* I’ve Joined the Club

Since I first learned that the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure [for breast cancer] would be held in Jerusalem on October 28th, I have had the date marked on my calendar. But a couple weeks ago I realized I would not be able to participate.

I recently went to see the dermatologist for my annual check of moles and spots (I’ve got lots, but nothing has ever raised a flag). I also wanted to ask the doctor to remove what I thought was a fatty deposit on the side of my nose near my eye, since it was constantly irritated by the nosepad of my eyeglasses. Earlier this summer my ophthalmologist had identified a small bump on my eyelid as a trivial fatty deposit, so when this similar-looking (in my mind) bump appeared on my nose later in the summer I was not alarmed by it.

It took the dermatologist only moments to identify this bump as a basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a non-melanoma skin cancer, and to schedule me for a Mohs surgical procedure. (A biopsy confirmed the visual diagnosis, of course). I won’t go into details; you can google for information.

I had the surgery yesterday. Cancer is gone. I am fine!

For the first 24 hours I’ve got a bandage on my face that makes me look like I’ve got two noses, but by this evening I’ll be down to a simple bandage. Internal stitches will dissolve. External stitches will be removed in a week. Until then, I am forbidden from doing any exercise/sports activity. So I will be at the Komen Race in spirit only.

I guess this puts me in the cancer survivor club, even though it doesn’t seem I belong there.

P.S. A few months ago I began taking supplements due to a vitamin D deficiency (besides diet, commonly caused by lack of sunshine/too much sunscreen), so it seems ironic that during this same period I developed a skin cancer that is caused by excessive sun exposure. Go figure.

* Insights of an MTBO Amateur

Now that I have biked in about 20 mountain bike orienteering (MTBO) events, 17 of which were Israeli MTBO league meets, I’ve reached some conclusions about my relationship with this esoteric sport.

Insight Number 1. For me there are two kinds of events: the ones that make me say, “That was beyond my ability. I’m not going to do another MTBO event again”; and the ones that make me say, “That was a great challenge. I’ll be back for more.” It would be wonderful if every event could evoke the latter response, but that’s not the case. I’ve taken stock, and have counted 5 of those 17 events made me want to quit.

In those instances, a combination of two or more factors were to blame: (A) The trails and terrain were beyond my riding abilities, meaning I had trouble with rocks, sand, or steep uphills/downhills, not to mention my lack of skills on single tracks. (B) My actual total climb exceeded 350 meters, meaning I spent a lot of time off my bike pushing it up hills. (C) My actual riding distance exceeded 15 km. (D) Extreme heat.

But the statistics are in favor of continuing. The next few insights are really the strategies I’ve adopted in order to succeed and enjoy MTBO as a rider who is very much an amateur.

Insight Number 2. For ascents, it’s easier, and probably faster, for me to push my bike up a short, steep hill rather than ride a longer, gradual incline. Likewise (or contrarily), for descents, it’s easier for me to ride a longer, gradual downhill trail rather than attempt riding down a steep single-track.

Insight Number 3. Hat tip to David Lotz, who recently told me, “Most of our energy is expended in the first hour, after that we’re running on our reserves.” Having noted the truth of that statement (after nearly collapsing an hour into the ride at Herut, with only water in my bottle and no energy snacks in my pocket), I made a point of putting an energy drink in my water bottle for the event in Misgav. I drank most of it at control #5, which I reached at exactly the one-hour mark. It really gave me a perk, and helped me through to the finish half an hour later.

Insight Number 4. Avoid crashes and injury at all costs! I slow down, stop, and even get off my bike if I have even the slightest doubt of my ability to stay on it when the riding gets tough.

Insight Number 5. Do it for the challenge. Do it for the fun. Ironically, I keep getting medals for my efforts although that is not at all my motivation. I’d be happy to see some other W40s enjoying a visit to the podium.

Most important, and especially, thanks to my riding partner and husband, Yuval, who keeps me going.

