The following was originally published on EinsteinCycles.com.

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Each year, Strava and Rapha challenge riders around the world with the Festive 500. No matter the season, the conditions, or the busy schedules, the goal is to ride 500 kilometers, or just over 300 miles, in eight days. Starting on Christmas Eve, it’sa task that’s been especially tough in Northern Michigan. Two years ago, I managed just 35 miles on the opening day, riding a fat bike through snow and blizzard conditions, ultimately bowing out two days later as the weather never relented. 

Last year, early work schedules, cold weather and illness took me out after four days. 2015, by all indications, is the year it happens. I’ll be shooting to tackle the 310 miles before New Year’s Eve, testing all of my equipment-and equal measure of resolve-with two big opening days. 

Jason Whittaker is smarter. While indoor rides don’t count toward the Festive 500, he’ll be making a run for it on Zwift, using his trainer and random times throughout the next week to try and fit in the miles and time it takes to amass just big mileage during a busy time of the year. You’ll be able to access our progress on our running blog, featuring posts from both of us as we roll along. It all starts tonight, really, with some final equipment checks, a nice meal, and an early bed time….early even by my own standards. 

Bookmark this page to keep track of the progress, with daily updates, photos, Strava links and more! Cody’s posts will be normal text, while JW’s will be in bold. 

December 23. Christmas Eve Eve Night. Final Preparations.

It could be a blustery start to things tomorrow morning. There’s a wind advisory for TC almost perfectly along the lines of my scheduled ride. Last year, I opened up the account by riding north along West Bay and making sure Omena was still there. It was, so I headed back along the flats of M-22 to be efficient with my time and miles. With 20-30 mile an hour winds and gust expected from the southwest, heading dead into the teeth of it to return home would probably not be a terribly smart thing.

The game plan is to use the spine of Old Mission peninsula as a bit of a buffer for Day One. I’ll head north on Wet Bay to use the wind as much as I can and do our traditional Tuesday Night Ride loop in reverse. It’s the same route we use for the Pumpkin Pedal, and I can at least expect the same miraculously warm temperatures that we enjoyed for the fall edition in November. High 30s and low 40s for the morning, which shouldn’t be chilled by the still relatively warm (and eerily beautiful blue) bay off to the left heading out. The return leg will be spent on the leeward side, along East Bay.

Because of the wind, I’m opting onto my Kona Private Jake for the first day. The bike was looking forlorn and dejected on my trainer for the past week and a half, and the gears will be a nice option if the final 17 miles heading south turn into a wind tunnel.

With a second loop of the lower half of Old Mission, I’ll roll into the shop with about 65 miles in, a gentleman’s metric century to start things off. If I have it left in the legs, I’ll add another 20 miles in the afternoon as I head home. The goal is to use the first two days, scheduled for the warmest and driest weather, to amass a headstart, with a bit more freedom to improvise over the weekend.

December 23. Getting Off The Excuse Wagon. Jason Whittaker

Tomorrow’s schedule looks to be hectic, but lets not throw-in the Holiday towel this year.  I might have to start with a “two-a-day.”  My wife will do her run at 7am which means a 9am start time seems realistic. Christmas Eve is at Grandma’s tomorrow, so I’m guessing I can’t spend hours on the trainer right before hand. More than likely we will have some last-minute gift wrapping and such to do.

The plan is to knock-out 3 hours or roughly 100k.  This will probably happen by getting 2 hours in before Grandma’s and 1 hour at night after everyone is in bed. If I’m lucky I might be able to knock-out all 100k at once. We’ll see.

The setup is a Bearclaw Bicycle Co.  road bike on a Kurt Kinetic Fluid Trainer.  Its paired with a Garmin speed/cadence sensor and a Wahoo heart rate monitor.  I will also have my iPhone to do several things during the ride: Listen to music, check E-mails, and use the Zwift App. I’ll probably have two laptops going. One will power Zwift and maybe another one to watch a few “Under The Dome” episodes.  Zwift has two courses with more on the way. Tomorrow through Saturday are on “Watopia” which is more entertaining.

Oh, and the weather. My office will be around 60-62 degrees with a fan setting of 2 (out of 3) for the duration of the ride.

Cody. December 24. “The Opening Salvos” 71 miles. 1492 feet of elevation.

Start Time: 5am
Moving Time: 4 hours, 8 minutes
Garmin Temp: 32 degrees
Wind: 20-30mph, with gusts of more than that

I’m gonna start this off by saying if you don’t like Fetty Wop you can just get the H out of my life. Mr. Wop contributed no fewer than FOUR (4) tracks to today’s playlist. I immediately got to the shop to Urban Dictionary some of the stuff he says.

-The “1738” reference, which Mr. Wop repeats throughout almost every track, is apparently a top shelf brand of cognac.
-“Fetty” is slang for money.
-His real name is Willie.

