I should also mention there were two other guys from Ottawa at Savageman for the fun: Jon Moher and Steve Bodor. Neither of them stayed with us, so I will have to let them divulge their own race experiences.
Post Savageman 30, the main thing was to start the recovery process for the next day.
That started with a bottle of water, followed by sitting on the beach eating a scrumptious pulled pork sandwich and ice cream, with a Pepsi chaser, then collecting our equipment and walking back to the house. I then switched out the race number from day 1 to day 2 and rode back to stash in the t-zone for the night (mandatory). The awards ceremony was just getting under way so the Irelands, Greg and I were all there.
A word about the Race Announcer. His name is Brad Rex and he is awesome. He’s got a great, dry and often quite sarcastic sense of humour, along with a wealth of knowledge of the sport and the competitors. He’s hilarious if you’re not the butt end of his jokes J He also has a great respect for the Canadian contingent, even if it is hidden slyly behind a jab or two.
For every Canadian that crossed the finish line, he would say something along the lines of “from Canada. That’s another country you know. It’s just north of here”, or “from Ottawa. What the heck is in the water up there?” He also wondered if there were any triathletes left in Ottawa. We assured him there were.
A few other one liners were priceless “first in the baggy shorts division”, or, “first with the best sideburns” or, when referring to me in particular, “he’s 187 in dog years.”
Anyway, the awards ceremony was a procession of Ottawa folk: Greg, Heather the Grand Master Champ and then me, the 187 year old who was second overall with tomorrow still to come.
Back home we went then Brenda and I drove the bike course for the next day.
She was suitably impressed. The bike course is, to put it mildly, hilly. It climbs 6000ft in elevation between 30k and 80k. It starts out nicely, and then has a long descent followed by a 7 mile climb with requisite descent on the other side. After that, the course is a constant switch between long, steep climbs and long, steep descents. There are a few ‘special’ hills that have their own names because of their reputations to crush people. Many have race approved signage on the side like “Carbon race wheels, $2000. Aero Helmet, $400. Triple crankset, Priceless!! . Others like “How’s that aero helmet working for you now?” or on the infamous Killer Miller “Who is Leo Miller?”, followed by …”And why does he hate me so much?” At one of the steepest parts on Killer Miller, “Who’s laughing at triple cranks now?”
That night, we all kind of ate at our own time and tempo, with James winning out in the biggest steak category.
The movie Airplane was on, and most of us sat around the tube and laughed our asses off at what would never, ever be allowed on TV anymore, thanks to political correctness.
Woke up the next morning dark and early, had coffee, reached for my oatmeal and it was gone!! Panic sunk in. I need my oatmeal. I need my oatmeal. I need my oatmeal. I can’t race without my oatmeal…
“Hey Rick, here’s a bagel.”
“Oh, okay, thanks. That’ll do.”
We generally all headed over to the t-zone together, and got set up, said our good lucks and headed for the beach.
Right on time, the horn sounded and off we went. 8-9 guys got away from me right away and it pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the swim. I lead a small group out of the water, slipped out of the wetsuit and into the vest and arm warmers for the initial part of the ride. Stephen Cann was about 30sec in front of me with James, Rob, Olivier and Greg about 45-60 sec behind. Putting arm warmers on takes a long time, so we all saw each other for a moment or two.
The first 5 miles is rolling and the next 12 is a very shaded, fast and potentially furious downhill towards the town of Westernport and the Wall.
The Westernport Wall is a three step hill that precedes the 7mile long Savage Mountain Climb.
Step one is 60-70m at a 20% grade. Step two is the same length but at a 25% grade. Step three really is the piece de resistance at 31%. If a rider makes it up this entire section without putting a foot down or falling, they become immortalized with their name engraved on a brick that gets placed in the road. To visualize the steepness, think of riding up the roof of a house, then then roof of a church, and then the steeple.
Olivier has 3 bricks, Rob and James have 2 and Tom and I have one each. The goal was to get another.
Following Stephen up the first two steps, I realized my legs were not going to get me up the final section, and rather than fall, I took the alternate route, which is still not easy, but it is easier. I hung a left turn, rode 50m, turned right, climbed hard for a bit, turned right, climbed some more, then hooked back up with the main route. I looked to my left and I’d lost about 30m to Stephen.
