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, September 29, 2007

Gan Shmuel (Hof Karmel) Triathlon - 29 September 2007

I missed this race last year because I was still recovering from my
broken hand. I was really looking forward to doing it this year
because of the very fast bike course -- I wanted to finally have an
official result of under 40 minutes for 20 km (I did under 40 minutes
at the Jordan Valley Triathlon, but there was no mat at the end of the
bike course, so my bike time in the results included the transition
and was slightly over 40 minutes).

I'm not in the greatest shape. My back is basically better, only
hurting occasionally, but my swimming has been terrible. I'm almost
completely free of shin splints, but my left shin still bothers me
after hard runs and I haven't been running all that far. I figured I
was in good enough shape to finish this race, though, and hopefully
improve my time from two years ago. My dream was to go under 1:30,
but I knew that wasn't realistic.

We left at about 3:30 a.m. and arrived at the race site about 20
minutes before they opened the transition area. We had to find the
person who was holding our numbers for us and then we had plenty of
time to get set up in the transition area. At this race, the places
in the transition area are reserved by number (unlike most races here,
where you have to fight to get a good place and then hope that no one
moves you). I couldn't have asked for a better spot -- at the end of
a very short rack, right by the bike exit. I ended up being all alone
on that rack -- I don't know what happened to everyone else.

After a quick run warmup followed by a quick swim warmup, I was ready
to go. I wasn't feeling 100% and I was especially concerned about the
fact that my back was bothering me. My shin was a bit sore, as well,
but I knew I could walk during the run if I had to -- I wasn't
completely sure I'd be able to swim a pain-free 750 meters, but then I
remembered that I'd managed 2000 meters in the pool with my back
hurting the whole time, so I figured I'd be ok.

As I was waiting for the start, I completely missed the announcer
saying, "One minute to start," "30 seconds to start," etc. It's a
good thing I had my goggles on, because all I heard was, "Take your
marks!" followed by a horn. We were off.

It was a fairly long run into the water and then I found a very good
spot to swim in right from the start. I can't say that no one touched
me during the swim, but there were no serious kicks or people trying
to swim over me. The sea was fairly calm and sighting was easy. I
think I actually managed to swim in a straight line, more or less.
And my back didn't really bother me. I wasn't swimming particularly
fast, though, and I was very aware of this fact. I think I have an
allergy to going fast, especially in the water! Just after the second
buoy, I felt someone actually swim into my feet and push me from
behind. This was kind of fun (in a weird kind of triathlon way),
because I felt like I'd been pushed forward a bit, but I couldn't
figure out how someone that fast and that strong could be behind me.
It only took me a second or two to figure it out -- the first of four
or five white swim caps passed me. These were the fastest guys from
the heat after mine (39 and under Olympic distance). I briefly
entertained the idea of catching a draft off of one of them. Yeah,
right. If I could swim fast enough to draft off of them, I would have
been in the front of my heat.

The swim was soon over and as usual, I forgot to check my watch when I
got out of the water. I did check it about 30 seconds or so later, as
I was running towards the transition area. I looked down and saw
15:00. Huh? Someone else in my shoes might have thought, "Wow, I had
a great swim today!" My mind doesn't work that way, though. The
first thing that went through my head was that someone much have hit
my arm and restarted my watch. But then I remembered that my watch
couldn't restart -- it could have been stopped, but it wouldn't have
started again. I still didn't think I'd had a great swim, though. I
figured the course had been short (and I believe it was).

I had a good transition and headed out with my bike. Swim time plus
T1 was 16:52. Two years ago, I did 19:06 (but I suspect that course
really was 750 meters then).

The bike was what I'd been looking forward to. I have to admit,
though, that I was a bit disappointed. The bike course was so crowded
that it was impossible to avoid drafting and it was very difficult to
pass. People were riding all over the place and to make matters
worse, there was some road work going on that had closed the shoulder,
making the road narrower than it would normally be. At one point, I
wanted to pass two people riding abreast (yes, riding abreast the
entire time -- it was difficult not to draft, but some people just
blatantly ignored the drafting rules). There was no way for me to get
past them, so I yelled out, "Let me pass, please!" The guy on the
right moved further to the right. The woman on the left, though,
moved left. Maybe I could have ridden between them -- I'm not sure --
but I wasn't going to. I was getting closer and closer and she was
still blocking me, so I screamed, "Move RIGHT!" I guess she didn't
like my tone, because as I passed, she said, "Calm down! It's just a
race!" I wonder if she wanted me to calm down before I rode into her
or after...

