Up early and on the bus to the train station. We were pretty unstressed and not yet pressed for time so, we explored, and then took selfies, and made up stories about the other passengers.
The train took us North about 18k to Lehavim, and we ventured out on foot to find the start point, pick up our kit etc. Luckily we met a nice chap who was headed to race as well, but my original plan had me running the 2k from the train station to the start, and as a result our friendly, leisurely walk put us there too late, and when I finally got my number the mob had already taken off, by 90 seconds according to my chip. I never did get to pin it on.
So, we ran like mad anyway, and chased down the crowd little by little till we found ourselves a few minutes off the lead. Unfortunately, my 5k pace didn’t quite hold for the second lap, and I was never able to catch the lead group.
At one point, around 7k, the Budgie’s enthusiasm started to wane, “No race. Park.” She had seen a new and unexplored park on the way in. So, I reiterated my promise that we’d check the park out, but that in order to get there, we needed to keep running, and that if we stopped we wouldn’t get a medal. That won her over; the Budgie likes her medals.
So, all told we didn’t run our fastest 10k (44:00) by my watch, but managed 11th overall and 5th in category. It ended up being a special day for both of us, and the Budgie was beaming when she showed the medal to Ima when she got home. And yes, we spent a good chunk of time at the park, and had a relaxed meander back to the train. So, sometimes a Personal Best, is actually about the value of the memory, not the time.
*with the insanity of what might be the beginning of a 3rd Intifada, bus-stop/train station attacks, stabbings, and run-overs, I have to say something, like what I wrote during the Gaza War
when standing at intersections
I look six ways every few seconds
Warn my sons to avoid standing at the front of the bus stop
And to be “vigilant,” but about what, I cannot really explain
I’m ashamed to pay more for a cab,
instead of riding the train
and sticking it to the hateful assholes
The rage that rises is not against others
but against the feeling of helplessness
because if I bow to fear,
nine warring kings
five senses – eight natures within
possible to wait for the gradual degradation
of their powers
allowing one of the factions to win
fear faces down courage in darkened alley
temperance and indulgence trade vicious blows
wisdom crosses her sharpened lance with regret
while justice parries against lust
meanwhile, the eyes, nose, tongue, hands and ears provide both sides with weapons – the iran-contra affair of the soul
By the Numbers
100k, 13:27 hours, 3 loops, 5 bananas, 4 gels, 4 energy balls, dozens of pretzels, 500 ml of chia, 500 ml of water, 4000 ml of Iso, 2 cups of coffee, 1 cup of magical tea, 4 cups of divine soup, 1 glorious feeling of accomplishment.
Though I was slower than I hoped, I am thrilled to have finished, and learned many things about myself, my body and more than anything else, the power of the mindfulness. Muscle fatigue factors prevented me from running much the last 15k, which devastated my pace, but I power-walked that last bit, a very happy and tired man.
I was pampered by my amazing wife who met me at each turn around, despite the chill and ungodly hour. She re-nourished me, cheered me on, and never once said, “You are almost there” or the more devastating, “Should you keep going?” Afterward, she hunted for food, beer and then gently worked-out my trashed muscles multiple times post-ultra. To her credit she forcefully insisted that I run through the finish line, which at the time felt nearly impossible, but I did it, and I’m really glad I did, and to my surprise no important parts fell off.
Mindfulness – the key
The one key I found that kept me in the game was an ironclad resolve to NOT do any math after 66k. Because when I started to think about how much I had left, I’d start to lose heart. Instead, I reminded myself, “There is only this moment, this kilometer – run well right now.” And that honestly was amazing.
Moment of terror
At 38k, when I thought I was very much alone on the Roman road, I called a friend in Canada to keep me company, about the same time my headlamp started to give me a warning sign that I was out of battery, and then a moment or two later I heard the bone-chilling howl/yip/laugh of hyenas/wolves/jackals (I’m not a biologist) less than a hundred metres away. A compulsion to panic was present, but thankfully, they reckoned that I was either too skinny or too smelly to bother with, but they did manage to scare the living daylights out of many of us. Later I was able to chase down two other runners who graciously gave me spare batteries they were carrying.
One section after the wild animals, I had this weird sense that I wasn’t alone, and then my headlamp caught the reflection of a pair of eyes 3 metres away. Turns out a herd of cattle (including many Bulls) were trying to sleep alongside the trail, but I took comfort that they rarely eat people.
My Lunda Oso sandals attracted a lot of attention, especially in light of the Hoka One fad that has swept the Ultra-running community in Israel. I am thrilled to report that they worked well, though over the Roman road sections I wondered if a little extra padding would have been a crime. I had one small rub develop on the top of my foot, but this was quickly mitigated by a piece of Compeed™. My soles felt a little bruised, but this passed in 6 hours or so, and I suspect that in any footwear I would have felt the same.
The awesome people of Kibbutz Hazorea
The volunteers were awesome, engaging and rather knowledgeable. According to what I understand, the residents of Kibbutz Hazorea came out enmasse to make sure we were hydrated, fed, and still able to say our name. At 4 in the morning two young locals chose to run a km with me, just because. The food was plentiful and no one pestered me about filling my bottles with Isotonic or taking fistfuls of whatever food. Two stations even featured Chicken Noodle Soup, which after 40k is nothing short of magic. One station, at the far end of the trail, faithfully and enthusiastically cheered for every runner that came through. At 85k, those cheers kept me moving.
