no trouble with Egypt

A year ago today I raced (okay, just barely finished) a half Ironman in Israel on a rental bike. Ariel and our boys cheered me on throughout the very long day and there were awe-inspiring moments as I marvelled at my surroundings, but mostly it was a really difficult race and I’ve never been so relieved to cross a finish line! Fast-forward to today: I’m still on the road to recovery from a May knee injury (see previous post) but feeling stronger by the day. I haven’t ridden my bike in months but I see it in my near future. I’m thinking happily back to my Israman experience and finally sat down to write about it.  Here’s how it went down.   israman finish 2018

Last January I convinced Ariel we should buy our plane tickets home from Israel a little later than planned in case I decided to do the Israman. Our cousin was training for it and I didn’t want to be left out of the party. Three months before the race (just after the price had risen one final time) I registered, briefly glancing at the course first. Never mind that I would be in Israel for the month prior without a bike and hadn’t raced a half Ironman distance since long before children. I saw those as mildly irritating, but surmountable obstacles.

I freaked out a little when I realized the bike course was known for its difficultly but I prepared the best I could with double headlands loops and longer rides through the Marin headlands until Nutcrackers took over my life in December. Once in Tel Aviv, I found a bike shop that rented bikes to be picked up at the race expo, then joined a nearby Tel Aviv gym for the month of January so I could take a few spin classes and use Gordon Pool. I’d made a pact with myself that training would not get in the way of family time in Israel and for the most part it didn’t. My training was underwhelming, to say the least and come race weekend I was prepared only for the swim (not having ridden a bike all month or done a long run since late-November when an old foot injury flared up). img_20180125_154434Nevertheless, when I arrived with my family in Eilat I was swept up in the pulsating energy and comforted by the predictable down-to-business vibe of a town inhabited by triathletes and their very expensive bikes. The day before race day I tried and adjusted my rental bike (loving it instantly) then attended the English race briefing. “Blah blah blah… there should be enough shelters for everyone if they’re needed…” (I absentmindedly thought how it had been raining a lot. Good to know I had protection if it poured.) “But things are stable with Egypt right now so you should be fine.”  (Ohhhh… those kind of shelters.) The entire ride through the Eilat mountains was next to Egypt, separated by a high fence. I heard from our cousin later that in the Hebrew race briefing the athletes had been told, in case of trouble with Egypt, they should click their bikes into lower gear and pedal harder.

In the darkness of race morning I pulled on my sweats and plugged in headphones to enjoy my usual pre-race Beastie boys album then set up my bike in T1 and dropped my running gear bag into a truck. It would be waiting for me at the top of the mountain in T2 when I came off the bike. I went back to the hotel room to prepare and wake my boys then we followed the mob down to the swim start.img_20180126_062332

Through most of the swim I was purely focused on avoiding flailing limbs and preventing a kick in the face. Unlike most races, this one doesn’t have separate swim starts for all age groups so the entire swim was slow and unpleasant. I tried to appreciate that I was swimming in the red sea and even noticed a jellyfish glide by beneath me. The boys yelled as I exited the water and started up the long path toward the transition area.bike finish israman

I dressed for the bike and pulled on the required long sleeves as quickly as my cold hands would allow then jumped on my rental bike. As the climbing began, I felt fairly confident and my race bib labelled me USA so people were yelling words of encouragement in English. (There were only a handful of Americans racing, one of whom I randomly met last summer swimming in the Steamboat Springs Hot Springs pool in Colorado!) As our cousin pulled past me and yelled something about a California girl I grunted, then smiled as I recognized his voice. I made it my mission to keep him in sight until the end of the long climb so I could yell back before he reached the summit and flew out of sight. Then the ride got tough. Really tough. The climbing had been predictably difficult but every time the road flattened the crosswinds nearly knocked me off my bike. The downhills were worse because where I could have been gaining momentum for the next uphill I was instead fighting to stay on my bike. The course was beautiful and bare and lonely. I wanted to quit so many times but if I’d quit I would’ve just been sitting on the highway, freezing and alone, next to the high fence of the Egyptian border. So I pushed on. And I sang at the top of my lungs. It was a song Aviv learned for his Pre-K graduation and all I could think of. The words (which escape me now) were poignant at the time.When I finally rolled into T2 at the top of the mountain my boys greeted me. They’d taken a spectator shuttle up to cheer for me and had been waiting in the cold wind for a few hours. I received hugs and kisses, all the while keeping my legs moving because I knew if I stopped moving, that would be the end.aviv kisses israman

