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, October 27, 2007

Four Peaks

While most of my team was at a duathlon today, I did a long ride with two other team members who, like me, had decided to skip today's race. I thought we'd do something easy, but no, instead, we chose to do "Four Peaks" (also known as "Quatre Peaks" or just four big hills). I hadn't done this route with all of the hills in a while and, in fact, I'd never done it without actually having been told to. I found it surprisingly pleasant and not terribly difficult -- like I said last week, I'm starting to like hills! Here's the elevation map from my Garmin with each of the hills pointed out:

Although it's not the hardest hill, Joe Alon is, in my opinion, the most "annoying" by far. It never actually looks like you're going uphill, but you can sure feel it in your legs! Imagine riding on what appears to be a flat road, your legs burning like crazy in low gear, looking down at your watch and seeing a 15% grade climb! The 15% was probably off (the Garmin Forerunner isn't terribly accurate when it comes to elevation, especially "real time" readings), but it wasn't too far off, at least for that particular section of the climb. Goral is the easiest of the four (in fact, I found it very easy today, even though I was still just warming up) and my favorite is Sansana, which takes you right up into the forest, or the closest thing you can find to a forest here.

The only downside of today's ride was the wind, which made going downhill a bit scary (I could really feel it blowing me across the road). Oh, and the herd of goats crossing the street as I was coming down Eshkolot was a bit of a bother!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Advice to newbies

My blog description says I'm a newbie, but I've been at this for about three years, so I guess I'm not all that "new" at it anymore.  And newbies are actually asking me for advice (see the comment on my last post)!  So maybe I should finally start doing something that I'm really good at -- giving advice to other people. 

Today's advice is on learning how to drink while riding...

When I first started cycling after a break of many many years, I was scared to death to let go of the handlebars for even a second.  I had a bottle cage on my bike, but that was just for holding the bottle so that when I stopped I could take a drink.  Well, my former coach caught on pretty quickly when he saw that I didn't drink once on a 45 kilometer ride (my first ever "long" ride -- seems kind of short to me now).  He took me to an empty parking lot and had me ride around in circles.  At first, he told me just to take my right hand off the handlebars and try to touch my bottle.  After we did that for a while, he told me to try taking the bottle out of the bottle cage.  And finally, I got to actually drink from the bottle.  This took some time and it wasn't as easy as I'm making it sound.  Also, it took a while before I was willing to do this out on the road and even longer before I actually felt comfortable doing it.

Really, there's no way to learn how to do this other than just doing it.  Find a place to ride where you won't be bothered (or endangered) by traffic and practice just touching the bottle briefly.  Do that until you know exactly where it is without having to look down.  Do it a lot.  Then, when that becomes comfortable, try taking the bottle out of the bottle cage.  If you can't get it back in at first, just stop and put it back (yes, it is possible to grab your brakes with a bottle in your hand).  Keep practicing this new skill until you can put the bottle back.  Again, the trick is to learn how to do it without looking -- that's what will make you feel confident and unafraid.  The drinking part is easy -- once you can take the bottle out and put it back, drinking won't be a problem, so I won't even bother explaining that part. 

Generally, it's a good idea to ride with two hands, but learning how to ride with one is important, as well (we all have to wipe our noses or push up our sunglasses or scratch an itch at times). 

Now I need to take my own advice and learn how to take my left hand off the handlebars so that I can open and close my shoes while on the bike...

Monday, October 22, 2007

The things I no longer suck at...

I just reread this list of things that I suck at from May 2006.  Well, it turns out that I no longer suck at all those things:

  • I no longer suck at running in the water, or at least I don't feel silly doing it (probably more of the latter, but that's ok, because I don't think anyone is really great at running in water).
  • I no longer suck at turn-arounds on the bike.  No, I'm not really speedy, but I never think I'm going to crash anymore and I guess I'm not all that slow, either.
  • Drinking on the bike?  A piece of cake.  I can't believe that less than a year and a half ago I "sucked" at this.  There are still times when I prefer to wait to drink, mainly because I like to have both hands on the bike when I know I'm going to need to shift or go around the corner, but grabbing the bottle is not a problem, nor is putting it back.
  • I don't suck at changing my shoes.  In fact, my transitions are pretty fast.  I'm not sure I ever really sucked at this -- maybe it was my imagination.
I'm still not great at the rest of the things on the list and I'm afraid I may need to add swimming to that list pretty soon (especially after last night's disastrous workout, which I would rather forget than write about), but who really cares?  I'm having fun!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I may be starting to like hills...

