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World's most savage triathlon

In 2008, on a second-hand bike and with just one race season under my belt, I signed up for the Savageman 30 triathlon in Deep Creek Lake. I was nervous about the hills, but instantly captivated by the laid-back atmosphere and the stunning beauty of the course. As it was only my second-ever international distance triathlon, I was also shocked to finish fourth in my division, but simultaneously disappointed to have been edged out of third by mere seconds, thanks to my extremely slow transition times. I returned the following year with more experience and streamlined transitions, knocked twenty minutes off my time and climbed onto that coveted podium spot. I was hooked on Savageman.

By 2010, I was ready to push myself harder and explore my limits as an athlete. For my first Half Ironman race, no average seventy-miler would do. I chose the Savageman 70, billed as "The World's Most Savage Triathlon." And they aren't kidding. With more than 6,000 feet of climbing over 55.7 miles, the ride truly lives up to its savage reputation. On the race's website, participants are forewarned that "the climbing in the middle 30 miles is savage and relentless. All participants, no matter how strong, should consider a 27 tooth cassette or compact cranks. Average to weaker cyclists should consider compact cranks or a triple front chain ring or risk walking their bike." And, while the two-loop, 13.1-mile run course is not as savage as the bike course, it features three significant hills per lap, including a short but grueling stint up and down the Fire Tower Road.

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Unfortunately, my lingering battle with plantar fasciitis necessitated a last-minute switch to the Aquabike race and, though I managed to finish third in my small division, I felt cheated of the full "savage experience." A return trip in 2011was inevitable.

Going into the Savageman 70 for the second time, I had the advantage of knowing I was capable of conquering the grueling bike course once. However, I also had a nasty case of bronchitis that left me coughing and hacking throughout the race and spitting up a little blood in the medical tent afterward. But I felt satisfied that I'd finally experienced the race in all its savage glory, and then some. It would be three years before I'd return to what was, and still is, one of my all-time favorite race venues.

Last weekend marked my return to Deep Creek Lake and the Savageman Triathlon Festival. Enjoying a kinder, gentler season on the heels of Ironman Arizona, I opted for the Savageman 30. Though the course itself would not have felt especially challenging this time around, Mother Nature did her part to make sure it was an adequately savage race. The wind whipped the lake into a sea of white caps, while heavy rain and temperatures in the low fifties rendered my hands and feet numb and left my body quaking with cold. I finished second in my division, but had the familiar feeling of wanting more. Next year, I'll be back for the 70.

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