Viva, Las Vegas!
I managed to get two days off from school so that I could do the Half Silverman in Henderson, NV, on 11/11/07. (Veteran's Day, or Remembrance Day in the UK.) I wasn't up for the Full Silverman, but Myles and Cody were going to race the full so I knew I'd have company from some fellow Outlaws.
The first leg of the race was the drive from Clovis to Nevada. Myles had offered to let me car pool with him, so it worked out that I could leave Clovis Thursday PM and spend the night at chez Pilgrim. The 3.5 hour drive to ABQ was a nice warm up. We got up fairly early on Friday morning, stopped for coffee, hit Myle's favorite drive-in for breakfast, and then pointed west on I-40. I was going to grade lab reports and Myles was going to listen to books on tape. However, the i-pod cable gave up the ghost, so we ended up stopping in Gallup for a new one. Now we were really cruising in style, but then the i-pod ran out of charge. No problem, says Myles, there's a brand new never been opened charger in the passenger door panel. Well, I don't know if you've ever tried to open something in one of those bullet proof hard plastic covers without at least having a pair of scissors, but it ain't easy. About twenty minutes later, I had wrestled the silly thing open, and I had gotten in a good upper body work out too. From there on, it was "Death in the White City" (or a title close to that) coming from the i-pod while I graded more than half of the 61 chemistry and physics lab reports that I had with me.
About 9-10 hours after leaving ABQ, we were pulling up to the race expo in Sin City, Jr. (I don't think Henderson is really in the same league as Las Vegas, but you know you're not in Kansas anymore.) We bumped into Cody while we were doing packet pick up and bought a few things at the expo that we'd forgotten to bring with us. Then it was off to the Sunset Station casino/hotel, which was the host hotel for the race. This was a nice place to stay by any measure, and you got a significant discount for being in the race. Soon it was time for the pre-race pasta diner at the Convention Center. It was a good meal for the athletes, and you had the usual "thanks for coming/glad you're here" speeches from the race director. Don't get me wrong, they were really happy to have us there, and they made you feel that way. The highlight of the diner was the two short talks given by Dave Scott and Chris McCormack. The race director is really sharp and he seems to have a lot of connections. (Remember the 2006 Silverman where Tyler Hamilton and a couple of buddies showed up to try to win some large prize ($100,000) for finishing under 8 hours. They missed it by a few minutes when their runner melted down on the run.) Not only were Dave and Macca there for autographs and speeches, they were going to race the Half Silverman.
I adjusted my race goal to try to get clear of T-2 before Macca (who I figured would be the race winner) crossed the finish line.
Saturday started with a free pancake breakfast, and then the administrative details such as bike and bag check-ins. Myles and I drove the road portion of the bike course, which was obviously not flat, but it seemed to be doable. We attended the "mandatory" pre-race meeting, ate some pizza, and went to bed early.
Sunday, race day. They had shuttle buses to take you from the hotel to the race start/T-1 out at Lake Mead. After the horror stories of how cold and windy it was in 2006, this year was positively balmy. The air temp at the start must have been in the 50's and it warmed up pretty quickly to the 60's where it stayed until after sunset. They said the water was 70 degrees, and it didn't feel cold although I couldn't stop shivering while waiting for the gun to go off. (Really bad nerves, I guess.) The water in Lake Mead is really clear, especially when you are used to the swims in NM and West Texas. For the first few hundred meters, we were sheltered by a breakwater, and I thought I was going pretty well. However, once you cleared the breakwater, the 20 mph winds had stirred up some 2-foot waves. It wasn't exactly the north shore of Oahu, but is made the swim pretty tough. I was trying to time my stroke so that I could breath and sight while I was on top of a wave. But it wasn't easy. I knew my swim time was going to suck, and sure enough it was the slowest "wetsuit" 1.2-miles swim I've ever done. Still, I felt like it was a good swim.
The first 36 miles or so of the 56-mile bike were challenging but pretty fun. Lots of hills but nice wide roads with perfect pavement. Then, you turn off the road onto "the bike path". Everyone talks about the first three hills in the first mile of the bike path (known as "the three sisters".) They are really steep (18 percent) but thankfully none of them are very long. I figured once I had made it to the top of the last hill I could just cruise to T-2. However, you had a 6-mile slog into a 20-30 mph headwind on the rest of the bike path. At first I thought my rear tire had gone flat because I was moving so slowly. Eventually, I got back into town, and there were some volunteers and spectators to provide some support for the final miles into T-2.
I need to point out how well the race is supported by volunteers. There were only about 400 racers, counting both the full and half along with the relay teams. But there were plenty of volunteers. Of course you got all the things you would expect like aid stations and people to take your bike when you got to T-2. But I really liked the guys in the changing tents at T-1 and T-2. "Just leave all of your stuff on the ground. We'll bag it up for you." So I did just drop everything I was finished with or didn't need, and sure enough it was all in my bag when I picked it up after the race. My transition timex were easily my fastest ever at half or full IM distance.
Coming out of T-2, I could hear the announcers, and it didn't sound like Macca had finished. Sure enough, I got out of T-2 about six minutes before he crossed the finish line. The first mile of the run was downhill, and I thought I might be able to finish the run in two hours. The next two miles were uphill, and I changed my goal to running 10-minute miles. By the time I made it to the turn-around (which because of the twisted layout of the course was at the 7.6-mile point) I knew I wasn't even going to manage a 10-minute mile pace. It was a really tough course for me. There were very few flat sections. I wasn't going that fast on the downhills, and I was really slow when the road went uphill. I did manage to save enough so that I could "run" the last quarter-mile, and the announcers gave my NM Outlaws jersey a shout out.
I ended up with my slowest Half-IM time ever, but I think it was my best Half-IM race ever other than two years ago at Harvest Moon. It is such a tough course that anyone who says their PR was at the Silverman must not have done any other races. I ended up 4th in my age group (out of 11 finishers) and 72 out of about 170 overall. Next year, if I just do some serious training............
I had plenty of time to catch a shuttle bus back to the hotel, shower, swing by In and Out Burger, and then head back to the finish to catch the folks on the Full Silverman. Cody didn't quite make the bike cutoff that they had established for getting onto the bike path. It wouldn't be safe to let anyone onto that bike path after dark, and it gets dark early in Nevada in November. (But he did get in a nice 2.4-mile swim and 89-mile bike ride.) Myles came cruising into the finish in just over 15 hours. Just finishing the Full Silverman is an accomplishment, and a 15-hour race at the Silverman is really a good time.
We went to the awards ceremony on Monday morning. More free food and more funny speeches from Dave Scott and Macca. They brought out a Vegas showgirl, tastefully attired to present the trophies. Myles picked up his 3rd-place Clyde trophy and then we hit the road again. We had the long 9.5-hour trip to ABQ, but it was uneventful. I loaded up my vehicle with my stuff, bid Myles farewell, and then hit the road for Clovis. I was thinking I'd get home by 12:30 AM, but a vehicle wreck on I-40 had traffic stopped for almost an hour. By the time I got home and unpacked most of my stuff, it was after 2 AM. Just enough time to get 4 hours of sleep before heading into work.
I highly recommend the Half Silverman if you're looking for an end-of-season long course race and you aren't stuck up about only wanting to do an M-dot race. It is such a well run and well organized event, and although challenging, the Half Silverman course is beautiful and a lot of fun.
You probably enjoy suffering if you sign up for the Full Silverman, but everyone who did that race seemed to really have a good time too.