Sunday, August 13, 2006
The 0th Annual SavageMan Triathlon
RSVP here for SavageMan, please. Please specify in the RSVP comments whether you intend to participate, whether you expect to attempt the full SavageMan, the MeekMan, some combination of the two, or would like to volunteer instead.
Welcome to the information page for the 0th Annual SavageMan Triathlon, to be held on Saturday, October 7.
- Q: What do you mean by "0th Annual"?
A: 0th Annual means that the 2006 event is an invitation only "Course Preview" for what may or may not become an annual event on a larger scale. This year the event is not a race, it is an unofficial, unsponsored gathering of a few dozen invited trial participants who just happen to do a swim, bike, and run workout on the same course on the same day. If all goes well and participants in the 0th Annual running agree that the venue and course are ideal for a recurring event, I will either pursue making SavageMan a legitimate race or hand off duties to a veteran race director.
- Q: There are lots of organized races that provide me schwag, awards, food, Kona slots, fast times, etc.... Why would anyone want to do an unofficial, unsupported event that provides none of these?
A: If you love swimming, biking, and running and like to challenge yourself, you will love SavageMan. The challenge in SavageMan is not to beat your PR -because you won't, or qualify for Kona -because you won't, or win your age group -because no one cares, it's to conquer a very challenging, beautiful course and enjoy an absolutely beautiful area ideal for swimming, biking, and running. All that and because it's free, that's why.
- Q: Where and When is SavageMan
A: SavageMan will take place in Garrett County in the heart of the Allegheny Mountains in very western Maryland. The terrain in this region is absolutely ideal for triathlon training and the area is just begging for an event. The only other events remotely near this region are a 1/2 IM in Morgantown, WV, an hour west, and the Rocky Gap offroad triathlon in Cumberland 30 minutes east. And neither of these are truly in the heart of the Alleghenies.
The swim will take place in clear and beautiful Deep Creek Lake, a popular lake vacation destination less than 3 hours from Washington, DC (directions here). Much of the run course will take place in Deep Creek State Park. The bike course will tour through Garrett County, touch into West Virginia, and head through scenic Savage River State Forest.
The 0th Annual SavageMan will take place on Saturday 10/7. Mornings will be cool that time of year in the mountains, so start time is 9:30am, which also allows those who want to drive up morning of from DC time to do so.
Additionally, SavageMan will be held on a Saturday morning to allow people to enjoy the lake and surrounding area for the rest of the weekend if they desire. If enough people are interested, on Sunday I will lead an incredibly beautiful 70 or 105 mile ride, depending on starting/ending location, into the Monongahela Natl Forest in W. Va. Leaves should just be starting to turn, which will make a stunning ride even more so.
- Q: How far is it? Will it be hard?
A: SavageMan is a road 1/2 Ironman distance triathlon. Yes, it will be hard. It will be the toughest triathlon course you have ever done. If this event ever becomes an open race it will be billed as "The World's Toughest Half Ironman" and there won't be many who complete it who disagree.
The purpose of the 0th Annual Savageman is to get people to preview a potential 1/2 IM course for future years. Many folks, however, have other fall events they are training for, or for various reasons do not want to do an entire, very difficult, 1/2 IM course in October, so MeekMan distances of 25 mile bike and 10K run will be available as well. If you are not a true savage, but still want to get a feel of SavageMan and the terrain, feel free to partake in the shorter distances.
- Q: Why the name "SavageMan"?
A: A number of reasons:
First, the course is a true beast. Only a real savage can conquer this course. One driver behind the creation of SavageMan is to devise what can reasonably be advertised as "The World's Toughest Half Ironman". A few other triathlons make this claim and based on their descriptions and elevation maps it is not a stretch to claim that SavageMan is even tougher. The only race that legitimately looks tougher has the swim at the bottom of l'Alpe dHuez and the run at the top, but a point to point race up a mountain is hardly a fair comparison.
Second, the bike course crosses Big Savage Mountain twice and rides along the Savage River and through Savage River State Forest. Big Savage Mountain also happens to be the Eastern Continental Divide, and yes, it is a savage of a climb.