Ok, this is kinda scary. I mean, why on earth would someone like me, who seems to enjoy complaining more than anything else, like hills???

We do our major hill workouts on this horrible, annoying hill. What makes it annoying? The fact that you can't get anywhere by going up it -- all you can do is turn around and go back down. Well, that and the fact that the road isn't in great shape and it's very narrow and twisting and going back down the hill is worse than going up it, especially when there are people riding in both directions. It's about 2 or 2.5 km long and it's actually several hills. It starts with a very steep incline. It's fairly short, but every single time I do it, just before the end I start thinking, "There's no way I'm going to make it up this thing today" -- and then I'm at the top of the incline, which is the hardest part of the hill (in my opinion). Then there are several more semi-steep hills with minor inclines in between. One of them is a bit longer and quite tiring. Well, ok, the whole thing is tiring. And then, you get to the top and you have to make this hairpin turn to turn around and go back down. Every time I turn around at the top, I'm sure I'm going off the side of the road and I have to remind myself to look where I want to go, not where I don't want to go.

Today's ride started out in some very thick fog. Actually, it didn't (because if had been that foggy while we were still in town, we never would have left). We turned out onto the main road and I could see some very low clouds up ahead, but I didn't realize how low they were until I was riding through them. As always, I had my sunglasses on and it took me a while to realize that the main reason I couldn't see anything at all was because my sunglasses had completely fogged up. The ride to the hill is also uphill (or at least the first 5 km or so is uphill), so I didn't really feel like stopping to take off my sunglasses and I'm not terribly talented when it comes to actually finding my pocket and putting something in it as I'm riding, so I just pushed my sunglasses to the edge of my nose and looked over them. That's when I saw the water dripping off my helmet (and it's also around when I realized that my gloves were soaking wet). So we stopped at a gas station after turning off the main road in order to decide what we were going to do. Obviously, going up and down a dangerous hill in zero visibility wasn't a very good idea.

We took off in two groups and by the time we got to the base of the hill, the fog had dissipated and we were able to start. But then I realized how many people (including some not very careful and not very old kids) were going up and down the hill and I panicked. I am really scared of someone riding right into me as I'm going up and they're coming down. So everyone took off and I just waited. Finally, I decided I had no choice and up I went.

The first time was hard, or at least it was hard at the beginning. I had to remind myself to JFRide. Then I whizzed back down, got off my bike, ran a kilometer and got back on my bike for round two. The second time was much easier. Back down again (much more slowly this time -- a couple of big tractors came up the hill as I was riding down and there was barely enough room for them to pass), another 1 km run and back up the hill for round 3. The third time was a little harder -- my legs were starting to feel the climb. But I got to the top (passing one of my teammates rather quickly and then surprising myself after the turnaround when I realized how much faster than him I'd climbed the hill -- at that point he was WAY behind me and he's not normally slower than I am). Turned around, rode back down, ran a kilometer and called it a day (well, apart from the ride home). I could have done it a fourth time (though that would have meant that the rest of the team would have had to wait for me), but I wanted to finish the workout feeling good and with the feeling that I could have done a little more, rather than finishing exhausted with the feeling that I'd reached my limit. I'd only done that hill three times in a row once before and that was a year and a half ago (and I didn't run that day, so it was a little easier).

And the crazy part is that when I got home, the main thing going through my head was that it had been a fun ride. Huh??? Obviously, I am losing my mind!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I don't have to pick up my feet when I run!

