Alec Babala

e: alec.babala@gmail.com
in: linkedin.com/in/alecbabala

I believe in making less and connecting more. I'm passionate about bringing people together through effective learning and communication. I also hold experiences racing bikes across North America, Western Europe, and Southeast Asia.

Forbes - 30 Under 30, 2016

Festive Feasts

Festive Feasts

At the beginning of December, dad and I were talking about skipping this year's Festive 500, an annual cycling challenge to ride 500 kilometers (312 miles) in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. We somehow convinced ourselves that we were totally content with passing because it was the off season, and we had already completed it the past two years that we've done it. It was enough father and son bonding for us. But about a week before this year's Christmas Eve, I checked out the weather at my parent's house in southern New Hampshire (USA) for the holiday break...the temperature (F) would reach the high 60's on Christmas Eve. I shot a text to my dad.

Before we knew it, we were out riding the back roads of New England, munching on granola bars and squeezing gels, all over again on a Christmas Eve afternoon. But instead of suffering through a below freezing snowstorm, we were enjoying a freakishly summer-like day with the sun shining brightly on us. It didn't feel like the previous Festive 500's if the challenge of December weather wasn't there, but we were still determined to complete it regardless. We had to think deeper as to what is our motivation for doing it.

Great Excuse

 

"You know, the best part about doing this Festive 500 is that we can eat whatever we want."

 

There are two reasons why wanted to take part of the Festive 500 this year. First, my dad and I have never ridden a full century (100 miles) together, and it would be our first (and last) one for the year. Second, we really enjoy eating, and we couldn't imagine a holiday break eating all the good food, down to the last bite, without being properly hungry. We agreed that this year's Festive 500 would be about wrapping up 2015 with some big rides and some big feasts. This post is our story of how we spent over 19 hours with only each other and what we ate after burning over 12,000 calories in four days of riding bikes.

 

Day 1

It was a late start to the day; we left the house around 10:30am. Dad wouldn't give me a break for waking up late, since he was hoping to do the century today before the sun started setting...oops. On the bright side, our Christmas Eve family dinner was delicious.

 
 

Weather

67°

I couldn't decide if I was excited for the warm weather, or concerned that we are experiencing the effects of climate change.

Mood


This song was playing in my head all day - complete bliss. Spirits were high for all the cyclists who had the same idea to get out today.

Kilometers

135/500

Wet and dirt roads galore! It was a fun route around some classic New England towns with their best Christmas decorations up.

 

PRE-RIDE

  • Bowl of Spaghetti
  • Egg (x2)
  • Bacon (x2)
  • Cup of Coffee
  • Glass of Water

RIDE

  • Gu Gel
  • Clif Shot Gel
  • Clif Shot Bloks
  • Kind Bar
  • Cookies (x2)
  • Egg Sandwich
  • Tootsie Roll (x2)
  • Bottle of Water (x3)

Post-RIDE

  • Clif Shot Protein Recovery Mix
  • Glass of Milk
  • Bowl of Spaghetti
  • Can of Coca-Cola

Later

  • NY Strip Steak
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Bread Roll
  • Glass of Red Wine

Day 2

We left the house at 9am sharp this time. I was struggling to wake up for the first couple of hours of the ride. I thought I would be in trouble if we were to ride a century today, but it was dad who cracked. He was riding so slow I literally rode circles around him.

 
 

Weather

59°

This is the warmest Christmas Day to date, but I'm not complaining. I actually overdressed and was sweating for half the ride.

Mood


It was uplifting to exchange "Merry Christmas" with all the families walking around their neighborhoods. Good vibes all around.

Kilometers

265/500

I got my Garmin 520 in Taiwan, so all my maps are in Taiwanese. Best Christmas gift: Dad installed English labeled maps on it.

 
Festive 500, 2015.png

Pre-ride

  • Oatmeal
  • Cup of Coffee
  • Glass of Water

Ride

  • Gu Gel
  • Clif Shot Gel
  • Clif Shot Bloks
  • Earnest Eats Bar
  • Taquito from 7/11
  • Bottle of Water (x3)

Post-Ride

  • Clif Shot Protein Recovery Mix
  • Bowl of Spaghetti

Later

  • Pork and Rice
  • Turkey and Stuffing
  • Banana Bread (x2)
  • Glass of White Wine
  • Can of Coca-Cola

Day 3

We finally did it, a century. It's surprising that we've never done one together before. And of course it would be on the day my legs felt like bricks. It's not the most comfortable day to be sprinting up every little climb and time trialing it down every big descent. 

