Thursday, January 3, 2019

Strava Festive 500; my experience and thoughts on how to be successful

The Festive 500 is a Strava Challenge put on each year, this year is the eighth time it’s been run. The premise is easy 500km (310 and change in miles) in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The only caveat is that the rides have to be outside, no trainer, no rollers, just hard, cold tarmac (or gravel or dirt or snow). I’ve seen it come around for the last few years and have accumulated the miles in the normal course of training/riding. Most years I would usually total somewhere between 60-70% of the mileage. This year I decided to make a plan and go for it.

There were a couple of other considerations;

  • I had to accommodate a pretty tight work schedule, I only had Christmas and New Year’s Day official off.
  • The weather, winter has arrived in California, yes, I fully understand it’s relative to somewhere like, Wisconsin but it’s relative and this week has been pretty cold!
  • Given that we’re in the depth of winter then day ends abruptly at 5:00pm I was constrained to riding in the morning
  • The good news was that it sunrise around 7:00am and I was working from home. So in theory I would be able to get on the road by 6:45am and get a solid 90-120 minutes before work.

So how did it shake out…

Monday December 24; 2:19 35.1 miles (56km), 2356’ gain, Min temp 39.2f Got out a little later than planned but was on the road by 7:00am. A tour round the local roads, with some climbing. A little longer than planned but nothing too onerous.

Tuesday December 25; 4:21 68.5 miles (90km), 4747’ gain. Min temp 53.6f. Headed out at 11:10am for obvious reasons. A nice big loop which took me out to Newbury Park, into the Santa Monica Mountains to see the burned area and home again.

Wednesday December 26; 2:37 38.6 miles (60km) 2375’ gain. Min temp 39.2f. Headed out to the local farmland. Clear blue skies and a nice cold wind. As you can see where we live is not flat by any stretch. Nearly 10,000’ in the last three days!

Thursday December 27; 1:47 27.0 miles (43km) 1736’ gain. Min Temp 35.6f. Looking for new routes I ventured over the hill into Thousand Oaks. While this should have been rush hour, the traffic was lighter. Managed to re-tweak an old reoccurring knee “thing” while doing nothing special?!

Friday December 28; 1:36 22.2 miles (35km) 1394’ gain. Min Temp 48.2f Wrapped up work early and headed out in the afternoon, given how much it hadn’t warmed up I was happy to leave this to much later in the day!

Saturday December 29; 3:36 51.1miles (82km) 3297’ gain. Min Temp 50.0f Slightly later start even through it wasn’t that warm. Headed out towards the Santa Monica Mountains and saw some more of the burn area. Took it easy babying my knee. Had hoped for a few more miles to get me over the 400km mark but fell just short at 391km.

Sunday December 30; 4:47 72.8 miles (107km) 4662’ gain. Min Temp 41f Longest ride of the event. I had planned to ride with the CVR Team but misread the start time and turned up an hour late! With that said I had the .tcx file on my Garmin so I headed and followed my nose….well my Garmin. I added a couple of twists at the end get the mileage and then I was done!



  • 315 miles / 509km
  • Total Time 21:03
  • Total Elevation 20,567’ / 6269m


As you can see it’s pretty doable. Other than a tweaky knee that, after making the Adult choice, prevented my from going to the Four Days of Fitness I came out unscathed. I made sure to plan out as day as best as possible but I got caught short with my Garmin showing 10% battery life while I was a two hours from home! Fortunately the 1030 has a Battery Save Mode, but it was down to 3% when I got home…that’s a little close for comfort! So with it completed here are some thoughts;

Home Relations; first and foremost get buy in and agreement on this in advance, balance out any family commitments and duties. Pissing off everyone at home while you’ve disappeared on Christmas Day for 5 hours is not an option for everyone. Fortunately being married to an Endurance Athlete means that I get a pass on a lot of things that others would at best get the dinner in the dog and at worst a set of divorce paper left out for you!

Prep; if you’re going out early, get all your gear prepped, laid out, ready the night before. Fumbling in the early hours sucks! Along with this is charge/recharge everything! Having your Garmin die 20 miles from home will be just a tad frustrating…I almost leaned this the hard way!

Route Planning; I wandered around a bit. Having a pre-planned route helped the miles go by. It also allows you to do the math and make sure you are spreading the distance out over the days, so you can finish it. Eight Metric Centuries will work…but so does a Statute Century (plus some loose change) every other day. Make sure you measure twice and cut once!

Keep some company; riding with a group or just another person not only makes the miles role by but gives you a chance to sit in a bit and draft for some (not all) of the ride. Mentally the company was nice too. I was bummed to miss the Team ride on the last day for both reasons.

Clothing/Gear etc.; I only had to fight with the cold. I finally feel like I have a wardrobe for all seasons. It’s taken a few years, but I am finally there, of course being a poster boy for Pactimo helps! I used everything in my arsenal on multiple days!

Fuel; it’s important to keep the fuel and fluid intake up. You’re not fueling for today, you’re recovering today and fueling for tomorrow. Breakfast and Dinner included. Keep drinking, even if you’re not sweating make sure you keep the intake up

Recovery; foam roll, stretch, recovery boots, Epsom salts bath…whatever your recovery regimen make sure you follow it, if you don’t have one find/create one. Google, your club or your mates can help!

Pacing; pace yourself for the event not for the day. Go out too hard on Day, 1, 2 or 3 and you’ll be paying for it down the line!

Bike Love; we all love our bike, show it some, give it a wash, wipe down, whatever it takes. Lube the chain and check the tire pressure. Just some basics will keep you humming along the road rather than standing on the side of it! If you use anyt of your spares; tubes etc, make sure you replace them for the next day

Have fun; finally enjoy the challenge, you’re not a pro, you’re not being paid to do this, all you’re going to get is a Ralpha Roundel and a Virtual Badge! Those not in the know will look at these and listen with a measure of disbelief and incredulity at what you just did…but hey you just did it!

So, these are the things that I can think of, I am sure I missed some, what thoughts do you have?

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