Monday, December 24, 2012


The Blue Mountain Bicycle tour ended on Saturday 22 Dec 2012. Around 10 riders rode through the scenic lush green tea estates in and around the misty mountains of western ghats.

The tour covered an approximate distance of 600 km in 8 days with a rest day in between.
Each rider had the option of joining either Group A or Group B - based on the distance/elevation decided for that day. All riders had dedicated support crew/vehicles.

Special thanks to Wheelsports  ( Mr.Venkatesh Sivarama ) for supporting us in making this tour a grand success. On behalf of all the riders a heartfelt thanks to our support staff Deepak Sondur and Sharat Chandra for helping us all along the tour by driving the cars with snacks,water & accessories. Also they took some amazing snaps of tour riders.

And finally a big thanks to Arvind Ganesh and Venkatesh Murugesan for providing the Sea Sucker and Saris racks to carry our bikes. Thanks to Tour Director/Rider/Sprinter/Climber *whatever* :-) Balu for all the planning and background work.

I need to mention that the Sea Sucker racks from HappyEarth proved to be the best equipment we carried for the tour. This simple to use and easy to handle bike racks use vacuum mounts ( cups ) and they hold very well to metal or glass surface. These racks works on any cars unlike brands which can either fit for Hatchback or Sedan or Jeeps. I would highly recommend these racks to anybody taking different cars for cycling trips.

DAY #1 :  Bangalore to Srirangapatna

0n 15th Dec 2012, 6 riders met at WheelSports and started the ride via the SH17 to Srirangapatna. I joined Siddharth Kansal who was riding strong at 35kph pace and it was looking like we were about to reach the destination in just 4+ hours. As this was a long tour we wanted to save our legs for the next few days and decided to take it easy atleast on the very first day. We took a 45 min break at Mandya waiting till all rider's gathered for juice/coffee. We stopped at Arpitha Farm house Srirangapatna. 2 more riders Sandeep and Hema along with our support staff Deepak and Sharath joined us at Arpritha Guest House by evening.

DAY #2 :  Srirangapatna to Masinagudi ( Bandipur climb )

Thanks to Anil and Bharat ( SKCT rider ) for joining us on the 2nd day ride. We started riding from Srirangapatna towards Masinagudi. The rider's were riding at their own pace through Mysore and Nanjangud till all of us reached Gundlupet CCD. Siddharth and Bharat were looking very strong during the Bandipur climbs. At times they would do bunny hops and accelerate. Some of us chased them and finished the Bandipur climb quickly. Around evening Mark Anderson and Sudha arrived and we all had a good time eating our dinner around the campfire. The entire team stayed at Tamarind tree resort with nice cottages spread across the foothills of Nilgiris.

DAY #3 : Masinagudi to Coonoor 

While Group A riders did the Kalahatty a steep but short climb, Group B riders did the Gudalur  which is less steeper but a longer climb. I was part of Group A climbing the famous kalahatty climb to reach Ooty. Even before we reach the 36 hairpin bends, there were few steep sections to be handled. Curve after curve it seemed a never ending climb. The numbers demotivate a first time climber as it takes several curves to just reach the next hairpin bend. The last few hairpin bends were quite lengthy and steeper. They say that a sub2 hour timing for kalahatty is pretty decent. All i had was 2 small bananas and 1 liter of Gatorade as we had decided earlier that the entire support system ( 2 cars/2 crew ) will be for Group B riders climbing Gudalur.

Siddharth finished first with a time of 1:18 min, Mark was next and I finished third with a time of 1:41 min. Minutes later Balu arrived. After sipping coffee and having some chickis all 4 of us started riding towards coonor. I need to mention here that Vinay who joined us for the kalahatty climb completed the entire climb and ride to coonoor on his MTB.

We reached Coonor early. Mark Anderson treated us to an awesome lunch at 180Mciver, a 115 year old colonial hotel. Around evening the Group B riders and support staff arrived at Coonoor.

The entire team stayed at Salvation Army, the best budget hotel that is not just affordable but also ideal for teetotalers. This hotel is a Non profit organization that is into charity. The food served particularly during dinner is heavy in terms of number of items and tasty.Before dinner some of us explored the town and also brought some home made chocolates for next day's ride.

