It is a truly a coincidence! I considered my participation in Tel Aviv triathlon as a blessing!

In a country where there are lots of fuss about politics and religions and where millions of people come for worship, I had the chance to taste the adrenaline rush of a sprint distance triathlon, swimming, cycling and running around the Mediterranean sea.

The main purpose I came to Israel is actually to be one of the participants of a short course on clean technology sponsored by MASHAV scholarship. Classes in the course like this usually spoil the participants with highly fat food supply that ruins my diet regime. Plus it is usually very intense so that there is no time for exercise.

It turns I managed well my food in take and did trainings more than I usually do in Indonesia. I was fitter, thinner and could participate in a tri race. The food supply was not perfect, but lunches and dinners were healthy enough. Yes, they still provide biscuits during the break, but I have options to skip that and just pick a wide range variety of vegis from the salad bar every day! Dried fruit is amazingly abundant and has high quality. Medjool dates and figs before heavy and long trainings, what a pleasure.

 

 

The place I stayed apparently is just across one of the largest sports compounds in Rehovot. I can swim in the morning and go to its gym at night if I want to. It is a bit expensive though; about USD 100 for a monthly subscription. Anyway, I need it to stay fit. I found this place, the first day I arrived. To find more information about options and pricing, I had a chat with a warden at the sports centre. It turns that he (Shy) is a triathlete.

 

 

I ended up having a long chit chat with Shy about triathlon and races. Well, from the conversation I know that I just missed the race that I should participate: Herzeliya, the biggest women tri event in Israel, about 1500 women involved. Ah I wish I was more alert with the tri race before traveling somewhere. Yes, this is a lesson from this trip: check whether there is a tri event before booking any flight, you definitely should participate to get some interesting experience and medals. I am a lucky person. There is another race in three weeks time. Not as prestigious as the one I missed but the warden suggests me to still participating. It would take place in Tel Aviv, very close by and it is manageable.

After I arrived in my lodge, I googled the race and I am shocked; all information is in Hebrew. Argh! The english page on the website of Israeli Triathlon Association is under construction. I do not understand a single word. I tried to google translate but it does not help. I finally tried to send a message on the Facebook page of the association and nagging for the info in english.

After three days here and there asking for help, I could register for the event. Yay! The head of international programme where I took the course helped me. Honestly it is one of the most complicated registrations for a tri event. Even I find the modest tri event in Indonesia like Sungailiat triathlon is still foreigner friendly and has a registration page in english. Perhaps, Israel does not rely on foreigners at all. Without foreigners, there are still 1500+ participants. A fascinating number since the country has only 8 million people. Perhaps their compulsory military duty for all with a limited exception makes them strong and competitive people. So triathlon may be a suitable endurance sport for Israeli people. 

My preparation for race is very minimal. I did not bring my race bike, clipped shoes, race sunglasses, and tri suit. Another lesson: bring all these although there is no plan for a race if a triathlete is going for a trip more than a week. Anything could happen. From a touring trip with rental bike to a triathlon race, you never know. The worst of all in this Tel Aviv Tri is that I feel lost most of the time. I did not know all race info, the route and all. I did not even know where to pick up the race pack. The information booklet was provided via an e-book that is all in image format. No chance to translate that using google translator.

Not until the last few days I messaged again the association via their Facebook. With only limited information I came to pick up the race pack at Saucony store. I was lost when picked my race pack up. When I arrived I expected that I could ask someone about the race information. Well, no volunteer speaks in english. A guy just answered briefly when I asked, what time should I come tomorrow to check in my bike? He answered, be at the parking lot over there at 5am. No printed map whatsoever in the race pack. So frustrating! So I just let the tomorrow come.

The only thing I could manage long before the race is finding a racing bike and a helmet to rent. I just google ‘race bike rental in tel aviv’. Some pops up. I contacted immediately and they are very responsive. Well, at the end I know that the owner is married to an American lady. Ah that’s why it is a foreigner friendly. Renting the least expensive racing bike and a racing helmet for a day costs me (90 USD). Well, maybe this is the easiest that the triathlete can do if he/she does not have enough luggage quota when travelling not for a race – just rent a bike. 