Completing MTBO short course in Segev Forest, Oct. 2010 (Oren Lesman photo)

* Turn, Turn, Turn – A New Season on the Israel Trail

Segment 19 – Tel Afek to Tel Aviv, along the Yarkon River

September 25, 2010. Officially it’s now autumn. Our clocks have already been switched to winter (standard) time. But judging from the extreme and unbearable heat, it is still summer. That made it tough to be on the Israel Trail during the week of Succot, but we were eager to get back into the hiking mode.

To begin our hiking season I selected a easy segment close to home, along the Yarkon river. I gave Yuval the choice of direction. He prefered to end the hike in Ramat Hahayal where ice-cream and frozen yoghurt shops would await us. Our group comprised just 10 hikers, mostly core members and a couple guests, after several last-minute cancellations.  

We began our hike just outside the Tel Afek National Park, at the Rosh HaAyin train station, shortly before 8 a.m.  The sky was overcast and the air was still pleasant. Our first few kilometers sped by quickly. The trail soon brought us to the Yarkon sources. The water in this segment of the river is clear, pure and rich in vegetation and fish. At the spot where I’m standing in this photo, it is safe to swim.  

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Since Avner and Saraleh had hiked the Yarkon segment of the National Trail several time in the past, they suggested an alternative route around the Mekorot Hayarkon (“Yarkon Sources”) National Park. We took their advice and intentionally deviated from the trail, circumventing the park on the north-east side, rather than going along the south-west side and the Baptist Village. It was certainly lush and lovely.  

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

One of the things I love about my hiking buddies is their knack for grazing. Here’s Saraleh enjoying a fresh fig.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

And Yuval picking wild blackberries from a high branch.  

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Despite all its turning and winding, this segment of the Israel Trail runs alongside Highway 5 and major power lines. While we did have occasional encounters with the concrete and cable jungle, for most of the hike we felt as if we were in the wilderness.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Varda taking a moment to enjoy the flowers.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

One of several water crossings.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Yuval about to enter a hidden pathway.   

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

We stopped for our mid-morning snack and rest in the beautiful eucalyptus grove surrounding the Abu Rabah mill (under restoration).  Just as we began munching our sandwiches, a few raindrops raised our hopes of a short shower to cool us off. No such luck.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Interesting trail blazes indicating a U-turn.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Another fun water-crossing. Avner, Ruthy and I took our shoes off and waded through barefoot. The water was warm, but my feet felt so much better (for a short time, anyway) after I put my shoes back on.         

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Ruthy treats some through-hikers to slices of a melon she had gleaned from a field alongside the trail. We always enjoy meeting backpackers on the trail, and today was no exception. I was especially thankful for the 5 extra minutes of rest I got while chatting with these kids.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

David helps resolve our water shortage (near the end of the hike) with a few grapefruits from an orchard alongside the trail.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

At this point the Yarkon is highly polluted. Beautiful only to look at.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

The high-rise office towers of Atidim business park signal the end of today’s hike. Eager to finish, we shortcutted our way through the orchards, and avoided the last few twists and turns along the riverbank (blue track in map at bottom).

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

Zvi Gilat’s Israel Trail guidebook (3rd edition, 2005), erroneously states 18 kilometers as the length of Segment 19 (from Tel Aviv port to Tel Afek).  Last winter we hiked from the Tel Aviv port to Ramat Hahayal, about one-third of the segment. That day my GPS recorded a track of about 8 kilometers, so I assumed today’s hike would be about 14-16 km. I had a lot of apologizing to do — my GPS recorded almost 21 km. We were on the trail for nearly 6 hours. And it was oppressively hot by the time we finished. Far beyond what I had anticipated. But cold Cokes and frozen yoghurts at the end of the day revived us.

The red track on the map below shows what we actually hiked, including our eastern bypass of the park. The purple track is the Israel Trail.