So, on to the bike ride. As we left work last night, the Weather Channel (“The Most Trusted Name In Dramatic Weather Headlines”) issued a wind advisory from midnight until noon today. They weren’t kidding either. It was windy. They weren’t wrong. I contemplated heading to the Vasa and riding in the woods, but then I was all like ‘Naw’. I put on some stuff and rolled, enticed in no small part by the promise of an Ec Bar already tucked in my #snacksack.

I wasn’t 5 miles in before the ease of transportation almost broke my heart. I was barely pedaling and going 21mph. The gusts shook me out of my stupor every few minutes, when the predominantly south wind would snap from the west and blow me into the gravel. I was broken-hearted because I knew at some point this ease was going to be torment, then-TREE!

I almost ran into a tree. Because most of its complex root structure was still intact, just raised above ground when it titled over, I’m going to call it a tree instead of a log. It was blown across the road on Peninsula Drive. A last minute freak-out-brake-squeeze-swerve kept me upright, but I was tentative the rest of the way north. After a while,  I rolled past the Lighthouse and started to head back south, this time hugged the leeward side of the peninsula, along East Bay.

More trees down. Thompkins Road completely blocked. On Smokey Hollow, the steep southbound face, I was almost at a dead stop. I was emptying the tank, chin grazing the stem to stay out of the wind, and I was barely moving. Over the top, the crosswind was incredible. The next six miles were barely over 14mph, a series of grinding along while edging my way back to the white line, only to be blown across the lane by the next gust. This non-stop scurrying from line to line made the time go by, as staying upright is a rather intimate study for a cyclist.

I headed back north once I hit the southern tip of the peninsula to tack on more miles. This time, I knew where the road was clear and I could really use the wind. 24, 23, 24, 25, 22…the speed effortless. I peeled back around Peninsula Township Park and renewed the grind back south on Bluff, then East Shore.

The legs feel good and I was still peppy enough to take another jaunt up Center Road before heading home. A quick shower and I was off to the shop for a half day Christmas Eve shift. It was busy enough ’round these parts that this post has taken over 2.5 hours to finish, over half of the actual ride time.

JW. Dec 24 – First Ride, 44 Miles & 2740 ft.

Start Time: 9:10am
Moving Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Garmin Temp: 62 degrees
Wind: Sounded scary out there

Just a small delay on the start time today. Arianne still knocked out her run despite the wind and creaking trees. Glad we weren’t one of the unlucky ones that loss power over night. Last night was one of the worst nights of sleeps in awhile, so of course I felt like crap this morning. Tyler was in a good mood however and after a few cups of coffee I was ready to jump on the trainer.

Just coming off a pretty good tempo block at Brockmiller Elite Endurance I was going to sit tight in my “Endurance Miles” zone. The first 45 minutes was spent watching an episode of “Under The Dome.” It kept me occupied for awhile but I had decided that one episode was good for now.  I then switched over to Pandora and zoned out to my “Go Fast!” station which has a little of everything from Metallica to Joe Satriani. Next thing I know I am surrounded by about 10 other riders and we rode together for a little over a lap (Around 20 minutes).

My legs were starting to feel good about 90 minutes in, but time was only going to allow 2 hours or so. Tyler was coming in the office every few minutes and asking when I was going to be done. I wanted to make sure I at least had 70k in so the evening ride could be an hour at the most.

With about 10 minutes left I was approaching the climb where they have a “KOM” jersey up for grabs. Usually the time is pretty unattainable and depends on who is currently riding. Its a short climb that lasts about 2 minutes.  The KOM time that was posted wasn’t THAT fast at the time, but still a 10 second PR for me. So like an idiot I brought up the watts when I crossed the line. I rode strong but controlled just to test my legs. It gives you an ETA on when you are going to cross the top of the hill based on the current speed which acts as a virtual carrot.  At about 30 seconds in it had me a few seconds ahead of the current leader.  At that point I was all in. The next 80 seconds was spent fighting for a made-up jersey on a made-up Island. But its so fun!  With about 10 seconds to go I knew I was going to get it.  As an added bonus I was awarded the “Zip 808” wheels for riding enough miles on Zwift basically. A level 10 if you will.  Of course my wife asked me if I was ok after breathing so hard.

Now off to grandma’s for some Christmas cheer. Hopefully I will be on my best behavior so I can squeak another ride it tonight…hopefully.

Cody. December 24. Round Duh. 39 miles, 1283 feet of elevation.

Start Time: 3pm
Moving Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Garmin Temp: Still 32 degrees
Wind: 10-20mph, still breezy

Six hours on the bike today was PLENTY of time to come to some very big life decisions. Here are some of them.

