The Rapha #Festive500 Challenge sees participants attempt to cover 500km over the 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. That’s a relatively modest 62.5km a day, but with all that the festive period involves, as well as the British weather, this is a tough ask. I also knew I needed to factor in at least 2 cycling free days.
My 2014 attempt was scuppered by the icy conditions we suffered at the end of last year, but this just made me more determined for 2015. The promising weather forecast, at least in terms of temperatures, as well as the fact that another SCS mate was also going to give this a go sealed the deal.
Day 1 - Christmas Eve – Shifnal to Preston
A good start was vital, as family commitments meant that I wouldn’t be back on the bike until the 27th. This made the sound of the rain bouncing off our kitchen’s velux windows all the more disheartening. The forecast was for things to clear up as I headed north though, and so as I rode down to meet the lads who were to escort me to the county border, my mood was one of cautious optimism.
As we split at Cheswardine, the weather ahead was looking better, and sure enough as I passed through Nantwich towards Warrington the rain stopped and the skies began to clear. The tailwind was proving helpful as well. A re-fuelling stop in Warrington also gave me an opportunity to try and dry out a little, and I was soon on my way again.
Through Wigan and Chorley, picking up signs for Preston were just the boost I needed, and even the hail storm which I encountered 2 miles from my destination didn’t dampen my mood. An imperial ton was passed and day 1 was done. I could relax over the next couple of days safe in the knowledge I’d made a fairly decent start. Time to put the bike away and to enjoy a well-earned beer or two….
Daily Total: 161.58km - Challenge Total: 161.58km
Days 2 & 3 – Christmas and Boxing Day
Eating, drinking, and being merry. We did however manage our traditional walk up Parlick!
Day 4 – 27th December – Out with @ASL191
A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours with Anna, doing a lap of Preston. The previous two days torrential rain meant that we had to pick our route carefully to avoid the worst of the flooded roads, but we still managed 40km, which took me past the 200km mark for the challenge.
Daily Total: 40.10km - Challenge Total: 201.98km
Day 5 – 28th December – Preston to Shifnal
I’d had this pencilled in as perhaps the most important day of the whole challenge. If I could get another 150km plus ride in I was confident of success. However, the excesses of the previous night’s Gin and Tonic session with my brother in law very nearly put paid to this year’s attempt. A second career as a stuntman is on hold, as I learnt that falling down stairs is not a pleasurable experience. Ouch!
Just getting on the bike was painful, and as I rode away from my in-laws I very nearly turned around and threw in the towel. But I pressed on, if only to see if things got easier as I loosened up a little. Unfortunately it didn’t, but somehow I kept going anyway. The next 5 hours or so was perhaps the hardest time I’d spend all year on the bike. My spirits were fading with the light, and enough was enough. I was done; thankfully @ASL191 came to the rescue, and swept me up from Market Drayton. I may well have suffered, but I’d still notched up nearly 130km so all was not lost.
Daily Total: 129.60km - Challenge Total: 331.58km
Day 6 – 29th December – SCS Midwinter100
Back on home soil, and although very sore, I was feeling better. We had a really good turnout for this ride, and being back riding with familiar faces was a real boost. My fellow Festive500 challenger was out as well. He’d been on fire and was looking to complete the challenge on this ride, with 2 full days to spare.
The weather was good too, and so I also enjoyed an all too rare winter outing on Bike #1. We rode our regular Market Drayton/Wem loop, and although we didn’t quite make the metric ton, I was still pleased with just shy of 95km. The beer in HQ was as sweet as ever too.
Daily Total: 93.96km - Challenge Total: 425.54km
Day 7 – 30th December – Only 75km to go…….
#Rule9 conditions all day, and after putting things off for as long as I dared I rolled away from home in the rain and wind. It’s days like this which illustrate what makes this challenge so tough. I may have covered over 400km in the previous 6 days, but this would count for nothing if I didn’t get over the line. Just relentless……..
Nothing special, just a loop of the local lanes, but all kms in the bank!
Daily Total: 45.68km - Challenge Total: 471.22km
Day 8 – New Years Eve – Getting over the line
I had to go into work, and so what better way than to get over the line than to lengthen up the commute a little, and to put this challenge to bed.
The previous days’ efforts were really making themselves felt, and I could really feel the fatigue. However, as I counted down the kms, this was all the encouragement that I needed.
As I rolled into the works car park, I’d passed the 500km mark and the challenge, for this year at least, was done.
Daily Total: 30.49km - Challenge Total: 501.71km
Total Riding time for the challenge was just under the 20 hours mark.
Massive Congratulations to Gary as well, it was a real boost knowing I wasn’t out there suffering alone!
Thanks also to all those who rode with me over over the duration of the challenge, and especially to @ASL191 for rescuing me at a real low point.
Vive la Velo