Christmas is a time for family, giving unto others, eating lots of comforting foods, chilly days spent by the fire and, in my household, the Rapha Festive 500. As if Christmas and the New Year holidays aren’t stressful enough with family and friends, making sure all of the last minute shopping is complete and coordinating huge holiday meals – we also have to figure out how my husband will cycle 500 kilometers between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
We live in Portland, Oregon, where December weather is rather unpredictable. Some years it’s warm-ish (50 degrees) and extremely wet, another year it might be dry with highs just below freezing. This year, for example, it’s hovering at freezing in the morning with fog and some moisture and then it warms up to 40 degrees and rain. Totally miserable. James leaves the house each morning wearing layers of spandex. Layers!
I am not a cyclist. I have two bikes that are ridden a few times during the year – always in the warm dry months. Before I met my husband, I found looking at men in head-to-toe spandex to be a bit uncomfortable. Now it doesn’t even phase me. Sometimes I find men in spandex to be quite attractive! I’ve known James for almost 7 years now and he’s always been an endurance cyclist and has done the Festive 500 the last four or five years. At this point it’s a part of our holiday tradition – I know it’s coming and I know we have to work it into our plans along with all of the other things that come with the holidays.
There was one year, before we were married, where we spent Christmas in the foothills of Mt. Hood and temperatures were hovering below freezing. Roads were icy and my parents were due to meet us at the cabin mid-day for presents and Christmas dinner. Of course, James had to fit in a minimum 40 to 50 mile bike ride before their arrival. He left early in the day and was gone for several hours and my parents arrived before he returned. I was thinking about what point I would head out in the car and look for him when we finally saw him riding up the gravel road looking absolutely frozen. I think he tried to smile at us, but the nerves in his face were frozen. I have no idea what my parents must have been thinking about this icicle of a man I was dating, as he entered the house, shivering, bright red and unable to move.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is always interesting. James always has to work so he has to figure out how he’ll ride an average of 50 miles each day, while working full time. Did I mention we have about 8 hours of daylight in Portland this time of year? Thanks to the Festive 500, I don’t see much of James during this week. I wake up in the morning and he’s gone – like a bicycle ninja – off into the early morning darkness, riding some ridiculous route to work. He gets home later in the evening for the same reason – he’s riding his bike in the dark, heading from NE Portland to SE Portland by way of the West Hills.
There is a chunk of time each evening during the Festive 500 where he disappears to our basement garage for a while, as he prepares his gear and bicycle for the next day, since he knows he’ll be up before the crack of dawn to do it all over again.