-Never going to get a Hulu account. Not worth it.
-I swear I will never have anything inflatable in my front yard, Santa or otherwise
-If I ever wear sweatpants in public and my house and all my belongings aren’t on fire, please end me right there.
-My first wife WILL be January Jones
-My second wife will probably be Jolanda Neff

Had a great four hours at the shop today. It’s a bit of a tradition now that I work Christmas Eve with Lowetz. Sing carols. Exchange gifts. I got him a card and gave him 3 days off a week all winter. He got me a coffee mug and chocolate…then ate half the chocolate. Great memories. Oh, and a Christmas Miracle occurred. Since birth, Maya (Lowetz’s daughter) has taken a sick joy in leaving me hanging when I go to give her a high-five. She thinks it’s hilarious. Today, for the first time, I got not one, but TWO high fives. Christmas magic. Gotta love it. Though I’m pretty sure she was just bribed with hot chocolate.

After work, I got home, had a snack and headed out with the intention of adding some elevation in the County. It wasn’t happening. While nothing like the 20-30mph winds of this morning, it was still enough to force me to a crawl on Grandview, and the tired legs didn’t have much fight to offer. Only the sweet, dulcet tones of this afternoon’s star performer, Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys fame) kept me climbing. He’s got a great album out under the band name of The Last  Shadow Puppets with Miles Kane. Rock solid record and one that’s now almost 7 years old. Time flies when you’re mortal and slowing giving in to the promised decay of time.

I ended up limping back through downtown with a tailwind, which gave me a bit of boost to head north onto Old Mission again for a few more miles, ending up with 39 more. It’s been a great start, but two things have me apprehensive. It’s inevitable that I’ll pay for riding in the wind for so much of the first day, and only a matter of time until those efforts take their toll. Second, the weather for Sunday looks like a high of 32 degrees, and it’s only colder and crappier from there. I also work the last four days of the challenge. We may have 8 days to get the miles in, but those days aren’t all created equal. Still, the weather now is actually pretty great compared to what we usually have, so I’ll keep plugging away. Tomorrow, it’s Christmas with Kanye and just about as many miles as I can stomach, with the game plan of 60 miles or so to get over the halfway mark.

JW. Dec 24. Ride 2. 20 Ec Miles

After grandma’s we decided to surprise my dad up in Elk Rapids for Christmas Eve service. Besides Tyler burning his hand a bit on the candle it was a successful trip. This surprise would mean a late ride for sure. After returning home the family was exhausted from the festivities and went promptly to bed. I reluctantly hopped on the trainer and joined some other riders probably burning off some extra holiday calories.

I’m just going to take it eas….WAIT, there’s a sprint! Decided to open the legs and go for the sprint point on the island.  At least it breaks up the monotony of riding lap after a lap around the island.

103.6KM down, 396.4 to go.

Managed the green jersey.  Its probably because no one was going for it.

Managed the green jersey.  Its probably because no one was going for it.

Cody. December 25. 61 miles. 830 feet of elevation.

Start Time: 8am
Moving Time: 3 hours, 32 minutes
Garmin Temp: 31.8 degrees
Wind: 5-10mph from the SW

It doesn’t get much flatter than that, but I’m already feeling the effects of Day One. I slept in a bit and rolled when I was ready. Big bowl of oatmeal. Banana. Pet the cat. Out the door.

It really is one of my favorite things; to wake up and put on your gear immediately, knowing the first thing you’re going to do that day is ride your bike. It took a good hour, the exact time it took to get to Suttons Bay, to feel decent, but I’m already being very careful to measure every effort carefully. Especially after being in the wind all day yesterday, every exertion adds up and I don’t want to suffer through a terrible day tomorrow or Sunday just because I was trying to hold .1 mph higher an average speed today.

There was almost no traffic on the way north or on the return leg, but I did enjoy seeing a lot of driveways packed with cars, families together for Christmas morning. A very nice old chap in a 90s Ford Ranger drove next to me for a minute or two going through Peshawbetown, smiling and waving. He pulled into one of those packed driveways, probably a kid of his that lives just down the hill.

Christmas itself has never been a big deal to me. Our Sovis Christmas, where the whole family gets together a week or two before or after the Baby Jesus’ birthday, that’s the one that I really look forward to. Pie, delicious food, cookies, pie and all the cousins together. I appreciate it more and more every year, because the older I get the more I see how rare it really is nowadays and how busy people are. It doesn’t happen for everyone, and it doesn’t go on forever to anyone.

Today’s musical choice was one run of the traditional Christmas with Kanye, featuring my two favorite Yeezy albums, Late Registration and The College Dropout.  Great album and there’s something clever you notice every time you listen to those songs.

Two more days of decent weather, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got some holiday thangs going on Saturday and Sunday, but should have plenty of time, if I’ve still got something in the tank.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Jason. December 25. 41 KM. Head Cold

Well it hit me hard today. Legs feel great, but I have a pounding headache and blowing my nose every 5 minutes.  Still a great Christmas and started the morning opening presents with the family. We then joined the Norte crew up at the State Hospital for a nice ride in the woods. I was towing Tyler in the Weehoo, while my wife piloted the Beargrease.  We had a great time and Tyler LOVED the descents up there.  Can’t wait to do it again.

