The Rapha Festive 500

"Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” 
Helen KellerThe Open Door

The Rapha Festive 500...500 Kilometres in the week from Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve. Challenge accepted.

I can't ride on the afternoon of the 28th through to the evening of the 30th. That means I've got five days (including Christmas Day) to ride 500kms.

This blog will follow my rides on the Isle of Wight for the 500 - Rain, Floods, Wind and Mud. I'll try and document each day with a photo, a short blog or poem. Good luck if you are partaking in the challenge too!

Ride 1 (24/12/2012) - 'Floods, Rain, Wind and Pain'
      107.9 Km        1,091m Elevation Climbed        03:53:34 Moving Time        2,605 Calories        Strava: Link

Ride 2 (25/12/2012) - 'Festive Sunshine'
      43.6 Km        407m Elevation Climbed        01:39:56 Moving Time        1,031 Calories        Strava: Link
     gusting winds and a 
           swollen river...will never
                       dampen my spirit            #Festive500Haiku

Ride 3 (26/12/2012) - 'Ride Into The Darkness...'
      63.2 Km        606m Elevation Climbed        02:20:37 Moving Time        1,464 Calories        Strava: Link
You step outside, away from the log fire into the darkening wonder, is it worth it? 
  Black clouds scud across the horizon, tracking towards you...inevitable.
    Rain jacket on. Overshoes on. Lights blaring. Clip-in. No turning back.
      Five minutes in you turn. Force 9 Gale hits you head-on.
        You battle on.

  Before long the fateful dark clouds envelope you. The heavens open. Let it begin.
    Roads become rivers. Rocks cascade downwards in the torrent.
      Concentrate... you squint, slalom through the debris. 
        Water deep around your tyres,
          Push on.

    Darkness deepens. Senses strained. Lungs burning. Head down, you attempt to hold your line
      The ferocious cross winds buffet you like a lone rag doll in the wilderness
        Lights pick out landslides; mud turning grip to grease,
          You tighten your hold on the bars.
            Count down the miles.

      Time blurs. Raindrops flicker in the headlamps. You're almost home.
        The last leg a finale; a foot deep torrent covers the road,
          You ride through; ankles awash, mind numb.
            As you open the door, relief sets in.
              Relief. Warmth. Achievement.                           #Festive500Poetry     #Festive500NightRide

Ride 4 (27/12/2012) - 'Keep The Legs Turning...'
      120.7 Km        1,246m Elevation Climbed        04:34:25 Moving Time        2,827 Calories        Strava: Link
"For always roaming with a hungry heart, Much have I seen and known" 
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

Ride 5 (28/12/2012) - 'Beginning To Feel Like A Madman...'
      69.9 Km        717m Elevation Climbed        02:38:28 Moving Time        1,593 Calories        Strava: Link
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 
Jack KerouacOn the Road

Ride 6 (31/12/2012) - 'Killer Crosswinds'
     106.8 Km        1,025m Elevation Climbed        04:15:24 Moving Time        2,271 Calories        Strava: Link
The dictionary definition of 'challenge' is "an act or statement of defiance; a call to confrontation"; it was the elements that once again provided that confrontation today, on the final day of the Rapha Festive 500 Challenge. I needed to do 95 kms to bring me up to the magic number and conditions were the worst they had been all week; the Isle of Wight was being battered by 50 mph+ winds and torrential rain. With no team mates braving the weather, and with a nagging cold I headed out alone to tick through the kilometres.

The rain was mild for the first few hours, although progress was the slowest I have ever experienced on the route I was taking; with average speeds below 15 mph. I plugged away into the headwind, hoping that when I turned the corner at Freshwater the wind would blow me home. The photo above was taken just after that turn, which in reality turned out to be far less welcoming; the wind had a lot more South in it than I had anticipated and would be a vicious crosswind for the whole of the 17 mile straight Military road that runs down the South-west side of the island.

To add to the drama the heavens well and truly opened shortly after reaching the road, and once again roads became rivers and cars became metal missiles with giant jet streams of spray in their wake. Those 17 miles must have been some of the most challenging riding I have ever done on a road bike; salt spray rising off the sea that was crashing on the cliffs a few hundred meters to the right, and winds which several times blew me off the tarmac onto the grass verge; it was a mental and physical challenge to keep the bike tracking in a straight line, let alone moving forward.

Eventually the road turned in-land, and the crosswind became a tailwind blowing me home; my speed picked up, and with spirits lifted I was glad to see the miles tick by far faster. It took one more loop and one more headwind stretch closer to home to bring the distance up to the required, but by that stage the euphoria of finishing was driving me on; that and the prospect of a cup of coffee, a warm fire and some Christmas cake. I don't think my legs or mind could have taken much more.

So the Festive 500 finished much as it started... a challenge through and through. The conditions since Christmas Eve have been some of the worst I have ever experienced on a bike; I have done five back-to-back 100+ mile days in the middle of summer, but trying to do 60 miles a day in conditions like this have really proven a challenge.

Wind, Rain, Floods and Pain...those four words, and the feeling of achievement at the finish sum up my Festive 500 pretty well. Bring on next year! 


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