 Leaving Masinagudi, with all bags packed into Support Vehicles.
Group photo before we separated for Kalahatty and Gudalur climbs
Gudalur Climb pic#1

Gudalur Climb pic#2
Gudalur Climb pic#3
DAY #4 : Coonoor to Mettupalyam Loop ( Mettupalyam Descent/Ascent )
On Day4, Group A and Group B riders got seperated after the initial few kms. The Group B rider's went on to Kodanad view point via Kothagiri. The Group A rider's enjoyed a high speed descent of Mettupalyam and started to climb back to coonor. This was a true sufferfest as the legs were already tired from 3 days of riding and climbing. Once the climbs got over, the riders took a short break and moved towards Kothagiri for lunch. Post lunch it was a downhill ride towards Coonor.

As usual the Group B riders arrived by evening and i heard that they too had a nice ride. They got to see the awesome Kodanad view point and also had wonderful lunch at a tourist bunglow.

We visited Vinay's friend's shop ( Celebrations ) and brought chocolaes and tea powder. Post dinner, I took out the car to Ooty, to drop Vinay who had actually joined us only for 4 days. Sandeep, Deepak and My wife also joined me in bidding him farewell.

Group A riders climbing MettuPalyam ride pic#1
Group A riders climbing Mettupalyam ride pic#2

Sandeep didn't ride today and he was the additional crew
Group B rider's at Kodanad View point
Group B rider Shyam at Kodanad view point
Group B rider Uday riding towards Kodanad view point
Mark climbing from MettuPalyam towards Coonor

 Myself and Balu grabbing water from support vehicle while climbing from Mettupalyam

Karate Kid Siddharth Kansal finished the Mettupalyam Climb first
MettuPalyam climb done and dusted by Group A riders

Myself riding back to Coonoor
Day 5 :  Rest day 

Most of us woke up late. There were lot of monkeys around Salvation Army and we were watching and feeding them bananas. Pre Lunch the support crew went for a cycle ride and it was so nice to see Deepak Sondur and Sharath ride towards Ooty along with Shyam. Lunch was again a treat from Mark and this time it was at the Taj. We also spent quality time with Mark Anderson in a local GYM where he provided us tips/guidelines about strength training as part of cross training.

Our support crew member Deepak proved that he had the best cooking skills too.

 Mark demonstrating the correct form of certain workouts at a local gym.

Day 6 :  Coonoor to Upper Bhavani ( Silent Valley climb )

Both the Group A and Group B riders started together as the route was same for both. Slowly the gap between each rider increased. This was the most scenic ride compared to other rides so far. Till Manjoor I was with other Group A riders ie Mark, Balu and Sid.Once the pace increased i couldn't close the gap. I got dropped and it was a solo ride.

The ride to silent valley was really SILENT.At times it was scary. I started hitting the bad roads and with absolute silence around even the crush of a dry twig made me alert. During the ride i turned to my left and i saw a sambhar standing and watching me. There was lot of shade in some sections of the road and those sections were really dark and scary. For some reason I was not comfortable riding alone. For a long time i didn't see anybody passing me from either side. I somehow felt i might be in a wrong route. To be on a safer side i turned back and rode few km. Once i passed the tea estate i spoke to few localites who said there was nothing to worry and that i was on the right track. I started to climb the hills again and this time when i hit the same section of bad road I was riding fast. I got to see 2 roads and i took the right one that goes to Upper Bhavani.

This road was full of small gravels and i was making a lot of noise going downhill and all of sudden i had a flat in my rear tire. I stopped and got down.  Though i can manage to use a spare tube quickly I went back to road where the 2 roads originated. I removed my shoes and tried calling the support crew as i didn't wanted to be alone. There was no signal.While i was fixing my flat, fortunately Deepak arrived in his Bolero to help me. The flat was fixed in minutes and i was ready to ride.

I saw Mark riding back. Mark, Sid and Balu took the left road instead of right and had almost gone to Kerala:-) So they had to come back and take the right one to silent valley. Having to deal with bad roads towards silent valley again Mark lost interest and wanted to ride back to coonoor by noon. By this time Sandeep and Shyam also joined me and we rode till Upper Bhavani . All of us had lunch together that was brought by one of our support crew.

I was amazed by the lake, dam and the overall landscape and i felt blessed to be in front of this paradise. The mood swings due to bad patchy road and the flat tire vanished. Very soon the Group B riders and support crew too joined us for lunch and photo session.

