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My Rapha Festive 500 Journey
Motivating to get in the saddle and ride 500 kilometers over 8 days during the end-of-year holidays is a test of pure willpower.
Distance: 30.36 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,176 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 9%
Route Significance: I hadn’t quite admitted to myself that this was Day 1 yet. I knew I wanted to at least go for a ride this morning before I drove the five hours to Northern California, and this is one of my go-to loops. It climbs the closed-to-cars Mt. Hollywood Drive through Griffith Park, hits the Observatory on the way down the other side, then climbs through Elysian Park with great views of downtown and Dodger Stadium. Plus, the Arroyo Seco bike path is a surprisingly beautiful little section just out of sight of the 110 freeway.
Internal Dialogue: As a kid I used to lay awake in my bed for what seemed like hours on Christmas Eve, my mind going wild imagining everything Santa was stuffing under the tree that night. This time, I dozed off on Christmas Eve trying to calculate how many miles I’d need to average per day in order to complete the challenge. I came to the number 42, which is mathematically inaccurate—but I wouldn’t realize that for a few more days. It’s actually 38.8 miles, so at least my mistake fell on the side of caution.
Stoke Scale: Cruising
Mechanical Issues: None
Physical Exhaustion: ★☆☆☆☆ Felt like a normal bike ride.
Ass Pain: ☆☆☆☆☆ Brooks saddle for the win, baby! I don’t even wear padded shorts.
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Distance: 47.51 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,651 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 25%
Route Significance: I grew up just down the road from the Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, so naturally my first road bike was a Specialized Allez Sram Comp straight from the company shop. When I began cycling in 2012, a 28 mile section of this loop was one of my first “long rides”. I drove across town to do a gorgeous country loop, one decent climb, and a long winding descent. Coming back a few years stronger and equipped with a gravel bike, I extended the loop to include ~10 miles of super fun singletrack, an additional 1,400 feet of climbing, and a quick tour past my old elementary school. Versions of this one will absolutely end up becoming a repeat favorite.
Internal Dialogue: When I realized I was a quarter of the way done, the whole challenge came into perspective. On one hand, I was stoked. I was 25% of the way there after simply going on two very enjoyable bike rides. On the other hand, I was already feeling tired tired. Most of my rides over the past few months were only 20-25 miles. It had been quite a while since I’d ridden 30+ miles, much less for multiple days in a row. I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up.
Stoke Scale: Content
Mechanical Issues: None
Physical Exhaustion: ★★☆☆☆ My legs are pretty tired. I feel fine, but don’t want to do that long a ride again tomorrow.
Ass Pain: ★☆☆☆☆ ...Maybe I should wear padded shorts? I’m probably fine.
Distance: 34.80 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,177 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 36%
Route Significance: When I woke up this morning my legs immediately let me know it was going to be a shorter ride. Due to timing with family, my only window to get out was right at sunrise. Motivating to roll out in the cold was by far the hardest part. Frost covered the early morning landscape, but soon the sun rose and trees and meadows steamed as they warmed up. It was one of the most beautiful, cold, drippy, crystal clear sunrise rides I’ve ever been on. A shorter version of this loop (essentially the upper loop section on the map) used to be a big day for me when I would ride it back in 2012, so it felt good to know that even on sore legs I felt much better now.
Internal Dialogue: I got the most muddy I’ve ever gotten on a bicycle on this ride, and I did it in less than 100 yards of dirt. About 5 miles from the end of my ride I had to cross a street that was under construction, otherwise backtrack a number of miles, so I figured I should go for it, what’s the worst that could happen. I only managed to ride a dozen or so feet before I was off the bike pushing it through the mud. Only two thirds of the way across the street my wheels were so caked in mud they wouldn’t turn and I hauled the whole bike (plus thirty pounds of extra mud) to the sidewalk. I spent almost an hour with the hose that afternoon getting clay-like mud out of every nook and cranny of my bike. In hindsight, turning around would’ve been worth the extra miles. Noted.
Stoke Scale: Hangin' In
Physical Exhaustion: ★★☆☆☆ The flatter terrain helped me recover today, but I couldn’t help remembering when I used to ride this route on an aluminum frame road bike with 23mm tires. My steel-frame Breezer with 2.1” tires is nearly ten pounds heavier than my old Allez and today I noticed.
