#Festive500:How I did The 500KM Cycling Challenge

My Festive500 Story

It all started back in 2015 when at that time I was at peak of my physical fitness. That was the year when I got to know about the Festive500 challenge. I was ready and all geared up to do, but faith/luck have it, right around the festive season I broke the rear wheel during a training session. It was until mid-January 2016 when the replacement came, hence the previous year I missed the challenge.

2016 – The Toxicity of Work

Next year I wasn’t sure since it was too early to decide whether I will be able to do it or not, the year started with good structural training until I came to Pakistan in mid-June, it took some time adjusting to the environment and elevation, since Doha as at sea level with windy and warm conditions. I started working for local Production House, the routine was pathetic, with long commutes and late-night sittings, the season came I was able to log a single ride, by early December it was somehow established to me that I will miss another year as well and so I did. I had to wait another 12 months.

2017 – 2018 Fighting Injury

During the first quarter of 2017, I developed a strange pain in my lower back, which with time intensified leaving me in extreme pain. I have had the same pain in the past as well, but this time it was different, cycling was one thing I can’t let go of, but the pain made things worst, so worst that I wasn’t able to sit if standing and vice versa. Not that I was training hard, it was sure a compound effect of bad diet, pathetic work routine, and bad sleeping habits. I struggled there was a moment I thought I might not be able to ride again, at least not the way I have been doing.

I was diagnosed with an L5-S1 disc herniation. The only way was to rest, do physio exercises, keep the diet in check, and overall take life back in my control. The process wasn’t easy. Pain demanded its due course of time. I stopped almost all physical activity and went into the habit of no physical activity at all. I gained a lot of weight, In September of 2018, I decided to change things, I started exercises gradually leading to riding on the road again until one day in October had an electric-like wave of pain again. I was not in the mood of taking any painkillers, This time the reason was slightly different, I had an extremely weak core, dull muscles due to inactivity, and an overall weak body for any intense exercise.

2019 – The Year of Recovery

In the following months after the relapse, I went through a very calculated recovery plan, which included some traditional homeopathic medicines as well. The pain was magically gone but I knew once the inflammation comes back I will be back to square one. So I did a lot of targeted exercises and stretches. One thing which I did right was to lose all the weight that I have gained over the past two years.

I quit the job and went solo the freelancing way, it was nothing new since I have been doing that for many years, this lifted a lot of burdens, I felt great, everything seems new and inviting. The confidence was back, I started indoor rides thrice a month, I was completely out of the grind and was once again following routine on my terms.

2020 – The Year of Cycling

Came in 2020, started riding outdoors, mostly easy pace commute-type rides with extreme caution. My March I felt stronger and was sure that I can ride like I used to ride before. For better or worse the virus hit, with it came the lock-downs, which made the air cleaner than ever, road emptied like never before, no noise, no traffic, no pollution, by the grace of Almighty I manage to ride 7700KMs in total during 2020. It is the best cycling year ever.

The Festive500 2020 Challenge.

I was super confident and excited for the festive500 challenge 2020. I was super fit, focused, and confident enough to do it in time without any issues. I started a day earlier with a pre-festive ride, later realizing I should have taken that very day off, LOL.

The official first ride was easy, kept the pace good, the plan was to ride as much as I can but to avoid the century to save some fuel for the coming days. The biggest constrain was the cold weather though unlike other rides I was riding during the peak sun hours, still, it was hard to keep up with the weather, to be honest, it was more of a mental challenge than a physical one. During the loops, it was the only time I did one loop with a fellow rider in the entire challenge.

The second ride was not much of a different, a constant battle against the weather and time. This time I threw in the Bahria Enclave route, for a change that is.

I did a century ride for the 3rd day, overall it was a good ride, with plenty of suns, just a had minor crash. I should have kept the pace easy, this ride made me very very stiff, my entire body wanted a good massage and a good intense stretch, this was also a sign that I have pretty much crossed the threshold. This condition varies for every rider, not all are the same. You might not feel anything at all as with so many riders who completed the challenge quickly within five days of century rides, the key is to watch your body and plan accordingly.

Took a day off and came back for the 4th ride, I was ok, should have focused more on recovery and stretches, especially when the weather is cold. Overall I felt good, confident, and rode the necessary miles.

Took it very easy on the 5th ride, after this I started feeling fatigued, I was stiff, the time between rides was not enough for a good recovery, taking a day off was no option.

The 6th ride was easy and small on the paper, but very hard on the body, I was stiff, not fully recovered, the weather wasn’t helping either, this time for the very first time I felt my back very stiff, I know it’s not the injury or a relapse since the stiff has its kind of pain, but it wasn’t a good sign. However this didn’t stop me, I was sure to power through, I did every stretch I knew and made sure to ride just one more day.

The 7th and the last ride. As I finish off I had all the flashbacks from 2015 and the injury years. I felt great joy and a sense of accomplishment. This was very important, when I look back and recall the pain, at that time it felt that I might never be able to ride again, and here we are, The Festive500 Challenge done.

What have I achieved and learned?

  1. There is nothing impossible.
  2. Consistency is the key, small daily wins are the sure-fire way to achieve anything that may seem overwhelming at the beginning.
  3. As you make time for training, so shall you do the same for recovery.
  4. Warm-up Warm-Up Warm-Up and then stretch for no less than 30mins before you start your day. Do the same for any physical activity.
  5. Celebrate each ride
  6. And most important, have fun.