Stollen & solo adventures- the #Festive500

After posting about taking on the Rapha #Festive500 challenge here, it’s since been time to actually get out on my bike and put my money where my mouth is. On Christmas Eve I clocked up 44.5 miles split into two rides, to make them seem more approachable, but I wanted to crack 50 miles on Boxing Day- the furthest I’d ever cycled in one go since a coast to coast effort on a hybrid when I was 17.

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I arranged a ride with my friend Dan, and after looking at the route he’d prepared, was more than a bit nervous. He’d planned a route to Beacon Fell, a random hill on the edge of the Forest of Bowland that involves some pretty tasty climbs- it would be fair to say, not my forte. Still, I prepared to employ a decent dose of Rule #5 and do it anyway, since the #Festive500 was all about me getting out of my comfort zone.

#Festive500

Then Dan either came down with food poisoning or a massive hangover, but wasn’t leaving his bathroom either way. I thought of doing 50 miles alone, after the sufferfest that my first few club rides have been, and it was enough for me to nearly tuck my bike back away and retreat to the sofa with a Baileys, but I decided not to. You don’t get better at something by not doing it, so I decided to woman up and head out alone. I replanned a flatter route, remembering that half the suffering on club rides has come from Yorkshire being ‘undulating’ to say the least, and got ready to set off, feeling a little like this…

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I loaded up my jersey pockets with Christmassy nibbles, and set off, reminding myself to actually eat before I started to bonk, rather than cramming in emergency Haribo when I was already suffering. 20 miles in, sitting by the side of the road, I nibbled a wedge of Christmas cake and marvelled that I’d made it up hills I used to stop and walk when I was 17, without even using the little chainring at all.

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I whizzed around the lanes of Lancashire, through some I knew, like Weeton and Out Rawcliffe, and some I’ve only ever driven to in the past, like Inskip and Broughton. I laughed, I sang Christmas songs, and when the going got tough, I chilled. I sat up, and with one hand on the handlebars, and gently spun along, eating Percy Pigs and relaxing, with no pressure that I was off the back of a group and needed to get back to them. I even had time for a photo stop at this rather amusingly named lane in Nateby, 35 miles in.

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Whilst cycling in a group is great, with the feeling of whizzing along in your very own peleton, calling out ‘car back’ and generally feeling pretty pro even when you’re actually a total newbie, I loved my solo adventure. I got to take the ride at my own pace, without worrying about being left behind, and I returned home a little bit more in love with cycling; my hands and feet frozen, my cheeks flushed and my quads tired to say the least. I rode the furthest I’ve done in one go, and I did it completely on my own. I’m pretty proud of that.

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Job done. #Festive500

Free your mind and your legs will follow.

[If you’re a Strava nerd and want to follow my #Festive500 efforts, you can do so here, if you want to marvel at just how slowly it is actually possible to cycle.]

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