Forget all those form drills and my coach screaming, "Pick up your feet!"  According to this article , the way I run (which looks pretty funny to other people) may well be the perfect, most economical way for me to run.  So there.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ashdod Sprint Triathlon -- 12 October 2007

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

Monday, October 08, 2007

It's all in the angle

When I first saw this picture from yesterday's ride, all I could think was, "Wow, I look really bad on my bike." Well, that was only until I saw the rest of the pictures (of the other people on the ride). We all looked the same. I guess that's what happens when the person taking the picture is sitting in a car and shooting slightly up. But hey, at least I'm smiling!

Oh, and the reason I'm riding in my tri suit is because I'm much too lazy to actually change into a bathing suit when I get to the beach. All I had to do was take off my helmet, gloves, sunglasses, shoes and socks and put on my goggles and I was ready to swim! However, a tri suit is not the most comfortable thing to wear for a long ride -- the padding isn't all that padded...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

80 km to the beach

Ok, so it was actually 78 km, but close enough. A fun, easy ride this
morning. If someone had told me three years ago that I'd call 78 km
an "easy ride", I would have died laughing. I remember wondering if
I'd be able to ride 8 km in my first triathlon. Things have changed

We rode to Ashdod and then we rode the bike course for this coming
Friday's race. Then we went for a quick dip in the sea. The water
was so clear that I could see right to the bottom, even where it was
deep. I even saw a fish or two.

It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The advantage of having a stand (almost) to yourself

Obviously, I took advantage of the empty stand at Saturday's race. I have absolutely no memory of these pictures being taken, nor do I remember being such a hog and using all that empty space, but here's the evidence (I've just racked my bike and I'm changing my shoes):

The woman next to me, by the way, is doing a relay and waiting for the cyclist to return so that she can start the run.

The second picture is even stranger. I've got one shoe on and I have no idea why I'm holding the other shoe like this (though I think maybe I've still got one cycling shoe on and I'm trying to push it off with the other foot). I also have no idea why I'm smiling -- an enjoyable transition, maybe???

Monday, October 01, 2007

Triathlon pet peeves

I like to race. In fact, most of the time, I really like to race.
I'm never going to make it to the Olympics or be a pro triathlete or
be famous, so if I didn't like racing, I wouldn't do it. However,
there are a few things that bother me at races. I don't mean for this
to be a negative post, so I'm only going to write about one of them
here: blocking.

When I get out on the bike course, there are always people in front of
me who are slower than I am. There are two reasons for this:

1) Relative to other triathletes, I'm usually slightly faster on the
bike than I am in the swim, so there are fast swimmers but slow
cyclists ahead of me.

2) There is almost always at least one wave ahead of mine that has
both fast and slow triathletes. Usually it's the sprint up to 39
wave, which normally starts five or ten minutes before the sprint 40+
wave. That means that everyone in that wave has a five to ten minute
lead on me and I'm faster than probably about a quarter to a third of
them and significantly faster than a few (I even pass some of them in
the water). I catch up to most of the slower up-to-39 athletes on the

I don't mind having people in front of me on the bike course. In
fact, I really enjoy passing people and it motivates me to go faster.
I particularly like picking out someone some distance ahead and "going
after him" until I pick him off. I think we all like this. I can
rarely do it on the run, but I can almost always do it on the bike.
What I dislike is slow cyclists riding in the middle of the road or on
the center line. I am constantly asking people to move right, which
they normally do, but it would be a lot more considerate (not to
mention in accordance with the rules) if they were already riding on
the right.

What I dislike even more than slow cyclists not on the right-hand side
of the road is groups of slow cyclists riding abreast of one another.
It doesn't even have to be a group, actually -- a pair is enough to
really tick me off. These people are normally breaking two rules --
blocking and drafting. It's a lot harder to get past them than it is
to get past a single cyclist, as if the road isn't all that wide, one
of them has to first pull ahead of the other before it's possible to
pass them.

Some of these people are warned or even disqualified from the race by
passing race officials, but no matter how good the officials are (and
I have some very good friends who are race officials, so you won't
normally hear me complaining about how they do their job), they can't
be everywhere on the course. It really puts a damper on my race when
I have to slow down simply because I'm stuck behind someone who isn't
moving out of the way fast enough (and never should have been there to
begin with).

So that's my triathlon pet peeve, or at least my biggest one. Anyone
else want to post theirs?

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