#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, “500KM Cycling challenge”. I was ready geared up, but faith/luck have other plans, right around the festive season the rear wheel broke during a training session. It was until mid-January 2016 that the replacement came.

2016 – The 9 to 5 Conundrum

It was too early to decide at the start of the year whether I will be able to do it or not, the season began with good structural training until I moved to Pakistan in mid-June, it took some time adjusting to the environment and elevation since Doha is at sea level with windy and warm conditions. During this time I started working for local Production House, the routine was not ideal for training with long commutes and late-night sittings, the season came I was only able to log a single ride, by early December it was clear 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 intensified during training this left me in extreme pain. I had the same injury 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 drive or do daily chores properly. Not that I was training hard, it was sure a compound effect of bad diet, poor work routine, and bad sleeping habits. I suffered and 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 felt the same electric-like wave down my lower back. I was not in the mood to rely on any painkillers. This time the reason was slightly different. I had a weak core, dull muscles due to inactivity, and an overall untrained body for any intense exercise.

2019 – The Year of Recovery

The following months after the relapse, I went through a very calculated recovery plan. I tried traditional homeopathic medicines. The pain magically vanished. Losing the extra weight, yoga stretches and targeted exercises were the best I did.

I quit the job and went the freelancing way. It was nothing new since I had been doing that for many years. It helped lift a lot of mental stress, felt great, everything felt inspiring and inviting. The confidence was back, I started indoor rides thrice a month, Was fully out of the grind, and was again following routine on my terms.

2020 – The Year of Cycling

In 2020, I began riding outdoors, mostly easy commute-type rides with extreme caution. At the beginning of March, I felt stronger and was confident enough to ride like I used to before. For better or worst, 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 convinced 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, I kept the pace at average, and the plan was to ride as much as I could without doing a 100. It would save some fuel for the coming days. The biggest constrain was the cold weather though unlike other rides I was cycling during the peak sun hours, it was hard to keep up with the weather. It’s more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Manage to do only one round loop with a fellow rider 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 sun, just a had minor crash. I should have kept the pace slow. This ride made me very stiff my entire body wanted a good massage and good intense stretch. It was also a sign that I had pretty much crossed the threshold. This condition varies for every other rider. Not every rider is the same one might not feel anything like so many riders who completed the challenge quickly within five days of century rides. The key is to watch your body and plan accordingly.

I took the day off and came back for the 4th ride. I felt right, I should have focused more on recovery and stretches, especially when the weather was cold. Overall I felt good, assured, and rode the necessary miles.

I took easy on the 5th ride. During the ride, 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 either. 

The 6th ride was easy and insignificant on the paper. But very hard on the body. I was stiff, not fully recovered, the weather wasn’t helping either, for the first time this year, I felt my back very stiff, I was sure it was not an injury or a relapse since the wound has a different 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.

I walk down the street with the bike after completing the 7th and the last ride of the festive500. The flashback from 2015 came rushing in, how I wanted to do the Festive500, the long training regimes, the dislocated elbow, and all that could go right and wrong. I felt great joy and a sense of accomplishment. It was important when I recall that moment of pain, I thought 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.
  3. Small daily wins are the sure-fire way to achieve anything that may seem overwhelming initially.
  4. As you make time for training, you should do the same for recovery.
  5. 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.
  6. Celebrate each ride
  7. Last but not the least, have fun.