Events: The 2018 Rapha Festive 500 Day Six
Ride Distance: 33 Miles/ 194 Miles Remain
(2018) Things have taken a bleak turn as the Rapha Festive 500 ventured deep into the back four days. What started out with a full shot of confidence is now an unrecognizable assemblage of desperate plans and positive mantra. “It’s still possible!” echoes in my head. Perhaps if I decided to ride to Albany, NY, I could sneak into the 2018 Festive 500 club.
What is appealing about the Festive 500 – all kidding aside – is the realistic challenge of it all. It’s all within reach, yet the older one gets, the harder accomplishing it becomes. Mathematically I felt this was the most realistic year to cross 500 kilometers in eight days. My cockiness was no match for the 500. It is still possible, though.
A few days ago I texted Mike a candid message cutting him loose. I advised him to ride when he could; I was holding him back. My fickle schedule belonged to me; his success should not be dictated by my engagements. So today, Mike went out in the morning while I tried my luck two hours before sunset – the only time I could get away. It may sound like desperation, and it most certainly was. Little did I know what I would find out there.
My initial plan was to revisit an old route. It wasn’t just any old route, it was the first time I rode fifty miles non-stop on a bike. The problem with this plan is that I never wrote down the directions. The ride was more than ten years old. It has come back to me in pieces over the years but the last dozen or so miles have vanished into oblivion. How I got back after I passed Ringing Rocks Park is the mystery. The fifty miles was the distance I needed to take a chunk out of the final days. Maybe I could set it up for a realistic last day. Maybe the old route would come back to me as I let it unfold.
My short ride window closed with the setting sun. Desperation set in to make it home before dark. The route was altered as I did the maths to get me back a little after sundown. My fifty-mile ride was cleaved to a thirty-mile affair. The Festive 500 was slipping from my grasp.
Somewhere between the decision to snip the route and the setting sun I found something truly magical. Here I was pointed toward home, riding in the nubile winter season, feeling the hard effort of getting back in time, and I began to get immersed in the experience. At least twice I thought I heard Spring Peepers, despite the winter chill. An indigo blanket moved into the crevasses of ridges as well as wrapping itself around trees and fields. Only the twinkling holiday lights broke up the comforting vision. I looked around more in the last moments of the ride. It was an experience I would have missed if I opted out of riding for a third straight day.
This is my fourth attempt at the Festive 500 if you include last year’s non-starter. I have completed it once but did not come close in 2016. Today I matched that year’s mileage. Should I not have a sudden surge of distance over the next two days (I would have to do back-to-back centuries) my new goal is to at least raise the bar on my second place distance of my Festive 500 attempts. Funny things happen in the Festive 500. Sometimes a little bit of luck helps. Sometimes an event creates a goal that gets me out the door to experience sunset solitude when everyone else was settling in for a long winter’s night.