At a loose end over the weekend I spent several hours looking out of the window at the rain and several more idly browsing the internet looking for inspiration. And it arrived in the shape of the Rapha ‘Festive 500 – Road to Redemption’. I liked the concept – basically ride 500km between 23rd and 31st December – but was less taken by the moody black and white photos and mention of Strava data (I am so technologically regressive that I don’t even wear a watch on my bike). So, I decided to do it my way i.e. on feel alone and free of hard data with a daily record here. Obviously it is now the 24th so I‘ve failed in the ‘one post each day’ conceit but, as I understand teenagers say, whatever (I am making a hand signal while typing this with one finger and look well gangsta).
Sunday 23rd December 2012
Having retired early and sober the previous evening I leap out of bed at first light, throwing the curtains open in anticipation of knocking off a decent chunk of the 500k and getting ahead of the game. I am met by the sight of flooded fields with the roads having some very large puddles. Figuring that it is still early, I return to bed to read as there is plenty of time later. Eventually rising I take to the computer while munching on my patented ‘Cyclist’s Breakfast’ (a large bowl of oat cluster cereal with low fat vanilla yoghurt, a pint and a bit of generic Red Bull and a large slug of Bikefood ‘honey and lemon’ gel). After 5 minutes my eyesight blurs and I start to shake so have to sit quietly with the curtains drawn until the initial effects of the ‘Cyclist’s Breakfast’ wears off. By this stage it is 10.45 a.m. so no point in going out before lunch.
Eyesight restored, I get ‘a quick 5 minutes’ on the computer with the sound turned down. Somehow I enter a space/time vortex and when I next pay attention 90 minutes has passed and it really is time for lunch. I still feel full from the earlier feed but, reassuring myself that I’m about to go on a real calorie-consuming ride, I tuck into a large plate of sausage, eggs, bacon, mushrooms and beans with a side order of bread and a pint of generic Red Bull (just to take the edge off). Having just taken part in an episode of ‘Ed v Food’ I felt a little sleepy and opted for a nap, waking at 2.25 p.m. It seemed high time to ride but I thought that before doing so I should just sort out some work shirts I’d not worn for a while and list them on eBay. The camera was playing up so this took longer than I expected and by 3.45 p.m. darkness was falling.
Accompanied by my head torch I approached the shed with trepidation – as feared the chain on the bike that I planned to use was stiff with grime and, with only 22 other bikes in working condition, I would need to clean it before setting out. Swearing under my breath like Andrew Mitchell (except I was the pleb) I attacked the chain with energy, burning off the first calories of the day. After 10 minutes I had a gleaming and freshly oiled chain, the drivetrain purring as I turned the cranks. Tyres pumped up to optimum pressure, I realised that this bike didn’t have the right fittings for my lights. Sighing (ok, swearing loudly), I replaced it and pledged to ride my trusty Pompino which did have fittings, a cleanish chain and tyres that held air. I also realised that time was against me as it was 4.50 p.m. and I was due at Cousin Jan’s at 5 p.m. which was cutting it fine as it’s a 25 minute ride. No matter, I’d be fashionably late (i.e. late).
Getting the Pompino from under the tree where it lives I was surprised by how wet and dirty it was. I did not stay surprised for long as a passing car plowed through the puddle outside at such speed that it sent a wave of water over the 7 foot high fence, drenching me from head to toe in the process. Excellent – I’d done nothing all day, my bike was filthy and I had been doused with freezing, stinking water. I did what anyone would have done in my position – cycled gently to Cousin Jan’s, drank one gin and tonic too many and then watched ‘Quantum of Solace’ (worst of the Daniel Craig Bond films by some distance which seemed strangely apt). I did ride back home though.
Distance covered – 15km
Distance remaining – 485km
Monday 24th December 2012
When I’d considered the Festive 500 I’d had images of my cycling effortlessly along snowy lanes, whistling jauntily while the rest of mankind sat beside the fire shovelling strawberry creams into their gaping craws. So far the reality was that I had eaten far too much and ridden 15km on one of the few days during the 23rd to 31st period when I wasn’t at work. I also had a slight hangover. Still, only 485k to go.
Mindful of Kelis’ advice about not being fooled twice, I crouched down below the wall looking for an opportunity to retrieve the Pompino without the foul shower. The puddle in the road outside had deepened overnight considerably but, compared to the previous day, I was smarter, stronger, faster and, with a dexterity rarely seen in my back garden, I snatched it with surprising ease. Ok, it wasn’t going to be an epic but at least I’d ride to work and tap out a few more vital kilometres.
Setting off with the enthusiasm of Dimitar Berbatov cahsing a long through ball, the first few metres felt unduly effortful. The reason why was simple. When I mentioned above that the road puddle had deepened I, to use a political phrase, mis-spoke. At the bottom of each pedal stroke I lightly skimmed the top of the water with the sole of my shoe – within 100m my feet were as sodden as if I’d simply popped them in a bucket of water before setting out. Still, not to worry as further up the road I could make out smooth tarmac. Which lasted around the corner where I was confronted by a completely flooded road. Still, I had cycled the road literally thousands of times so it couldn’t be too deep, could it. As I reached shin deep I started to hope that it wouldn’t deepen further – I didn’t want to get my natty Retrobike cycling breeks damp – when I noticed that a car was approaching the flood from the opposite direction. At speed. Still, he’d slow down. Except he didn’t.
It was like déjà vu but different. This time the wall of water hit my right hand side and, spluttering, I initially thought that I’d had a stroke, Bell’s Palsy at the least. The right side of my face was frozen but, like a Pavlovian dog, my legs continued to turn and I exited the flood with as much grace as I could muster (not much). The remainder of the 9km ride was pretty uneventful by comparison – apart from an altercation with a driver which I recall with no pride – and I arrived at work soaked and stinking. Still, only 476k to go.
Except I wasn’t done for the day, oh no. I needed to pop to the supermarket at lunchtime to pick up some sour dough bread, pesto and fresh basil (as you do). It would have been quicker to walk the 500m each way but it’s all about aggregation of marginal gains and I need the k’s baby – another 1km ticked off.
Distance covered – 10km
Distance remaining – 475km
I went past Ed's place on my way into Hereford for some 'last' minute Xmas shopping......and yes the floods were horrendous!
1990 Muddy Fox Courier Prestige.