Impressions: From the Team Manager

Two weeks has elapsed and we are still full of excitement and energy.

Two weeks has elapsed since Nir finished – in the third place – the European Ultraman Championship, which took place in Wales, UK (September 3-5, 2011).

The Ultraman competition is limited to 40 participants and takes place during 3 consecutive days.

Day 1 – a 10 km (6.2 mile) swim + a 145 km (90 mile) bike ride;
Day 2 – a 280 km (172 mile) bike ride;
Day 3 – an 84 km (52.4 mile) double-marathon run.

Since year 1983 the Ultraman competition has been taking place in Hawaii and its motto, in the native’s language, comes down to 3 words: Aloha, Kakoa, Ohana, meaning Love, Help, Family, respectively.

It is the spirit that the competition organizers successfully seep into the participants who, at the beginning, repeat them like parrots; but later, these words penetrate and achieve their goal.
Also, special relations are developing among the teams during the competition.

The competition complexity requires from the athlete, as a mandatory condition, to subscribe  with at least 2 team persons whose function is to navigate, feed, help (technically ), encourage, talk, and all the other components required in this long “workday” (8-12 hours); in short, to put into practice the athlete’s abilities.

It is the competition in which Nir chose to participate.

This year is the first time that the competition took place also in Europe – in Wales, UK.

Nir’s first Ironman competition also took place in England…

When initially Nir told me about the competition and its complexity I couldn’t believe my ears: the challenge looked to me as hardly achievable. But as time went by and the trainings intensified I understood that it is achievable and that Nir is going to meet this goal fully, perfectly. 

A year of training has passed by, a year full of experiences resulted from many hours we spent together on the roads, from a joint will to physically and mentally improve, regarding nutrition, preparing the gear and building communication and special mutual trust.

Three weeks before the competition we packed the gear and headed to Wales. We reached London and after driving about 5 hours we arrived at BETWS-Y-COED, the hosting village. The area looked promising…

The day after, at dawn, full of curiosity we took the car in order to be familiar with the riding itineraries we recognized by far only from Google maps.  We start driving and, immediately and unexpectedly, we encountered curved and sloped roads, narrow shoulderless roads, and hills again and again. Our “playgrounds” – Mount Gilboa, Kursi, Gamla and Had-Ness actually really look like playgrounds…

After a short while, Nir stops me and firmly says that he must, here and now, feel the roads with his bike…

We are carrying on – Nir with his bike and I am driving my car.

The area is amazingly beautiful, abundant with green meadows and water, so much water:  Water in the streams, waterfalls and water flowing down the mountains, into lakes – small and great lakes, named and nameless lakes; sheep, sheep and more sheep. No doubt they rule the area – they cover the hills and the mountains, leisurely they cross the road or go along it, they pass between and on the hundreds-year-old stone fences. The breath is taken away from seeing all this beauty and marvel.

We left Israel at the end of August where the heat reached 300-400C, and in Wales – 50C in the morning and maximum 200C at noon. It was raining almost always; since each sunny hour was a miracle wished by everyone, we could perfectly understand why the talk of the day focused on the weather…

The first morning in Wales passed with initial excitement and in recognizing part of the riding itineraries; the afternoon hours were dedicated to recognize the lake where the swim was going to take place. According to the data of recent years, the water temperature should have been more or less 160C, but this year was especially cold in Wales and the lake water temperature reached only 120C – in August!

Despite the threatening cold, Nir went swimming “only for one hour”. I am dressed with a sweater and a woolen hat and ashamed to tell him that I am freezing while he entered the water…

Nir goes out of the water, his hands and feet are white, the lips don’t move – as if received a dental injection.
“Well…” I asked him, “OK, need to get used to it”, he replied.

From then on, we used to come to the lake every day to practice and to get used to it.

The three weeks prior to the competition went by while we were training, making ourselves familiar with the area, the tracks, the weather, and with riding and driving in the left side of the road. Time passed quickly.

The competition day is coming and the level of excitement rises.
A meeting to make acquaintance with the participants is held. 35 people subscribed of whom 29 (from 16 countries) attended. Each of them is impressive: one because he took part in a great number of competitions, the other owing to the type of competition he took part in, or to the results he achieved along the years.  Some of them are dressed with shirts with a respected list of sponsors; some of them quiet and some outgoing. But all of them are impressive.

 We are proud and honored that Nir is a part of such a company. What happiness!


