasn't insured for water damage, but I have a very convincing husband) and my cell phone provider replaced it.  The next one fell in the toilet...

Why do these things always happen to me???

Are these people really in need of mental health professionals?

Check out this article from the New York Times (I grabbed the link off of Vertical Man's blog).  If you ask me, the people who needed psychologists were perfectly normal.  Who in their right mind would want to swim in the Hudson River with rats and debris??  Honestly, I wouldn't care if the rats knew how to swim or not -- just knowing they were there would be enough to keep me away!

Monday, July 23, 2007

To run or not to run?

That really is the question.

I've been suffering from shin splints for about a month now.  I've drastically cut back on my running (not that I was running all that much before) and I think I've managed to get rid of the problem in one leg, but the other still bothers me after every run.  The last time I ran was a week ago.  I did 6 km and had pain in my shins for a couple of days afterwards.  Now it doesn't hurt.  Do I try again tonight?

Between my shins and my back, I think it may be time to have this old body serviced.  Anyone know where the nearest human body garage is?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The last 10 km

Today was did a 90 km ride. As you can see from the graph, the first part was basically downhill and the second half... well... obviously, we had to get up to where we started:

This was a tough ride for me, maybe because I didn't sleep well last night and I was tired. We left at 6 a.m. and I got home at around 10:30 or so (we took a long break in the middle). For the first 80 km or so, I managed to hang on, but those last 10 km might as well have been 100. It was really hot (around 100° F) and we were just trudging along uphill at something like 20 kph. In that short distance, I managed to have a flat, to almost fall off my bike when stopping at a red light (I had clipped out, but I was so tired that I lost my balance while trying to put my feet down) and to drop my chain, which then got stuck (I didn't actually drop it while riding -- when I almost fell, I must have kicked it off the chain ring with my ankle, which now bears the mark of chain ring teeth). In short, it was one of those rides when all I could think was, "If I can finish this, I can do anything."

I've found a better way to save my route maps (so that the names of places on the way show up). Here's a map of the route we did today:

And so that you can get a better idea of where I actually am, here's a slightly bigger view of the area -- notice how close we are to Gaza (oh, and the red line on the right is the "Green Line" -- the "border" with the West Bank -- that's even closer than Gaza):

Now here's an interesting graph. Despite the heat and being exhausted, my heart rate wasn't at all elevated at the end of the ride. In fact, even the elevation (marked in red) had almost no affect on my heart rate, apart from drops in heart rate during longer downhill sections.

This seems really odd to me, as you'd think my heart would work harder as the ride gets harder. By the way, the big dip in heart rate just before the end is where my training partner (my favorite training partner) decided we were going to coast down the hill without pedaling. I don't normally do that, but at that point, I would have even been willing to just grab the back of a car and be pulled home.

The other thing that seems really odd is the fact that no matter what I do (and no matter what I'm actually looking at on my screen), I can't save the graph of the entire ride -- this graph ends about 5 km before the end of the ride. If anyone is using SportTracks and can explain why that is (note that I can see the graph of the entire ride in the program), please let me know!

Friday, July 20, 2007

My aching back

I've been suffering from lower back pain for several weeks, most likely due to sitting on my bed for hours at a time checking exams last month.  I won't be stupid enough to sit that way again, but I can't seem to get rid of the pain in my back.  Today, it was so bad that I had to stop my swim workout in the middle.  I was barely moving in the pool because I couldn't properly rotate my hips.  Ouch.  Strangely, my back only bothers me while swimming -- I don't feel a thing while running (not that I've been doing much of that) or while cycling.  That's a good thing, because tomorrow I have a 90 km ride planned.  Of course, if my back doesn't get me, the heat will -- it's supposed to be close to 100 degrees tomorrow (again). 

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What is it about the gym?

I need to get to the gym.  In fact, I've needed to get to the gym for well over a year.  I go there once in a while when the weather is bad to use a treadmill or a stationary bike, but I need to start using the weight machines.  So what's keeping me from going?  I don't have a clue. 
Maybe the gym is too far away?  Uh...  No...  It's exactly a 1 km drive or about a 600 meter walk.  I think I can handle that.  I manage to get to the pool several times a week without a problem and it's in the same place.
Maybe I don't have time?  Well, this would be a good excuse at certain times of the year, but right now I'm not doing much of anything, at least not for the next week, and it's been like this for three weeks.  I think I can find an hour in my not-very-busy day.
Maybe I don't know what to do there?  This is partially correct, but not a good excuse.  I used to work out at the gym regularly, so I'm not completely clueless and, of course, we have trainers at the gym who are there to teach me what to do.  I know all of them personally, so I'm not embarrassed to ask.
Maybe I can't stand the smell?  Well, I can't, but I manage to deal with that when I'm running on the treadmill.  I've even managed to breathe those nasty sweat vapors for 15 km on the treadmill -- I think I can handle them for an hour or so.
Maybe I'm just being lazy and looking for ways to avoid doing what I need to do so that I'll have excuses for not being stronger/faster/whatever?  Yeah, maybe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The perfect goggles?

