“Cut off the roots of your family tree? That’s not the way it’s suppose to be. Jerusalem if I forget you. ” Matisyshu
Israel unlike any place on earth; you read about it in class, or see it in the news, or if you are a westerner had a religious up bringing as the three western religions all have their holy places here. In our lives you hear about it in the news relentlessly. What isn’t spoke about as much is the sublime natural beauty here.
My travels started with a trip from NYC to Moscow to Tel Avi. The Russian currency is down and so the flights are cheap. The food was all meat so I survived on Caveman Bars for 9 hours. Thankfully they have a bunch of flavors and the Caveman style food is a great mix of protien and quality natural ingridents to keep me satisfied.
Once in Israel we drove 4 hours south to Eilat where I had a person training block to do to finish off my pep for the race. Eilat is a beach town with a standard boardwalk. But the Red Sea is amazing. Also Eilat is a sliver into the Red Sea and you see both the Eilat mountains stretching to Egypt to the west and the Jordan mountains to the east. At moments you see three countries. The water is warm, crystal clear and filled with life. Swim workouts here were so much more pleasant with all the underwater life to enjoy, so much better than staring at a black line of a pool!
The big workout was heading up route 12 which is the race course.the first 20k are up and take you along the boarder of Egypt. You get amazing views of Jordan and the desert and while the workout is hard the area is stunning and it was hard to train because I just wanted to take photos.
The real joy came the next day when we went 30k north to Timna park for our long run. We ran by ancient mines and Egyptian carvings and even a temple to Hethor! The park has great off road running and hiking routes and you find yourself deep in the desert not just seeing it from afar.
With the work done the vacation started. First stop was the famed Masada and Dead Sea. Masada is a desert mountaintop that was build by Harod a ruler around 2000 years ago. The scope of that kind of construction in such a place is a wonder. But Masada became legend when in 79 CE the last of the Jewish rebels used it as strong hold against the Romans. For two years they watched as the Romans constructed a massive ramp to try to reach the top. Instead of slavery when they lost the stronghold the rebels entered in to a murder-suicide pact and the Romans found nothing but bodies when they got to the top. It where Israeli soldiers take there military oath now.
The experience of visiting is amazing because you hike hard for 30-60 minutes up a narrow but safe trail to reach the top. The top is vast with tons of ruins some which were partially reconstructed so you can get a feel for what it was like. We were there for hours poking our heads around.
The next stop was the dead sea. Super salty you float totally weightless. It’s like a sensory depravation chamber I suspect but set in nature. It’s a meditative experience as your mind floats away as you lose your body in the weightlessness. It’s trippy and awesome. The area around the Dead Sea is very resort style which isn’t my style and we found a funky hotel 2k away and a fun Moroccan tent restaurant to eat in that severed us a great meal. But a day there is great but enough. Also you really can’t swim there. The salt is so salty it burns like acid if it gets in your mouth or eyes.
From there it was to Jerusalem. We took a tour because we were both
Overwhelmed by the place and wanted a guild. The old city is so dense it is basically a walking tour. With three religions chances are you will offended someone at some point so having a guild is a nice way to be more comfortable. While I can’t review all the site of the old city obviously seeing the Dom of the Rock ( thought not going in), the Western Wall, and the Church of the Sepulcher were highlights. Seeing people practice religions with ties thousands of years old is proud and the living history of it is worth experiencing. If you have a faith then practicing in such a place is holy and a true pilgrimage. The seeing the places of all about the stories I grew up hearing was fascinating and changed my view of them. Being the descendant of Jews and Christians I had tasks both places.
The next day was more about seeing the rest of the city. It’s not a large city and we found it came alive on Saturday night in a way that was profound. You could feel the energy of everyone recharged from the Sabbath. We found great Italian with gluten free and vegan dishes. Israel is really great about both those things and we had little issues finding food. Plus each hotel had a kitchens.
There is obviously some tension in the Eastern part of the city. I am going to not try to address the conflicts as that would take books not a simple post. That said: my only thought is this, if their is a God, and God put all three religion’s holy places basically on top of each other it wasn’t to cause conflict but rather unity and solidarity, my only prayer for this place is that some day people here see that. I am sure it’s insanely more complex then that and with enough blood spilled over this place for thousands of years it’s not likely to happen any time soon, but that’s my humble hope.
On the way out we drove through the disputes areas, saw the controversial Jewish settlements and constructed army bunkers and towers that stand at the intersections. It’s an odd mix of feeling like every day life and a war zone and the area jumps from one to another and back. Sheep herding one kilometer and gun towers the next.
But after we excited the disputed area we were back in the desert for two days with the Bedouins. The Bedouins have been in this area for over 7000 years. Now Muslims they were first pagans and are nomadic. Living in tents and moving by camel they maintain a lower tech life. Spending time with them was relaxing and peaceful in the extreme. They have a few centers where tourists can come and learn about them, take part in their ancient tea ceremony and kick it all tent-life. We road camels and ran in the desert at dawn and mostly sat and sipped tea. In many ways this was the highlight of the trip. It was restorative on a deep emotional level.
The day prior was a sweet euro style part with a DJ in all white and so great electronica. The race day came and I had my traditional breakfast of two Caveman bars (maple nut). The swim what wetsuit legal and I wore my full sleeve Xterra because I find the long sleeves give me more pull with a wider forearm. I exited near the front but a few ITU freaks were out in front.
The bike starts with an insane 20k climb that takes an hour of solid hard effort. I had two CarbBOOM gels and got over it. Sadly Massimo, who finished top 10 at Bahrain’s half which had a 500,000 in cash up for grabs was busy blowing by me and everyone else on the climb on his way to to top finish.
The rest of the bike was hard, windy and hilly but Valdora’s PX is considered one of the best TT frames for climbing and at 16-17lbs it was a a big advantage. I had Red Bull too and that also gives you wiings.
I got off the bike and started a 10k screaming down hill which wrecked two toe nails but I broke 15 minutes for the first 5k as I feel off the mountains and to the sea. I again had another Boom gel and combo of calories and caffine got me right and made sure that no one passed me. Slowtwitch posted that I was 5th and the official results were in Hebrew so I am not exactly sure where I landed but there was 15 or so pros so that felt good. The announcer handed a flag and told me I was the top American which is always an honor.