Friday, December 30, 2011

The Rapha Festive 500 Round-up

If 2011 was my year of RECOVERY, 2012 will be my year of REDEMPTION. This is why ushering in the new year with Rapha's Festive 500 was so important.  A "Ride to Redemption" it was. As readers of this blog know in somewhat excruciating detail (move on already, they yell!), I suffered a catastrophic accident in August 2010 when a distracted driver hit me from behind on the Endless Mountains 1000K brevet I was using to train for Paris-Brest-Paris. After breaking 25 bones (including both legs), spending 6 weeks in the hospital and 18 months in physical therapy, I am ready to move on.  The Festive 500 could not have come at a better time. 500K represents my greatest weekly volume of riding since the accident and bodes well for the year ahead.

When I read about the challenge last week while perusing the Rapha website, I was not entirely sure I could pull it off. As a randonneur and ultra racer, I've ridden 500K in 24 hours on several occasions and 500K in a week many times, but that was all before the accident. What would the impact of this level of concentrated riding be on my system NOW? Would my legs hold up? Would my shoulder give out? Would I develop fatigue in my hips? While I've been riding at least one 200K event each month since July, I would not know the answers to these questions until I tried.

All told, riding 500K in a week was a piece of cake. The most difficulty came from squeezing time on the bike in between family plans, as is usually the case rather than any physical demands per se. The weather even generally cooperated with warmer and drier conditions than normally prevail in late December.

Here is a collection of blog posts chronicling each of my Festive 500 rides:

Day 1 (75K)
Day 2 (69K)
Day 3 (31K)
Day 4 (20K)
Day 5 (52K)
Day 6 (54K)
Day 7 (202K)

So repeat after me: "the word of 2012 is Redemption."

The Rapha Festive 500: Day 7 (202km)

Done! After six days of squeezing small and medium rides in between family holiday gatherings and time by the fire, it was time to reel this fish into the boat. On Day 7 of the Rapha Festive 500, I decided to complete a 200K permanent route thus wrapping up the Festive challenge with 505 kms and completing my December RUSA R-12 ride at the same time. Pretty efficient, no?

The theme of the day was COLD. After several days with temps in the 30s and 40s, it dipped into the teens overnight and the thermometer registered 22 at the start and never climbed above freezing all day long. Don N. shot over from CT to join me for a day of chilly riding. My water bottles froze solid by about mile 25 and it was not until the first control at mile 49 that I was able to suitably thaw them out. Here's a picture of me steaming up the bathroom with scalding tap water to get these bottles back to normal.

Also at the first control was this amazing breakfast which both warmed me up and refueled the engine.

The particular route includes two Hudson Rider crossings, both of which were (you guessed it!) rather cold.

All told, it was a great day in the saddle. Despite bitter cold temperatures, we were blessed with sun and tailwinds for most of the day. Time for a few days away from cycling. Up next: my next R-12 ride in early January.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Rapha Festive 500: Day 6 (54km)

I'm happy to report that I did not encounter any reindeer jumping across the road during this 3-1/2 miles or at any time along my route today. Rode another 54 km this morning which brings the weekly total to 303 kms. All set to wrap things up tomorrow with a 200km permanent through Columbia County.

Fortunately, there's no precipitation in the forecast, but those temperatures at daybreak tomorrow look pretty shocking. Not sure how Festive it will feel at 7 am.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Rapha Festive 500: Day 5 (52km)

I'm going to miss these guys. Just about time to pack everyone up in the shed for another 11 months. Riding in the cold winter months is hard, but somehow finding seasonal lawn ornaments around so many corners is somehow entertaining. Today's ride brings my Festive 500 total to 249 kms.

Off to the post office today to return the lovely Craft Elite Winter Jacket my mom bought me for Christmas. It turns out that the fit is just too snug in the wrong places so I'm going to kick in a few extra nickels and have them ship me the gold standard: the Rapha Classic Softshell.

The weather is about to get ugly, with 35 mph gusts on tap for tomorrow, so I've moved this week's 200km ride to Thursday. Don's coming out from CT so it should be fun. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Rapha Festive 500: Day 4 (20km)

How am I ever going to keep the weight down when my daughter bakes like this? Oh right - the Rapha Festive 500! Just a short little spin today between family gatherings. 197K so far this week. Lovely weather this morning, with a forecast for some ugliness later in the week. Getting a little tense about that 200K ride I have planned . . .

