For the sixth year in a row, I made my pilgrimage to Henderson, NV for the Silverman Full Distance Triathlon. I had some pretty high expectations going into the race but knew that it would be hard to meet my ultimate goal with the training I had going in. While running a few marathons here and there make great long runs, I had no other running since the beginning of September. And on a marathon course that brutal, the run would be a huge question mark. In the end, I came away with a 25 minute PR, a new respect for mountain biking as an appropriate method of training for any cycling event and the realization that after 12 laps of the run course, I should know better then to try to fake it! I was disapointed with my run, but still satisfied with the race. The weather conditions were challenging this year, warmer then most people expected (myself included) and with a lovely wind coming from the south most of the day. I was the second women, finishing in 11:39:11, which is the fifth fastest time for the race. Monique Sawicki won, finishing in 11:32:35, the third fastest time for the race. I can also (jokingly) say that I am the only woman to ever defend a title at Silverman! But for the first Pro, not first overall.
The race morning dawned with a light breeze and high thin clouds. Had my normal breakfast of oatmeal, made some coffee and orange juice and took my time eating. Hoping the clouds would stay away, I made my final pre-race prep in T2. Pump up the tires, fill aero bottle, get fluids on bike, tools on bike, ect. Took the time to get a photo with all five time finishers - wished everyone in the group good luck. It would be nice to have the seven of us intact at the end of the day. There was a lot of nervous energy in transition this year - more then in past years. There were also a lot of first time Silverman athletes, all of them nervous about the course. After that, it was time to get into my wetsuit and head down to the water.
Swim - goal 0:57:00
I based my goal off my swim time from last year and the fact that I'd been getting in the water a lot more this year. I didn't need to go any faster then last year, just about the same pace. But last year, we were in Lake Mead and the water was smooth as glass and the swimming was easy. Not so much with Lake Las Vegas. It was a deep water start, just east of the bridge spanning the lake. That made for some good views for the specators, I'm sure. The starting line was guarded by a row of Stand Up Paddle boarders. Like all Silverman volunteers, they were just awesome and fun to talk to prior to the start.
At the sound of the gun, we were off. With a narrow starting channel and nearly 300 registered athletes (I don't know if all 300 started) it was a bit of a scrum right away. I fought off the guys, found some open water pretty quickly and struck out along the bouy line. First thing I noticed was that those bouys went a darn long way into Lake Las Vegas! Way further then any of my Xterras! There were plenty of yellow capped guys and white capped relays around, but no green caps. The water was pretty murky and as we approached the wider section of the lake, the chop picked up just a little. I settled into a good pace, resolved to ignore the line of guys tickling my toes and started counting off the bouys. Finally, I reached the yellow turning bouys for the full distance race and got a good chance to look around. There was one green cap about 25 yards back. It had taken forever to get to that point, and I was ready to get out of the water. But I had another mile to swim, at least. I was also getting frustrated with the guys behind me. Again, tried to ignore them and focus on my stroke, my pacing and my breathing. My back was starting to tighten up just a little, but it wasn't bad. What was bad was the mental distractions. I wasn't focusing on the swim anymore - daydreaming about the people walking on the sides of the lake, the volunteers and finally getting those darn guys off my feet. At last - under the bridge and back to the dock. Volunteers were waiting to drag me out of the water and I was off to T1. First woman out of the water and the flat part was over.
Actual swim time 1:05:46
Transition 1 - goal 0:03:00
Yes, even my transitions had specific time goals. I didn't want to be wasting time that I could use out on course! I knew before the race that it would be hard to meet the transtion goals with the new set up. Very long and with a nice hill getting out of transition, before the mount line. I made it quick - wetsuit strippers pulled my suit off easily and into the changing tent I went. Socks on, shoes on, sunglasses on, helmet on, chicken broth and ensure in pockets. I left the volunteers to bag my wetsuit, cap and goggles and was off to my bike. Pushed up the 4th sister, then over to the mount line - managed a nice flying mount even in my road shoes. Off to brunch with the Three Sisters!
Actual T1 time - 3:32
Bike - goal 6:15:00
As I have said before and all the photos taken of the course show, Silverman is a route of stark beauty and extreme conditions. The openness of the course leaves no place to hide - from yourself or the conditions. With a new course this year, I knew there would be more hills but about the same elevation change. I wasn't sure how realistic my goal was, given that my fastest bike time was 6:32 - from the first year of the event. I was also a little concerned about not having the computer on my bike. As I started riding, I felt pretty good. My swim had been slow, but I was right where I normally was with the other racers. I took advantage of the graduall climb out of Lake Las Vegas to pull on my arm coolers - the air was a little cool and those clouds were still hovering in the sky. There was also a bit of a breeze. The first fifteen miles of the new course were rolling hills heading south to the old starting area. I settled into a steady tempo, making sure to spin up the hills. Staying in aero seemed pretty easy and I was comfortable on the bike. I was also starting to pass guys who had beaten me out of the water. At the first turn around, I was able to get a check on the rest of the field. Things looked good so far and we were back on the familiar Silverman course.
