We are now three days into the Rapha #Festive500 and there are already some people that have completed the full 500km challenge but mostly people in the Southern Hemisphere. Here it has been extremely difficult just to get a ride in due to the heavy rain and subsequent flooding across the north of the UK. Therefore any miles are a bonus and the Festive 500 an even bigger challenge. I am involved in a three day challenge this year from the 29th to 31st December where we will ride all three stages of the 2016 Tour De Yorkshire so my miles so far have all been to keep my legs turning. You can follow that challenge using the #TDY500 and keeping an eye out for the photo below.
Day One - Christmas Eve
As I am going to be riding 515km after Christmas I decided that the first few days of the challenge this year would be used to keep my legs ticking over and recover a little from the miles already done this month. This year I am in Lancashire and an area which is exceptionally flat which has made this all the easier and so on day one I covered a gently 25 miles on a calm but overcast day winding my way around the small country lanes around Lancashire, tapping out a nice steady rhythm along a familiar loop I knew.
It's great that the roads are flat but the problem is you're exposed to the wind blowing in from the west coast so whilst I had a tailwind for a quarter of my ride the rest was spent either battling a furious headwind home, or leaning sideways to avoid being blown into a head by the crosswinds.
No big ride today; just recovery for the week ahead.
Day Two - Christmas Day
Again, with the challenge ahead playing on my mind and the fact it is Christmas Day I decided to take a very short but aggressive approach to the days riding. In previous years I have ridden up to 60 miles on Christmas Day but this year I wanted to spend time with Sarah and her family as I was guest for Christmas and after-all it should be spent with family rather than your bike. So I decided on a 16 mile TT as the faster way to get out, get the miles in and then get home for copious amounts of pigs in blankets.
The only snag with this was the weather; the wind had picked up even more over night and the rain was coming down in what looked like bucket sized droplets. My enthusiasm for any kind of riding was waning slightly. Even so, I pulled on my lycra and waterproof jacket before heading out into the wet.
My target was now simple. I had about 45 minutes to complete 16 miles on twisty, slippery roads without landing in a field and ruining Christmas. The first mile was certainly the hardest whilst I got up to temperature and fought the desire to head back inside but after that I settled into rhythm once again and began to bring my heart rate up and ignore the rain, focusing only on keeping both wheels firmly on the ground and me upright.
Fortunately I managed to do just this and after 45 minutes was pulling back into the driveway ready to demolish my pigs in blankets. Admittedly I needed to dry out first.
Turkey TT complete; 16 more miles in the bag.
Day 3 - Boxing Day
The almost impossible day. We woke up to the sound of heavy rain pounding the windows around the house and the dyke running alongside filling up at an alarming rate. Turning on the TV we were greeted with pictures of flooding across Lancashire and a danger to life warnings issued by the Met Office. Today would probably not be the day for riding.
We waited indoors for what felt like an eternity until in the early afternoon there came a break in the rain and being the crazy fool I am I decided now is the only opportunity to get in the miles. So once again it was full winter gear and waterproof jacket to the rescue and off I went.
It didn't take long to realize that the roads really were a mess when I had to change course after just a mile due to flooding. Maybe I should turn home I was thinking. So instead of turning home I headed for the main road and started heading north. Thankfully the main roads were pretty much all clear but all around me there were flooded fields and rivers which were over head height, but held back by the wall alongside the road.
Eventually I needed to head south again and decided on a loop heading down the country lanes once more. Unfortunately by this point the roads were cut off and I couldn't take the roads I knew. Following the diversion signs was problematic too; I was heading further from home and it was getting darker with the ever present threat that the roads that were once clear might not be anymore.
So once again I darted down the country lanes and thankfully had chosen the only one that appeared clear and began to push home. This is when the rain set in and things got painful. I was riding into a 40mph headwind with rain lashing directly into my face cutting my speed and visibility back to a minimum. The light was still fading.
The next 30 minutes was pretty grim as I simply put my head down and pushed the best gear I could to move as fast as I could. This wasn't very fast I might add. I have never been so wet.
Eventually I arrived home with 32 miles on the Garmin, an exceptionally soggy jacket, and several people questioning my sanity. This wasn't a day for riding.
It's been a tough couple of days on the road, but not as tough as it must be for those people that have been flooded. Spare a thought for everyone affected whilst you're out riding.