Email: maybe we should send you up there to win some $$?
The email came in as I had been in the car for 23 hours of driving over 3 days from Frisco back to Virginia. I think I must have been in some sort of happy delirium to be back in the Blue Ridge Mountains because I actually entertained the thought. Sure – it was only 4 days away. And, I’m pretty sure that 24 hours of sitting in a car is a less than ideal pre-race week. But…..there’s some good money on the line. And I’ve always wanted to do the race – why not now? Besides, it can’t be any worse than the workouts I’d have on tap anyway, right?!
My response: Are you sure I’m fit? I just spent 2 weeks “recovering” at altitude. I feel huge and slow.
Hillary: Yes, you are fit!!!!!
After a little more back and forth I confirmed I could still enter, and it was done. In the process I even found a homestay with the infamous and race-creator, Kyle Yost! All signs that things were aligning and the race was meant to be, right?
So I did what everyone wants to do after an almost cross country road trip and hopped back in the car a few days later to head to Western Maryland. The fact that you can actually check in the morning of the race was a nice stress reliever too – no rush at all to get up there, even though I did end up checking in Saturday night. The Yosts’s were super awesome and as is the house tradition at their cabin, had my picture on the door to my room! With an 8:30 am race start, I was even able to get a full night of sleep before the race. How civilized!!
Race morning was chilly!! I believe it was about 42-45 degrees as we swam, with the water temp at 66. This meant a fog was raising over the water, making the buoys quite hard to sight for. And since I managed to swim like a brick, I wasn’t able to follow any feet either! I lost quite a bit of time with all of this – definitely room for improvement there. But, I was reassured that I was still in the race a bit because as I entered transition I saw the 2nd place girl exiting. I quickly threw on some clothes – this was actually the first race where it’s ever been cold enough for me to actually put something else on. Both socks and my SMASH vest went on, and I was off on the bike!
If you haven’t heard anything about the SavageMan bike, you need you google and youtube it now! It’s a heck of a ride. In the beginning, you descend for about 18 miles. About 5-6 miles in you hit the first tricky descent. Having ridden this course (twice!) with Leslie last year, plus all the pre-race briefings explaining the dangers, I knew to expect it. I was on a tri bike and always figure better safe than sorry. Just prior to the descent, another racer (male) came flying by me. In his aero bars, hammering away. Typically, I’d use this guy to help push my own pace a bit as I got my legs under me. But, given we just passed a sign that said “Do Not Use Aero Bars!!”, I let him go.
About a minute later I came to the first sharp turn, and I saw this rider’s green trek laying sideways in the road. I didn’t see the athlete anywhere. My own momentum had me going passed, and suddenly my brain caught up to me. He crashed. I quickly stopped and pulled a tight turn and begin to yell for him. I didn’t hear any response. Quite honestly, I began to panic and was yelling nonsense as I pedaled towards the bike, looking over the ditches on the side of the road as I went up. Three riders came down towards me, not in the race. They quickly put together what was happening and asked me where he was. I didn’t see him go down, I explained, I haven’t heard him yell back to me either. The one guy spotted him in the ditch up above where I was, and he flew off his bike and into the ditch, pulling his gloves off. Found him. The other woman with me looked at me and assured me they had him and there was nothing I could do, I should go. (Note: While severely injured, he is going to heal up, thank goodness!)
That was not quite the way I wanted to start the ride! I was more shaken up than I thought I would be and couldn’t quite get the image of the green trek in the road out of my mind. Needless to say, I didn’t take any chances with the remaining tricky descents.
Soon enough, though, I entered Westernport where there was one thing waiting to take my mind off of that: The Westernport Wall. Made up of about 4 blocks, it is hands down the hardest climb I’ve encountered in a race. Probably is the hardest climb in a race, period. Long story short……..I didn’t make it. Luckily, a photographer is on site to capture the moment of victory, or, in my (and many other’s!) case, defeat.
Considering I was riding a 26 cassette, I’m really not too surprised I didn’t make it. Just one more reason to go back next year!! It all happens really fast though with all the people around cheering and watching, and in a blur I was back on my bike slowly continuing the rest of the climb up Savage Mountain.
At that point, the “fun” parts of the ride are over and it’s time to put on your climbing legs. Again, I was super happy to have seen this course before and when things got hard I just kept reminding myself that at least it was only one loop this time. It definitely seemed like Killer Miller has gotten steeper in the past year, though.
Finally the miles ticked by and I was on my way home. At one of the final turns I heard someone yell to me that I was about 2:30 down on the first place girl (thank you to whomever that was!). Thinking about how slow my swim was, I figured that meant I was probably pretty darn close to the bike split prime so I put my head down and did my best to hammer in home. In the end, I was pretty darn close! A mere 32 seconds which I’m pretty sure were lost somewhere between the Westernport Wall and the top of Savage Mountain!
On to the run and one of the coolest things that’s happened in a race in a while: I got a mountain biker escort! It’s actually really helpful to have that escort, especially in a looped course where you eventually begin catching people on their first loop. I’ve always found it challenging to maintain my pace on that loop, but with someone biking up ahead it’s a little easier to keep the chase! At a few sections here I was able to see Kristin Lemos a handful of minutes ahead. With any run you never know what will happen, and those minutes can be gained and lost very easily on the challenging course that SavageMan is. So, I did my best to keep the pressure on, but never managed to reel her in. I was super proud of the second place finish though, and happy to come back home with some cash in my pocket! (Literally, they paid cash. It was awesome).
Overall, SavageMan is a really well done race. It brought me back to the type of races where people have fun and race because they love a challenge and they love a sport – not because they want a M-Dot Tattoo. I absolutely plan to return and get that brick on the Westernport Wall!
Thank you to PowerBar and SMASHFEST, and to Hillary for always pushing me beyond what is comfortable and encouraging me to compete. It was a day!