Digging Deep with D.C. Randonneurs: Kelly Smith

This year our local cycling club, the D.C. Randonneurs, added two new categories of recognition to its 2019 awards. The first of these was the Digging Deep award. Criteria for this award was to nominate a rider who you saw experiencing a challenge during a ride – such as a wild detour, an unusual mechanical – just generally looking like they were on the edge and somehow found a way to push through. One of the club members we recognized at our annual club meeting for digging deep was Kelly Smith.

Kelly worked hard all year by completing the Super Randonneur series to participate in the 2019 edition of Paris Brest Paris (PBP). He then completed a 1,000K (hosted by Hamid of Northern Virginia Randonneurs) as part of his final preparation. Kelly put in a lot of effort to line up at PBP. Even with his excellent preparation, though, PBP had its own ideas for Kelly.

Day 3: Midnight in Mamers
Day 3: Midnight in Mamers


Felkerino and I intersected with Kelly around 100 miles from the finish of PBP, in a town called Mamers. It was probably one in the morning, maybe later, you know how time can be on these rides. It’s light or dark and you just keep riding.

Kelly had started with the 90-hour group so we knew his pace at this point in the ride was tight to the control cut-offs. We asked how he was doing. “Not very well!” he responded.

“Kelly, you are going to make it!” I told him, although I honestly was not sure based on how he looked. I’d never seen Kelly looked so wrecked, and having known Kelly for over 10 years I’ve had opportunities to see him in various states of suffering. Even so, positive feedback is so important for riders, I think. You have to believe that there is some way for them to finish beyond the current moment’s difficulties and so do they.

Kelly in Mamers

Kelly sat for a few more moments, then rode out into the night, as we fueled up on coffee and then made our way to Mortagne to sleep a few hours. Unlike us, Kelly had to keep riding through the evening hours to have a hope of making it to the finish in time.

And he did.

He made it! Kelly endured the fourth consecutive chilly overnight ride with temperatures hovering in the low 30s to make it to the PBP finish in just over 89 hours. His doggedness had prevailed. That is a digging deep accomplishment in and of itself.

But the overall effort it takes to even reach the starting line of PBP requires another kind of digging deep. You must complete the four qualifying rides of the Super Randonneur series. You have to keep riding long all summer. After all that, you still have to pull off the ride itself.

Felkerino and Kelly at the finish

Kelly put in the effort to make it to Paris, and then endured difficulties during the ride that put him just on the edge of completion. Yet somehow, Kelly dug deep and kept the pedals turning to officially complete PBP within the 90-hour time limit.

Looking back on 2019, Kelly Smith also completed the most D.C. Randonneurs events of any other member, participating in 11 club events and logging 3,068 kilometers. By comparison, the second most avid rider in the club completed 8 events and pedaled 2,311 kilometers.

Well done on your year Kelly, and congratulations on conquering another PBP!


  1. Has Kelly done a ride report? I compared how we struggled through that last night, he was skating along at the official closing times while I was almost 2 hrs behind. He took over 6 hrs to get from Mortagne to Dreux, 48 miles. That must have been epic. I am inspired by the tales of riders that struggled and finished this amazing event.


    • Gary, thanks for your comment. I don’t believe Kelly put together a ride report. Congratulations on your effort as well. Some cold overnights on this edition!


  2. It’s Kelly’s story to tell, but his wife Josie really earned the digging deep award at PBP in 2019…

    Fresh off of hip replacement surgery, she managed a multiple train and bus public transit route from Paris to Rambouillet to meet Kelly the day before the event for bike checks. And when she got there (the train station), she had three separate Uber’s ghost her. So she had to find a bus to get her near the Sheephold. And then with her walking cane in hand, she had to navigate the mile plus of cobblestones and bicyclists to reach the actual check in. All in the drizzling rain of course.

    She was in good spirits when my wife and I saw her at the check in, but you could tell she’d gotten close to her breaking point. Digging deep and toughing it out run in that family. Needless to say, she wisely told Kelly she wouldn’t be able to see him off on his official departure the next day. 🙂


  3. Thanks for another great report. I am never going to do the PBP but I admire all those that do it and love reading their stories.
    Yes well done Kelly as well.


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