Running the 100k has certainly expanded my mind about what is physically possible. I sincerely wish I could devote the time necessary to train to truly compete and not just survive; I think I could be really good at it. 4 days later, I feel nearly ready to begin running, with the exception of a little swelling in my ankle, and now with the University racing season about to begin, I need to get my speed on.
To all the wonderful friends who have supported, encouraged and prayed for me despite their silent misgivings; thanks, I really felt that you were with me. To the two couples who watched over the Budgie and the boys while we were away – I owe you big time.
To my sons, who encouraged me to run longer, and never let me rest on my laurels, “What? You didn’t run 40k today?” and the Budgie who faithfully rode 100s of km, getting me ready.
Most importantly my dear wife who supported, fed and massaged me despite her private fears of sending me to an early grave. Thanks for the wonderful time away – while the race was awesome, the holiday with you was the best part. The middle of the night, mid-race selfies are a precious memory.
Running, like life, is a grand gift and being able to attempt and succeed at the 100k is a treasure.
The race was put on by Maratoniah and Sportweb, and it was simple affair, fun, chill and well-organized. Given that the race began at 03:00, and the last train dropped me nearby at 00:00 I thought I’d try and sleep in the park. Not my best idea, but not my worst. While I couldn’t actually sleep, I did rest a bit. What struck me as interesting was how many Haredi youth were out and about looking to get wasted or get some action (being so close to Bnei Barak); that was kinda surreal.
I can’t say that I actually saw much of the scenery, as most of it I ran blind with a pathetically weak and ancient Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp which has now been retired. But when the sun rose and chased the darkness away, I was enthralled by the beauty.
A vicious GI flu the week before didn’t contribute to feeling marvelous (I only managed to get out of bed two days before), and multiple “pit stops” enroute and gut pain didn’t help me get a good time. However, after about 30k, when my system was empty, then the magic hit and I found my groove, managing to run the second half much faster than the first.
Joints, muscles worked great though, only a minor stitch in my quad as I was working through the final 4k. I suspect that this was more to do with fatigue than anything.
I could have dropped this race, but I really wanted to know three things ahead of the Sovev Emeq 100k on the 24th:
- Could I press on even if I felt ill?
- Could I run a really long way in sandals?
- Could I run after not sleeping for 24 hours?
And the answer to all those questions was “YES.”
Mind and Soul
Not the zen-like experience I’ve had in the past, but this was more to do with my tummy woes. Otherwise I felt pretty chill, didn’t fret about pace, wasn’t stressed about being able to finish or not. I actually listened to music after 30k, which really contributed to my sense of having fun and being in my own little world. I was blissfully happy when I saw the finish line, but actually felt that I could keep going if need be.
To make things extra nice, my wife took the Budgie on the train and they managed to arrive a few minutes after my finish and I scored a water-bottle shower and a full rub-down. I was really blessed. It was kinda like a date, but with a toddler and copious amounts of lactic acid, but hey!
I know it’s not about the gear, but I’ve added a couple of new tools to my arsenal:
- Ultimate Direction, Scott Jurek model racing vest – worked great, even forgot that it was there.
- Luna Oso sandals – absolutely rad, but a little chilly. At one point I tripped (couldn’t see) and caught my 2nd Judging by the force of the trip, I assumed I broke it, but given how cold my feet were I didn’t feel it. In the end, it was fine, and the cool actually reduced the swelling, which was really nifty.
- CEP Compression Sleeves. First time racing in them. Yes I look like a dork, but I’m a dork with happy calves.
In the end I managed 5:02, which put me in 18th place out of 40, not great, but not bad; I’m totally satisfied with my results/effort/wellness ratio. I’m now five days away from the 100k Ultra, and this is uncharted water for me. I’ve picked my gear carefully, and now need to convince myself that the training is enough and that my plan will work.
Here’s to the long run!
Slowly coming back to life here.
Please check out the guest blog I wrote over at The Runner Dad:
We had a war here this summer. No, not a price-war or a gas-war, but one of those ugly wars with bombs and rockets, soldiers and fear, of funerals and collective sadness. The kind of war that has air-raid sirens, where you collect shrapnel as a souvenir from your unfortunate neighbor’s wall, the kind of war when you listen to the news with a sick feeling in your stomach, when you know that a rocket landed by the house of a friend, or that a name you recognize will be among the casualties.
This war, different than the last war we were immersed in, affected me in new ways as a father and as a runner. This war stripped me of my fantasy that I am able to protect my children. Maybe this came from having to sprint for shelter with air-raid sirens blaring, and a screaming baby in my arms, knowing I couldn’t actually make it in time…
To read the rest, go visit TheRunnerDad!
I really want to be human again. I’m sick of being defined by narrow categories that neglect the complexity of both my views and my responses. I am not my perceived affiliation – I am a human.
Somewhere along the way, it would seem that political polemics hijacked the reality of what it means to be human. I say this because it is frightfully easy to find yourself confined by the imaginary boundaries of the political spectrum; as if certain responses and compulsions are not acceptable and have no outlet unless allowed by your particular brand of politic…
To read the rest, please visit my blog on Times of Israel.