Despite the cold, foggy and damp weather conditions – a very fast mix of old and young (mostly young!) runners departed the Start line at the Annapolis Naval Academy Stadium fairgrounds. And then, there was Jannett and I, waiting in the long lines at the porta potties when what sounded like a starting gun went off. Hmmm…they surely could not have started the race already? And by the time we arrived at the starting line – everyone was gone. Which probably justifies our really fast first mile pace – as we tried to catch up with the race crowds. The Annapolis Half Marathon event takes the runners through historic downtown Annapolis over cobblestone streets, continuing next to the Naval Academy, across the Severn river and up a very very long hill before the route begins the turn back toward the finish line. Jannett and I both finished strong, with PB’s, and no injuries!! It was a wonderful way to burn off 3000 calories, and we wasted no time treating ourselves to food and coffee! View more pics!
At daybreak, we were preparing to motor 1.5 hours — to return back to dockside. Back to “juice”. Which translates to heat. It can’t happen soon enough. It has been 41 degrees in our cabin since Monday night – Hurricane Sandy’s landfall.
While at anchor – the port side engine ignition switch disintegrated. Just like that. For awhile we couldn’t turn on the port engine. But Captain Paddy figured out a way to hold the broken pieces in place from the inside, while I gently turned the key — to get the engine to turn on. By 7:30AM we hoisted anchor, along with our other sailboat “friends” who weathered the storm in Wilton Creek.
We navigated out the Piankatank River, and around Fishing Bay – into Deltaville. Blowing 30 knots…which feels like “nothing”. Hard to imagine I’m saying that! Only a handful of boats were in the marina. It was empty, and for a moment I wasn’t sure if we were authorized to return. We had no intention of asking permission. Frozen to the core, we made a beeline for the dock….and quickly plugged in the shore cord. Let the thawing begin. Followed by a very long, hot shower.
For us, Hurricane Sandy is over. We were very fortunate. For millions more, they have no power, no heat…no shower. It gets old and cold fast. Many have lost everything. It is heartbreaking – and they will have a long road to recovery. If you can, please consider a donation to http://www.redcross.org and I’m looking into ways to do more. Please share via comment if you come across ways to help. These are our brothers and sisters.
By 5AM, the sounds of Sandy winds started to change. Bands of winds sounded more distant…the boat stopped creaking and the sensation of going airborne during particularly strong bands was subsiding. I want to hope that the worst is over. I think it is.
Sunday night into Monday morning was a sleepless night…twirling at anchor.
Very rough mentally. When it gets dark, and you can’t see anything, and the winds howl so loud you can’t have a conversation, and the rains sounds like Niagara falls, and you wonder if the anchor is still holding – it eats away at your brain.
But so far so good here at anchor. I don’t want to jinx anything by being too optimistic. This translates to taking photos and video. I know some people take photos and video during a crisis — but it seems like bad ju ju to me. Like taunting the mother nature gods to give you a good video clip – and messing with your ability to survive at the same time.
We’ve felt the impact of Hurricane Sandy since Saturday afternoon, as Sandy makes its way up the coast. The intensity grows every hour. I have to say that this hurricane hole in Wilton Creek has done fabulous so far. We watch huge trees above the river banks sway in every which way – and yet a different weather system seems to be occurring at water level. It is a very odd sensation, that what you “see” is not what you “feel”. And, all of the time, you wonder when that will change. We can get internet (via our phones) at anchor – so we monitor the news coverage. Which by now is 100% Hurricane Sandy.
Today is the day. The day that Hurricane Sandy will make it’s turn toward land. Once she turns to the west (toward land), we would brace for the worse. Our 5-11 National Weather tracking is bringing us news less to our liking. It is now expected, that Sandy will make landfall closer to the Delaware Bay….i.e. closer to us. Every mile matters. The forecasts also show, that for some bizarre reason (perhaps the collision with the NorEaster) – that the brunt of the winds will extend down to the south bay. What? Our forecasts have changed – with the worst winds extending all the way to our location. I’m not liking this news, and have decided to shut down on reading more about Hurricane Sandy.
What will be…will be at this point. It’s time to look at the bright side. Our hurricane hole has been good so far. Buffers a lot of the winds that less sheltered areas are getting.
