This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘relay race’

Lesson Learned: It’s a Good Idea to Train

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 10, 2017

Note to self: if you’re running a long race, it’s a good idea to train. I traveled a lot this summer, so my running fell by the wayside. Besides, I figured, the Arad to Masada half-marathon is mostly downhill, right? Er, almost. The beginning and end are downhill but in the middle, there are some tough hills. Also, 21 kilometers is a significant distance, not to be taken lightly unless you can run 15 kilometers without much effort. I was barely running 7 kilometers when I realised that the race date was only a week away. I got through it without hurting myself, only through experience and good form. The fact that they’d re-surfaced the old Arad road to the Roman ramp of Masada also helped.

Around the 10th kilometer I noticed that I was literally running in a guy’s shadow for several kilometers, so I got the courage to make a comment (in Hebrew) about the hills. Oleg, a big Russian guy, told me that he also hadn’t trained and was afraid he’d bitten off more than he could chew. We ran (sometimes walked) together for 12 kilometers, encouraging each other along the way. He told me that he’d run 8 full marathons. When I told him how much I wanted to do a marathon but didn’t think I ever would, he said, “Oh, it’s just like doing a half-marathon twice.” (It isn’t really, of course, but anything can make you laugh at 3:30 in the morning when you’re wondering when the hills are ever going to end.)

Here’s a shot of me and Oleg coming up to the last water station around the 18th kilometer. We look a bit wilted but are trying to put on a good show.

Me and Oleg at the last water station

We crossed the finish line together. Yes, that’s our time above the track (final time 2:36). Not brilliant but, hey, we finished! Oleg was high-fiving me and waving at me before the finish line, later at the finish party, inside the bus back to Arad, and even back at the Arad parking lot. I think I helped him as much as he helped me, because it was getting hard to keep my spirits up when I was so tired. The camaraderie of runners is one of the great things about running. Sometimes total strangers will team together and the sum is greater than the total of its parts.

Me and Oleg at the finish line

Exactly one week later, I ran as part of a 6-person (mixed) team in Tanach Tashach. We covered 200+ kilometers in 26 hours and I ran a total of 34.5 kilometers. Although I rested between the two events, I was not nearly up to speed and had to walk most of the hills.

Here I am coming in to Mesilat Zion. The first day was brutal. It was bloody hot (all around me, people were walking the hills; I wasn’t the only wimp) during the first leg, 8 kilometers. I was paired with someone who was a much stronger (and younger) runner, so she ran ahead of me on the legs where we ran together.

Me near Mesilat Zion

The second leg, a few hours later, was 13 kilometers in mid-afternoon. It got pushed later and later and we got caught running after dark without headlamps. I was alone, running along loose stones downhill, and eventually I turned on my phone flashlight app to light the path when it became too dangerous to continue in the dark. I can tell you that it’s not easy to run off-road with your phone for light. Your hand and arm start getting cramped from holding the light onto the path. During that first day, I ran the equivalent of a half marathon and was exhausted. I got a few hours of sleep (thank heavens we rented a zimmer with real beds and a shower!). I ran with Noa at 2 a.m. for the third leg. Fortunately, that was only 6.5 kilometers and Noa (of #forceofnoa fame) wasn’t a whole lot faster than me because she’d done chemo the previous Sunday.

We ran two teams, ForceOfNoa1 and 2. Noa, a former ultra-runner who is currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer, is the team’s mascot. She was the coach and leader of their team a couple years ago (the unusually wet and muddy Tanach Tashach of 2015, which was probably my most uncomfortable and dangerous run ever). We were a mix of old and young, strong and weak, injured and uninjured runners. We did a switch-around of runners on the third leg of my runs so that an injured runner could rest, so Noa ran with me. I know it sounds cliched but she really is an inspiration. Running with her in the dark, losing the trail (#16 wasn’t well marked in the middle, something that the organizers should have foreseen because everyone runs that leg in the dark), finding it again, jogging with the bracelets back to the zimmer because the next pair of runners hadn’t show up on time–nothing fazed her. (Well, OK, the last thing did faze her. At 2 a.m., all you want to do is shower and collapse, not hang around waiting for your team-mates to show up. We were pretty pissed off.)

