Monday, January 14, 2013

The Rapha Festive 500

"Ride 500 kilometers on a bicycle in the week between Christmas and New Years." It was really quite a crazy idea. Liam told me so when I first suggested it, in fact, I think he thought I was joking.  I was joking at first, but only half-way.  There was a big part of me that was serious, and I had started to latched on to the idea.  Liam and I have done some crazy adventures over the years, but they usually involve traveling to a destination and riding and training in Italy, Spain, or following the Tour de France in July.  We train at home year round, of course, but somehow it seems like less of an adventure than the whole road trip type.  The beauty of the Festive 500 is that we could transform our local training roads in to an awesome challenge.  The journey awaited right outside our door.

We needed an adventure - something to share between a father and his, soon to be, teenage son.  It is hard to believe that this July Liam will turn 13.  I can tell that things are changing.  Our relationship is changing.  Liam is growing up.  Some of the growing comes with grace and other parts are coming less naturally.  It is hard to make the transition from boy to man, and even harder to find balance in the space in between.  It had been a fall of growing pains, and the holiday school break would give us some time to reconnect. For Liam and me it is on the bike that we communicate the best.  The rhythm of the ride breaks down barriers.

Holiday fun!
So there it was.  We had the challenge, we had the time, and all we would need was a little luck with the weather to have a good shot at nailing the Festive 500.  The challenge  took place between December 24th and December 31st, and miles ridden were to be tracked by GPS and downloaded to Strava which is a cycling internet site.  I wasn't sure that we would be able to complete the whole 500, but I knew that with a little luck we would get pretty close.

The Ride Report:

Monday, the 24th of December, we set out on a 100k (62 mile) ride which I call "Metric Century Monday."  The ride circumnavigates the Sainte Baume mountain range.  The Sainte Baume is a  beautiful group of mountains about 20 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean sea. Liam had never ridden this route before. The day was on the cold side and there was a good amount of wind.  We got though the ride which had over 3000 ft of climbing in just under four hours.  We didn't talk too much mostly because of the wind. Liam rode very well, however, and the ride gave him a lot of confidence for the journey ahead.  Day two was Christmas morning. The weather was very good. We had a 52K ride which can best be described as "festive" indeed.  We rode past old vineyards and through little French villages with the streets decorated in holiday cheer.  I like Christmas in France.  It is not as commercialized as in the states.  The French celebrate, but in a more low key way. Mostly people get together with family and friends and eat really good food (I don't know of any holiday in France that is not celebrated this way). We took Wednesday off from the bike, and instead had a wonderful hike in the back country with friends.  Thursday was back to it with a tough 64k in the mountains. Friday we got in 52k and this was a tough day. Legs were sore and we still had a lot to go to be able to finish the 500. Most Saturday mornings we ride with Liam's Velo Club.  Normally meet for the ride about 20k from our house in the Town of Aubagne.  By riding to the ride, and then riding home we would be able to get in 85k. Liam rides with a group of kids that are a few years older than him.  The pace tends to be high and the energy of the group is pumped.  The ride gave us some real motivation! We clipped off those 85k with an average speed of close to 30K an hour.  After Saturday's ride we started to get excited.  WE MIGHT ACTUALLY FINISH THE WHOLE CHALLENGE! We had 150k left and two days remaining to complete them.  The weather forecast looked great - sun and high temperatures in the low 60's.  We decided to do a little over 100k on Sunday and a celebratory 52K on New Year's Eve. 
short rest stop on day 2
As the kilometers ticked by on the road, the distance between Liam and me was growing smaller and smaller.  We were laughing again and having fun. The wind had settled down, so we were also able to ride side by side and talk about life. We talked about life in France, how things were going in school, goals for the year both on and off the bike, and plans for this year's Tour de France.  The last two rides went very well.  Liam was getting stronger and stronger as we got further into the challenge.  The last day was a celebratory ride.  I took the GoPro camera, and we got some good clips along the way.  As you can see in the video the weather was amazing. 

Liam got stronger as we got further into the challenge
 YESSSS! We finished the challenge! 7 days, 500 kilometers, 21 hours in the saddle, 10,000 meters or 33,000 feet climbed, and some invaluable time for a father and his son to reconnect.  Thanks to Rapha and Strava for the Festive fun not to mention the inspiration and motivation to get out and enjoy the road. 

Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.