The bands of winds from a hurricane can be deceptive. You might experience the extensive sustained winds and gusts for say an hour….and suddenly there is a calm. During one of those “calms”, we watched some particularly bizarre actions on a nearby anchored sailboat. The owners who were not riding out the storm at anchor – had returned to their vessel to re-positioned it for the coming southwest winds. Once re positioned the woman hopped into some floating dingy type device, and was being propelled by her husband who was swimming beside her pushing her to shore. Brrrr..
From 5PM to 7PM, we experienced that calm. Maybe this was over? We were getting settled into our new position at anchor. Winds were blowing from the southwest , and we had the engines on – just in case the anchor didn’t hold as the winds changed from the north to the southwest. It is nighttime again, and hard to see if we are dragging anchor.
The winds are blowing steady from the North – as Hurricane Sandy works her way up the East Coast. Even though she is still out to sea, we are feeling her wide reach. The navigation buoys 15 miles east of us record the wind speeds – and show the winds are registering 40+ knots.
For perspective, we are anchored 40 miles due west of the Atlantic Ocean – and 45 miles northwest of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. We are 80 miles due southwest of Ocean City MD, and 105 miles as the crow flies from Baltimore. We consider our waters in the south bay to be “one with the ocean”. We regularly see dolphins, sea turtles and there are reports of sharks – tho I haven’t actually seen a shark here. The water is saltwater, and I can assure you that when we have spent a day sailing in the south bay – we have to hose off the salt from everything.
Hurricane Sandy is a wide-load….some 500 miles in diameter. As of this writing (Sunday) she is currently 250 miles offshore, and about 200 miles south of us. Her direction is north, parallel to the coastline, and getting closer to our position.
Today we are seeing the winds increase, and the rains are steady. We are glued to the 5-11 National Weather updates. Every 5AM / 5PM and 11AM / 11PM the National Weather service puts out a revised track for Hurricane Sandy. Since we are so close to the ocean, any sooner than anticipated Sandy turn to the west is news that we don’t want to see. The weather updates are becoming more consistent – and showing landfall well north of the Delaware Bay.
By late afternoon, the rains intensify and we are feeling bands of howling winds. We talk regularly of “plan B”. Plan B is final desperation Plan B is where we have to abandon ship. We are not at that point AT ALL, but feel that maybe, just maybe we should discuss having this plan. At this point, we don’t know exactly what to expect. The forecasts change at every update. Sometimes the forecast is better, other times it is worse. I prepare the ditch bag – those items that we MUST bring in moments notice all encased in ziploc baggies — SHOULD we have to abandon the boat. Paddy readies the dingy lines — so that if we have to jump into the dingy – we won’t have to fuss with tangled line. We contemplate weather we should put the dingy into the water now, or just let her swing on the dingy davits. I wonder how we will put the dingy engine – which now rests on the back of Cat Maudy – onto the dingy when the winds take your breath away. I stare at the shoreline, and decide that if our anchor drags – then we really don’t have very far to swim – to go ashore. The water is 67 degrees. Not frigid…but not temperatures I would want to spend any time into. Then there is Soxy. We could float her and her kitty carrier onto a boat cushion if needed. Not sure what would happen once on shore. I think that is Plan C.
We have also started living on “End of the World Food”. This consists of food we would NEVER eat otherwise. Grilled cheese sammies, egg n cheese sandwiches, soup loaded with sodium, chocolate…and not a hint of vegetables or fruit. If the end of the world is coming – why not enjoy those foods that nutrition experts condemn?
As you can see, the looming “unknowns” of Hurricane Sandy begin to mess with your mind. For one brief moment, I felt a truly paralyzing panic and fear. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to be at anchor when the predicted mega-storm Hurricane Sandy of the century meets with a mid-Atlantic NorEaster – and does the unthinkable. Instead of moving east, out to sea, Hurricane Sandy would be moving west. Closing in on us. Things were going to get worse. I had to take back my mind. And I did. At least for awhile. I turned up the radio to muffle the howling winds, and told myself over and over that the sounds were worse than what we would experience.