Running 6 miles downhill was brutal, though the views were spectacular. I forced myself  to notice the mountain and the sea and also to cheer other runners on as we passed one another (an old habit from my Team in Training days). My goal was to keep my pace under 10 minute miles. The downhill momentum helped and I would have succeeded had I not needed a pit stop in the middle. My homemade energy gels and bites did well for me though I needed the added boost of the race’s sports drink and some real food (dates! bananas! pretzels! oh my!). marina run isramanMy boys met me in the Marina as I followed the never ending trail of orange cones which would eventually lead me to the finish. Aviv was allowed to run the finish chute with me and we held up our Israman flag as I dragged him (or was it the other way around?) across the finish line, crying and laughing. I was given a metal and wrapped in a silver heat sheet. Finisher food was lentil soup and beer. Best ever! To top it all off, one of my favorite Hadag Nahash songs was playing.

I survived the race and did all the right things for my recovery but felt horrible for a few days. It honestly never occurred to me that the aftermath of a undertrained half Ironman could be so bad. Interestingly enough, as I sit and write this I’m envisioning myself racing in Israman 2020. Some things are best remembered for their highs, not lows!

 

 

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iwannaseea HeKaPa!!

The morning began with the promise of rain and a tantrum. Still, we had an agenda – to spend Ariel’s birthday morning riding with the kids to Frisco and back. As I pried Eitan’s hands off the skuut bike he’d commandeered at the shop and forced my kicking, screaming two year old into the weehoo seat, I promised him he’d have way more fun riding fast behind my bike than riding alone. He wasn’t convinced until we found distraction in the garbage trucks collecting trash from a nearby parking lot. The skuut was soon forgotten and we raced down the bike path, Aviv and Ariel close behind.

IMG_9598 The ride from Breckenridge to Frisco was gorgeous and relatively easy until the final couple hilly miles, when I really felt that I was riding a cruiser, pulling an extra 50 pounds. Eitan sang to me from the backseat – one song looped because he couldn’t find the ending, but sweet nevertheless. At one point Ariel and Aviv blew by us, Aviv’s inside-out raincoat flapping in the wind, his little legs pedaling furiously backward. Later, Ariel reported that he’d been a huge help – on the downhills.

We made it 10 miles to Frisco feeling victorious and full of energy for the ride back. There was a coffee shop waiting for me and Ariel, and grandparents waiting to take the boys to the nearby museum for a model train viewing. I’m certain this was the highlight of their morning adventure. The sky grew darker as we drank our lattes and lounged. I told Ariel it was exactly how I’d wanted to spend his birthday. He agreed and suggested we move so that we didn’t get stuck in a downpour.

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After organizing snacks and kids, we began our return trip. A mile in we passed the hospital with a parked helicopter. I stupidly pointed it out and somehow Eitan missed it, so for the rest of the ride home (not exaggerating) he yelled/chanted/sang IWANNASEEA HE KA TO! (I wanna see a helicopter). There was a brief respite when I realized he was not only yelling but trying to shimmy his way out of the seat and I remember the trail mix hidden in the pannier bag. I handed him the entire bag and he dug out chocolate chips for the next mile, forgetting about the helicopter he hadn’t seen. As the sky opened up about 5 miles from home, he recommenced his chanting/whining. I was struggling to keep my bike moving forward, exhausted from pulling my annoying cargo uphill with minimal oxygen at 9,600 feet. Ariel and Aviv were riding behind us in case any more escape attempts were made. I wished I’d ingested a few more espresso shots. Ruling the world was not within my realm of possibility.

