Monday, September 22, 2008


This weekend was the Savageman International and Half distance triathlon in Deep Creek, MD. I decided to do this race after feeling OK a few days after IMWI and only because my friend Dave has a condo 2 miles from the race start so I had a free ride and room and board if I wanted it. Since it was so close to IMWI I opted to just go do the shorter Olympic (International) event for the fun of it.

The 2 weeks between the end of IMWI and this race consisted mostly of rest, eating and a few light workouts. In the couple of bikes and runs I did following IMWI my legs felt ok but the energy levels were low so I had no idea how I'd do for the olympic event.

For those that are unfamiliar with the event it is billed as the world's toughest half, and from what I saw on the shorter race they are probably right.

The olympic race started after the participants for the half went off and was in two waves, with my race the first wave off. Overall there were about 165 (100 male/65 female) racers in the olympic plus a bunch doing the race as a relay teams.

Swim 1,500 m: 24:41 (7th fastest male ind)
Felt like a long swim, just tried to take it easy after going out hard the first couple of hundred yards. I thought I was further back but I think there were at least 1/2 dozen relay swimmers ahead of me besides the 6 individuals. Lake was perfect temps and for a freshwater lake was pleaseantly clean and clear. Very little contact and not much else on the swim.

Bike 40k: 1:12:51 (20.4 mph/7th fastest ind male)
Bike was a rolling course with a few decent hills and one really steep short hill. This hill is where the olympic participants earned their savage titles. I passed a couple of people from the olympic leg and a few stragglers from the half in the first few miles. Then after a decent climb the half and olympic courses split. From that point on for about 10-12 miles I didn't see any other riders so I figured there must be a small lead group from the swim that I never saw. I had no idea how many were in front of me. About halfway or so you hit the one really steep climb of about 1/2 mile or more. I was definitely glad for the 27 tooth rear and got up the climb without too much effort. On this hill I caught one cyclist doing the bike leg of a relay team and at the top came within a hundred feet of catching a guy walking his bike up the hill (yes, it was that steep and Dave who started in a later wave told me he saw a lot of people walking). I followed the 'walker' for a few miles and would gain on him each hill until I got passed by a guy doing the race solo but he was not in my ag so I let him keep going. I caught the 'walker' and he had an R for relay on his leg so I knew he was no threat to individual or ag placing for me. The last 5-6 miles are gently rolling to downhill so you can make up some time and the 'walker' and I went back and forth over this period. At the pre-race meeting they warned all participants a lot about the dangerous and technical downhills so I took things real easy on them. Had I ridden the course before I would have definitely gone harder on some of the downhills. Overall I was really happy with the bike as I just tried to go nice and steady and not blow up if I was still a little tired from IMWI. This is an elevation profile of the olympic course:

When I reached T-2 I was pleasantly surprised that there were only about 7-8 bikes total in transition and none on the rack for my age group. I followed the 'walker' out of T-2 as apparently he was doing the bike and run leg of his relay team. When we went by the finish line for our run loop the announcer stated his name and what place his team was in and then said there goes Kristoph Kocan from Meadville PA who is currently our 5th place individual. That was a nice thing to hear and very unexpected!

Run 10k: 48:09 (7:45 pace/9th fastest male ind)
This was not a fast run course. Only one individual male got under 40 minutes, and not by much. At first I was disappointed with my time until I started to see the times of others were not fast either. The run course profile shows it's anything but flat!

I followed the walker guy out of t-2 and stayed about 10 seconds behind him. The first mile was flat along some trails by the water and then up a couple of small hills to the main road. Went easy and did a 7:15 first mile and felt pretty good. The next mile seemed all uphill through a campground road and around some campsites. It was over 8 minutes and I was a little discouraged, but I was still the same distance behind the walker and when I made the loop only saw one guy coming into the loop behind us, but he was flying. Between miles 2-3 the guy flying caught me but he was doing the run leg of a relay so I didn't really care that he blew by me and the walker. I saw the leaders headed out as we did a little out and back and mile 3 was flat to downhill and close to 7 minutes flat. Mile 4 was rolling and near the end you came to the fire tower hill. This was a 1/4 mile climb straight up a dirt path to a turn around and then straight down. The walker and I reached this climb with him about 10 seconds in front of me and when we headed down the path it was only at the bottom that I started to see any other runners headed up the hill. I figured I had a 2-3 minute lead on them and hadn't been passed by anyone other than a relay guy so I should still be in 5th place overall. The last mile was all uphill with three good little climbs and then ended with a quick fast downhill into the start area and a short 100yd run along the path by the shore to the finish line. The walker guy pulled away from me the last mile but I coulnd't see anyone anywhere near behind me, and the last mile you pass the runners on the way out to the fire tower road and I didnt' see any from the second heat that looked like they were within 5 minutes of me.

