Start of 21.1km run is at 8:00. The temperature, to my disbelief is well in double digits. I still keep my hooded shirt on, but it is obvious that this will be a warm day. Last check. Cadence monitor and race chip in place on my NB Ionix, HR chest strap, Garmin 910XT on my right wrist, RoadID on the left, Oakleys. All OK. Air is getting warmer every minute. The start is under inflatable gate stretching across the road No. 90. Palms and parking lot and Dead Sea by our left side, Masada mountain massive by our right. We wave to inquiring cameras of black drone circling high above us. Presenter gives some last encouraging words in Hebrew until he starts what must undoubtedly be the countdown. Suddenly claxon cuts through the air and off we go.
I came here for flat race. Once leaving the gate it is clear I was mistaken. First 1.5km is slightly uphill. I make a mental note of this. Slope will become handy on the way to finish. Asphalt is absolutely perfect. Every kilometer is marked by plate with the number, or black Adidas flag. I run with almost 500ml of water in the bottle I grabbed from the car and did not drop at the start. Three GU gels stuffed in the pockets. The plan is to use water from the bottle for most of first 10.5km and to take one gel every 30 minutes. Sticking to this strategy I should not stop for refreshment first half of the race.
All works fine. Apart of the heart rate. Garmin constantly reminds me with its chime that the heart rate is too high. Anyway, I continue pushing. Sipping on the water from my bottle, passing by refreshment stations. After 5km mark first runners turn into walkers...and I overtake 2hr Pacer and continue forward. First gel. Using Enervit this GU stuff is far too thick for me. Need to wash it down by gulp of water.
Profile of the road is constantly up and down. Suppose one would call it "rolling" hills or something. The sky is incredibly blue, contrasting with brown of the desert all around. Passing by white flags with blue strips and David's start marking some sort of war memorial. Pacing at 11.3km per hour. Need to push bit harder if I want to seriously improve my PB. But all is fine. Shoes are OK and I have my rhythm. Try to stay tall and straight.
Sun starts to hit hard. There is no single cloud. Just blazing sun. It is only early February, early morning and it is this hot. How hot does it get here in summer? Suppose this place turns into hell!
Kilometer five, seven, nine. I see turning point in the distance and drop empty bottle. On my way back I'll be taking refreshment from the stations.
Turning left under black Adidas flag. But hold on! Suddenly am hit by the wall of wind. This is not some headwind. This is a WALL. It feels like someone ejected brake parachute behind me. Someone pulled my plug. Am in utter and total disbelief. What is this supposed to mean??? After couple of hundred meters it is clear. The wind is here to stay, I better brace up for next 10km. There is no variation in strength and direction. It blows constantly, in same direction - into my face. No change. Am cursing myself for not pushing even harder in first half. Going for "negative split", but with wind like this I can forget about faster in second half. Damn! Am so stupid! Erez, our local colleague told me about this wind. About the fan switched on by invisible hand once you turn back. Fan that blows in this valley 365 days a year. I did not think of it until now! It suddenly feels like trading knee high stream of molasses.
Am ready to take first bottle of water. I raise my hand and point on one of the volunteers at the refreshment station. Grab the bottle, unscrew the top without stopping and start sipping. Profile of the road is such that one can easily see two black flags ahead, marking distance of two kilometers. Up and down. Up and down. The wind is insane.
Suddenly I hear thumping of several feet from behind. 2hour Pacer and his pack are closing up on me. No way I let them overtake me! The strategy is cast in 10 seconds. I won't let them get in front of me at any cost and last 2-3km will speed up. But the wind cost me far too much speed. If am battling 2hour Pacer, my PB is gone!
Suddenly there are airplanes approaching by our right, flying parallel with the road, taking pictures, probably no more that 30 meters above ground. Two kilometers to go. I start to increase the pace. again. Since turn it fell down from 11.3km/h to 10.7km/hr. As I increase the pace, wind gets even stronger. Heart rate goes up. Garmin bleeps and bleeps warning signal. I could do with more oxygen. From here it should be all downhill. Am pushing hard, but don't get expected response from my legs! Try again! Pushing even harder. One kilometer to go! Finally the feet get the grip and I take off. Am flying! I can run even without breathing! Barrier across the road diverts runners from the asphalt surface to the right, on dirt path leading to another inflatable gate. Long fenced stretch. Shouting crowds on both sides. Two rows of palms lead to finish. Am pounding last couple of hundred meters the dessert. Yes, I'll make it under two hours, but very far from PB. Pushing, pushing, crossing the line. Burst of colors everywhere around. Photographers, crew managing the timing sensors, volunteers handing over water bottles and hundreds of people behind the barriers. Am happy this was great run. Enjoyed every second of it!