Rules are rules though and I’m pretty sure Cody said I have to do all of this inside. Looks like the outdoor ride doesn’t count. So it looks like another night ride after Christmas at my parents house.

It sucked. Not motivated. Head cold was at its peak. Either way I needed to get at least a few KMs in. I managed to get in a little over an hour. I couldn’t help but notice all the cool comments being made. Cyclists from all over the world (stuck on their trainers) wishing everyone Merry Christmas. Some were admitting the guilt from the meals, others had just received a new Kickr trainer. A nice positive way to end the evening.

144/500KM done.

Cody. December 26. 45 miles, 1250 feet of elevation.

Start Time: 10:06am
Moving Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Garmin Temp: 32 degrees…but it felt colder
Wind: 5-10mph from the E, er, NE, er, SE…mostly from the right, then from the left and tail on the way back

Under 100 miles to go after today! I did head out yesterday afternoon for a quick spin of 30 minutes and 9 miles, just to round off what I did in the morning. I hurried back and joined my brother and my sister-in-law to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I could go on forever about the movie, but here’s my thing.

Look, Stars Wars. You’ve already basically ruined me on all women when you had Natalie Portman play Padma in the second trilogy. Why would I want to date anyone but the plucky Queen of Naboo? I’m frickin’ 27 years old and I’ve had the same crush since I was, what, 15? Maybe some of that is my fault, but shoot.

So what do they do? They basically get another Natalie Portman AND NOW WITH A BRITISH ACCENT?!?! It’s like Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman melded together to make my Dream Babe. Anyway, the movie was pretty good and I went to bed rested and contented that it was only a matter of time before I A) finished Festive 500 B) married one of the short, brown-haired women from Star Wars.

I had planned on calling in the Big Guns Saturday, but Brad White was sick and Sean Kickbush had to be a parent instead, so I rolled solo, fueled by a slice of pie and extra cup of coffee. I tried East Shore but the crosswind was getting obnoxious, so I climbed past Chateau Grand Traverse and went to the west side of the Peninsula to make it out the Lighthouse. I love climbing. I’d rather climb forever than go into a headwind all day, but luckily I could dip, duck, dodge the wind to the 45th parallel today and pause for a photo opp.

The way back was much better. After slogging along at an average of 17mph, the return leg was steady around 18 and 19. I veered off to check out Swaney Road and I hope we add that to Tuesday Night Rides next summer. Great little stretch of gravel, and it would save us from taking the downhill left hander off Old Mission. I’ll campaign hard for it this spring, at least as a monthly funsies thing.

It was all going swimmingly until I was about 5 miles from central heating. Flat tire. I knew it was coming, but it was still a bummer to stand on the side of the road as the temperature hung around freezing, and the wind chilled me off even more. As much as I am loving my Kona Private Jake, I do miss the Rapid Axle Technology of my old Focus Mares. This bike is great, but the axle technology and the modular dropout makes wheel changes slow, especially if you’re losing that last bit of feeling in your fingers while wrassling a tire off the rim.

The Kona really has been a rock solid platform for this adventure. It’s bone stock, with 35mm Cross Boss tires that still look almost brand new after nearly 900 miles, with a lot of pavement on them. The 40t chainring (1x, of course) is good size, with a generous 11-32 cassette. I’m kind of excited to stick with this bike the rest of the way, because finishing the 500 will be enough to push this bike over 1,000 miles since I got it at the end of September.

The weather this week is only getting colder, but the big days are behind me. The game plan is to knock off 30-35 miles tomorrow before I have some Christmas at my dad’s house and then pick away at the remainder Monday-Thursday. I don’t care how I finish this, or when, just so long as I get it done. While there aren’t that many more miles, conditions are going to make the 1.5-2 hour rides still to come just as tough as the 3-4 hour rides already in the bank.

 

Jason. December 26. 69KM, 2720 feet of elevation. 

Start Time: 12:06pm
Moving Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Garmin Temp: 62 degrees
Wind: LOL

Woke up today feeling MUCH better.  Arianne did her morning workout followed by some shopping, so Tyler and I played his new “marble game” and a few legos while mom was out. I then got the call that mom was on her way home and I better get ready so I can hop on when she gets back. Jersey goes on, towel on handlebars, ear buds, heart rate strap, & water bottle all set. I have just over 2 hours to get a ride in, here we go!

Starting today, Zwift is running a contest and giving away a few prizes (Yes actual real ones).  Each day has a different task and today you had to do a “workout.” I picked one that was about an hour long called the Gorby. It was a quick warm up followed by some efforts with rest in between. The time absolutely flies by when you are doing a workout.  You are constantly trying to keep the watts at a certain level and pretty much get graded on how accurately you do it.