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Those final few miles were hard. Really hard. I repeatedly asked Eitan to sing instead of yell and offered my own rendition of Wheels on the Bike at the top of my lungs, improvising a verse about “the baby in the backseat goes whine, whine, whine”. Ariel suggesting a few times we “move a little faster” because it was raining harder. Yeah, right. Luckily the boys didn’t seem bothered by the fact they were getting wet. Aviv was still “helping” Ariel pedal and Eitan was still yelling IWANNASEEA HE KA PO!

We finally made it back to the bike shop, exhausted and wet but (mostly) in good spirits and ready for a tasty lunch. I’d riden 20 miles in the mountains, pulling a bike trailer! And I’d do it again in a second.

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double header and a reverse brick

So…  A few months ago I put my name into the lottery for the famous Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.  I won a spot (!!!!), thought about it for 20 seconds then payed a large sum of money for the “opportunity” to swim from Alcatraz, bike around the Presidio hills and run up the Baker Beach sand steps with 1,999 other crazy people this June. A few days later when my exhilaration wore off I decided to check out the details. I learned important details like, the 1.5 mile swim has a 1 hr. cut-off time (which would currently be difficult for me in a swimming pool without a current). There’s also a half mile “warm-up” run from the swim exit to the bike transition area. Then after the 18 mile bike ride, we run 8 miles, not the usual 6 like most International distance triathlons. Looking on the bright side, even if I’m not finished, the race course closes at 1pm so I can still make it to my 2pm Don Giovanni!

What have I gotten myself into?  And exactly when am I planning on training for this race?? That second question came from my husband.  It hadn’t even occurred to me until he brought it up. 1 hour at the gym several times a week is certainly not going to prepare me for this race so I’ve been brainstorming about how I can use my time most efficiently and which parts of this race will be trickiest.

Let’s evaluate: Currently I can comfortably swim half mile, less comfortably a full mile. I can run 3 miles pushing a stroller and I haven’t been for a training ride on my bike since before I was pregnant with Eitan (he’s now 20 months old). Most of my bike training will need to occur in spin classes, which are excellent and utilize the Y’s free childcare. Most of my runs will be done pushing a growing Eitan in the running stroller, so probably not as hilly as the course but difficult nonetheless. In a few months I’ll start walking the Baker Beach sand steps with Eitan in a backpack. Again, not like running them but probably by that point in the race I won’t be running anyway and they’ll feel easy without a baby on my back. Right?? My major concern is fitting in open water swims and a few outdoor bike rides. I’ll either need to pay a babysitter or do them on the weekends when we usually enjoy family time. Oh, and then there’s the 7 weeks of travel time smack in the middle of training season. Back to my first question; What have I gotten myself into???

the workout: I pushed myself to do two consecutive days of spin classes Sunday & Monday. Just to see if I could. (No problem!) I threw in a short run before yesterday’s class (doing a reverse brick) and instead of feeling extra exhausting, I was energized throughout my spin.  My heart rate monitor did report that I was at the top of my workout zone through most of the class. We’ve got these new alien-looking bikes that I’m still not comfortable on but my favorite drills have to do with watts.  A few to try in your next spin workout:

:20 @ watts = body weight -10, :10 recovery x 8

:30 @ watts = body weight, :30 recovery x 4

1:00 @watts = body weight, 1:00 recovery x 4

1:30 @watts = body weight, :30 @watts = body weight +10, 1:00 recovery X 2

kicked out of school

Technically speaking, I wasn’t kicked out of Ulpan today, I was simply told I couldn’t come back because my month was over and I didn’t pay for the next month.  I don’t think it unreasonable of me to not want to pay for an entire other month since my class ends next week, but they were completely unwilling to be flexible, so I left at the first break.

