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Garrett County Gran Fondo - Diabolical Double Metric - Cycle

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Deep Creek, Maryland
United States
Win the Fight Events
80F / 27C
Total Time = 10h 47m 30s
Overall Rank = /450
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

After what this ride did to me in 2012, I was afraid of my return visit. But I also knew more about what was in store, and that helped a lot. Maybe even helped me to fare better despite less fitness. GCGF is the bike-only counterpart to Savageman Tri. It's extreme, it's relentless, the scenery is beautiful, and it's wonderfully organized by Kyle Yost and his fabulous team. Various ride options are available, but I was only going to do it if I could do the big one, the Diabolical Double, with its 125 miles and 16,500' of climbing. One way to think of this ride is that it's a bike interval session that lasts for around 11 hours. The climbing is relentless up and down, and the flatter stretches of road are rare indeed. In 2012 I had gone into the ride with the mindset that I needed to make it through the steepest climbs of the day and then everything else would be ok. But the sheer number of climbs beat me into near submission. It was definitely the hardest ride I had ever done (and many others say the same thing about it). This year I was less trained -- too much time traveling lately to do much biking, and I've done only 3 outdoor rides in the past 8 months in addition to my standard diet of trainer riding. My "crash course" in the past couple of weeks was a gently rolling 100-miler 2 weeks ago, and a 67-mile/8000' climbing fest last week that helped to grow my fear. Two things that I did have on my side this year were (i) knowledge of what was in store, and (ii) a new cassette on my road bike, which gave me a slightly wider range -- 11-28 instead of 12-27 -- a little better for steep climbs.
Event warmup:

We decided to make a family weekend of it. We camped at the Deep Creek Lake State Park, together with our 11-year old daughter and three of her friends, who would enjoy lakes and waterfalls while I was riding. The campground was an odd mix of seniors with RVs and middle-aged folks with fancy bikes. Nice. I'm sure that over-toasted marshmallows counts as a form of pre-race nutrition. Up at 4:45am to prep for the ride as quietly as possible, so as not to wake the girls. My wife drove me to the top of the Wisp Mtn ski station, which is where the ride starts and finishes.
  • 10h 47m 30s
  • 125 miles
  • 11.58 mile/hr

I had a different strategy this year than last year. I had much greater respect for the later parts of the ride, and told myself that I should treat Aid Station #4 at 84 miles (in Westernport, home of the eponymous Wall) as the halfway point. I deliberately held back in the earlier parts of the ride. The first section is mostly downhill, and almost everybody was going faster than me. That would be true all day. I'm a horrible/timid descender, and I think I only passed one person on a descent in the entire ride. I was passing hordes of people on the climbs, and only a handful of people passed me all day going uphill. Also typical. But I was trying to expend just enough energy to spin up the hills at a comfortable cadence. Thanks to the wonders of Strava, I can compare my 2012 and 2013 splits for every climb on the ride, of which there were very many. In the first half of the day, I was consistently climbing a little slower than last year, generally in the 7-10% range. Part of this must have been due to the new rear cassette, which allowed me to go a bit slower without dipping into an uncomfortably low cadence. But part of it was simply due to knowing that I had to save myself for later. I wasn't paying much attention to the mileage, as that's not so relevant in this ride. The two things that I was watching closely on my Garmin were the altimeter, which gave me a good idea of how far I was up each climb, and the HR, which I was trying to keep out of LT or higher range. I was also religiously eating and drinking and taking on electrolytes and sunscreen. And I was making a point of talking to people while climbing, to help keep my effort in check. There were a number of timed "King of the Mountains" climbs in the first 50 miles, but I paid little attention to those. I had foolishly raced them last year. That had made for some nice Strava rankings, but a miserable afternoon.

The net effect of all this was good. The relentless climbs were hard, but I was feeling ok. In 2012 the stretch from 58-76 miles was where I had started to crumble. It contained no famous climbs, so I had assumed it would be no big deal, but the 3000' of climbing in that stretch came in lots and lots of not so long climbs that wear you down without giving much sense of accomplishment (as there's always another little-known climb coming up in a few minutes). But this year I was read for them, and came away feeling good. At the end of the long descent from Big Savage Mountain I stopped for a couple of minutes at the top of the Westernport Wall to take pictures of my freshly laid brick in the road from last year's Savageman, and I felt much better upon reaching my personal 'halfway'. The climb out of Westernport is mostly a very gradual 1000' foot ascent, and I was a little put out when a peloton of riders from the same bike shop team gradually reeled me in - that doesn't normally happen going uphill. But then the hill steepened, the peloton splintered, and I passed everybody in it. The climb that I was most afraid of was the 800' ascent to Elk Garden, WV at mile 96. It's neither super-steep nor well known, but it's almost 2 miles of almost perfectly even grade, so there's no relief at all, unlike most every other climb of the day. It crushed my soul in 2012, but I was ready for it this time around. For the last set of big hills from miles 100-107, I was still feeling in good spirits, and now finally I was starting to ride faster than I had last year. By the final aid station (111 miles) I was feeling hot-but-optimistic rather than wanting to die. And then I was ready to attack the final steep climb back up to the top of the ski station to the finish, beating my PR by a few seconds.

My total time, including stops at aid stations etc. was 10:47. Just one minute slower than my time from 2012. And feeling much better this time around. Definitely tired, but not desperate. And very happy to see my support crew waiting for me at the end.
What would you do differently?:

Nothing really. Pretty happy with how this one went, given my level of fitness.
Post race
Warm down:

A quick shower had me feeling even better, and then it was off to Mountain State Brewing Co, for the pizza that I had been looking forward to over hours of riding. I ordered more than I could eat, and it was heavenly. The restaurant was teeming with skinny triathlete-types, all sharing stories. Fun times. Then back to camp to make a fire with the girls, and to sleep on a camping mat that somehow felt much more comfortable than it had the previous night.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Fitness. Weight. Well, I could also have spent less time at the 6 aid stations, but this wasn't a race, and I needed them.

Event comments:

Great event, great destination, great organization. Bucket-list type ride.

Last updated: 2013-03-17 12:00 AM
10:47:30 | 125 miles | 11.58 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/450
Performance: Good
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills: Good
Race pace: Drinks: Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2013-06-24 7:34 AM

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