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, August 09, 2009

Tel Aviv Triathlon - 27 June 2009

I just realized that I never got around to posting my race report from the Tel Aviv Triathlon. Well, here it is, as posted to my mailing lists. I'm currently nursing a knee injury and it may be a while before I have another race report to post.

Tel Aviv is only about an hour or so away, but I got a good deal on a hotel room through the teacher's union and the race was a day before my 19th wedding anniversary, so Avi and I decided to make a weekend of it. This gave me an extra hour to sleep in the morning, which is pretty significant when the race starts at 6:15 a.m and you want to be there by 5:30 at the absolute latest. The only problem was that I ate way too much hotel food the night before the race and it kept me awake half the night. Not exactly the ideal pre-race meal!

I got to the race at 5:30, got set up in the transition area and headed down to the beach. There wasn't enough time for a real warm up, so I just swam a bit and waited for the start. The swim was a 750 meter triangle which we had to do twice, running up on the beach in between. One of the things that I don't particularly like about this race is the really long run into the water. It's only about knee-deep for maybe 100 meters or so and there are holes that you can't see, making it really difficult to actually run. In fact, I didn't see a single person running into the water -- everyone was safely wading until it was deep enough to swim.

I felt pretty good during the swim. The water temperature was comfortable to slightly warm (I'm guessing about 26 or 27 degrees Celcius) and there were some small waves that I wouldn't have noticed at all if they hadn't made it difficult to see the buoys. In previous Olympic distance tris, I've found myself swimming almost completely alone. This time was different. It certainly wasn't crowded, but there were always other swimmers near me and I even caught up with and passed a few. When the second lap was done, the guy next to me said, "That wasn't bad," and that's when I remembered to look down at my watch. I was nothing short of shocked when I saw 30:00 and change. This was by far the fastest I'd ever swum 1500 meters and I'm not convinced that the course wasn't short, but the race director insists that the measurement was accurate, so who am I to argue? ;-)

After a quick transition, I was out on the bike course. This was a draft-legal race, but at first, I couldn't find anyone to ride with. Then two guys passed me and I managed to hang on behind them. The three of us worked together for quite a while. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could do my share of riding up front, letting them rest for a bit. I couldn't have asked for two better people to ride with. However, after about 15 km or so, a few more guys started riding with us and things changed. Not all of them were willing to work -- most of them just wanted to hang on at the back -- and I didn't like the way they were riding They weren't riding as straight as I would have liked and they would fall off the back and then speed up in order to catch up, yet every time I tried to get ahead of them and ride behind the two guys I'd been with all along, they'd manage to edge me out of the way and I found myself behind them again. At some point, while I was trying to pull out a salt tablet, they dropped me and I didn't make too much of an effort to hang on. So I found myself riding alone for pretty much the rest of the course. It was ok, though, and I had the best ride I've ever had on an Olympic distance course, averaging 30.3 kph, according to my bike computer (I suspect that it was slightly more, as that included the run out of the transition area and also slowing down at the end because I wasn't sure where the turn-off was). The course was slightly short -- about 37.3 km, I think, and my time was 1:13 -- much faster than I'd hoped for (of course, I thought the course would be 40 km).

T2 didn't go as smoothly as T1. I got off my bike and ran into the transition area, wondering why there were so many people just hanging around. Then I wondered why there wasn't a single free spot on the bike rack and why I couldn't find my stuff. That was about the time I realized that I'd run into the wrong transition area. This was the transition area for the sprint distance (which hadn't started yet, thus the people hanging around). Oops. I ran out and found my own transition area, feeling very stupid. I later discovered that I wasn't the only one to make that mistake, which did make me feel slightly better.

The run...

I'm still a relative newbie to triathlon, I guess, but I have learned a thing or two in the last five years. One of them is that there are no shortcuts. If you don't put in the training, things won't go well in the race. That's just the way it is. I knew that coming into the race and I didn't expect much from the run. That's exactly what I got -- not much. It was 10 km of just trying to survive.

I have never liked the run at the Tel Aviv Triathlon. It's in the Yarkon Park, along the "river" (more like a muddy stream) and although it's pretty much flat as a pancake, there's not much shade and it's always hot. There are also always people on the course -- the ones who come to the park on Saturday morning with their kids or their dogs or their bikes and couldn't care less that there's a race going on. So with the sun beating down on your head, you need to run around people who are just strolling along and also try not to get run over by a bike. To make matters worse, they've changed the course so that the out and back are on the same side of the river, meaning that there are runners going in both directions on the path. But to be honest, none of this is what made the run bad for me. What made it bad was very simply lack of training. It was hard, my legs didn't want to move and I started to feel really lousy after about 5 km or so. I had to take several walk breaks -- three or four, I believe -- and I probably would have taken more if I hadn't realized that I was about to PR big time. I forced myself to run the last 3 km, thinking I would come in at under 3 hours. However, the distance markers must have been misplaced (or the course was long) because it took me over 8 minutes to get from the 9 km marker to the finish line -- I'm not capable of running quite that slowly. So I didn't break 3 hours -- I finished in 3:00:26 -- SO close!!! And if I hadn't stupidly run into the wrong transition area, I would have broken 3 hours.

This was a 20 minute PR for me. 20 minutes!!! Even if the bike course hadn't been short, I would have PRed. Of course, every course is different, so the PR really doesn't mean much, but I now believe that I can go under 3 hours, even on a full-length course. My run, including T2, was slower than my bike time (yes, really -- how embarrassing is that?!) and was probably the worst time I've ever done for a 10k. If I actually train, I can easily take 6 or 7 minutes off that run time (running the whole thing would help me achieve that goal, I think!). My relative placement in both the swim and the bike show that I have made a lot of progress in the last year. I'm still a back-of-the-packer, but there were plenty of people even more at the back of the pack than I was. So despite the lousy run, I finished this race feeling really good. I won't be competing at the elite level any time soon, but I no longer feel like I'm just making believe that I can keep up with the "real" triathletes :-)

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