 
 

Weather

48°

It was a little chilly with the wind today so I wore a neck gaiter. I'm in real trouble this winter if I felt cold today.

Mood


I was definitely irritable at times, but that's largely because I can get hangry. For the day's sentiment - we're very proud.

Kilometers

425/500

In the back of my head, the thought that kept me going was that the more miles we ride today, meant the less miles we ride tomorrow.

 
Festive 500, 2015.png

Pre-Ride

  • Bowl of Spaghetti
  • Cup of Coffee
  • Glass of Water

Ride

  • Banana (x2)
  • Clif Shot Gel
  • Gu Gel (x2)
  • Gu Chews
  • Hash Browns from Dunkin Donuts
  • Slice of Bacon Pizza
  • Can of Coca-Cola
  • Bottle of Water (x3)

Post-Ride

  • Steak and Rice
  • Can of Coca-Cola
  • Glass of Water

Later

  • Bread Roll (x3)
  • Chicken Piccata and Pasta
  • Cup of Green Tea
  • Cup of Cappuccino
  • Cup of Apple Crisp and Ice Cream
  • Glass of Water
  • Glass of White Wine (x2)
TreelineGradient-01.png

Day 4

Our legs felt awful today, so today's shorter ride was a relief. The funny part is that we were .3 miles short from completing the Festive 500. I didn't upload the Garmin file until after I got out of the shower, so I rode around the block to get it over.

 
 

Weather

45°

I don't deal well with wet and cold weather. It was drizzling for most of the ride and I couldn't feel my fingers or my toes.

Mood


I was not in the best mood today, but that definitely changed after we warmed up and had a hearty lunch to celebrate another year.

Kilometers

502/500

We revisited some of my dad's lunch ride routes near his office - winding and punch. Great ride to wrap up the challenge.

 
Festive 500, 2015.png

Pre-Ride

  • Banana Bread (x2)
  • Cup of Coffee
  • Glass of Water

Ride

  • Gu Gel
  • Clif Shot Gel
  • Bottle of Water

Post-Ride

  • Chicken Piccata and Pasta
  • Can of Coca-Cola
  • Glass of Water

Later

  • Steak and Rice
  • Can of Coca-Cola
  • Glass of Water
TreelineGradient-01.png

After the Festivities

To ride this much durings the holidays doesn't mean that we weren't thinking about our family and friends. We were conscious to be efficient and productive with our time. We aimed to finish each day before 4pm, because almost immediately afterwards we would be out for dinner with relatives and friends, shopping at New Hampshire's tax-free outlets, or watching a movie with cousins. We got this routine figured out last year; our days typically started at 8am and ended around 12am, and our loved ones knew we would be off the grid between 9am and 4pm. It's not a typical vacation for most, but I feel like I get to see and do more by being this active. Although, I don't think I could have made it through these long days without coffee and Coca-Cola.

 

 

Dad and I completed the Festive 500 in four days this year. We didn't realize that we rode longer and faster than the past two years (perhaps we're stronger), it felt unfair to not ride in challenging weather or to not have the need to ride the last four days. As I'm writing this on December 30, I'm looking out the window to a winter wonderland left by a snowstorm that came a few days too late. It's for sure a physical relief, but it leaves us somewhat mentally restless.

The past two days we've been chilling on the sofa with our legs up and watching Netflix for hours on end. It's great to be lazy now and then, but I'm itching to get outside. These meals aren't the same if I'm not starving, and I feel like there's so much more to do outside. Looking back at previous years, it makes me think of how we can continue to ride and how we can include others on our adventures with us. Dad and I don't want this tradition to be exclusive to us, and besides, we are borderline sick of each other.

 

If not these last two days, maybe for next year's Festive 500, we could do some light cyclocross riding with mom, whip out the mountain bikes with my cousins and ride the single tracks in the woods, or make it a challenge to get as many of our friends and family on bikes. All this reflection makes me rethink our excuses for riding 500 kilometers over the holidays, and how I perceive what is a successful Festive 500. I have a feeling that next year will be different, and that we'll be riding our bikes without counting down the miles.

 

I ❤ my Teams

Ashton Greycork Cycling  www.ashtongreycorkcycling.com
An inclusive group of individuals riding bikes for the joy of it

RISD Cycling  www.risdcycling.com
The world's only art school cycling team competing on the national level

Fortunes

Found ❤ in Taiwan

Found ❤ in Taiwan