Day 20: Bolivar, OH – Whitsett, PA , distance-140 miles , climbing – 6362 feet
Big news from this morning – we have a winner ! ! ! Michael won the race with time of 18d14h57m. Congratulations my friend, well deserved. He was the strongest and most prepared to deal with whatever was thrown our way.
Barry was 50 miles from the Lincoln Memorial and would eventually finish in 19d06h06m. He is a local rider with whom I was able to share some training miles. Really proud of him. Fun fact – We will potentially have two finishers from the DC area in the top 3!
As previously mentioned, my goal was 16 to 18 days while 20 being the worst case scenario. It was clear as day that I was doing worse than that 🙂 At the same time, there was nothing to beat myself for. At some point, this kind of racing becomes a game of survival and not numbers. What we had to deal with was unprecedented- from life threatening heat wave to rainstorms and over 1000 miles on gravel/ bike paths. Everyone finishing is a winner in my book !
Bike Nonstop US was my first event of such length and finishing 3rd would be very special. Washington, DC was 440 miles away and the excitement of finishing was now real. The chase group of Kevin and Andrew was another 400 miles behind me. There was no way for them to catch me unless there is a serious problem forcing me to quit or delaying me with more than a day.
One thing to remember is that nobody is finished until they arrive at the Lincoln Memorial. Honestly, I cannot say that finishing was something that seemed doable at times. Especially during the first two weeks – dealing with heat, crashes and injuries while being over 3000 miles away from the east coast. But I’ve come a long way and my confidence was at all time high. In moments like this, there is a feeling that you can do anything after biking for so long.
I am not going to lie, the last few days were really emotional. Most importantly, we were able to raise close to $3000 for breast cancer. The grand total of funds raised for the year was $5000. Thank you all for the generosity. The foundation is presenting me with special contribution award on 12/12/21 in a live broadcast for their 8th year anniversary. This award is for all of us. We are making a difference!
If anyone just looks at my pictures, it would appear that this is all fun and easy. The reality was that our physical and mental toughness was tested to its limits. Constant stream of thoughts was going through my head such as:
- You cannot just quit, don’t even think about it
- It is hard now, but it will get better later
- You heard a lot that you cant, this is your time to prove that you can
- Get comfortable in being uncomfortable
- You hate gravel and bike trails , why did you signed up for this race?
- Where would I sleep tonight and how long will I last without food and water?
- Stop complaining and pedal
My day was marked by more rainstorms. It slowed me down and made me adjust the expectations. It was 9 in the morning and already raining. I hated starting my day wet but what choice did I have? The temperature was dropping as fast as my hopes for big final push. Oh boy, this is going to be another looong day !
My direction of travel was SE and the rain was coming from NW, can I stay ahead of it? Hope is a powerful thing but never fall in love with it unless you like disappointments . . . I did manage to stay dry for a few hours but eventually found myself right in the middle of the storm for over 4 hours. To make matters worse, the temperature decreased instantly from about 90 F to 64 F. I was feeling sluggish due to lack of sleep. All I could do was to reduce the intensity and keep moving. It was so bad that it forced me to stop, dry myself, eat , drink and regroup. Perfect time to call family and give them an update.
The Panhandle trail was coming up next. For some reason, locals always kept asking me about where I am going. More specifically, they wondered about street names and towns. My typical answer was something along the lines of – ” No clue, I am just a dummy who follows a GPS”.
There was a series of about 7 climbs before and after Steubenville, OH. Those rollers kept coming one after another all the way to Pittsburg, PA. As soon as I crossed the Ohio river, I was in East Steubenville. The town was actually in the state of West Virginia. It appears that the river serves as state line but West Virginia had such a weird shape that 7 miles later, I was in Pennsylvania, go figure 🙂 I guess I can claim the fame of saying that I biked in 3 different states within 30 minutes 🙂
I stopped few times and searched on my phone for hotels but found nothing that was A- close to my route and B- not super expensive. The few hotels in my price range were in bad areas and the reviews were awful. The ones that I liked were priced at $200 or above. I had no choice but to keep going or sleep on the side of the road.
Eventually, the rain stopped and I was able to get squeeze a quick power nap.
Shorty after this, I hopped on the Montour Trail on the outskirts of Pittsburg. The ground was still wet but the pavement was pretty good.
Thankfully, there was an open gas station nearby. I purchased some supplies for the night, turned on my lights and pulled out the high visibility reflective vest from my frame bag.
I passed by some local bars and heard people yelling. I mean, it was Friday night, people are drinking , this is normal right? Few miles later near Piney Fork Rd, I though I was hallucinating. A white car passed by me, slowed down and I heard my native language – Bulgarian. I couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing. It turns out, I was not hallucinating at all, this was a fellow Bulgarian by the name Tzvetan. He was following my adventure and GPS live tracker. I immediately stopped, we started talking and taking pictures.
This was one of the best moments during my adventure. A moment that was truly enjoyable for both. He was so happy to finally find me as the tracker doesn’t update as frequently as one might think.
We talked about our families and Bulgaria while reminiscing about our childhood and the challenges we have been through. He was kind enough to bring some food and drinks. His young daughter insisted of giving me a bag of M&Ms because she though I need some energy, I love it 🙂 Thank you for everything from the bottom of my hearth.
I was sleepy but the adrenaline was keeping me up for the moment. That would change very quickly. . .
As soon as I left Tzvetan, I was on the outskirts of town. There were few bridges to cross, followed by railroad tracks. At that moment, I came across some heavy police presence and few blocked streets. Lets hope that there is no criminals running around loose.
I was now looking forward to the entry of the famous Great Allegheny Passage (GAP Trail).
The Youghiogheny River was running along the GAP trail ( Youghiogheny is a Lenape word meaning “a stream flowing in a contrary direction”).
I entered the trail somewhere near McKeesport, PA and where the Youghiogheny River meets the Monongahela river. Light rain was coming down and I was falling asleep on the bike already. It was pitch dark but I noticed a bench on the side of the road and pulled over. The bench was kind of slanted as if it was build on purpose to not be comfortable. I added few bags underneath me and fell asleep instantly.
Less than an our later, my eyes were wide open and it was raining harder. Just imagine how tired I must have been to sleep in the rain. I pushed on in attempt to find a better location further down the road. Looking at my GPS data today, it appears that I made it another 7 miles to Buena Vista, PA before going down for a 3h ditch nap.
I woke up right before sunrise and my day ended near the mining town of Whitsett, PA:
Distance remaining – 292 miles !
Reminder: This race was fundraiser for breast cancer. Please consider donating at
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