Now the hard work was to begin. The next 6.5 miles was mostly uphill. It goes to the top of Savage Mountain and is knee breaking, but also a time trial in the middle of the race. There was a $150 in Hammer Nutrition products on the line for the fastest ascent.
I was not actually going after the prize, but I was looking to improve on last year’s climb, so I plunked myself down on the aero bars and pedaled away, trying to maintain some semblance of a smooth pedal stroke. I actually climbed well, and looked to be gaining on someone in the distance.
I rode a bit harder and once at the top of the climb, the rider I’d been catching was just getting back on his bike. it was Lars. Apparently, he’d pulled so hard on his bars going up the Wall, they moved on him and he rode up the rest of the mountain with them pointing to one side. He had stopped to put them back in place.
We rode off sort of together, with me pacing off him 30m back. I was quite happy with my ride to that point, and was content to just keep going at that effort.
But no, that was not to be. Lars suggested I do some of the pace setting if we wanted to catch up. I explained I was quite happy where I was, but that did not seem to go over well, so I did jump to the front and began to push, trying to impress him.
Yeah, right. That lasted about 15min up another of the relentlessly steep hills, then down the other side to Killer Miller. On the descent, a bug flew into my right ear, and splattered itself all over the inside. It was not a pleasant feeling, and I sat up to clean things out when Lars caught back up, went by me on the beginning pitch of 20%, never to be seen again. At the effort I was putting out and going less than 8kph, it was impressive how he rode away from me. By the top of Miller, he was almost out of sight. I rationalized that either I was bonking, or he’d been holding back on me. I rode alone for the rest of the way, waiting to get caught by uber biker Josh Beck. In 2009, this was around the point where he’d caught and passed me like I was fixing a flat tire on the side of the road.
He never caught me, so I was quite pleased with myself for having kept that particular wolf at bay. As I approached the t-zone, I checked my ride time. It was 3min faster than the year before. It was hard fought for, but an improvement I could be happy with.
In transition, race announcer Brad quipped about my 187 dog years and the fact I was by far the oldest guy finished the ride so far, and that I’d raced the day before, and that Canada was another country you know. All was good and I appreciated the distraction.
The run course for the 70 is almost the same as the one for the 30 the day before. There is a small addition to make up the needed 1.1km difference in distance, and of course, we have to run it twice.
It was quite obvious that my run legs had gone back to the house, protesting the effort from the day before.
Still, I ran onto the trail, into the single track bit, onto the road, where Heather and Grant were stationed and kind of ignored them in my quest to run someone, anyone, down. 400m out, 400m back to where they were located. I saw Josh Beck coming towards me. He looked unbelievably comfortable. I ran into the campground for the extended loop and back to Heather and Grant. As I exited the campground, the lead cyclist for the females was just entering. I had about 5min on the lead woman, Desiree Ficker. Once out onto State Park Rd, a beautiful and rolling road, I realized there is a disclaimer to this perception: unless you’re in the middle of the hardest half IM in the world. Then it’s just a really hard and frustrating road to run on. I continued on towards the next out and back and Josh ran past me like I was a recreational walker, except I was running close to 4:30 kilos. He encouraged me to keep going.
I ran along the road, by this point running towards the cyclists about to finish their ride. I saw Ageless McGee, Lu Lu Lenny and then Machine Reid, but none of the others. I ran up the trail to turnaround number 2, stumbling once on the rocks. I may as well have been walking at this point, the speed was probably the same, but I really was running. After the turnaround, I ran the downhill fairly well and upon exiting the trees, saw Desiree 100m away from the entrance. A bit later, I saw Stephen, running well in 9th male spot, 10th overall.
At this point, we run towards runners and with cyclists so there is lots of opportunity to see people, and to be seen. Everyone was encouraging, which reminded me once again of what a great sport we have.
I ran through the t-zone to start the second loop. Heather and Grant were in the same spot and I felt noticeably weaker this time around. The next 10k were going to be a real test.
At the turnaround, Desiree was closer, but still far enough behind that it would take a lot of walking on my part for her to catch me. Into the campground I almost did walk—it’s half up hill, then half downhill but the downhill is steep enough you can’t take advantage of it with tired legs. When I exited that section, I did not see Desiree. Either she blew up, or she was gaining fast and was on the loop at the same time as me.
