February 13, 2012

Fairfax County Epic Round 2 - Full 90+ Mile Loop

Last Sunday, I met up with Mike and Dylan at 8:00am at Ian Spivak's house in Falls Church to take on the full Fairfax County Epic loop - Difficult Run, Lake Fairfax park, Fountainhead park, Laurel Hill park, Accotink park, Wakefield park, plus the Fairfax Cross Country Trail.  About 95 miles total with most of it on gorgeous singletrack linked by some road sections and gravel trail. Perfect for my Scale 29 RC.

The downside was that it was 23degrees F (-5 degrees C) and it had snowed the night before.  The high was only going to get a few degrees warmer through the day.  Our plan was to meet up with Kevin Carter along the loop and hammer out the loop in 10 hours or less.

Heavily bundled up against the cold
Dylan - ready to rip our legs off for the next 9 hours (with a smile, no less)
We started north and rode through the snow covered Difficult Run trails to Lake Fairfax where we found new singletrack built by the local mountain bike access and trail builders, MORE, last year. Most of the loop we rode was thanks to MORE.  I'm constantly amazed at how much good singletrack is located within just a few miles of downtown Washington, DC.

The temperatures were so cold that any water we rode through immediately froze on our bikes, legs, or wherever it landed.

A frozen covering on the feet
While waiting for Kevin to get his tubeless wheels set up with fresh Stan's sealant, we ran into ex-pro and all around good guy, Ryan McKinney, on the trails. He was out for a ride before a possible new house purchase later that morning.  In typical fashion Ryan was in high spirits!
We headed out with Kevin on the loop and I almost immediately had a flat from a sliced tire sidewall on some of the sharp rocks.  A quick fix and we were back on the trail, heading south on the Fairfax Cross Country Trail to Route 123 and our 10 mile section of road to Fountainhead.

Fountainhead was fun as usual with some great double jumps and excellently constructed new singletrack.

I used to avoid the park because it was so eroded, but now with the new trails, it's something I'm going to look forward to riding more and more (and I'm donating $$ to the rebuilding effort).

It had been a windy night and the trails had a lot of dead tree limbs on them. A large stick got caught in Mike's rear wheel and immediately snapped his derailleur hangar. Luckily, he brought a spare hangar and in 10 minutes, using a handy tree as a repair stand, he was fixed and we were back on our way.


Dylan and Kevin started drilling through the steep hills and we were all just hanging on - after 4 hours my legs were getting a bit tired!  We did one loop of the park just as it was starting to thaw out and headed toward Laurel Hill and a convenience store to get more water and fuel for the next 4-5 hours of riding.

Laurel Hill is another fun trail network built by MORE and its construction looks to be all-weather with gravel lined singletrack.  The grass-lined trails were great in the late afternoon sun.

We were all smiling, even after riding for most of the day thus far.  It seems as if the multiple weeks of 4-7 hour rides have gotten our endurance levels up fairly high.

From Laurel Hill, we headed north toward Accotink through multiple water crossings.  Ian whacked his calf badly on his pedal while crossing one of the streams and his leg locked up on him.  He was limping and obviously in pain and unable to pedal smoothly.  Not good as we still had 15-20 miles left to go.  Once we got near Accotink park, he and Mike decided to skip the singletrack and head straight back to Ian's house on the smoother trails.

Dylan, Kevin and I pushed the pace through the park at a threshold rate and after a regroup for more food and to top off Dylan's food reserves with some Jet Blackberry GU (my favorite flavor), we rolled through Wakefield park, past the dirt jumps and back to Ian's house.

Total distance was around 92 miles total in a bit over 9 hours of ride time.  Dylan rode an extra 10 miles to put his total closer to 10 hours and 102 miles.  A solid day for mid-20 degree temperatures in February.

I was not initially sure about moving over to a 29er and to a hardtail after racing the past 21 years on a 26er bike and the past 5 years on a full suspension Spark.  But, after putting in lots of miles on my new Scale 29er, I'm very happy to have made the move.  As John and Ross told me last year, this bike is a rocket.  The flat road sections fly by.  I find I'm able to keep up speeds close to what I'd normally do on my road bike, and in tight singletrack, the bike shines - it's the best of both worlds. And, the integrated shock dampening on the seatstays and Ritchey seatpost, plus 2.25 width tires take the edge off any roots/rocks and terrain. I can't wait to see what the new full suspension 2012 Spark 29er RC is going to be like.

Next ride is in two weeks.  Hope to see you out on the trails!

Here's the Strava map:

- Jeff

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