Finsihed in 2:30:05 for 5th place overall and won my ag by about 7 minutes!

This was definitely not a fast course, and if the bike was hard the run was even harder. The half participants do the same run only twice with a slightly longer loop in the campground, so I was really glad I was not headed out for another loop of that course.

Afterwards they had free massages for the athletes, free french fries and barbecue sandwiches and best of all free ice cream from a local ice cream shop that was really good. This is definitely a top notch event. Deep Creek is a really nice area with lots of great roads for biking. The half course includes a hill so steep that they offer a way around it and if you make it up without stopping you get a brick in the hill with your name on it. After that you have a 7 mile climb up big savage mountain and then a hill after that called killer Miller that is just described as cruel. (At the pre-race meeting the course architect described the half course and his only comment on killer miller was "...and then you come to killer Miller, and, uhm, well sorry.")

The fastest bike split by a pro, Bjorn Andersen, was 2:36 and change and this is from a guy that flirts with 2hr splits on other courses. For anyone interested here's a page describing just why this is billed as the world's toughest half and here's the bike course elevation to back that up:

For awards the winners and age group placers got nice framed pictures of the Savageman logo. And the winner and winners of the age groups got a bonus in that our pictures were all individually signed by Dave Scott. My friend Dave finished 9th overall and got top male master so we both walked away with signed awards.

Next year we are definitely doing the half, and for anyone looking for a great year end race on a great course in a super location should look no further. This race is a must do for many, many reasons and I look forward to coming back next year for the half.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

IMWI by the Numbers

A comparison to last year with some hard numbers and details on the day.

Swim with overall placing and ag placing:
2007 1:03:36 (244 oa /41 ag)
2008 1:02:44 (267 oa/ 45 ag)

Instructions were to take the swim easy, and that's just what I did. Just like last year there was a ton of contact and jockeying for position for the entire first lap. Just when you would get in a rhythm someone would try to climb over you or you would get to a turn and things would get all bunched up and go to hell again. Looked at my watch after the first lap and was at 28 minutes and change so I just cruised the second lap trying to mentally prepare myself for the day to come. Finished with a faster time than last year but a few spots lower in the positions. But I definitely had an easier swim this year and did not push as hard as I did the previous year as I was trying to set myself up for a good day.

2007 6:47
2008 6:34
This is deceiving as I was faster this year, but I was smarter too. Last year I ran up the helix as it was hard not to with all the people lining it and screaming for you. Then you change (in my case put on shoes/helmet) have a 2-300 yard run to your bike and then another long run to the mount line. This year I went a lot easier up the helix, got my bag, threw on my helmet and carried my shoes to my bike rack. I saw a few people doing this last year and a lot doing it this year. You can run a lot faster and easier carrying your shoes on the concrete parking deck then running with your shoes on. So I went easier up the helix but carrying my shoes saved a few seconds but more importantly my exertion was a lot lower.

2007 5:53:43 (295/66) 19.00 mph avg.
2008 5:53:10 (366/79) 19.03 mph avg.
This is what hurt me the most this year. I lost a lot of overall spots and ag spots compared to last year despite having an almost identical time.
The bike started out great. I went with water only for the first 20 minutes to make sure my stomach settled and then started out on Gatorade Endurance. I started the ride with two cheap bottles, one water, one G-Endurance, and just replenished them as needed at aid stations. This worked great and was simple and efficient. Started on gel from a gel flask at 1 hr and took a 'hit' of gel every 30-45 minutes. Things were going good and it seemed like I was passing a lot more people than passed me for the first half of the ride. I hit the timing mat at about mile 41 and my avg speed was just over 20.5 mph to that point and the ride had felt easy. Temperature out was ideal and I had pretty much not even broken a sweat to this point. I was cruising the few flat sections and spinning the hills. The bike course is a real tough course, lots of hills and turns and a couple of nice big steep climbs lined with cheering fans. We rode the IM Louisville course last weekend and I have to say after doing both back to back I think IMWI is much harder. Things were really falling into place well and I was still at about 20.5 mph avg at the 56 mile point.

