RAPHA FESTIVE 500
Epic, amazing or telling the world a “hard man” cycling story is not my take on Festive 500, for me it’s about perseverance and conquering while finding the reward in both mental and cycling fitness. Needless to say my wife’s perspective is a bit different, but the Rapha Festive 500 is tough, always has been, and after having done it a few years I sorta knew what was in store – but in all honesty, I was not even sure I was even going to complete it. It’s a challenge that requires a lot of riding (500km to be precise), you have 8 days and I missed riding on the first 3 days. Remembering back to the 2015 Festive 500 gave me horror thoughts; 2015 was really hard, wet and cold, so I was not even fully committed. In a post-Christmas typical manner I have to work full time during that week; these all sound like excuses not to do it or to half arse it. Finally, I bucked up my ways but it took me until the 27th to mentally commit.
I find it best to plan routes, it helps me stay on track and not just slack off and find a cafe mid ride! This year because I had slacked off in the first few days meant that I was looking at riding about 60-70 miles (97-115km) a day to complete the challenge. Now fitting that into a regular work / life schedule is pretty difficult, especially starting midweek. Another challenge this time of year is having routes which are safe, and when I say safe I mean routes that have good riding surfaces, no ice, no huge piles of grit / gravel in the road and on routes which are less travelled by cars but are efficient and safe.
Most of my rides started at zero bloody dark thrity (or 6:30 am) in order to get to work on time, sometimes the temp dropped to 28degrees and freezing fog, but this year was pretty dry in general – thankfully meaning no ice and I would hasten to say even sometimes quite rewarding as you start in the dark and cold and you ride into the sunrise with the feeling of warmth hitting your many layers of cold-defeating gear.
After 3 days of 70mile (115km) rides you can definitely feel your fitness start to come back. This feels great after a few slacker months of Sept, Oct and November where I did not do a ton of riding. I found logging miles on Strava and enrolling in the challenge also kept me engaged and tracking how much left I had to go and how I was comparing with everyone else.
This year with the lower temperatures and lack of timing I found it best to break rides into 35mile (56km) routes, which meant riding twice in a day. Once early morning and another in the evening. At about 2.5 hours each ride, this is quite a commitment, as my wife and family can tell you. Don’t forget to add in the preparation time and bike cleaning and maintenance, your gear needs to work if you are going to crank out 500km in 4 days.
If I had to do something differently I would say ride with groups and friends, they make the miles go by a lot faster and you can pick up route tips. Freezing fingers are rubbish and distracting so I would also say make sure there was always a pack of hand warmers in my jersey or jack, just in case.
2017, you should do this! Plan your routes, wear good gear, make sure you have newer durable tyres because changing punctures in the cold or wet is not fun. Oh and maybe prepare your wife (here is my wife’s sunshine view of teh Rapha Festive 500)