I wasn't sure about having two turn around points when I heard the swim had been moved. I did like the ability to see the race both in front and behind. It also made the bike feel a lot less lonely then it had in the past years, but I knew it wouldn't last. Making the right hand turn onto North Shore Drive and it was time for the hills to begin in earnest. That slight breeze was starting to gather strength, gusting into a southern wind at times. I forced myself to let other riders pass, despite how strong I felt on the hills. There was still a long way to go, and I was not liking that wind at all. Without the computer, I was also taking it five miles at a time - from Silverman sign to Silverman sign. I could tell that I was making good time because other athletes who had normally caught me were still chasing. I was drinking plenty and was topping off my aero bottle at every aid station. Strike one for the mountain biking - despite not practicing bottle handups on the road at all, I had no fumbles. There were a few times I came in a little hot, but the volunteers knew what I wanted and who I was looking for. I was also getting in my electrolyte drink without any issues - Gu and Gu Brew all mixed together with a little extra salt.
This was my first time racing on the road without a computer. I race all the time without a computer on the MTB, but pretty much because I crash enough that I would break it! I was worried that without the data from the computer I would push too hard in the first half of the ride and just blow myself up for the run. But MPH is not the best monitor of effort, especially on the Silverman course and I quickly realized that my internal sense of effort and pacing was far better. I also had no evil little numbers staring me in the face, saying "go faster" or "slow down." I just rode how I felt based on the course and the conditions. It was also nice that I felt like I really knew the course this year. I remembered all of the little dips and the false flat sections. For the first time in six years, I did not forget about the hills leading up to Calville bay on the way back into town! It was a good feeling, cruising down the road, knowing what the next corner would bring.
What was not a good feeling was the wind. I had not realized how strong that little breeze had become until the turn around. Then it hit me. Up the longest hill in the entire race, into a lovely head wind. It also made it hard to get a sense of how the rest of the field was doing. Racers on the return trip were struggling against gravity and the wind while those looking for the turn around were cruising down hill. I gained ground on the other pro woman in the race, but some of the age group women looked like they were making up time. With over half of the bike course completed, it was time to put my head down and ride. The wind was a pleasant cross-head wind, with some pretty strong gusts. I was still feeling good, but my effort level was going up fighting against the wind. At least the road trended towards down between the turn around and the start of the bike path.
Finally I made the turn out of Lake Mead. 90 miles down, 22 to go - with the bike path and the Three Sisters standing between me and the transition. I knew the River Mountain Trail would be brutal this year - with the south wind, we would be riding straight into it for eight long, exposed miles. All was right in the world of Silverman. Frank ordered up that nice headwind just for us! One of the other races in the full made the mistake of celebrating when he got off the Three Sisters - "Almost done only 20 miles left!" Yeah, with 5 miles of hell! I had no issues with the sisters - just made sure I shifted into the 26 early and gave it heck. Another small victory - I was able to ride the rest of the bike path in aero, and I was taking the sharp corners at pretty high speeds! A huge improvement from prior years. Then it was off the bike path and we were pretty much blown back into Henderson.
Actual bike time - 6:16:18
Transition 2 - goal :02:00
This was another long transition. Off the bike at the dismount line and the volunteers practiclly had to pry it from my hands! One part of long distance road tris I'd forgotten about - the volunteers rack your bike for you. Snagging my run gear bag, I attempted running (it was more like hobbling - did not have my running legs at all) into the changing tent. Helmet off, empty pockets, change shorts, clean socks on, running shoes on, visor and number belt in hand and I was out on the run. Again, the awesome volunteers packed everything up nice and neat for me. I'd found a little more of my running legs while changing and was starting to relax a little. Only a few (dozen) hills left!
Actual T2 time - :02:47
Run - goal 3:40
No woman has ever run faster then 3:45 on the Silverman marathon. In order to meet my goal finish time, I would have to also run 40 minutes then I have ever run on that course (Because my swim was slower then planned - I needed to run 3:30 - faster then the hoped for 3:40). It was going to be a challenge before I'd had the achilles injuries. Now, I wasn't at all sure that I would be able to pull off that kind of run. My run training leading up to Silverman was more "damage control" then anything else. I had run four marathons and two Xterras, but had no other runs since the middle of August. Faking a marathon is one thing - faking Silverman? I was about to find out how painful that could be.
