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Garrett County Gran Fondo - Diabolical Double Metric - CycleCentury

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Deep Creek, Maryland
United States
75F / 24C
Total Time = 10h 46m
Overall Rank = /500
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

I rode the Diabolical Double ride in the Garrett County Gran Fondo. Two things about this ride. It's a fantastic event, and Kyle Yost (of Savageman fame) and his team deserve a huge amount of credit what they do. And it's every bit as epic as its reputation. It's not the 125 miles that hurt, it's the 16,500' of climbing. It's not easy to fit that much climbing into a ride of that length. To squeeze it in, you need steep climbs. That's where the Appalachians of far western Maryland come in handy. And you need to make the ups and downs relentless, there's no room for flat bits in between. That's where Kyle's merciless route design comes in. The event is only in its 3rd year, but it has grown enormously: 200 in '10, 500 in '11, and 1100 this year.

I decided last fall that this would be one of my 'A' events for this year. It's not really a race, but it's the kind of challenge that keeps me motivated. And given my spotty record with run injuries, it was something where I could be confident of making to the start line. The venue at Deep Creek Lake also made it a great opportunity for a quick family getaway. Lots for the family to do while you're out riding all day. We drove out from a sweltering hot DC on Friday afternoon, and were immediately in love with the venue when we found that it was 20 degrees cooler at Wisp Mountain, the ski resort where the event is based. Excellent evening dinner event. We were bummed to miss the bluegrass band, but it turned out that we instead got to hear a really inspiring talk by former pro cyclist Saul Raisin about his recovery from life-threatening brain damage.
Event warmup:

I slept horribly, waking up every half hour, thinking it was time to get up. Finally up at 5, got my gear together and my bike set up. The rides start and finish at the *top* of the Wisp ski station, so Andrea drove me up there and dropped me off in plenty of time. Some time after she drove away, I realized that I had left my bike shoes in the car. Emergency calls ensued, and I managed to get them with a few minutes to spare.
  • 10h 46m
  • 125 miles
  • 11.61 mile/hr

For each distance ride, all riders start together. There were around 500 doing the Diabolical Double. Since the ride starts at the highest point on the course, the first 20 miles were mostly downhill, with only one 'named' climb. (Almost all of the 17 named climbs had gains of 400-1000 feet.) I was in no hurry, as it was going to be a long day in the saddle. But this section was scary in many places. Although it was clear at the start, the valleys were filled with a morning mist, and this soon fogged up my glasses, so I was struggling to see where I was going on some steep technical descents, while surrounded by lots of other riders. Throughout the day I wa consistently slow on the descents, and was passed countless times. I was amazed at how fast many riders were taking the twisting descents on often dodgy roads.

We had been warned at the dinner the previous evening that there severe storms had passed through the area that afternoon and had left lots of tree limbs and debris on the route. We were told that it would make some parts of the course treacherous. Local authorities did an amazing job of working through the night to clear up the course. There was no debris to be seen.

I met up briefly with Andrea and the girls at the first aid station, and enjoyed the steel band they had laid on for a few minutes before heading off on segment 2, which had almost 4000' of climbing in 21 miles, including 5 big climbs. I was feeling fairly good on the climbs, and always passing lots of people on the way up, but trying to hold back, as it was very early days yet. The third segment of the ride contained the two steepest climbs of the day, and the ones that I feared the most. They were being separately timed, and they're popular Strava segments, so I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't curious to see how I could stack up on those climbs. They were definitely hard work, but I rather enjoyed them. Bowman Hill (800' in a mile and a bit) had some easier bits in between its nastiest sections, and Killer Miller (about 500', very steep at the start) was even more fun. I was happy with my times, and I felt that although there were still 65 miles to go, the hardest parts of the day were behind me. I was feeling confident. Silly me.

