Savageman HIM - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Deep Creek Lake, Maryland
United States
"Tri-to-Win" Melanoma Foundation
Total Time = 7h 11m 27s
Overall Rank = 61/101
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 9/13
  • 43m 23s
  • 2112 yards
  • 02m 03s / 100 yards
Transition 1
  • 05m 40s
  • 3h 38m 27s
  • 56 miles
  • 15.38 mile/hr
Transition 2
  • 11m 1s
  • 2h 32m 56s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 11m 40s  min/mile
Post race
Event comments:

Every year for the last few years I've resolved to do something stupid to commemorate my birthday. Last year it was Six Gap. This year I looked around and hey..I heard talk about this "Savageman" race that was supposed to have the toughest course ever for a half ironman. That sounded like just the sort of masochistic foolishness I was after. For the curious, take a look at Wet suit swim in a rapidly cooling lake in fall. Bike course with 6,000 feet of climbing and the 25% grade Westernport Wall (videos of people falling over are on the web site...). Run course up and down rocky, boulder strewn trails.

Even better, I had a work conference in Baltimore that would pay for my travel. I signed up.

I arrived the night before the race to hear the mandatory pre-race briefing. The park and surroundings were gorgeous. The race director told us that the morning weather forecast called for a clear day...and 37 degree air temps at the start. I started to wonder if I was going to survive the swim in my $50 shorty wet suit. We got lots of warnings about the dangerous bike course and tales of crashes during pre-rides. The only part of the race I figured wasn't dangerous was the run, mostly because I'd be moving too slowly to be in trouble.

Race day dawned clear and cold. I scraped ice off of the windshield, shivering, and went to Denny's for breakfast. Arrived at the park, set up transition and underwent the most thorough bike inspection ever. They were serious about making sure your bike would stop and that parts weren't about to fly off. Sat in the car shivering some more with the heater on.

The swim:

The swim start was surreal; steam rising off the water, fog obscuring the opposite shore, boat lights and kayakers just visible as they set out to patrol. I was encouraged when the first two waves waded into the water and I didn't hear any high pitched screaming. When it was my turn, the water actually felt warm in comparison to the air. I swam out to the dock end, the horn sounded, and we were off!

I couldn't see a buoy anywhere, but I knew that the course went along the shoreline and that a kayaker would be at the turn around point. I did hit a buoy with my head, and a returning swimmer from the elite wave hit me going back in the other direction. Eventually, I saw the kayaker and he pointed me to the last buoy. Repeated this process heading back, and came out of the water in 43 and change, respectable for me.

I stopped and got my windbreaker I'd stashed at the swim exit, ran up the steps to the transition area, and took my time stripping the wet suit, toweling off, and putting a bike jersey on.

Bike course:

This was the centerpiece of the race, and rightly so. The volunteers were plentiful, cheerful, and the scenery was gorgeous. Rural mountain roads, farms, forest, and some great views. Some short climbs in the first few miles led to a twisty, technical descent at about mile six. I blew down this at warp speed, knowing that I should slow down but loving the feeling too much to do so.

At about 18 miles, the town of Westernport came into view. It's a small town, basically built into the side of a mountain. We crossed a special timing mat to clock our "climb split". Left turn into town, and look up, and up...the road steepened and you could see what looked like half the town out to spectate on the short 25% grade section known as the "Westernport Wall". I was riding my road bike with an 11-32 mountain bike cogset and derailleur, just for this, and I needed every bit of it. I was popping 6" wheelies with every pedal stroke. I made it up the wall, wheezing, and headed up toward the top of the Eastern Continental Divide. This climb is 6.5 miles long with 1730 net feet of elevation gain, and has a short descent in the middle so that the total climbing is probably more like 2k+ feet. It took me 48:39 to climb this, for an average speed of 8.02 mph. :) The fastest climb was done by duathlete Josh Beck, who averaged nearly 12 mph. Studly!

I can't forget the descent from Big Savage mountain, as well. We were given all sorts of warnings and I knew that I should be careful. The descent was basically a series of switchbacks through forest, impossible to see the next corner ahead of time. I made it most of the way down, and took a couple of corners riding the brakes behind a guy who was riding the middle of the road. On one corner, he went wide, and after telling him I was coming through, I passed him. I looked back before the next corner to make sure I wasn't in his line, and as luck would have it, it was probably the worst one, an off camber, steep hairpin. I braked hard, almost made it, and skidded the front wheel off the road and into the ditch. Slow motion endo and I'm on my back on the side of the road. I got up, dusted myself off, checked the bike over, and kept going.

OK, fine, the big climb's over, can I lay down now? never let up. In fact, I think some of the shorter, steeper climbs later in the race were worse. I remember standing up in my easiest gear at about mile 51, going 4 mph and mumbling "You have got to be kidding me...".

I came in from the bike course feeling pretty decent, all things considered. It was almost impossible to go really easy on this bike course, but I had tried. I have run very, very little in the last month or two due to some calf issues, and this race was going to double my run mileage for the month. :)

The results say I spent 11 minutes in T2. I have no idea how. I remember rinsing off the road rash on my shoulder, digging into my bag to see if I had another shirt, and trying to get the gel glop out of my jersey pocket.

I set off to run, with the not so lofty goal of ten minute mile pace; I'd looked at my watch and knew that's what it would take to break 7 hours (ha!). No real drama to report here; this was a two lap run that featured a steep climb up a rocky trail, and I walked a section of this each lap. The downhills on gravel were actually harder on me, as my knees are feeling the pounding today. I kept running till the finish, a few minutes short of my goal at 7:11.

General observations:

The race atmosphere was awesome. Friendly people, tons of volunteers. Special thanks to the Tri Z ladies with the devil's horns on Big Savage who told me "you're in Hell!" when I inquired about the costume. One even gave me a beer on the sly after the race. :)

The area's gorgeous, and since it's off season there, room rates were excellent; I stayed at the Wisp Resort (ski lodge) for $89/night.

Strange post-race sighting: I'm sitting in the jacuzzi about 9:00 last night. The pool room is 3 stories high and has glass windows everywhere, including a glass door to the hall. Suddenly a man saunters into view, totally naked. He puts his money in the Coke machine in the hall, bends over to get his drink, giving me an unwanted view of his hairy behind, and then goes back the way he came. What in the hell was he thinking? Does he do this regularly in hotels? I didn't follow him to find out more.

OK, enough rambling. I had a great time and I'll probably be back to do it again next year.

21 Sep. edit: There are lots of cool pictures and videos online from the race now; you can find most of them from the site. There's a great set from Dan Hicok of people falling over on the wall. Kyle Yost, the sadistic bastard who designed the bike course :), has posted YouTube video of most of us going up the wall also. Here's one of me going up; I'm in the second half of the vid wearing the black jacket and shorts, red bike (at least the rear). Fun stuff!

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Last updated: 2007-09-17 12:00 AM
00:43:23 | 2112 yards | 02m 03s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/13
Overall: 0/101
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 70F / 21C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 05:40
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
03:38:27 | 56 miles | 15.38 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/13
Overall: 0/101
Course: F'in hard!
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 11:01
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
02:32:56 | 13.1 miles | 11m 40s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/13
Overall: 0/101
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 5