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Event: Gran Fondo, Diabolical Double - Recap 2012
When: June 23rd, 2012
Activity: Road Cycling
Location: McHenry, MD (Wisp Mountain Resort)
Weather: Start was foggy and in the 70s. High of 92, partly sunny.
Accommodations: Tent camping in Swallow Falls State Park, MD
States Covered: Maryland & West Virginia
Distance: 125.6 miles
Elevation: 16559 feet
Grade: Average steepness of the climbs was 13+%, reaching in the low 20s.
Duration: 11:30 hours with 6 checkpoints/nutritional stops – 8:44:31 hours of actual ride time.
Total Calories burned: 9, 925
Total food consumed: 8 peanut butter sandwiches, 5 bananas, 15 Endurance Gels, 4 Endurance Bars and 12 bottles of fluid with electrolytes.
Four years ago, the Garrett County Gran Fondo – Diabolical Double began and I’ve been every year since. It’s an organized cycling event that raises money for the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation and the ride has earned a reputation as one of the top 25 Epic Rides in North America for being both stunning and challenging; on par with any single day in the Tour De France. With that said compact cranks are strongly encouraged and I saw many people walking their bikes throughout the day.
Outside of completing the Lake Placid Ironman, this is probably the single hardest event I have participated in; yet I come back year after year to soak in the beautiful suffer fest. A large part of the appeal is that it is nested in the mountains overlooking Deep Creek Lake, which is hands down, a local favorite destination of mine. McHenry MD, offers just as many water activities as it does land and every year I make the trip into an extended weekend.
This year, we decided to camp as a group in Swallow Falls State Park. For me camping provides a great escape from the busy workweek; especially in locations were no one gets phone reception so checking email isn’t a temptation. Given the nature of the trip, I typically always pack light and my nutrition often outweighs my apparel. I always bring an entire bag full of wholesome breads, spreads, nuts, fruits, the entire Vega Sport system and Vega One to make shakes.
The day before the event, a group of us went for a trail run among some of the most beautiful scenery which included passing through shaded rocky gorges and listening to rippling rapids under canopy’s of trees. Our turn around point was a 53-foot breath-taking waterfall. Having been to this trail many times before, I decided against taking a camera, since the photos just wouldn’t do it justice.
Race morning, we all slowly rolled out of our tents to change into our cycling gear before heading to the start area. To get ready for the long day ahead, I consumed an Endurance Bar, some granola, a peach, banana, Vega Pre-workout Energizer and I was awake, fueled and ready to start the day.
The ride begins at the top of the Wisp Ski Area, with a fast decent through smooth roads, canopy of trees and lots of fog, where skilled riders can hit up to 60mph. However as enjoyable as that decent is, we would be climbing this beast by days end. Within the first ten miles we hit a ½ mile long reality check that has a 15% grade. Throughout the day, we hit at least 6 climbs that peaked out around 20%. However, it isn’t any one climb that breaks you, it’s that they just keep coming and even the most fit riders are humbled and drained completely by the end of the day.
I discovered that for especially long rides, combining several Endurance Gels and the Electrolyte Hydrator in a sports bottle made for energy packed sports drink. This combined with the food I carried with me and some of the food provided at the aid stations, I once again rode the entire 125.6 miles completely on plant based nutrition and felt great overall. The last 40 miles, always feel like a struggle and I often resort to drinking coke for the caffeine and sugar kick lift towards the end.
Although all the climbs felt brutal, the last one of the day, took us back up the mountain to the finish line packed with spectators cheering, much like some of the stages in the Tour De France. In fact, many people are actually dressed in costumes and run along side you, blowing horns, ringing bells and shouting words of encouragement. The excitement stems from the fact that this is the very last climb of the day and that it’s also timed, with a timing mat at the foot of the hill and another one at the top finish line.
Reaching that last hill was exciting and humbling. A group of us could see the beginning of the climb marked by the timing mat, and knew it was time to empty the tank of anything left. I gave it everything I had and finished that last climb in a time of 9:12 which ranked me 13th out of 596 participants.
Once I got back to my jeep, I grabbed some Recovery Accelerator to recharge and repair before hitting the showers. We capped the night off with a dinner celebrating everyone’s accomplishment. After a great nights rest we decided to wrap up the weekend with some lake swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and a run along the water. Overall, it was another incredible weekend and I’m looking forward to next year.