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, February 24, 2007

Ein Gedi Half Marathon - 17 February 2007

This race report is a week late and I wasn't sure I'd ever post it. Let me just preface the report by saying that I've been really sick for the last week with a bad sinus infection and that I ran the race sick (I thought it was just a cold -- if I'd known I was that sick, I wouldn't have run). It was a disaster, but I finished. I think my finishing picture pretty much says it all -- it doesn't get much worse than this (and it's probably a good thing that it's not a great picture -- the less you can see, the better):

Note that the guy finishing "behind" me was definitely not behind me. He was right by my side for the entire second half of the run (he ran up ahead during the first half and waited for me at the turn-around) and he's the reason I finished at all. He took a spill during the race and came out of it rather battered himself, but that's his story. Here's mine...

It was ugly, but I finished the lowest half marathon on earth.

During the ride down to the Dead Sea, I still hadn't decided if I'd be running or not. My nose was starting to clog up again (I'd used nose spray before I went to bed, so it had been clear), my ears were clogged and I had started coughing. Despite a decent night's sleep, I felt generally lousy. But I decided to do a short warmup and then make my final decision.

The warmup actually felt ok. I'd used some more nose spray before starting (no comments on the nose spray, please -- I'm well aware of the drawbacks and generally try to avoid it as much as possible), so my nose was clear and my sinuses started to clear out when I started moving. Of course, all the gook in my sinuses had to go somewhere, which meant a lot of nose blowing and coughing. Despite this, I was going to run.

I didn't even feel nervous waiting for the race to start. I think I was just too much in shock about the whole thing (and I was still busy cleaning out my nose and lungs -- I must have been quite a sight). The race started and I went out really slowly. I was soon dripping sweat -- it was over 70 degrees outside (I've been doing a lot of my runs in the gym because it's been so cold outside, so I have no idea where this weather came from in the middle of February!) and not a cloud in the sky. The race started at 9:15, which is rather late and there is absolutely no shade whatsoever on the road down at the Dead Sea.

The first three kilometers went ok. I was running at about 6:30 per km, which is an ok pace for me for a long run. I walked through the water station at 2 km, but quickly started running again. At around 4 km, I started feeling really lousy. It took me longer to walk through this water station and I started to get concerned -- I still had 17 km to go. I hit the 5k mark at about 32 minutes -- still at an ok pace, especially considering how lousy I was feeling. But things started to go downhill.

I found myself walking more and more. I was coughing and when I wasn't coughing, I was breathing really hard. I had never felt this bad during a race before.

At the 10k mark, Itzik, who was supposed to be running with me was waiting for me. He had run the first couple of kilometers with me and then waited for me at 4k, but then he did the next 6 km alone. This was fine with me, because there was no way I could hold his pace and I hated feeling like I was holding him back. But for the second half of the race, he never left my side. At some points, I was running so slowly that he was walking next to me. I did quite a bit of walking, myself. I was having so much trouble breathing that I couldn't even call his name to tell him to slow down when he pulled slightly ahead of me. It was really really bad.

My pace got slower and slower. With 4 km to go, I realized that I was not going to make the 2:30 cutoff. Yikes. But there were people just slightly ahead of me and several behind me, as well, so I just kept moving fowards.

With 2 km to go, I took water at the last water station and decided that there would be no more walking. I just wanted to finish. Itzik insisted that I had to pass this woman who was slightly up ahead of me. She had run the entire race, but very slowly. She had also spent quite a lot of time singing and she was kind of fun to be behind, but it was time to leave her behind, so I did. I picked up the pace, got past her and kept picking up the pace. With 1 km to go, I could see the end. I decided that I didn't care how sick I was or how hard this was, I was going to give it everything I had. I was breathing hard, but I didn't feel a thing -- all I could think about was the finish line that was getting closer and closer. I wanted to be there. According to my chip splits, I did the last km in 5:55. I didn't quite make the cutoff, but they hadn't closed the course -- I finished in 2:31:23. I was very disappointed with my time, but very happy just to have finished my first ever half marathon in the state that I was in.

After the race, I could barely move. I managed to hand in my chip and get my shirt and the bag full of food. The only thing I could even think about eating was the yogurt. It had bits of dried fruit in it and although they were very very soft, chewing them was torture. The pain in my face (from my sinuses) was far worse than anything I felt in my legs. I was really in agony. I took 400 mg of ibuprofen and a decongestant and within about half an hour, I was feeling slightly better. I then went to the spas and sat in the salt water pool for a few minutes and then showered. By the time I'd finished showering, the pills had really started working and although my nose was getting stuffed up again, I felt much better (unfortunately, this feeling much better stuff didn't last long -- by the next morning, I felt like I was dying).

This was, by far, the hardest race I have ever done. I certainly trained for it and should have been able to finish it 15 minutes faster than I did, but I was miserable thoughout most of it. In fact, in retrospect, I don't have any idea how I managed to get through 21.1 km feeling the way I did, but I did it and despite my disappointing time, I'm proud of myself. I'm pretty sure that if Itzik hadn't been there with me through the second half, I'd have just laid down on the road and died (or pretty close). It'll be much easier next time (I plan to do it healthy).

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