Still dockside at Deltaville, and by 3AM the winds are starting to howl. Not steady howling, but enough to wake up Soxy…who in turn makes sure we are listening to the winds.
By 10:30AM, we departed land and dockside – and ventured out into Fishing Bay Harbor. Winds were already blowing 20-25 from the NorthEast so we enjoyed (not) a bumpy ride to get to the Piankatank River. From here, we following a winding river that gradually took us out of the winds. Winds dropped to 12-15 knots – and it seems like we are going in the right direction.
Paddy wanted to anchor out in some open area with protection from the north, but I had my sights on the locals version of a hurricane hole – Wilton Creek. After 1.5 hours of motoring, we made it to the Wilton. Depths of 8 feet. Paddy considers it claustrophobic. It seems perfect to me. Winds that registered 25 knots just an hour ago – show 8 knots here. One third. Do the math — when Hurricane Sandy blows in at 60…maybe we’ll see 20? That’s my logic and I’m stickin’ to it 😉
After a few attempts at anchoring – which turned out too shallow – we found a few cruiser ‘friends’ and dropped anchor for our hurricane hole-down spot. According to one cruiser (who came to visit via dinghy) the local knowledge puts the storm surge in this creek at 3 feet, and explains that winds might ‘swirl’ due to the narrow creek. I can handle swirl.
We take in the land terrain. High banks, lots of trees at the top of the banks. Basically we are sitting in the “valley” – ie the creek. This is good. We can hear the winds howl via the trees…but our instruments still read 8ish knots of wind.
Activated the wind generator to get power. And we proceed to obsess about each National Weather Service update regarding the Track of Hurricane Sandy. It will be close.
We had PLANNED to do some sailing – and when we departed for Deltaville VA – this little blip in the news called “Sandy” was just some storm in the Caribbean. Nothing for us to worry about here in the South Chesapeake Bay.
But no. Suddenly Sandy is predicted to take on the mid-Atlantic along with her sister storm Nor’Easter and voila a “Perfect Storm” is in the cards. And if that’s not enough, there is a full moon and Halloween coming up – and suddenly FrankenStorm is being born.
Thus, it’s no surprise “Sandy” is the talk of Deltaville. Everywhere you go – everyone is talking ‘Sandy’. Currently they are expecting gale force winds here – which we can handle, but the storm surge is the potential problem. There are 2 “hurricane holes” that we can go to: one an hour away, and another 10 min from here. If it looks like it will get pretty bad – then we’ll probably opt to leave the dock and tuck into a smaller waterway with lots of land protection.
If the surge is over 4 feet, then water will be on top of the dock – cuz they are fixed docks here. More than 8 feet and the boat will float off the pilings…so this is our current concern. We are also thinking about fleeing to Baltimore and tuck into some marina, but this is a last choice because of the distance and time it will take to travel. We’d basically have to do a pedal to the metal 24 hour trip – and night-time is not the best on the Chesapeake (many obstacles ).
Soooo – we’re in “wait mode” (for more data) to see which mode we’ll need to take. aiii. Today is beautiful here – light winds – not enuf for sailing – a lovely “calm b4 the storm” 😉
The marina is a buzz with activity. Boat owners everywhere taking down their sails and tucking away anything that could blow with the wind. Cruisers are taking refuge by setting out a spider web of anchors.
Current model shows a direct hit of Hurricane Sandy to Baltimore! AIII!!! Ok – here is the update. We’ve made plans to have the sails removed today…and will fuel up this afternoon. We’ve stocked up on food n kitty food for u know who. We will have to go up into Wilton Creek, and we checked it out via car — looks to be very well protected. Paddy checked the mariner reports on Wilton Creek and it has good holding grounds, surrounded by high terrain and lots of trees. We will depart for Wilton Creek tomorrow am…along with probably a zillion other yacht-ie types 😉
Sun – Mon – Tue are supposto be bad here, so we’ll be hopefully secured in Wilton Creek. I bought chocolate in case I go stir crazy. We won’t have electrical = heat….so that will be a downside. I do have lots of clothes… Was not planning to have to wait out a hurricane on our boat in a little creek…aiiii..what is…is. I’m stressing with the thought of little to nil electricity (only when we run the diesel engines)…no heat…and no endorphins. I may have to dig into that bag of chocolates early. Will plan for a very LONG jog tomorrow AM before departure to Wilton Creek. 😉
later in the day on Friday:
For a very brief moment, we were soooooooooooo excited cuz the marina was going to relocate us to another dock. Then…somebody by the name of “Keith” intervened….and said we had to leave. I think he owns the place.
