Alan taking part in the triathlon

Temporary insanity? Ignorance? Mid-life crisis? All of these? I decided to do a triathlon. Not the Iron Man, but the Sprint - 750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run. No problem. I've been running for a few years. On holiday I always swim some lengths in the hotel pool. I have a good bicycle and I sometimes ride to the corner grocery. So I signed up for the Rishon Lezion Sprint Triathlon.

OK, swimming. I took out a subscription at the local pool. Very cliquey. I walk into the change room. "Morning guys." Inaudible grunts. In walks Motti. Hugs, kisses, back slaps. "How was your weekend?" OK, I came here to swim, not to mingle. But the swimming was harder than expected. Even though I am quite fit, I needed a 5- minute break every 2 lengths. Lucky there was a swimming teacher in the pool teaching 5 year olds, and she told me I was wasting energy and offered to give me a private lesson to improve my style. Half an hour lesson for the price of a weekend in Eila, but it worked. Have you heard of the TI method? Total Immersion. Very economical. I was swimming 1.5km of crawl without a break. Even overtaking some octogenarian swimmers. Very proud. But my pride was short-lived. According to an article that I read on the Internet, triathlon swimming is a war. Bumping, kicking, waves, salt water. Forget about TI. Keep your head up and breathe forward - not sideways. Back to the 5-minute break between lengths.

Riding a bicycle in Israel is dangerous. Israeli drivers are speaking on their cell phones or texting, or shaving or plucking their eyebrows. They have no patience for bicycle riders. Or pedestrians or motor bikes or other cars for that matter. So I put the bike in the car and drove to a cycle track or a quiet road to train. Very time-consuming. Had to cut down on sleep. I was averaging 25 to 30kph. According to the internet article, that’s a good pace for a first-time triathlonist. I was on my way to stardom.

The big day arrives. Shocking weather. Rainiest March day in 50 years. Got totally soaked loading the car. Put dry clothes in a plastic bag and changed clothes in the car. 5am. I'm the only car on the road. Rishon beachfront is dark and wet. I sign in. The waves are enormous. Maybe I'll do some body surfing afterwards? Everyone is drinking hot coffee in the restaurant. Important announcement. The sea is too rough. The triathlon has become a biathlon. 5km run, 20km cycle, 2.5km run. That’s OK, I was a bit worried about the swim.

They call my age group. Everyone except me is in a fancy triathlon outfit. I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt. They all look fit and strong. Hope I trained enough. The first run goes well. The weather has cleared. I'm feeling good. Lucky I ate those dates for extra energy. I even manage to overtake a couple of stragglers. I come into the change-over area in good spirits. I hop on my cycle, very proud of the 10 seconds I save by not changing shoes. I'm riding in my running shoes. Everyone else has clip-in riding shoes. The storm is back. Gale force winds. I'm pedaling like crazy and hardly moving. I'm riding far too slowly. I'm sweating like crazy. All those whom I passed in the changing area are passing me. All those whom I passed on the run are passing me. They have aerodynamic handlebars. They have clip-on shoes. Big mistake not to have clip-ons. The guys are on their second lap and I'm still on my first. A few people are skidding in the rain and falling off. At least I stay on the bike.

I somehow finish the bike stage. Now realize that the 10 seconds I am saving in not changing back to running shoes is a joke. But I'm sure I'll gain time in the second run. Oh oh! My legs are wooden. Rubber. Jelly. Not in working order. I'm struggling to run. Forget about overtaking anyone. I'm running into that gale force wind again. Sweating profusely despite the cold rain. Pace is extra slow. Not much faster than a walk.

As I come into the finishing area, a huge gust blows over the barricades. I have to dodge metal and canvas. The only ones there are the announcer and my wife and daughter and her friend. Hats, coats, scarves and umbrellas. Everyone else has run for cover. The announcer says, "and here comes…. I can't read his number. It's smeared from the rain". Well, at least I finished. Not last but very much near the back. Saw a couple of octogenarians coming in a few minutes after me.

Try again next year? I don’t think so. OK, maybe…

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Alan Liferow

Alan Liferow was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1961 and schooled at Sandringham High. He studied at Wi...
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