The things we do…

…for a little cloth badge from Rapha! :-)

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Finally received  my Rapha Festive 500 celebratory badge. I’ve been waiting for this since I finished that last ride on the 28th of December to cap off six days on the bike.

The badge was accompanied by a postcard full of challenge statistics. One of the more interesting numbers is 1277. That’s the total number of riders in the UK who managed to ride 500km or more and complete the challenge. A nice little elite group I’d say!

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2014: A fantastic cycling year!

Looking back at my 2014, it has been a top year on two wheels! Actually the past couple of years have been great and in that respect I am truly lucky. Here’s a few quick stats I’ve pulled from my Garmin account:

Total Distance:   4462 miles / 7180 km
Longest Ride:   101.5 miles / 163 km
Elevation Gain:   145,778 ft / 44,443 metres
Biggest month:   June – 585 miles / 940 km

There were many highlights along the way – too many to name them all – so here’s a quick run down of just a few of my high points from 2014.

Tour of the South East

This was a two-day, 185 mile ride offering the full “pro peloton” experience. That included ability seeded groups, timed hill climb sections, domestiques in each group offering support, motorcycle outriders stopping traffic at junctions and team cars loaded with spare wheels and bikes! I wasn’t “lucky” enough to suffer a mechanical, but if you got a flat you simply rolled to a stop so the team car could swap out a new wheel and get you going again!

NSPCC001Anthony, James, Richard, Dave (our domestique), Marcos and I at the finish!

This was (for me at least) a very challenging two days in the saddle, but two of the most memorable and enjoyable rides of 2014. It was great to share the experience with a bunch of my club mates and also raise a bit of money for charity. I couldn’t have done it without them as they pushed me to ride harder than I thought I could at the time.

The Rapha Festive 500

I couldn’t leave this one off the list! Ride 500km in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. I really pushed my endurance limits with this Strava challenge and even rode my first ever imperial century along the way. It was cold and mentally draining at times but I’m glad I completed it.

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A bunch of other Strava Challenges

Along with the mammoth Festive 500, I also managed to tick off a whole bunch of other Strava challenges throughout the year.

trophycaseSome may knock Strava, but I find it a great social and motivational tool. I can keep tabs on my own progress and see what and where my mates are riding.

Their 2014 series of monthly Gran Fondo challenges have pushed me to up my distances and get some extra miles ridden. Last year my longest ride was less than 80 miles, this year a shade over 100 miles! I managed to bag 10 out of the 12 monthly Fondos. And no, I didn’t buy all the limited edition jerseys!

Being part of a club

Being part of a thriving cycling club has been a game changer for me. Over the last two years I’ve seen the club ride grow from just a handful of guys meeting under a tree at the Leisure Centre, to as many as fifty riders turning up for a summer ride out to the Surrey Hills! Aside from the cycling, the club’s monthly social nights at a local pub are a great way to catch up and chat over a pint away from the confines of Lycra.

WCC crestAs the club’s competition secretary I organised a series of evening time trials, with a hill climb at either end of the season. The hill climbs especially were greeted with much enthusiasm by many riders. I’m hoping to grow this in 2015 with larger fields and introduce a few more newbies to the dark world of time trialling.

So that’s 2014 all wrapped up, now looking forward to an epic 2015!

How was your year on the bike? #keepcycling

Festive 500: It’s in the bag!

In the immortal words of NBA Jam …. Boom shaka laka!

With a final gentle ride today I completed the Rapha Festive 500! Thanks to an epic solo mission yesterday I found myself ahead of schedule. Something of a rarity for me I managed to stay on track and stick to my game plan. Actually I finished a day earlier than I had anticipated. That forward planning really paid off.

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It was good fun, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Having the time and opportunity to spend so many hours on the bike over the festive period is not something that happens very often! I was lucky this year. Also apart from the first day the weather has been pretty kind. So let’s check out my trusty spreadsheet:

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You can see I didn’t quite hit my 320 target, but to complete the challenge I only needed to ride 311 miles so I did what I needed to do. Today’s 28 miles were very gentle on very tired legs.

Just as Rapha promised, it has been the “gift of fitness” at Christmas. Having ridden for the fifth consecutive day yesterday I really noticed an increase in endurance as I cranked out my first ever imperial century. Now to carry that fitness into the new year!

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Festive 500: Half time score

My Festive 500 spreadsheet is looking pretty good! As planned I completed a big ride on the first day. It was a tough ride through some pretty grimy weather. I probably pushed a bit too hard, but it needed to be done.

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The ride on the 26th I cut short as it was below freezing. I delayed the start until mid morning and it was still -1.5 deg C even then! To keep the legs in the groove I added a short and very gentle ride today.

raphaI’m over half way through the mileage needed with half of the challenge days over. I really need to stay focussed and keep the momentum going in order to get this completed. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep then straight back in the saddle in the morning!

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Festive 500: First day, first ride

Christmas Eve and it’s the first day of the Rapha Festive 500! :-) As per my previous post I had a bigger ride pencilled in for today. I was planning on a pre-7am start, but the conditions were poor to the point of being dangerous, so I delayed until 8am for safety.

It was truly grimy out there this morning. Looming grey skies, horizontal rain and blowing an almighty howling gale! The rain subsided after a couple of hours, but the wind was relentless for almost the entire ride. Battling along at crawling pace into a block headwind was not much fun. Total for the day was 150km at a 27kph average.

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So an admirable start to the Festive 500, also the December Gran Fondo completed and the best home made sausage roll ever at the cafe stop in Tenderton too.

That’s 30% of the challenge out of the way already!

Festive 500: A bit of planning

With less than a week until the Rapha Festive 500 kicks off, I thought I’d get cracking on a plan on how I’d be able to clock up the 311 miles required. On average I am going to need to cover just under 40 miles per day across the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

To get a good head start I’ve put my longest ride on the first day of the challenge, that way I can hopefully stay ahead of the game. It can be a busy time of year so I’ve sat down and figured out exactly when I can ride and how many miles I need. This is my ideal riding plan:

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December 27th is out due to commitments and travelling, although I might squeeze in a couple of miles that evening if I can spare the time. I’m hoping to have this in the bag and not have to ride on the 31st, but it’s free if I need to.

Technically I “only” need 311 miles so aiming for 320 gives me a small margin. In the summer during the holidays this would be a breeze (damn you people doing it in the Southern Hemisphere) but in the depths of winter this could be tough.

Better pack a warm jacket!  #festive500