Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Festive 500–I’m So Glad It’s Done!

This was the fourth time I’ve done the Rapha Festive 500 (I didn’t do it last year because I was heading to do the Baja Divide, and would have missed two days). It was, by far, the hardest one.  The Festive 500 is a Strava Challenge sponsored by Rapha. The goal is to ride 500 km in the 8 days from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. That works out to just under 40 miles per day. It is a worldwide event with over 80,000 participants. This year, as usual, I rode a lot of the miles with my friend, Jean, and a few of the rides with her partner, Ron. However, this year, Cindy, also a glutton for punishment, joined the Festive 500, and I rode many miles with her too. If not for these three friends, I may have given up. I know, that’s not really like me, and in past years, I’ve not found the Festive to be all that difficult. This year was different. Christmas Eve, Day 1 of the Festive, was very good. The four of us rode together doing the loop known as Johnson Creek. While it was bone chilling cold at the most southern part of the loop, Ron kept a good steady pace for us gals to follow. By the time I got home, I had chipped off 85.3km (53 miles) of the required 500km. I was ahead of schedule. Then, it snowed. While it was lovely having a white Christmas, it did not help with the Festive quest. Day 2 was a challenge. I decided I would check out the Chehalis Western Trail, and if it was too scary, I would just do laps in the neighborhood next to where I live. I was riding my new gravel bike, “Sly Stone” (some might wonder why I didn’t ride Mama Cass, my plus bike...good question!). This is what scene greeted me at the trailhead.
Snow covered CWT
I decided to give it a go. It was quite slippery where people had walked. I had decided I would go as far as the bridge, then turn around if it wasn’t any better. As I was crawling my way along, I looked ahead to see a couple of crazies like me coming toward me. was Ron and Jean. They said they were just going to go slow on the trail. It was better than being on the road with the cars. I turned around, and went with them.  We ever so slowly made our way along the trail. As I was passing some walkers, I commented that this was not one of my finer moments, intelligence-wise. Ron, being far braver than Jean or I, would speed (relatively speaking) on ahead, then double back (afterall, it was about getting more miles). He said it was better if you went faster. While I thought that theory was probably sound, I didn’t wish to put it to the test. He also said it was fun to turn your handlebar quickly. part of that seemed like fun.  Once we reached a point of the trail where no one had walked, it really was kind of fun.
Virgin snow!
Ron and Jean making tracks
We made it as far as the Monarch Sculpture Garden, then decided to turn around. We stopped to take a couple of photos.
The bikes with the bike sculpture
Selfie shot
Coming back, I thought it was interesting that we hadn’t seen any other cyclists. I’m sure you are thinking that was because we were batshit crazy, but, trust me, I know there are others just as crazy...I’ve ridden with them!  At the trailhead where I came on, I said goodbye to Ron and Jean. I was at 19 miles. I really needed more than that, so I did some laps in Horizon Pointe until I couldn’t stand riding in circles any longer, and went home. I ended up with 26 miles. Now I was behind schedule. On Day 3, the weather was supposed to have warmed up. It least above freezing, and the trail was mostly clear, except for some patches, and all the bridges. I cursed myself for going on the trail, because I had to walk over all the bridges, and where there wasn’t a dirt path alongside the trail, I scootered through the other icy patches. It was very slow, but I made it to the end at Woodard Bay (apparently, I had just missed Jean). I came back through town, and went around Capital Lake. I kept adding little bits trying to get more miles, but then I was running out of daylight, and hadn’t brought my headlight. Not to say I wanted to ride on in the dark, but I should have been better prepared. I ended up with 30.8 miles—still behind schedule. My plan for Day 4 was to meet Jean at her work, then ride together. Since I could leave as early as I wanted, but she couldn’t go until 1:30, I opted to get in some miles before meeting her. I avoided the trail entirely, and was 15 miles in went I got to Jean. We took the trail north. It was much better. We did some loopy stuff on the roads in the north (avoiding hills where possible). I finished with 41.3 miles, which put me on target, but just barely. When I got home, I was really tired. I mean, really tired. I went to bed at 7:45.  