One morning, while he was stuck on a train in a tunnel between Metro stations, Chad Wallace, a D.C. public school teacher, made the decision that taking the Metro was no longer worth his time, money or patience.
“The prices were going up, the problems were piling up, and I was just getting more and more frustrated,” Wallace said. “I had to find another way to get to work.”
With that spur-of-the-moment decision, Wallace began his own personal boycott of the Metro system and began biking to work — a nearly 30-mile round trip every day — saving $50 a week, losing 50 pounds in the process and pushing him into the unlikely position of burgeoning filmmaker.
Very few disgruntled Metro riders would take such an extreme stance against D.C.’s public rail system — but it seems that many at least liked the idea. A guest post that Wallace sent to the popular UnsuckDCMetro blog in 2011 about his decision became one of the most popular posts in the history of the blog.
But he didn’t stop at just the bike rides to and from work.
“About six months after I had started biking into work, I signed up for my first triathlon — an Olympic distance triathlon,” he said.
That success led him to eventually consider the ultra-distance triathlon: a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, ending with a 26.2-mile run — in other words, not an event for the faint of heart.
Wallace completed his first ultra-distance triathlon in 2011, the ChesapeakeMan Ultra Triathlon in Cambridge, Md. In total, since his Metro boycott began, he has completed three Olympic distance races, three ultra-distance races and two half-ultra-distance races.
But how does a full-time public school teacher, husband and father to a newborn manage to train for 140-mile triathlon events all year round?
“It basically all comes down to waking up really early,” he said.
“I usually wake up at 4 a.m. every day and either run or swim a couple of hours before biking the 14 miles to work.”
And weekends are no picnic, either.
“I try to get one really big workout done on Saturdays — a bike ride of at least 50 miles or a run of at least 10 miles. Sometimes both.”
But the money Wallace is saving on Metro costs certainly isn’t staying in his pocket for too long.
Any decent racing bike costs thousands of dollars — not to mention the cost of the other gear such as helmets and cycling shoes. Then there’s replacement and repair costs when chains and cables break. A full-service shop tuneup before a long-distance race could cost $450 or more.
And that’s just the biking equipment. When it comes to swimming, Wallace said, “the sky is the limit” on what you can end up spending on the best goggles and wet suits suitable for ultra-distance events.
“If it’s not one thing it’s another that needs repair — preventative maintenance,” he said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.