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Done. In 6 days I rode 506.4 kilometres and burnt 10,513 calories all in the spirit of the Festive 500.
I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I signed up to take part in this years Strava Festive 500. What I mean is I’ve suffered, coughed and spluttered through it before.
I guess the reason I’ve taken part for the last three years can be summed up in that sense of achievement you gain when all others falter and your riding solo in absolutely shit weather! I’m also slightly obsessed, but then there isn’t much objection from me leaving the house for most of the day, eight days straight in fact.
I’m lucky enough to be able to ride my bike to what some might call a level of obsession most of the year, so on paper 500k in 8 days seems completely doable, 62.5k every day in fact. However what experience tells me is that as the days count down the weather often rolls in and cycling buddies rollout, especially as the lure of Christmas gets even stronger.
Everyone around you will be enjoying themselves from activities not on a bike (this does happen apparently) and it can be all too easy to tell yourself “I’ll just go a little further the day after”.
To complete the festive 500 you can’t be sucked into this, you have to stay focused, strong and somewhat selfish.
For this reason, my plan this year was simple…
Start strong. Nothing says I’m taking this serious like a big ride on day one. It gives hope to those your leaving at home for the next 8 days that you’re not taking the piss. It also feels awesome when you look at the challenge leaderboard and those little bars or progress are alight in your favour before Santa has been.
Be prepared to ride solo. The 500 sounds good, it’s a palmary we would all like to achieve. Clubmates and regular ride companions will be sucked in by its lure, but you have to count on them bailing.
Also, don’t forget they might not be as selfish as us! They may buckle under the pressure of home and bail the night before, or worse try to change the plans you’ve carefully considered in favour of them returning home sooner.
Take it easy. You cant go charging into this beast expecting to come out the same speed. regardless of the 62.5k daily avg its a marathon with the weather, mince pies and booze all ready to weigh you down. In the case of the festive 500, the sportif tortoise really does win this race more often than not.
Take advantage of the weather. Chances are we are riding solo and certainly steady, however this time of year more often than not in the wind and rain. But there will be those days of glorious sunshine with cold crisp air perfect for riding. The sort that you leave the house cold but at the end of the road your roasting hot with too many layers to bear.
It’s important to capitalise on these, make sure you have your best excuses ready for the nice days and line up your clubmates. These are the days when you can embrace the through and off and raise the avg speed and chip of big miles.
How it panned out…
I started extremely well this year, I reckon the strongest I’ve ever started the 500. Christmas Eve and with 151.4k on the board already I was in a good place mentally. Having two clubmates to ride with made a massive difference. The hours fly by when you’re taking the piss out of one and other.
I remember we got back to the cafe and I was 30k or so shy of my 150k goal for the day so I carried on solo for another local loop. I’ve done this before, your full of confidence as you say goodbye only to find 5 minutes down the road your hurting and time starts slowing down exponentially.
Christmas Day and Boxing Day I always consider bonus days. If I can grab an hour or two across either of these days then I know I’m ahead of the game. I knew this year I’d have a window between family visits so post presents I was out the door. I managed 50.5k and 59.7k respectively over these days and I’m pretty sure nobody noticed. Aside from I wasn’t moping about the house all afternoon.
The weather wasn’t great on the 27th and it was a case of grabbing whatever you could, or brave enough to do. It’s days like this you fall back on the big Christmas Eve ride as a mental savour. Still 51.2k extra added!
The weather looked amazing for the Thursday, one of the clear crisp day’s I’d hoped for. A few of the guys had shown an interest and the usual back and forth had started on WhatsApp but after a very cold night and the potential of ice, it was just two of us who would roll out.
It’s generally considered good form to make festive 500 rides steady and flat, but after 122.3k I remembered thinking neither was true today. I was becoming sore in all the wrong places now but remarkably the legs still felt good, the finish was closing in and I had days to spare.
With five days down I needed just shy of 65k to finish. I remember thinking I could just tap this out nice and easy with 3 small rides, job done! But with James my clubmate still going strong I thought I may as well take advantage of the company and help share the burden of some serious wind that had picked up. We’d chosen a local loop with the hope of taking advantage of the wind in at least one direction. This was some seriously strong winds, you often hear the classic “into a brick wall”. Either way, this wasn’t an easy end to my 500 but it was exactly the kind of ride the 500 spirit embodies. As I rode past home to loop back for those last few k’s the wind seemed to drop a little and my pace followed but I’d done it with 71.3k.
In 6 days I rode 506.4 kilometres and burnt 10,513 calories! I was certainly better equipped this year than previous. Mudguards and 30mm tyres had meant aside from my face which was covered in the shit off my fellow riders wheels I was relatively dry. I’d had no punctures or mechanicals and not once washed the bike.
Up till now, I haven’t mentioned the running nose or a sore throat that I endured throughout. I didn’t feel the challenge needed any additional weight, but I suffered through.
In short 2017’s festive 500 goes down as a complete success.
Oh lastly if you’re considering the Festive 500 next year remember. There is no worse situation to be in than signed up and not completed. That notification on your timeline will stay there like a stain on your cycling CV forever.
How it unfolded in stats…
Day 1: 24th/12
151.4k(distance) 5:46:55(moving time) 776m(elavation) 2,895(calories)
Day 2: 25th/12
50.5k(distance) 1:53:08(moving time) 489m(elavation) 1,104(calories)
Day 3: 26th/12
59.7k(distance) 2:16:59(moving time) 543m(elavation) 1,186(calories)
Day 4: 27th/12
51.2k(distance) 1:58:25(moving time) 464m(elavation) 1,077(calories)
Day 5: 28th/12
122.3k(distance) 4:45:25(moving time) 1,424m(elavation) 2,590(calories)
Day 6: 29th/12
71.3k(distance) 2:42:02(moving time) 716m(elavation) 1,661(calories)