Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Rapha’s Festive 500. Day 8: 31st December

The final day:  Time to smash this 500 km into next year. Welcoming 2013 in with aching legs!

I know that these are not Rapha shoe covers, and doing a Rapha Challenge maybe I think they shouldn't be mentioned...but they were wishing me to 'Have a Good Ride'. How could they possibly do anyone any harm?! Thank you shoe covers!
So with just today to get this done, it was really time to get out early.

Already I noticed how much colder the weather was and how much wetter it was too. With the Rapha shop being my main goal today and with a detour planned around Covent Garden picking up one of those fluorescent pink Cambridge Satchels for my sister, I headed out on the route to the capital; London.

Coming into central London I rode past Battersea Power station. It seemed that the whole of Battersea is being developed at the moment. It’s one huge building site. I carried on cycling through and saw this building below. It’s the MI6 building! I had to take a photo after seeing it blown up in the latest 007 flick, 'Skyfall' earlier in the month. You can see from the pictures that the weather was still pretty disgusting. 

After finding the satchel shop in Seven Dials and bumping around all over the cobble stone roads in that area, I began heading for the Rapha Shop just up the road.

I pulled up next to this tall looking building. It looked rather like a massive house with a small door with 'Rapha' on the glass on the corner of the shop. Fancy tiles and lots of clean glass. I cycled a few more feet and was drawn in by the giant Rapha MOD target on the shop window. 
The saddest part to this day was that the shop was now closed until 4th February. I missed it by a day. Gutted. A refurbishment of the entire shop. Including the coffee shop. Noooooo!!!
As I looked in, all sad and disheartened, I was greeted by a member of staff (Mario) who I chatted to about coffee and the fact that they are now closed. It’s on here that I’d like to thank him for his help.  
He was more than happy to help me to the nearest shop which sells Rapha stuff and even check to see if the coffee machine inside was still working. When he saw it wasn't, he went out of his way to help me further. Giving me a card for a free coffee when they re-open and directing me towards Ginger & Whites down the road for a great coffee...sadly they were closed too.

My Festive 500 was as good as complete. All I had to do was cycle home. In the cold. In the wet. The light was dim and I just wanted to get home and have a hot shower. My toes were frozen. I think this was a case of "I’ve just cycled as good as 500 km and have had enough!"

As I approached home, soaked through I saw that I hadn't done the km that I needed. I was still 10 km short. So I threw in a few loops down from Kingston to Surbiton, round and back up to Kingston and back into Surbiton again. After adding another 10 km to my ride, I noticed my stupid iPhone was on 18% again. So I headed home and plugged it in as soon as I got home. Uploaded the data and quickly logged onto the STRAVA site to see how many I had done in total. 
501 km! I had done it. Complete. The Rapha Festive 500. DONE. 

Throughout the week I have doubted being able to complete it. The weather has been awful to be honest. I rather think that those in hotter climates have had it easy. But then I suppose I have had it easy compared to those in Norway or colder places. After seeing the video of the guy who won this last year, all covered in snow, I am lucky we had a wet Christmas and didn’t have a white Christmas. 

Would I do it again? Possibly. It was much harder than I expected. Perhaps if I was cycling more between September and December it would have been easier...but that’s what makes a challenge. Something that is going to actually push you to your limits. With some determination and support anyone can do a something that challenges them. Now, to get back on the bike in a few day’s time and start clocking up the km's for 2013. Maybe I can think of a number of km's to do in the year and try and ride them. Who knows? 

Thanks Rapha for doing this Festive 500. Thanks to everyone I’ve seen, told and who knows I’ve done this. The support has been great.

Total for the day: 67.7 km
Total for the week: 501 km
Remaining: 0 km COMPLETE


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Rapha’s Festive 500. Day 7: 30th December

A well-earned day off! 

So after rushing into work last night, I found out that I wasn’t needed. This was great news to hear. I was tired and just wanted to flop and snooze all evening.

As a little pat on the back for myself, I decided to have two pints of Peroni and a burger. I headed home, and did exactly what I wanted to do; sleep. 

