These were the national sprint triathlon championships, which doesn't mean a whole lot (apart from the race getting more money from the government). Despite being the "national championships", it wasn't a very big race, but it was a nice one -- good location, good course, great weather.
While warming up on the beach, I saw a huge jellyfish (I'd say about 30 cm in diameter -- that's a foot for those of you who are still challenged by the metric system). I already knew that there were jellyfish in the water, as we had swum at this beach the previous weekend. Still, seeing one that size didn't exactly make me want to go in the water. I apparently made this very obvious -- as I was slowly making my way into the water (which, by the way, was crystal clear, perfect temperature and as calm as a lake) for a short warmup, someone commented something to the effect of "You look like you're still trying to make up your mind." Uh, yeah... Fortunately, my swim was free of any jellyfish incidents, but one of the older kids on the team wasn't as lucky -- a jellyfish attached itself to his nose during the swim, making it very red and swollen and ultimately causing him to drop out of the race during the run when he just couldn't handle the stinging and the swelling anymore.
Anyway, back to my race...
Because the race was fairly small, they decided to combine all of the sprint starts -- youth, elite and age group -- into one. That means I got to start with twins Ran and Dan Alterman (at least one of whom will hopefully be representing Israel in the Beijing Olympics)
,Nina Pekerman (national women's champion) and Bar Fogel (national youth champion), all of whom were out of the water around the time I hit the first buoy. I took my "swim with the champions" in stride and just did my own thing -- after all, I rode to the race in the same car as Bar Fogel with his not-quite-as-famous dad Itzik driving and I managed to get all the way to Ashdod (and back home) without asking for an autograph.
Oh, yeah -- back to the race...
The swim was rather brutal. I'd had this stupid idea to draft off of a teammate. I followed her into the water, started swimming long after I would normally have started, and then followed her into a huge crowd of swimmers (not before she'd managed to almost kick me in the face by switching to breaststroke). She managed to get out of the crowd, but I got stuck and I was surrounded by people during the entire swim. I got whacked in the head, hit and kicked (including my personal "favorite" of having my goggles kicked closer to my face, if there is such a
thing) during the entire swim. In fact, the goggle kicking incident occurred just seconds before I finished the swim. I also kicked my share of swimmers, I'm afraid. Overall, it wasn't a particulary pleasant experience (better than jellyfish, though) and I was glad to get out of the water.
Running to the transition area, I saw Ronit (the woman I'd tried to draft off of) already running out with her bike. I quickly got ready to ride and ran out with my bike to try and catch up with her. We had to ride three loops of a mainly flat course with a lot of traffic circles. Because the course was short, it was a draft legal race. There were at least three crashes on the course, including one of the elite athletes -- I don't know if they were the result of taking the traffic circles too fast or of careless drafting, but it's never fun to see cyclists lying in the road.
On the first loop, Bar Fogel whizzed past me, riding by himself. He later asked me why I hadn't caught up with him so that I could draft off of him. I hope he was kidding (and I'm pretty sure he was, unless he'd been planning to throw me a rope or something so that I could keep up). I, too, ended up working alone for most of the ride, as I didn't find any good drafting partners (unlike Bar, the Altermans just didn't want me in their peloton). I could see Ronit up ahead, but she was quite a distance in front of me. Finally, on the second loop, I managed to catch up with her and pass her. I must have slowed down a bit after that because on the last loop she caught up with me and we finished together.
I'm pretty quick on the transition. Ronit, on the other hand, takes her time to do things like pull a shirt out of her bag and wipe her face (this gave me a good chuckle and I decided to remind her that this was a race). I finished my transition before her and took off running. We had to run around the entire transition area before actually going out on to the run course and just as we reached the course, Ronit passed me. No big surprise -- she has always run faster than me.
The run was two out-and-backs. The first
out-and-back was hard for me. I had run through the transition area too quickly and I was still trying to catch my breath when the course started going uphill. Eventually, there was a nice downhill section to pull myself together, but that was followed by an even worse uphill right to the turn-around point. When I ran over the mat, all I could think was "I don't want to do this again!" At the second turn-around (for the second out-and-back) there was no mat. I clearly remember what went through my mind right at that moment: "I could just stop here, wait 15 minutes or so and then cross the finish line and then I wouldn't have to run anymore!" Of course, my oxygen deprived brain had forgotten one minor detail -- there was at timing mat at the other end of the course that I had to run over again. In any case, I would never really cheat -- it was just one of those crazy thoughts that I occasionally have when I'm suffering.
The second out-and-back was much easier than the first. I have no idea why, but this seems to be the case at every single race I do, so maybe it's something to keep in mind while I'm suffering through the first half. On the way back, I actually managed to pick up some speed and I saw that I was closing the gap between Ronit and me. She was too far ahead to catch, though, and I finished 31 seconds behind her. Another race finished.
I ended the day with a podium spot -- 3rd in my age group (ok, so there weren't that many women in my age group, but there WERE more than three...). I also finished with a good time, going under 1:30 for the second time in a row, although I should mention that the bike course was 19 km instead of 20. And I was home in time for lunch.
Oh, and a side note... This was also the team championships and our team (pictured below) took first place. Go Lehavim!
Just the top row, from left to right: Itzik and Shaul (team managers), Yodar (what's he doing up there with the grownups?), Yigal (coach), Ronit, Sami, me, Gil