Monday, October 3, 2011

Savageman 70.0 Race Report

(Photo: John tackling The Wall on his ERC bike)

Don't let the fact that this race is .3 miles shorter than the usual half-iron fool you into thinking its easier. Its actually so insane that I spent the last 1/4 mile of running feeling incredibly grateful that the race wasn't .3 miles longer. By now, you've probably heard the talk about the "Westernport Wall" and "Killer Miller". They are insane climbs, at miles 20 and 40 respectively, on the bike portion ofthe race. Check out this video for a taste of the ridiculousness of The Wall. Even worse, no one really talks about the run. Well, that's only because the crazy difficult run is overshadowed by the bike. All together, this race was one of the top 3 hardest events I've ever done (and ironman is on that list forever because of the distance). The day before the race, our super fast friend, Kristoph, who has done this race several times and wouldn't shut up about it the day I met him, took us to The Wall to try a practice run. I didn't make an attempt. If I was gonna fall over on that thing I only wanted it to happen during the race.

Race morning was chilly but manageable. I knew the water would be warmer than the air and I felt confident that I brought the right gear for the bike. I put on my wetsuit a bit early and didn't dare get in the water to "warm up" ahead of time. I was grateful to have our lovely friend Noelle at the start to cheer us on. She had done the oly a couple of times and had some helpful pointers. She also kicked butt in her race the day prior. The gun went off and the water temp wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared. I had a pretty decent swim for the amount of swim training I had been doing. We swam to a giant, inflated turtle, around it, then to a giant swan boat, around it, and back to shore. A lovely swim.

I spent a few extra minutes in t1, getting bundled up with gardening gloves, arm warmers, and the sexiest skull leg warmers you ever saw. The bike mount is at a hill and I had watched people struggle and fall over right at the start of the bike in the oly the day before. It was a funny mess and no one was very upset. This crazy hard race tends to attract people who see that type of struggle as a fun, added challenge. They're also saying to themselves "I'm the idiot who signed up for this". So I had calculated my bike mount and practiced the day before. It worked well and I looked like a superstar. Once over that first "hump" the smaller climbs and signs to go with them started right away. The first climb was called the "toothpick" and there were signs set out to heckle you about how small it would feel in retrospect. It was short but very steep. After that climb there is a technical descent that goes on for 17 or so miles, complete with switchbacks and winding turns, and no aero bars allowed to be used. I have to say, I passed a LOT of people on the descent because I have wicked bike handling skillz from SLB. I wasn't being wreckless. I was just GOOD. As you approach the end of that portion, you can hear the cries. The voices of the spectators who came to watch you attempt, and most likely fail, the climb up The Wall. Most of them aren't encouraging. They don't think you'll make it anyway. They're pointing and laughing. Its the MOST AWESOMEST THING EVER.

I rode closer and saw The Wall in front of me, in all its painful glory. Kristoph told me that Desiree Ficker went around it the year before (there is an option for that) so I thought "I'll never make it". And John told me I can do it, so I knew I had to try. There are 2 sections to The Wall. The first is a wildly steep, paved road. Then it "flattens" out for a few feet before you have to dig in for the wildly steep (31%) cracked cement portion. There's a sign right smack in the middle that adds a bit of an obstacle. The trick is not to end up with your tire in a deep crack. This is hard because you can barely control where your bike is going with much accuracy because you're desperately trying to keep all your weight over your front tire so you don't flip backwards. I made it up the first section, focused on steady breathing, and I felt MEGA STRONG. I knew I could make it all the way to the top. I got over the "flatter" section, ready to muscle up that thing. I almost rode into the sign trying to avoid a crack, but I straightened it out. My legs were pushing through and I was filled with a sense of gloriousness. I was 1/4 of the way up, then halfway up. I was focused on the prize and hardly distracted by the screams from the crowd in their crazy, scary costumes. Then...

The woman in front of me started to slow. I was all "don't slow down! We'll fall over!" I couldn't get around her because the road was a mess on either side. Then she went sideways. I went sideways to avoid hitting her and rode into the curb and was caught by one of the "catchers". They pulled me and my bike quickly out of the way. I walked the last 4 feet or so on the grass to the top. I wasn't upset. I wanted to know if I could climb something that steep and I convinced myself that I could. I felt incredible.

The rest of the bike was mostly UP. There were lots of painful climbs that weren't even noted because they weren't crazy enough. If the same climbs were near home, it would be THE CLIMB to train on. Here, it doesn't even get on the list. A "climb to the climb" ride was very SLB, which was also why I was killing it and loving every second. That camp gave me thicker skin. The weather was beautiful and the signs had me laughing through the entire bike. You couldn't wipe the grin off my face. Some of my favorites were:

"I was told this wouldn't be a hilly course!"

"Is this a false flat???"

"Course Architect (name of RD). Please call (phone number) with comments"

Then there was a series up a tough climb that said:

"Aero helmet $400"

"Lightweight racing wheels $1500"

"Triple chain ring, priceless"

Super fun. I never rode so hard in my life.

Then I had to run. Usually I'm excited to get out on the run. I was exhausted and my legs were screaming. I said "shutup legs" and took it out slow and easy to get into my rhythm. I was passing people right away. The run goes through a camp ground with a climb to get to the turn around. A slow and steady effort and I made it without walking. Then its downhill for a bit until you get to this off-road, steep section. Its the kind of steep where you walk or you run but you have to dig in with your fingernails. I ran it and people cheered like crazy because everyone was walking. Coming back down after the turn around had to be done with care to avoid rocks and roots in the trail. This is my kind of running. It was very Am Zof. Then we did another loop of the same.

I finished! I wasn't sure I could. The bike took me about 4 hours. And the run was just under 2 hours (I'm pretty proud of that). I was 19th woman, and with so much strong talent, I can even brag about that. Just to give you an idea, my 70.3 PR is 5:34. This 70.0 took me 6:50 and I felt stronger for this race than the PR. SO INTENSE.

You need to do this race next year. You all do.

A week later I raced a sprint and got 2nd OA woman. Don't ask me how that happened. I'll get to that race report soon enough.


Megan said...

Someday I'd like to do this race, and Silverman. But since I'm selling my race bike, it probably won't be next year... unless, doyathink it'd be a good idea to race on a road bike? :)

HolisticGuru said...


Are you kidding? You HAVE to race on a road bike. People would point and laugh if you showed up all aero'd out. Do it!