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2014 Racing is in Full Swing!

I'll be racing next on August 24th at Challenge Penticton!

SavageMan 70.0

Sender: Hillary

Subject: Savageman

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.

Anndddd I was down.
Anndddd I was down.


This makes it look SO dramatic. haha.
This makes it look SO dramatic. haha.

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!


From Boulder to Penticton

I am the first to admit that I was really, really excited by my summer racing season this year. Three iron distance races in 8 weeks, 2 of those within 3 weeks….yep, I was ready to see how things would go! Of course, when I have planned all this out, I assumed each race would go *somewhat* according to plan. I know that tough days happen, but I truly wasn’t expecting all of the wheels to fall off quite like they did in Boulder. This definitely gave me some pause.

In fact, after some recovery at sea level we gave some efforts a go before heading back to 9,000 feet. This went…..so-so. I am the first to tell you that these moments are why having a coach, especially Hillary who has raced enough to know just about every feeling I encounter, is very, very important to me. “You know that if I shouldn’t race in Canada you just need to tell me that and I’ll listen, right?” I texted her, with tears of disappointment welling up in my eyes. Before they could fall, however, she wrote back – how was the workout? I gave her the dets. “Ah, not bad. We’re good!” Failure is ALWAYS WORSE in your own head. Always.

So, I went through the motions. I got back to Frisco and got through a quick week of workouts before heading to Seattle. Of course, one more wrench in the confidence was thrown in during my last swim workout when I literally just had to stop because my whole chest/back seized up. I thought I was having a heart attack (definitely was not). Once again, texted Hillary dramatically. Her response? “Oh! That’s good luck! Same thing happened to me the other year before Brazil!” HA! I was NOT getting out of this race!

Luckily for me, I also have some of the BEST triathlon friends in the world. Anabel made the drive up from Portland to meet me in Seattle for <24 hours, which I waited until last-minute to tell her would include a tough brick to get my legs moving at sea level once again :) She not only crushed it but never complained! The best!

Then, Cathleen, aka my west-coast triathlon partner in crime, got me all the way up to Canada. Despite my total inability to answer simple questions at the border, they somehow still let us through and we were in Penticton!

The days leading up to the race were super restful and easy, huge part in thanks to another amazing homestay!! I am so lucky that I keep winning the jackpot with my homestay situations, but Dave, Helen, Sarah, Leah, Cindy, Glen and Hayley (yep, it was a full house :) ) – you guys are rockstars!! From getting me to the race at precisely the minute I suggested, to including me in family meals beforehand, it meant so much and I really enjoyed getting to know your family. Unfortunately for you, this means you could be stuck with me for years to come :)

Checkin selfie with Helen and Cindy!
Checkin selfie with Helen and Cindy!

On race day, as about 30 pros prepared to put on their wetsuits, we were told that the water is 24C. I have no clue what that actually means, but I knew the cutoff was 22C, so out came my speedsuit. Luckily, I’ve developed some weird confidence with non-wetsuit swims this year so this strangely excited me. We also had a beach start, and beforehand they introduced each one of us by numbers. As  we were announced, we had to jog into the start corral, over the timing mat. It was kind of like when they introduce boxers before their match, only we all are much skinnier and wearing swim caps on our heads. Nonetheless, we totally all did the “too cool for school” boxer routine of shaking out your arms and a slow exaggerated jog over to the corral. Very few smiles and waves, and determined not to be the one random pro out of place I just followed suit.

The swim was uneventful. I found myself in no-man’s land pretty quick. Luckily, this lake is GORGEOUS and the clear water and calm conditions actually allowed me to almost enjoy myself here! I came out of the water all by myself, but I saw there will still a few bikes around so I wasn’t worried, and I set off on the bike. The first 10 miles of the ride can only be described as me thinking to myself “I feel okay. No really, I feel okay. Do I still feel okay? I feel okay!!” Deathly afraid of the Boulder-repeat, after about 30 minutes I finally convinced myself that this was NOT going to be a repeat of that day.

This ride is awesome. Fair and challenging, but still with plenty of fast sections mixed in, the 5.5 hours I spent on the bike absolutely flew by. I was having fun racing again! At the out and back I was able to see my position. I was pretty firmly in 8th place, but I was definitely in the mix. This got me a bit excited as I climbed Yellow Lake (evidenced by my newfound QOM position on strava for that segment!) and then I got to enjoy the long descent back down to town.

T2! I knew I didn’t have much time to play around, so I got moving and out onto the run quickly. A quick loop through town and then a long out-and-back along Skaha Lake meant that we’d be running straight into a decent headwind for the majority of the first half of the run. My legs felt so-so. Again, not like Boulder, so I took that as a positive! But, they were definitely feeling the recent efforts. It was that same feeling of having to push through tired legs on a long training day. Doable, just not the most fun. Luckily, the run course is also fairly rolling so the mix of terrain allowed me to give some muscles a break. Huge thank you to Steph C who was out on the course giving me some encouragement when I needed it!

At the turnaround I also ran into IM Champ and friend Sara Gross. As I asked her how much time before the next girl, I made the turnaround and saw Cathleen coming at me. Oh, I guess that’s how far I had! Ha! I knew that meant it was time to dig deep, and with some cheers from my homestay family once again I headed back to town. Using the hills to my advantage, I managed to keep pace pretty well and tick the miles off. Before I knew it I was hitting the slight downhill in to the finish. One look back, and I slowed to enjoy the moment of the finish. I finally let the anxiety of worrying that Boulder was an indication of lost fitness and ability go. This was a good race. A race where I was able to run every step! That, in itself, was a win!

Ending up 8th place and taking home a check was icing on the cake. Post-race I spent some time in the beer garden and cheered in some of the final finishers. This town is meant for a race like this, and I truly hope it grows to its potential here with the Challenge Family. I’m certainly looking forward to next year, and already blocking off some time afterwards to enjoy the nearby wine country!

Thanks again to my homestay family, as well as those at Challenge who make racing such a great experience as a professional. And, thank you to SMASH and Powerbar for supporting me every step of the way, to Canada and back! I promise I keep packing my podium dress because one of these days I’ll be up there to wear it!!