This Christmas was only the second 'home' Christmas I have had as an adult. By 'home' I mean spent where I live.
Christmas when growing up meant watching mediocre telly, being told off all the time for the slightest and silliest of things and being sent to my room, and it was the only day of the year (when not grounded) when I could not go out and play with friends as a means of escape.
Until 6 years ago, Christmas's as an adult since my student days were spent in France at the home of my ex-wife's parents, which always allowed me the chance to get up and go for a good long morning run in the French countryside, which I used to really enjoy (and all the other days over Christmas that I would be there doing the same) so being physically active over the Christmas week is not unknown for me.
This year Rapha are running their Festive 500 event, where you cycle 500km over the 8 days from Christmas Eve to Jan 1st. With me planning on cycling too and from the Brutal and the Gut Buster already I figured that I could, with a bit of application, make the challenge work by cycling 40 miles each day.
Killing 2 birds with one stone on Christmas Eve, I cycled off to my parent's and back to drop off their present and the evening ride I went out on followed, in the main part, my normal evening cycle route and allowed me to chalk off 38 miles in total from the target for this first of 8 days.
Common sense did not prevail here and I had not really eaten a great deal all day, so when out on the evening ride I soon found myself 'bonking' where my legs felt leaden and there was nothing in the tank to lift my pace.
On my return I prepped all the Christmas dinner so all that needed to be done was turn everything on so I was able to go-out guilt-free on my Christmas morning ride.
After doing the gift-giving I went out on a longer 27 mile route enjoying the country lanes and surprised with just how busy the more major roads were.
After a hearty Christmas dinner and giving it time to settle I set-out again in the night. I managed 4 miles in to the ride before I could sense something was not right with the bike. It felt like my cranks were wobbling slightly. Dismounting I gave the cranks a good examination and found they were fine; nuts all tight and secure… The wobble was coming from the bottom bracket.
As far as this goes on a bike it's pretty terminal… You can carry on riding, but you don't know for how long until everything breaks and you're stranded.
Nursing the bike around the course I made it home, immediately up-ending the bike in the garage to dismantle and inspect it. After removing the cranks and then the bottom bracket itself I could see the problem… The bearings on one side had completely collapsed, so it was only a matter of time before everything would have failed.
I had planned on cycling to Winchester and back the following morning, but with no spare bottom bracket that was out of the question. I tracked-down via the internet somewhere that would have one the next day, which would still need fitting on my return and the price was double what I would pay for it as an on-line order item, and the cost would be for 2/3rds of the day's distance which would be tricky to make-up once lost.
Reluctantly I realised that through mechanical failure I'd have to bail from the challenge 2 days in and at 137km of the 500 ridden, I was slightly ahead of plan after 1/4 of the time. As disappointing as this was and that it now meant I have to drive to my runs on the Saturday and Sunday, my body was thankful for the chance to rest and recover!
With the marathon being run on the Sunday my body had only enjoyed one day of recovery before it was being pushed again and it was not happy - it was screaming at me to go easy - I was aching in my legs all the time and with the foul weather it meant that every ride meant getting wet through either the rain or surface water, which is never fun… So I suppose my belated Christmas present to myself is a couple of days rest before the Brutal on Saturday!