My friends at the Florida Jewish Journal (Randall Lieberman and team) always do such a great job covering the local Jewish scene, and the Maccabiah Games of course.
They did it again by recapping the 20th World Maccabiah Games with a story on me and Rylee Pustilnik, a junior track and field athlete and also a star member of the Spanish River Cross Country and Track teams.
Read the full article below, which highlights both of our experiences in Israel and the bigger meaning of the whole games!
Rylee Pustilnik and Melissa Perlman are at very different stages of their running careers.
However, the two Delray Beach women share in common winning bronze medals at the 20th Maccabiah Games (Jewish Olympics) in Jerusalem this past July.
The Maccabiah Games is the third-largest sporting event in the world (after the Olympics and Pan-American Games) — with nearly 10,000 Jewish athletes representing about 80 countries competing in 45 sports in four distinct divisions: Juniors, Open, Masters and Disabled.
Pustilnik, 15, won three bronze medals in the Junior Girls Track-and-Field competition in her first trip to Israel for the Maccabiah Games — placing third in the 800-meter run, the 1500-meter run and the 3000-meter run.
Meanwhile, Perlman, 35, won one bronze medal in the Open Women’s Half-Marathon in her fourth trip to the Maccabiah Games as an athlete.
I returned from Israel just a couple of days ago and I am just coming up for air! The jet lag combined with time spent catching up on work, sleep, family/friends and my puppy has kept me pretty busy…and honestly SLEEP has dominated everything else (sorry!).
So I truly apologize for the lack of posting here on the site. I planned to post throughout the games as I travelled through Israel with Team USA but the schedule (between travel and training) was rough!
The best I can do is catch you up here on the last three weeks! And then I’ll gradually share snippets in the coming weeks and months! So read on…and let me know if there are specifics that you want me to follow-up on! I learned a lot, I saw a lot and I’ve definitely got a lot to share!
I went in with hopes and plans to run sub 1:29 for the half marathon. I trained for that and was confident I could do it. That was until we arrived in Jerusalem and I saw the Jerusalem terrain and specifically the Half Marathon course. It was HILLY – and when I say HILLY I mean MOUNTAINOUS. (So hilly, in fact, that I ran on the treadmill the week leading up the race in an effort to keep my confidence up and avoid as many hills outside the hotel we were staying in that I could!)
Coming from Florida, anything with hills is probably a little outside my comfort zone. But I try to be pretty relaxed when it comes to racing these days and figured ‘hey, all competitors will be facing the same course’ and moved on.
The race started at just before 9:00pm Israel time and I went in with the following strategy: Go out conservative, stay relaxed, stay aerobic (per Doug) and don’t let those hills kill your legs too early on. From walking the Jerusalem hills the week prior, I knew what they could do to my legs pretty quickly…and I promised myself I would take it easy and not allow the lactic acid to build up too early on. (I wanted this to be an enjoyable race…and not unnecessarily painful.)
Mile one was just over 7 minutes (7:03 to be exact). The first 800 meters was up hill and I took it easy. I’d say 70% of the field probably passed me at this point…but I kept reminding myself: ‘this is a 13.1 mile race’ and I’ll catch them later. Same for mile two (7:07). I think it was mile three that I started to feel my rhythm, get comfortable and develop my race plan .
Stay relaxed on the hills and get up them with small rapid steps. Allow the body to lean in and move up easily. Do not let the body go anaerobic or let the lactic acid build up in the legs.
Attack the down hills (which I personally love) and let the body go, the stride expand and the arms / upper body relax. Boy did I love those down hills (except where it got super windy).
And on the few areas of flat ground (honestly – probably adding up to two miles total), pick up the speed!
The race was two loops that repeated so the constant up hill, down hill, flat, up hill, down hill, flat course became the norm and made the race go by super fast. I was spending so much time looking forward to the down hill and flat areas, that before I knew it we were at 10miles in.
