Silverman Race Report

As I said before, Silverman did not go well for me this year. The weather was perfect for a race, sunny, clear and hardly any wind. I just had a bad day, physically. I started coughing up crap on the bike at mile 10 and never stopped. My swim was 55:31, thanks to the smooth water. T1 was in and out, efficiently in 2:05. I did have my fastest bike time on the course by over two minutes, riding 6:36:10. T2 was a little slow in 2:08. However, I had to walk the run. I could not run at all and took 5:50:38 to do the marathon. My final time was 13:26:30, which is my second slowest time for the course. But I finished. I also have some photo from the trip and venue

I had had a nagging cough since I was sick two weeks ago. I really didn't think much of it, but noticed that it was getting worse on Friday and Saturday before the race. Woke up race morning, bright and early. I made my oatmeal (three packets of the Quaker Healthy Harvest instant) and some how managed to finish it all. Made some coffee and dropped two MotorTabs in a bottle for waiting at the swim start. I already had everything packed, so it didn't take to much time to get over to the Sunset Station to pick up the race shuttle. Yes, I was a lazy bum and drove the half a mile from my hotel. I would be going far enough in the coming hours.

Once we got to Lake Mead, there wasn't much that I needed to do. I got my water bottles on my bike, filled my aero bottle and made sure that I had my tools and my spare tubes. Last thing I wanted to deal with was the chance of a flat. There were a lot of people I knew wandering around, which made the time pass quickly. Soon it was time to fight with the wetsuit and get ready to swim.

The swim at Silverman has been challenging the last few years. This year, the lake was smooth as glass. The water level was quite a bit lower then last year, leading to a very narrow starting channel. As such, the start was a little more physical then in previous years, but I found open water quickly. There was a cluster of racers in front and another group right around me. For once, I could actually see the bouys in the water! I settled into a comfortable rhythm, siting every five to ten strokes. The bouys were moving by quickly, which was nice to see. Frank (the race director) has different colored bouys at the turns, which makes things easy. No thinking required! I lost a few of the guys in my group - they were swimming off in some weird directions - and struck out on my own. As always, there was plenty of support staff in the water, from Kayaks to Stand up paddlers and ski jets and motor boats. Despite not really having any other athletes around me, I was never alone in the water.
Thanks to the perfect conditions, I got out of the water in record time. I was actually a little shocked to see the clock at the swim finish reading 55:31! There was no time to celebrate - I wanted to get on the bike as quickly as I could. Before the swim, I'd greased up with Beljum Budder to make the (wetsuit) stripping as easy as possible. I have to hand it to the fabuloaus (wetsuit) strippers at Silverman. Always make that part of the race a bit easier.

This is the hardest bike course I have done. It is harder then Kona, even on a windy day on the island. My fastest time leading up to this year was 6:38:54 - the first year, in perfect conditions. I was hoping to ride between 6:20 and 6:12 this year, and the conditions were again perfect. I got on the bike and started up the two mile long climb out of T1. At that point, I noticed a rookie mistake - my aero bottle was on backwards! I managed to fix it without having to stop, but that was an indication as to how the rest of the ride would go.
At mile ten, that cough I'd been dealing with came back with a vengeance. I started coughing about every five minutes, hard enough that other athletes were asking me if I was okay. I continued riding, maintaining a comfortable pace, but I was unable to push on any of the hills. If I started working too hard, I started coughing. And what I was coughing up was not pretty. Think chewed up saltines mixed with chewed up pretzels and you've got a great visual. There were a few times that I was wandering across the road because I was coughing so hard. Just lucky there was no traffic or USAT officials around at that time!
I hit the halfway in 3:12. Slower then what I was looking for, but reasonable given the first half has a lot more climbing then the middle 30 miles. I knew I had a good gap on the woman behind me, and decided to just ride tempo home so I would be able to run well. At least, that's what the plan was. I continued coughing, with the spells coming more frequently and starting to really affect my ability to ride. My back was also starting to cramp up from the coughing, so I couldn't hold aero on any of the climbs.
At the exit off the road onto the River Mountain Trail, the first Age Group woman caught me. She slowed for just a minute, asked if I was okay after hearing me coughing my way up the first of the three sisters, then took off. I tried not to let her ride away - I was still planning on having a good run at this race. Gradually, she disappeared from view, but I knew that it had taken her 96 miles to make up 10 minutes - I wouldn't loose that much time in 18 miles.
On the road leading up to T2, Frank pulled along side me, driving a little Gator ATV. He waved and shouted "What are you still doing on your bike? Shouldn't you be running already?" I just smiled and replied "how's your day going?" He shook his head and drove off.
When I got into T2, the volunteers said I was about three minutes behind the leader. Normally, that amount of time is easy for me to make up on the longer runs. This would not be a normal day.

When I left T2, I knew that things were not going well. I was really having problems breathing and was coughing like crazy. The color was also starting to trend more towards the pretzel side of the equation. It took me 8:05 to run the first mile and I felt like crap. I stopped and walked for a little, then started running again. That did not last long. At mile two, I realized that I would not be catching anyone today. In fact, if I wanted to finish the race and still be breathing normally, I would not be running either.
So off I went, for a nice long walk. I turned into a one-woman cheering section for everyone else on the course. There were still people finishing the half when I was on the run, and they looked like they needed all the encouragement they could get. I made sure that I thanked all of the volunteers and the race staff. Just because I was having a crappy day does not mean I get to take my frustration out on anyone else. So I made sure that I was polite and cheerful. It helped that it was a good day for a walk.
I did manage to run a few miles - just enough to keep my "run" time under six hours. I was amazed at the number of other athletes who congratulated me on staying in the race and finishing. I was told by several that most athletes in my position would have walked off the course instead of finishing. My response? I have too much respect for this course, this race and for Frank to even consider walking off the course when I know I can finish. I have to thank every athlete who told me I was inspiring - I was just so disappointed that on a day where I felt strong and the weather was perfect, I was not able to succeed on that course.

Silverman is a humbling race. Two of the five years have been perfect, the others less then desirable racing conditions. The course does not let you take short-cuts, either with training ro on race day. If one thing is off, then things will become more challenging. On the other hand, the race organization - Frank Lowery and his awesome team - make suffering through the bad days more then tolerable. I am proud that I was able to finish this year and am looking forward to next year.


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