The Competition

The first day – 5 in the morning, we are at the lake shore, it is still dark, everybody unload their gears to the light of flashlights. The process of making arrangements is stepping up; the organizer assembled us – team leaders and athletes – for last instructions. They remind us that the difficult challenge is to confront ourselves rather than the track and the weather, and that we are to except many hours of work where most of it is enigmatic/unclear rather than apparent;

Gane, the Hawaii Ultraman World Championship organizer is praying and thanking, on behalf of everybody, for being able to take part in this event – the competition.

No doubt it is going to be interesting.

With sunrise the opening whistle starts the competition.

First the swim – 10 km in three rounds. After 40 minutes I noticed Nir finishing the first run. Is that possible?

Yes! Yes! Nir finishes the swim, being the forth to leave the water. We help him to get arranged and he quickly starts riding.

We follow him. After about 3 km we are told to continue driving directly rather to turn to the right, instructions which are contrary to the indications in the maps we are holding. We are looking at each other and do as we told. Nir is riding up the hill and in parallel to the original path. It doesn’t make sense to me: I don’t understand how we suppose to connect to the rest of the path. I horn at Nir again and again and indicate him to turn around (in fact, a local bike competition was held there).

Nir “flew” back to the correct path. 25 minutes were lost due to this mistake. Nir gives everything he has to close the gap, he doesn’t lose his bravery, doesn’t lose excessive energy and, nevertheless, finishes the first day in the third place. Chapeau!

The second day – 280 km of a bike ride in roads open to all vehicles. Hills, slopes, narrow roads, stunning landscape. A beautiful rainless day and hours of work – 5,000 meters of accumulated climb – a difficult, challenging and enjoyable work. Nir finishes this day in the fifth place.

The third day – a run of 84 km. Start up is at 07:00 am. The rain and the wind are with us from the beginning to the end of the day – except some minutes of grace. Harsh head wind with intensities unfamiliar to us even after training in Ein Zivan. Nir runs in the planned speed, Eduardo, the instructor, is worried and encouraged, writes down speeds and ask me what I think of Nir and his speeds. “Everything is OK”, I answer.
I, who have been with him so many hours of training, knows the peaceful expression on his face, the inward contemplation that gives the power to conform challenges.

Every few kilometers, Shmulik get off the car and gives Nir, Water, Isotonic gel and protein and returns wet to the car. He also doesn’t mind at all the rain and runs alongside Nir to provide him with everything he needs. Who is going to believe that Shmulik’s heart contains 5 stents?

In this special competition it is allowed to run next to the athletes. Some of them have people to run next to them throughout the day. We planned for Eduardo to run with Nir for 10 km – from the 60th km, and for Shmulik, to run with Nir the next 10 km. And then, the final kilometers is a downhill slope.

After 50 km I feel that near experience difficulties a little bit more than the expected. Eduardo is getting ready to join him somewhat earlier. He is dressing up – putting on a shirt, a coat, a hat, another hat and hits the road. It is immediately has good impact on Nir who declares: “difficult is good!” Having said this, he started also to believe it.

From then on, Eduardo and Shmulik join Nir alternately, and I drive the car next to them, as much as possible.

Last climb. it’s raining cats and dogs. More 20 km to go, and Nir ask me to play, on the CD, the singer Shuli Rand.  I play the music in full volume. Nir is running, and I and Shuli Rand are singing with full power:

‘From now, from this moment
I shall stick in a flower of hope, in my lapel
I shall neither be afraid nor hide…
Days of profusion and bless
And a lot of peace and joy
Because there lies God
Because there lies God’.  

Shmulik is standing alert next to me. Eduardo, the instructor, is excited, confused, and taking pictures, and Nir is running and running…

No doubt that the people of Wales haven’t heard for many years such a singing, such a pray.

Nir is crossing the finish line of the third day in the third place.

We are happy, proud and full of joy, to the extent that words cannot describe.

Nir finished the competition in the third place. 7 minutes after the second place and around 40 minutes before the forth place.

It is time for me now to make proper disclosure: true, I am the team leader but I am also Nir’s mother.

You surely know that being a mother is not easy at all, so just think how complex is the situation of being a team leader and a mother.

It is a great privilege to accompany your child in such an outstanding challenge, to be there when his dream comes true.

Today we are heading towards fulfilling another dream: the Ultraman World Championship to be held in 2012 in Hawaii. This year it is a dream of both of us.


Dana Alter

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