In part one Laura has finished her festive 500km utilising her cycle commutes to work to get the miles in, but this has left Stevie struggling to get the miles in.
Without work commitments Stevie is responsible for pretty much everything else in the festive period- walking the dog, household chores and seeing family and friends, which actually left less time for riding his bicycle than expected. After a very solid effort training on the bicycle during the past two months, aided by a break from the booze, fitness is certainly not the issue.
But Stevie’s story shows why the Festive 500 is not gimme, no matter how fit you are!
24th December, Ride 1
Last minute Christmas preparations whilst I finished up at work left Stevie running behind on his intended longer loop out to come and “pick me up” via bicycle. Luckily I finished just about on time so didn’t leave him waiting in the cold too long, but the broken state of my legs from my ambitious running attempts meant my pace was ridiculously slow on the way back. He had already bailed me out the day before by collecting a very soggy tired me and my bicycle from the start of the High Peak trail, driven us to get a Christmas Dinner Burger from Annie’s burger shack and then essentially done all my walking for me as I was slumped on the couch after my efforts… He probably should have guessed I wouldn’t be racing anywhere today but was soon getting chilly as I ambled along the country lanes enjoying having someone to chat to instead of my usual solo reprieve after work. We were soon home so he could warm up and we had a cosy evening in, opening some presents early in anticipation of a busy couple of days ahead. (Santa said it was ok because I was at work!)
Even though he was the one not at work, Christmas and Boxing day were certainly busy for Stevie. Christmas day started early dropping me off at work for my shift, then getting everything ready to walk down with our dog to his parents who were in our Christmas bubble, although I’m sure it was no hardship being treated to his Mum’s Christmas dinner the festivities left no time for cycling. Boxing Day allowed him a later start but with still plenty to do, picking up presents and a Boxing Day dinner from his parents, walking the dog, meeting a friend who was alone at Christmas as well as the usual chores. He had also purposely “hopped off the wagon” briefly for Christmas and had a couple of drinks to celebrate on Christmas day, but followed this trend on boxing day too so I when I got home quite late he was out for the count in bed, a veritable lightweight after 2 months off and a few festive drinks, and yet again no riding done…
299.1 miles to go.
27th December, Ride 2
Despite a fuzzy head, Stevie surprised me by rousing himself early to get on the bike. He had arranged to meet a friend and was out of the house and riding before I had even made it out of bed! Certainly dedication to the cause! A slow and testing route by all accounts given the weather conditions and festive recovery. A couple of mince pies saw him through though but he wheeled back home later than expected and we failed to cross paths before I went out on my own ride. I came home later to find he had been surprisingly productive through the rest of the day sorting presents and wrapping paper and clearing up the mess I had left strewn after a few solid days at work. I had out done him again with mileage however, so he was still playing catch up.
265.7 miles to go
28th December, Ride 3
Finally we made it out together over the festive period, and not only that but on tandem. This bitterly cold ride saw us both suffer badly, but especially with poor circulation to his extremities (a downside of having such long limbs!) added an extra level of challenge whilst trying to steer the tandem through the icy lanes. I could hunker down at the back, trying to avoid the bitingly cold wind, but Ste was more exposed to the elements. His expertise in handling the tandem in tricky conditions kept us safe and I was impressed he opted to do two extra loops around the block to round our mileage up- a true demonstration of endurance when we could have just gone straight home- being on the back I didn’t have any choice in the matter!
215.0 miles to go
29th December, Ride 4
At one point I genuinely thought Stevie would bottle out of riding today as when he woke up it was the last thing he wanted to do. He had more opportunity to pick and chose the weather windows when he rides and after the past few months certainly didn’t need to get out on the bike for fitness. It would have been entirely sensible for him to stay at home, take some time to relax and worry about riding another day, the festive 500km is a completely arbitrary concept after all!
But as I started getting ready he begrudgingly joined me and after I made him a bowl of readi brek he was just about good to go.
The most suitable bicycle he had ready to go at short notice is “the Spinning Aubergine”, a heavyweight steel fixie (fixed wheel bicycle with only one gear). This left him grinding or honking out of the saddle on all the climbs and spinning his legs down all the descents as there is not freewheel options so when the wheel turns, so do your legs!
He did a great job route planning on the road with his encyclopedic knowledge of Derbyshire and was very gallant about my route choice on the way home where I unwittingly gave his legs a whole lot more climbing to do. The beauty of the peaks in the snow certainly improved both our moods and by the time we got to Kniveton he was posing in front of the moon at sunset over the hillside. We both felt this ride was a fantastic effort in conditions that would have put most people off, but with experience and good preparation we were rewarded with a rather special ride.
