I had 165 km with 2 days left of the Rapha Festive 500 challenge. In 4 days I had ridden in cold conditions, and that was about to change. The fourth day of riding was so far the coldest with - 21 as the lowest temperature. Day 5 would be 20 degrees warmer.
Rapha Festive Day 5
It was dark outside when I started putting my clothes on. It was -1 degrees outside, and I couldn't see if there had been a lot of snowfall during the night. When I got out, I realized I had a pretty different day in the saddle ahead of me. It was warmer, - 1 degrees almost felt like, well not summer, but warm. I had slightly less clothes on not to overcook. It was snowing as well, wet snow. After 100 m I knew this was going to be hard. I really needed to get some 100 km today as well. I headed for the same route than on the previous days, wishing they would be in somewhat good condition. Wrong I was.
I had to make a stop after 5 km and struggled to get back on. Why? Well you see, when it's -1 degrees, that means your cleats get stuck with snow. The shoes still provide some warmth and first the snow melts and then quickly makes a layer in your cleats. So I was in the middle of a snowy road unable to get back on my bike. Well I cleaned a section of road, grabbed my toolkit and started to clean the cleats. After 15 minutes I was back on, determined not to make a single stop anymore that day.
There was no snowplows to be seen, and the snowfall got more and more intense. There was about 10 cm of wet loose snow on the ground, with a layer of ice underneath. I was going nowhere it felt like. I had to find a section of road where I could push through the snow better. I found one section, that was not a highly trafficked road, and it was partly clean of snow. I felt like riding again.
The road section was 5 km, so I went back and forth, and tried to track some kilometers. Not long before a bus stopped in front of me. He opened the doors and yelled I was not supposed to ride on this road. At this point I had tracked some 40 km, it was - 1 and was raining. I told him the other roads were not plowed and that there was little or no traffic on this road, meaning no danger for the cars or me. But he had another opinion. Fine.
So I pushed back towards home searching for other roads, less trafficked and somewhat rideable. And riding some 10 km, I found a 3 km section I was able to finish that day with some 93 km. I spent some 5 hours in the saddle that day, and really not a meter was enjoyable. After the first 5 km I was nearly ready to quit. As I now had found a 3 km route rideable, I didn't even think of going anywhere else on my last day. I had to finish the sixth day with at least 65 km. That sounded easy, but I didn't want to think it that way, and was expecting it to be at least as bad as the previous day, not to be disappointed once getting in the saddle that day.
Rapha Festive 500 Day 6
Last day. I couldn't believe it. 65 km to go, I would be going back and forth for 3 km, I knew it would bore me to death, but all that mattered was to finish the Festive 500 today alive.
It was a beautiful day. + 1 degrees and the sun was shining. A little windy, but otherwise, not that bad at all. The roads were just plain ice though. So I had some 4 km to the section I had selected the previous day. It was 3 km one way, so I had to do some 10 times back and forth to complete my kilometers. It all started off pretty good. The roads were not in perfect shape, they were even more slippery than the day before, so riding relaxed was out of question.
There was not a lot of traffic on the road, and that's partly why I had chosen it, not to disturb a whole bunch of bus drivers and other drivers. The first 25 km went pretty okay. But then it felt people got more and more pissed off. I wondered if having to maybe slow down a bit and arriving maybe 15 seconds later at the destination because of me really was that bad. But it really seemed to bite on some car drivers. Honking horns and international finger and hand gestures were quite common. As usual, if a car slows down and gives some space between me and him or her, when passing I always thank them with a gentle hand gesture. And so I did this time as well. I had lots of time to think about the politics around all this, are things too well in our country that a bike can really upset people so much.
The hours went pretty quick, even if I was a bit afraid to be knocked down by a car to be honest. But I survived. On the last kilometer of the 3 km section, before heading home, a car passed me and started using the windshield washers. I knew this was on purpose to soak me with the liquid since he kept on driving in front of me slowly, spraying all the time. Fortunately I quickly turned towards home and fortunately I had my glasses on. I had 2 km left home when my Garmin told I had been riding for 65 km. I shouted out of happiness. Damn I did it! Arriving home I received a lot of congrats by followers and friends. It felt super. It didn't feel as good as last year though, since that was when I proved myself I can do it, so basically it wasn't new this time. But really, having almost quit and the weather playing such a big role this year, I felt good. Looking now at the leader board for Finland, we were 4 cyclists completing the challenge. That tells you it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.
Many thanks goes to the people who supported me and believed in me. This is not a marathon run in Sahara, not even near, but it was hard and I'm not sure if I had done it without the support. At home I was taken good care of, food was there, clothes were washed and hang out to dry. Sounds a little but it was really a lot :) Besides that there were two people who really gave me the confidence to go. After my first 44 km ride I "knew" I couldn't make it. It was too much for my body it felt like. Kjell Carlström, as you know knows one or two things about cycling said two words, KÄMPA PÅ. Those words were the two single most important for me to complete the challenge. Without those I'm not sure I would have made it. A big thanks goes to Kjell! The second person I refer to I got to know a year ago. A person who I really learned what believing in yourself and never giving up means. On times when it felt really freaking bad, and I wanted to quit, I heard his words in my head. Never give up. Thanks Marko Vauhkonen for showing us all what determination really is :)
I think finishing this Rapha Festive 500 2014 edition wrap up with a picture from my first ride will be more than suitable. Closing the circle. Thank you for following!
Keep on believing in yourselves folks! Rock and ride on!