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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sand intervals 

We are finally settled into our apartment in Tel Aviv and I’ve begun my Alcatraz training again. It’s been almost a month since I’ve done anything, between sickness and travel, and I’m not sure I can get myself where I need to be before the race in June. Since this isn’t a race in which I can just “get by” there is the possibility that I may not be able to participate. However, I am going about my training as if I’m still preparing for the race.

I’ve managed three short workouts in the four days that we’ve been here. Thursday morning I ran just over a mile pushing the stroller along the beach path. It was a glorious welcome back to this beautiful Mediterranean location. On Friday, while everyone else lounged over coffee and brunch on the beach, I slowly inching my way into the cold water and submerged myself in the Mediterranean Sea. I swam back-and-forth parallel to the shoreline, relearning the currents and waves and narrowly missing an enormous white jellyfish. Yesterday evening we put both kids on their scooters and attempted to go for a run. Total fail. Ariel completed some semblance of a mile with Aviv while I headed straight to playground with a kicking, screaming Eitan. He wanted only to ride back-and-forth across the path where the bikes zipped by at a furious speed. Nobody rides cautiously here and the chaos was at a higher level than usual, it being a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Once the big boys returned I took off across the beach to do one loop of what will become my regular sand training; across the sand, up the steps to gan hatzmaut, across the vista-point, back down the hill to the beach path, sprint the pavement to the ritz carlton restaurant and back through the sand to the playground. Hopefully this combination of sand and steps will not only prepare me for the sand & steps I’ll tackle at Baker Beach but also strengthen small muscles in my feet to prevent injury. 

Saturday’s stats: 1 loop – 1.22 miles, 11:55, 9’46” pace

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

I did it for the t-shirt

Monday morning, to get out of the rain while I was waiting to meet a friend, I wandered into the Tel Aviv Marathon expo tent.  An hour later I wandered back out, carrying a screaming Eitan who was having a major hunger meltdown.  I had also missed the coffee date with my friend.  However, I had two Tel Aviv Marathon 10k registrations in hand and the pink t-shirts to prove we were to be race participants.

Now, about the training leading up to the race…  oh yeah, there wasn’t any.  I’d only intended to sign Ariel up, because he’s been running regularly, but when he suggested I join him, I didn’t give it a second thought.  As I reflected on my hasty decision afterward, I figured running 10k couldn’t be much more difficult than my daily miles of pushing/pulling/carrying two kids around here.  So this week I did a little race prep.  I cut my toenails, I drank plenty of water, I mentally prepared myself for the possibility that I might not be able to finish and I debated whether or not I should go for a short training run.  I decided I might as well see how it felt to run without pushing a stroller so I did 2 km on Wednesday morning and felt great.

This morning Ariel’s dad showed up early to watch the kids and of course Eitan chose this one morning to not wake up at his usual sunrise time slot.  I actually had to wake him to feed him before we took off in search of some green bikes to ride to the race.  I was startled to be directed toward bike parking by a soldier with a machine gun; then a metal detector wand was waved across my body as I entered the race area.  I never feel unsafe here but was reassured by the extra safety precautions in a crowd of 40,000.


We were together in the second heat of 10k runners and as we slowly got moving, Ariel commented on how, when you run a race you only see people’s butts, not faces.  And a few bald heads.  True but not at all troubling to me unless those butts and bald heads are moving slower than I want to move. I actually said to Ariel at one point “these people seem to be pacing as if they’re running a much longer race”. Then I realized that I didn’t even have a pace. And I felt mildly bad about making snarky comments when I hadn’t even trained.

Races are notoriously not environmentally friendly, although many are trying to be better.  I was dismayed to see at the first water stop volunteers handing out small bottles of water, caps already removed. People took a sip then tossed the entire bottle to the side of the road. I attempted to keep mine because I couldn’t bear sipping and tossing but I just ended up splashing water everywhere. Giving up and tossing my bottle, I vowed to find one with a cap at the next stop so I wouldn’t throw away more water & more plastic. I saw Gatorade 3 km later and dove for a cup but was waved away with the explanation that water was on the other side. Apparently the Gatorade was only for the people running longer races.  I scrambled to find a bottle with a lid and got lucky.

For the past four years here I’ve seen the marathoners run by our apartment and every year I’ve wished to be one of them.  Today by kilometer 6, I was very pleased to have only 4 more kilometers to go, not 36!  My foot and everything else on me had begun to ache and I’d developed a stitch in my side.  I made the decision to push forward and started breathing out with more force to get rid of the side pain.  (turns out that’s not really what you’re supposed to do, but it worked for me.)  As we hit the 8 km mark, I was feeling pretty confident I’d  make it to the end so I encouraged Ariel to go ahead and pick up his pace. I also attempted to push through to the finish line and managed to pass a few people but I was thoroughly exhausted & simply happy to be done.

