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Taking Advantage of the Longest Day of the Year

This time of year, I love that it’s already daylight as I make my way out of our bedroom well before 6 AM and I don’t need to use my phone’s flashlight to guide the way. I’m not sure why, but this year I was determined to celebrate the summer solstice in a big way while outside marveling at how early the sun rises.

When my friend Chuck mentioned that he planned to ride the full length of the 44.5-mile-long W&OD Trail in a loop (a bucket list item for me) and add 10 miles to make it an even 100 to celebrate his birthday, I jumped at the chance to join him. When he said he planned to do it on June 21st, the longest day of the year, I was downright giddy.

 

Summer Solstice Century

Summer Solstice Century immediately popped into my head as the perfect name for our upcoming ride celebrating my friend’s birthday and the summer solstice. Checking a bucket list item off my list, completing my second century, and spending the better part of the day with a good friend sounded like a lot of fun to me!

 

Stalking the Weather

I crossed my fingers that the weather would cooperate and using my finely honed weather stalking skills from years of running races, I regularly checked the Dark Sky app in the days leading up to the ride. The weather looked perfect, until it didn’t (rain was forecast from 7-11 AM), until it did again. Upon waking on the morning of the ride, the temperature was 62° and the forecast showed the day to be mostly cloudy with a high of 82° at 4 PM. Cool and without a drop of rain in the forecast, that’s near perfection for late June in Virginia!

 

Getting Started

Bill and I rolled from our home at 5:09 AM as dawn started to break. Our friend Chuck, who lives a few towns east of us, left his house riding west at about the same time and we meet halfway between our houses. Once the three of us had joined forces, we traveled east toward the trail head in Shirlington. Bill continued to ride with us until we hit 22 miles when he had to turn and rush back home for work.

 

Not the Most Scenic Route

As fabulous as it is to have the W&OD Trail practically in our back yard, it’s not the most scenic cycling route, especially when compared to the gravel roads we ride in western Loudoun County. Following the trail from the trail head in Shirlington to its terminus in Purcellville takes you from a slightly urban feel, to suburbia, to the country; spanning 6 to 50 miles from our nation’s capital. The eastern end has many intersections and there’s a short segment that feels a little sketchy that I won’t ride on alone, but as the trail goes westward, the intersections are fewer and the trees lining the trail are denser. I’ve run and cycled thousands of miles on the W&OD Trail and will never grow old of my trusted friend.

 

Ride Overview
  • • Ride With GPS Name: W&OD Trail (90 Mile)
  • • Ride with GPS: Link to turn-by-turn navigation cue sheet
  • • Location: Loudoun, Fairfax, and Arlington Counties
  • • Start Time: 5:09 AM
  • • Start/Finish: Ashburn, VA
  • • Course Type: Straight line loop
  • • Course Surface: Paved
  • • Bike: Specialized Roubaix Comp
  • • Distance: 100.36 miles
  • • Time: 7:01:26
  • • Average Speed: 14.3 MPH
  • • Maximum Speed: 27.9 MPH
  • • Elevation Gain: 3,035 feet
  • • Elevation Range: 22 to 605 feet
  • • Temperature Range: 62° to 82°
  • • Course Map:

 

Fun Pictures From Along the Way

The following pictures were taken with my iPhone (affiliate link); however, I wish I’d stopped to take more. I originally had no intention of writing a recap so I didn’t take as many pictures as I should have… for example, the Vienna mural, three LOVE signs, horses, giant blueberry muffin, etc.

Notes from along the ride and the pictures I took…

 

Mile 3

I noticed something small and brown dart onto the trail in front of me and felt a bump and then another bump as my front and rear tires rode over the poor little creature. Luckily I didn’t wreck and can only hope that the little bunny or chipmunk was only stunned and not seriously hurt.

 

Mile 8

We saw Chuck heading toward us and stopped to give him a chance to turn around…

 

Mile 23

Once in Falls Church, Bill had to turn around to get back home for work. He hit it hard and even earned some Strava PR’s on his way back…

 

Mile 29

Chuck and I took a little break when we got to the trail head at mile 0 in Shirlington. We were surprised that there was no mile marker 0, nor a sign saying 44.5 miles to Purcellville…

 

The W&OD Trail conveniently connects to other trails in the area…

 

I was quite surprised that weeds were out of control in the middle of the concrete loop at the beginning of the trail. The last time we were there, a weed-free mulched area had flowers planted under and around the signs…

 

Ready to roll again…

 

Mile 34

This was my first time on the new and improved segment of the trail where pedestrians and cyclist are separated. What a joy for everyone involved to not have to worry about passing or being passed!

 

Mile 38

Stopped at the I-495 overpass…

 

Mile 50

We stopped at the Green Lizard in Herndon for a blueberry muffin and sports drink refill…

 

Mile 64

Chuck’s friend Bonnie was waiting for us with plans to join us to Purcellville and back, about 21 miles roundtrip…

 

Mile 68

We noticed the sky getting very dark with black clouds ahead so I checked Dark Sky again. Wait, what? Where did that rain cloud come from?

 

Mile 70

Out of nowhere, a beautiful blue bird egg fell from the sky and cracked open on the trail right in front of my bike…

 

Mile 71

Just as we arrived in Hamilton at my favorite porta potty and turning point for most of my weekday rides, it started to rain. Luckily, the tree canopy was thick enough that we were pretty well protected from the light rain. Even though the rain made the trail a little messy, it only lasted about 15 minutes and felt quite refreshing as it cooled us off.

 

Mile 75

Chuck and Bonnie at the W&OD Trail terminus in Purcellville, VA…

 

Posing with the birthday boy…

 

Mile 85

Text and picture I sent to my hubby from a porta potty stop, “Sun’s out, guns out”…

 

Mile 86

We said our goodbyes to Bonnie and thanked her for joining us…

 

Mile 91

With the sun out and the temperature at 82° and with only about 8 miles to go, we stopped for a well deserved rest and to calculate how much we needed to backtrack on the trail so that we would each hit 100 miles as we cruised into our driveways…

 

Mile 96

I said goodbye to Chuck as I turned to head back to my exit point from the trail and to jump on the road to ride home…

 

Mile 100

My Garmin hit 100 miles just before I turned onto our street and 100.36 as I pulled onto our driveway…

 

Garmin Stats

Post-ride Garmin (affiliate link) picture…

 

Garmin map and elevation graph…

 

Final Thoughts on the Ride

Chuck and I had a lot of fun on our little adventure and it was great to have Bill and Bonnie join us for parts of the ride. Worth noting, Chuck felt great and tacked on a few more miles and finished at 112 miles. I’m so glad Chuck mentioned that he was planning to complete the ride for his birthday and that I wasn’t shy about asking if he minded if I joined him. I would absolutely do this again!

 

Questions:
  • • What’s on your fitness related bucket list?
  • • Have you run or biked the distance of a favorite trail? ~ The Cruisers and I ran the entire W&OD Trail in segments over a few Saturdays many years ago.
  • • Do you stop and relax occasionally to fuel or take pictures, or barrel on through when on a long run or ride? ~ Both for me depending on the circumstances…

 

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