Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Festive 500 Furlongs

Since completing our first Festive 500 in 2011, riding 500km (or more) between Christmas Eve and New Years has become a yearly tradition in our household. Unfortunately, it has also become a yearly tradition for my annual Festive 500 story to be one about overcoming injury or illness. Well, loyal readers, have no fear for this post is not more of the same. Because this year's story is quite different. This year, it is about my epic failure.

It had a promising prelude. See, back in the spring, my sister-in-law phoned and asked us to sit down before she shared her news.  After 12 years, she and the fiancĂ© had finally set a wedding date.  She then asked John to walk her down the aisle on New Year's Eve. My initial reaction was disbelief!

After all, they had been engaged for as long as I can remember. I'd finally given up asking if there was ever to be an actual wedding. But New Years Eve! Really? Surely they wouldn't make us travel at that time of year. Flights are expensive, airports are crowded and weather delays are inevitable.  But, most importantly - it's Festive 500 week! I mean, really, did she not know how this would impact our Festive 500, the challenge that Rapha promotes precisely to create family disharmony at Christmastime. 

It's already hard enough on marriages when the big credit card bills show up shortly after the black parcels arrive. If you have joined the Rapha cult, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But then the evil folks at Rapha came up with a plan to get MAMILS out of family gatherings over the holidays by offering a ... well ... a woven roundel - a truly remarkable reward for riding 500km in eight days, up and down mountains, through cold, snow, wind and rain. And if the roundel isn't enough incentive, there is also a badge on STRAVA! And for the lucky one in a million, there is a grand prize of something like a jersey. Now surely the bragging rights alone are worth abandoning children and grandparents while testing the limits of traction on icy roads, but the roundel - well it's all about the woven roundel, right?

Fortunately for our marriage, those black parcels always seem to contain items for both of us and we both look forward to the annual challenge, often logging many kilometers together. We're also quite happy to have something motivational to do over the holiday week. While others obsess about roasting turkeys or the best recipe for stuffing or shopping or gift wrapping or getting a new big screen TV, we are poring over maps, deciding which route to ride each day, and then doing laundry each evening while sorting through photos.

Living so far away from family, we've never been faced with the risk of alienating any of them by spending the week riding bikes. But now - a family wedding intruded on our unconventional holiday tradition. John quickly came up with the peace-keeping idea of heading to southern Spain for 10 days before the big event. We could actually complete our Festive 500 kilometers in mild sunny conditions. No studded tires! No need for fat bikes or moon boots or down jackets! And no risk of frostbite while taking photos! After a nice holiday in Spain, we could just stop in Ireland on our way home and attend the wedding on NYE. 

This sounded heavenly to me. I went online and ordered a case of sunscreen.

Alas, fate intervened. 

Rewind a bit. 

Last December, just before the start of the annual challenge, we bought fat bikes to help us stay sane with all the snow. We even logged some of our Festive 500 kilometers on the new fatties. 

Then in early January, while out riding in less than ideal conditions, I went flying over the bars on a icy rutted descent and landed face first on a very thin layer of snow hiding a rock that took precise aim at the middle of my collarbone. 

It wasn't a bad break, but it would be enough to keep me off a bike (and skis) for the winter.

Luckily I got a plate put in and was actually back to riding after a couple of weeks. I even managed a few days  on x-c skis near the end of the season.