Monday, November 20, 2006

SilverMan 2006 Race Report

SilverMan Full-Distance Triathlon-November 12, 2006

I do not know what my official statistics are for the SilverMan Full-Distance Triathlon. For those of us who did not finish (DNF), our stats were not recorded. I can tell you that the dreaded DNF that I received for this race carries with it no regret, but rather a greater appreciation for the SilverMan course.

This was the second year for the Nevada SilverMan Full-Distance Triathlon. “Full-Distance” denotes the same distance as an IronMan, without the trademark infringement. The slogan is, “You have experienced Iron, now experience Silver.” It has also been called, “North Americas most grueling race.” And rightfully so as I was soon to find out.

The race starts with a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Mead. The swim is followed by a 112-mile bike ride from Lake Mead to Henderson, NV with a combined climbing elevation of 9700 feet. The last leg of the race is a 26.2-mile run around Henderson that climbs 3700 feet. To put this race into perspective, IMUSA Lake Placid has only 4000 feet of climbing on the bike and 1000 feet of climbing on the run.

The water temperature was 64°F and the air temperature was 72°F. Those temperatures were not anything out of the ordinary for an endurance race. Some would even argue that those temperatures were ideal for a race like this. A slight breeze would even be acceptable. The breeze that day was anything but “Slight.”

It was a very blustery day. The lake conditions were choppy with white caps. When in the lake, I estimate that the waves were as high as 2 feet. My swim speed up until today had been very consistent at 2 minutes per 100 yards. That gave me a swim time of 1h: 24m at Lake Placid and 0:40m at Big Kahuna (1.2 miles). I expected a similar swim time for this race.

I felt like I was in the spin cycle of a washing machine. The water made a sickening rocking motion. I understand from later reports that the motion caused many people to get motion sick and throw up during the swim. I did not experience nausea, but two kayaks hit me. The 2-foot waves made sighting of the buoys difficult as well (that and the fact that the buoy colors were the same as the swim cap colors). The waves were so strong that they would flip me over on to my back. Lastly, the anti-fog solution that I put in my goggles did not prevent fog, thus I was partially blind for most of the swim.

Every time I reached a buoy, it seemed like there were 10 more buoys to swim to. I was starting to feel like it was never going to end. The cutoff time for the swim is 2h: 20m. I had already passed 1h: 20m, and I estimate that I was little over half the distance to the finish. Could it be that I was going to be eliminated on the swim? It was hard for me to grasp, but it was starting to look like it.

“I am not going to be eliminated on the swim,” I thought. So I refocused, and headed for the shore. I kayak tried to escort me in. I was determined to finish the swim before the cutoff.

I crossed the timing mat at 2h: 11m.

I felt pretty good, despite being in the water for almost an hour longer than I had expected. Others weren’t so lucky. I know of at least one person that had hypothermia, and at least 20 people had to be pulled from the swim from nausea, being washed up on the island, or just general fatigue.

My transition was fast (about 5 minutes). I was not going for any clothing changes. Instead I opted to wear my TNT IronTeam trisuit for the entire race. My transition was just a matter of toweling off, applying sunscreen, putting on my shoes, and I was off. Now for the bike ride.

Prior to Lake Placid, I had removed my triple crank for a lighter double crank. The advantage of the triple crank is that it has a smaller climbing gear (a.k.a. “Granny Gear.”). The disadvantage is that it has more rotational weight. The double crank provides slower climbs than the triple, but it has less rotational weight.

I was told to expect to be passed when climbing uphill, but that I would likely pass people when going downhill. The strategy worked well at Lake Placid. What goes up, must come down, right? Wrong!

The SilverMan bike course is a point-to-point race, which means that there are no loops. Thus, what goes up does not have to go down. From the very beginning I would climb 500 ft, then it would level off, then I would climb another 500 ft, then level off, etc. There were hardly any downhill portions. For the first 56 miles or so, it was uphill with a mighty head wind.

I estimated that I needed to average 14 mph over 8 hours to make the 5pm bike cutoff. I was at 11.5 mph at 3:45pm. Having only covered 83 miles, I would have to average about 30 mph for 1 hour. In short, I would not make the cutoff.

At the end of the day, 44% of the people that started did not finish. Most IronMan races will have 10-15% of the people not finish. I know that my DNF is a result of equipment and not a lack of physical ability. I will see this race again, but next time I will be better prepared.