Route: Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) + C&O Canal Towpath

Location
Maryland, US
Pennsylvania, US
District of Columbia, US
Description

Staff note: At this time, Fastest Known Time is only accepting efforts in which at least 50% of the elapsed time is spent on foot (i.e. running, hiking, or walking). This effort has seen a lot of bicycle activity, but to be published here an FKT would have to be at least half (by time) running. 

 

"couloirman" posted:

Note that this thread is specifically about the GAP and the C&O together (which has mainly been done by cyclists). A thread for the GAP (Pittsburgh to Cumberland) only is here: http://fkt.websubstrate.com/route/great-allegheny-passage-gap-mdpa
And a thread for the C&O Canal Towpath is here: http://fkt.websubstrate.com/route/co-canal-towpath-md-dc

The Great Allegheny Passage and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (or the GAP and C&O as they are affectionately referred to) form an approximately 335 mile continuous trail from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. The GAP is mainly well groomed crushed limestone that rides fast, and the C&O is mainly dirt road double-track that turns to cement-like mud with huge potholes, puddles and downed trees after rainstorms.

As far as I have been able to find on the internet the sub 24 hour time has yet to happen, but it is entirely possible that someone (or maybe even several people) has already done it and just didn't brag about it. Here is the closest account of a 24 hour ride I can find. This couple [Seth and Rebecca. You can read about it here: bicycletimesmag.com/335-miles/] rode the entire trail Pgh to DC [Sept 2013] on a tandem bike in 24 hours 19 minutes. It appears that they had a support crew that met up with them routinely for water, supplies etc... That is the fastest time I have seen mentioned anywhere for the entire 335 mile trail.

According to the bike washington website (http://bikewashington.org/canal/plan-days.php) "Paul Gruenberger also claims the unsupported record time of 12 hours and 36 minutes set in September 1991 for the entire C&O. The Supported record is 11 hours 41 minutes." This info has not been updated in some time, but I can find no references of anyone doing it faster. It only refers to the C&O portion of the trail from Cumberland to DC.

A solo rider, "GranvilleGravel", has reported riding the GAP/C&O in 24h37m, self-supported.  He posted as follows:

"I tried this same trip on July 25, 2015 - GAP/C&O in 24 hours. I fell just short in 24 hours 37 minutes. I was self supported which ended up making a big difference. I hadn't been on the trail before and see now that it takes time to get off trail for supplies. I was expecting more access to quick food. I made some other mistakes too that cost time. Fun trip though!"

Cyclists keep doing this.  Chris Shue completed it self-supported in 23h43m10s on 9/26-27/2019:  https://chrisshue.com/2020/01/21/pittsburgh-express/ & https://www.strava.com/activities/2743790843/overview .  Spencer Ralston & Aedan Hale rode the route in 23h6m55s on 6/27-28/2020.  A video is here.

We are not aware of anyone running this entire route as of yet.

GPS Track

Comments

Hi! I am considering an attempt at the GAP + C&O from Pittsburgh to DC. Is anyone aware of a either a supported or unsupported FKT for this route in either direction?

Dan: I am considering an attempt as well ... on foot.  (It's still a ways off and a lot has to be worked out first.)  I don't know of any FKTs.  We could be the first!

Planning an attempt at this FKT towards end of July. Any advice from those who ride the GAP or C&O frequently is greatly appreciated. Will post back with details once completed.

Just finished an attempt at this with my buddy, Spencer Ralston, this morning! We went self supported in 23:06:50. He will likely be the one to submit for verification but figured I would share it here! Link to my ride and trip report here: https://www.strava.com/activities/3682954828

Inspired by you crazy people, I took this on solo unsupported and finished in 22:53:47

https://www.strava.com/activities/4052875526

I was shocked anyone had done it at all and after doing it I'm even more blown away. This is BY FAR the hardest thing I've ever done.

I had done the entire Pitt-DC trip in 3.5 days a few years back and I've spent a lot of time on the GAP which is great. The C&O will break you, but it will only break you after it teases you with "hey its not so bad" for the first 40 miles. Darkness, downed trees, mud, ruts, potholes, demons in the darkness (or maybe those were deer idk), the C&O has it all.

I'm making a trip report with more detailed info but for those of you thinking of doing this (again I'd suggest something else, but you're head strong and will ignore the same warnings I did) I figured I'd make some quick notes here for what I would have liked to do differently:

1. Figure out daylight hours and get as many daylight hours on the C&O (especially the end). Go on a long cooler day in June. Its rare but that would be the dream. 

2. Better lights

3. Pack everything, I only stopped once (sheetz in connellsville) and it was a waste of time. Prepare to not stop anywhere except for water at a trail side spot (don't go wandering off trail)

4. Practice your nutrition, know what foods you can force and save those for the end, you don't want to be forcing down gross food with 40 miles left. For reference I ate 7,500 calories while on the bike which was probably 3000 too few. It all gets gross and I couldn't finish the food I needed to end on a stronger note.

5. Temper expectations. I hit the halfway point at 10h35m and convinced myself I was doing great. The halfway point is precisely when everything jumps up a level. Darkness, exhaustion, nutritional issues, trail conditions, just everything gets so much worse. Don't make it harder on yourself by thinking you're losing ground for the last ~180 miles.

Despite all the terribleness of it and the mental and physical toll it takes, you should totally do it.

Hello everyone.  I will be setting out to conquer this beast on October 3, 2020.  I've got a self-supported fastpack planned.  Feel free to follow along on the below linked Facebook page.  #ENDALZ

https://www.facebook.com/CRDreadmillChallenge/