For those of you who’ve not heard of the Rapha Festive 500, it’s an online challenge to ride 500km (about 310 miles) over 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The miles must be tracked using GPS (either standalone such as the Garmin 800 I use, or using the Strava smartphone app) and uploaded to the Strava website in order to qualify and static rides are not allowed (so no spinning on the rollers after Christmas dinner!).
I’ve signed up for the challenge the last two years, but never really made much of an effort. I decided that this year was to be different.
Those of you who know me know that I’m not exactly the fittest of people, so riding 500km over 8 days would be quite a challenge! Indeed, between January and December this year I only clocked up a total of 420 miles, so the 310ish miles needed to complete the Festive 500 over 8 days would be almost doubling my miles for the year so far… My legs were scared.
On with the story!
Day One, Christmas Eve: 61.6 miles
My plan for the first day was to get as many miles in as possible. I had originally planned to ride home from London (approximately 100 miles) to get the week off to a good start, however there were some pretty awful storms due to hit on the 23rd so I decided it would be safer to do some road miles at home and not have to be concerned with riding home for Christmas.
As it turned out this was a good plan, there was some awful flooding as a result of the storms and a number of people were stuck getting home for Christmas – if I’d tried to ride home I’d have almost certainly ended up being one of them.
Of course the storms also effected the local area. A few miles out I encountered the first evidence of this, with rainwater rushing out of a drain.
A few miles later and quite a lot of bottom-bracket deep water (sorry bike!) I came across the first flood I couldn’t pass. This ford was the scene of an unfortunate accident earlier this year, when a driver drowned after following his sat nav and becoming trapped in his car after it became submerged. Sensibly I decided to turn back and try another route.
In the end I decided to steer clear of the local roads I’d usually ride and instead do some off-road loops of the common. Whilst this steered me clear of the traffic and the worst of the flooding it also turned out to be REALLY hard work on the CX bike, after 50 miles I was physically exhausted. I thought the worst of the flooding would have dried out by then so I tried to take the scenic route home, but I was met by more floods.
I finished the day with just over 60 miles finished, soaking wet, hurting and with completely numb hands and feet. I also managed to tear my (beautiful) Rapha hardshell jacket & get six thorns in my front tyre after a little altercation with a tractor and a bush. Not a great start to the week 🙁
Day Three, Boxing Day: 50.3 miles
I didn’t get any miles in on Christmas day, I’d intended to do a few but festivities got in the way!
As I was still hurting from Christmas eve I decided to spend boxing day doing easy miles on some local roads, riding a nice 3.5 mile loop I’d previously not discovered. The roads were still drenched but the weather was nowhere near as bad as my previous ride, I could just about feel my hands when I got home.
Day Five, 28th December: 60.0 miles
I headed to London on day four but didn’t get any miles in, so decided to get up early to get some bigger miles in on day five. I headed up to regents park before sunrise and was treated to some lovely views over London as the sun rose.
I loved listening to the noises of the animals in regents park as the sun rose, they seemed to be rather excited about the day ahead. I was slightly less so, as the miles from the last few days were beginning to take their toll and my knees and hips especially were starting to hurt! Still, it was nice being back on the road bike and the miles were certainly coming easier than on the CX bike.
Day Six, 29th December: 80.8 miles
It was another early start today, after setting my alarm for 5:10 and getting rolling at around 6:15 again (I decided breakfast would be a good idea today). I decided that I needed to get on the miles a little harder if I had any hope of finishing the 500km so I decided I needed to do another 60 miles today. As the miles progressed I decided to raise the bar and eventually managed 80!
When I arrived at the park it was damp and rather cold, but as the morning set in it got colder, the moisture on the ground froze and the puddles turned to ice, making the tarmac especially treacherous.
Unfortunately a couple of hours after I took this photo (and nearly fell as I put a foot down to stop for a gel) an elderly lady took a fall. A few other cyclists kindly stopped by (they were there before me I’ll hasten to add) and covered her in their jackets until the ambulance arrived. After the ambulance arrived a cyclist fell in the same spot (he got up and continued riding) then on the same lap I passed another group looking after a lady who had fallen on the ice. I took it very steady for the next couple of hours until the weather warmed up, which was probably why I managed to do more miles than usual. As you can see, I still wasn’t doing great afterwards anyway (still, this was the furthers I’ve ever ridden in a day so can’t complain really).
Day Seven, 30th December: 14.4 miles and 46.0 miles
Day seven was back to Hampshire and a late start after an incredibly painful night’s sleep… By now the miles were really starting to take their toll on my body, my knees and hips were absolutely killing me (I really must look at my cleat positioning), my shoulders and neck were complaining at the thought of getting back onto drop bars and I could barely get out of bed or walk down the stairs. Still, 60 miles to go, so back on it!
I managed a few miles before darkness fell, so went back home to wait for my lights to charge before heading out to attempt to complete the challenge with one last night ride for 2014… Three and a half hours later (with a handy KOM and a few PR’s!) and I was done!
Finished: 313 miles/ 504 kilometers!
504km and over 23 hours of riding later and I’m done! My body feels like it’ll never be the same again. My hips and knees are killing me, I can barely walk and I’ve lost all feeling in my neck/ shoulders, but it somehow all seems worth it. My Rapha hardshell took a battering too, but hopefully the Rapha warranty will sort that out ready for the endeavors of 2014.
I’ve put a couple of screenshots of my final activity below or you can look on my Strava profile for more.
Thanks for reading and have a good 2014!