Eight days. Five hundred Kilometers.

For the third year in a row I successfully completed the Rapha #Festive500. It’s a great little challenge and has become a bit of a holiday tradition for me. The idea is simple: Ride 500km in eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. That’s an average of 62.5km a day.

This year 48,562 people took part, collectively riding 10,460,428km!

630 of those kilometers were mine, and I clocked just shy of 24 hours in the saddle. It would’ve been even more but the weather wasn’t always on my side. Meaning a couple of my scheduled rides were cut short because of ice on the roads.

Even so I’m pleased with my efforts and it’s the biggest mileage I’ve managed during the three years I’ve participated.*

This was a bit of a damage-limitation ride for the onslaught of food Christmas was sure to bring but also a great opportunity to get some quality training miles in the bank. I decided to kick things off properly and do at least a century. The weather forecast was okay (only let down by quite a strong Westerly wind to battle against) but a mild-ish temperature for the time of year.

The ride up towards Lancaster and Caton was fairly uneventful and I ticked along comfortably in Zone 2, the zone most of my endurance training has been in since the start of November. Just outside of Wray I kicked things up a gear and did about 40 minutes at Sweet Spot, bagging a nice Christmas KOM in the process.

Sadly the enjoyable part of the ride was over. Even though the temperature wasn’t too low the wind chill made the descent from the top of Keasdon Road pretty miserable and I was forced to put my jacket on to keep warm (Gabba’s are awesome, but not very warm if you aren’t riding tempo in cold weather. Zone 2 gets a little nippy).

Now standing between me and home was a 50mile wall-of-wind. As you can imagine when it’s howling at ~25mph, it took a while. It’s all character building though and when I finally made it home I had the perfect excuse to indulge in one of my favourite comfort foods, Macaroni & Cheese. I made a special version using only cheeses from Lancashire, and it was extremely tasty!

mac n cheese

Day 2, Merry Christmas! 35miles / 1hour 44minutes

Legs feeling surprisingly fresh, I decided to treat myself to a bit of Christmas fun. After what seems like an eternity only doing easy Zone 2 rides I was chomping at the bit and really fancied a good old fashioned blast around one of my favourite – somewhat legendary – training routes: The Elswick Loop.

I didn’t go crazy, mostly riding tempo, and averaged just over 20mph for the ride. It was great to stretch the legs, and while bitterly cold it hadn’t frozen over… Yet.

Day 3 3.1miles / 15minutes 11seconds

The only riding I did today was to the stables to help my wife with her horses. Every little helps though! I didn’t get chance to go for a proper ride because our little black pug Ralph had a sore eye and needed a trip to the vets. We were supposed to stay with my parents in Scotland for a few days but had to cancel at the last minute. I still felt an obligation to deliver my sister there, and wanted to see my Mumzee (if only for a few minutes) over Christmas.

Not wanting to travel the total 310miles to Ardgour, a deal was to be made: I had something Mumzee wanted and she had something I really wanted – the Balymaloe pate she had made for our dinner.

So I ended up driving to Glasgow for a coffe, a quick catch up, and exchange of goods. It was a nice day really despite most of it being spent in the car. On the way home we dropped into Westmorland farm shops and picked up some Organic home made bread and pies to eat with our pate for dinner. Lovely.

Day 4 77 miles / 4hours 2minutes

The ride title says it all I’m afraid. “A Character Building & Toe Destroyingly Cold Few Hours”.

Roads full of ice I was forced to stay away from the hills and close to the coast. I rode out down Blackpool prom, which certainly isn’t a route I would ride out of choice and over Wyre towards Cockerham, looping back and working my way back home through Garstang, Nateby and Kirkham.

No Segment efforts today, it was challenge enough just staying on the bike! I was half way through the allocated days for the challenge, and way over the half-way mark for distance. Which must meant the lack of feeling in my toes was all worth it… Right… No?

Day 5 60miles / 3hours 34minutes

If it wasn’t for the Festive 500 I would never have gone out with the roads in the state they were. There was sheet-ice everywhere making cycling both dangerous and unenjoyable. I was happy enough to get around without coming off. I read on Strava when I got home that many of my cycling buddies weren’t so lucky.

Day 6, Completion 32miles / 1hour 49minutes

Mission accomplished! And I just had to wrap things up with my regular Elswick Loop. It just felt right! I must’ve done that route more times than I had baths this year (well, to be honest I’m a shower guy so I only had maybe two baths anyway) and it was a nice way to finish off the last few miles.

The next few days I clocked up a few more miles and hours but kept in recovery mode to let my body and legs really absorb the training I put in during the week. I did do one sneaky little effort up Beacon Fell when I tried to venture back into the hills on New Years Eve but the roads were still too icy and I admitted defeat, cut my ride short and settled for 60miles and one hill rather than eighty or so and a whole lot more climbing.

The weather is yet to really improve and I haven’t managed to do a proper hilly ride this year. I’m desperate to go out kill myself on some steep stuff!

I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year, and maybe even breaking the top 500 riders if the weather is better!

* I’m aware it’s a cycling no-no but from now on I’m going to revert to miles as it’s easier for me than kilometers. I’m from the UK after all.