Third, and most importantly, SavageMan sounds cool.
- Q: Cool. How do I register?
A: You don't register. But you do RSVP. Anyone interested in participating or volunteering, please RSVP to the evite here. Please specify in the RSVP comments whether you would like to participate, whether you expect to be a SavageMan, a MeekMan, some combination of the two, or would like to volunteer instead.
- Q: What can I expect from the swim leg?
A: The swim will be uphill and into a current. No, the swim will be quite easy and pleasant. The lake is calm, clear, and beautiful and perfect for a triathlon. The start at the public beach at Deep Creek State Park is right at the end of a cove narrow enough to keep boat traffic out and the water calm. The swim will be 0.6 miles into the cove, around a giant inflatable turtle, and back again. This will be the most enjoyable part of your day, so swim slow and make it last. Water temps in early Oct will likely be in the upper 60s.
- Q: What can I expect from the bike leg?
A: The bike is a one loop 56 mile course that will be something very similar to this loop here. The bike leg is what makes SavageMan fit only for a true savage. I make only 3 assurances about this course. 1: It is 56 miles. 2: The majority of the roads and scenery are stunning and have very little traffic, and 3: It is very hilly and very hard and includes a hill steeper and harder than the king of climbs in all of triathlon: The Beast in St. Croix. This is very likely the only road bike course with a hill so steep that it is highly probable you will fall off your bike if you attempt it. That's right, IF you attempt it. This is also very likely the only course in which you have an option to go straight up a hill or to take a longer way around to get to the top in order to avoid falling over or walking up the hill. And, unlike other races that give special prizes to fastest splits of the day, this event will give a special prize to everyone who conquers The Wall without falling off. If you like a challenge, you will like this course.
The bike course starts out with about 9 miles of good rolling hills to get you warmed up. Then you climb Backbone, as the locals call this stretch of Big Savage Mountain, from the west side which means you only have to climb about 700 feet in a bit less than 2 miles. A few miles of rollers takes you past many truck warning signs indicating that the dropoff is approaching and brings you to what is very likely the fastest long descent you will ever ride. The road descends straight ahead at a 9% grade for 4 miles, dropping 2000 feet without a twist or bend in the road to give you any reason to consider your brakes. There is a wide shoulder, but as you'll likely be exceeding the speed limit of 50mph for cars and 10mph for trucks it's best to take up your lane of traffic and enjoy the fastest 4 miles you'll ever ride. Video of the descent here (46MB, 5:40). Once at the bottom you're in West Virginia and have about 2 miles of flat road until you enter Westernport where you learn that what goes down must go up - only more steeply.
Then the fun begins. Over the next 6 miles you will climb 2100 feet, but at least 2/3 of that occurs in the first and last mile. You will climb through the town of Westernport and perhaps wonder why they built a town on a cliff. Then you can decide whether to go staight up the road so steep that it's long since been closed to traffic, or go around the block to get up slightly more gradually. Once out of town it keeps going up and up until it mercifully flattens out for you and you've climbed 800 feet in just a mile for a 15% avg. grade. Video of this first part of the climb here (94MB, 11:33). The next 3-4 miles are flat and gradually uphill, but give you a bit of a chance to recover. Then after you think maybe it's all not so bad after all the road starts to get steeper and steeper and then yet steeper still. But, while it's steep and it's hard it isn't all that long so before too long you're over the top and you've conquered Westernport Road. Video of this second part of the climb here (88MB, 10:52)
Then, it's a narrow, twisty, 3-4 mile descent down the other side and into Savage River State Forest. Video here (40MB, 4:59). Finally a bit of mercy as the next ten miles are about the only flat ten miles in all of Garrett County as you ride through the Savage River State Forest along the scenic Savage River. But lest you think you've paid your penance in suffering, you still must climb out of the Savage River valley. If you can see through the sweat in your eyes or manage to look anywhere other than 6 inches in front of your wheel, do so on this 4 mile 1500 foot climb as the road and the scenery are gorgeous. Once over the top it's just another 7-8 miles of rolling terrain until you're back at the lake.
