Tri-ing in the Holy Land

The ramblings of a struggling triathlete in Israel

My Photo
Location: Israel

I'm the mother of 3, a teacher and a couch potato turned triathlete.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Women's Triathlon, Herzliya, Israel - 31 May 2008

I'd like to call this a really bad race, a catastrophe, a mistake. However, I think it would be better to refer to it as a learning experience.

Recap: Two weeks ago, I did my first Olympic distance race. Last week, I did the triple super sprint in Lehavim. This would be my third race in three weeks. It was just a sprint, but it was a race, nonetheless.

Everything leading up to this race was bad. I was tired in training this week. My hip was bothering me. I ate all the wrong stuff the day before. I didn't get enough sleep in the two nights leading up to the race. My husband didn't feel well and decided not to accompany me, so I had to drive both ways. Honestly, though, I wasn't thinking about any of this (apart from my hip). I had butterflies in my stomach starting the night before, which was really weird -- I'd done this race three times before and I was planning to just do it for the fun, so why was I nervous? On the way to the race, I freaked out, thinking I'd left my chip at home (I hadn't). I got my bike into the transition area just as they asked everyone to leave (no one did -- I got myself set up and then left). I did a quick 1 km warm up run (barefoot -- my shoes were in the transition area) and my legs were not into it at all. Then it was a quick dip in the water, which went slightly better.

While waiting for the start, I asked myself why exactly I was doing this race. That's nothing new. What was new was that I asked myself the same question repeatedly during the race. In retrospect, it was an excellent question.

The swim started out with a long run into the water. That went ok -- I ran in with the pack and started swimming with all the other women. Everything was going well until suddenly, I saw a very large woman directly in front of me swimming breaststroke with a kick that could kill. I tried everything to get away from her, but she was big and hard to get around (and there were women everywhere). Eventually, I resorted to swimming on the other side of the cable (where there were a lot of other women) -- I swam right up next to it until I could go back to the other side, making sure to round the buoy on the correct side.

The swim was crowded until the first buoy. It was semi-crowded until the second buoy. From the second buoy till the end, I had plenty of room to swim. When I got out of the water, I looked at my watch and had my first shock of the day -- my swim time was a good 3 minutes slower than what I do for the same 750 meters in the pool. Not good.

Transition was uneventful, apart from the fact that I almost rode into someone when I mounted my bike. I felt pretty good on the bike and I passed a lot of people, but I wasn't going as fast as I would have liked and, in fact, my bike time was the slowest I've done for 20 km in a very long time. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that I had to keep braking to avoid riding into people, but I think it was mostly fatigue that had built up over the last couple of weeks.

T2 wasn't as good as T1 -- there was a bike taking up half of my spot and I had to crawl under my bike to get to my shoes.

The run was... Well... Painful. I had expected my hip to hurt, but it wasn't my hip. Every muscle in my lower legs, especially my right leg, just seized up on me after about 1 km. It wasn't a cramp, but rather the feeling that there was a vice squeezing my legs. This is that pain that I sometimes get at the beginning of runs before I'm warmed up. It was really bad. Finally, I had to stop running.

I had never walked before at this race. There's always a first time, I guess. I walked and tried running and walked and tried running. This went on for about 1.5 km. Women were passing me right and left. I started to wonder where all the other walkers were (there are normally a lot of them at this race). When I got to the turnaround, I figured it out -- they were still behind me. Finally, a little bit after the 2.5 km mark, my legs finally loosened up enough to allow me to run. I ran my heart out for the last 2 km and I passed a LOT of people, but it wasn't enough. I finished with the worst time I've ever done at this race by about 10 minutes!

Although I was doing this race "just for fun", there wasn't a whole lot that was fun about it, apart from seeing people that I only meet at races. Pain is not fun. Being slow when you're trying to be fast isn't fun. There were a few fun moments on the bike and I really enjoyed the last 2 km or so of the run, because I was finally able to run. I can't say, though, that the overall experience was great.

So what did I learn? Racing three weekends in a row is possible, but not advisable, or at least not if you want to do well. Maybe if all three races had been sprints it would have been fine, I don't know. I just know that my body is tired and things aren't working the way they should be, but it's nothing that won't be resolved with a little bit of race.

I was considering doing another race (Oly) two weeks from yesterday. I've reconsidered. Bad idea. Then there's another one in four weeks -- a race I don't particularly like. I'm still thinking about that, but I'm also thinking that the better plan may be to skip the next two races, train well during the summer, including a lot of work on flexibility and strength to get rid of my hip problems and hopefully to solve the problem in my lower legs, lose a little bit of weight (not too much -- but 3 or 4 kilos would be nice), work a bit on my overall nutrition and go back to racing in September.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pictures from the Lehavim Triple

The pictures from Saturday's race are really good -- too bad I don't look so good in some of them! Here goes...