The next morning, I did not feel great. My stomach was not happy, and things were passing through my system far too quickly, if you know what I mean. Even though I had slept a ton, I still felt tired. The temperature had warmed considerably (well, at least it was in the 40s) for Day 5, but along with warmer temps came the rain. Cindy and I met, and we rode toward Jean. Unfortunately, Jean was unable to get away, so Cindy and I turned back south on the trail. Cindy had to get in more miles as she had been only able to get in 20 miles the previous day. I was clearly slowing her down. I told her to go on ahead. I would go as far as the sculpture garden, then turn around.  Cycling is 95% a mental game. You play all kinds of games in your head trying to make a difficult ride seem easier. I was playing math games. I was calculating how far I had to go before I could turn around, and still get enough miles to stay on target. Not being great at math to start with, and feeling totally crappy, this did not make the ride seem easier. Finally, before I reached my planned turn around point, I decided I could go no further. I figured I would just do an extra couple of laps in Horizon Pointe. Fortunately, coming back, the trail trends down. I was able to go a tiny bit faster. Coming into Horizon Pointe, I was counting down the miles, then the 10ths of miles. I did one extra partial loop, then home. Since, early in the day, I had ridden to the Post Office (11 miles roundtrip), my 30.1 mile ride was enough to keep me on target. Day 6 found me still not up to par. I had zero appetite, and about the same amount of energy. It was also still pouring down rain. With Cindy, I managed to get 42.3 miles. We stopped in Tenino to get something to drink. I sucked down a Gatorade, and a square of a Peanut Butter Snickers. I felt pretty good. Maybe I just needed more calories of a sugar nature! Well, that came back to haunt me later at home. I was up until 12:30 with a very noisy stomach, and the runs. That was very unfortunate because Day 7 was the final Gravepalooza ride of 2017. While I was even more tired, I was not going to miss the ride. I was really looking forward to getting back on the gravel, and it was even supposed to be sunny! It should have been a warning that things were not going to be great, when it took me almost an hour to go the 9 miles to the meeting place for the ride. I did not heed that warning.  The first part of the gravel ride was going over the Sub Black Hills. I managed to ride up the first bit, but that was it. Things I would have normally been able to ride, I was walking. Because the Gravelpalooza rides are no-drop, Brian made sure I didn’t get left behind, and the whole group would be waiting at key turns. It was going to be a very long day for everyone. After walking again up a hill I should have been able to ride, I told Brian to just get me out of the Sub Blacks, and I would get the rest of my miles in on the road. At Delphi Rd, I wished everyone a Happy New Year, and headed for flatter ground. I headed toward home, taking a few breaks along the way, and managed to eek out a respectable 41.1 miles. The sun helped. Having gone a couple extra miles the last few days, I only had 35 miles remaining to finish this sucker! For the final day, I rode over to Jean and Ron’s and we rode a loop we call Speedway. The weather was chilly, but not raining, or snowing, or anything else (except some very chilly wind) that we had dealt with throughout this Festive 500 (including no more noisy stomach or runs for me). Jean and Ron were incredibly awesome as they really did not need to do so many miles. In fact, Jean only had 9 to go. While I was feeling better, intestinally, I still didn’t have my energy back (3 days of burning 1600-1800 calories while eating under 1000, and not retaining fluids doesn’t help—heck of a weight loss plan though...not!). Jean was kind enough to pull me pretty much the entire way. She even gave me a good rest break by getting a flat tire! Where I left Jean to go home, I had clocked over my necessary 35 miles. The remaining 6.5 miles home were just insurance.  As I said at the beginning, this was the hardest Festive 500 I’ve ridden. I’m glad I did it, but I’m really glad it’s done! I didn’t get any photos of Cindy and I (the rainy days), but here is one of her at the end of her Festive 500 miles.
Way to go Cindy!