Most of the bike course went like this for me. More than once, I
found myself in a position where I simply couldn't pass the people in
front of me. It was rather frustrating. However, I was making good
enough time to be able to achieve my goal of under 40 minutes. I
crossed the mat at 39:39 for exactly 20 km -- I'd done it. I was
happy about making my goal, but not completely happy with my ride.
I'm fairly certain I could have ridden faster and my relative
placement, both in my age group and overall, say the same. With the
bigger races in Israel getting more and more crowded, it's getting
harder and harder to have a good ride -- I think I'm going to need a
smaller race to really "prove myself". Two years ago, I did this bike
course in 44:01, so this was quite an improvement, despite my slight

All that was left was the run. I did a quick transition and as I was
heading out onto the run course, I looked at my watch and realized
that thanks to the apparently short swim course and a decent ride, it
was definitely possible for me to go under 1:30. It was getting warm
and running was hard, at first, but I really wanted to push for that
goal, so I kept moving. Most of the run was on a dirt path and some
of it, annoyingly, on sand. Some of it was also on asphalt, which is
my preferred running surface, even if it is a bit harder on my joints
(fewer things to trip over and slip on). I wasn't running fast, but I
was running and it actually started to get easier after a while. It
was only 5 km, but I've hardly run for the last three months and it
never actually got "easy". I did manage to chase away the negative
thoughts, though, and to keep running throughout, even through the
sand. At the 4 km mark, I checked my watch and saw that although 1:30
was still possible, I'd need to keep running at a fairly normal pace
to make it -- I wasn't exactly breaking any speed records. I picked
up the pace a little, soon crossed the finish line with a smile on my
face and then looked down at my watch. 1:29:24. Quite an improvement
over my time two years ago (1:36:33). In fact, even if the swim
course hadn't been short, I would have improved my time.

My run time did leave much to be desired, however: 32:52 for the
second transition and the 5 km run. Amazingly, though, even that was
better than two years ago (33:23). I need to take 10 minutes off that
run time if I want to be really competitive in my age group at this
distance. I think the better option is to find a new distance!

So that's it. A fun day and not a bad race. It certainly left a good
taste in my mouth and I'm looking forward to the next one (not sure
which race that will be yet).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Up, up, up...

We did some climbing today, as you can see from the elevation graph:

And in case it's not clear from that graph how steep one or two of these climbs were, here's the grade/distance graph:

The track smoothing on this is 60 seconds, so where you see an 8% incline, that means we were doing 8% for at least 60 seconds. In fact, the hardest climb was almost 3 km long and I did much of it at a "speedy" 8 kph. We were supposed to do that climb six times, but I have an allergy to repeated climbs that don't take me anywhere (as in climb the hill, ride back down, climb again, ride back down again, etc.), so I only did it once.

After the ride, we were supposed to run 3 km. I almost ditched the run -- my stomach hurt (too much holiday food) and it was 10 a.m. and very hot outside. But then I remembered that I'd saved my last 3 km of the week for today and also that I'd wimped out on the repeated climbs, so I made a deal with myself -- I could do the 3 km on the treadmill instead of outside. The air-conditioning was wonderful -- I can't believe how easy those 3 km were to run, even after those hills on the bike.

And the best part? I ran three times this week. That may sound like nothing, but after battling shin splints all summer and running very sporadically, three times in one week is an achievement for me.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My first DNS

I've only DNFed (did not finish) one race, the Eilat Triathlon two
years ago, when I crashed my bike. Today, I had my first DNS (did not
start). I signed up for the Caesarea Triathlon because... Well, I
don't really know why. It's a big race and lots of people were doing
it and I thought it might be fun.

Yesterday, I discovered that I had no way to get there, apart from
taking my own car. I don't mind driving, but I hate driving home from
races when I'm tired and this race is almost two hours away. I'm also
in the middle of a big translation job and I'm exhausted from the
first week of school. And my shin isn't completely healed yet,
although it's a lot better than it was. Then I heard that the sea was
very rough and they were thinking of making it a duathlon. A duathlon
would have meant another 2.5 km of running and also running further
than I have been in training.

In short, there were so many reasons not to do this race and I
couldn't find too many to do it, so I decided to ditch it. Instead of
getting up at 3 a.m., I got up at 6:30 and went out for a 60 km ride
with friends. Then I went to the pool and swam 1200 meters. That's
more than I would have done in a sprint triathlon and at least as
enjoyable, if not more.

DNFing kind of sucks, but this DNS thing wasn't bad at all...

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