This is a picture from the end of the first run. This one looks ok above the hips. Unfortunately, my lower body is not quite as skinny as I'd like. To make matters worse, my legs, which aren't all that heavy in real life, always look awful in pictures. And that mess above my left knee is marker smudge -- I'm not sure where it rubbed off of, but this seems to be a chronic problem, no matter what kind of marker I use.

Here I am on my way out of the transition area with my bike, trying to keep it balanced on the grass. No complaints about this picture, other than the fact that I'm holding on to my bike with both hands (well, better that than dropping it!).

Here I am crossing the finish line at the end of round 1 (yes, I ran to the finish line in cycling shoes with a helmet on my head).

And a couple of seconds later... The cute guy behind me in the red shirt that looks like a dress is my son.

Here I am before the start of round 3, hands on hips, looking at who knows what. Note that the legs of my tri suit are not the same length. One apparently worked it's way up when my suit got stuck on my bike saddle in round 2. This made for interesting tan lines.

Still with my hands on my hips, now looking the other way...

Coming out of the water after the swim (and yes, I swam with my number on. It's allowed in this race, although not mandatory. Last year, I left my number on the side of the pool and forgot it there and I had to run back to get it. This year, I decided not to take any chances.

Pulling off my goggles so that I can actually see something on the way to the transition area.

It's finally over! I am very glad to be crossing the finish line for the third and final time.

A couple of pictures from the podium. This is after a shower and a short nap on the grass.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lehavim Triple Super Sprint Triathlon - 24 May 2008

A week after my first Oly distance tri, with almost no training in
between (I only worked out twice this past week), it was time to once
again tackle the Lehavim Triple Super Sprint. At first glance, this
looks like an easy race. It's not. It's fast, intense and even
confusing at times. It's all about fast transitions and keeping your
heart rate up.

I've explained this race several times before, but here's a quick
recap. It's three rounds, each consisting of a 200 meter swim, 6 km
bike and 1.5 km run. The first round is run, swim, bike. The second
round is bike, run, swim. The final round is swim, bike, run. There
are 40 minutes between rounds and if you don't finish within 40
minutes, you're disqualified.

For me, the worst part of starting with the run is that I can actually
see everyone pulling away from me. I wasn't last, but I was way in
the back of the pack. On the new course, I could see the turnaround
point almost from the very start of the run, which was good. I ran as
hard as I could, trying to ignore the fact that almost everyone else
was so much faster. When I reached the end, I looked down at my watch
and I'm pretty sure I saw 7:35, which would be an amazing time for me
for 1.5 km. The swim was really hard (it's kind of hard to swim when
you're panting) and it was slow. The bike was ok -- I got up the long
hill in a pretty good time and then went whizzing down. Round 1 was
over and I had almost 10 minutes to rest before round 2.

Round 2 is my least favorite. I don't like starting on the bike
because I'm always wobbly getting on and I'm afraid of bumping into
someone else. This means I always have to start in the back. To make
matters worse, today, when I went to get on my bike, my calf cramped
up. OUCH! I got rid of the cramp and then had an extremely difficult
time clipping in. While all this was happening, I watched the crowd
of cyclists moving further and further away. I did manage to catch
up, but my bike time was not what I would have liked. I don't
remember much about the run and the swim -- I think the run went ok
and the swim was slow again. I just wasn't moving well in the water
today. I finished round 2 in just a few seconds more than round 1 and
for the second time, my son, who was volunteering today, handed me a
bottle of water at the end. That was the best part of the race :-)

Round 3 is my favorite. I like it when things are in the "right"
order, or at least the order I'm used to. Round 3 is when I
discovered just how fast the other woman in my age group swims. She
actually lapped me at 125 meters and out of four women in the lane, I
was the second out of the water. She completely blew us away! The
bike went well and all I remember about the run was thinking "It's
almost over!" I don't run fast (I think I've mentioned that...), but
I ran as fast as I could. I can usually dig deep enough to sprint the
last hundred meters or so, but not today -- I was giving it my all and
I had nothing left at the end. I had hoped to go under 30 minutes in
the last round, but it wasn't to be. I actually had no idea if I was
anywhere near my goal, because I was running too hard to be able to
look down at my watch. I finished round 3 in about the same time as
round 2, which, I guess, is pretty good.

It was over. I was exhausted -- much more exhausted than I was after
last week's race, although I'd been moving forward for a lot less time
(less than half of what last week's race took me -- almost two hours
less, in fact!). I was 2/2 in my age group today, but I didn't care.
It had been an incredibly fun morning and I love racing right here in
town, less than a kilometer from my house.

