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!


bunnygirl said...

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to the next installment!

Anonymous said...

Love reading the details, keep em coming!

Those arm bands sound like a fabulous item in the goodie bag and it's more of an honor actually earning the t-shirt.

Showing my ignorance here, but...With the need to find level areas to get going again on the steep hills, and a chain that tends to come loose, would you have been better off wearing biking shoes without the clips? Does their helping with the pedaling even out the need to go back to the bottom and starting over? Did that ever happen in your training rides? Just curious.

PS Word Verification: trist

Steve said...

Way to go Ellie!!!!!


Evie in WV said...

You continue to be such an inspiration. WTG!

Vickie said...

Great job on what I heard was the hardest half Iron around!

ShirleyPerly said...

Ellie, you are SO INSPIRING!!! Really, I have goosebumps right now reading your report. Love your attitude and the fact you were riding past guys half your age. They have a lot to learn about toughness, eh?

Look forward to the next post!