Now last night, there was a test being undertaken without me even realising it.
After every ride, and two hours after, I have been taking protein For Goodness Shakes. Then following that, I have been drinking about a litre of water. 
Saturday night: No protein shakes. No water. Two pints of beer. This concoction resulted in my legs aching so badly today that it was definitely time for a day off the bike. I ached in places I didn’t even know existed!

This now means one thing. I have to complete the Festive 500 tomorrow. whatever the weather (which is really annoying as today is the only dry day we’ve had all week!) and tomorrow looks colder and wetter than the rest of the week. 

So just resting up and preparing myself for a fun final day riding. I have plans to head into central London and finish at Rapha HQ with a coffee. 
What better place to finish the Rapha Festive 500 than in the company of Rapha themselves. I can’t wait.

Rapha’s Festive 500. Day 6: 29th December

My Ride back to Surbiton; Weather forecast rain at 1300 hrs.

I had been looking forward to getting another large ride in. With a possibility of getting two 80+ km rides in two days excited me to get within reaching distance of the full 500. 

 As I set off from Buxted where I had left my bike overnight, it wasn't long before I bumped into my cycling buddy Sam again. He had been doing hill repetitions on Ashdown forest and was on his way home. We had a little natter and talked about the best route to get to Gatwick Airport.
Like my ride down south on Christmas Eve, I hadn't really looked at which was the best way to ride. We decided that heading towards East Grinstead was best going through Nutley, Chelwood Gate and into Forest Row.
A quick stop off before I got on the gas at the garden centre for a quick Americano coffee on the cross road where Coleman’s Hatch road/Hindleap Lane meet the A22 Lewes road. Lights were most definitely on and it was just a little past midday. The dim light was already a cause for concern.

Next up was the new easier route that my iPhone maps were taking me. Forest Row to East Grinstead and around the outskirts of Reigate.
The forecast was to rain at 1300 hrs. It was 1245 hrs. and it had started.

By my lunch stop and Christmas cake break in Reigate it was pouring down. I shoved a coffee with cream down the gullet and got back on the road. Recalculating the Garmin was all good. Setting it for home again, and double checking where to go before waiting and waiting and waiting some more. Why does it calculate the route, and then wait for hours it seems on 100%? Anyway, after it had gathered itself together, we were off. Last stretch now before home.

Not really knowing my exact route home was maybe a good thing. I didn't really know how far I had left to go, so I just kept my legs turning. Round and round and round. I had the Garmin all set up but just focused on the road and when it told me to turn, I did. I saw a 'Pendleton Road' signpost which I though would give me inspiration to carry on cycling.  

Trying to concentrate through the driving rain was quite hard. 

I was able to make it back into the outskirts of Kingston in good time with thanks to the much shorter route than when I rode home at the beginning of the week.  

It was about 1500 hrs. and I had enough time to sling in a couple of loops of Richmond Park like I had hoped to do.
I knew that my phone battery was slowly running out. This was not cool. I had read on the Rapha site that quite a few people had also had this problem when riding longer rides.
I was on my way home and up to 92 km when it turned itself off. As soon as I realised I was home on the shortest route and my aim was to plug it in as soon as possible. Will it have saved the 92 km that I had ridden today? Or was that all a waste? I’m not going to lie; mild panic had set in!

Thankfully STRAVA allowed me to save the data and upload it. Phew! Not a wasted day at all. Now the rush to work was on for 1800 hrs. Should I ride to work and clock up a few extra kms? Nope. I’ll just walk. So I did.
Its Sunday tomorrow and I am working at midday so if I am to ride, it’ll have to be an early one. I am about 60 kms from the end with only tomorrow morning and Monday day time to finish. It’s cutting it fine but I recon I will get done. I hope! So close to the end it would be so bad to miss out now on the full 500 km.

Total for the day: 92.6 km
Total for the week: 433.3 km
Remaining: 66.7 km

Rapha’s Festive 500. Day 5: 28th December

After yesterday’s short ride, I really have felt like I need to put in a ton of km’s to get myself back on track to the goal: 500. I’m still finding it a massive task. Possibly due to the fact that I haven’t done half as much riding as id liked to have done since starting university in September. But I must crack on. 