Next race next week -- the Women's Triathlon (a sprint). That will be
three races in three weeks, another first for me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The pictures

Some pictures from the Jordan Valley Triathlon (courtesy of Shvoong) -- these don't need much explanation (and I can't really believe that I'm posting the pictures from the run, but since I never get any good running pictures, these will have to do).

Coming out of the water after the swim:

On my way out of the transition area (after I finally figured out where to put my bike):

Just before the finish:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jordan Valley Triathlon - 17 May 2008

Photo courtesy of 4sport

My first Olympic distance tri -- a 43rd birthday present to myself. Done :-)

We drove up to the Galilee on Friday and I spent the day trying not to think about how nervous I was. During dinner,some of the people at the table scared me when they started talking about how I should have done at least 80% of the Oly distance in training, which, of course, I hadn't (I'd done all the distances and then some for each sport alone, just not combined). This didn't help my nerves any and by race morning, I was kind of a wreck. In fact, I started to think about not doing the race. I don't think I was serious, but I was very nervous. My stomach had been bothering me for three days (in retrospect, I think this was nerves) and race morning was no different. How on earth was I going to get through the race with a stomach ache (and no bathroom to use)???

Anyway, I got set up in transition, did a short warm up and was ready to go. I was worried about the water temperature (21 degrees Celsius -- I wasn't swimming with a wetsuit), but then I reminded myself that in the last few years of doing tris, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that the things that go wrong on race day are almost never the things that you stress about before the race. This would prove true again at this race.

They gave us about ten minutes in the water before the start. That was just enough to get used to the water temperature (a bit chilly at first, but then fine) and to take a few quick strokes. That was enough for me. Before I knew it, the race had started.

The first thing I noticed was how shallow the water was. I've swum in the Sea of Galilee before and I don't ever remember being able to run in the water for a couple of hundred meters before it was deep enough to swim. We were still able to stand at the kids' buoy. This is rather sad and even frightening, as the Sea of Galilee (or the Kinneret, as we call it) is our main water source and there just isn't all that much there. It was a relatively dry winter and this is the result.

Back to the race...

Unlike most of the Oly distance swims here, which are two loops of 750 meters, this one was a single loop of 1500. That meant swimming out a fairly long distance to a faraway buoy which was barely visible. It also meant that the 200 or so participants in the Olympic 40+ heat got very spread out. For much of the swim, I was completely alone. This was ok on the way out and between the first two buoys, as at the beginning, I just followed the people in front of me and later on, I was close enough to see the buoys. After getting around the second buoy, though, I suddenly had no idea how to swim in a straight line to the exit, which I couldn't see. The buoys were anchored, not tied to a cable, so there was nothing for me to follow. I couldn't clearly see anyone. So I just swam in what I assumed was the general direction. Fortunately, having to swim a lot is one thing that doesn't stress me out, especially in pleasant, calm water. Also, I had made a promise to myself to take this race easy -- I was trying out a new distance and I wasn't interested in how fast I could go, but rather in finishing the race. Every few strokes, I picked up my head and searched for the exit, but I couldn't see it. Eventually, though, I caught up with a group of swimmers ahead of me and I just followed them out.

I wasn't at all surprised when I looked down at my watch and saw my less-than-stellar 1500 meter time. I'd done an easy swim, no effort at all, and I'm sure I did a lot of zigzagging. My watch read something like 38:00. Yikes! But I was very surprised when I reached the transition area and discovered that I'd exited the water before two of my teammates, one of whom is a faster swimmer than I am and the other someone who always manages to beat me out of the water at races. As it turned out, they finished the swim two minutes behind me!

I hopped on my bike and started riding. I noticed that I wasn't riding anywhere near as fast as I'd ridden last year, but I also knew I had to go twice the distance and I was a bit concerned about a hill on the far end of the course that I'd never done when I'd raced the sprint distance. So I didn't push myself at all on the bike, which is normally the strongest part of my race. I got past the sprint turn-around and about 2.5 km later, I saw the first of several small hills. As I started heading up, I shifted onto the small chain ring and my chain slipped off. This doesn't happen very often, but when it does, I've learned to calmly just shift it back up. This time, though, that didn't work -- when I tried to shift it up, I ended up with chain suck and I was unable to even pedal. I managed to clip out before tipping over and I got off my bike and fixed the chain. This is when my two teammates passed me. It didn't actually take me all that long to get the chain back on, probably because I was so calm about the whole thing, though slightly annoyed that I had to stop in the middle of my ride. Soon I was back on the bike, pedaling away, and downshifting very gently.