The next day there was a brief rain that, instead of cooling us down, turned the forest into a tropical jungle. At least it wasn’t enough rain to cause serious mud, but the humidity was uncomfortable. We were worried that we would be disqualified because our times had slipped so much that we were in danger of the stations closing before our runners arrived. The station volunteers were very helpful. When it started raining again, they packed everything else first, leaving the sensor set up as late as possible. Our #3 runners managed to get to Kfar Uriah in time and the rest of the stations had generous closing times, so we finished without being disqualified. Actually, we weren’t the last in the 6-person teams, of which there were very few. I hadn’t realised that the vast majority of Tanach Tashach teams have 8 runners each. So yay for us!

#ForceOfNoa1 and 2

Me and Noa. I’m having a bad hair day from the awful humidity, but that’s small potatoes, as they say.


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M2V 2016: More Photos

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 31, 2016

These photos were taken at Kefar Nahum, on of the Mountain-to-Valley Relay Race exchange stations. In the New Testament, Kefar Nahum is called Capernaum, and is a popular pilgrimage spot for Christian tourists. This is the walkway that leads to the docks for the boats that take tourists around the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).


Franciscan monastery:


Greek Orthodox monastery:



The relay exchange station:


Sun rising over fields near Kishon, the starting point of my last run.

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All the way to Kansas! Photos during runs were taken with my LG G3. Other photos were with the DSLR. Since I was traveling by car, I didn’t need to worry about the weight of hauling a heavy camera on top of the gear, clothes, shoes, etc.

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Mountain-to-Valley (Har Le-Emek) 2016

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 31, 2016


Har Le-Emek is a 215-kilometer relay race that I ran on May 18-19 with the Cisco Cloud Runners, an 8-man team (yes, that’s correct; you have to have 2 women and 6 men to be considered a “mixed” team). I ran 25 kilometers total in three segments. The route began in Tel Hai and ended in Timrat. We ran around the clock, for nearly 24 hours. In the photo above, I’m smiling because I’m nearly at the end of my final segment! I tend to feel a bit fed up at the end of a relay race because it’s tough to run all day and night with almost no sleep and hardly any food. I’ve got my GPS watch (Garmin Forerunner 220) on my left wrist and the magnetic chip on my right. I was finishing close to Gevat.

Here’s the finish line at Timrat:


My first segment, from Netura, was bloody hot! I started around 12:30 p.m., there was no shade, and the sun was bouncing off the dusty roads (below). I had a water backpack but I still suffered from the heat and had to walk a little bit.

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The scenery is beautiful up north. That’s the main reason I do these runs, to see parts of the country I’ve never seen before, running through fields and forests.


Here are my two team-mates who work in the Netanya office–Golan on the left in the red and Eyal on the right. Although we’ve been on the same team for a year, this was the first time I met them. We were in a car of four for the run. They were great company! I always tell people that we’ve never met before because by the time I cross the finish line, they’re already home and sitting down to lunch. 🙂  Golan is a strong and fast runner. Eyal is good with long distances (he runs ~50 km a week).


Here’s a video of last year’s race. I ran last year but I’m not in the video (hey, there were some 8,000 runners!) It gives you an idea of the scenery and terrain.

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Mountain-to-Valley Relay Race

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 4, 2015


Last week, on April 29-30, I participated in the Mountain-to-Valley relay race as part of an 8-person team. (Note: we were categorized as 8-man team because you need to have at least two women in order to be classified as “mixed”; the other woman who had signed up couldn’t run in the end.) Our group covered 215 kilometers, running day and night, from Tel Hai to Timrat, in 22 hours. I didn’t take any photos at night because it was dark and the stations themselves aren’t very interesting.

My first run (8 km, around 1:30 a.m.) was from Notera to Pkak Bridge. The route had a switchback, where you run along a stream, over a bridge, and then back in the opposite direction. I was very impressed that, in addition to signs with green lights, there were a couple volunteers holding arrows to make sure you didn’t miss the turn. Along the route I saw people in cars, parked or driving slowly on a parallel road, keeping an eye on things. It made me feel a lot safer than I felt in Yam2Yam.

