So as anyone who’s even heard of cycling media knows, the surprisingly outsized PR behemoth that is Rapha are running their annual Festive 500 challenge again this year, with the Covid necessitated addition of allowing virtual kilometres. Long story short, the aim is to do 500km in the period between Christmas Eve and the end of New Year’s Eve. (0001 24/12 – 2359 31/12). Fairly simple, log the miles on Strava and in preceding years Rapha give you a roundel to sew onto something (this year, it’s a prize draw). Extra points if you filled in a manual brevet card. A successful Audax calendar event has even been developed – the Full Fat Festive 500 – which sounds lovely until you consider that it’s 500km in 34hrs. From Bristol.

Anyway. This year, I intended to tap out a 100km a day for five days with a break for Christmas Day. Track and trace, however, put paid to that as I was literally rolling the bike out of the door only to see the dreaded “you must self-isolate” notification on the phone.

Well, shit.

Plan B it is, then. Having done the sums and realising that to do a virtual 500km on Sufferfest exercises would be something in the region of 16x 9 Hammers (this is quite a long way from being ideal, don’t even contemplate it), I resurrected the Zwift membership.

There is nothing great about spending time on the trainer, even with the engagement of Zwift, so the plan was 100km, 60km, 120km, 100km, 100km. (Actually it was meant to be 100 x5 skipping Christmas Day, but I got carried away). Flat routes all round to get it out of the way but it did give me a good way to experiment with various bits and pieces (and with an eye on the RaTN, flat is specific training…) and so a few lessons learnt.

  • The new Pace Partners are really annoying. Annoying to find, annoying to hang on to, the only good thing is that you’re effectively in a group so the speed is kept significantly higher but you do end up working hard.
  • Running ERG mode using something like the Endurance + no vid from Sufferfest is a good way to train but it is also really quite hard. As always, far too easy to overcook it on the way out.
  • Using Zwift to control resistance gives you a more realistic ride in terms of micro-breaks, but also gives you the opportunity to try to smash sprints & KOMs, which with 100km in the legs is not the ideal.

Biggest lesson was nutrition. The first 3 100km days were fuelled with High5 in the bidon and variety of bars. Not great, not terrible. The 120km day was bad and I can see the advice of drinking your water and eating your calories. Today’s final ride, however, was an opportunity to try out the Expedition Food strategy I alluded to in previous posts. Rather than a 400cal breakfast and constant liquid fuelling, I took a 1000cal breakfast with water and the option of bars to top up. This was night and day. Strong all the way through, with hills, sprints, KOM efforts and 40 odd minutes on the cat ‘c’ Pace Partner. No top up fuelling, just plenty of water. No GI issues, nothing untoward. I suspect the granola & raspberry one will be fine with cold water, just need to make sure the pack is well shaken up. As such, they’re going in the pack for RATN. Not cheap, but 4000cal in under a kilo is going to go some way to dealing with fuelling problems (especially looking at the food desert that is 550-700km). Will have to have a look at the recipe to see how to make my own for pre-events, because I’m not sure the budget can stretch to one of these packs every time I leave the house! Also, you will need a Lhfoon.

I am conscious that the trainer isn’t entirely realistic, but I’m confident that the effort is higher to make up for the difference between the indoors and out and that this represents a reasonable comparison. I am also conscious that as I’ve not come off with the normal 1000+ calorie deficit, I can’t sit and graze the fridge with impunity…

If you’re more social media’y than me, Expedition Foods are sponsoring endurance athletes. I doubt there’s much interest in a born-again mamil with three followers on instagram, but if you’re all over the instas it might be worth an email!