When I reached the "big hill" that I'd been so concerned about, I almost laughed out loud. Yes, there was a bit of a hill, but it was definitely not a big deal -- not even close to some of the stuff that I climb around here. On the way back, I found myself riding completely alone. At the top of that hill, I looked right and saw the whole Kinneret. What a sight! I was on such a high and this feeling didn't leave me for the rest of the race. I wasn't riding fast, but I was cruising along, down on my aerobar, singing and commenting aloud how beautiful everything was. I was having so much fun that I could have stayed on my bike forever!

The bike course was slightly short, I think -- about 39.2 km, according to my bike computer. When I reached the end, two friends were waiting for me, cheering me on. I smiled at them and yelled out that I was having so much fun. My legs felt great when I got off the bike because I hadn't even tried to ride hard. All that was left was a 10 km run, but first I had to get through transition.

The transition area was full of bikes. I was sure I knew where my spot was on the rack, but when I got there, it wasn't my spot. I got rather confused and I started running back and forth and back and forth with my bike, mumbling to myself: "Where's my stuff???" My team manager was refereeing in the transition area and finally, he called out to me, "If your stuff is with Ilan's, it's over there!" and he pointed to the spot. That was, indeed, the place, but someone else had put their bike where mine was supposed to be. I managed to squeeze my bike in and I had to kind of crawl underneath it to get to my shoes. I had decided to wear socks for the run and I'd practiced putting them on quickly. Well, that didn't happen this time -- I ended up putting them on crooked and because I didn't want to get chafed by the seam, I took the time to straighten them out. Eventually, I did make it out of the transition area. My coach was waiting at the exit and I think he was rather amused. I certainly was.

The run was slow. Very slow. I just wanted to make it through 10 km -- I didn't care about the pace. At 2 km, I had to walk because I couldn't manage to get my gel packet open while running. I walked a couple more times after turning off the sidewalk onto a dirt path, mainly because I was afraid of turning an ankle, but also because I was just being kind of lazy (and it was getting hot). I've had some problems with the joint at the top of my thigh (between my hip flexor and my groin -- I'm not sure what to call it) and it started to ache around the middle of the run, which caused some more walk breaks. However, I saw lots and lots of people walking and I never really walked for all that long. I smiled and said hello to people and thanked the volunteers -- I honestly didn't care how I got through the run, as long as I finished it. It turned out, by the way, that the run was longer than 10k. One person measured it at 10,400 meters. My time for the T2 + the run would indicate that that was correct -- I'm slow, but my T2 + run time was 1:15 -- I'm not that slow, even when I walk!

I remember almost nothing about the last 300 meters or so. I was just on a high -- I was finishing my first Oly tri! I sprinted to the finish and I remember hearing the announcer call out my name. What I didn't hear was that he wished me a happy birthday and congratulated me on my first Olympic distance. I hit the stop button on my watch and looked down and almost laughed. 3:25. That was quite a bit slower than I thought I'd be, but then again, there wasn't a single point during the entire race when I'd actually tried to go fast (well, apart from that 300 meter sprint at the end). As it turned out, only one out of the four team members who did the Olympic distance went under 3 hours. It was a rather slow course, I guess.

As soon as I stopped panting (because of the sprint at the end), the first thing I noticed was that I felt a whole lot better than I've ever felt after any sprint triathlon. Apart from the joint above my thigh, which has been bothering me for some time, nothing hurt and nothing had that tired, achy feeling. I had kept myself well-hydrated during the race and I'd also taken three gels and two salt capsules and I had no headache, no nausea -- nothing. In fact, the first thing I did was grab a sandwich and start to eat. I have never done that at the end of a race before -- normally, it takes at least half an hour or so before I can actually eat anything.

So that's it. I finally met the goal that had had to be put off for so long. And it was no big deal. Maybe I'll even try a bit harder on the next one! And now that I've done it, I definitely understand the appeal. There's no way I'm going back to sprints, apart from races that don't offer any other option. This was just so much more fun!

Oh, and I finished dead last in my age group. Unlike in the sprint, the people who race Olympic distance here are mainly serious, talented athletes. The women who finished one place ahead of me beat me by about 5 minutes, some of which I could have made up by not having to get off my bike and by having found my spot in the transition area. And if I'd actually raced, I think I probably would have finished ahead of her, so I don't feel like I'm out of my league.

Friday, May 09, 2008

European Championships

Ok, so I've been seriously neglecting this blog. No excuses.

Anyway, the European Triathlon Championships are tomorrow in Lisbon, Portugal. All three junior boys representing Israel are from right here in Lehavim. Good luck to Bar Fogel, Yodar Shafrir and Ron Darmon (appearing in that order from left to right)!

Triathlon Blog Directory