I keep telling myself, through the wind and rain, that I can do this. Having the support and interest from my family has been massive. Daily text messages have been asking how far I've done today and how much longer to go now. I love the fact that even from Austria where my girlfriend is skiing, she has still managed to find Wi-Fi and message me some encouraging words. Whilst I am on the Thank you boat, I must most definitely thank my wonderful Grandma too. She has washed and made sure that everything has been cleaned and dry for my rides every day this week. Now, this may make me sound like I cannot wash my own things, which I can, but she has just been on it all week. Thank you everyone.

My poor bike has had not as  many cleans as it would have liked to have had this week. Its so dirty!

So its Friday now, and guess what? It’s still raining. I set off in hope of heading for a cuppa stop with a mate in Burgess Hill. After getting out and just going for it, and just enjoying the lovely wet miserable weather, I reached my first coffee stop (at McDonalds again) where I saw yet another friend (it seems I have a few of these!). I have noticed a pattern emerging where if I stop, I don’t want to continue. So this could be a bad thing. I had to break this pattern and create a new one. Here is how I am going to do this: after my coffee, I will put in another 50 km ride, simple…sort of. That’ll take me to nearly 80 for the day. So that is what I did.
Loops of Piltdown, Barcombe, Lewes, Ringmer, and Isfield made up quite a large chunk of the ride. Discovering that there was a massive tail wind going north on the A26 (Lewes to Uckfield road) I took full advantage of this on the way back. Stick the bike into the biggest gear to turn and I was off. I literally flew down that road! Good old wind. I knew that it was windy this week for some reason. Riding through puddle s and creating my own weather forecasts on my phone kept me amused.
Back passed Isfield and on my route home via Uckfield I threw in a loop round the town. A final coffee stop in Buxted seeing my Dad and Step mum was to be the end of my day on the bike. The darkness just takes over as soon as it starts. Next thing I knew, it was pitch black outside. Not fun for cycling AND definitely not safe. What is annoying about the dark is that it keeps catching me out every day. If I had ridden the 12-15miles back to Horam I’d have clocked over my 100 km target.

Cycling through some of the biggest puddles today on my ride was sort of fun, but sort of scary. With the roads in the terrible state that they are in, you just cant tell what is road, and what isnt when there is a small lake to cross in front of you.

 At least I can be sure that tomorrow will be another big day riding again. My ride back to Surbiton is tomorrow. At least another 80km, with maybe a loop of Richmond Park will be a big help.
Since breaking the back of the Festive 500 Challenge I have wanted to complete it more than ever.
I have just less than 160 km to go now, with three days still to do it in. I think that I might actually do it. Happy (but soggy) days!

Total for the day: 78.9 km
Total for the week: 340.7 km
Remaining: 159.3 km

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Rapha's Festive 500. Day 4: 27th December

A short day in the saddle today.

My routes each day haven't really been planned. The handy thing about riding in an area local to home and where I grew up means that any small road, big road or junction are all familiar to me and I can probably tell you where about it is that they end up. This has its advantages and disadvantages though. It means that I can go out and just ride. I have no route planning to do and I don't really have to think about where i'm heading. The down side to this is that I can become lazy. If i'm starting to feel tired or I know that there is a hill coming up, I can avoid it or take a short cut (some may say this is a sensible way of cycling) but then this can also become boring. Its nice to not really know where you are going. Down a new track, having no clue as to what lies around the next bend is always exciting and keeps you on your toes.

Today was a lazy day! I left home and headed towards the back end of Heathfield. This is the next town closest to me in my little village of Horam. I nipped down into the town, and was sort of heading towards Uckfield and Lewes area. Basically, somewhere south.
In the distance as I came through the town, I spotted another cyclist. A little game I do when riding is to try and catch the other cyclist. Especially when I have no route planned. I chased him down with the plan to sit on his back wheel and get pulled along. A sort of reward to catching him up!
Once I got up close I recognised the bike. It was one that I had been looking at just the day before when I was out with the guys from In-Gear. "Dammit!" This meant that because I knew the guy, I couldn't really sit behind him for long! Paul, a fellow regular In-Gear rider rode with his Rapha cap under his helmet and we chatted. He was also doing the Festive 500! He had just done a 70 miler and was almost home. The weather this morning had been bad...I had postponed going out early after I was rudely woken up by the thunder and lightning and rain on my bedroom window. But Paul had braved it. Hardcore!