137.3 miles to go
30th December, Ride 5
When I swanned of on my morning loop before work, Stevie opted to stay in to spend half an hour or so fixing Pauline’s (my work bike) bottom bracket. She has been a reliable steed on the whole but her bottom bracket has consistently been playing up and coming loose despite Stevie’s previous work on her. Knowing I had a week of commuting to and from night shifts on her he set about making sure she was in tip top condition, but often as these things go a half hour job was only just finished a couple of hours later when I got back from my own ride. Yet again I eyed up Stevie suspiciously, trying to gauge whether he would be going out or not having been tied up for so long… I dared not ask I felt slightly responsible that the mechanical work with my bike had put his Festive 500 in jeopardy while I merrily carried on with mine!
But, he stuck to his guns again and went out on the same route I had just ridden, which also meant he got back in time to see me off before work. This meant it was another short day ride for him, but this mileage meant he still just about had the festive 500 in his grasp…
He got back in just in time for us to have one last catch up before I become the semi-nocturnal grumpy beast I am on nights only to find his Strava hadn’t recorded. His disappointment was palpable, we had already endured enough and if his efforts today were not counted he would almost certainly fail to get the rest of the miles in. Thinking quickly, I realised we had ridden the same route- albeit me a lot slower, so I was able to add him to my ride. He was still in the running!… Just…
110.1 miles to go. One day left.
31st December, Ride 6
I arrived back from work in my usual dozy state after a night shift and after making me tea, cooking me brunch and tucking me up in bed Stevie set out again. On his way out of the bedroom, he encountered another unexpected hazard and I suddenly heard a scream and a bang!
Jumping back out of bed I found Stevie on all fours from where he had landed heavily and a rather irate looking Doxy the Cat glaring at us from across the hall. “Is she ok?” Stevie asks, “check her over!”. It transpires she had settled comfortably in one of her favourite spots on top of the hot pipes leading into the bedroom and as Stevie had put the heating on at an unusual hour ready for my return home had forgotten she might be there. A quick veterinary examination revealed the cat to be pissed off but unscathed, infuriated that we could possibly intrude on her nap time, but unfortunately my husband had fared less well landing heavily on his knee whilst trying to avoid a flattened feline. There was little more I could do and while Doxy relented enough to come and sleep directly on my head while I napped, Stevie went out to brave the cold.
The ice had not really melted overnight and although the sun was shining it was due to be a cold day. He set out North hoping for a headwind out and tailwind back whilst speeding up the A6, the winter weather got the better of him however and a ride that should have been straight forward was extremely trying in the cold winter air which seems heavy and dense. It was so cold his water bottle froze and he was unable to drink properly. He still managed to time getting back home to see me off to work and turned up damp, tired, cold and with icicles in his beard.
He was still over 50 miles off finishing the 500km, it was 5pm at night and I could see all he wanted was a quiet night in front of the fire watching the darts. “You don’t need to do this Ste” I say, “It’s completely arbitrary and not one cares anyway” (except Mr Inevitable who had been tracking our progress on Strava). He looks shattered and with the roads getting icier as it gets colder I’m really not sure it’s a good idea for him to go back out. He knee is still sore form the cat incident earlier and he has every excuse to pack it in.
His resolve shines through though and he says he has a plan riding loops of the estate to get the mileage up- this sounds like madness to me! I can’t think of anything worse that riding the same loop over and over and over again as the night gets darker and colder and more bitter. But I have to go and leave him to it, a kiss good luck and I leave his with the ice melting in his beard as I ride off into the night.
Hours later I find just enough to time check Strava to see how he is doing, the ride that pops up is suspiciously short looking and I initially worry he has run out of steam or run into ice. And then I look closer and remember what he said earlier about riding loops and I get a buzz when I see the total mileage: 57.2miles!
He has somehow completed FOURTEEN laps around the village and not only that but on fixed wheel too has done almost 2750ft of climbing, significantly more that his foray into the peak district earlier in the day!! He finished at about 9:45pm, probably not the latest on record but certainly a close call and has hit the 500km distance on the nose!
Our experiences and rides have been quite different and both with their challenges, but I really think Stevie pulled it out of the bag with his last tremendous effort on very arduous ride. His disadvantages came from his duty to others: looking after me, fixing my bike and spending valuable time with friends and family. It was not necessary for him to do the Festive 500km for fitness but he chose to do it anyway and I think this shows (along with a degree of madness), the other side of endurance; the fortitude that is needed in those dark times when there seems no point, no hope just the will that says “go on”.
We are sad to spend New Year apart but as I listen to the fireworks going off around the practice I am filled with a sense of pride and positivity that this year of all years we have done what we set out to do and both got our Festive 500kms.