Reston Area Triathletes RATS.net Logo

Race Result

Racer: Kyle Yost
Race: DC to DC
Date: Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Location: DC, DC
Race Type: Other - Other
Age Group: Male 30 - 34
Time: 11:05:00
Overall Place: 2 / 3
Age Group Place: 1 / 3
Comment: the things we do for fun......

Race Report:

There is a point at which endurance athletes cross that line, the point at which even the athlete himself must acknowledge that he's taken this hobby a little far and that any rational person would consider his activities simply "weird". To some you may have crossed that loco point when you chose to ride your bike 50 miles or train for a marathon. To others it may all seem like a normal, sane endeavor up until you choose to do something like a 100-mile trail run in the mountains or race your bike across the country (RAAM). I don't know where it is, but that point where you have simply become weird is out there, and in all likelihood you've probably reached that point with at least some of your friends or family. I've completed two Ironmans and have many times encountered the "you're nuts" sentiment from friends, family and people I meet. But, usually I am able to convince them of my sanity by describing the magnitude of the event, explaining that it's really not as daunting as it sounds, and that I actually manage to maintain a healthy life balance.

Well, any arguments that I previously used that I had not crossed that line are now obliterated, and I have only my friend Amy Smith to blame. When a good friend is moving out of the country and has a request for a farewell present, it's only polite to acquiesce, right? So when Amy requested to our small training group that what she wanted as a parting gift was a final epic ride that would be remembered for a long time, could I really decline? Even if it was Tuesday afternoon and the only time it could be pulled off before she left the country was one of the following two days? And, even if only one other person is willing and able to do it during the week. I mean, who am I to say "No"? What kind of a friend would I be?

The initial idea thrown out there was a 150ish mile ride starting from Marshall and hitting all the big hills out there: Naked Mtn, Mt. Weather x 2, Skyline Drive to Panorama, and Massanutten. But then the idea of riding from DC to Deep Creek Lake soon was tossed into the mix. Something about a point-to-point ride seems so much more epic, plus we had recently been out to Deep Creek Lake to do some training in the mountains out there, so the idea of actually riding our bikes out there seemed so cool. Problem is, it looked to be close to 200 miles and the Allegheny Mountains are just plain mean, making Skyline and Mt. Weather type climbs seem like a walk in the park.

So, on Tuesday evening we decided we would give it a shot the next morning. I pulled out some maps and my topographic software and plotted out a course, hoping I had chosen roads that 1) were paved, 2) were not highways, 3) had the occasional gas station or country store, and 4) did not go straight up and over the mountains as the roads out there have a tendency to do. The logical thing to do would be to drive out there and ride home, as that would be net downhill, more likely provide a tailwind, and if we ran into problems we'd be heading towards DC not away from it. But, if we did that we wouldn't be able to get off our bikes and jump into the lake, and if you're going to do something epic why look for the easy way out? So, without much debate we settled on riding out and driving home. And, with a little bribe of a beautiful house on a lake to stay at for two days we conned a friend into driving a car out there so we could get back home again.

At 6:10am Wednesday morning, Amy, Mike Boorstein, and myself were in the saddle and departed from my house in Georgetown. I figured this gave us about 14 hours of daylight and I didn't expect we'd need all of it. I sure hoped we wouldn't as we didn't have much in the way of contingency plans. Cell phones would not work for the vast majority of where we were heading, and for much of the ride we'd be going through the boonies of West Virginia. It was a beautiful, cool and moist morning and it felt so pleasant to be starting our long day heading out Macarthur Blvd and River Road and heading against the constant stream of traffic heading into work in DC. Less than 20 miles into our ride I got the first wakeup call that perhaps not everything would go according to plan. Mike, who is one tough SOB and never, ever complains, announces out of the blue that he's not going to be able to complete the ride as his knee is killing him and getting worse by the mile. Luckily, the timing is good as our driver is just heading out towards Poolesville and picks him up there. So, now less than 30 miles in and not even 8 in the morning it's just me and Amy and 160ish miles to go.

For those who don't know Amy, she can ride a bike. She is the answer to that oft-asked question during the past two Tour de Skylines of "Who is that girl riding with the big dogs?" And, somehow she has this crazy ability to get stronger as a ride gets longer. I, on the other hand, have not had a ride in which I've felt strong in close to 4 weeks, including a mountain century from hell at Deep Creek and a powerless, miserable Eagleman bike leg. So, here I am, just beginning what will be by far my longest ride ever, with someone who gets stronger the longer the ride goes and who has handed me my ass twice on rides in recent weeks, and I can't help thinking to myself, "Is someone playing a practical joke on me? Yesterday afternoon I was happily at work without a clue in the world I'd be doing this today."