After aid station 3 the next 26 mile segment didn't look too bad from the profile. But that was perhaps because it was scaled to accommodate the 2000' feet elevation range that it covered. It turned out to be harder than I thought. The few miles on a dirt/gravel road shook me up a lot, and the climb was much harder than expected because of the rough surface, and because it was impossible to climb standing, because that made the back wheel spin. Kyle had promised a surprise for riders on this section, and he delivered. At the foot of the steepest/roughest section of the climb, at a clearing in the forest, was a banjo player, who struck up peppy tunes for riders as they set off up the climb. The next few miles up to the top of Big Savage Mountain were much more draining than I would have expected. Most of the climbs weren't especially long, but they just kept on coming. I should have enjoyed the long 7-mile/2000' descent into Westernport, and it was pretty good ... but I was spending most of the time thinking "s$*t, I'm going to have to climb _up_ this descent in Savageman in September". The end of the descent at Westernport took the notorious Westernport Wall in reverse, skipping around the most steep block. It did indeed look scary steep, but it really seemed like a bit of a triviality compared to the rest of the 7 mile climb.

I had expected the sections after the 84 mile aid station to involve work, but not be too daunting. I was wrong. It turned out to be the hardest part of the day. And others that I spoke to felt the same way. I had been on the road for many hours, so grades that had seemed tame enough first thing in the morning were now a bit more challenging. For me, the hardest hill of the day was the 750' climb to Elk Garden, WV, which had a nearly perfect even grade all the way up (and not a shallow one), offering no respite from the climb. By the 5th aid station (mile 100), I was not feeling in such good shape. My legs felt weak, I had been carrying a headache for a while. Food no longer seemed appetizing, and the 1600' of climbs in the next 7 miles wasn't sounding appealing. By the final aid station at 111 miles I was toast. I was walking around in a bit of a daze, and just wanted to lie down on the grass and pass out. By a stroke of luck, the next 10 miles or so were the easiest of the entire ride, with flat-to-slightly rolling roads around Deep Creek Lake. That allowed me to pull myself together and get ready for the final timed climb of the day, the steep climb up Wisp Mountain to the finish. As with the other steepest climbs of the day, the fact that I knew what was coming up made this one a whole lot more manageable, and I even enjoyed it, and passed a final few people before the end. Final time: 10h46 all told (11.7 mph), about 9h05 ride time (~14 mph). I didn't much care about the overall time, but whichever way you look at it, the very slow average speed is an indication of how the course was. Without a doubt, that was the most demanding day of biking that I have ever done.
What would you do differently?:

Nothing really. I paced myself fairly well. The ride is just so hard.
Post race
Warm down:

They had free showers at the finish. How cool is that! And french fries for the road. It would have been fun to hang around to see some more riders finishing, but we needed to get the family fed and back home, so we left fairly promptly.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Long rides. I've ridden only 3-4 times outdoors except for races since last summer. All bike work on the trainer. This works well for getting the power-to-weight to get up the hills, and I was happy with my times on the climbs. But the handful of 5 hour outdoor rides still wasn't enough to prepare for an event with 9+ hours of riding. Big surprise. I was also slowed by being a cautious descender. But no regrets on either of those. The indoor training is much more feasible time-wise, and I have no interest in again putting the family through the hassle of me recovering from a bad crash.

Event comments:

I can't say enough about how neat this event is. The setting is beautiful, The route is exceptionally scenic. Though it's a little harder to admire the hills when you can be sure that you're about to have to ride up them. Aid stations and volunteers were outstanding. Many extra details of the organization added to the overall experience. And the event is a great value at around $80 for the Diabolical Double, given all that is included over the course of the 125 miles. It's the kind of event where I would definitely plan to take part every year, if it wasn't also the kind of event where you tell yourself "never again".

Last updated: 2012-01-22 12:00 AM
10:46:00 | 125 miles | 11.61 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/500
9:04 ride time.
Wind: Some
Course: 16,500' of climbing, much of it quite steep. And relentless.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2012-06-24 10:09 AM

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University Park, MD
Subject: Garrett County Gran Fondo - Diabolical Double Metric
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