Mechanical Issues: Slight vibration in my rear hub. I’ve had issues with this hub coming loose before, so I tightened things up.
Ass Pain: ★★☆☆☆ Still feeling pretty good, but three consecutive days in the saddle is showing.
Distance: 48.05 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,799 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 51%
Route Significance: We spent some of the holidays with my fiance’s family in the East Bay and my future father-in-law led me on this route he does a version of almost every Saturday. Let me tell you, I love cycling around Southern California and up into the San Gabriels, but these country roads of the East Bay are something else. Unfortunately, about 10 miles in I got a slow leak that wouldn’t seal up. Turns out I was low on sealant, so I took a few minutes to stick a spare tube in the tire. Things went from bad to worse when that tube went completely flat just a quarter mile down the road, and I didn’t have a patch kit. My only option was to take the tube back out (losing some now-very-precious sealant along with it) and hope it held air. Luckily, I was able to seat the bead and limp it a dozen or so miles to a bike shop, and finish the loop.
Internal Dialogue: “Go tubeless” they said. “It’ll make your life easier.” Turns out, it only works if you add sealant. Mental note to add that to the checklist before I attempt another 8 day biking challenge. Oh well, now that it’s topped off I shouldn’t have any more problems… and I’m halfway through! I still don’t have an attack plan with how to tackle the remaining 155 miles, but I felt optimistic I could get them done.
Stoke Scale: Grateful
Mechanical Issues: Tubeless leak, punctured tube… pretty rough day, mechanically speaking.
Physical Exhaustion: ★★★☆☆ I pulled into Trek Bikes in Livermore on no more than five or ten psi. Limping down 12 miles of asphalt on a leaking tire, stopping every 3 miles or so to pump it up is just about as terrible as it sounds. It felt like I’d ridden more like 60 miles with all the added friction.
Ass Pain:★★☆☆☆ If this is as bad as it gets, I’m going to be okay. Halfway there!
Distance: 27.07 miles
Elevation Gain: 505 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 60%
Route Significance: I had to work the morning of the 28th, so it was another pre-sunrise departure for me. For some reason, nobody else wanted to join me, so I wanted something I didn’t need a guide to follow. The Iron Horse Regional Trail spans 32 miles from Concord to Pleasanton along the old Southern Pacific Railroad route, which gives it the perk of being generally flat. It served the pure purpose of maximizing mileage and minimizing pain. Given that I rode fewer than 30 miles, I don’t know how well it did at either of them.
Internal Dialogue: I woke up this morning feeling sore, stiff, cold, and entirely unmotivated. This was the most difficult day to motivate, by far. It was cold, drippy, and overcast, but fortunately I didn’t have to deal with any rain. For anyone doing this challenge in places that actually experience weather, you’re the real heroes. My legs felt like quicksand. The miles, which are clearly marked every quarter mile, dragged on and on. I tried my best not to stare at them until I felt surely I’d gone two miles only to discover I had gone less than one. I required an extra hot, extra long shower to recover from this one.
Stoke Scale: Surviving
Mechanical Issues: My rear hub really started vibrating today. It doesn’t seem to be slowing me down a noticeable amount, but it can’t be good for the bearings.
Physical Exhaustion: ★★★★☆ About as tired as I could get. And the remaining stats didn’t look promising. I finally recalculated the daily average and realized my mistake, which meant I wasn’t quite as far behind as I thought I was, but it was still going to require a big pull to make it through. Hydrate, and carbo load.
Ass Pain:★★★☆☆ Everything was worse today. Everything.
Distance: 55.09 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,663 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 78%
Route Significance: I redid the math: I needed to ride 120 miles over the next 3 days—40 per day. I set my sights on a 35 mile loop with a few opportunities to extend it if I had the energy. When I arrived at the cutoff point I actually felt surprisingly great. I really hadn’t expected this windfall turnaround in morale, but I somehow felt like I could just keep riding. Apparently the hydration, carbo loading, and recovery had worked because day 6 was my biggest day of the challenge (both in mileage and climbing) and the strongest I’d felt in 8 days. This might be on my top 10 road rides I’ve been on—it was an inspiring and beautiful route to ride. It also went right past the hospital I was born in. Crazy to think about how far I’ve come...