The good news was my achilles were not hurting at all when I started running. The bad news was I was running down hill! I dialed down the tempo and settled into what I thought was a reasonable pace. I wanted to try and negative split the course, but knew that there little chance of that. I had a bike escort, which was cool and the run course was busy with half Silverman racers. I just turned internal and started clicking off the miles, moving pretty easily on the that first lap. The hills didn't seem as big as last year and I was running smoothly. I had to just keep moving forward until the turn around at mile 8 - then I would be able to get a judge on what kind of lead I had.
I noticed pretty early on that I was super thirsty. I was drinking water, gatorade and chicken broth and nothing was quenching my thirst.My mouth was dry and I was also much hotter then normal for that stage in a race. Figuring it was just because of the heat of the day, I did my best to cool off with water. All the aid stations were well stocked as usuall. (Normally, I help with the aid station packing on Friday before the race - this year I decided to do registration instead). I did feel sorry for this poor little boy at the mile 2/15 water stop - he had gel and he wanted someone to take his gel in the worse way! But no one did.
At the turn around, the high point on the course. I had about a mile lead on second and a two mile lead on third. Wasn't sure how well that would hold up, because I was still struggling with the heat and thirst issues. I was also feeling the lack of run training. Took the long down hill super conservative, not wanting to blow my legs up for the second lap. Around the district - the smell of hamburgers at mile 11/24 is always pleasant - and got my second look at the chasing women. Second was still in the same postion, but third was closing. She looked pretty good too - better then I was feeling. The question would be if I had enough time to hold to finish and how well I would be able to fake that second loop.
My first lap was slower then I wanted -1:53. Through the lap chute (right by the finish line - cruel. But the spectators could see the race, which was nice) and I did a quick body check. The answers weren't great. I didn't have any spunk and I was still just dreadfully thirsty. Revised my plan and decided I would just try to run an even split race. In the back of my mind, I knew that would be a challenge and was looking more at worst case and a 2:00 second half. Little did I know...
I kept up a steady "run" for the next few miles, very happy that I was looking at the higher set of numbers. I was still drinking at all the water stations, but nothing was helping. The sun was starting to set and I was hopefull that I would cool off once the darkness closed in. Before that happened, we were treated to a nice sunset over the strip. The majority of racers on course were now from the full and I was able to see everyone. I think the bike escort was a little surprised at how many people I knew on the course. Across the bike path again, up the long hill to the turn around and I was really wanting to be done. I wasn't walking - I needed to keep running if I wanted to maintain my postion. But the running wasn't pretty at all. At the high point again and my third check of where the race was behind me. And the answer was closer then I wanted. With five miles left in the race, I wasn't sure I had enough to hold her off. The fact that I was faking the marathon was starting to be pretty apparent.
I was also still overheating. Despite the sun going down and the temperature dropping, I was just baking. I took my arm coolers off - which itself was odd. I'm usually wanting to put a long sleeved shirt on by that point in the race. It gets cold fast in the desert. I was also not moving that quickly. Stopped to walk once and it was not a straight line at all. Running at least was straight. Saw one of the other repeat offenders and he said I looked good and had a strong lead - second had dropped out. Nope - the new second place woman was right behind and closing fast. It was quickly becoming a question of distance. Every time I tried to pick up the pace, my straight line went away. I wasn't even wanting to drink anymore - but I was still extremly dry. My mouth was like cotton and the water or gatorade or coke wasn't doing anything. It was the last long downhill - all that was left was the District, a short hill and the bike path. I was hoping that I would be able to maintain to the end, but was not confident at all. Physically, I was not doing well at that point in the race and I knew that if I was passed that I would not be able to hold anyone off.
Then it happened. Second place pulled along side of me and cruised by while her friend riding along side gave me a long look. I attempted to run along side of her, knowing that this was the race, hoping that I would be able to hold on for 1.5 miles more. My burst of confidence (or was it desperation?) lasted for all of 100 yards. At the turn into the District, I knew that I was finishing in second. I could not maintain that pace - faking only last for so long! The new first overall, the official bike escort and her friend riding beside her quickly pulled away. I settled back into the semi-run I'd been managing before.
While I would not reclaim my overall title from 2008, I would still set a new PR and break 12 hours, something only a handful of women have managed. I stopped for a few seconds in the finish chute to shake Frank's hand and then strolled across the line in 11:39:11
Actual run time - 4:10:18
Goal finish time 10:57:00
Actual Finish time 11:39:11
And for the third year, I ended up in the medical tent. Something about not quite walking straight and feeling really dizzy when I finished had something to do about that. My temperature was 101 - very high for me. Why? Haven't a clue. That's what I get for trying to run Silverman without really training for the run! I was disapointed that I wasn't able to hold off and win overall. I was upset that I had not met my goal time - for the overall race or for the run. But it was still a very good race and showed how far I have come in the last six years. I'll have a little more reflection about the race and the lessons from 2010 later. This report is long enough!