We went our separate ways and I headed to Uckfield. I popped into the Picture House Cinema where I used to work and saw some of my friends there. Hanging around in all my Lycra wasn't the coolest of looks but hey, I was doing the Festive 500. All in the name of Rapha!

One mug of tea and two coffees later it was probably time for me to head off. It was early still but the light was dim as usual. I rode home from there, passing a tractor rally Christmas ride or something around the back roads towards Waldron and Horam. Several tractors. Everywhere!! Parked, driving, chatting (the drivers). It was busy on those small back roads.

Once I got home, it was time for a For Goodness Shakes shake, and a hot shower. Then, FOOD! Grandma's forte. A lovely cheese, biscuits and red wine spread on the coffee table. We watched 'The Very Exotic Marigold Hotel' on DVD and then it was bed. All these days riding, whether they are long or short, are tiring me out. Perhaps I should have done more riding before signing up for the Festive 500!

Bring on tomorrow!  

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Rapha's Festive 500. Day 3: 26th December

Boxing Day 2012. I was up and out before 9am today. My plans were to meet some of the other cyclists from my home club In-Gear Quickvit Trainsharp but I just missed them. The chase was on.

It must have only been a couple of minutes that the group of six were ahead of me but I didn't feel I had the speed to catch them. I knew their route roughly (heading around Arlington reservoir) so decided to chance it and go the opposite route to them. That way if my calculations were correct I would meet with them at some point along the ride.

20 miles in, and after time trialling down the A22 towards the back end of Arlington, bombing it past St Bedes school we crossed over on a bend. Once meeting them I was hoping for an easy ride. I cruised at the back for a bit but to continue my chat with my mate Sam, it was up to the front. The group, a blur of red, black and white of the In-Gear kit continued to ride round the East Sussex lanes. It felt so good to be part of a group again. I have really missed riding in larger numbers than 1. My regular group up at university has mostly been me, riding on my own.
I stuck with the guys until we rode back to Uckfield where we started, the usual spot, outside In-Gear Cycles: Our club shop.

I headed towards Buxted after we all went our separate ways. Arrived back at mums and had a cuppa.  That mug of tea turned into an hour with a sleep on the sofa and a very v e r y cold Tom. Something that happens to me very quickly after riding every time I stop.
An hour later I was back on my bike, and on a mission to get back to Horam. I rode a strange cross country route back and threw in a small loop at the end to make up a little bit more distance.

I had cracked past 200km and was well on my way to half distance. The 77.4 km I did today have been a big help. If I can get past 300 tomorrow I will be happy. That could be a little adventurous though. My legs are feeling heavy now. The feeling I had throughout the spring and summer of 2011 was back.

I am thinking its going to be hard to complete. But I must do it. I want that coffee machine. And that embroided badge!

I think I might take it easy tomorrow. And hit it hard on Friday. Lets see shall we?

Rapha's Festive 500. Day 2: 25th December

Merry Christmas to anyone reading this and especially to anyone else doing the Festive 500. Those in the UK, I hope you have your waterproofs, and those in Australia...try doing your festive 500 here!!

