I can’t give anything but straight “A”‘s for this event. Ironman did a great job.
PRE RACE: We made the decision to arrive on Friday to help avoid any stress. It was a great decision. We were able to check in around 6pm with no lines. That gave us the ability to be ahead of the crowds on Saturday. With this race, you are required to drop your run gear at T2 and bike at T1 the day before the race (although, you were able to access both transitions early on race day). Because we checked in Friday, we had our transitions set up my mid afternoon on Saturday and were able to relax the rest of the day. Ironman Village was a bit small but took place at the Henderson Pavillion. A great location for the finish line.
RACE DAY: Ironman provided shuttles from T2 up to Lake Mead. We arrived around 5AM and did not have to wait in line. Because of the recent heat, there was a serious chance that wetsuits would not be allowed. But after measuring the temperature on race day at 75 degrees, wetsuits were declared legal for the event. A big relief for those that rely on the wetsuit for buoyancy!
THE SWIM course was a basic triangle. Out, over, and back into the beach. There were numerous buoys for sighting and the water was clear. The most difficult part of the swim was the “convergence” of waves. It seemed like many people thought it was a bit crowded out there. Maybe they could move the waves to 4 minutes apart instead of 3? Also, it was tough to get a feel for the distance remaining on the swim back to the beach. I was sighting off a building on the beach that was at a much higher elevation than the water level. This gave the impression the beach was miles away. Not an event problem, but just something to consider for future athletes. Ironman did number the buoys. If I had known this, I would’ve been able to use them to determine how far was still remaining. Good reason to go to the pre-race meeting (I didn’t attend).
BIKE: Hills. I could pretty much stop right there. This bike course is brutally tough. There is very little relief from the climbs. I believe you climb over 4,200 feet with a net increase of nearly 2,700. Way more UP than DOWN. The bike course reminded me of the movie Ground Hog Day. Climb…climb…climb…down…climb…climb…climb…down…etc.. A good strategy is very important on this course. You can NOT just go out an hammer away at these hills. You’ll have nothing left for the run (or the huge climb that awaits you at mile 54). It’s very important to stay within your own pace and have a very good nutrition plan. Take a look at the number of people with DNF’s for this event. I’m sure many of them were the people passing me as they powered up every hill. I would say this to summarize the bike course. First 10 miles are rolling hills (mostly climbing). The next 12 miles are very difficult. Basically all climbing with not much downhill relief. The next 12 miles are the reverse (these 12 miles are out and back). Although, the headwind made it difficult to really take full advantage of the net “downhill”. At mile 42 there is a 2-3 mile climb. It’s a serious grind from inside Lake Mead to the top of the hill by Lake Las Vegas entrance. From mile 42 to 52ish you are mostly down and flat. It seems like this is the time you’d make up some ground. But the race gods turned ugly and ruined those plans with a fairly decent headwind that taxed your legs even further. At mile 52 you encounter yet another big climb. I didn’t hear much “chatter” on the course to that point. But when my fellow participants turned the corner to see this hill, many were cursing and calling for the course designers head! After climbing pretty much all day, you have to grind it out one last time from mile 52 pretty much all the way to the transition area. I finished the bike 45 minutes slower than my Half Ironman distance P.R. And I worked way harder! My bike time of 3:25 put me just above the 50 percentile in my age division.
THE RUN: Did I mention it was hot? You don’t really feel the heat until you put on those running shoes and started to go. Someone mentioned it may have reached 96 degrees in the afternoon. So again, nutrition is key! Fortunately Ironman did a great job with their aid stations. The course was a total of 3 loops and there were 4 aid stations. So 12 total chances to get “refreshed” on the 13.1 mile run. In most cases, loops tend to get a bit boring. But it’s great for spectators. They can set up in the shade and see you run by the same point 6 times. The aid stations were fully stocked with ice (savior), water, propel, cola, chips, pretzels, oranges, banana’s, gu’s, etc…. it was basically a “much needed” buffet with enthusiastic volunteers. There were also a few “run through” mist systems on the course. And one was stationed with a guy hosing people down. That felt awesome!! Besides fighting the heat, this run course was HILLY. You think you had enough with the hills on the bike, but there really isn’t any FLAT in Silverman. During the 4+mile loop, you go down 2 miles than up 2 miles. Repeat. Repeat. It’s similar to running long intervals. If you grind out the “up” you can take advantage of the “down”. Although with the demanding bike course and heat, I saw a ton of athletes walking or being sidelined with cramps/hamstring issues.
POST RACE: Anyone that has done a long distance event knows you really feel brain dead after you cross the finish line. It’s often times difficult to even function. Ironman had some great volunteers. As I crossed the line, someone became my personal escort. They took me to get my medal, remove my timing chip, grab my finishers hat, handed me an ice cold water, took me to get a finisher picture, then directed me to the athlete tent. It was a great service. Thank you to whoever you were helping me out! The athlete tent had a great setup with a full buffet of food and drinks. After cooling down, you pick up all your gear that was driven down by Ironman from Lake Mead. It was very organized and (again) staffed with great volunteers. Someone even had bagged my bike gear left on the ground at T2. First class all the way.
OVERALL: I heard a few people saying this is the toughest course in America. Other’s said they put out more effort on this course than they needed for a full Ironman. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but the course was more than just a challenge. It was VERY TOUGH. Proof were the number of people suffering on a course. But the with the great challenge, comes a great feeling of accomplishment. Knowing you can survive and finish an event like this gives you great confidence for any future challenges. Silverman was a great event and Ironman did a great job.