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.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ein Gedi Half Marathon - 16 February 2008

Pictures lie. I look a whole lot better than I felt!!!

It's over, I did it. I didn't achieve any of my goals, but I did PR. I
don't even know if I should call this a good race or a terrible one
-- it was almost like two races in one...

After a very rainy week, we got a beautiful, sunny day for today's
race. There was almost no wind at all, which is very unusual for Ein
Gedi -- usually, there's a strong headwind the entire way back. It was
also very warm -- way too warm for February and much warmer than any
weather I've run in for the last three or four months at least. The
funniest part about that is that they're predicting an extremely cold
week, starting Monday -- even talking about snow. I couldn't even
imagine cold or snow today.

I went out to do a 2 km warm up before the race, but after about a
kilometer, I heard the announcement that all of the start times were
being changed. The 10k was supposed to start at 8:30 and the half
marathon at 9:15. Everything had been pushed back by half an hour. So
I stopped my warm up in the middle and finished it up later on. At
9:30, around the time that I finished warming up, it was very warm
out. I had done the previous warm up in a singlet and shorts and now I
was sweating in them and the race hadn't even started. Yikes. My legs
felt great, though -- no aches and pains at all.

I decided to do two things that I don't normally do. One was to run
with my mp3 player. I do train in it, but I'd never raced with it
before, although they haven't been made illegal here at road races (or
at least not yet). Almost everyone I knew doing the half marathon was
running with one and since I like music when I run, I figured why not.
I have to admit that for the most part, I wasn't sorry -- it kept me
occupied and helped me keep up my pace and I kept it turned down low
enough to be able to hear the people around me and even to carry on a
conversation. The other thing I did was I ran with my heart rate
monitor. I haven't raced with it in a very long time and I'm sorry I
did. More on that later...

The race started out GREAT. It took about 10 seconds to actually start
moving after the start (and they measure time from the start of the
race, not from the starting mat -- in fact, I didn't even see a
starting mat today). There were a lot of people running and even once
I did start moving, it was quite slow for almost a minute. Then I
found an open spot and I was able to start running. I felt fantastic.
My legs didn't hurt (not even once during the entire race, in fact),
the pace felt comfortable and I was smiling. The only thing that
bothered me was that although the pace felt comfortable, when I
glanced down to see what heart rate I was running at, I saw it was
already over 160 -- and the race had just started. My heart rate
didn't seem to correspond with the way I was feeling, though, so I
just kept going.

I finished the first km in 6:29, which was technically over the
average pace I was aiming for, but not once I deducted the 10 seconds
it had taken me to start moving. I wanted to run at 6:20 and that's
just about where I was -- maybe even a little bit faster. As I
continued, I periodically looked down to check my pace and I saw that
I was actually running slightly faster than I had intended to, so I
tried to slow down a bit. The second km was 6:18 and the third was
6:17. After that, though, they started getting a little bit slower,
and I wasn't sure why. My heart rate was high, but I felt good and I
was running more or less with the same people all the time. I decided
that I didn't really care and I just kept going at the slightly slower
pace -- around 6:30/km -- planning to pick it up a bit after the turn

At the halfway mark, I was still feeling good. I had finished the
first 10k in about 1:05 or so and I reached the turnaround in 1:08:55.
I was sure I was going to finish in under 2:20. Because of the heat, I
had taken a salt capsule at the start and I had planned to take
another one at the turn around, but when I reached into my pocket to
get it, it wasn't there. It must have fallen out when I pulled out a
gel at 4 km. So much for that.

As soon as I turned around, I suddenly started feeling out of breath.
I figured that I'd picked up the pace when I saw the halfway point
(which I had), so I just slowed down a bit and tried to get my heart
rate down. It had been over 170 for quite a while, which is very high
for me, or at least running at that pace. I would have been better off
not knowing this, because at some point, the fact that I couldn't get
it down started to bother me. It just kept climbing higher and higher,
although I was running more and more slowly.

At 13 km, I was starting to feel a little bit less than great. My
heart rate was over 180 at this point (in fact, I just had a look at
the data and saw that at 13 km, it reached 185). I decided that this
would be a good time to take my second gel. This particular water
station was rather comic. They were handing out sponges at 13 km and
because it was getting really hot (it was probably only around 72
degrees or so, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun was
directly overhead), I wrung out the sponge on the top of my head.
That would have been fine if I'd tilted my head back a bit further,
but I guess I misjudged the direction that the water would flow down
in and it ended up coming down in my eyes. The combination of water,
sweat and sunscreen made my eyes sting terribly -- it was so bad that
I couldn't keep them open. So there I was, running with my eyes
closed, praying I wouldn't trip over anything (or anyone). I had a
bottle of water in one hand and a gel in the other. I guess I could
have poured more water in my eyes, but I was afraid that would make it
worse. Instead, I somehow managed to pull off my sunglasses and wipe
my eyes with my hands, which did the trick. I took the second gel,
drank some water, through the bottle aside and kept going.