From the beginning of the week I knew that it was going to be a wet one. And I was definitely right. After leaving home and heading towards Eastbourne, I hadn't ridden five miles before I was soaked through. Firstly it was the surface water from last night. Then followed shortly by some serious rain. It was actually hurting my face as it hit me. And to add more of a soaking to me so early on, the spray from a large lorry plus it splashing me as it went past was just the perfect way to spend my Christmas morning! 
So heading on route to Eastbourne and heading into the strongest headwind I've ridden into possibly this year. This is mainly because the weather is so rubbish, I would normally be happier sitting at home with a coffee! 
After riding into this wind coming up the country for about an hour I made the executive decision to abandon my current route and make up a new one on the spot. The great thing about riding around home and not up at Kingston is that I know all the roads around here which gives me the option to just chop and change my route if I want. 
So with the coastal road out of the picture, I headed towards lewes via Selmesten, Glynde and Ringmer. Being blown sideways riding down into Ringmer was ineteresting as I felt the full force of the wind again. I think I would have been better choosing to windsurf my day given the huge puddles too. 
Seeing the flood plains that were Barcombe as Lewes approached, my route home through them looked interesting. 

I nipped through Lewes and stopped for a christmas morning Costa coffee and a cheese and onion slice. Somthing warm and yummy to get in my tummy. I set off again and ventured down into the depths of Barcombe. All the water which I saw maybe wasn't Barcombe? Which is good I suppose. By now I was heading home. Not a huge ride planned for today as Christmas dinner was being cooked and not even Rapha could make me miss a yummy roast at mums! 
Within the outskirts of Uckfield lies a small village called Piltdown. I headed down towards a small road towards Piltdown and past a road sign which really should have been obeyed:
For what reason? Was it the humongous pot holes that you would need a ladder to climb back out of if you fell in them? Or something else?  I was asking myself and wondering for ages. It wasn't until I dropped down, round a bend and saw why. There was a little bit of water on the road. 

Tip toeing across the tiny foot bridge on the right was interesting in cleats. Especially on the slippery wooden sections. Very dodgy. I made it safe and sound and without taking off my shoes and socks and paddling across! The children's book "we're going on a bear hunt" sprung to mind - "we can't o under it, we can't go over it, we'll have to go through it. Splish splash splish splash!"

After that the roads were quite normal. Heading back to Mums was fine. Just a few more long dragging hills but that was all. My legs are feeling ok. Maybe I'll be ok this week. I am now up to 141 km. I think I will try and break the 200km mark tomorrow. But who knows what weather will be against me?!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Rapha's Festive 500. Day 1: 24th December

So, here is the start of the 'Festive 500' which is organised through Rapha Cycle Club and the App, Strava. My diary documentation begins here, just two hours short of christmas day.

I first heard about this challenge about a month ago whist doing my daily scan of the Rapha website ( A challenge of all challenges as far as I am concerned. Riding 500 km between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, the time where sofa surfing, chocolate gorging and tv marathons take place the most over one week than any other all year. Instead being set is a test of endurance and determination to get up and get out every day instead of watching that yearly tradition of the repeat of 'Only Fools and Horses' and the Queen's speech (and if you really want to see them, just sky+ them!)
It may mean that I will be missing out on some festive beverages and having that 'Christmas stuffed' feeling but maybe that is a good thing? And after all, I am studying Exercise Nutrition and Health which means i probably should start to get fitter!

This morning was the only morning I didn't want to over sleep. So when I woke up and it was 1030am, instant annoyance took place. I made porridge, showered whilst it cooled and put the piles of things I needed for Christmas and to complete the Festive 500 in my bag. Riding home from University in Kingston was the first ride which I would do towards winning this challenge.

With no real route planned, and the rough direction in my head (head towards gatwick, then home) I set off into wind and some fairly blackish clouds. Sporting my rather festive Christmas knee highs made the Christmas Eve ride just that little bit more merry given what weather was to come.

Riding up the l o n g drag that was Downs Road which finishes at Epsom Racecourse was when the weather began to turn. The wind...OH MY GOD that wind. Riding into it was almost impossible. And on top of that, the rain started. Great. I was now about half way between Surbiton and Gatwick and I was feeling it. Nature was against making this week easy.