Internal Dialogue: I couldn’t stop thinking about McDonalds french fries from about mile 25 until around mile 45 when I detoured to one and ordered the largest size they had. I don’t care what anyone has to say about McDonalds, those french fries gave me both the physical and spiritual motivation I needed to get back home.
Stoke Scale: So Pumped!
Mechanical Issues: Vibration in rear hub continues, but doesn’t worsen. At this point, I’m accepting it’s shot and I’ll have to rebuild it. I have new wheels coming in January so if I can drag it out til then at least I won’t be out of a bike.
Physical Exhaustion: ★★★☆☆ I felt great during the ride, but the final couple miles became pretty excruciating. I really started noticing discomfort in my shoulders and neck. I’d spent 16 or so hours hunched over handlebars, and it was taking a toll. I foam rolled out my legs and stretched my shoulders after the ride, which helped.
Ass Pain:★★☆☆☆ Ass pain is back to normal levels. I only had to google something about men’s health as it relates to bicycle saddles once.
Distance: 30.38 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,165 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 87%
Route Significance: When we left the East Bay on the 30th it was 34 degrees. When we arrived in Los Angeles around 3pm, it was 70 degrees. I managed to sneak in a ride before sunset, and it felt glorious to do it in shorts and a T-Shirt. For 6 days straight of riding I’d worn lightly insulated tights, but shorts really feels like the uniform in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to have to think about the route, so I went with a very slight variation on the loop I did on day 1. All I had to do was stay on track today and the end was in sight!
Internal Dialogue: I don’t listen to music when I ride and usually end up getting a random song stuck in my head on repeat. This time, it was “Another Day of Sun” from the La La Land soundtrack. Nicole and I had just listened to it on the drive back into town, and this ride goes right along the road where they did that sunset tap dance scene. Does everyone adjust the tempo of the song in your head to match your cadence, or is that just me?
Stoke Scale: Doing Fine
Mechanical Issues: Vibrating hub hasn’t worsened, but is still an issue.
Physical Exhaustion: ★★★☆☆ My legs were definitely tired, but the warm weather helped, and knowing the end of the challenge was just around the metaphorical corner really started becoming a magnet pulling me home.
Ass Pain:★★☆☆☆ Ass pain is still feeling fine thanks to Brooks, but should I be concerned about any numbness? Asking for a friend.
Distance: 38.83 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,178 ft
Festive 500 Completion: 100%
Route Significance: The final puzzle on the last day of the challenge was coming up with a loop that got as close to the remaining 37.9 miles as possible. La Tuna Canyon is a nice climb with a long, rewarding descent. Riding my bike was the last thing I wanted to be doing at this point, but finally I rolled through Glendale and Highland Park back home, ticking over the 500km with 2km to spare.
Internal Dialogue: As luck would have it, a stout headwind pushed against me the entire long straightaway through Burbank and somehow still pushed against me as I descended and headed back east on the other side of the Verdugos. The descent I normally spin out going down I was chugging along in the middle of my cassette. I did my best to laugh it off, but all I wanted to do at this point was finish. Fortunately, the headwind eased up for the second half of the ride and I finished strong. To celebrate, I got an Al Pastor burrito from Charlie’s Taco Truck and devoured it while watching the sunset over Los Angeles for the final time of 2020.
Stoke Scale: I Hope This Will Make A Great Story
Mechanical Issues: Vibrating hub remains the same. It couldn’t have been good to put so many miles on it, but at least I was able to limp it to the finish line.
Physical Exhaustion: ★★★★☆ This is the most difficult challenge I’ve completed on a bike to date. Even a few days later my legs are still sore, but I feel accomplished and can’t wait to keep up the momentum and continue heading out for some longer rides.
Ass Pain:★★☆☆☆ Very very excited to not have to get back on the bike again tomorrow, but still a huge testament to Brooks that I rode 312 miles over 8 days with no additional padding and felt pretty dang good for it.
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