The 25 mile MeekMan bicycle option will not take you over Big Savage Mountain or through Westernport. Which is a real shame as the Meeklings will thus miss the highlight of SavageMan. But, the MeekMan bike is far from flat and easy. You'll have rolling hills and a nice descent which drops 1500 feet into Savage River State Forest and then you get to climb back out again. A very nice, scenic, and challenging ride, but not worthy of the SavageMan moniker.
- Q: What can I expect from the run leg?
A: You can expect to start with tired legs, first of all. The run, by any normal measure would be considered hard and hilly, but in comparison to the just completed bike, is actually somewhat humane. It is a one loop course that consists of about half pavement and half trails. The trail sections vary from good dirt/gravel fire road to some poorly maintained single track. Trail shoes are not necessary, but racing flats would be ill-advised.
The MeekMan run will take you along the lake for roughly one mile, and then up a gravel fire road to the fire tower and back.
- Q: This sounds AWESOME, but really hardcore. I want to do it, but am worried maybe it's too much for me. Do you think I can handle it?
A: That's for you to answer. If you don't think you're up for a hardcore 1/2IM at this point in the season, or you have other events you're focusing on but still want a taste of SavageMan, there is always the more sane MeekMan option.
The SavageMan course is indeed hardcore and the Westernport climb in particular is the real deal and very likely unlike any climb you've done before. There is no sag wagon, so once you're out there there is only one way back - under your own power! That being said, if you have enough gears you can get over all hills just fine. I know of plenty of very average (and less) riders who have gotten over Westernport and loved every second of it. I also know that Westernport has, on at least two occasions, brought very capable riders to tears. So, if you like a challenge, have enough gears for steep climbs, are prepared to be self-sufficient for a very slow 1/2 IM, then, yes, it is very likely you can handle SavageMan and will absolutely love it.
And, if you don't want to do the full SavageMan, there is always the MeekMan option.
- Q: Wow, sounds fun in a warped kind of way. I want in, what do you expect from me?
A: First, RSVP here ASAP.
Second, as this is a trial run for what could become a real event, I want your feedback - real feedback - not just "Water was colder than I expected" or "Wish I had a triple crankset".
Third, I want you to come with proper expectations of what the 0th Annual SavageMan is, and that's an unsupported swim, bike, run event. Be prepared to be self-sufficient for food and water and mechanical issues. Have enough knowledge of the course and the turns so that you know what to expect next. The course will be marked, but not overly so, so it helps if you are expecting to see a left turn marker and are on the lookout for it.
Finally, I may request somewhere in the ballpark of $10 to cover any supplies I need to purchase like cones, signs, road paint, ...
- Q: Crikey, those hills sound tough. What kind of bike and/or gearing should I have for this?
A: Some people like climbing on tri bikes. I don't, so I say if you have the luxury of choosing between a road and tri bike, choose the road bike. There is only one technical descent (the descent from Big Savage - if participating, please watch video here before race) which will have to be taken cautiously regardless, so bike handling is not a huge issue. Make sure your brakes work well. For gearing, if you have a triple ring or compact cranks this type of terrain is exactly why you have them. If not, you will want a 12-25 or 12-27 cassette. I typically ride a 39-27 in this terrain and use the 27 liberally. The first time I discovered these climbs I had a 42-23 and could only get over them by making switchbacks across the road (not the closed road; I've only gotten over that upright once - in my 39-27) and about fell over from lack of momentum a few times. Ted Waugh once rode out here with his rear derailleur broken such that he couldn't get in a gear easier than his 39-19. He amazingly made it over Westernport but his legs paid the price. By the end of the ride we found ourselves at the side of the road trying to fix his derailleur with tweezers and nail clippers. These hills are legit. If you are strong you will be able to get over in a standard 23 but would wish you had more gearing. If you are not particularly strong and show up with standard gearing you will find yourself suffering and possibly walking.
- Q: A 1/2 IM with one loop bike and run courses is an awful lot to do self-supported. What can I expect in the way of support?