I didn't wanted to return on bad roads again. And hence used the support car to reach a point beyond bad roads to start my ride. Once i got down from car, cursing myself for missing the return ride i was riding at high speed and with just 3km to coonor i got fooled by a signboard and went straight instead of taking a left. This was an amazing descent and Sid followed me blindly. It got dark before we even realized that we were on a wrong route ( Coimbotore ? ) but we didn't contact the support crew as we wanted to climb more and ride more :-) We reached the hotel back by 7:30 PM.

On the way to Upper Bhavani
Rear Tire Flat on the way to Upper Bhavai, Fixed but got lazy :-)
Woke up and I was ready to Climb

Look at the beatuful blue Upper Bhavani lake behind
  GAS sucks SUPPORT rocks, Tshirts from KHS WheelSports, Sponsor.

 Day 7 : Coonoor to Mudumalai ( Ooty climb and Gudalur downhill )

This was our last day at Coonor and thus all the packing was supposed to be done before our ride. The climb to ooty was not as challenging as other climbs that we did so far.

REMO @ Salvation Army
 Myself, Balu and Sid climbing ooty from Coonoor
 Mark, Sudha and Shyam climbing ooty from Coonoor

Upon reaching OOTY, we met TFN Deepak Majipatil. It was so nice of him to get us tea and we spoke for some time. After that we started riding towards MuduMalai via Gudalur downhill. The ride was mostly downhill and it was FAST. Hema had reached OOTY by support car to avoid the climb and had started the ride 30 min before us.As usual i saw Mark and Sid zooming ahead. After some time I saw Sid picking up his bottle. Some more time I overtook Hema and then i saw Mark sitting beside the road who asked me to carry on. He had a flat and was not interested in fixing it or riding any further. It was a solo fast ride till MuduMalai. Once i reached Mudumalai i called Balu and got to know that i need to ride for 6 more km to reach Wilderness resort at Thorapally.

The stay at this resort will be remembered for a long time as this was the place where a wild elephant had come out of forest in the night to eat the grains in the paddy fields.We witnessed how the local folks burst crackers and shouted loudly to shoo away the elephant. Most of the folks had torches and we could see the Tusker clearly in the dark.Though the tusker had gone back to the jungle it had come again and this time it was so close to our resort that we all had to be extra cautious. True to it's name - wilderness resort was wild in nature with unpredictable tuskers around.

Day8  : Mudumalai to Gundlupet ( Bangalore )

Mark and Sudha left the resort early morning in one of our support car with Sharath and Shyam. This being the last day of the tour and somehow not liking the idea of changing the cycling attire at Gundlupet coffee day, I decided that I will not ride my cycle. I had already clocked 575km so far and was overall happy about the entire tour. Only 3 rider's - Balu Sid and Uday decided to ride. All the 3 riders and the rest of us reached the Gundlupet coffee and had some snacks to reunite again for lunch at Kamat hotel on Nanjangud road. Vinay who had returned to Bangalore on the 4th day of the tour, had come to mysore and thus joined us at Kamat for lunch. I drove to Bangalore with Sandeep and Hema. Balu, Sid, Uday boarded Deepak's Bolero to reach Bangalore.

Overall it was a amazing team effort from the riders, volunteers and supporters in making the Blue Mountains Bicycling Tour a grand success.

1) After all these climbs i need to check if my nandi climb improves :-)
2) My wife lost 3 kgs without doing major climbs :-)
3) Met wonderful people and hope the new found friendship continues for a long time.

See you at the next edition :-) 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Longest cycle ride-600km/40 hrs-3 states/3680 mt climb

There are lot of myths and misconceptions around long distance endurance rides especially brevet rides where the time taken to complete the ride and reaching the time stations on time matters a lot. While some think only bikers using road bike can pull it off, some think MTB rider's might find it very difficult. Some think a strategy is always needed to complete it. And some think maintaining just an AVG of 15kmph is enough to finish it. Some think riding a brevet ride itself is a fatuous decision.

I am not here to prove or disprove anything. As i have completed my 200,300,400 and 600km BRM rides I have to share something that i learnt it the hard way.

1) Please be familiar with exact route/elevation details and never depend on anybody.
2) Always do the first few 100km or last few 100km of that route as part of your training.
3) Never miss the 1st time station and be on time. This sets the pace and mood of the entire ride.
4) Let go of your ego to help your knees. It's ok to sit/spin on uphills
5) It's ok to get down and push the bike on bad roads. This is india and not france.
6) Ride in a group. Never ride alone. There is a high chance that boredom makes you to quit.
7) Take many short breaks and keep on moving than taking few big breaks.
8) Don't carry too much but remember to have good headlights and spare tubes/batteries.
9) Sleep well and hydrate well the previous day or night.