I ran as steadily as I could along State Park Road, now passing people who were on their first loop. For people who were over 10k behind me, I wondered why I was having so much trouble catching them. Then it occurred to me that I must be tired. Yeah, that’s it. I chuckle now at the fact I actually had to think about that.
I continued along, into the trail and up. I stumbled and this time, fell. I got up, told myself to remember to pick up my feet (I get that a lot at home) and got going again. On the way back down, Desiree was on the trail at the same time. She was closing fast but only had 2 miles to catch me.
I caught up to another guy who was running well. I asked what loop he was on, just in case he was on the same lap as me (always a competitor) but he was on his first. Knowing that, I could be friendly. He asked if I was Canadian (Zone3 logo has a Canadian flag in it). He was from Calgary. I wished him luck and continued onward, struggling mightily on the last uphill of the course. Oh how I wanted to walk.
I grabbed my last cup of water at the final aid station and ran the last half mile to the finish knowing I had left everything on the course. I left it out there a bit earlier than I’d wanted to, but I had no regrets aside from my nutrition strategy.
I crossed the line elated and wasted, wondering why a guy with my experience makes such dumb mistakes on a regular basis when it comes to fueling.
And then I reminded myself of what I had just done, and let it go.
Minutes later, Desiree finished, then 7min later, Stephen.
I went for a cool-down run, heading towards the oncoming runners. The running lasted about 300m, and then it turned in to a cool-down walk. I was done like dinner.
Next in from Ottawa were Olivier, then Greg, James, Rob, Tom, George, Len, Marc, Brenda and Geoff.
We’d all made it from start to finish. Rob and Marc gave it a bit more than everything and ended up in the medical tent, with Rob continuing on to the hospital for a few hours. He was good to go upon his return to the house, and so was Marc.
I ended up 8th overall and first Master. No brick for me, though, but also no regret whatsoever. I was 1min faster on the swim, 3min faster on the bike and 3min slower on the run working out to 1min faster overall.
Stephen Cann was 9th male, 10th overall and 2nd Elite, and a brick.
Olivier was 6th Elite with his fastest Savageman and his 4th brick.
Greg got his brick, did his first half Ironman ever, and, unbeknownst to him at the time, climbed the Wall in his big ring!! Unbelieveable! Unfortunately, and this is where his nick name now comes from, he dropped a bar wrapper at a corner with a volunteer instead of at an aid station and was assessed a 4min penalty for littering. Hence, he became known as Litterbug. He admits he did it and agrees with the punishment. Littering is something that should not be tolerated on race courses. He just thought it was okay to drop the wrapper at that location.
Tom was 1st Grand Master, and got his brick.
James, Rob and Marc all got their bricks as well.
George was 1st in the 50-59 AG and got his brick.
Len was 3rd in 50-59 AG but unfortunately, put his foot down on the wall and had to try again for the sake of honor. You only get one chance at it, so he does not get a brick for doing it successfully the second time.
Brenda had a great time and won the women’s 50-59 AG.
Geoff did the least amount of training and got the best value for his money out of all of us by finishing the race with a big smile on his face.
For me, one thing I’ve realized about this time around was that I never really felt out of control of the discomfort. Last year, there were moments where I was in sheer agony and panic at how hard it was. This year, I never really had any of that. Maybe it comes with knowing the course more intimately, maybe it is knowing I was in better shape, and maybe it was the Polar power meter I was using to keep my effort under control, so I stayed away from the ‘blow my legs apart’ effort that I am prone to. That said, apparently, I did hit over 690 watts on the Wall and 700 watts on Killer Miller, with a lot of 450 watt moments, all averaging out to 245 for the ride. There was an obvious 30 watt drop in power after the 700 watt effort on Killer Miller and my attempt to keep up to Lars.
Or, that drop in power could also be related to my very poor and lacking nutrition on the bike. By my recollection, I had a coffee and bagel with peanut butter and jam for breakfast, and half a bottle of Hammer Nutrition Endurance Formula, plus a few sips of water on the bike. I normally burn 6-700 calories per hour on the bike, so taking in 400 seems a wee bit on the slow (dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb) side of things.
And that, my friends and colleagues, is why I do not give nutritional advice.
Ask me how to go hard, or far, or both, and I’ll be happy to show you, but don’t ask me to set the example when it comes to fueling.
Maybe next time I will have learned my lesson...
Thanks for reading.