Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… and yet there I was cooking Breakfast and fitting Lights to the Winter steed getting geared up to tackle the 2017 festive 500.
The Rapha festive 500 is a Cycling challenge to clock up 500 Kilometres on a Bicycle, either solo or with friends, during the period between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Only a small percentage of those who take on the annual challenge actually complete it.
This Year I have decided to give it a go, fully expecting to fail but hoping to prevail. When you do the Math 500KM is around 311 miles, divided by the eight days means you need to clock up around 40 miles per day, every day to succeed. 40 miles per day is achieveable, but it is Winter, the Weather is unpredictable, there are family Christmas gatherings to attend and numerous other things fighting for a slice of your time. It is no wonder then that not many succeeed in completing the festive 500 each year. To put that total distance in to perspective it took me the whole of last month to achieve the mileage that the festive 500 challenges you to achieve in just 8 days.
The Weather forecast was for a dry Morning with Rain coming in mid-morning but the bigger challenge to face today was a Cyclists nemesis, the strong Wind. A strong wind at your back is a beautiful thing… free speed, the miles come easier but riding head on in to the Wind is a struggle, it grinds you down sapping your energy reserves. I stepped out in to the Morning darkness to face day one of the festive 500 with aspirations of clocking up 60 – 80 miles to have me ahead of target on day one to allow for less favourable weather or less available time later in the week.
And so begins the @rapha_uk #festive500 out #intotheelements the strong wind will be today's major challenge with rain later this morning #stravaphoto #stravacycling #cycling #outsideisfree #cyclingni #roadcycling #discoverni #northernireland #fromwhereiride #roadslikethese #ridewithaview #mycyclingweekend #cyclesurgery #cyclingmemories #festive500
It was great to get out on to almost traffic free, dry roads, the hum of my Bicycle tyres for company, a nice mild morning so no need for as many layers as of late. I set off through Dundonald and due to the quieter roads gave the Greenway a miss and stayed on the main road. Approaching Comber I could see an amazing sunrise starting to develop immediately my plan for a longer spin went out the Window, I simple had to go somewhere to capture a Photograph of it. But where to go and could I get there before it got too light? I pushed on at pace to Island Hill and just made it in time to enjoy Mother Natures light spectacle 🙂 and three Fig rolls to top up the sugars.
It sure was a beautiful sunrise to #ridebikes near the @seesense_cc HQ this Morning the icon rear light keeping me visible. #seesense #stravaphoto #stravacycling #cycling #outsideisfree #cyclingni #roadcycling #discoverni #northernireland #fromwhereiride #roadslikethese #ridewithaview #mycyclingweekend #cyclesurgery #cyclingmemories #festive500
Leaving Island Hill it was now daylight as I Cycled back out to the dual carriageway where I got my first taste of the strength of the wind, progress was slow all I could do was grind it out, keep turning the pedals… this too shall pass. At the roundabout in Comber I opted to head back towards Dundonald for a bit before then setting course for Ballgowan. The whole road to Ballygowan was full on in to the wind, it was demoralising having to work so hard for so little speed.
A left turn in Ballygowan took me out the Carrickmannon road then a right turn in to Vestry road and three more fig rolls to try and undo the energy loss from fighting that wind. Vestry road was soon despatched and a right turn took me back towards Ballygowan, I now had the strong wind at my back and pushed on at pace back to Comber averaging 11 miles per hour faster speed for the same effort than what I had earlier when going in the opposite direction.
From Comber sticking to the main road all the way to Dundonald then on to the Greenway to the Beersbridge road through the streets of Belfast across to the SSE arena then along the Sydenham road and out the Airport road to Holywood throwing in a couple of small extra loops to accrue a few more miles before going home to put the feet up and start the recovery ready for tomorrow morning.
49 miles today was less than I wanted but with lighter winds forecasted for tomorrow it made sense not to empty the energy reserves today, holding something back for day two of the festive 500 which will have to be another early one before sitting down to the Turkey dinner feast.
49 miles down, 262 miles to go…