I started to feel a little bit better, but I was counting down the
kilometers left until the end and this wasn't a good sign. My heart
rate was at around 176 or so and my pace was way off. I don't know why
this was, as I'm normally stronger in the second half of a race (or
even a long run) than I am in the first. Maybe it was the heat (I
later heard other people commenting on how hard the second half of the
race had been for them).

Things really started to go downhill. My heart rate was still climbing
and I was doing something that resembled running but wasn't much (or
any) faster than walking. I hit the 16 km mark and told myself, "Just
5 more kilometers -- that's nothing!" This was where I had planned on
really picking up the pace, but I could barely keep my legs moving. At
17 km, I was still going, but I was feeling bad. By 18 km, I was
feeling nauseated. At 18.3 km, my legs stopped running. In fact, my
legs almost stopped moving entirely. I could barely walk -- I felt
like I was standing on jelly and I was sure that at any moment, I'd no
longer be upright. About 100 meters later, I heard my friend Ella, who
had been behind me for the entire race, scream, "Bari! RUN!!!" I
started running again and that worked for a while, but towards 19 km,
I was really starting to slow down. That's when Ella passed me. She'd
never passed me in a race before and watching her go by was rather
disheartening. I slowed to a walk again and this time I decided to
walk until I could get my heart rate down a bit. I also took advantage
of that time to drink about half of the bottle that I'd been handed at
the water station. I was still feeling really nauseated, but when my
heart rate finally got down to 150, I started running again.

Just before the 20k mark, my friend, Itzik, was waiting for me. He had
finished his half marathon and come back to help me finish mine. We
ran for a few seconds, but then I started walking again. I was feeling
so sick that I was sure I was about to vomit all over the road. Maybe
it was all the water I'd drunk -- I don't know. He encouraged me to
run -- we were almost at the finish -- and at 20k, I decided that
enough was enough and I started running again. I was even able to pick
up the pace a bit. Actually, this isn't all that surprising. My legs
felt more or less ok and 1 km before the finish, I didn't care how
high my heart rate got -- I just wanted to finish. The km between 20
and 21 was the fastest of the day and the 100 meters after that were
at an even faster pace. I crossed the finish line at 2:24:34. This was
not the time I had wanted to do, but it was a PR and it was also seven
minutes faster than last year (and this year I managed to finish
before the official closing of the course).

I'm a bit disappointed with my time, but the first half of the race
did go very well, so what concerns me more is what went wrong in the
second half. I've been going over all the details in my mind, trying
to figure out why my heart rate was so high for the entire race and
why I felt so nauseated for the last few kilometers. The heart rate
could be from any number of things -- excitement, the heat, or who
knows what else. The nausea, though, is weird. I thought it was from
running at such a high heart rate for so long (which is why I wish I
hadn't worn the heart rate monitor, because then it might not have
occurred to me that I should slow down to make it go away). Then I
started thinking that maybe it was that second gel that did it to me
or maybe just the heat. Or maybe I'd had TOO much water (there was no
sports drink on the course this year -- nothing but water. Last year
there was sports drink at some of the stations and also bananas).
Maybe it was a combination of things. I don't know and it's driving me
nuts, because without knowing what caused it, I can't prevent it from
happening again.

I also think I need a better game plan for next time. I went out at my
planned pace, but maybe I should have started out slower (or maybe my
planned average pace was too fast, though based on my 10k times, it
shouldn't have been). In any case, at the end of the day, all it
really was was another race and at least part of it went well. I wish
I had RUN the whole thing, but I didn't actually walk all that much
and all of the walking was done in the space of 1.7 km (and I only
walked a few hundred meters) -- not that big a deal, as I finished
21.1 km.

Oh, and I treated myself to a new pair of Sugoi cycling shorts at the expo :-)

Saturday, February 02, 2008


That's how many kilometers I ran today. Well, actually, it was around
24.1, but 24 is close enough. It was painful at times, slow and not
too pretty, but I finished. This was my longest ever run and to be
honest, I have absolutely no desire to run any further (so no
marathons in my future, I guess, unless running gets easier). I'm
proud of myself, though, for sticking it out and finishing -- and also
for reaching the peak of my half marathon training. Now it's time to
start my taper.

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