21 September 2009

2009 Savageman 1/2 Ironman Race Report

I have a love/hate relationship with the Savageman Triathlon. By the middle of the race, I am cursing the hills and just wanting to be done with the bike. By the second pass up the hilly fire hill on the run, I wonder why I am doing this. But when I am finished and all of the other 364 days of the year, I love the race. The scenery is gorgeous, the race comes with some serious bragging rights, the crowd support is awesome (especially on the Wall and on Killer Miller), it's extremely well run, and it's always a fun weekend with friends - triathletes totally take over the town for the weekend. So I do love the race, even when I hate it.

We stayed in a house with Karen and John, Melody and Iwan, Tim and his girlfriend Erin, and Kathryn. Loved the house, loved the company. There were alot of other Team Z houses in the same area. Saturday morning, Mel, Kathryn, and I did a late-morning pre-race brick. We all felt good, and it was nice to get that in the bank. Kathryn and I then cleaned our bikes before bringing them over to transition to drop them off, pick up our packets (arm warmers instead of t-shirts: AWESOME!), and listen to the pre-race briefing. They moved the start/finish/transition areas to a different part of the park and this year's location was much better than last years. I went on a brief search for powerbars and got home around 3ish in the afternoon, so I didn't spend my whole day getting ready for the race. Karen cooked pasta for dinner, and then everyone headed to bed.

Race morning came quickly. Ate my usual pre-race food, made sure my stuff was packed, and then hitched a ride to the race site with Karen and John. Set up transition, hung out at the Team Z tent, and got my wetsuit on with plenty of time to spare - a first! I got in the water a few minutes before the start (we were the first wave, which I was happy about - no waiting around). Karen, Melody and I found each other in the water right before they shot off the airhorn. I was disliking my pink goggles on the swim out because it was directly into the sun and I was basically blind. Fortunately, I was in a scrum of other swimmers so I just followed the pack. Around the turtle we went, and the swim back was more pleasant - sun at my back and everyone was more spread out. Around the swan boat and it was almost the finish. I actually felt really good during the whole swim, I felt like I was moving along quickly (for me) and when I got out of the water, the clock said 35:35 - I've never broken 36 in a half iron swim so I was thrilled! I fought with my wetsuit in transition, eventually won, and was semi-successful of getting my arm warmers on over my wet arms. Karen came into transition shortly after me (another first-she is always out of the water before me), and I jumped on the bike.
Official Swim Time: 35:38 for 1.2 miles

The first 18 miles of the ride were pretty good - mostly downhill, chilly from the wind, and beautiful. I had new brakes put on my rear wheel and the descent into Westernport was a *great* way to break them in - I sounded like a freaking trumpeter swan. But, besides being loud, they did work and actually slowed me down when I needed to be slowed down. Karen caught me on the downhill, and I then kept my Savageman tradition alive by peeing on my bike and blowing snot rockets on that descent. Get rid of as much excess weight before attempting the Wall, right? I was nervous going up the Wall, I just didn't feel mentally prepared and I really didn't know how it would go. I was behind Karen by about 1/4 mile and saw her make it up, and then I put my head down and pedaled. Someone dressed as a devil chased me up and everyone was just yelling and screaming, but I really didn't pay any attention because I was trying to go forward, not backward. I let out a scream when I successfully made it up the Wall - I was just so happy. And then seven more miles of climbing commenced. It took me 48 minutes and 32 seconds to climb Big Savage Mountain - a lighting fast speed of 8.8 mph - ha! I kept Karen in my sights all the way to the top of Big Savage Mountain and then lost sight of her. She is a fantastic biker, and extremely good at the hills. The next hour was hills, hills, and more freaking hills. I was in good company though - everyone was really friendly and encouraging. I again sounded like a trumpeter swan on the descent down the other side of Big Savage Mountain. And then there was the steady not-so-false flat up to McAndrews Hill. John and Fabrice blew by me up McAndrews like I was sitting still. Like alot of the hills on this course, you can't see the top from the bottom. Probably better that way. Then it was a nice descent to the Otter Road hill. Up that hill we went and were rewarded with a scary, scary (probably my least favorite) descent - my bike handling skills are less than stellar, so I might've gone down the hill slower than I went up it, there were so many twists and turns. Made it to the bottom of... KILLER MILLER. And up Killer Miller we went. I enjoyed reading the signs that people put up along this hill. I think it's less than a mile long although it feels like forever. It's almost as bad as the Wall - there were definitely points in time that I just wanted to get off my bike and throw it down the hill. But I refrained. The crowd support at Miller this year was awesome - there was a total party at the top. There was music blaring and as I crested the hill, I heard Journey screaming "Don't Stop Believin.... Hold on to that Feeeeeeellliiiinngggg" and I pushed it up the final yards of the hill with a burst of sudden energy. Thank goodness for Journey! Then it was a few more hills, the descent down the other side of Miller, and I came to the last crappy hill - the no-name hill, it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. It's like a kick in the face. But knowing it was the last big hill, made it a bit easier. At this point, I also realized I was behind in my nutrition. So I ate my entire peanut butter and jelly sandwich in three bites - no more calorie deficit with that 250 calorie bomb! I drank some more water with Nuun - I didn't drink much water at all during the ride, but I also didn't feel super thirsty. I just don't drink as much as other people - I've tried to drink more and it never seems to work well for me. As Karen says, I am a cactus. Anyway, the rest of the bike was uneventful, after mile 45 there were no more major hills, and I was pushing it hard to reach my goal of a sub-4 hour bike. I coasted into transition at and got ready to run.
Official Bike Time: 3:56:33 for 56 miles - a pace of 14.1 mph