I must have a strangely shaped face, because I've unsuccessfully tried more different brands and models of goggles than anyone I know! What follows is a list of all the goggles I've tried and what I liked and disliked about them. Maybe this will help someone else with goggle woes.

For a while, I swam with the AquaSphere Seal Mask. I liked these goggles for a while, but for some reason, the lenses started popping out on me once in a while and they also started leaking a lot sooner than I would have liked, as they're not cheap and not easy to find around here. I didn't particularly like the big mask and when these finally gave out, I decided to try something smaller.

Since the Seal Mask had been ok, I tried its smaller version, the Seal XP. These were good at first, but they started leaking a lot sooner than the Seal Mask had, and like the Seal Mask, they're not cheap and not easy to find here. Oh, and they're still a lot bigger than "conventional" goggles.

For my next pair of goggles, I decided to try something that would be easier and cheaper to replace. I went with the Arena Vulcan. I was pretty happy with these goggles for a while, apart from the fact that they left me with ugly goggle marks around my eyes. I figured that was the price I had to pay for leak-proof goggles. Eventually, they did start to leak, of course, so I bought a second pair. I wasn't as happy with those -- they started leaking a lot faster than the first pair. It was once again time to search for different goggles.

This time, I went with TYR Technoflex 2.0. These goggles almost never leaked, but the gaskets dug into the skin around my temples and they left even worse goggle marks than the Arena goggles. However, I could even do flip turns in these without them moving, so I swam in them for a while. Then one day without any warning, they started leaking and nothing I did would stop the water from coming in. I borrowed a pair of goggles for one workout and then went out and replaced these with a second pair, despite the fact that I hadn't liked the way they'd died in a single day. I lost my second pair at the Tel Aviv Triathlon and then decided to look for something else.

The next goggles were Speedo Futura Ice. These goggles came highly recommended by several teammates. When I tried them on in the store, they seemed fine -- they had good suction and were comfortable. In the pool, though, they were a disaster. No matter what I did to them, they leaked. And because I kept making the straps tighter to try to stop the leaking, they left really bad goggle marks. Eventually, I gave them to a teammate because I couldn't swim with them. They worked great for him, so it was just my weird face that they didn't fit properly.

The goggles I am currently swimming with are TYR Technoflex Vision. So far, so good. These are probably the most comfortable goggles I've ever worn. No matter how long I leave them on my face, I don't get anything more than very faint red marks under my eyes -- barely noticable and painless. And they have yet to leak on me. I am very very pleased with these and I think I may have found the perfect goggles for me, but it's still too early to say for sure.

So what goggles do the rest of you swim with?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Running and shin splints

I don't think I've posted about my shin splints (maybe just in passing). Even I'm tired of hearing about my injuries! Anyway, I haven't been doing much running for the last month or so. It started with pain in both shins. I took almost two weeks off from running, waiting until I was pain-free and then went out and did an easy 5 km, which led to pain in my left shin. I took off another week or so and tried again. This time, I only ran 1.5 km and stopped because my shin hurt. *sigh* Last night, I managed to run 6 km with almost no pain (just a few twinges in my left shin during the first kilometer. But today, my left shin hurts. Ugh.

Anyway, despite the pain in my shin today, I do think I'm healing, as it's nowhere near as bad as it was. The 6 km was slow (on purpose) -- I ran an average of just over 6:30 minutes per km. I have to admit that I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever be able to run "fast" (it's all relative!) again. Right now, I'd settle for a run with no pain (during or after). Of course, if all I can do is walk from now on, then that Olympic tri that I have planned for someday will be a piece of cake -- I can walk 10 km!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Swimming and stuff

It seems that lately, all I've posted here are race reports and course maps. That really wasn't the reason I started this blog. So why did I start it? Why do I feel the need to "reveal myself to the world"? Well, I don't, really, but I've always enjoyed writing and I also like the idea of having a permanent record, complete with pictures, of my progress in something that has become such a major part of my life. It's mainly for me, not for other people (but please keep on reading!).

So, swimming... Swimming used to be my favorite of the three sports. Not anymore. In fact, I went through a real swimming crisis not too long ago and just getting into the pool became a real effort. My times have gotten slower and my motivation to improve them had gone out the window. I'm not sure how I managed to "get over it", but I did. One day I decided I was going to "JFS" (just f*cking swim) and I did.

Last night, the main drill was three times 400 meters. I try to avoid posting my times here, as I know that to many people, they would be considered very slow, but I'm not a born athlete and speed has never been my strong point, so at the risk of being laughed at (and who cares, anyway? I can't hear you all laughing!), I'm going to start talking about my times again. My fastest ever 400 meter time was 8:04. This was more than a year and a half ago and I assume I was drafting off of someone, as I've never come anywhere near that time again. My "normal" time (not drafting) is 8:42. I have repeated this exact number more times than I can count. I hadn't gone below it in a very long time.

