Rapha has been challenging cyclists to get in 500k of riding during the eight days between Christmas Eve and the new year. The mileage itself isn’t much of a challenge for me anymore. I love putting in long days in the saddle. But this time of year it is always just a bit harder to make it all work. I’ve accepted their challenge the last few years and once again, took on the daunting task of putting in big miles during challenging weather and family commitments.
However, this year I decided to add a few more rules to keep things interesting.
- Every ride had to be a mixture of singletrack, gravel, and paved roads. The ratio could vary, but every ride was to be done in the spirit of a Gran Fondo.
- No two rides could be the same. There could be some overlap, but the routes themselves had to be different.
- Each ride had to include something I have never ridden before. I often employ this rule throughout the year to keep me interested during long training rides. Nothing beats discovering a new suburban singlerack trail hidden at the end of that previously unexplored dead-end street.
- All rides had to start and finish at my house. As I’ve developed a passion for longer rides, I’ve found it is more satisfying to ride to and from the trail.
Historically I’ve always started in a hole getting in zero miles on the first few days. But I managed to get in a 70 k morning ride on Christmas Eve. I was already ahead of the game. The weather even seemed to cooperate so things were off to a great start.
The big family Christmas gathering is usually an all-day affair. But for some reason this year we weren’t getting together until the afternoon. Again, I had time to ride and this year I got in 87km keeping me well ahead of the needed pace.
This was my first day where I could spend some quality time on the bike. While my first two rides stuck to the lower elevations, it was time to head to the mountains. Unfortunately, this time of year, the mountains aren’t all that receptive to narrow gravel tires. I expected snow, but got much more than I bargained for. I climbed for a while on singletrack in the shelter of the trees so was unaware of what was coming. Once I arrived at the top for a gravel road section, I was greeted with two feet of snow. This forced a couple kilometers of hiking until the snow was shallow enough to resume riding. I made it back to lower elevations before the sun set and the rain arrived. However, I was only half way through my 120k ride. I still had a long, wet slog to go.
The good news is most of the rain had stopped. The bad news is it was replaced with some strong winds. Ice and fog was an issue at higher elevations so I stuck to more urban environments at low elevations. However, my 90k ride had brutal headwinds for the final 45k home.
My legs were getting heavy and sore. I set out to do a shorter ride and keep it around 70k. However, to my surprise, I felt amazing once I got going. I could barely walk down the stairs to get breakfast, but on the bike I was a new man. As a result, I kept going and my 70k turned into 107k. I wanted to keep going, but hadn’t charged my lights so I was already running on borrowed time. I was going to need a day 6.
With only 24k to go in the challenge, it was to be an easy day. I wasn’t going to be out long so I didn’t bother with rain gear. Not surprisingly it poured the entire ride and I was both soaked and chilled to the bone. My legs again felt great so other than being cold and wet, I didn’t want to stop. 34k later I couldn’t feel my hands and called it a day.
I pushed through some physical and mental challenges and found a surprising number of trails that I’ll be adding to my repertoire. Festivus Completus!