Last weekend was my fourth time completing the Savageman 70.0 and my second time finishing the 100.0. Savageman is consistently my favorite triathlon and a “must-do” on my race calendar each year. Since I did both the Savageman 30.0 on Saturday and the Savageman 70.0 on Sunday, feel free to browse through both race reports on the site.
As a side note, before I put up the race report, I should note that I came down with a nice bout of food poisoning Friday night before the 30.0 race. This was my first time encountering food poisoning before racing and I learned first-hand how puking your guts out the night before 100 miles of racing is not an ideal way to fuel your weekend of racing. With that being said, it became just one of the many adjustments that I had to make mid-race.
The Savageman swim is one of my favorite triathlon swims (maybe right after the Beach to Battleship point to point downriver swim). Deep Creek Lake is always a clean, crisp mountain lake with good visibility in the water. Also, this time of year, the water temperature is warmer than the air temperature, so I’m always revved up to get into the water.
For both the Savageman 30.0 and 70.0, the swim course is nearly identical (the 70.0 course is just stretched out a little farther, so it becomes a 1.2 mile swim, instead of a .9 mile swim). Annually, race organizers do a great job of clearly marking the course with a plethora of buoys with two very distinct turn buoys—a giant turtle and a big swan boat.
One thing that’s different about Savageman, compared to other races is the relatively late race start for both races. Given its mountain location, the weather can be quite cool in the morning and fog can envelope the lake, so race organizers have the race start a bit later to alleviate these challenges. Another added benefit of this later start is that the sun is usually a little higher in the horizon and not as much of a problem as in other races. However, for whatever reason this year, I did not find that to be the case—and the sun was right in my eyes from the start line to the first buoy.
My plan going into this race was to swim and bike pretty hard and then just cruise on the run and save my legs for Sunday’s longer, harder race. Since I’m on a slower swimmer, I typically start in the back to allow the faster swimmers to get ahead of me without getting kicked in the face. However, this time, since I was going to push the swim, I moved my way up to the front and was determined to draft off some of the faster guys. When the horn went off to start the swim, I started with long, smooth strokes and was cruising along. The first third of the swim went fantastically. I was executing my plan perfectly and was towards the front of the pack. Then, right before the first turn buoy, I started feeling the effects of last night’s food poisoning and I lost all of my energy. I made it to the turtle (the first turn buoy) and felt completely drained. So much so, that I contemplated whether I could even make it through the swim—nevermind the five other events I had left that weekend.
At this point, I needed to make an adjustment. I swallowed my pride, adjusted my racing plan, threw in some breast strokes, gritted my teeth, and slowly made it through the rest of the swim. It was not pretty or elegant, but I made it out of the water.
When I got out of the water, I didn’t even feel like I had enough energy to run up the short hill to the transition area. I had to walk/stumble/bumble my way to my bike. My head was pounding, stomach was turned up, and body felt terrible. But I knew I wasn’t going to drop out, so I had to just soldier on and hopefully I would feel better on the bike.
For those of you used to the 70.0 bike course, the 30.0 course is a piece of cake and should be pretty easy to hammer out. It’s not to say that the course is “easy” per se—there are still a few good climbs on it—it’s just nothing compared to the legendary 70.0 course.
Well I got out of the water and felt terrible. I was barely averaging 15 mph on flat sections of the course. How was I possibly going to do this course at this rate? I knew I needed to make an adjustment. In my watch, I had an interval workout saved from my last training session. While not necessarily ideal to do an interval workout in the middle of a race, I thought it was my only chance at sparking my legs and making my mind focus on something else other than my nausea.
Well, it worked like a charm. The workout is a 19 minute interval workout and after two rotations of the workout, I had sufficiently taken my mind off the food poisoning and I was feeling some power and strength back in my legs. I was soon able to push on the bike and was passing people on the uphills (after getting demolished by everyone in the beginning of the race).
The course is truly beautiful. Garrett County is wonderful and the course takes you through rural farmland. The roads are clean and the scenery is gorgeous. There are four categorized climbs on this bike course, but at the risk of sounding like a jerk, I didn’t find any of the climbs particularly challenging (I was able to do them all in my big ring). The race organizers also do a great job of mobilizing fan support for the toughest sections. On the Bumblebee hill, there was a mini party, reminiscent of the support at Westernport or Killer Miller at the 70.0. Overall, I think this would be a great Olympic distance race for someone who has done the distance before and is thinking of stepping up to the half-iron distance.
I racked my bike and put on my shoes. My stomach was still a little turned up, but my legs felt better and I felt as though I’d be able to run in a respectable manner.
The run course is less brutal than the bike courses at Savageman, but you still can’t escape the hills. You run uphill to the main road through the park, stay on the state park roads for a bit before taking a lap through the hilly campground. One major advantage of camping during Savageman is that you get the opportunity to run past your campsite and get some encouragement from your fans.
Following the jaunt through the campground, it’s back to the rolling hills of the main state park road where you stay until you go up the fire tower trail. The fire tower trail is steep with some unsteady footing. This can be a soul-crusher if you’re not prepared for it. Luckily this is my fourth time subjecting myself to this race, so I knew exactly what to expect.
After going up and back down the fire tower trail, it’s back to the state park road. From here, it’s one long steady climb (notice a trend?) before you descend to the finish.
For me, Savageman weekend is all about the 70.0 (and specifically about getting a brick), so I viewed this race as a way to spin my legs and prep for Sunday’s race. In that regard, I accomplished my goals. While I wasn’t feeling 100%, I no longer felt terrible from the food poisoning and my legs felt looser than they had when I started the race. This race is so well-organized, with great volunteers and a beautiful and unique course that is so different from the typical triathlon course. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a different triathlon experience and/or anyone thinking of stepping up to the half-iron distance for the first time.
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 I had one person yell at me as I passed him on Bumblebee (the biggest climb on the 30.0 course), “I f-ing hate you right now!” I took that as a compliment that meant my legs were finally recovering. Sometimes, it’s the little mental advantages that can turn a race around for you.
 Could also be referred to as “Sunday’s suffer-fest”. Either way.