After the first hour was done I decided to watch another episode of Under The Dome.  It occupies 45 minutes so I thought this would be a nice way to pass the time. Occasionally I would see Josh Concannon on the scrolling leader boards of the KOM and Sprint point, but never did see him. 

Tomorrow I need to get some good miles in.  Monday through Thursday are super busy with work, so I need to get a bit of a head start.  213/500 KM down.

Is that Santa in the background?Is that Santa in the background?
Cody. December 27. 41 miles, 1985 feet of elevation.

Start Time: 7:56am
Moving Time: 3 hours, 13 minutes
Garmin Temp: 30 degrees
Wind: 15-20mph out of the north, but dead calm in the woods

This ride was the perfect example of why fun beats efficiency. After 225 miles slogging along alone, in the cold and wind and grey, it finally worked out that I met up with some fellow outside bike riders.

Yesterday was the hardest day, physically. I couldn’t get out of bed, I was starving even after I’d just eaten, and my head was pounding the first hour. I think my body is used to the big miles now and I woke up feeling pretty great. Ate a normal breakfast and rolled out, a bit bummed that it was sleeting. It let up before I hit the Bunker Hill Parking Lot where Sean Kickbush, Brad White, Jorden Wakeley and his buddy Ryan were getting ready to roll. Kickbush took us on a winding route that included some fat bike loop and VST, until we came to marker 5. That is an awful lot of horsepower to keep up with, especially with 200+ miles in the legs, but the guys weren’t out to flex their muscles. We had a great time goofing around and weaving in some fun trails that I haven’t done since mid-summer.

We wanted to skip the saplings, and took a left and hopped on some big wide two tracks, eventually hitting the Pathway again. It’s really fun getting to do that type of stuff, and it’s even better when you have a few guys that are up for taking a chance and putting something new together.

Those Dudes were on an interesting array of fat bikes. Sean and Brad were on normal 4″ fat tires and carbon frames (a Borealis Yampa and Salsa Beargrease, respectively), while Wakeley was breaking in his  new steel Quiring with 5.2″s. As Kickbush said, it’s really something when your fat bike looks tiny next to another bike, but that’s really the only way to describe it. My 35mms on the Kona Private Jake looked like old school 19mm road tires next to the assembled fat bikes, but since I knew a lot of those trails and the guys were content with a steady but not competitive clip, I could tag along even on tired legs.

We cut off the Nipple just so we could all say ‘nipple’ when we got back, where we were greeted with the assembled masses preparing for Dirt Church. Pastor Eli Brown hollered and a good 15 hearty souls followed….off the trail. Eli wound us through the woods itself, over lots of down trees and branches from the storm this August and all the winds the past few days. The Kona did great, even when I ‘bunny-hopped’, but I was tired enough that all it entailed was my front tire barely coming off the ground and the back slamming into a log very hard.

I got dropped after a while in the slick leaves and got lost with Ryan and Brent Wiersma, but eventually we found Eli walking back along the trail. I was hitting the 2.5 hour mark and decided to roll toward Bunker Hill with him, his Beargrease clunking along after breaking not one but TWO chain ring bolts and bending the ring and crank. Even the great Natron looked at it and shook his head, so we rolled out of the woods and ended the day’s service.

Eli got picked up by his lovely wife (I hope Joanne reads this), and I tucked and ran on the gravel at a good 19-20mph. My average speed in the woods was ducking below 12 after two hours of singletrackin’, but a good tailwind and wide open roads helped a ton. I slid in home with just a little over three hours in the saddle and 41 miles toward the 500. The total gives me 428km, so about 42 miles left to knock out before I’m done. Wes has volunteered to sub for me at Yen Yoga and Fitness tomorrow, so I’ll try to get at least 25 miles in before work. Then, it’ll be a lap of the Vasa in a snowstorm (hopefully!) Tuesday morning and I’ll be done.

If I ever do this again, I’ll only do it if the weather is this good. Even with the wind, the temperature was over freezing most of the 16 hours I’ve done so far, and if it had been colder, I don’t think I would have been able to put the same about of miles or kept up enthusiasm for it. Second, I’d really like to force someone into riding it with me outside to make the time go by faster and to help keep the average speed high. I was doing the math, and the difference of going 17.5 and 20mph is 9 minutes, or to be more clear, 9 minutes longer to do 20 miles at 17.5. Over the course of 310 miles (500km) that’s almost 2.5 hours slower. Even if it’s 1 mile and hour, it saves time and effort.

The game plan is two more days, finishing two days early, although I am feeling good enough to keep going past the 500km mark…but we’ll see if that’s still the case in the snowstorm.

Jason. December 27. 100.4 miles, 4094 feet of elevation.

Start Time: 10:28am
Moving Time: 4 hours, 37 minutes
Shoes: Soaked
Towels: 4, Water Bottles: 6

Today needed to be at least 100KM. If I was lucky I could do all of it at once. The goal was to get over 300KM at the half way point (Today). As mentioned already the week ahead looks to be pretty busy. Legs were good, not too sick, ready to knock it out.

