As the sun rose on early Saturday morning, hundreds of women gathered along the sands of South Accadia Beach in Herzliya to place their bikes in racks, sip sport drink, stretch and focus their minds towards the athletic journey that they were about to begin.
The 13th edition of the Women’s triathlon in Israel took place this Saturday and was organized by the Dvoskin family in memory of Tamar Dvoskin; an avid triathlete who had just returned from counseling youth in Kiev and Moscow when she was involved in a hit and run accident while training on her bike in August 1996.
Over the past several years the event has exploded in size and this year’s edition involved two categories of distance; sprint and popular, along with a relay or single competitor option. Most of the participants chose to complete the event as individual competitors and had trained with a focus on completing the event and earning a rose, a medal, and a sense of personal accomplishment.
When the gun went off at 7am on the Beach signaling the start of the sprint triathlon, cheers went up in the crowd of women athletes and spectators as the women leapt over top of the shallow water for the first 20 metres and then dolphin dived in the water to begin the swim leg. Arms and legs were moving in every which direction and feet were bogged down in the sinking sand, but before long all of the women had set off to make their way around the circuit of orange buoys lining the swim course.
The first few swimmers leading the race misjudged the turn around buoy and were forced to play catch up as they worked to catch the swimmers who had turned around one buoy sooner, but for the most part all of the swimmers followed the clearly marked course and delighted in the extra buoyancy that swimming in salt water provided. Exiting the water the athletes scrambled onto the beach and tried valiantly to sprint up a deep sand pathway climbing 200 metres towards the transition area where the bikes were racked.
Reaching the transition the women hopped atop their bikes and pedaled away to begin the 5 loop bike leg on a closed circuit of road. The first few athletes were able to complete a loop on a fairly empty stretch of road, but very quickly more women began to pour onto the bike course and soon the circuit was packed with strong female athletes navigating the wide corners and flat straight aways of the loop. Spectators lined the entire circuit and the sound of cheering never seemed to dim. Every women racing was on her own personal journey to challenge herself to finish or to finish stronger and faster than the previous year. All the athletes seemed to feed off of the energy created by each other and by the supporters. Some of the athletes enjoyed the bike to such an extent that they accidentally raced an extra loop of the course only to find out that they had done this while entering the transition area to begin the run course.
photo by: Michal Peleg
By the time the run began the temperatures had risen from the early morning and the athletes had to be careful to stay hydrated and shield themselves from the sun as much as possible. With foresight for the purpose the lead organizers of the race, Susie and Danny Dvoskin added ventilated race style hats to the registration kits that all the sprint distance athletes received before the race began. The hats had a cool style to them in a red fabric with pockets along the sides to hold energy gel packets. Many of the athletes chose to grab their hats and wear them as they swiftly navigated the hot run course.
The run course looped around the marina and took the runners past docked yachts and throngs of people out for an early morning breakfast at the many cafes along the waterfront. Reaching the final 100 metres of the run course, the athletes ran up a short hill then made a quick turn to flow into a short flat leading into finish chute where they received hugs, a medal, and a fresh rose.
The day was a huge success as measured by the broad smiles on everyone’s face and the enthusiastic high fives being given everywhere. The sense of accomplishment filled the air, and the women left feeling empowered by the experience and maybe even more committed to a healthy lifestyle than they were before the event. The Women’s triathlon in Israel is unique in itself and this Saturday served to provide a safe and encouraging place for women to explore and feel comfortable within themselves as competitive and recreational athletes and more importantly as strong, capable women in a forum of healthy activity. As the event wrapped up more than a few men were heard muttering their jealousies and sharing plans to sneak a men’s field into the 2007 Women’s Triathlon in Israel. Their female companions exchanged understanding looks and promised to share their roses instead.