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 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!



fall season

The start of fall opera season has not been conducive to working out and having extra energy.  Plus, when I have had the time to do something, I haven’t wanted to spend my free time writing about it!  I’ve made a commitment to practice yoga every other day, so on the mornings when I roll out of bed and onto my mat, that usually takes the place of an aerobic workout.  I also rediscovered the elliptical trainer last week and enjoyed 30 minutes of “running in the clouds” last Friday and yesterday.  The grey outdoors have been so very unappealing that I don’t even want to be outside, and I haven’t made it back downtown to the warm pool.  Rumor has it, the Presidio pool’s pump is fixed so maybe I check it out tomorrow.  I do love my gym workouts because of all the props available to me for my floor work and core exercises.  I always come out of there feeling stronger and energized.

My exercise faux-pas of the week was waking up early Sunday morning (after a late show) to bike to the farmers market (with my violin on my back) on the way to a long day of rehearsal and concert at Stern Grove.  If I’d gotten more sleep and hadn’t over-bought produce (as usual) I would have been fine, but by the time I left the market and began bumping along a bike lane in very bad repair, I knew I’d overdone it.  I carefully made my way to Stern Grove, happy that all of my bags were securely strapped to my bike, and was thrilled to find my cyclist friend waiting for me at the entrance.  She’d guessed that I would have no clue how to actually get to the stage from the bike route!  By mid morning, I was so tired I wanted to put my violin down and cry (which I did on lunch break as I called my husband).  He agreed to meet me and haul by bike and produce home after the concert.  I survived the freezing concert knowing I’d have a ride waiting at the end and a warm bath at home.  Bonus… dinner was made while I soaked in the tub.  How did I get so lucky?

I took Monday off from aerobic exercise and walked to the outer Richmond to meet a friend for coffee.  I had time to spare before my acupuncture appointment, so I wandered around the park for 1/2 hour first.  In my appointment a strange thing happened.  Every needle he put into my legs hurt!  I rarely feel a needle go in and almost never ask him to remove one, but I couldn’t stand it.  Most of them were in spots that had to do with digestion.  Hmmm…  I’ve been working with less dairy lately, which seems to be improving my skin and decreasing stomach pain.  I’m sure it’s all related.

Time to get moving with my day.  More whenever I get around to it….

staying well

On Monday, by the time I boarded my second flight, I was beginning to feel ill again. My sinuses hurt and my body was achey. On Tuesday morning I took a long walk near our hotel to stretch my legs and clear my lungs, but I continued to feel worse. I was using a saline solution and zicam homeopathic spray to try and keep this latest virus at bay. On Tuesday night, after a long afternoon of rehearsing, I went to bed early and spent a few minutes breathing deeply. I focused on sinking into my new surroundings, feeling supported and giving myself the permission to be well. I slept ten hours then rolled out of bed to do my Yoga Journal “Morning Yoga” session. I felt pretty near normal again and hoped there would be time for a run later. There wasn’t but we took a gorgeous walk near the pier on lunch break. That was better than nothing. 
Last night I didn’t sleep well (maybe I slept too many hours the night before?) but I wanted to get up and go running. It was much colder out than I expected and after two minutes of walking I decided to begin jogging. My hands started tingling and I felt a strange numbness that seemed to be coming from inside my body, not the cold air. I jogged at an easy pace, shaking my arms, until I arrived at the park, then found an area where the Spanish moss hanging off big old trees protected me from the drizzle. I did a few stationary exercises then ran three quick loops around the park. My chest was still congested but I breathed more freely the longer I ran.  I did another set of the same exercises then jogged slowly back to the house. 
As I drink my morning tea and eat delicious Florida grapefruit, I feel well, and ready to tackle the day!

The workout: 30 min run + exercises
10 minute easy jog
push-ups, dips, static lunges, functional reaches
3 quick-paced loops around the park
2nd set exercises
10 minute easy jog home

easy does it

I thought I would be more sore today, based on how I was feeling last night but I decided to just ride around the city for my random appointments and call it a day in the exercise department.  I still managed to put 10 miles on my bike (and save 10 on my car in the process!) but it was at a very leisurely pace, with food and coffee breaks in the middle.   Now that’s my kind of workout!  An evening walk will conclude the day and I’ll be completely rested for a ride and some wine tasting in Napa tomorrow!


I woke up this morning and took stock of how my body felt then decided to stay in bed longer.  My arms were exhausted and I knew a swim wouldn’t help.  There was no chance my legs wanted to run three days in a row.  And I was about to spend four hours in the car so I didn’t want to sit in a stuffy room on a spinning bike first.  I did my yoga then walked a few blocks to get some fresh air and find a bite to eat.

We drove to Boston, settled in then attempted to rehearse for an hour.  I took it really easy and tried to reserve energy for the concert tonight.   The concert at Harvard Music association was really fun and I’m completely exhausted.  More travel tomorrow!

Nikken wellness:

Greenzymes late at night to soothe my stomach after too much cheese, fruit & beer (the meal for the vegetarians among us after the concert)

kenkotherm wrist wraps to keep my hands in playing order all day