There happened to be a big group ride that started promptly at 10:30EST.  I spun for a few minutes before logging in to Zwift just to make sure I was warmed up a bit before the “Moderate to Hard” group was on their way. I soft pedaled over to the start/finish banner just as the ride leader stated….er messaged “let’s roll!”

The group ride was 3 laps around the Richmond, VA World Championship course. Good for about 30 miles total. I stuck with the ride leader who did a pretty good job of pacing the group at the published speed or effort.  The time flew by as I was constantly searching for the leader and making sure not to get too far ahead or behind. We knocked out the first 30 miles in about 1:15. 

The next two laps were slower, but still had riders from the group that chose to continue on for a few more miles. So we rode together until about mile 50 for me. Time to exchange a towel, put a towel under the bike, grab a few dates, and fill up two more bottles.

After hopping on the bike and beginning to pedal I received a message from Bill Unger! I switched over to his view (kind of like switching TV cameras) to find out where on the course he was. Turns out he was just a few seconds up the road. I caught up to him and decided to ride with him for awhile.  After a few messages and exchanged pulls we parted ways and I continued more laps around the course.

My wife was getting ready to run errands with Tyler and asked me how long I was planning to ride. I was probably at mile 55 at this point. 62 miles or 100K was coming up and for some reason, the only thing to me after 100km is 100 miles. So the decision was made then. Zwift does reward you with a sweet black jersey when you reach that milestone, so why not?

The next miles were a lot slower. Mostly solo with an occasional rider to exchange pulls with, but those would only last a few miles if I was lucky.  My Pandora station was dialed and I just kept riding almost getting in a zone.  Legs started to get fatigued around 70 or sol miles, but everything else was still good. Really comfortable on the bike with no pain what so ever. At 80 miles I thought it was good time to fill up water bottles and get another towel. I couldn’t help but notice that my feet were soaked. All that time in the trainer and the sweat was just running down my leg right into my shoe.

The last 20 miles were kind of like the home stretch. Miles 80-93 were a bit lonely but still had good music to listen to.  100 miles would be a good time to call it day because the dehydration was starting to kick in a tad. The sweating had almost come to a halt and I noticed I could use my iphone without wiping it off a few times first.  My legs were getting really fatigued and the pace had dropped, but I knew I would be done shortly. Next thing I know there are four riders basically swarming me and it was obvious they were there to pull me through the last 5 or so miles. It was pretty cool to see encouragement like that. The last two miles were still pretty hard which happened to fall on 2 of the only 3 climbs on the course. I was hoping for better timing but oh well, mission accomplished.

374/500KM done. Leaves me with about 30K per day, but with my schedule will not be easy. Tomorrow I’m sure I won’t be super excited to throw a leg over the bike. Maybe a night ride after everyone is in bed. Maybe.

 

Cody. December 28. 30 miles, 1762 feet of elevation.

Start Time: 6:45am
Moving Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Garmin Temp: 18 degrees
Wind: 10-15mph, but not much in the woods

This is the first day it really felt like winter. Every weather report promised a nose dive in temps, but to walk out this morning and feel the dirt rock hard under my boots and the crunch of the front under my tires, it really felt like a Festive 500 ride. To get out of the wind and to stay off any ice, those first steps were actually to my car. I drove to the shop and rode up to the Vasa from there, so I could walk in the door and knock some stuff out before we opened.

That still left me with a solid two hours, and in 20 degree weather, that’s about as long as I’m having fun outside anyway. I admit that I thought more than once about my brother who was subbing at my Yen Yoga spin class, where it’s always 68 degrees with a soft overhead breeze from the fans. At the same time, it was a lot of fun riding on the dirt, which was without exaggeration as firm as asphalt. I had a good 40psi in my tires and it was like riding a road bike, but I couldn’t totally see.

My light blinked red the second I bumped it up to its full 600 OVERDRIVE lumens, so I immediately knocked it back to 400, and the light went to green. That seemed liked a safer bet, and going a little slower wasn’t a terrible idea. I don’t want to this into the spouting the benefits of vegetarianism, but one advantage is that you don’t get sore in the same way. Even with 18+ hours in the legs, they feel great. My arms aren’t tired from 3+ hours of singletrackin’, and even my butt doesn’t ache from nearly 300 miles. The word for what is slowing me down is just fatigue; there isn’t much snap in the legs, and my heart rate just sort of blinks back at me if I ever try to accelerate.

As cold as it was, it was a beautiful morning on the Vasa, and I wound together some of my favorite sections of the 25km and the 10km, with a double dip of Madeleine’s Trail each time I went by. On either side of the trail, the woods were covered in a thin layer of frost and the growing sunlight made the trees look first red then a soft brown as the morning wore on. The winds of the past few days have put a lot of trees down, but all the volunteers have done a stunning job clearing them almost as quickly as they fall.

