Q & A with Doug Brede – SavageMan Triathlete

Doug is a firefighter who loves SavageMan. Here he tells us how he prepares for SavageMan and how he gets through the event.

ERM: What brings you to SavageMan each year?

Brede: The first year of SavageMan someone posted the advertisement on the local tri club Website. It offered a money-back guarantee if it wasn’t the toughest triathlon you’ve ever done. That’s all it took to sign me up.

ERM: What was it like going up the Westernport Wall the first time?

Brede: When I turned the corner in Westernport, Md., and stared up “The Wall,” I remember my jaw dropping in complete awe as to the hill that lay before me. We were given an option to ride a slightly longer but less steep route around it, but I was going to at least attempt this challenge to see if I could make it – that’s what I came to find out! I made it up The Wall and continued climbing. I thought to myself, “Here I just climbed up the Westernport Wall and where the hell did this ‘Killer Miller’ mountain come from?!”

ERM: So how did you feel when you finished?

Brede: Without a doubt, it was the toughest event I’d ever done – but because of that I fell in love with it right then and there. I even raced SavageMan in 2009, eight weeks after surgery to reattach my pectoral muscle to my arm bone, because “I don’t know what it’ll do to my arm if I race, but I know what it will do to me if I don’t.” (Quoted from “Without Limits”.)

ERM: How do you train for SavageMan?

Brede: With a swimming and running history, I can confidently say that I’ve never known what I was doing when it came to bike training. Therefore, to prepare for SavageMan I train for a full Iron-distance event, even though I may not do one. I made some breakthroughs last year with some new training aids as I began using Power Cranks and both Spinervals and Carmichael training DVDs. Power Cranks force you to circle a proper pedal stroke with each leg individually, and I train with them about once a week in season. The DVD training sessions helped me because they guide me through a workout that I have no background in. I like the DVDs because I don’t have to read a workout – I’m actually being coached, and I don’t have to do any thinking aside from what I need to focus on in the session.

In fact, last year was the first time I felt that I had actually trained and was ready for SavageMan. By training for a full-distance, I’ve found that it gives me the endurance to go faster over a half-distance if done right. Aside from the hill work, and Spinervals and Carmichael DVD sessions in my basement, I rode the Diabolical Double Gran Fond up around the SavageMan bike course in June. I figure going double the distance on that course can only help prep me for race day.

ERM: Take us through your race piece by piece.

Brede: During the swim, I’m typically talking to myself, telling myself to hold myself back and not get caught up in the emotion of the turbulence and race start. I’ve learned that I can waste a lot of energy in the water and pay for it on the bike, so I’m coaching myself in the swim to be efficient.

On the bike, I’m constantly reading my body: How’s my pulse (checked manually at the carotid because I find chest straps of heart rate monitors uncomfortable)? How are my legs doing – need to stand up and stretch? How’s the back? Do I need to stand up or arch and stretch? How’re the fluid levels  – and where’s the next bottle station? Is it time for Endurolytes? Is it time for food/fluid intake? How’s the cadence?

Between these questions I do find mental downtime, where I purposely look around to enjoy the scenery and experience the race surroundings. If I don’t, I can slide into that uber-triathlete persona – and that just isn’t fun. I also try to do water bottle exchanges with kids, because they get such a kick out of it; and when I see an elderly lady spectating, I like to fly by on the bike and yell to her how good-lookin’ she is – they get a kick out that, too.

The run is where you close the deal and where the mental fortitude comes in. Especially when I’m feeling fatigued, I start hamming it up with spectators in the run-by. Even just high-fiving kids has always given me energy and boosted me when I’ve hit a fatigue point. But when I’m really digging deep in the final miles closing out a run, I focus inward and talk to myself again – but this time I’m daring anyone to endure more pain than me.

ERM: What is your goal for SavageMan this year?

Brede: I finished right above six hours last year, a personal best for me on that course. At the risk of becoming type-A this season, I’m pronouncing that my goal is to break six hours this year at SavageMan – so this season’s focus is all on that.

ERM: What motivates you as you compete?

Brede: There are times in every race when it comes time to push myself. I find part of the fun of racing is in the challenge of making myself perform as best I can on that day, and that means digging deep. I learned motivation of digging deep from my Team-In-Training experience. It may sound sappy, but I think of people I know or who maybe I’ve even just seen in the news – the sick, disabled veterans, POWs. I can think of a specific person who suffered or is suffering through a situation from no fault of their own. If that person can put up with that kind of suffering, and sometimes for many years, then I tell myself I can suck it up and suffer for another two hours. By thinking of that person, I feel like I’m running for that person and in their honor.

ERM: Have you ever been injured?

Brede: I admit that when I first started competing, I was continuously in pursuit of a PR. I didn’t handle missing workouts or cramping up on the run well, to say the least. The best thing that ever happened to me was getting injured. I missed all of the 2002 season with chronic ITB pain that at times was debilitating. Once I recovered from that, I had a new outlook and was truly just happy to be able to participate. To my pleasant surprise, my new, relaxed, “have fun” attitude produced faster results, which made me have even more fun! Since coming off that injury, I’ve never given up that attitude of appreciating the enjoyment of participating. I’m a happier racer for it, and I believe I’m a faster racer for it.

ERM: Why SavageMan?

Brede: I keep returning because every year as SavageMan race day approaches, I get this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach as I think about the race and actually wonder if this will be the year that I don’t make it up The Wall. That feeling comes from the fact that this is indeed a tough race; and despite knowing the course now after participating all five years, I still wonder if the course will beat me – so I keep taking the challenge. I know I might never set a PR on this course, but every year I celebrate this race day for the fact that I can do this course. It’s my own personal Kona.


Side Bar: Doug’s Favorite Things


I love my new Jamis Xenith T1 tri-bike…what a difference from what I was riding before!

For swimming, I just received and have used in one session the Finis Fulcrum pool equipment. Since I’m not fast, I have to be a technician to save energy in the swim. I’m excited about these: I could feel a difference in my stroke technique after just that one session using them.

I also rely on Hammer Nutrition. Once I found Sustained Energy and Hammer Gels and Endurolytes, I stopped looking. That’s the stuff that worked for me.

Compression Gear

I decided that with all I’ve heard about compression, now was the time to try it out as I balanced three weeks of tapering and recovery with some training to maintain fitness. What made me a believer in compression was that I didn’t have the next-day twangs of pain that had been normal for me, and the muscle soreness was quick to recover. I ended up taking the first race easy (Patriots Half), then set my personal course record at SavageMan in the second half. Then I did a PR at the Chesapeake Man full event. Can you see why I love the compression gear?!