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Rapha Festive 500: Day 3 (31km)

The roads this morning in the hills around my house were almost completely devoid of life, with the exception of a few jolly dog walkers. This, combined with somewhat milder temperatures today, made for a pretty nice ride. In addition, there seemed to be holiday cheer around every corner. The owners of this home (above) piped Christmas carols into the yard from a speaker hidden under the porch and set up a table with candy canes for all to share.

All told, a short ride today: just 31km.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Rapha Festive 500: Day 2 (69km)

It was a bit colder on Day 2 of the Rapha Festive 500, but nothing a pair of shoe covers, some tights, a pair of Pearl Izumi lobster mitts and my trusty Rapha merino hat couldn't conquer. Hell, my water bottles didn't even freeze. Today I did a bit of climbing through the Shawangunk Ridge, site of the 2009 Rapha Gentlemen's Race. While I traveled over some of the same roads today, there's no way that any team I was riding on would have captured second place this time around. The Gunks are lovely at any time of year so the climbing was a delight.

So with two rides done, I've got 145 km in the bank.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Rapha Festive 500: Day 1 (75km)

Not only did I get in a great (if slow) ride this morning on my first day of Festive 500 fun, but I also finally figured out how to use my "new" Garmin eTrex Vista GPS unit to log mileage on a ride and download it to the interwebs. Day 1: 75 kms. Only 425 to go!

The 2012 cycling season has officially begun!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rapha's Festive 500 Begins at Dawn: Are You With Me?

Try as I might, I just can't pass up an endurance cycling challenge, especially one sponsored by my favorite clothing company. That's right, Rapha is at it again with their Festive 500. The rules are pretty simple: log 500 outdoor kilometers between December 23 and December 31 to counterbalance the caloric decadence and sloth normally associated with this time of year.

The Festive 500 begins tomorrow and at dawn I'll be out the door. Are you with me?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Be Damned: My New Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Softshell Lobster Gloves

What should a responsible randonneur do on a beautiful day when he/she can't ride? Buy new gear, of course. When I had to pull the plug on my plans for a 200K permanent yesterday due to family illness and a pulled shoulder muscle, I was very pleased to get the call from my pals at The Bicycle Depot letting me know that my new Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Lobster Mitts had arrived.

Despite temperatures in the mid-fifties this afternoon, I took off for a short spin to see how the shoulder was feeling and made sure to try out the new lobster mitts for good measure. Let me tell you, these are some sweet gloves! They're light (filled with Primaloft), fleece-lined and encased in a softshell windbreak fabric.

I anticipate great things this winter. With a new permanent route approved on flat, main, well-maintained roads and a pair of excellent deep winter gloves, I stand an increasingly good chance of capturing that elusive R-12 medal. Sure, I'll look like a dork, but who cares. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Knowing When to Stop: The Endurance Athlete's Achilles' Heel

Knowing when to stop is not easy for athletes and it can be a serious liability for endurance athletes in particular. If it weren't for a virus my wife picked up, I'd be riding a 200K permanent today. Riding despite some pretty significant pain and mobility reduction in my left shoulder as a result of some yoga and leaf raking I did last weekend. Any sensible person would say, "time to take a week or two off until I'm feeling back to normal," but randonneurs aren't normal. What generally makes randonneurs, and ultra-distance athletes in general, successful is the ability to look adversity, pain and discomfort in the face and say, "to hell with it."

My wife tells a funny story she heard from her doctor about a guy who broke is toe running, yet persisted in asking the doctor what he could expect from continuing to train despite being told to take a six-week hiatus to heal. He was relentless. The only trouble is, I can see the runner's point of view all too clearly. The temperament that leads to our success can also be our undoing.

I was actually very impressed with Diana Nyad's recent decision to end her "Extreme Dream" to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida after being stung repeatedly by jellyfish and looking at the possibility of DYING from shock if she continued. DNF and DNS particularly nasty expressions to use with an endurance athlete, but sometimes saying no is the best thing in the long run.

So with 27 days left in the month (14 of which I'm actually on vacation), I'm not too nervous about the impact that this day off will have on my R-12 plans, despite the fact that it will undoubtedly be colder and perhaps even snowy when I'm feeling up for my next 200K. Hopefully, though, I'll have enough willpower to wait until my shoulder has healed a bit more from this setback before heading out on a day-long ride.