I rolled past the shop to Three Mile and then turned back for warmth, rounding off the morning with 30.1 miles and leaving 12 to go before I’m done. I was going to wait until tomorrow, but I think I’m going to charge up the light and do my best to dry my clothes and knock this thing off with a quick lap tonight. I’m going to put out a call to the Heroes and see if anyone is up for making sure I go.

Cody. December 28. 13 miles. 1220 feet of elevation. FINISHED.

Start Time: 6:25pm
Moving Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Garmin Temp: 21 degrees
Wind: 20-25mph, driving snow

Done. It was with a certain amount of pride I finished this Festive 500 in much the same manner I started; on a ‘cross bike, with a weather advisory, and feeling pretty darn good. Even though for the past few days people have been commenting that I look tired (that’s just my face, guys) I really actually feel pretty solid still, which is kind of a relief and a cool thing to know about oneself.

At about 4pm, the weather indeed turned wintry, with blowing snow quickly piling up outside the shop window. I sent out an email to the team to see if anyone would ride with me, but the winter storm watch and cold temperatures kept a lot of people at home. Ross Clement, though, doesn’t give a crap. He’s always up for an adventure. This summer, he hadn’t ridden more than 50 miles in a crack, but immediately hopped into our Ride Around Torch shop ride and knocked out over 100 without complaint. It’s that doggedness that makes him a ton of fun to ride with, and more than a bit inspiring.

Boss Man himself joined, too. We all met at Bunker Hill; Ross on a Beargrease, Lowetz on his Bearclaw Bicycle Co. Romeo (drop bar 29er) and I on my Kona. I had the Balthazar that I’d ridden at Iceman all saddled up, but when I went to wheel in my Private Jake, I felt a pang of guilt that I wasn’t going to let my trusty ‘cross bike finish this off with me. So I rode that one.

We made slow progress in the driving winds and snow, a little over an inch but deepening quickly. We made it to Madeleine’s Trail and headed toward the Power Section, three bobbing lights in the darkness. Ross had been feeling sick, so we kept it very easy and chatted. I settled in behind Lowetz for the two or three descents after the Power Section and watched.

I can handle a cyclocross bike in the woods pretty well. Even on snow, or in mud, or whatever, I feel more comfortable on 35s and drop bars than a MTB. But what I can do compared to Jason Lowetz still makes me look like I need training wheels and high-pitched, maternal encouragement. He is still the best bike handler out there, and he proved it just having fun in the snow. I was taking the descents (we would regroup at the top of the climbs) pretty darn quick, only occasionally grabbing for brake through my lobster gloves. But he never touched and made the smoothest lines and turns at summer time speeds. The best thing about our Romeo bike is going to be that everyone will get to see Lowetz handle drop bars again.

Ross was feeling it and Lowetz needed to get home, so they cut the Nipple and I rode the Nipple to meet them on the other side of the Nipple at the 10km split. If you’re wondering, no, I didn’t make it up Anita’s in now about 2 inches of snow. Not even close. I clipped along and the going got tougher as the snow got deeper and deeper. I hit the lot but Ross wasn’t back yet. I waited a few minutes, straining to see a light spilling through the trees, but nothing. I shouted a few times, but if you’re been in the woods with high winds, it always sounds like there’s someone shouting or talking just a few hundred yards away. I went back out for Search and Rescue, but luckily Ross was only a half mile away and we hit the lot and headed home, safe and sound.

The Festive 500 was a big challenge but one I have always wanted to finish. I have a new appreciation for distance riders, and I will make a bigger effort to make myself do 2-3 days of big long rides more often, because it actually makes your body feel great. It was good for my head, too; I’ve been a bit tired, but altogether more happy and excited for such a solid excuse to go ride my bike a lot, even if that excuse is largely to myself. The riding is a blast, so the biggest problem is time. Friday-Sunday was the first time I’ve had 3 days off in a row since April, and the weather made it all possible. I don’t think I could have even come close if we’d had normal winter weather and I had to work my normal 8-9 hours, even with two days off.

I got home and was pretty jazzed about the ride, the 500, and all that. I got a digital badge on Strava, which is cool, but the biggest award and the best feeling is that I did it with support from pals, from all the folks on Strava and FB, to the guys at Dirt Church Sunday, and with Ross and Lowetz getting out there to finish it off with me.

Now, we gotta get JW over the edge with something like 50 miles to go and three days to do it!

Jason. December 28. 21.6 mileStart Time: 10:11pm

Moving Time: 1 hours, 6 minutes
Garmin Temp: 62 degrees

As expected today was pretty busy. The morning was booked with Arianne getting her workout in and myself getting Tyler ready for daycare. After that a quick commute to work (again, doesn’t count) to prepare for year-end inventory and get Cody pumped up for his last ride to finish the Festive 500.  After work, a quick commute home while Cody gathered the troops at the Vasa. Most of the night was spent hanging with the family which always takes priority.

