Half iron man- Israman 2014

Ori…Ori.. no words can describe how much I appreciate you. You are simply a magician…
I met you 6 months ago for a general evaluation, swimming at a speed of 25 meters in 32 seconds and 30 strokes.

I was scared to death of swimming then. I was uncomfortable in the water (and in the situation as well!), and I couldn’t catch up my breath or get fixed on a constant pace.
Later on, as we went on with training I found out I have an ‘open water phobia’ , some kind of sea illness.
Yesterday, after 7:32 hours of putting in hard work, I crossed the finish line of the first iron man, Israman 2014.

So this is how it all happened:
I showed up to my last swim practice before the race on Wednesday. Of course I was very nervous.
But then we went some race pace sets, which I was able to keep up with. It sure gave me some confidence.

On Thursday we drove down to Eilat. Every stop we had at gas stations there were triathlon athletes and iron men everywhere! Damnit. Each and every one of them looked like a monster to me!! How the hell am I going to do this… We checked the weather forecast on the way. Obviously my biggest problem is the swimming part. How am I going to handle that? If at all? Winds? Waves? I met 2 swimmers from Cyprus at Aroma in Sede Boker, which got me a bit back in proportions. But still, they look so strong. I seriously need to step it up with my swimming.

At 12:00 I get a phone call from a friend who got down there sooner than we did. He said: “it’s really windy, prepare yourself”. Pressure went up hill from there. It was a 4.5 hours drive to Eilat and there wasn’t a single moment I wasn’t talking to you Ori (in my head). Swim smooth and easy…smile…breath every 3 strokes, keep a 17-18 strokes per lap… keep one eye in the water and one eye above water level…and it goes on. The WEST technique is my only way out of this situation. I realized that the only thing that can help me is mastering the right technique.

Then I showed up in Eilat. Everywhere we looked around , on sidewalks, there were an ironman, and another ironman, and another one. They probably looked at me thinking to themselves how frightened I looked. I got my participant kit and went to my hotel to get ready.

15:30 race set up instruction. Oh well, that all made sense. I have memorized the race booklet anyway. Swimming south, around 3 yellow bouies, and back around 3 red ones. At least navigations was going to be easy.
Then I saw Avishag 4 chairs next to me!! Yes!! Someone familiar from ‘Water World’!! with her endless smile, I shared my concerns. “it’s all going to be ok” she said.
17:30 I checked in with my equipment at the exchange zones… that’s it… the countdown has begun. 21:00 I’m already in bed, trying not to over think anything…just remember to smile I tell to myself.
4:00am I get up, put my suit on and brush my teeth!! Wow… all of a sudden I realize the situation I’m in: its 4:10am and I’m brushing my teeth in a racing suit. Take off is at 6:30am.
I take everything off, make some coffee and try to relax.

After going to the bathroom 4 times, yeah, 4 times (im not sure if it’s because all of that Magnesium or being nervous of swimming, but my intestine is definitely working). I put my suit on, stretch and we show up at the beach…it’s cold… but the water is clear, like a puddle of oil. You could still see the moon reflection in the water!!

6.15am, a helicopter is up in the sky, music is playing, crazy atmosphere, everybody is ready to go and the heat is about to take off. You can feel the insaneness around… we are waiting on the police approval… and I… I… still cant see the buoys. Where do we go? Which direction? Wow… oh well, im not going to lead off the heat anyway… so we’ll see.
6:20am, that’s it, full heat is taking off. It means I have 10 minutes… my heart is racing… my knees are shaking… im trying to get closer to the shore…it’s impossible… there are 600 people lined up here!!
“its unbelievable”!! he shouts in the microphone… oh man… it’s off the top!!.
3 minutes to take off… I’ve reached the shore…I’m rinsing my googles… the thing I hear is my own heart beat… the water feels warm… I guess because it’s so cold outside but who cares…

1 minute to take off… I look at my watch… my heart rate is 164!!! What do you do? Should I take off from the back? Maybe from the side?… I have no time to think… and then it’s happening… we are taking off…
I jump in like a “penguin” on top of other people. I get hit all around and I have only taken 3 strokes.. my legs… my back… my head… so aggressive…

One last breath… I take a look back to the water… I see 2 pairs of googles making their way to the bottom of the ocean!! Swimmers with no cap on or googles trying to make their way out of this mess.
Then I change up and go breaststroke…you literally cant swim. I “accidently” kick 2 people behind me… I feel bad…
Then I go doggy swim… I have no choice… how can I stay calm? Come on Meir I tell myself. Everything is ok… Ori said to just go with it and smile…. So have fun with it… and I take another heat and embrace it… and another one…

It keeps on going for 800 meters!! Only at the third buoy I get my pace on…. Oh Ori…. U cant imagine… its working… my heart rate is dropping… I swim nice and easy… then I pass by a swimmer… and another one… then I find myself passing through a group of swimmers… swimming even easier, without running into anyone of them… please red buoy show up… 900 meters go by and it feels great… I get set on a faster pace… yeah im stepping it up because I feel strong. Powerful stroke, my thumb is reaching all the way back to my thigh… 3 strokes… another breath… I take high power strokes… and I feel like im speeding up!!!
The suit floats me up tremendously, and swimming in the red sea just tops it!!
Every 12 strokes I lift my head up to take a look around… im great at navigating…. Yet another great stroke…
Please shore where are you… I can already hear the music, I can see the water is getting shallow… im getting closer…
That’s it!! I rise up with a big smile on my face… I take a look at the watch….
41 minutes!!!!!!!!!

Wow did this happen?? I wasn’t even swimming the first 800 meters?!
Ori, WEST technique got me though the swimming part easily, with a great time (at least for me), and I can keep on going…so all I have left now is 90 kilometers biking and 21 kilometers running… but who cares???
I was capable of swimming 1900 meters at that race… and that was my goal!!!
Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

meir-finishwww.ZalemOti.com

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