At one point I thought I was alone, but when I looked behind me, I saw the hill covered with points of light from other runners. A sight like that makes you feel like you’re part of a much bigger endeavour than the usual race. Actually, it WAS a big endeavour! There were 960 teams, and approximately 8,000 runners (not running simultaneously; there was a night race and a day race, and the starting times were staggered). These relay races have become very popular lately and the registration for this race is full within a day and a half of opening.

Runners exchange a rubber bracelet at each station. The guy below is just starting out from Elabun station and putting on his bracelet. We were required to carry smartphones with the M2V app. It was very useful because it tracked start/stop times of individual runners, showed the position of the current runner, and could be used to find your way back to the course if you got lost. There was also an emergency button.


Our team-mate Sharon coming up the hill. He had some difficult routes over really big hills. (No, they don’t block traffic for this race.)


Dawn at Karei Deshe, a camping ground on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). That was a lot better than sleeping in the back seat of a car at a 24-hour gas station! I slept outside in a sleeping bag. The white tents in the center are covering a seating area where the organizers had hot and cold drinks available around the clock. There were showers and electricity. I didn’t sleep at all, but I rested for a few hours, listening to the wind blowing through the palm trees.


A few people managed to go for a quick swim. I think Teverya is in the background, on the other side of the lake. Looks a lot better in this light than it does close up.



Although the race is supposed to show you the country, most of it looks like this–lots of fields. You spend a lot of time running through wheat fields or (if you tackle one of the difficult routes) over big hills like the ones in the background (elevation often over 200 meters). My second run (around 8:30 a.m.) was 9 km from Al Betuf to Hoshaya, definitely not one of my faster runs! Al Betuf is an Arab village. My route went past a garbage dump with rotting sheep carcasses–you can imagine how they smelled after the extremely hot weather we’d had all week! I encountered two flocks of sheep guarded by unpleasant dogs. I was carrying pepper spray but didn’t use it because the shepherds were around. Instead, I slowed down, did my “tough walk,” and asked the shepherds to call off their dogs. I also had to stop a couple times to rearrange the tube of my water backpack (got a kink in it and wasn’t drawing). So my overall time for that segment was a lot slower than it should have been.


The third run (around 3:30 p.m.) was 10 km from Hazorea to Kishon. Barry Leff, who had led our Yam2Yam team, joined us for two consecutive runs, including mine. I was really grateful for the company. By the third run, I’m tired and get discouraged easily. It was good to have someone to chat with. There were two water crossings. I misjudged the distance at the second crossing and stepped with both feet into water and mud. The final two kilometers were very difficult because my shoes, heavy to begin with, were soaked, my toes were chafing, and the weight of the mud, plus the dust picked up from running on a dirt road, was like trying to run with bricks tied to my feet. I looked like a slow-motion cartoon and my feet were really hurting by the time I got to the station. Thank heavens for extra shoes and socks!

Finish line at Timrat.


Lounge area. You can’t see the snack buffet and the bar serving coffee and beer. They cleared a huge wheat field for the parking lot. I was very impressed with the organization of this race. Each stop had food (never eaten so many enormous majool dates in my life–they were the really big ones that cost around 40 NIS/kilo), sometimes coffee, isotonic drink, ice cream, a bag with snacks. One of the stops was at Runway, a fancy running store; that was a lot of fun, checking out the clothing, shoes, and running gear. Almost all the stations had toilets or portable toilets and–you’ll never believe this–there were cases of toilet paper beside the toilets! (Most of the Yam2Yam stations did not have toilets; I saw enough gas station toilets for a lifetime.)



Got lucky with this shot of a crop-duster flying past while I was trying to photograph the clouds just after sunset.


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Jerusalem-to-Sea Relay Race (Yam2Yam)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 22, 2015

Last week, on April 16, 2015, I ran an overnight 144 km relay race, Yam-le-Yam (Jerusalem to sea). I was part of a 6-member team, along with Barry Leff, our team captain, Jacob Ner-David (Barry’s friend), Israel Friedman (Cisco), Sharon Yakobovich (Cisco), and Ouriel Gottlieb (Cisco).  I hadn’t planned to do this race. In fact, I hadn’t trained at all; I agreed to fill in at the last minute for Barry’s daughter, who had shin splints.

