Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Goals

Three goals.

1. Run a sub-21-minute 5K. This has been my goal for the past few years, and I haven't made it yet. But this year, I won't be doing any half or full ironmans, so I'll have some time to train towards this.

2. Set a PR at Buffman & Squeaky

3. Set a PR at Elephant Man

Goals #2 and #3 sort of go together. I really like these two races, they're both Olympic distance, they both have open water swims, and they both have bike courses that aren't perfectly flat (especially Elephant Man). I had a good but not great race this year at Buff & Squeak. I ran a half-marathon "for fun" the day before this year's Elephant Man and I ran out of gas by the time I finished the Elephant Man bike leg. For 2010, I'm going to make a real effort to be ready for these two races and then see what I can do.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silverman 2009

This weekend, I've graded about 300 chemistry homework assignments, 8 AP Physics lab reports, 24 final exams from my community college classes, raked and bagged the leaves, and sorted the mail. I'm as "caught up" as I've been in two months.

So, it's time to get off my Silverman report.

Straight away, Silverman is the coolest race ever. OK, I've never been to Kona, Escape From Alcatraz, Wildflower, etc., but these races would have to be beyond cool to be better than Silverman. There are plenty of places where you can read about how tough Silverman is. It's definitely not easy, but I'm sure any "iron distance" triathlon isn't easy. I like Silverman for a lot of reasons. The race director really does a great job. It's the best organized race I've ever done. The swag is great. The volunteers are outstanding. The local police go beyond the call of duty. The course is spectacular, starting with a swim in Lake Mead, a bike course across hills and valleys, and a run along pleasant streets and a shopping center in Henderson. And it's Vegas!

I left Clovis after school on Thursday (Nov 5th) and drove 5 hours to Grants, NM. It takes about 13 hours to drive from Clovis to Vegas. You can do packet pick-up on Saturday, but I like to get to Henderson for the Friday packet pick-up and the Friday pre-race dinner. It's an easy drive from Grants to Henderson, other than the bottleneck that Hoover Dam has become. I lived in Vegas from 1978-1980 while I was in the USAF, and we'd occasionally go out to Hoover Dam for something to do. There was no traffic, and almost no other people there. Now, I think it must rival Disneyland as a tourist attraction. They are building a bridge that will cross the canyon so that you don't have to drive across the top of the dam. However, when Myles and I drove there three years ago they were working on the bridge, and it doesn't look like they have made much progress on it. Maybe they didn't get their stimulus money?

Packet pick-up was uneventful. I stayed at the Holiday Inn express that is in the back parking lot of the Sunset Station casino. (The Sunset Station is the host hotel, and I've stayed there the past two years. Their rooms are really nice, but I saved about $100 by staying in the Holiday Inn.) They put on a nice pre-race dinner at the Henderson Convention Center, and Dave Scott was there again to give a short pep-talk and to tell a few funny stories about racing with Mark Allen. (What ever happened to the USA when it comes to getting results in Ironman racing?)

On Saturday I hit the pancake breakfast put on by the LDS church. They had the pre-race meeting on Saturday morning this year. This worked out much better than waiting around for the Saturday afternoon meeting that we've had the past two years. I went back to my room to grade lab reports, and a friend from Clovis called to tell me he'd made it into town. (Tom Duggan, the "Irish guy" that some of you may have met at the Bottomless races.) He was doing the Half-Silverman. I had taken his bike from Clovis to Henderson with me in my car. We made it to packet pick-up with an hour to spare, then took our bikes out to Lake Mead for bike and bag check-in. We did an early dinner at Pizza Hut, then I went to bed while Tom hit the Strip. (Oh, to be young again.)

Sunday was race day. They run shuttles from the Sunset Station to Lake Mead starting at 4:30. Tom's race didn't start until 8:30 (the Full Silverman starts at 7:00) so he slept in while I walked over to the bus. The bus ride takes 20-30 minutes, but when we got to the "Park Entrance", we ran into a problem. (That's another change from when I lived there. It's now "Lake Mead National Recreation Area." When I lived there, you just drove out to the lake and you didn't have to pay anything unless you were using a camp ground.) "Ranger Rick" told the bus driver that it would cost $250 to bring the bus through the gate. I thought he was joking, but "Ranger Rick" was dead serious. Someone said something about paying with a credit card and then getting the race director to reimburse him, but in the end we (the athletes) just got off the bus and walked the 1.5 miles from the gate to the transition area. (Edit to add. The race director and/or one of the volunteers raced up to the "Park Entrance" and got everything sorted out before the second bus arrived, and everyone else got to the start of the race with no problems. And "Ranger Rick" was just doing his job. There's always that 10% of the people involved in anything that somehow fail to get the word ahead of time.)