I pretty much ran alone or just behind a few Israeli guys – who chatted with me every so often (where was I from, what was my race goal, etc.). While I tried to keep the chatter to a minimum, one of those guys ended up being a life saver later on – giving me the heads up in the last 3.1 miles on upcoming hills, sharp turns, and more. (Thanks David! David had run this course many times prior.)
The last three miles was where I really wanted to pick up the pace and be aggressive with catching up to some of the leaders ahead of me. I felt great at this point…but I also had a tough 3.1 miles ahead of me. Lots of up hills, lots of tight turns and a 1k through the Old City (on slippery cobblestone, etc.). My total time for that last 5k was just under 22 minutes, which was solid, but not enough to catch me up.
With under 1k left in the race, as we ran down the final Old City hill and onto the Mamilla straightaway, I remember looking to my left over the city of Jerusalem – and thinking this is truly beautiful, and this experience has been amazing. I then finished up my last 800 or so meters wishing the end was closer (as always), and focusing on my form so I could finish strong.
My final finish: 1:33 and change and a third place in Maccabiah Open competition (fourth place overall – including a Master’s woman). But most importantly, I ran proud, strong, and happy. Another Maccabiah, another amazing experience.
Thank you to my teammates who were out there with me; Doug and Coach Rothman for the advice; Leah for the training plan; my family for cheering me on on the course – I LOVE having you out there just like my high school days; Lauren for the extra support and goo/water on hand; and Mark for the “strong” statements and goo at halfway mark!
Maccabi USA will bring a team of 1,100+ athletes who will be part of the 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries, participating in 43 different sports at the 20th World Maccabiah Games, which will take place July 4-18, 2017 in Israel.
So it’s pretty impressive when seven of those US Team members come from Spanish River High School in Boca Raton – and are part of the school’s legendary Cross Country and Track program.
The Palm Beach Post noticed and stopped by a team practice yesterday to photograph the athletes and coaches. Here they are:
Rick Rothman: Current assistant cross country/track coach at FAU and former Spanish River High head coach of cross country/track; will be the coach of the Open Men’s and Women’s Track & Field Team at 2017 Games
Doug Horn: Current Spanish River High head coach of cross country/track; will be co-coach of the Open Men’s and Women’s Track & Field Team at 2017 Games.
Melissa Perlman: Assistant cross country/track coach at Spanish River High; former Spanish River High track athlete; is captain of the Open Women’s Half Marathon team at 2017 Games.
Jordana Kimelman: Former Spanish River High runner and current student at Florida State University; will be competing in Women’s Open Half Marathon at 2017 Games.
Jake Noonan: 2017 graduate of Spanish River High who will be entering Indiana University in the fall; was captain of cross country and track teams; will be competing on the Junior Track and Field Team at 2017 Games.
Alex Kline: 2017 graduate of Spanish River High who will be entering the University of Florida in the fall; was four-year member and captain of cross country and track teams; will be running on the Junior Track and Field Team at 2017 Games.
Rylee Pustilnik: Just completed her freshman year and is a state-ranked current member of the Spanish River High cross country and track teams; will be running on the Junior Track and Field Team at 2017 Games.
2017 marks 20 years since my first Maccabiah experience. I went to the 1997 World Maccabiah Games as a young, naive 15 year old looking to run fast and win in the Junior Track & Field competition…Now 20 years later, I am going as an experienced 35 year old competing in the Open Half Marathon field.
A lot has happened in 20 years (and I mean a lot) but one thing is the same: Running still makes my heart skip a beat…always!
In less than one week, I will be joining 250 other individuals from the United States in Berlin, Germany for the European Maccabi Games! I am super excited for this opportunity and promise to enjoy, celebrate and appreciate every moment of it. I will be there representing much more than just me…
Please bookmark this page as I will be updating you on my journey throughout the trip as much as I can. I will also be blogging for the Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel team along with many of my USA teammates. The Maccabi USA website is http://www.maccabiusa.com.