We finished putting 30 gal of diesel (5 gal at a time) into Cat Maudy. Since some uber large yacht took over the fuel dock – we weren’t able to saddle up and get fuel. So, we had to use a 5 gal jug – and make 6 trips to the fuel dock to get juice…then dump it into Cat Maudy. This took about 2 hours. We now have 40 gallons to ride out the Sandy wave.
The marina is practically empty now. Kind of eerie. All day long boats were getting hauled out…or just leaving the dock for that creek the locals are calling a hurricane hole. The wind forecasts are getting stronger. Steady 40…gusts to 45. Let’s hope they don’t go higher.
We left the car on higher grounds…and left the keys with our marina buddy Ed. I asked Ed to hold onto our car keys, just in case. Just in case Ed needs to come and rescue us.
Starting to feel the stress now of the “unknown”. I may need to get another batch of chocolate before we depart in the AM.
After a few days of Deltaville day sailing, we were finally getting our sailing chops back. Well, maybe not completely back – but enough to venture further than 10 miles. It was time to take a cruise. Even if it was only a mini-cruise….we had this need to be cruisers again.
Time is limited. Life and work is happening all around us…but wouldn’t it be great to rekindle cruising life – if just for a day or 2? We found a mini-weather window, and got back into studying the weather, the gribs and how quickly the winds were clocking in the southern Chesapeake Bay.
With winds from the north gusting to nearly 30 knots on Sunday am, we waited til noon – and ventured out. The seas were frisky, and the winds were down to 20 knots – so we decided to cruise south to Norfolk. With following seas and fresh winds we were on course to make it to Hampton Roads by 5:30pm. And then the winds dropped to 10 knots, and our sailing speeds suffered. We made it to Hampton Roads by 7PM, as the sun was setting, and motored another 2 hours against an ebb tide to make it to our destination in downtown Norfolk at the Waterside Marina. All was good, but we were rusty with this “cruising thing”, and forgot to factor ebb tides into our timetables. Details for next time!
Fortunately, the winds were from the north on our 2nd day of this “cruising”….so we “had” to stay put. With my bod in desperate need of WD-40, from hoisting, pulling and trimming sails…a day of rest at the Waterside Marina is a beautiful thing. We wandered around downtown Norfolk….being tourists, and getting some much needed coffee at the nearest ‘bucks. Caffeined-up, we checked out the size of the WWII battleship Wisconsin…and thought about ways to turn old battleships into something more useful. Such as dorm rooms for students….or fixed rent housing….I mean come’on…these ships are enormous, and seem to be built really well. Why not make them a bit more useful?
Back at Cat Maudy, we studied the weather and decided to take the weather window to return back to Deltaville – the next day. South winds 10-15 knots would be ideal. Having learned our lesson during our cruise to Norfolk, we even checked the tide tables.
We departed Norfolk at the crack of dawn (6:30AM)…for a 1.5 hour motor through the downtown shipping channel. During this time, we nearly ran into a barge. It’s not that we didn’t see it coming…we did…but for some reason we were mesmerized by the barge crane thing…and didn’t notice it was heading straight for us until the tug boat captain hailed us on channel 16. Whoopsi!
At the mouth of the bay, the winds were in the low 10-15 range, and we made our first tack toward Cape Charles. A few dolphins appeared as our guide, and it is always exciting to see these creatures befriend you. Another tack, and we were near the mouth of Mobjack Bay. With winds directly behind us, we sailed wing-n-wing for the next several hours. And by the time we reached the Fishing Bay entrance to Deltaville — the winds had freshened up to 15 knots southeast, for a perfect sail finale!
Despite the short cruise (3 days)…it was a tasty cruise….and reminded us how much we enjoyed – and missed our cruising lifestyle. But for now, we’ll take each and every mini-cruise we can get!