Since our nanny was planning on staying all morning, I took advantage of the free time to grab a workout.  I hopped on a green bike  and started pedaling toward Yafo.  Riding bikes around here is very unlike San Francisco.  There are bike lanes on all the boulevards, but there are no regulations about who can use them.  (And if there were, nobody would follow the rules anyway.)  The most common sight is a parent on a motorized bike, with kids on front and back seats.  Also, there’s the more-than-occasional person riding top speed on a motorized bike while smoking.  And talking on the phone.  And perhaps, running the dog.  Sometimes motorcycles use the bike lane.  Sometimes kids with scooters go between the bikes, ringing their bells because the bikes are in their way, even though the rest of the boulevard is empty.  Oh wait, that’s my kid.  Yes, he thinks he owns the sidewalk.  How very Israeli of him.  Anyway, you get the picture.

My ride today was quite pleasant.  I’d fortunately chosen a green bike that was in good shape, with two tires pumped and brakes working.  I rode along the water, enjoying the view.  Then my friend from Ireland called and I tried talking on the phone while biking.  And not wearing a helmet.  How very Israeli of me.  And also not safe.  I promise I won’t do it again.

I arrived back at my favorite swimming beach in one piece and returned the bike in just under the allotted free half hour (what’s with me and saving money today??).  I changed into my suit and slowly walked into the clear, cold water.  And walked.  And walked.

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It’s shallow for quite a long time at that beach!  I’m not one who likes to tiptoe into the water and feel the cold slowly creeping over me.  I more of a plunge-and-get-it-over-with type of person.  Oh well.  I swam back and forth – from the end of one cafe’s green lounge chairs to the end of the next cafe’s green lounge chairs – twice.  Maybe half a kilometer.  Maybe more, but who knows because the software for the fancy watch I bought still hasn’t been updated to include the advertised swim distance function.  It tells me only how long I swam.  How practical.  Since I couldn’t just check the time on my watch to see how long I’ve been swimming while I’m actually in the water.

Once out of the water and hurrying along to gather a baby and pick up a preschooler, I realized that my legs were sore.  What a great feeling!  Does that sound weird?  You probably have to be an exercise addict like myself to think being sore after a workout is a good thing.

Just for the record, now that I’ve been kicked out of school, I’m planning on keeping the nanny and using my free mornings to swim and bike and run.  Maybe I’ll study a little Hebrew on my own and practice some violin too!IMG_5652.JPG

getting those abs

While practicing violin is certainly not going to get me abs like this, I appreciate that I might be burning some calories while learning notes.  Gotta love multi-tasking.

I just finished washing dishes, which is apparently an activity that utilizes abdominal muscles.  Who knew?  I am aware of every little muscle in my body today after my introduction to Pop Physique yesterday.  I may not end up with those abs from playing violin, but this class is sure to give results.  The abdominal exercises were the only sequence that I successfully completed without resting (several times) in the middle and not surprisingly, my abs are the sorest part of me. Pop Physique is another barre-based class but the website looks more like an American Apparel underwear add.  The website also specifies “Even though our promotional images feature super hot shorts and tiny leotards that zip…we recommend long slim exercise pants that cover your knees and fitted tanks or t-shirts.”

Before the holidays I was on a roll  getting back into cycling shape.  Then I stopped riding my bike and stopped attending spin classes.  Back to square one.  I’ve got a babysitter booked for upcoming Wednesday rides but today I did a spin at the gym.  A quick web search found a couple 30 minute classes from my favorite YouTube fitness channel, eFit30.  The highlight of today’s workout was during my first climb when the instructor told me in her charming Australian accent “your butt should flirt with the nose of the seat”.  I wonder if that was scripted or if she threw it in because she was bored?