The quick ride on Zwift began after Arianne and Tyler were asleep, so the ride would begin a little after 10pm. It was getting late but I though I would get in at least 30KM to keep the remaining days easy. It was a pretty relaxed couple laps of Richmond with only one little “pickup” to test the legs after the 100 miler. They felt surprisingly well.

409/500KM done with 3 days to go. I will try to repeat tonight’s effort tomorrow night after the BEE workout. 


Jason. December 29. 20.4 Miles

Start Time: 10:16pm
Moving Time: 1 hours, 3 minutes
Garmin Temp: 62 degrees

A carbon copy of last night. 3 minutes and about one mile shorter. 2 laps of the same thing at almost the same time. I’m thankful that this week is a recovery week at Brockmiller Elite Endurance. My legs tonight were a bit heavy, but came around after 30 minutes or so. The commute from BEE to home was a blast. 

I wish I could say that I “rode with someone” or “took this jersey.” Nope! I just spun the legs out and watched the finale of “Under The Dome.”

441/500KM finished with 2 remaining days. Tomorrow morning (actually in about 6 1/2 hours) we will have a small local group ride at 7am. Steven Terry, Cody, Mike Picotte, and maybe some others will join in as we ride a couple laps of the Richmond course.  Nice and Ec.


Jason (& Cody). December 30. 19.5 Miles

Start Time: 7:05AM
Moving Time: 58 Minutes
Garmin Temp: 62 degrees

This morning, Zwift came out with a huge update. Although welcomed it would make the planned group ride a little more difficult than we had planned. Steven Terry had some computer crashing issues and I was a little late because of the update. It was kind of like changing your drivetrain before a ride. Unfortunately for Steven, he was trying to put a Campy chain on a Shimano cassette.

Cody and I met at the start line and went on our way. It was terrible.  For whatever reason the update was causing issues that we really couldn’t keep pace with each other. After some back and forth with Cody we decided to go our own ways.

The first lap was just a normal lap on the same course that they have always had. Nothing too eventful, but I can see a lot of chatter about the “new section” that they had created. After the first lap I would jump on to that section to see what it was like. It was nice to see some change in scenery. It was a flat course that went underwater through a tunnel and then even included some dirt roads!

Just a shy of 20 miles I had ran out of time and would be on my way to take Ty to daycare then off to Ec to work on some year-end inventory. 472/500KM done. Tomorrow is the final day of the Festive 500. The plan tomorrow is to obviously get around 28K in. Maybe 27K at home with the final km at Einstein Cycles just before the New Years Eve bash with Tardigrades in Space show.

Some dirt roads, Cody would love it!Some dirt roads, Cody would love it!

Jason. December 31. 19.3 Miles

Start Time: 11:11pm
Moving Time: 46 Minutes
Garmin Temp: 62 degrees

Well the plan didn’t go quite how I wanted it, but we made it happen. A few snags in the schedule had my ride a lot later than I had hoped. For one, I needed to do more inventory counting before then end of the year. I am timing the Resolution 5K run tomorrow so I also had some last-minute preparations for that as well. So a morning or afternoon ride was not in the books.  My last option would of course be just before the New Year starting at around 11PM.

The Ec Crew had a nice dinner at Red Mesa courtesy of Corporate to close out the year. Dinner was followed by theTardigrades in Space concert at the Ec Coffee Bar. They went on at about 9:30pm with an about an hour set for their first performance ever. It was a great show! After a few adult beverages and some good chats with friends it would time for Cody and I to ride home. It was later than planned…

When I arrived home I quickly found a kit, filled up some water, and jumped on a fast as possible. I knew I would have roughly 17.5 miles to finish up the challenge in about 45 minutes and this would not be an easy spin. I picked the flat course option to clock in as many miles as possible and was on my way.

Lets just say I can be thankful for the tempo block we just had at BEE! After a few minutes I went right to work. I kept the pace high at 280-300 wattsI was expecting to tire quickly with the adult beverages and the mileage of last week. It was quite the opposite. I felt great. The miles were ticking by quickly and I was jamming to my “Go Fast” Pandora station. The icing on the cake was about half way in I decided to go for the Green Jersey at the sprint point. I pedaled hard for the 25 or so seconds and luckily got it.

After completing 3 full laps it was time to be done. I hurried off the trainer, wiped the sweat off my face, and woke my wife up 3 minutes before midnight to celebrate the New Year!

19.3 Miles or 31K done. 503KM done on Zwift or 586KM if you include the BEE ride and outdoor rides. It was a fun challenge and with great timing. I usually fall victim to the Holiday Weight-Gain with all the food. This year I still got to indulge and have fun at the same time. Happy New Year everyone!

Bringing in the New Year!

Bringing in the New Year!