Wednesday, September 30, 2009


They only have pics of me on the bike, but they're nice!

Note especially #5 (the other person in the photo is a guy walking his bike up Killer Miller Hill) and #12 (the guy falling in front of me on the Wall.) Just so's you know I told the truth! :-)

Too bad I've gained back 2/3 of the weight I lost on the Appalachian Trail.... it shows in the photos :-( Time for the yo-yo to go back down.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


People keep telling me, reading my blog posts, and sometimes my Facebook page, that I'm such an inspiration.

I have even been invited.... this blows my mind and scares me to death.... to give a talk to the annual meeting of the Department of Natural Resources State Secretaries' meeting next week. A motivational talk. About what has interested, or inspired, or motivated, or compelled, me to do the "amazing things I've done."


What, indeed? I guess, since so many people have said they find my aspirations and accomplishments inspiring..... they must be.

So what has inspired me? Or interested, or motivated, or compelled me, to undertake and usually achieve the things people seem to be finding so inspiring?

Well..... because they're there. To see if I can do it. To see if I can do it again. To see if I can do it better, or stronger, or without feeling so awful during or after. To see if there's a better way to do it. Better than I've done it before, or better than I've heard or read of it being done. Better meaning, without the difficulties someone else had. Or, maybe with the same difficulties, but knowing about them ahead of time and being prepared to deal with them.

Sigh...... I don't know what to say in this talk. I kind of feel like all I've done is what the Nike slogan says: Just do it.

I like what Yoda says, too: "Do, or do not; there is no try."

I can't see myself standing there at the annual meeting of a statewide group saying, "Look at me, I've done all these things, am I inspiring or what?"

Good grief. Help.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


After four years of wanting to do this race!! I've wanted to do it before it WAS a race -- when Kyle Yost staged a trial run to see if it was feasible. That year, it was too close to IM Florida. The next year (the inaugural year) we were away. Last year, I registered, started training, then got that damned Achilles tear. This year...... I'm FINALLY a SAVAGEMAN!!!

This is by far the best-organized and best-supported race I have ever participated in, in 20 years of I can't imagine how many races altogether, but 22 marathons, 3 half-iron triathlons, and 2 full Ironmans. More volunteers than I've ever seen, and they were the most enthusiastic ones I've ever seen, too. The rangers from Deep Creek Lake State Park and the State and County Police officers were outstanding.

Guess what was in the goodie bag instead of a t-shirt? Arm warmers! For the bike ride! Black ones, printed with "Tri-To-Win SavageMan Triathlon." Love 'em! I didn't have any, and was thrilled. (Finishers got a finisher's shirt at the end.)

I have started and deleted 2 race reports over the last hour. I get into it and decide I'm being too wordy, too detailed, got to start over..... maybe I can just do highlights now and write a full report in sections over the next few days.

My race goals were:
  • Finish within the cutoff time of 8.5 hours.
  • Ride all hills, no walking my bike.
  • Ride up the Westernport Wall, earning a brick with my name in it inlaid in the road.

Swim: 46 minutes. This is the official time; my watch said 55, so I don't know what the discrepancy is and I'm not going to investigate! I'll take it. I stepped on a large splinter on my way to the water, had to pull it out; it didn't bother me in the race but it's been sore since.

Transition #1: Slow. I took time to dry off well, take a potty break, and eat half a PB&J sandwich. I put on my arm-warmers but didn't wear the long-sleeved shirts and jackets I saw a lot of other riders sporting.

Bike: Well!! By mile 18, reaching Westernport where The Wall is, my average speed was 18.5mph, compared to my usual 16.5 at that point. I thought, YEE-HAWW! I'm gonna rock this course!! But later..... well, maybe it was the too-fast first 18 miles that made my whole ride almost 40 minutes longer than my most recent training ride of the same course.

Westernport Wall: I took my sweet time up the first three hills, snaking back and forth across the streets to reduce the incline. With only The Wall left, I was relaxed (had thought I'd be shaking with stage fright and adrenaline) and not winded at all from the preceding climbs, and I put the hammer down and tackled it. The sidewalks were lined with spectators 4 deep, yelling and ringing cowbells and blowing horns. They cheered me on: "Come on, push it, come on, push it honey, you got it, you got it, lookit 'er go, you got it, you got it, AAWWWWWwwwwwww ......" I had veered just slightly to the left and might have recovered and gone straight after all had a guy not just that moment fallen right there. There was no way I could go around him. I had just enough of a split second to unclip and dismount to avoid hitting him. I had made it about 3/4 of the way up.