The ride progressed smoothly through Potomac, Seneca, Poolesville, and Point of Rocks, but as we head through Brunswick and towards Harpers Ferry the slight headwind kicks up strongly to gale-force and shortly the skies open up. All this occurs right as we are forced to ride on 340, a divided highway, for about 5 miles. Suddenly 60 miles into the ride, at 8 mph, on the shoulder of a highway undergoing construction so the pavement is torn up, into a strong headwind, driving rain, and on an endless gradual uphill this ride seems like less of a good idea. We manage to make it to Harpers Ferry, but not without having to portage our bikes down a terraced wall into an old lock in the C&O Canal, up the other side, so that we could get to the pedestrian bridge into Harpers Ferry. We took far too much time in Harpers Ferry eating lunch, waiting for the rain to subside, trying to decide what to do, when I realized we had spent nearly two hours there and it was nearly noon and we had about 130 miles still to cover and only a bit over 8 hours of daylight. So, off we went. Initially we were wet and freezing, but the weather cleared pretty soon thereafter leaving us with sunshine and the moderate headwind we would fight all day. We headed through Charles Town and then west over the Shenandoahs. It was quite pleasant riding with some roads a bit more heavily trafficked than I like, but many of the roads beautiful country farm roads through West Virginia and northern Virginia. Only on one short stretch did we end up on a gravel road that dead-ended forcing us to pull out the maps and find an alternative. Soon we were at 100 miles and stopped at Reynolds Store in a town called....drumroll please.....Reynolds Store. Again, pretty remote territory out these ways. We were maintaining a steady, but easy effort, and were managing over 17mph despite the hills and the headwinds. Amy got a flat tire around here somewhere which provided me with some needed respite, and between 100 and 140 miles the hills definitely started kicking up as we entered the Alleghenies. But there were no true beasts of a climb yet, and often we were rewarded with nice, long descents. At 140 miles and about 5pm we rolled into the town of Ft. Ashby, W.Va. Here we topped out bottles off in a 7-11 and unfortunately answered honestly when asked how far we had ridden today. The answer caused quite a ruckus in the store, and was followed up with questions of where we were going, and when we answered Deep Creek Lake, the responses were all along the vein of "Oh man, it's all uphill from here", and "Oh geez, you've got to go over BackBone". I knew that once we got to Westernport, W.Va in about 25 miles that we had a 2000 ft climb awaiting us, but the reaction of these locals who live in the mountains had me a bit scared. Not to mention that I was starting to feel the 140 miles and Amy seemed like she was starting to get eager to get to the lake and had taken up much of the pulling. Oh well, we've got about 3 hours to cover 45ish uphill miles, so better get rolling.

Luckily the 25 mile stretch from Ft. Ashby to Westernport is mostly flat with only one mountain pass before heading down into Keyser, W.Va and then along the Potomac into Westernport. My legs started to cramp on this mountain pass and Amy left me in the dust so I've become quite concerned about the final climb to Deep Creek. It's 6:30pm and we've covered 162 miles in a little over 9 hours and have averaged over 17mph uphill and into a headwind. And, now the hard part starts as we have to climb Backbone, which is part of the Big Savage Mtn ridge, which also happens to be the Eastern Continental Divide. It's a very steady 4-5 mile climb ascending 2000 feet. Think of a steeper version of the first 5 miles of Skyline Drive with 162 miles in your legs. It wasn't pleasant, but I put it in my 39-27, found a ridable tempo and slogged up the thing for the better part of an hour. Once over the top (and gaining great satisfaction from the huge red warning signs for trucks to come to a complete stop before descending the steep hill) I knew we still had 15 more miles of rollers before we were home, and while I was physically and mentally ready to be done I knew 15 miles was still 15 miles and we weren't there yet.

Finally, at about 8:15 we rolled up to the lake house with the sun settling low in the sky. 182 miles, 15300 feet of climbing, 16.4mph, 11:05 of saddle time, 14 hours of door-to-door time, and about 14 seconds to dismount my bike, strip off my clothes, and jump in the lake. It was an incredible day and an incredible ride. For hours afterwards I was riding an exhilarating adrenaline high that I don't recollect experiencing even after completing my Ironmans.

Thank you, Amy, it was an amazing day that I will not soon forget. I'm pretty certain I have crossed that line now with an experience I can't just explain away as normal. Oh well, I can live with that. However, when I move out of town I think I'd just prefer a happy hour with my friends!


ps - If anyone is interested in the maps, cue sheets, or elevation profile of the route, let me know.