The next day when I arrived at the parking lot, many triathletes already lined up outside of the transition area ready to check in their bike. Everywhere I can see signposts, unfortunately they are all in Hebrew. I was asking many people about where should I park my bike, they just point without a clear direction. The situation around the transition area is still dark with a few light points. With low confidence, I parked my bike in the bike rack without knowing that the spot is actually for women 55+. 

After I take all my equipments out of my bag and tidy them up. A handsome guy with a Mediterranean look approached me. Ow another blessing! He asked me how old I am. Humm… not a very polite question. This should not be a question you ask when you meet a woman. But I responded, I am 32. Why? He replied, you should be in the other rack. His eyes were scanning around and could not find the spot he was looking for. He said, what a minute, I’ll ask. He then had a small run and came back quickly and tell me to pack my bag and bring my bike to follow him. 

I follow him to find where I suppose to park my bike. We walked quite far to the other lane. Finally I found the appropriate place to place my bike. I thanked the guy and asked his name. His name is Nevo. It was a pleasure to meet him. I asked, how could I see you again. He just nodded, we would see each other again in the finish line for sure. After he left, I continue lining up my stuff and get ready to test the water.

I walked along the deck to the swimming area and saw there was a transition area for kids. Pretty amazing huh! Many kids also joined the race. After I was standing on the beach I observed the water with a few hundreds folks who were also keen to try out. The waves are quite high, but the water is not too cold. Surprising that the buoys were still installed so I was not sure where are the turning points for a sprint distance triathlon. Only a few marshals floating around. Hmm.. it is pretty a minimalist race event. Maybe lack of funding, I guess. I myself did not have a camera or a cell phone with me. I left it in the hotel because I am afraid to loose it. Waiting for the swim leg ended up pretty boring. In Indonesia, many will bring cameras and pose endlessly. I decided to swim a bit.

After some strokes I got out of water and try to calm myself down. I stood behind an old couple who continuously talking. It is so sweet that an old couple can do tri together: a health romance story. I dare myself to interrupt their conversation and asked for the sprint distance swim route. Thankfully they can speak in english, but unfortunately they did not know either since the buoys were not fully set up and there was no announcement yet.

Fifteen minutes before the first group started its swim leg, there was a presenter started speaking in words that I could not understand a single bit. Ended up, I was briefed by the old couple. They also suggest to adjust my swimming. They told me, ‘you should run for 30-40 metres, then swim for 50m then run again because the beach is getting shallow and after that continue swimming until you finish. Hmmm challenging if I need to run in a water after a short swim, but anyway that is the rule of swimming in the Tel Aviv beach!!!

 Before the bell rang, I was so nervous because too many people around me. Up to 1500 participants ranging from 10 to 70 years old. The tension began to diminish after the swim leg started and I felt my adrenaline rush kicks in. Hmmm… I enjoyed the swim and I realised I already ran out of the water. I was unaware of many professional cameras waiting for out-of-the-water moment. So I missed my pose. These pros sell the pictures online. I do not think in Indonesia they sell the pictures.

 

 

The bike leg started with a very different feeling than in Indonesia because the road here in Tel aviv is very smooth and sterile. The route I took is basically a high-way, super flat, straight and very wide, a superb place for speeding up! Many strong women in the race and I had the chance to race side by side with a US chick. At the end of the race, she approached me and we had a nice chit chat. We were reviewing our bike leg and how enjoyable to be a competitive partner during the bike leg. It is a great feeling to have a new friend from a tri race event.

A run leg started with a sharp pain. I have a shredded skin and my blister hurt like hell. The blister from the rehearsal last week opened again! The band aid was dislodged and I did not wear any socks since I do not bring a pair with me. But the good side is that the swim leg has very stunning views. A nice route along the wooden deck in Tel Aviv port along its coast line. Cool view of the sea.  

Although pain from a leg did not stop, I kept running faster and faster till the end and unexpectedly there is a pro cam that catch the epic ending. This time I realised and I was not missing the chance to fly high and say Cheers !! I bought the pic for about 4 USD. It is all worth the effort and money. what a wonderful coincidence and a great experience !! I finished 1 hour 33 minutes for a sprint distance triathlon. I did not win, but all these good memories are more than enough as a prize of all my effort to show that Anywhere I Can Tri.