Episode 7: the Rapha Festive 500

Image courtesy of Rapha

I wouldn’t normally ride several hundred kilometres in a week. In fact, I got through the 3 Peaks Challenge earlier this year having done little more than one ride a week (dumb, I know).

On that basis alone, the Rapha Festive 500 should have been well beyond me. But thanks to a fair bit of support, I managed to get through it.

The concept of the Festive 500 is simple: ride 500km between December 23 and December 31 to go in the running for a bunch of prizes.

Of course, most entrants won’t win a prize and for many the Festive 500 is about getting (and staying) fit and shedding those Christmas kilos. Or, as Rapha* so eloquently puts it, the Festive 500 is: ‘an attempt to escape the clutches of holiday indulgence’.

The Capital City Trail as it passes the Collingwood Children's Farm.

I heard about the Festive 500 on December 21 and immediately considered whether it was worth entering. On one hand, riding 500km in nine days would be terrific training and a way to offset any excessive Christmas consumption. On the other hand, there was the motivation issue: could I really be bothered riding almost every day for more than a week?

After a bit of deliberation, I tentatively signed up. Would I be able to do it? Was it worth the effort? And if I gave it a shot, what was the best way forward? Would it be easiest to ride 55km every day, for nine days? Or would five, 100km rides be a simpler option?

As it turned out, I went for something in between; a mixture of longer and shorter rides, a mixture of flatlands and hill climbing.

Here’s how I got to 500km:

Day 1: Friday December 23

Ride: To and from work via the Capital City Trail
Distance: 24km & 24km (48km total)

On the last day of the working year, I wasn’t due to start until 9.30 — plenty of time for an extended commute. When work wrapped up around noon I decided to take the long way home too, clocking up roughly 50km on the first day of the Festive 500.

The Capital City Trail, right next to the Yarra River.

Day 2: Saturday December 24

Ride: Trentham to Mt. Macedon, return (inc. climb from both sides)
Distance: 102km (150km total)

Brendan and I drove to Trentham before climbing Mt. Macedon from both sides, in the hot sun. A terrific, challenging ride, and one that you can read more about in my previous blog post.

Day 3: Sunday December 25

A rest day for Christmas. Much food was eaten.

Day 4: Monday December 26

Ride: Boxing Day Boule’ Bash (with Brendan)
Distance: 60km (210km total)

Brendan and I met up for a couple hours of riding, including three cruisy laps of the Kew Boulevard. We headed down the Koonung Creek Trail to get in some (easy) extra kays but our plans were thwarted by some serious flooding from the rain on Christmas Day.

The Koonung Creek Trail.

Day 5: Tuesday December 27

Ride: Thornbury to Frankston, return & to and from spin class
Distance: 112km & 10km (332km total)

The day started with a cruisy spin to Frankston and back with the Donvale Demon. We had a bit of a headwind on the way down to Frankston, but after having something to eat and turning around, the wind was more than welcome.

After an hour or two to recuperate post-ride, Brendan, the Demon and I met at The Spin Room for an hour-long sufferfest. Sadly, the distance covered in the spin class didn’t count toward the 500km — it would have been about 35km or so — but it certainly counted toward the fatigue I felt the next day. Ouch.

Great day for a ride down Beach Road.

Day 6: Wednesday December 28

A much-needed rest day.

Day 7: Thursday December 29

Ride: Thornbury to Kinglake, return (via Arthurs Creek)
Distance: 108km (440km total)

After a full day’s recovery, the Donvale Demon and I reconvened and headed out to Kinglake for another solid century. We were both still sore and tired from Tuesday’s efforts and so we took it pretty easy on the way out.

We rode through Mill Park, Yarrambat, Cottles Bridge and St. Andrews on our way to the base of the Kinglake climb. Despite feeling fatigued, I was still keen to have a crack at my PB on the Kinglake climb and, as it turns out, I did it easily. I posted a time of 21 minutes 41 seconds — more than two minutes faster than my previous best.

Nice quiet roads and terrific scenery near Arthurs Creek.

After meeting at the top and grabbing a bite to eat, the Demon and I bombed our way back toward St. Andrews and took a right at Cottles Bridge. We decided to extend our ride slightly to include the quiet backroads around Arthurs Creek. It was great to get off the main road for a bit and have a chance to ride two abreast and enjoy the scenery.

After negotiating the rolling hills between Arthurs Creek and Mernda we turned on to Plenty Road and worked our way back to the city. Another splendid ride with a great PB thrown in to boot!

Day 8: Friday December 30

Another rest day.

Day 9: Saturday December 31

Ride: Thornbury to Riversdale, return (via four bike tracks)
Distance: 68 km (508km total)

With the weather forecast showing numbers the wrong side of 30, I was keen to knock off the remaining kays early in the day. I jumped on the Merri Creek Trail, headed south east on the Capital City Trail, turned left on to the Gardiners Creek Trail and ended up on the Anniversary Trail.

The Anniversary Trail, on the site of the old Outer Circle Railway Line.

Call me un-pro or whatever, but there’s a lot to be said for getting off the road and exploring the many bike paths that Melbourne has to offer. I’d never really seen what the Gardiners Creek Trail or Anniversary Trail were all about so it was a good opportunity to find out, while clocking up the remaining 60km in the Festive 500.

After around 35km I found myself somewhere near Riversdale and decided to turn back. When I got home — hot, and pumping out sweat like nobody’s business — I had covered 68km and completed the Rapha Festive 500. A great feeling and, for a hacktacular cyclist like myself, quite a reasonable achievement I reckon!

Quiet road between Cottles Bridge and Arthurs Creek.

I’d like to say a big thank you those who offered their words of support and encouragement on Twitter, and, in particular, to Brendan and the Donvale Demon for getting me through the 500km. There’s no doubt their presence and support made the challenge considerably easier.

Not so easy, though, that I could have matched it with the frontrunners in the Festive 500. At the time of writing, the leader — Kristian House, a professional cyclist with the Rapha Condor team — had covered a lazy 1,206km. Who let the pros enter?!

As 2011 winds to a close, I’m due a couple days off the bike to rest and recover. On Tuesday, Brendan, the Donvale Demon and I are heading up to Falls Creek for three nights and for (hopefully) some awesome training. The weather forecast isn’t looking all that friendly at this stage — high-30s, if not 40 degrees, with rain thrown in for good measure — but hopefully we’ll find some time to ride!

Don’t forget to come and say ‘hi’ over on TwitterFacebook and/or Strava and feel free to leave a comment below.

Until next time, have a terrific New Year and a safe and prosperous 2012!

71 days to go …

Previous instalments

*As well as making cycling apparel and accessories, Rapha make some gorgeous cycling videosthis one set in the Victorian Alps is glorious.

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