’tis the season for speed

I love off-season because I have the chance to fall into a great workout routine!  During the past two weeks I’ve made good use of the gym daycare and hired a sitter on Wednesdays so I can ride outside with a friend.   She’s way faster than me but is encouraging me to be more efficient with my energy output and I’m moving faster!  In a couple of days we will tackle Paradise Loop, which is almost 40 miles and used to be my regular ride.  The last time I did Paradise was before I was pregnant- and I never completed it in 3 hours, which will be our goal this week.  Wish me luck…

Happily, my newfound speed is translating into other workouts also.  I’m no longer doing lazy swims just to say I got in the IMG_0236water, but I’m working on 100 and 200 yd splits, making each faster than the previous.  I’ve added a second spin class into my week and am doing my best to follow all given instructions for RPMs and watts on the spin bike computer.  Finally,I’m back to running again.  I did a short loop around the Presidio this morning, choosing music with a quick beat to inspire quick foot speed.  I recommend 2Pac and Cypress Hill if you’re into that stuff.  My foot has been relatively pain free for over a week, since my manual therapist released my left ankle joint.  I’ve got renewed flexibility, which felt weird even when walking the first couple of days, and I’m consciously working to keep the joint from compressing again.  My physical therapist showed me several balance exercises to stabilize and strengthen all the little muscles in my foot.  My favorite is standing on one foot on an upside down Bosu ball and asking my husband to toss me a medicine ball.  He throws it at me, not to me which makes the exercise somewhat tricker (and more entertaining).

Some days I’m still pressed for time so I’ve become more creative with my multitasking.  After this week’s ride, I dove right into violin practicing, doing calf stretches with my scales and balancing over a Beethoven Trio.  Ironically, practicing on one foot helped me feel more grounded and be more expressive in my playing.

We leave town soon so my goal for this holiday season is to gracefully let go of my current routine and embrace another, enjoying  swims and runs with my family in a warmer climate.  Hawaii…. here I come!!

weekly totals:  1900 yds swimming, 48 miles biking, 4.3 miles running

fourth

I was utterly shocked when I looked up my See Jane Tri race results today and found that I’d placed 4th in my age group and 29th out of 325 women.  The funny part of this was, my sister and I were joking through the awards ceremony that we should be listening for our names as they recognized the top three in each age group.  I had no idea how close I was.

posing before the swim
posing before the swim
I’d gone into Saturday’s race knowing that I might need to skip the run if my foot hurt, so I gave everything I had to the swim and run.  I went out really strong on the swim and surprised myself with my pace.  Toward the end of the swim I spaced out as I tried to remove water from my goggles and de-fog them so I could see where I was going.  I came out of the swim fast and hurried through my first transition.  Once on my bike, I flew by many other cyclists, my only goal being to catch my sister so I wouldn’t need to start the run alone (in the event that my foot didn’t hurt).  The 8 mile bike course went by surprisingly slowly but right at the end I spotted my sister (who’d done the entire ride in one gear because her borrowed bike was making suspicious noises whenever she tried shifting).  We changed into running shoes together and ran out of the transition area.  My first thought was that my feet were blocks of ice and I had no idea if my foot was hurting.  I’m used to running triathlons on frozen feet so this wasn’t anything more than a pleasant surprise to me since I felt no pain.  We chatted though the run but kept a decent pace.  As the finish line came into view, I yelled “let’s go” and she took off at a sprint.  I was sort of kidding since I wasn’t sure I could sprint all the way in but we managed to cross the finish line together and smiling.

Baby A was disturbed by the loud start
Baby A was disturbed by the loud start
This race has become a special event to me.  The first year I entered, I made a new friend from a last minute carpool and enjoyed wearing my really cool SuperJane race shirt for months after.  Last year another new mom friend joined me to do her first triathlon and my first post- baby race.  We felt triumphant for completing both the training and the race with six month old babies.  This year my sister flew in from Georgia to participate in her first triathlon and I was reminded how much I love sharing my passion for racing with others!

showing off our medals
showing off our medals