Israel Trail Tel Aviv Tel Afek

(Subsequently, I checked the MAPA online version of Gilat’s guidebook and found it gives a more accurate distance of 23 kilometers for Segment 19. My GPS always registers a longer distance than the “official” distances, but I don’t know why it was so significantly greater on this hike. Perhaps it’s due to all those twists and turns.)

I definitely want to revisit this section of the trail on my mountain bike. Will have to get the timing right — to avoid summer heat and winter mud.

See the complete set of today’s photos (Flickr).
Click on the SLIDESHOW button for quick and easy viewing of the set.

Please use the Comment box on my blog to share your feedback with me and the other hikers and readers. Hebrew or English is welcome!

* Israel Trail 2009-2010 Recap

Despite a 2-month suspension of hiking due to my retinal detachment in November, we completed 10 hikes on the Israel National Trail this (academic) year for a total of about 140 kilometers. It’s hard to be exact on the distance measurement. I activate the GPS recording when we commence walking, and stop it when we reach the end of the hike. Sometimes our hikes include a kilometer or more on a “connector” trail to the point where we pick up the Israel Trail. I’ve also accidentally paused recording a few times, and have had to estimate the length of the unrecorded segment. It’s really not critical. Eventually we will have bragging rights to 940 kilometers – the official distance of the trail. So far, we’ve done about 200.

The Trail is For Me!

The Trail is For Me!

Three of our regular hiker couples went off — independently of each other — to discover New Zealand this year. First were Saraleh and Avner Halachmi – check out Avner’s travel blog (in Hebrew). Then Ilan and Miri Berman took off – check out their gorgeous set of photos. Finally, David and Ruty Aloush made the journey. Varda also missed a couple hikes. As a result, Yuval and I are the only ones with a perfect attendance record.

Our group has coalesced very nicely, and I am no longer adding new names to the distribution/ invitation list, with one exception. We have a handful of unattached and hiking-without-husband women in the group, and I’d be happy if a similar number of men-on-their-own would join us and provide some gender balance.

Every hike this year was a pleasurable and memorable experience — with weather, terrain and social mix creating a different flavor each time.

You can take a look at our journeys through my collection of photos from the Israel National Trail.

Next year I intend to hike a couple 2-day segments south of Arad, which will probably entail hiring logistical assistance. I’m soliciting recommendations and advice — if you have suggestions, please post a comment or send me an email.

* MTBO – A Marketing Idea

In the ongoing controversy within the Israel Sport Orienteering Association (ISOA) over the future of mountain bike orienteering (MTBO), the concept of marketing has been tossed around. I think some dissenters are confusing marketing with advertising (and the expense of the latter). Marketing may require expenditures, but a lot of marketing can take place without any cost. Non-professionals can do it. All it requires is a passion for the product you want to promote and a willingness to devote your time to the effort.   

Listening to the discussion at the ISOA general assembly this week, I heard a lot of good marketing ideas. Too bad they got lost in the heat of the debate. Driving home, I began to formulate an idea, inspired by Varda who said, “why don’t you go where the bikers are?” Yes, indeed, we need to bring MTB orienteering to the bikers. Like the hostesses at supermarkets who offer shoppers a sample of new foods, we need to give bikers a flavorful taste of MTBO.   

What: MTBO Promotional Event (to be repeated weekly)
Who: Passionate MTBO volunteer organizers
Where: Entrance to Ben Shemen forest at Mitzpeh Modiin
(or any location where hundreds of bikers have parked their cars and are preparing to ride)
When: very early Friday morning and/or Saturday mornings
How:
(1) Set up MTBO course: (controls must be in place by 6 a.m.)
Preferably offer 2 courses: difficult (lots of singles) and easy (main trails)
Use all or part of the course from the MTB WOC – “Ride a World Championship Course!”
(2) Set up the O club gazebo with flags and signs (in place by 6 a.m.)
(3) Provide an MTBO course map (FOR FREE) in exchange for contact details: name and email address. Print the MTBO 2010-2011 schedule on back of map.
(4) Offer use of map holder (FOR FREE), in exchange for driver’s license/ID card until returned.
(5) Talk to riders before and after their MTBO ride. Get feedback. Find out what they liked and didn’t like. Timing is optional.
(6) Repeat, repeat, repeat. In the same location. Using the same map. Get 40-50 different riders to try MTBO every week. If a rider returns for a second try, well then, you’ve enlisted a new MTBOer.   