I want to share with you how i did my longest and toughest 600km ride/40 hrs.

Initial hiccups and Panic moments : IISC gymkhana / Kanakpura road ( 11 km )
I drove to the start point ( Indian Institute of Science Gymkhana Gate, Yeshwantpur ) just to be on time and to avoid riding back home after a 600km ride. After the initial formalities riders left quickly and i was still busy with something else. I somehow managed to quickly sprint behind them in the dark keeping a watch on their tail lamps. But all of sudden they took a right turn. Just for a moment i lost focus and i didn't see them making a U turn. I took a right and went straight. I was lost. I came back and IISC folks directed me towards Malleshwaram circle. I called few riders but it was obvious that they won't pick or can even hear their phones ring. I took sometime to reach Kanakpura road passing through Malleshwaram,Seshadripuram, Gandhinagar,Cottonpet,Gandhi Bazar and South End Road. I didn't know the route by heart. So hawkers and peddlers were my guides.

Chasing and Catching others : Kanakapura / Sathnur / Back to Harohalli ( 100 km )
Gradually i caught others one by one. Manjula Sridhar was kind enough to tell me to move on as she was not intending to complete the ride. She had travel plans for the next day. But we all know she will nail down the 600km ride one fine day. I kept on pushing and finally reached saathnur where Sandeep and Gokul ( Volunteers ) asked me to stop as it was the first control. The card got sealed at the 1st time station on time. I also met most of the riders who were either taking a break(sohan), fixing a flat(Aman Mohla) or riding back ( Chidu, Parameshwar raju ). While riding back i saw Vasu - a late starter but early finisher.During breakfast at Kankapura. Mustafa ( IISC rider ) too joined us.

Climbs with heat, dust and bad roads : Harohalli /Jigni / Anekal / Attibele ( 52 km )
After reaching harohalli we took a right towards Jigni. By this time Mustafa was too tired and we had no idea if it was de-hydration or something else. He himself was not sure about what was happening. We requested him to move to nearby field and take some rest. Later we got to know he puked twice.The ride had already taken one of the riders down. And mind you he is a strong rider. The rest moved on.After some time we started to handle some steep climbs. We could see lorries struggling to climb making huge noise and generating lot of dust.

During the climbs it was a treat to watch the bannerghatta forest on either side. Soon after we were welcomed by bad roads with patches everywhere. All of us stopped at a bakery and had some soft drinks and sweets. We managed to reach the 2nd control ( ATM @ Attibele ) on time. There was some sort of pain in my right knee. I suspected that mashing the short steep climbs would have caused it. I could only manage to sit and spin but i was not able to stand and pedal. I still had 440 km more to to be covered.

Downhills/Accidents: Hosur/Shoolagiri/Vaniyambadi/Ambur/Katpadi ( 187 km )
This ride took it's 2nd victim and it was Nirmal ( IISC team ). All of us reached shoolagiri and took a break to wash our face.We had coffee. We called up hotel brindavan at Ambur to tell them about our arrival time so that food can be prepared early. With the kind of stupid headlights most of us have it's really dangerous to ride on highways with heavy vehicles like lorries and buses around us. Adding to it there was construction work happening all along the highway and the left side of the road had been dug out to bury us.

It was during this time that Vasu caught us. And this was expected out of roadie with shaved legs and cleats.When we were almost near Ambur, i saw that Nirmal was lying on the road and others were around him.Blood was oozing from the backside of both his elbows. It seems that to avoid something he had braked suddenly at high speed. Sohan did a great job of bringing a First Aid kit and he cleaned the wound.

Vasu and myself were trying to stop lorries/buses/cars and what not. All this time Nirmal was trying his level best to show that he is fine and he can still ride and complete the 600. Believe me, he would have done it as  I was drafting him many times and i know what his AVG speed was. Finally Nirmal was forced to quit and thus he rode for few km and managed to get an auto so that he could reach Hotel Brindavan before us. The rest of us continued riding and reached the hotel in 45 mins and had our dinner. We tried to sleep for 15 mins. We called Vasu several times and we couldn't reach him - because he had lost his phone. Riders were snoring and i couldn't sleep. We had put newspapers on the floor and we didn't had anything to cover.

It was during this 15 minutes that i did some introspection. Why are we doing all this ? Working against the biological clock what are we trying to acheive or prove. Suddenely sohan shouts "Get up. We have to leave". Nirmal was forced to quit and we left him and moved on.