We ran the 144 km in 17 hours, starting at 7 pm. I ran a total of 25 km, in three segments, with about 2 hours’ sleep in the back seat of a car at a 24-hour gas station, around 1:30 a.m. I took a DSLR along but honestly I was too tired most of the time to take photos and when you’ve seen one station, you’ve seen them all–bright lights, a couple tables with food, a couple volunteers recording team numbers as runners come in and go out. The photo above was taken at Sataf, a park with some gorgeous hiking paths. This man was making shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce) on a portable gas stove for his team. The ground was still wet and soft from severe thunderstorms, rain, and hail the night before.

My first section (#5 of 16) was 8 km, from Ramat Raziel to Eshtaol. It was a downhill run in a dark forest for the first 7 km or so. I wore a headlamp and had an easy road to follow (dirt road in very thick forest), but multi-focal glasses are not ideal, so the road was slightly out of focus where it was lit up. Oh, well, old age is no picnic…. I was nervous at first but I could see a couple runners about 30 m. ahead of me. As long as I could see their lights, I knew I wasn’t lost. At one point the dirt road changed to pavement. I saw something glowing by the side of the road and thought, “Did someone drop a headlamp”? Then I tripped and nearly fell head-over-heels over a speed bump. My light had been reflecting off one of the square metal bumps that marks a speed bump. After that experience I kept my eyes open for those little metal squares.

The road leveled off at a construction site, where I ran into mud for the first time. Literally ran into mud. I stepped in a bulldozer rut filled with water. At the traffic lights, about six of us crossed together because the lights changed so infrequently. We trotted, in a bunch, through another road construction site, then fanned out into single file when the road turned into a hiking trail, up and down, up and down. At one point I noticed a lot of crunching, looked down, and saw lots of broken glass, plastic plates, and garbage. Ewww. Here I am, running up out of the forest to the station at Eshtaol (photo taken by Shvoong photographer).
Me running in the Y2Y relay race

After a couple hours of sleep, my next segment (#12 of 16) was at dawn, from Elad to Park Afek (photo below taken with my LG G2 smartphone).


Dawn runs are tough because it’s fairly dark and cold when you begin, but the weather can turn hot within 20 minutes. Of course, I hadn’t bothered with sunglasses or water! It was 8.7 km to Park Afek, running along a gravel road (tough surface, slippery), with absolutely no shade. Everything looked the same–lots of peach trees, lots of tomato plant. I’m really glad I ordered a Garmin GPS watch for future runs, because it’s hard to pull out a smartphone when you’re running to check the distance and it’s difficult to judge distance when running in unfamiliar areas. You would think a run through agricultural areas would be quiet and peaceful, but I passed a large army base with two firing ranges, both in use. There were a few puddles and muddy areas but they’re much easier to avoid in the day time. I started the run around 6:30 and had to really push myself. It’s not easy doing two runs close together. When I reached the station, the sun was quite hot and young, muscular guys with perfect bodies were stripping down to low-slung running tights (no, no, I’m not complaining….).

The last section (#16 of 16) was from the Reading power station, down the boardwalk along the beach, to the old Jaffa port. That was a lot of fun (or at least it would have been if I hadn’t been so tired!). I managed to run the whole way, albeit, at a slower speed than usual. (Finish line photo taken with my smartphone.)


It felt surreal to be wearing a racing number and water bottle belt, running through crowds of strollers, shoppers, leisurely joggers, people drinking coffee at cafes. I really enjoyed all the Kol hakavods (= kudos) I received from strangers, along with a few comments like, “Good to see women doing this!” I’ve seen the Tel Aviv coast many times, but never from this perspective. A cool breeze (had to hold on to my sun hat) was blowing in from the sea at the new Tel Aviv port. I counted the hotels as I ran past the Carlton, Hilton, David, then the office buildings. It wasn’t easy running on slippery pebble-paved pedestrian paths, so sometimes I ran on the paved bike path and jumped out of the way when cyclists came along. After the office buildings, I was in the much less populated area leading to the Jaffa port. Barry, who had only done 2 segments, joined me half-way so I would have company. Israel and Ouriel joined us about half a kilometer before the finish line (Sharon and Jacob had to leave early) and we crossed the finish line around noon.

Next week I have a much bigger relay, M2V–Mountain-to-Valley (Har le-Emez). Eight of us, all from Cisco, will run 255 km from Tel Hai to Kfar haHoresh!


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