Staff note: This route has seen a lot of bicycle activity, but currently we only accept FKTs for running/hiking this.
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.
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
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.
That's quite a bike ride.
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
This past Friday I set out to complete the full GAP/C&O in under 24 hours, solo w/spousal support, and was able to finish the ride in 21h 36m
More details to follow
Has anyone heard of anyone setting a fast yo-yo time for this route?
Now you're talking! Maybe this year.
So solo/unsupported fkt on bike is 22:53? Solo/supported fkt on bike is 21:36? Official? Trying my shake at this FKT. Date is TBD.
Is anyone aware of a sub-24-hour time for cyclists on this route for cyclists headed uphill, i.e., D.C. to Pittsburgh? Based on my searching (which may not be exhaustive), all references for C&O-GAP 24-hour attempts seem to start in Pittsburgh. Regardless, I plan to attempt a sub-24 hour time from D.C. to Pittsburgh starting at sunset from C&O MM 0 on Aug. 24, 2022.
Considering either way.
Any updates from any of you ?
On May 21st I completed the GAPCO in 22:35:28.
This sets a new FKT for a solo unsupported rider. https://www.strava.com/activities/9121798719/overview
Full ride report here: https://medium.com/@queersforgears/the-gapco-solo-unsupported-fkt-3166d822c3cf
It took me a week to recover and get the energy to come here and post. 🥵
On Sunday August 13th I completed the GAPCO in 19:38:51 as a solo, unsupported rider. https://www.strava.com/activities/9642970967/overview
I've got pictures of my bike and gear in there. Below are a few planning notes and a more verbose narrative. Sorry if I'm taking up space here and not linking to a blog...I can't bring myself to create another account on another platform.
Key Points & Planning Notes:
- First and foremost, I thank everyone who posted details of their rides and advice from their experience. It helped immensely in planning my ride and gauging my effort over the route. I'll repeat a few things that I think are worth emphasizing, but really nothing I note here is unique to my effort.
- I made mistakes and my ride time can be improved upon. 18 hours is doable if a) you know the twists and turns of the opening 15-20 miles, b) can ride a much drier course c) get your calorie intake perfect, and d) ride fatter, more comfy tires. Oh, and the Paw Paw detour easily cost 20 mins.
- Ride GAP in dark, C&O in daytime. 2 AM was a good start time to match this timeline. Be alert for rabbits and deer. They made for some dynamic obstacles.
- GAP has water at almost every park or old train station. C&O water is shut off and/or says "not potable". Wheelzup at Canal Place (Cumberland, MD, mile 150), C&O Bicycle (Hancock, MD, mile 211), and the Brunswick Family Campground (mile 282) were my stops in the second phase.
- Hard to control, but don't ride in the rain, or right after heavy rain. I rode about 5 hours after a front came through and it was still bad as I dodged gritty puddles and had to make extra stops to clean and lube my chain.
- I took 12K calories, but only consumed half of those and bought some different flavors along the way. I ran a 4-6K calorie deficit, which was rough in the last 3 hours.
- Bike & Gear: Cannondale SuperSix Evo/SE w/ Profile aero bars; Wahoo Elemnt (used only 60% battery!); Serfas light; cheap hardware store headlamp, Panaracer Gravel King SS TLC, 38 mm (no flats!); Origin8 "Pop Tart" bag nestled between aerobars w/ phone, emergency charger, wallet; Wolf Tooth top tube bag with all my flat/mechanical gear; Rock Bros top tube/triangle bag with 1/2 of solid food, eye drops, allergy meds; seat bag with other 1/2 my bars, flip flops and regular clothes & toiletries; USWE pack (3L) stuffed with gels and extra drink mix. Pics of most of this are in Strava (public profile).
I started out at 2 AM as late night partiers wandered around the waterfront and headed back to their hotels. I stayed at The Wyndham as it sits right across the park from the starting point. There was already a detour 200 yds into the route due to construction. There are blue arrow and yellow arrow reroutes; I choose yellow as it seemed to match the original course more closely. I didn't anticipate all the turns and road crossings, so despite the paved start, I only averaged 17 mph the first hour. The transition to gravel was so smooth I didn't notice at first. After 2 hours, I caught up to significant puddles from late night showers. The gritty spray coated everything causing brake rubbing and crunchy drivetrain noises. My first stop was earlier than expected so that I could rinse my chain and brakes.
The first 50-60 miles are a barely noticeable false flat and I got my second and third hours done at 18 mph. The next 60 miles had pitches that felt like I was actually climbing with speeds dropping to 14-15 mph. Closing in on the Eastern Continental Divide, there was a noticeable tailwind that gave an encouraging boost as I crested and started to descend. The remainder of the GAP into Cumberland was run off at 25 mph. Very motivating.
One major hiccup: The recent storms had knocked down several trees and many smaller limbs. Between the sweat on my glasses and overhanging bushes, I didn't see a medium size limb that took me down at mile 100. A bit of road rash and some bruising.
Wheelzup in Cumberland was a convenient pit stop right on the route. Much needed since the water fountain I had found on Google Maps Streetview was not working.
Despite being a descending false flat, the C&O canal trail started off much slower with a detour, then mud puddle dodging for 20 miles. Behind schedule. Alternating between smooth, fast sections and either muddy bits, or heavily trafficked areas made it tough to gauge my progress 21 mph, then 16 mph, repeat 50 times. The Paw Paw tunnel detour was the only major obstacle, but did put a significant dent in my progress. A flat 2 mile stretch was instead a leg-busting climb and jagged/loose descent. I anticipated stopping at Ft Frederick, but the sight of C&O Bicycle had me stop earlier for a needed recharge. I wasn't eating solids, was sick of my gels, so bought new flavors and loaded up on water.
I can't remember much detail from this point on. My power and HR started dropping as my legs felt the effort. My goal of sub-19 hours disappeared and I just wanted to make sure I finished without my finish line crew staying up too late. I arrived at my last pit stop (Brunswick Family Campground) too late and the shop was closed. I did manage to get water from a faucet, move the remaining calories I could stomach to my jersey pockets and forced my legs to start moving again. My speed dropped from 16-19 down to 14-16. The gravel seemed rougher and evening light faded. Wildlife obstacles came back out, with close calls with bunny and deer families.
The final mile was something like an urban cyclocross race. After crossing a bridge, the path narrowed to a bumpy, weedy two foot wide stretch, then climbed up to brick paths crossing residential streets. Lock 1 appeared unexpectedly and the trail dumps you out on a sidewalk adjacent the Rock Creek & Potomac Parkway. I kept riding down to milepost 0, which doesn't seem to be part of the trail, but can be accessed via sidewalk, crossing two parking lots and going behind a boat/rec building.
Total time from start: 19 h 38 min 51 sec (Lock 1, end of trail?), + 2 min to milepost 0.