I teared up as I neared the finish – a mixture of relief that my body had held up, pure joy to be running again and satisfaction to have finally participated in this race.  Ariel was waiting for me and we snapped the mandatory selfie-in-front-of-finish-line before grabbing snacks and retrieving our green bikes for the return trip home.
 I sleepily pedaled my way home to grab a swim suit then we met the kids at the beach to give our muscles an ice bath. Twelve hours later, I’m still tired but not extremely sore. I feel fabulous about running today’s race and I’ve got the pink shirt to prove it!

the workout:

10 km ride, to & from race

10 km run, negative splits, 1:02

running with the family

What do you do when you wake up at sunrise on a gorgeous weekend morning? Go running!  No… Wait! That was my “old self” from ten years ago answering.  My “today self” pushes Ariel out of bed while whining about how tired I am, begging him to get up with the kids.  Lucky for me, he often does this even before my whining begins.  He knows I’m not a pretty person to be around when I’m tired.

Strangely, when we woke at 6 am on Saturday after an interrupted night’s sleep, instead of responding “yes!” to Ariel’s offer to get up with the kids, that enthusiastic morning person buried beneath my tired Mommy self somehow clawed her way to the front and I found myself suggesting we all get up and go for a run. Two days earlier, I’d attempted my first run since early in my pregnancy 18 months ago.  I’d tried alternating minutes of walking and jogging, totaling about 2 miles and felt great, both physically and mentally.

Running in the morning on the trail overlooking the Mediterranean Sea used to be one of my favorite things to do here so I was enthusiastic about continuing this tradition with all members of my family.  The details of getting us out the door (who needs a snack? do you need to use the bathroom? where is Eitan’s hat? where’s my water bottle?) were more complicated than they should have been and it was well past sunrise before we were on our way.  Once outside and halfway down the block, Aviv announced that he needed to go potty.  So Ariel took him back into the house and I continued my warm-up walk toward the water with Eitan in the running stroller.  Once to the path, I began a slow jog against the flow of florescent-clad runners who were already on their way home and felt an instant runner’s high.

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The boys caught up with us in no time and as I pushed the stroller, Ariel mostly dragged Aviv on his scooter.  We crawled along… but everyone was happy!  Toward the end of the run I asked Ariel if it wasn’t wrecking his run to be leaning over and pulling a kid along.  He answered with complete sincerity “Is there anything better than holding Aviv’s hand all morning?”!

the workout: 5km slow jog, alternated with walking at random intervals, concentrating on form and not leaning over stroller

 

quick fix

My plan was to swear off running for a couple of weeks while I’m in San Luis Obispo performing with Festival Mozaic. I didn’t have space in the car for our running stroller and thought a couple weeks off would provide a good opportunity for my foot to rest. However, without biking and swimming at my disposal I only lasted four days.
Today while my son was napping and I should have been practicing I finally gave in to my craving and changed into running shoes. My reasoning was simple; my hand was aching too much to play more and my internet cut out as I was trying to listen & study my orchestra parts. I figured getting some blood pumping would help my hand and hoped I’d have enough cell service to stream my music. Plus I was curious where the bike path behind my house led.

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The results? My hand actually feels somewhat better, I rocked out to two movements of a Schumann symphony on repeat (I know, I’m totally cool) and the bike path turns into a street which winds its way around Moro Bay. Overall, I feel 110% better than when I began so I’d call this one a success!

the workout: easy 2.5 mile jog with a sprint up final hill, forward & backward lunges, planks, stretching

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new routine

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Jet-lag is subsiding and we all slept until 6am when the garbage trucks woke us this morning. My philosophy is, if I have to be up at that hour I might as well start the day with a little exercise followed by a tasty breakfast. When renting a crib I’d inquired about a running stroller and the guy actually said, “you mean for sport? We don’t have those here.” So my husband and I traded off running and chasing Baby A around the playground.

The dust cloud that has been sitting over Tel Aviv the past couple of days is finally clearing. Blue sky was beginning to peek through during my run and the temperature was perfect. My legs felt heavy even though I’ve biked short distances each day and also ran two days ago. My focus for the past five weeks has been solely on violin and audition prep, so although I’ve been mentally and physically exhausted each night, the feeling was different from my usual training regime. I’m excited to get into a routine of regular runs along the namal and through Ha Yarkon Park, biking to hebrew lessons and swimming at Gordon pool!

For breakfast we tried a cafe which had attracted me with tempting aromas during my run. It was the most delicious meal I’ve eaten since our arrival last Thursday- and I love the food here! In the middle of breakfast I got a call that my placement exam at the Ulpan had been moved up an hour so I finished quickly and raced to the nearest Green Bike station. I can pick up a bike wherever I am and drop it off wherever I’m going. It’s a brilliant system and beside the severe lack of bike lanes & abundance of scary drivers, it’s the easiest way to get around here.

The picture below is from my ride to the audition. I quite enjoyed looking stylish and commuting by bike like at home 😉

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the workout: 2.86 miles, 9:38 min/mi, 267 calories