After breakfast, we had a little bit of time to rest (and digest) before heading out for the second workout of the day at 10 a.m. Remember how cold it was in the morning? Well, it wasn't cold anymore and it was getting hotter by the minute. The heat, combined with the very low humidity in Eilat (normally around 10-15%, I believe), were to be major factors in this workout, which was definitely the low point of training camp for me.
The plan was to ride up to Ein Netafim, only about 10 km, but with a climb of around 550 meters, then ride back down most of the way, run 5 km and return to the youth hostel. I'd done Ein Netafim once before, during training camp two years ago, but I hadn't made it all the way to the top then (well, I did make it to the top, but I walked the last kilometer and a half or so). My teammate, Ronit, HAD made it to the top that day and I had vowed to make it all the way next time -- if Ronit can do it, so can I!
Time out for a side note... Ronit and I are teammates and we're not in the same age group (she's five years older than I am), but there is some healthy competition between us. Mainly, it serves to push us both a little harder. She's always been just a little bit faster than me and it drives me nuts, but it also gives me incentive. She took a year off from training due to breast cancer, but she came back several months ago, stronger than ever (that in itself is incredible) and I still can't keep up with her, except on the bike where I improved a lot while she was sick. Since Ronit did this climb two years ago, in my mind, there was absolutely no reason why I couldn't do it now -- I'm a better cyclist now than she was then. And back to my climb...
The climb started out great. I was trying to keep my heart rate as low as possible, spinning in low gear (although I couldn't really call it "spinning" for very long, but I still tried to save as much energy as possible). I quickly pulled ahead of Ronit and several other teammates and apart from one, I never saw them again during the climb. This is a steady climb, apart from two very very short breaks where the road goes downhill for maybe 100-200 meters. It was getting hotter and hotter (I'm talking mid 90s) and despite the dry climate and the wind, the sweat was still managing to drip down my face and into my eyes. That plus the flies was making me a little bit nuts, but I kept going. However, I have trouble drinking while I'm climbing slowly -- I really feel like I need both hands on the bike for balance. I had to wait until those short breaks to drink. I should have stopped the bike, had a drink and then continued on. Everyone is smarter in retrospect.
I don't know when the climb started getting really hard. I really was doing fine for a long time, despite the fact that I wasn't going any faster than 8 or 9 kph and sometimes even slower. I tried not to look too far ahead, because I found that looking up really freaked me out -- it's a never-ending climb. At around 8.4 km or so, I'd had it. My feet just kind of clipped out by themselves and I found myself standing on the side of the road. This is when I lost it. There was no one around (thankfully) and I just stood there and started sobbing. I admit it -- I cry really easily, especially when I'm stressed. I think it was my body that was stressed more than my mind, but crying is just my reaction to any kind of stress. I was also very disappointed. I'd planned to finish the climb and now that I'd stopped, I knew I couldn't finish because how could I possibly get back on the bike going uphill at a spot that had been so hard for me that I'd had to stop?
I stood there like that for about 15 minutes. At some point, I did stop crying (because I was literally screaming at a wasp that wouldn't leave me alone). I looked up and down and didn't see anyone. Eventually, a few of the faster riders did start coming down and then one of the drivers that was accompanying us pulled up and asked if I was ok and if I wanted to keep climbing or go back down. When I told him that I didn't think I'd be able to get on the bike, he told me that the grade wasn't too bad where I was standing and that I'd be able to do it. Amazingly, he was right. That 15 minute break (along with a lot of sports drink, though not enough) had done wonders. I easily got back on my bike and started heading uphill again.
I made it about 800 meters and then I had to stop again. The same driver stopped again and said that it was almost time to start heading down, so if I wanted to make it to the top, I had to get moving. So I got back on my bike and kept going, but it just wasn't meant to be. 100 meters later, I was off the bike again and this time, despite my great disappointment, I knew it was over. I was 500-700 meters from the top -- not too far, but it might as well have been a million miles, because I just couldn't do it. I managed to get off my bike and cross the road, intending to head back down, but when I got to the other side of the road, I realized that I couldn't get back on my bike. I was shaking like crazy, my heart rate was something like 175, which is very high for me on the bike and I was pretty certain that if I did somehow manage to actually get on the bike, there was no way I could control it going down that twisting, turning hill. I tried to call one of the other drivers, but he didn't answer, so I just stood there until the same driver came by again, this time with my coach in tow. I told my coach that I couldn't get back on the bike because I was shaking and I felt horrible and he said that I should get in the car and he'd ride my bike down (I think he was actually thrilled to get to ride!). The only problem was that I couldn't even swing my leg over the bike again. He had to hold my bike and hold on to me in order for me to get off (and I still managed to almost fall over).
So I rode down to the area where we were supposed to run in the car. When I got there, I just laid down on my back in the grass, unable to even think about running. When my coach showed up with my bike, I took the bike from him and then laid back down. I have no idea how anyone else was able to run in that heat, but I couldn't move and I certainly wasn't going to attempt to run 5 km or even 1 km for that matter. I was still shaking and I was starting to get nauseous. I was drinking, but still not enough.
Here's the elevation graph from the ride. The downhill part at the end is where I forgot to turn off my Garmin after getting in the car. I only rode the long uphill part...
After everyone was finished running, we got back on our bikes to ride down the rest of the way, maybe 3 km, to the youth hostel. We were supposed to ride down as a group, but I couldn't keep up because I still felt terrible and I was holding onto the brakes, just hoping not to fall over. I should have asked for a lift down. In the end, I did
ask for a lift down. I managed to get down most of the way, but there was a spot where the road got bumpy due to road work and as soon as I started bumping all over the place, I knew there was no way I could keep my bike upright, so I clipped out and called one of the drivers to come get me. He put my bike in the truck and drove me down the rest of the way.
I somehow managed to put my bike away and get up into the dining room, but I had no appetite and I was still shaking and nauseous. My best friend (the same driver who'd driven me and my bike down the end of the hill) suggested that I try some rice, which is what I did, along with some salad and a lot of water and juice. By the end of the meal, I was feeling much
better, but I couldn't take in any protein, which left me pretty hungry later on.
After lunch, I took a 2-hour nap, which did wonders. I didn't sleep all that well (stupid kids from the team were making a lot of noise outside), but just lying down was enough. I woke up feeling like a new person, but I did notice that despite the enormous amount of water, sports drink and juice that I'd taken in, I was barely urinating and, in fact, the only reason I went at all was because I thought I should
-- I felt no need to pee at all. Bad sign, but not surprising considering the weather.
Note to myself: Next time I try climbing up Ein Netafim, I have to stop to drink and also take salt tablets with me. I did have salt tablets. They were back in my bag at the youth hostel.
The last workout of the day was a swim/run, which was mainly a swim. It was starting to get dark, but it was still light enough to swim. We did a few hundred meters with some running on the beach and that was pretty much it. It was a fun, not very hard workout. We then went back to the youth hostel for yet another shower (this was the third of the day -- I'd showered after the ride, too) and dinner, followed by a short lecture and then ice cream. I was in bed by about 10:30 or so, ready for another 5 a.m. wakeup call the next day.