So last night, after doing the warmup, I did the first 400. I tried drafting for the first 50 meters, but that didn't work out because there were three of us in the lane and we kind of got into a "traffic jam" at one end of the pool and by the time we got ourselves sorted out, the guy I wanted to draft off of was too far ahead. So I did it on my own, not pushing too hard, as my coach said I could do 9:00. Imagine my surprise when I finished, looked at my watch and saw 8:35. Even drafting for 50 meters wouldn't have taken 7 seconds off my time and that first 50 meters wasn't slow, but it wasn't incredibly fast, either. I may not have swum at lightening speed, but it was an incredible confidence booster for me.

For the next two 400s, I drafted off of my favorite training partner (and no, I didn't just say that because I know he reads my blog sometimes). He missed the last 50 meters of the first one, meaning I could only draft for 350 meters. I finished in 8:23. The last one we did in 8:16. Drafting is so much fun -- I hardly had to swim! In fact, I think I spent more energy trying to keep his feet out of my face (and trying to avoid hitting them as much as possible, as I'm sure I was driving him nuts) than I did trying to move forward.

So now the obvious question is, if drafting is so easy in the pool, why is it so hard in a race? Why do I never seem to find the perfect person to draft off of???

And yes, I know that drafting off of other people is not going to improve my own swimming or make me faster, but I like the feeling of moving faster in the water and seeing the faster times (and keeping up with someone who is faster than I am) is very motivating to me. I will get those swim times back down (and then make them even faster).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Another Saturday, another ride

Yes, I know that Saturday was yesterday. I did an 80 km ride with the team. Here's the map (and yes, I know that they all kind of look the same, but I still think it's cool) -- note that the strange part at the end is where I rode all around town to finish up 80 km.

This was mainly downhill going out, but uphill on the second half, as you can see by the elevation graph:

And as you can see by the grade graph, those hills might be annoying, but this sure isn't the Tour de France:

Interestingly, everything after the 70 km mark was inside of town -- notice that that's where the biggest hill was! I knew there was a reason why the coach has us run and ride up that hill about a million times a season!

Now just one more picture. I know that you can't really see much in the maps of my routes, or at least they don't really give any indication of where I am. So here's a map of the whole area -- you can see all of Israel, plus Egypt (mainly the Sinai Desert), Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea and more. And there in the middle, marked in yellow (you may need to click on the map to see a bigger version), is the route we rode yesterday:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Congratulations to the newest Ironmen

Our little town of about 5,000 now has four new Ironmen and a total of five Ironman finishers at Ironman Austria yesterday. Congratulations to Kobi, Itai, Ohad and Yuval on finishing the grueling 3800 meter swim, 180 km bike ride and 42.2 km run for the first time (and to Frenkel for finishing another Ironman). That makes a total of seven Ironman finishers (that I know of) living in this little place in the middle of the desert. Well, that plus the current Israeli youth champion, three kids who have participated in the European youth championships in the last two years, one who was at the world championships last year and a few other kids who have competed in a number of European races. If we count the number of triathletes here relative to the total population, we might be the triathlon giant of the world -- and the nearest body of open water is 55 kilometers away!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another Saturday ride

Another great ride today. We did a few hills (well, my training partner did one more than I did -- I had no idea he'd turned to ride up my least favorite hill of all time and once I realized where he was, I was already at the top of the next hill, so I waited for him there). I'm actually starting to like hills. Maybe there's something wrong with me... Anyway, there was this one hill that I was afraid to do, as the only time I'd ever tried riding up it before, I'd ended up getting off my bike and walking. That was in the winter in a lot of wind. It turned out that this isn't a very big hill and I didn't even realize it was the same one until I reached the end of the road and there were no more hills. Piece of cake. I can now take that tiny little thing off my list of things that need to be conquered.

Here's the map of today's route:

And here are the elevation graphs:

It's always nice to do your warmup on one of the longer hills of the day... Well, maybe not, but notice that the first five kilometers are almost entirely uphill. However, the second half of the ride was mainly downhill, which is definitely the smarter way to do things in the summer when it gets hotter and hotter during the ride.

These graphs are very helpful. I've just noticed, for example, that my cadence counter stopped working at 40 km (well, either that or I didn't pedal at all for the next 25 km). Hmm...

My heart, fortunately, did not stop beating during the ride (and my heart rate monitor didn't stop working). The dip in heart rate is because I spent 10 minutes or more waiting for my training partner at the top of that hill and then we did a nice long downhill section (the Garmin was autopaused while I was waiting, but when I got back on my bike, all I did was sit there until the bottom of the hill):

Oh, and the Garmin says I burned 1,882 calories. Time for a nice, big breakfast!

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