EN­DUR­ING EILAT: IS­RAEL’S FULL-DIS­TANCE RACE

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - TRAVEL -

EACH JAN­UARY, EILAT, a city at the south­ern­most tip of Is­rael, wel­comes ath­letes from around the world to one of the most chal­leng­ing and scenic long course triathlons you’ll find. The Is­ra­man triathlon pushes com­peti­tors to their phys­i­cal limit in ways other triathlons can’t, all while they ex­pe­ri­ence one of the most in­ter­est­ing parts of the world.

The Is­ra­man of­fers half- and full-dis­tance races. Both re­quire some se­ri­ous hill-climb­ing in your race prepa­ra­tion. Ath­letes en­joy a spec­tac­u­lar view of the sun be­gin­ning to rise over Jor­dan as they start the swim on the beach and head into the Red Sea. Once they com­plete the swim loop and head out of T1, the climb­ing on the point-to-point bike course be­gins – 3,200 m for the full and 1,890 m for the half dis­tance – all through a lu­nar-like land­scape of moun­tains above the Arava Val­ley, part of the Si­nai Desert. IS­RA­MAN TRIATHLON

It’s im­por­tant to bun­dle up for the ride as tem­per­a­tures are typ­i­cally un­der 10 C in the morn­ing and drop as you as­cend. Those who can focus on any­thing other than the cold, the strong cross­winds and the pain in their legs will no­tice the mas­sive steel and barbed wire fence that sep­a­rates Is­rael from Egypt.

Be­cause of a his­tory of conflict in the area, ex­tra se­cu­rity mea­sures are taken dur­ing the race, ac­cord­ing to race di­rec­tor Boaz Ribak.

Ath­letes com­plete a rolling out and back sec­tion be­fore re­turn­ing to T2, which is still up in the moun­tains. From there they be­gin the de­scent back down to Eilat on foot. For ath­letes not used to run­ning down­hill, the first 10 km of the run pro­vides quite a shock to the sys­tem. While you get fan­tas­tic views of the moun­tains and the Red Sea be­low, pac­ing and at­ten­tion is re­quired on the steep de­scents. The lat­ter half of the run course takes you along the board­walks around Eilat’s sea­side re­sorts and en­ter­tain­ment stretch, where crowds of spec­ta­tors cheer the com­peti­tors into the fin­ish line.

While the re­sort-town of Eilat of­fers lots to do for the en­tire fam­ily – there’s a fan­tas­tic un­der­wa­ter ob­ser­va­tory nearby that show­cases the Red Sea’s beau­ti­ful co­ral reef and sea life – a trip to Is­rael for Is­ra­man would not be com­plete with­out tour­ing the coun­try’s other top des­ti­na­tions. Get­ting around Is­rael is easy. A flight be­tween Eilat and Tel Aviv is around an hour, or a cou­ple hours drive, and it’s about a four-hour drive to Jerusalem. While each of the three cities of­fer their own unique flavour, there’s equally as much to see en route be­tween each.

Be­tween Eilat and Tel Aviv lies the Makht­esh Ra­mon, a breath­tak­ing desert val­ley and re­gional landmark. En route from Eilat to Jerusalem, stop­ping to float in the min­er­al­in­fused Dead Sea is a must, as is spend­ing

some time in beau­ti­ful Timna Na­tional Park and tour­ing the fortress of Masada with its stun­ning views of the turquoise Dead Sea wa­ters be­low.

It’s worth spend­ing a few days in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well. The for­mer is a mod­ern city renowned world­wide for its nightlife, but it also is home to the an­cient Jaffa Port, which has been in use for cen­turies. Jerusalem de­serves a ded­i­cated trip in it­self, as you could spend days just wan­der­ing through the var­i­ous pock­ets of the city, all of which of­fer a unique glimpse into Is­raeli life and the di­verse groups of peo­ple who call it home. The mar­kets, Old Jerusalem and the Western Wall are in­cred­i­ble.

If you’re ap­pre­hen­sive about trav­el­ling to Is­rael or the Mid­dle East in gen­eral, a word of ad­vice is to live like the Is­raelis do – with­out fear. The gru­elling and beau­ti­ful Is­ra­man is a true bucket-list race for any en­durance junkie, but Is­rael is one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing and eye-open­ing coun­tries you’ll visit, with some of the friendli­est peo­ple who wel­come ev­ery­one who vis­its their coun­try with open arms.—cd

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