To be honest, I have never finished the Festive 500 - every time I hit the 350-400km mark I just give up. It's exhausting! This year I decided I would finally achieve my goal, but it wasn't easy. I had a Christmas trip planned to Boston until the 26th and a CX race to shoot on the 31st, leaving me with very limited time in between to do some big rides that could count.
Day 1. 173 KM - Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie on 33's https://www.strava.com/activities/813129589
Day one was a great way to start despite the early morning showers - I got to take out my cyclocross bike, ride with some rad dudes, do new routes, and see new destinations.
The company was James, an NYC local who joined until Nyack; Steven, who connected with me on Instagram days before Christmas after I chased him from Nyack to GWB, and Bill, who met up with us later while we were getting some brew and doughnuts. Steven invited him and I was stoked to see it was "TT Bill", with whom I've ridden many times over the summer. His nickname comes from the insane amount of miles he puts in at above speed limit.
Steven, who races for Harvard University, suggested we do a route to Poughkeepsie, which is roughly about 160 Km from home for me. Some of the stops along the way were Bear Mountain and West Point. If you don't already know, WP is a military academy where "trespassers (anyone without a military ID) will be shot". I'd like to think that we looked innocent and decent enough for the guards - bunch of dudes in spandex? They easily let us through and we got to enjoy some of the architecture and smooth roads. Then came my favorite section, Breakneck Ridge. I had seen this section on photos several times, but hadn't been north enough to visit myself. The name describes the place very well as one has to ride up a hill on the edge of a cliff. If one didn't know better, you could say it was like riding in Mallorca. The best part was that the road was blocked off to traffic, so we go to have some fun and reach some great speeds.
Finally, about 40 Km later, we arrived at Poughkeepsie and rode over the walkway which connects the East and West side of the Hudson. With enough mileage in, we grabbed some snacks and hoped on the train back. The road took a toll on us and there was no way we could ride back after 160km of road and some decent climbing. Sharing stories and some jokes, the train ride home flew by.
Day 2. 133 KM - What happened to the sun? https://www.strava.com/activities/814068152
I was still filled with energy after the Breakneck ridge and Poughkeepsie ride, but with the sun never coming out as it was supposed to, this next day turned out to be a bit tougher.
I met up with my friends Jimmy, Donalrey and his friend Alex, who was in town for the holidays. We were all hoping to knock out some miles on our locals routes, however as temperatures began to drop (sometimes below freezing), our usual scene became difficult and mentally taxing. Cold and shivering, we pushed through and showed Alex around our popular local climbs. A couple of turns here and there, I was able to rack up around 130 km and was glad to be much closer to my goal for the Festive 500
Day 3. 214 KM Braving the elements https://www.strava.com/activities/816185647
After a day off due to rain, I only had one day left to do the final stretch and complete the full 500 Km, with only 190Km to go.
Jimmy joined me once again, starting our ride at Prospect Park with the idea to ride as far as possible to finish this challenge. It wasn't an easy day yet again, with below freezing temperatures that maintained us at an easy pace. Our first stop came quickly as we needed coffee to warm up. If you have been out there these past few days through the winter weather, you know what I'm talking about.
Two chocolate chip coconut cookies later, I proposed heading to Bear Mountain however through a new route that I had saved a while back but had yet to try. Jimmy was on board, and together we took on the challenge. New roads and new scenery always make even the longest distance seem shorter.
Of course, yet another challenge was thrown our way when we entered Bear Mountain State Park and saw a sign warning us of icy roads. Determined, we continued on although taking our time and being cautious of the ice. We probably weren't too cautious until an older gentleman (thank you for saving our lives!) passed us and warned us that it was about to get worse on the downhill. It was really bad - we had to unclip and somehow ice skate in our cleats through the roads while holding on to our bikes. Once the ice started to disappear we continued on, but then the roads turned icy again and we decided going up Bear was just not going to happen. Our best option was turning around and heading home.
As if that had not been enough, leaving the mountains brought us to our first of three encounters with a snow storm. To be honest wth you, it was actually nice. It's sort of peaceful when it snows. Laughing like the little kids and screaming our lungs out for objects on the road to watch out for, we finally got to familiar territory.
At this point we had already done over 140 Km, and we were exhausted. Refueling during rides is really important, especially during strenuous ones like this one. After some soup and sandwiches, we continued our direction home, to be hit by yet another snow storm. Funny enough, we actually were not faced by this storm either and were again laughing and enjoying it.
Slowly but surely daylight began to disappear, and we had only 30 minutes left until sunset. Jimmy was the smart one of the two and brought lights. In my defense (not a good one), I "guesstimated" our return time to be 4pm. With nothing else we could do, we began to rush to get as close to the city as possible. We ride those roads a lot, so we were familiar with the pace we could hold.
It was actually really nice because I had been wanting to catch a sunset during my rides for a while and we were able to. When we neared the city on the bridge, we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets which came accompanied by a more familiar view. Jimmy and I were just mesmerized and wanted to stop to capture some shots. As if mother nature was trying to rush us home, she threw her final snow storm at us while also captivating us with this sunset view.
Finally we just had to go as we only had one set of lights and we had to work as a team - he'd take the rear light and I'd lead with the front one. It was still very difficult to see because of the snow that continued to be over us. It also became much colder and we were losing fuel. Shout out to the Rapha people for letting us crash for a few minutes to warm up with some tea and snacks. To say the least, the snow, the cold, and the miles on our legs were starting to get to us. After about 20 minutes we headed out into the cold. Knowing that it was only about a half hour ride to get home we rushed through the city streets and over the Manhattan bridge into Brooklyn. The closer we got to home, the more thankful we were about making this ride.
Upon arriving home, I uploaded my ride to Strava. After three days on riding I finally accomplished the Festive 500 with a couple of extra KMs.