A: Expect little. In all likelihood a table with water will be left at the top of the Westernport Road climb, which is roughly halfway through the bike. It will be up to you to stop and fill your bottles. It will be up to you to furnish your own calories. Hopefully on the trail that runs from mile 5.5 - 10 of the run we will have someone with water patrolling on an ATV. You can expect signs or road markings for any turns on the bike and run courses. You can expect accurate 1.2, 56, and 13.1 distances for the SavageMan. The MeekMan course will be roughly 25 mile bike and 10K run, but less concern for exact accuracy will be taken. We will make sure your bike is secure during the swim and run. We will time you and do our best to get splits of the individual legs. We will provide "prizes" to anyone who gets up the steep, closed section of Westernport Rd without falling over or dismounting, as well as to anyone who can average over 20mph on the bike or under 1:40 on the run.
There will be no course marshals. There will be no draft marshalls. There will be no one manning intersections (there are really only 2 intersections of any concern over the 56 mile bike). There will be no sag wagon. This is not a race. It is a group of people doing swim, bike, and run workouts all on the same course. It is not endorsed or supported by the communities or the State Park. Set your expectations appropriately. If ever there was an event to wear a CamelBak on the bike or run with a FuelBelt, this is it.
Expect a challenge, a beautiful course, and good times. And some beer and bbq in the state park when the suffering is complete!
- Q: I only want to swim - or bike - or run. Or maybe I'll put a relay together. Can I do that?
A: I guess. That's not very savage-like, though.
- Q: Deep Creek Lake is a great vacation spot, so I'd like to bring family and friends. Cool? Anything non-participants could help with?
A: You bet. Depending on how many volunteers we get, we'd like folks for a variety of tasks: timing, watching and/or locking bikes in transition, photographers (pictures and testimonials for future SavageMans is the main reason for holding the 0th Annual), man a few intersections on bike, drive ATV on the trail section of run, etc....
- Q: Where would I stay?
A: Deep Creek Lake is a major summer lake vacation destination, and WISP ski resort on the lake is a major winter destination, so hotel lodging is plentiful. Late September / early October is after the high season on the lake so prices will have dropped, so I would recommend groups of folks getting together and renting lake houses. Also, there is camping in the state park directly across from the public beach where the transition area will be located, but nights will be getting cold so beware.
Also, a few folks have access to friends or families lake houses and are in the process of arranging accomodations. If you think you may be interested in latching on with one of these people, let me know in the RSVP comments and I'll put you in touch.
- Q: Anything else to do in the area to make a weekend out of it?
A: Indeed. The lake is a hub of activity, but beyond the lake there is lots to entertain the active vacationer. The Youghigheny River, which has some of the east's best kayaking and rafting is nearby. There is lots of mountain biking, hiking, and camping nearby.
Indeed, there was just a front-page article in the Washington Post on the adventure activities available in the Deep Creek region. Funny, SavageMan wasn't mentioned. Next year....
- I'm intrigued. Show me more.
OK. Knock yourself out.
Videos of the biggest climbs and descents of the bike course are here. If you think the hills don't look all that steep in these videos and pictures, keep in mind the camera is fixed to the handlebars pointed straight ahead, so if the bike is angled up or down a hill at 10%, the road ahead looks flat from that perspective. Look for level landmarks, such as houses, on the side of the road for proper perspective.
Pictures from a ride of the bike course are here.
Pictures from an earlier training camp in the area are here.
More stuff here:
That's all for now. This was a quick first cut of information so I'm sure to think of more things and post them, so check back often. Send additional questions to email@example.com or post in the Comments section. If you are interested in participating or volunteering, RSVP here - and soon!
For those of you who have been out to this area with me before and trained on this terrain (and climbed Westernport), please add to this information by posting your thoughts on Savageman and your experiences on this terrain in the Comments section.
(1) I was "there" for the original SavageMan idea inception;
(2) I will be vacationing overseas during both those weekends; and
(3) This area has the best riding, swimming, and running areas I've ever experienced. The riding in particular is unforgettable, I hate the thought of missing this.
If you are reading this and thinking "maybe", just do it, you will not be sorry.
If 0thSM slides to another weekend, I will be there. Or maybe I'll just do it on my own another time.
I'm hopeful that it will be Oct. 7th because I'm out of town on Sept. 23rd.
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