I check my bike and then went to the changing tent to lie down and relax. I was pretty scared about this race. I had had such a bad time during the 2008 Silverman when it was wet, cold, and windy. Beyond that, "iron-distance" racing is just so tough for me. I really enjoy sprints and olympic distance racing, but once I go beyond the three-hour point, I'm always hurting. I don't just mean uncomfortable, I am hurting. I hoped that I was ready for this year's race, but you never know. It was a real relief when it was time to put on my wetsuit and get into the water.

For the first time this year, I saw Andy Cope when I got into the water. Andy has done the Silverman the past three years. He is a hammer on the bike, but not very fast in the water. We wished each other luck, and then the gun went off right on time at 7:00. Counting the "pro's" (who start with everyone else) and the relay teams, there were only about 220 people in the swim for the Full Silverman. (The Half-Silverman had about 450 swimmers in their wave, but it didn't go off until 8:30.) I know that you get a special vibe at an M-dot race with 2000+ swimmers going off at once, but I much prefer having some space to myself in the water. The water in Lake Mead is clear enough that you can see other swimmers 15-20 feet away. I just pick out one or two people who look like they know where they are going and I follow them. This way I only have to "sight" once in a while, so the swim is pretty easy for me. I finished in 1:15, which was 22 minutes faster than last year when we had the 40 mph winds and four foot waves.

The bike leg at Silverman gets a lot of attention for its 11,000 feet of climbing, but overall I don't think it's too bad. The net gain in elevation is only 1000-2000 feet, so you get a lot of downhill "payback" on the bike. The worst part for me is the long climb at about the 60-mile point. You make a steady climb for 4-5 miles. The grade is probably only 5% or so, but it's a long time to be climbing without a break. The "signature moment" on the bike is at the 92-mile point. You come off the main road onto a bike path, and there you have the "3-Sisters". They are steep (15-18%) and it's no fun doing them after 92 miles of riding. But they're pretty short (maybe two hundred meters each) so you can get out of your saddle and grunt your way over them. They're not easy, but heck, it's supposed to be tough! The last 10 miles or so of the bike are through the streets of Henderson, and you get some great stretches of downhill riding. I finished the bike in 7:21, which was almost 30-minutes faster than last year when I was freezing for the first half of the bike course.

The run is two laps of a 13.1-mile loop. It starts off on a gentle downhill, which can give you a false sense of how fast you can do the run. Then, its a 2-3 mile climb, followed by more descents and more climbs. There isn't much "flat" there. I was taking it real easy on the first lap. Last year, I really struggled on the second lap, and I wanted to save something this year. However, I think my big problem was that I was just about frozen stiff on the second lap last year. This year, the weather was perfect. Still, I was scared about the second lap. I was "running" 10-11 minute laps and walking through the aid stations. Then, I hit the 20 or 21-mile point and I knew that I was "home free". I started "running", and by the last three miles I was doing 8:45 or so miles. For the first time ever in an "iron-distance" race, I broke 5-hours on the run (4:42:46) and my overall time was 13:30. This was my fastest "iron-distance" race ever.

They put on a breakfast and awards ceremony on Monday morning. I picked up the third place trophy for my age group, and then Tom and I hit the road to return to Clovis. (BTW, Tom really enjoyed the Half-Ironman. He's always kind of slow on the swim, but he can normally hammer the bike. However, he did run out of gas towards the end of the bike, and the run is tough for everyone. But he had a lot of fun.) We joined the other tourists for a while at Hoover Dam, then it was off to catch I-40 and back to New Mexico.

I would do this race again in a heartbeat if it was during a "school holiday". It's tough doing it during the school year. The "administration" hates to give time off for a boondoggle like this. Beyond that, I get behind on my classes and it's tough to get caught up again. I haven't signed up for 2010 yet, but it's such a great race, I won't rule anything out.