By 9PM, all is dark, a cold front with tornado warnings has come and gone, and it’s getting time to fade out into dream state. When outta the blue, Paddy leaps from the salon in a panic. “Where’s Soxy?? Where’s Soxy??”
I went from faded dream state to all out panic in a matter of seconds. Running to the starboard hull, I called for Soxy…but no response. By now Paddy is outside in the cockpit, and the tone of his voice is frantic. We can both hear Soxy’s screams…and knew right way…she was in the water.
Soxy knows a limited version of the doggie paddle. Limited is the operative word. If she is in the water, we have seconds to save her. Paddy grabbed a flashlight and ran to the dock trying to locate her in the water, while I ran to the trampoline on Cat Maudy to untie the kayak. The thought of swimming in dark, Chesapeake Bay water – with unknown sea life (sharks) lurking….is not my cup of tea. But we’re talkin’ Soxy here – so this might be an exception.
From what seemed like forever, I untied the kayak, while Paddy yelled out to “hurry up, we’re losing her…”. The thought of losing Soxy sent a shot of adrenaline thru my weary bod – and like magic, I became Popeye the Sailor and lifted the kayak with one hand and ran with it to the cockpit – to hand it off to Paddy who was standing by on the dock.
“She’s under the dock” Paddy yells…and he quickly tossed the kayak into the water. “Get in”…he instructs me – as he holds the kayak for me.
It was not easy to navigate under the dock with the kayak, as the waters were high. I laid as far back as I could…and proceeded to look for Soxy. Surely she could not still be swimming, as at least 5 minutes have passed since Paddy first heard her screams.
Surprisingly, she responded to me as I called out her name. And there she was. A sopping wet cat, completely terrified, and only inches above the waterline – holding onto the underside of the dock with a death grip. I navigated the kayak to her, but she would not let go of the underside of the dock without a struggle. Finally, I got in position to grab her with both hands….and pulled her as hard as I could until she finally let go. And now, Soxy was under my death grip.
Paddy pulled the both of us out of the kayak. The adrenaline rush was over. The drama had played itself out, and both of us were too exhausted to move. Soxy lives to see another day, and I’m guessing she used one or two of her 9 lives that evening.
Needless to say, Soxy is on permanent “lock down” while aboard Cat Maudy. Oh, and we now have a big-ass fishing net ready in case Soxy wants to experiment with losing another 1 of those kitty lives…
Short on time?…here is all you need to know:
We started…we finished….we’re savages! Woo ha!!
But, if you want to “re-live the moment”, then keep reading!
With the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon over in August, we craved some athletic challenge for September. It’s not enough to simply exercise. We needed something new to conquer. Like never before. Something unique…and challenging.
Meet the Savage Man Triathlon. The name alone is intriguing. Then, there is the fine print. A description of the “Savage Man 30” course (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run), with bike routes touting 22% grade climbs and uber steep descents, running routes touting rocky off road terrain, and the nearly 1 mile swim in brisk freshwater lake waters. All of this at 2500-3000 feet elevation just west of the Eastern Continental Divide in the belly of the Appalachian Mountains. The TriSistas had to do this. Someway, somehow….we had to be Savage Bitches.
We regularly train at sea level to 300 feet. Yup, right at the water line. We call the little bumps in terrain – hills, and feel pretty mighty mighty biking up and down these road bumps. I don’t even know what a 22% climb looks like.
Jill and Jane signed up to be Savages – as a relay team – Team Jan. Team Jan is in honor of Jill’s step-mom Jan, who recently passed away from a struggle with cancer. We couldn’t decide who would do which leg of the relay – but there was time for those details. One thing for certain, we would arrive at the race site in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland early – to view the swim course, drive the bike and the run course – and then decide who would do which leg. Or maybe we just each do multiple (or all?) legs of the event? We never really know until the last second.
On Friday, September 14, Jane drove the TriSista relay team from sea level Maryland (Silver Spring) to high elevation Maryland (Deep Creek Lake) in a Honda Fit – named Betsy-Sue. Betsy is equipped with a miniature engine – i.e. 4 little horses to power us to our destination. Along I-70 and I-68, as we near Cumberland Maryland, the highways advertise 6% grades, the use of runoffs for trucks, and add an extra slow lanes for vehicles who can’t get all of their horses to run at top speed. Betsy-Sue is in desperate need of a Hemi, and can barely make it to the top of the highway mountain climbs without encouragement. I was trying to imaging biking up a 6% grade. Anxiety is creeping in.