Then things got funny. The wind really started to pick up for the second loop and I started to get passed. I then started to ride a little harder as I soon started to really get passed by people one after another. At first I thought the wind was slowing me down but then I could not figure out why I seemed to be the only one dropping off the pace. Then I thought I might be bonking, but I did not feel out of energy. I tried eating some sports beans and taking a power bar but I was still getting passed and I was now in a zone that I knew was much too hard for an IM race but it was all I could do to just keep people in site as they zoomed by me. Miles 60-70 or so were really a dark place and I was beginning to wonder if or how I was going to keep this effort up or if whatever was going on was going to even allow me to finish. Then, at the top of a climb on a 90 degree left hand turn my bike acted really loose in the front as I made the turn and I then finally realized I had a front tire with a slow leak and had been riding for who knows how long on really low psi's.

I was furious, with both my rotten luck and my own stupidity for not realizing what was going on 30 minutes earlier. This was the third flat tire this year in a race and I was so mad I pulled over and tossed my wheel over a ditch into a cornfield and was ready to quit right then and there. Those thoughts only lasted a second so I hopped the ditch and grabbed my wheel. Took a few seconds to find a stick or reed to shove down my valve extender to let the rest of the air out, changed my tire in under 5 minutes and headed off down the road. I had stowed the bad tube under my seat with my bungies (I only carried a spare, CO2 and Microflate under my saddle bungied to the rails with no bag or anything) and 30 seconds later the bungie came loose and everything fell. I wasn't about to leave it on the road (especially with a draft marshall right behind me) so I had to turn around, go get the tube and CO2 cartridge and get off the bike and re-attach them. All in all I propably lost 10 minutes dealing with the flat, 5-10 minutes riding on a low tire but more importantly I had spent too much energy and dug too deep riding too hard for the time my tire was low and that's what hurt me the most.

Once on a properly inflated front wheel I found it easy to maintain 20+ mph for the rest of the ride but I did so by trying to ride as conservatively as I could to try to recover from the extra effort I had put out on the bike. But even with the flat, more wind and riding on a lower effort I was still able to beat, just slightly, last years time so I tried to take that as a positive from the race.

2007 4:54
2008 5:34
Nothing much going on here. I used traditional laces instead of speed laces as I find some of the speed laces uncomfortable on the top of my feet on long runs.

2007 4:36:18 (497 oa/112 ag final position)
2008 4:19:49 (398 oa/78 ag final position)
The run was disappointing, but compared to last year it was an improvement and I only lost 31 overall places as compared to 102 the year before and actually gained one final spot in my ag as compared to losing 56.
I started out ok, but I knew the short hard effort on the bike was going to bite me in the end. The first mile came and went in 8:15 or so. Next two miles were between 8:15 and 9:00 with walking the end of the third aid station included, so I was happy with the start of the run. In 2007 I was barely able to run aid station to aid station and walked each and everyone. This year I was skipping every other aid station or just getting water and taking gatorade and coke at alternating aid stations in between. The first lap came and went pretty uneventfully in just a tad over 2 hours. I was feeling ok energy wise and had no stomach issues, but the legs were starting to cramp a little. I started salt tabs towards the end of the first lap and the second lap was a cramp fest where I was able to run aid station to aid station but was hurting at each one and trying to stretch out. I also was not able to run a couple of the hills that on the first lap I had done a slow trot up but I did not walk them. Finally finished the second lap for an overall time of 11:27:51. I even got into a little mini-sprint with 3 of the runners who I had been playing leap frog with for the last 4-5 miles and was able to outkick them!

My goal was sub 11 with a 1 hr swim, 5:40 on the bike and a 4 hr run. That left some time for transitions thrown in there. I think I was really on pace for a great bike and would have been sub 5:40 or right on my goal with out much effort had it not been for the flat. On the run I was defintely paying for the extra hard stretch on the bike, especially during the second loop.

But I still took almost 20 minutes off of last years time with much more wind and a mechanical issue so that was definitely a positive.

For anyone thinking of doing this race it's a great venue in terms of crowd support. The crowds coming out of the swim and up the helix are incredible. On the bike the crowds in Cross Plains and especially Verona are amazing, and riding up Saulk Pass with the road lined with spectators is crazy. On the run there are very few spots where you don't have a cheering section, and running up and down State Street with the crowds lining both sides of the road is a great motivator.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ready to Roll.....

After going down to and watching IM Louisville it is now time to focus on IMWI. Louisville was a great weekend, had a good ride on the bike course and coach J ran his way to a top 10 pro finish, which was awesome.

Got back, started packing and got the ride all decked out and ready to go. Now I just have to drive 10+ hours....