You only get one try at the Wall. If you don't make it, you pick up your bike and walk up the grass on the side of the street. Which I did. After all my hype about the Wall and a brick with my name engraved in it, I didn't even feel disappointed. I tried it, I gave it my all, I had bad luck, oh well, let's get this bike up the hill, I've got a race to finish. I still don't feel any major disappointment. It's just one of those things I knew could happen, and it did; no big deal. Next time....

After the Wall comes Big Savage Mountain. With no flat or downhill in between. You crest the Wall and keep on climbing. I was off my bike from walking the rest of the Wall and couldn't get clipped in and going. Couldn't get the momentum on one foot to get the other clipped in, and fell, spilling all the sweet tea out of my aero bottle that I'd just refilled, gashing my ankle in a way that almost looks like a "Don't Go There" slash through my Ironman tattoo. I had to walk it the 100 yards or so to the clothing-drop station ahead, where there was a little flat pull-off. (Clothing drop was for the warm duds we'd put on in T-1, when we were wet and facing a 4-mile fast descent on a cool fall morning. We wouldn't need them the rest of the ride.)

The thing I liked best about Big Savage, and the other horrendous hills as well, was riding (repeat, riding) past men half my age who were walking their bikes. Other than having to quit the Wall and then not being able to get started, I did not walk my bike at all. A lot of riders did.

No, wait, that's not totally true. Twice on long hills my chain fell off, not a big deal, easy to fix, but again, on the steep hill I couldn't get going again. Rather than walk up those hills, though, I walked my bike back DOWN so I could get a new start from the bottom. It was my goal to RIDE every hill unless I fell.

Y'know what, folks..... I'm tired. And I have to be at work at the gym tomorrow morning at 7. I'll finish this in another post. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Preparations for SavageMan are rolling here at Deep Creek Lake State Park -- the inflatable buoys are in place in the lake, there are signs directing and encouraging athletes (a sign on the first stiff hill, just half a mile into the course, says "Let's Get This Party Started!!") All through the campground here, where we've lived since I left the Appalachian Trail, there are campers with cool road and tri bikes on their cars or locked to their picnic tables. I just met Julie, first real-life meeting with this email friend who put the SavageMan bug into my ear 4 years ago.

Four years! The first year, which was an unsupported "trial run" (the "0th Annual SavageMan Triathlon"), I didn't participate because it was too close to IronMan Florida for me to recover fully and continue to train. The next year, the inaugural running, we either left too early or got back too late with whatever work-camping commitment we had; I forget. Last year, the second year, I was registered but then tore my Achilles tendon and was out, although I did do the swim. It was my first-ever DNF in 20+ years of races. (I guess I just had my second DNF in June, by not continuing the Appalachian Trail.)

This year, I'm IN!!! I've stayed uninjured, I've fought off the inevitable taper-week cold with tons of vitamin C, I've stayed calm and collected this last week, and I'm IN!!!

The weather is going to be perfect. Low 54*F (about 57* by the time I get out of the water and onto the bike), high 68*, partly sunny/cloudy, only 10% chance of rain (that's as good as zero.) Not too cold, not too hot, wind from SE at 7mph..... couldn't ASK for better.

I am breaking my "no training the last week" rule and going for a short brick: Bike ride up the first hilly road, where that cute sign is, (Toothpick Road, Garrett County is notorious for its weird road names), do a loop for another short steep hill, then come back and run one loop around the campground. They say don't do anything new the day before a race but I always break the rules. I've never done this before but I need to loosen up.

Then it's on to packet pickup and bike check-in, mandatory athlete safety meeting ("This is a highly technical and dangerous course....") and then relax for the rest of the day.

I don't even have my transition bags packed and you know what, I'm not spazzing. I'll just throw some stuff in some bags and be ready. No obsessive sorting and resorting. I've done enough half and full Ironman races that I know the drill and have a list here.

This was going to be a short post. I guess I'm more excited than I thought!

Pray for me, if you're a praying person. And if you're not, then send good vibes. I want one of those bricks :-)

Friday, September 18, 2009


I've cleaned surface dirt off my bike and done a few other get-it-ready things:
  • Switch new computer-holder-gizmo to other side of aerobars to make room for aerobottle
  • Take off hand-pump holder, since I've lost my hand pump
  • Taped down the spring-loaded armrests on my aerobars: I discovered, falling on the Wall, that a smack to the armrest will snap a zip-tie. Luckily that day I had duct tape. I've replaced that with less-conspicuous electrical tape.
  • Cleaned out my water bottles and aerobottle tube and stopper (a shower pouf.)

That duct tape... electrical tape....

My bike does not look like the spiffy, pristine tri-bikes a lot of the racers have. My bike serves me as real wheels much of the time. I ride it to work, to my mother's place, to wherever I need to go when I can't use the truck, or when I need training, or when I don't want to use diesel fuel. My bike has been used, not just "ridden." It is a vehicle, not a toy.