About the European Maccabi Games
From July 27th until August 5th, the 14th European Maccabi Games (EMG2015) will take place in Berlin. The EMG2015 are Europe’s biggest Jewish sports event wih more than 2,000 athletes, coaches and counselors from over 30 European countries and the world. The competitions will be held in 19 sports.
For the first time ever, the European Maccabi Games will take place in Germany – 70 years after the end of the Shoah and the Second World War and 50 years after the establishment of the German – Israeli relations. The EMG2015 will be held at the Olympic Park in Berlin – the same location where German Jews were forbidden to participate in the Olympic Games of 1936 – as well the Half Marathon Race (which I will be racing in)!
Well, I have returned from Israel after three weeks…and spent the last day catching up on rest, unpacking, doing laundry, and reminscing on my time overseas. I have to say that the experience was unlike anything else. I had the absolute BEST time in Israel as a member of Team USA in the 19th Maccabiah Games. I had high expectations of everything – yet somehow the experience was better than anything imagined. I’ll keep this short but wanted to share some of the highlights:
Team USA: The most amazing group of people and athletes ever. To have the opportunity to be back on a Track team was an experience in itself. It felt like college running again, but with the maturity that only comes with age. The mindset of a competitive runner is so unique and to be part of that addictive and passionate atmosphere again was really cool and inspiring. (So much so, I have a few new goals and plans for myself and my running/racing this Fall and onward.) The Half Marathon team specifically was my famiy while there. I cannot begin to describe how much fun I had with my group. I truly feel so lucky that our group was hand picked and put together….and I know we will be friends for a lifetime to come. First reunion is already planned for October!
Israel: Wow! It may have been my third time in the country, but the tours, the views, the places never get old. I love that place. And to have the opportunity to see it with a new perspective on life – was a privilege. I cannot wait to go back again (4 years!)!
Family: It was a brief visit…but I had the opportunity to see my family while there for a day. My dad’s brother moved to Israel when he was in his 20s, joined the Israeli army, got married, raised a family and lives there today with the family. I got to see my uncle, aunt, three of my cousins as well as one of their wifes and kids. It was an amazing lunch and I am so thankful I had the time to make it happen!
Competition: Ah the competition. I said coming in that my goal was to medal and finish under 1:30 in the half marathon. But you say a lot when you have goals…and hopes. To finish the race in a 1:29:31 and to win a bronze individual medal and team gold medal was beyond my greatest expectations. The race was hard (hilly and humid); my body barely held up (still can’t put on sneakers to this day…because of how damaged my feet got – blood blisters and cuts on my heels); but my mind kept me in it…and my legs listened. I will tell you that the last 4K (a half marathon is equal to 13.1 miles or 21K) was rough and I had to do a lot of talking to get myself through it. On a personal note, I have to thank my mom (in heaven) for getting me through a lot of it. Most of my talking was to her…and apparently she listened. 🙂
Special thanks to all those who supported my trip and experience monetarily with donations! And special thanks to my family for their support, my Spanish River team that sent me texts and facebook messages before and after the race, my high school coach Rick Rothman who was on-site and gave me the best pep talk ever, Jordana Kimelman – who despite having to race the next day and being sick – was there in full force to take pictures of Team USA and to help me post-race, my Team USA girls who were there for me throughout the race as running partners and water passers, Rob Fellman and Coach Smolka for giving me the opportunity to be part of the Maccabiah Games, and so many more!!!!
It’s a countdown to the Israel! Support me as I train for the Half Marathon race at the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel in 2013. As I get my training started and progress through the Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer…I will be sharing updates right here for you! Look out for the heading “19th World Maccabiah Games” to stay in the know with my training and ultimately results!
Interested in supporting me? I will be sure to make mention of you (and/or your company) right here to make sure you get the public thank you deserve!
On that note, I’d like to start off with special thanks to the following individuals who have already supported me and my journey back to Israel for Team USA: