Saturday 14 January 2017

Wanna do the Rapha Festive 500?

For me, riding the Rapha Festive 500 was quite a challenge. The club cyclists who know me may wonder why it should have been such a big deal to put in these kilometres over the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Day 1 at Box Hill, Surrey
For those of us who do club cycling and take part in local cycle races, riding 500km (or 310 miles) within one week may not be an unusual feat. Afterall, many people from now onwards will be going to Mallorca, Southern Spain, and the Canary Islands for training camps where they will ride 80-100km each day for their training ride.

But what made accomplishing these miles a challenge was the very fact that I wasn't doing any of the above!

I was not in Club La Santa where it's nice and warm, the sun shines, the days are long, and I don't have to be mindful about how many hours I am outdoors.

Instead I was in a wintry Greater London where the temperature at times plunged to barely above zero degrees Celsius, the fog slashed visibility down to 100m, and the daylight lasted from after 8am until just before 4pm. I guess that's why winter training camps are done in the Mediterranean or off the African coast!
The misty road ahead!

So for me, what makes this ride challenging, is the mission of getting in all those kilometres in the UK during the pretty inclement conditions that we regularly experience between Christmas and New Year.

I feel unlucky not to have been in the Southern Hemisphere, but lucky that I was in the South-East of England and not up North (or beyond, in Scandinavia)!

Looking on Strava at the distances covered by others who did the Festive 500 around the globe, it appears that those in the Southern Hemisphere were not content to just do 500km - many people in Australia seemed to have done over 1000km over the Christmas period. They have my utmost respect because even though they will be be blessed with long, warm, sunny days, putting in 1000km would also have been a challenge.

So in essence, the Rapha Festive 500 ends up being a challenge for anyone doing it, wherever they are in the world - just in different ways. And that is the common, global link between us kindred souls.

We start out on the 24th December, hoping to succeed in our challenge, but it's not a given that we will reach the finish line. There are lots of folks who end up abandoning their challenge because of a mishap, the weather putting paid to the ride, or even just the appeal of spending more time with friends, family, and mince pies! The locations and the weather may be different, but I find it reassuring to know that there are people in other parts of the world simultaneously having to deal with the same issues as I do!

That is why when you do accomplish your 500km (or 1000km in the case of our friends Down Under!) it gives a wonderful feeling of self-satisfaction that things have gone your way, you have got your pass to join the elite club of the Rapha Roundel club, and for another year, at least, you have beaten the battle of the bulge!

I have documented my journey to 500km in the links below, and here are a few tips that I would offer based on my experience:

Plan in advance where you would like to go on each day and note down the distance of each of the rides. Giving the rides a theme, or doing rides to visit friends and family in another town would make the challenge motivational. (I decided to do my rides in around London in the shape of the spokes of a bicycle wheel and a hub - Tour de Londres)

Record ALL of the kilometres that you ride during that eight-day period, including just short trips. (I recorded my short rides to and from the local Park Runs.)  

Have a contingency plan. (My ride into Kent had to be re-routed at the last minute due to ice in the country lanes.)

Get in as many miles as you can early on in the eight-day period. (I got in 90km on Christmas Eve.)

Set out as early as you can each day (as long as its safe to do so), given that from 3.30pm onwards it is beginning to get dark.

Make hay while the sun shines. Get in as many miles as you can on the mild days. (The weather in the UK was mild from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, but steadily became windier, colder and misty as the week progressed.)

Don't take risks by riding in tricky conditions. (On one day early morning frost meant that I had to start my ride slightly later than originally planned, and freezing fog on other days meant I had to finish my rides a little earlier than planned.) 

Try and avoid riding really hard stages which have lots of steep climbs as this will make it harder to rack up the kilometres. Also, stay on-road rather than off-road for the same reason!

Enjoy the ride. It should be fun, not a hard slog!

Tackling the Rapha Festive 500

Rapha Festive 500: Day 1

Rapha Festive 500: Day 2

Rapha Festive 500: Day 3

Rapha Festive 500: Day 4

Rapha Festive 500: Day 5

Rapha Festive 500: Day 6

Rapha Festive 500: Day 7

Rapha Festive 500: Day 8

Postcards from Festive 500 Edge

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