I hit Reigate at about 1:20pm and then forty minutes later was at Gatwick. The weather had been pretty nasty up until about 2pm. To keep my spirits high, for my amusement been singing a combination of Christmas songs old, new and made up, very loudly and wishing people a merry Christmas in a Brian Blessed/Santa type voice. I had also been amused by signposts pointing to 'Fanny's Farm Shop' and also to 'The Local shop' (those fans of A League of Gentlemen will get the comedy value in the local shop for local people!) Well it made me chuckle to myself and kept my mind off the fact that the rain was still falling and that I was able to squeeze the water out of my gloves.
After a quick coffee, a check on google maps and a change into some dry gloves, at McDonalds in Gatwick, I set off again heading for home. A route I knew off the top of my head from when my grandparents lived in that area. It was really nice to be back onto familiar roads and I actually felt like I was nearly home despite still quite a way to ride.
Another pit-stop in Forest Row at Future Cycles and from here it was easy...ha ha ha!

I set off onto the road towards Hartfield and then onto Ashdown forest. Just because I had cycled in horrid conditions all day, I thought I'd cut across and head up 'The Wall'. For those of you who know Ashdown Forest you may know Kidds Hill. Known to cycling folk as The Wall, for the main reason that it is just so damn steep. I hate it. I've hated it from the first time I rode up it, all the times I trained for the alps up it and still hate it today. It's just too steep. Those skinny hill climbers are welcome to it. Have it. Take it away. Or at least add a ski lift.

By the time I had reached the summit it was getting on the dodgy side of light. When if you don't have lights you shouldn't really be out. Thankfully I was all Christmas tree lit up. I am not taking any chances  after being knocked off three weeks ago. But that's another story.
Arriving in Buxted I was quite tired. I had got to 82km. The plan was for 100. But that can be made up later in the week I'm sure.
Tomorrow I think I'll head to Eastbourne and then the seafront road to Brighton and then head back to Buxted for Christmas at mums. Up bright and breezy and out early is the plan. Fingers crossed I'm not feeling too shattered.

Total Km: 82
Km left to 500: 418

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Rapha's Festive 500

Just a little teaser of this weeks riding....

Monday, 8 October 2012

Missing my Lycra.

So...My second post since starting University...Where to begin? Perhaps leading on from my last post...

Since 20th September what have I been up to?
I have been nipping in and out of Kingston on my bike but not yet for a "proper" ride. So yesterday, the weather was so nice it would have been stupid not to go out for a pedal.

20 fixed wheel miles and my legs were tired! I set off and headed down to Hampton Court. Its only three miles from my flat. Then I had to dodge the London Dynamo cyclists as they met up after their local ride at the cafe opposite Hampton Court Train Station. Possibly a new club to join whilst at University in Kingston? Anyway, I rode down the tow path along the Thames, and then headed out to Bushy Park.

Bushy Park is very close to Hampton Court. It was nice. I saw a massive stag and you can get super close to the free roaming deer. I then went from Bushy Park on to Richmond Park. IT’S MASSIVE. It’s so nice to be so close to London and still have somewhere like Richmond Park to escape to.
From one point I could see the Shard and also the BT Building in central.

There were so many people on their bikes in the park. It really made me miss having my Trek bike and riding in lycra. It sounds silly, but hauling a heavy 51 year old bike around, in normal clothing over nipping around on a carbon frame in lycra makes such a difference.

After my ride I really had to get stuck into my books. Studying hard for my Human Physiology lectures and also my Nutrition ones...which seem much more complex. I just have spent £100 on three books to help me...I hope they do!! study study study...

I will be riding 45 miles on my fixed wheel bike for the charity 'The Princes Trust' which raises money for disadvantagedyoung people. If you do feel like you want to 'do your bit for charity', the link to sponsor me is here...

Sponsor me PLEASE!

I will let you know how I get on with my ride. I’m sure 45 miles on a fixed gear bike, will make me work hard!

I finally have the gear ration that I have wanted for my Claude Butler Fixed wheel bike.
I am now riding a 46x17 and the ratio is so much better. Although I did struggle up one huge hill in Richmond Park.

I will update again after my bike charity ride on sunday...
Please, if you do feel like sponsoring me, feel free! Whoever you are, whereever in the world you read this, every penny counts. Thankyou

Next time....
  • Palace to Palace update - 45 miles on a fixie.
  • Ed Sheeran concert at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo
  • Cycle club joining?