Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Half Century

Finally put together a continuous 50+ mile ride.  The designed route above looks like 48 but the mileage on the ground (with a number of false starts and 'explorations') got a bit past 52.  The ride also resulted in in my first crash since I've gotten back in riding, denoted by the red star on the map above but more on that later.  My wife and I had a blast the day previous exploring Wakefield Park ('D' on the map) with our moutain bikes, it is a mixture of fire road, gravel, dirt, single track and hard pack trails... it was really both of our first times doing 'mountain biking.  One of the benefits was discovering on the ground that the Fairfax County 'Cross County Trail' passes through the park and carries north on an good path of gravel or pavement along the Accotink Creek...  we had surmised that it must somewhere connect up to the W&OD trail which I  confirmed later on Google.

All this to say that once I had the idea and realized that an out and back would be very close to my 50 mile target I decided to get up and do it before the serious heat on Wednesday.  I hit the trail later than I had planned at 0545 and found the early going to be a steady effort as the 4 Mile Run and W&OD trails consistently rise from the shores of the Potomac out towards the Capitol Beltway.  I was fairly pleased to reach Vienna, my jumping off point for the exploration down to Wakefield at around 0700 as it had seemed to take longer than that in my head.  The adventure south to hit the trail head at Rt 50 and Nutley St was pretty easy with only about a half mile of false starts.  Once on the Accotink Trail (CCT) I was immediately satisfied by my route, the trail between markers 'C' and 'D' on the map above are gorgeous, you are riding through the woods on a mix of pavement and gravel with a couple rougher patches and one small stream crossing.  The real adventure began when I decided to forgo an extension to round Lake Accotink and then return via the Long Branch Stream Valley Park and just double back to re-enjoy the Wakefield and Accotink portions.  My me-ander included a tromp through a large field with knee high grass that put me on the wrong side of Accotink Creek (where it is 20'+ wide) and some bike hiking/pushing to get back on track.  Here is a shot of the bike during this portion;

Highlighting the fact that while the 650Bx42mm tires fit, I have no margin for any mud clearance.
So why didn't I just retrace my steps via Nutley St back to Vienna?  Well I was convinced by some excellent map stations along the trail that it continued up to W&OD if you stayed on the trail, this was misleading.  The trail did continue as a proper trail but quickly devolves into a patchwork of one small municipal park trail to another with many road crossings and limited to no trail signage outside of the parks (so it was hard to connect the dots).  The focus on navigating coupled with growing fatigue resulted in me going over the handlebars somewhere in the 30-35 mile range.  I was on a trail, and descending and about to cross a tree root-raised bump in the asphalt when I for some reason got nervous and hammered on the brakes which predictably sent me up and over... the results were road rash on my palms, left knee and left elbow, fairly light though my palms still hurt.  The bike fared pretty well, I'll document that soon but the front basket was bent, the left side bar tape got roughed up and on the downtube the front derailleur cable actually abraided the paint which is the most concerning.  Beusage?!?

Lessons learned;  take breaks when you get tired, consider wearing the gloves you brought instead of leaving them in the basket, get a mount for my smartphone/nav solution or better route sheets.

With the fall behind me I continued on gingerly after collecting my thoughts (and all the stuff that fell off the bike!).  I made it back to Vienna and was very happy to see the steady and wonderfully marked W&OD.  The other lesson learned from this trip was to better plan out my eating as I had hoped to get an opportunity in Vienna but the trail passes through a section devoid of any vendors.  I ended up stoping at a Deli just off the trail in Falls Church that was spectaculor, I got eggs, sausage and cheese washed down by an 8 oz glass bottled Coke... rejuvinating!

The last 8-10 miles were a mental struggle, I noted that my legs felt fine but overall my core, back and brain were just tired and worn out.  But I finished!  Another lesson for me was that at least at this point I should plan to break up the ride more with time off the bike in the 20-30mile range and make sure I remain fresh, 50miles essentially continuous was rough.  The bike did amazingly well, I was on road, paved trail, gravel trail, gravel road, large gravel, hardpack dirt, grassy field... the 42mm Grand Bois Hetres 'Extra Legre' were fantastic.  With the exception of the mud clearance I had no complaints.  The gravel sections were the first prolonged gravel I've done, I'm not sure I love it to be honest, but accessing the gorgeous wooded and stream lined sections of trail was well worth it.  I think a bike with 33mm and up tires could handle that route pretty well depending on the riders tolerance for being bounced around.

I didn't follow up my big ride with mileage today as I had hoped to do but I'll try to get out and do around 20 tomorrow.  More later.

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