My paint has chips and scratches. The bar tape on my aeros is chewed up from a fall and I decided that, since that doesn't impair its function, the marginal cost of replacing it isn't worth it, even though I'd look classier.

I have red reflective tape on parts of the frame for times I've needed to ride at dusk. This is nearly impossible to remove, and also has chips, scratches, and gouges from falls.

It looks like a serviceable road bike that's given a lot of service, because that's what it is .... not a jazzy, snazzy racer bike.

My saddle pack and top-tube food carrier have obviously seen better days. I could have replaced both but decided to keep them and save the $40.

I am not going to look classy, but everything I have works.

My helmet is 4 years old, but it passed inspection. It's got old sticky stuff on it from previous race numbers. It's not one of those pointy outer-space aero helmets, either. Nor is it shiny anymore.

My only pair of bike shorts is in the sink being handwashed, since we don't have a washing machine (live in an RV.)

I'm going to wear my bright blue and orange Ironman Florida jersey.

That, plus my age in plain sight on my calf, should put the fear of God into 'em.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


..... been posting about my summer and my SavageMan training and my adjustment to life off the Trail.

But, as I learned on the Trail, "Should have" is a useless thing to say. The fact is, I haven't, and I regret it. My emotions have changed, evolved, and morphed over the summer and I'd have done well to record it. I haven't had the heart for it. I've been holing in on the sofa a lot, reading books (on the Trail I often felt I'd give a lot for a chance to lie on a sofa with a good book); I've been spending totally unproductive time playing FarmTown on Facebook. I've mostly kept up my training but have had a hard time getting or staying interested in anything else. I got a message the other evening from my hiking partner, Jim Dandy. He's not at Katahdin yet but has reached Maine. He was about 230 miles from finishing when I called him and we talked for awhile. It made me want to go back to the Trail as soon as I can manage it. I've been looking at new recipes for dishes that will dehydrate well.

I've been asked by two of my readers for an update, which I find very gratifying and flattering. Folks are wondering about me?

OK, here's the scoop.

SavageMan is coming up on Sunday!!! I'm as ready as I can be... certainly can't get any readier at this point. Well, yes, I can, by eating well and resting well and staying calm.

Calm was a problem until I stopped freaking out about the impossible hill called The Westernport Wall, and started picturing myself pedalling up it "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." I went to a different church on Sunday, last minute decision, and that song was on the agenda, as well as "Love Lifted Me," also very appropos.... lift me right up that hill! The Wall is what it is and my attack on it will be what it will be. I've tried it 8 times now, made it twice.

I've ridden the entire bike course 4 times. The first time is described in my previous post. Ride #2 went differently: no bears except the hills themselves. Tried the Wall 5 times and fell 5 times, gave it up and went on. Decided the climb up Big Savage Mountain was a lot harder than I'd remembered. Didn't think Otto Lane and Maynardier Ridge were all that bad; Killer Miller Hill sucked.

Ride #3: Did not even try the Wall, rode around it. Big Savage still very impressive; Otto Lane not too bad; Maynerdier Ridge joined Killer Miller in "Hills that Suck."

Ride #4: Rode around the Wall again. Stopped at the top, looked down, thought, "From up here it doesn't look all that bad..." Walked down it, started from maybe 50 feet away on a cross street to get a little start, and ground up it. Several times I thought I was a goner and each time was surprised to find myself still upright and the pedals still turning. But I made it. On to Big Savage, which had gotten steeper and longer since my last time; Otto Lane finally joined the "Hills that Suck" list. But I finished the ride in 4 hours and 23 minutes, 7 minutes faster having ridden both around and up the Wall, than the last time when I'd ridden only around it. I'm not going for time, here; just hoping to beat the cutoff so I'll be allowed to run and finish the race. You are required not only to summit the Wall but also to finish the race, to get that brick.

On Sunday, the only way they can keep me off that Wall is to close the street. I am going to attack it. Going around is a valid option, no penalty for it; but, if I don't even ATTEMPT the Wall, I stand NO chance of getting a brick. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

In the Half-Iron-distance race, I am the oldest female registered, the only one in my age group (55-59), and the only female from Garrett County, MD, the host county. I've been through previous years' registration lists, and I'm the oldest female ever to register. Which means I'll also be the oldest female finisher in the race's history. A feather in my cap even if I fall on the Wall!

But I want one of those bricks. My name engraved in a brick for an accomplishment, and that brick inlaid in the city street where I accomplished it. Eventually there will be a stone somewhere with my name engraved on it, but I'd like one for something I did in LIFE.

Three more sleeps. I pray for dreams laced with victory.