I suggest manufacturing 20-30 simple map holders that have rotational capability. I have done MTBO with and without a map holder, and I believe this piece of equipment is vital to the MTBO experience, whereas a compass is rarely needed. My husband Yuval, a mechanical engineer, has already designed and produced several of these holders; to produce a series of would cost about 200 NIS each. This would be a wise investment for an O-club, like Modiin, since the holders can be loaned to riders and reused continuously.   

I am willing to participate in this marketing experiment and help make it succeed. But it needs a leader to take charge. You know who you are. Who’s going to take the initiative? I’m waiting for your call.

Yuval Mishli with rotational map holder for MTB orienteering

* MTBO at Gevaram

Prior to the mountain bike orienteering event at Gevaram, I had begun announcing my intention to quit doing MTBO. Having tried it for 2 years, I still don’t have the expertise or confidence to go out without a riding partner (Yuval). I’m happy to do MTBO in the fields of Jezreel Valley, but not in the hills of Alon Hagalil. I do not have the skills or fitness of a serious trail rider. I prefer “KKL” trails to “singles”, flat routes rather than climbs and steep descents, soft paths rather than rocky roads. Riding conditions at Gevaram were exactly the kind I prefer. I actually got to ride my bike — rather than push it — for practically the entire course. Makes me have second thoughts about continuing in the sport.

Our MTBO ride at Gevaram (19 June 2010)

2010-6-19_MTBO_Gevaram

Start > 1: Alon, Hadar and Yuval started, respectively, 3, 2 and 1 minute ahead of me, but waited for me to arrive at the start triangle. There we all agreed on route choice, and took off. Dropped our bikes at the bottom of the hill and climbed up to punch the control. (~12 minutes)

1 > 2: Easy route choice — main trail through the fields. Turned left off trail and went directly into control. (~7 minutes)

2 > 3: Short ride. (~3 minutes)

3 > 4: I was following behind the other three, and lost contact with the map. Felt rather insecure riding near the edge of the map, and wasn’t sure exactly where we were until I actually saw the control. (~11 minutes)

4 > 5: Started up the single, but then realized we could easily cut through the woods to the main trail below. Time wasted on discussing route choice. (~5 minutes).

5 > 6: Continued on the main trail to the junction. Spotted the control and rode directly to it. (~2 minutes)

6 > 7: Rode through the open woods, and on the main trails. (~4 minutes)

7 > 8: Rode the single to the first junction. Hadar and Alon stayed on the single and continued on without us. Yuval and I prefered the main trail. At the next junction I wanted to return to the single, but let Yuval persuade me to continue on the main trail, which descended and looped away from the control. I think this section of the leg was our worst mistake in route choice, but not a terrible one. (~11 minutes)

8 > 9: Yes, we could have ridden the single, but stayed on the main trail. As I stopped to punch the control, I lost my balance, fell off my bike and got caught in it like a pretzel. Thank goodness Yuval was there to extract me. (~5 minutes)

9 > 10: Rode north on the single to the main trail. A possibly better route choice (Yuval’s suggestion) would have been to head south-west on the main trail towards the field/water stop. But I thought it would be simpler to head straight for the field and then follow the trail around it. Easier said than done. The forks in the road just before the field were confusing, and we could easily have missed the “connector” leading up to the field. Good navigation by Yuval. Water stop. Passed control 1, and rode single from corner of field down to control. (~15 minutes)

10 > 11: Returned on the same path. Got stuck a couple times on sandy patches and lost my momentum. Had to get off the bike and push a bit. (~7 minutes)

11 > Finish: No brainer. (~5 minutes)