We reached Deep Creek Lake in plenty of time Friday afternoon to take in the beauty of early fall in western Maryland. With sprawling farmlands, log cabin homes, leaves just beginning to turn crimson red – it was easy to become mesmerized by the surroundings. After we picked up our Savage race packet, we returned to Betsy-Sue for a country drive along the designated bike route. Jill and Jane have opposite biking strengths. Downhill Jill loves the fast paced descents, and Uphill Jane seeks out a climb. As you can imagine, Jill’s eyes bugged out seeing the steep climbs, and Jane stared in disbelief at the rapid descents. During the first 8 miles, there is a steady climb to near 3000′ elevation. This is followed by the next 8 miles – where the terrain resembles a roller coaster mix of steep climbs and rapid descents. I was so awestruck with the first 16 miles, that I have no memory of the remaining miles of the bike route. Surely this could not be the bike route, and let’s just say I wasn’t comfortable driving the car on these roads.
So, like any gracious TriSista – I offered up the bike leg to Jill. “Jill, really, you can do the bike leg…” But no. Jill was having the same thoughts – and kept repeating “Sissy, seriously, why don’t you be our biker tomorrow…”. Obviously riding the bike route from the car was not getting us closer to putting the “who” on each leg of the Savage relay.
It’s time to drive the run course. At this point, I’m beginning to understand the reality of “savage”. The person who designed the bike and run routes is evil. Plain and simple. As if you won’t be in enough pain from the torture on the bike route, the run was filled with what appeared to be all uphills, and included off road terrain that was not even passable for Betsy-Sue.
“Listen, Jill – I really don’t mind if you want to do all 3 legs of this triathlon….” and Jill would respond with “Sissy, I’ll just get a coffee and watch you do the event”. There you have it. The day before our Savage relay — panic has set in and we were no closer to deciding anything about anything.
A good night sleep in our cool digs at the Inn at Deep Creek, with views over Deep Creek Lake and the swim course – should solve everything. That would have been nice. To have a good night sleep. Neither of us slept a wink…a tad concerned about the craziness that we had signed up for — the Savage Man.
Waking to 40 degree temperatures, we made progress on the relay leg decision. From making decisions on what to eat, what clothing to wear, what food to bring….how many trips will be needed to the porta-potties….to the call for the first wave of swimmers…these scary details go on for hours. At this point, I will say for the record, what goes before and during the TRI start…stays in the SistaHood. Let’s move this blog along.
With the swim leg behind us (no – there is no discussion about the swim), we hopped on our bikes and took off at a comfortable pace, hoping to pace ourselves for the “unknown”. Notice the use of “we”. It’s a new form of relay. Pronounced “we-lay”. Yes, Jill and I are both doing the Savage Man we-lay. Team Jan. #1564. Rock on.
That comfortable bike pace lasted about 30 seconds. Jill takes off at a blistering cadence during the early rolling downhills, and I had all I could do to keep pace. The course wrapped around Deep Creek Lake, and then headed out to the countryside. From there, we were climbing. During the first 8 miles we found ourselves warming up, as we inched closer to the sun. La la la…the climbs are not steep grades at this point, so we soaked up the rays, took in the scenery, and watched many many many uber fit athletes fly past us on $20,000 bikes. “Nice pace Fluffy” I would yell to Jill. And she would respond “You rock Sissy”….and life is good in the hood.
Then, we passed mile 8. The road dropped out of nowhere. Imagine a road that really should have been designed with switchbacks, but apparently the transportation folks ran out of money for pavement. So instead of gradually working your way down a cliff….you just bike straight over it. This marked the first….of one too many cliff descents.
Within seconds, Downhill Jill was gone. Low over the handlebars, she takes the descents like a pro and easily hits 40mph speeds. Not me. 30mph is my max bike speed, and I had all I could do to keep the speed down to 30mph. Oh please please please please please brakes do NOT fail me now! There was no more soaking in the scenery at this point. The base of the cliff was still not in sight….and I think this is the longest high speed bike descent east of the Mississippi. Maybe not, but that’s my story.