And the run - I either love it or hate it during a triathlon. Fortunately this year, for the most part, I loved it. I went out slow, trying to keep it in Zone 2. My stomach was a little uncomfortable (probably the late-game sandwich on the bike) but I at a honey stinger every mile or two to make sure I didn't bonk. And I stopped at every other aid station and drank water - I have to walk and drink, I haven't been able to master the whole drinking on the run thing. There were some Zers ahead of me and the course looped around a bunch so we had many opportunities to shout encouragements to each other. I wasn't really paying attention to my time, I did try to keep an eye on my heart rate and I tried my best to listen to my body and run at a comfortably uncomfortable pace. I had no idea what place I was in for my age group - I knew I was on track to have a better overall time than last year, seeing as my swim was 8 minutes faster and my bike was almost 10 minutes faster - but it could all be erased if I fell apart on the run. I also couldn't tell who was on what loop of the run (there were two laps) so I just concentrating on keeping as fast a pace as I could. The first loop was just uncomfortable - hilly, my stomach hurt, and mentally it was difficult because I knew I had to run these same hills a second time. But by the beginning of the second loop, things were looking up. I crossed the halfway mark at 58 minutes. My stomach was beginning to settle down, I knew that once I ran up a hill, I never had to run up it again, so that was a huge mental boost. And I was inching closer to Karen. I caught up to her at mile 10 - eerily the same spot as last year. We stayed together stride for stride for a short while and then I pulled ahead. I told myself it was just a 5K left, one more big hill, and I thought I could hold my pace pretty good. I didn't know how far Karen was behind me, and I was sure she was hot on my heels and would pass me on the fire road hill, just like she did last year. I did stop and walk up parts of that hill, it was so steep, my walking was the same pace as my running. I paused for water at the top, and then started running again. I passed Karen going up the hill as I was going down - she was further back than I had expected, but she's a strong runner and I knew I had to keep running fast if I was going to stay ahead. Without her there, I totally would not have pushed as hard - I love racing with her because it's not a rivalry that we have - we're happy for each other when we do well - it's more of a "lets push each other" type of racing relationship. It's a game. It's fun. And we always do better in a race when the other one is there pushing the pace. I felt great the last mile and a half to the finish. The last mile was mostly flat and downhill. I passed one other woman on the way to the finish, and was soooo happy to be done.
Official Run Time: 1:55:25 for 13.1 miles, a pace of 8:48/mile.

I crossed the finish line in 6:34:44, about twenty minutes faster than my time last year. Karen finished three minutes behind me. I surprised myself and got second in my age group (hooray - I've never placed in a 1/2 before). Karen got third and we both got our second bricks in the Westernport Wall - as well as cool framed pictures for our age group prizes (I brought mine into the office today)! I was the 9th woman overall out of 38. And I was 87th overall out of 257 competitors. Hmmm, and I was 20 minutes behind Mayor Fenty. One day I will beat him in a race - this year he has already gotten a faster marathon time than me. I will have to fix that next year.

So, I loved Savageman even when I hated it. The bbq and ice cream at the finish made it all worth it though. And the bragging rights that come with a brick. Hardest. Climb. EVER. I probably won't be doing the Half next year since it's a week after IM Wisconsin - but maybe I'll do the Olympic distance race instead. It's such an awesome weekend, I would hate to miss out on a trip to Deep Creek.

And now, I get to do the rest of my training on flat ground - and I am THRILLED! I am so excited for Florida, I can't adequately express it! Less than two months away!!!

In other exciting news, my best friend Erin, who I have been best friends with for ten years, is going to become a mommy this week!! My goddaughter will come into the world on Wednesday - or hopefully sooner! I am wishing Erin a speedy and safe labor!

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Nice race report. Sounds like a great weekend. Just found your blog recently and look forward to following it! Ours is more about Ben than about training, but sometimes I slip.... Hope you are feeling recovered!