At last…we reached the bottom. I use the term “we” liberally. Jill reached the bottom of the cliff long before I, and allowed me to catch up on the next climb. The roller coaster continued like this for the next 8 miles. We would gradually climb back up to the sun…then free-fall back down to planet earth. Over and over. And somewhere along Accident Road (appropriately named) I caught a glimpse of a large black animal racing up the farmland. We were on a collision course….and the conversation went something like “What the ___?????” A huge steer is sprinting up the pasture toward the road. There were no fences – so farm animals run freely in western Maryland. Based on the “Cattle Crossing” signs, it seems these beasts are encouraged to roam willy nilly. With unbelievable good fortune, it was “lunch time” at the OK Corral, and this monster black animal turned just before the road, and made a beeline for the food troth. I spent the next mile shaking off visions of being trampled by cattle.
By now, we thought we had seen the worst of the bike course. But wait. We are staring at climb so steep, I could not see the top, from the base. You know you are in trouble, when you reach your granny gear at the base of the climb. I don’t know the grade of this climb, but uber fit athletes were humbled. Some walked. Some grumbled. And the rest of us simply burned up our quads and forced our lungs into overdrive. By the time we reached the top of the hill – we were back to riding high, having one more mountain notched into our belt.
But, this is no time to bask in glory. After a few more miles…and limited juice left in the quads, we are greeted with one final grinding climb. Foy Hill. Marked at a 22% grade. Spectators line the steepest part of the hill clanging their cowbells, and wearing “devil” costumes. As you reach the most difficult grade of the climb, the spectators run out and surround your bike…cheering you on and daring you to stay clipped in. There is no way we could let these folks down. With speeds dropping to 4mph….and every last bit of grit and oxygen we could muster…we made it to the summit on Foy Hill, and pedaled the final 1/3 of the bike journey back to the transition area.
We racked our bikes in the transition area, and quickly changed into running shoes. Let me clarify. I quickly changed into running shoes. Jill has some issue with the insole of her sneaker, and fiddles with it for 5 minutes trying to fit the insole (which has popped out) back into her sneaker. I’m taking mental notes. Fluffy had the same shoe issue in the last triathlon. Get the girl some glue.
We depart the transition area along a rocky pathway that keeps your footing from feeling too secure. Then, we take to a shaded mulch covered path, and gingerly land trying to avoid stepping on tree roots and spraining an ankle. If you are still upright, your next test is to see if you can descend down a wet grass covered terrain, make 180 degree turn while you have gained speed, and then climb up a muddy hill. All of this occurs in the first mile.
Back on paved roads, we make our way through a hilly campground. The vibe is terrific! Campers are out cheering us on – and it seems as if everyone owns a cowbell in western Maryland. In addition to amazing spectator support, the athlete vibe is first rate. With the elite athletes having finished long ago, we are with those athletes who are simply in it to finish. There is a unique camaraderie among the finisher crowd, as we share in the moment – both the pain and glory.
Somewhere into mile 4, it was time to leave the paved roads and lakeside views behind, and climb a rocky off road trail to the fire tower at the top of the hill. Oh my. This is the kind of trail you would encounter HIKING…not RUNNING. It humbled us to a crawl, and we tried our best to speed walk on a trail laced with rocks and crevices. After a long grueling climb….we finally reached the fire tower…and turned back around for the descent. Downhill Jill led the way on the descent, and I focused on fast light footwork to avoid falling into the crevices. We reached pavement again at the base, with 1 more mile to go.
You could sense we were closing in on the finish line. Our running pace picked up. More spectators lined the roadways. These are people we had never met before, but somehow couldn’t let our cheering fans down. We had to keep going, despite more uphills and the little voices in our heads that wanted to be done…now. As we crossed the finish line – there were high fives and body slams all around. We were Team Jan, and had done Jan proud. We had accomplished something harder than we imagined we could do – on a course that can only be defined as savage. All told, we burned nearly 5000 calories, and earned the right to be called Savage Bitches.