What a life ? Ride a cycle for 20 hours with a knee pain and after completing 300km you can't even sleep for 15 min. Arvind and Sohan seemed to be in a hurry. I started chasing them leaving Mohit, Aman and Ashutosh behind me. This was on NH 46 and i was shivering. The only way to keep myself warm was to pedal fast the next 40km. On top of it I was not able to stand up and pedal due to the stupid knee pain. In such cases a biker's abused bum complains a lot.

On the way i saw 3 bikes outside a hotel. I immediately knew it was Chidu, Vasu and Parameshwar.After 40km, while taking left towards katpadi we met all of them. All of us went to the 3rd control - SBI ATM and took our slips. I got all the riders coffee and tea and i felt happy that finally it was a group of 8 folks for the 2nd day ride. The joy of group riding was short lived.

Flats and Frustration:Vellore/Pallikonda/Gudiyattam/Palamner/Mulbagal ( 115 km )
Almost everybody took off and Parameshwar raju suddenely says he has a FLAT. This college going kid hasn't brought any pump or spare tubes. Vasu gave his spare tube and moved on. I got a call and my pump was the need of the hour. Overall there was a 25 min delay just to hand over my Topeak road morph pump.I felt very bad that i made Sohan also wait for me. We left Parameshwar raju fix his flat and moved on. After sometime I was feeling very sleepy and I was loosing balance. It was early morning and i really didn't wanted to die like a dog on a state highway. I declared that i wanted to take a nap - a 15 min POWER nap. Luckily Sohan, Arvind and Aman obliged. Maybe they also wanted to take a break. We parked the bikes beside the footpath and tried to close our eyes. As usual I couldn't sleep. I was just looking at the blue sky. I was so angry on myself that i got up after 10 min and poured whatever water i had on my face and started pedalling as fast as i can till i reached Gudiyattam. Aman was right behind me. I knew that once the sun is out i won't feel sleepy.

By this time we lost Sohan and Arvind. Inside Gudiyattam i had some bananas and started my ride towards Palamner - None of us expected that this stretch will have such steep bad surface climbs. After several km of uphills we end up at the base of a mountain :-( WTF which meant there were some more serious climbs to be done. And that too over bad surface. With my knee pain i just had to sit and spin. At one point of time i had to get down and push the bike. Though it was a great relief for my sore bums i felt i was wasting time and had to again start pushing. Climbing under hot sun with a knee pain is the worst thing that can happen to any biker. I kept on asking people to know when does the climbs end. At the end i found a bore well to wash my face & pour water on my head.

Inside palamner town Aman and Mohit were sleepily munching watermelons. I too had them.Then we started moving towards Mulbagal quickly. Though the road to mulbagal from palamner was good, it was uphill again. It was around this time i got a call from chidu to know where i was heading to. This was a 40km ride and we finished it off by 12:30 PM.Without any trees on either side to give us some shade this was a horrible ride. This was the time station that some of our friends failed to reach on time. And i feel that it was all because of Palamner climbs and nothing else. After taking the ATM slips we had sweet lime juice with lots of much needed sugar. We walked for few meters and found a hotel.We had curd rice and started looking at the cue sheet. Everybody were shocked because the next time station was Chikballapur which was 90 km away and we had only 4.5 hours to make it. After riding 460km without sleep, with a sore bum and a painful knee how can i do it ? This was really a challenge. I didn't know if i could do it or not. This was the point when most of us thought it's ALL OVER. A 600 km ride is a true sufferfest. Aman wanted to give up. Vasu started to move on. I followed him silently.And others followed me silently.

Blistering pace : Srinivasapura/Chintamani/Sidlaghatta/Chikballapur  90m
Initially we went slowly through a dirty filthy crowded place called - what else ? vegetable market.Once we were out of it all of us started to ride very fast. Each one of us were trying to take the lead.My knee pain too had subsided. And I made the most of it.  We did 30km in just 1 hour. Again i poured water on my face and head from a nearby borewell. Within the next 2 hours we made another 40 km with a little break for soft drinks where we met Vasu. After this we were bit relaxed as we had already done 70km in 3 hr and we just had 20 more to be done in 1.5 hrs. We knew we could make it to the chikballapur time station by 6:36 PM. Infact we were there before the deadline. We collected the ATM slips and again had sweet lime and lemon juice. Vasu had left the ATM.

Having completed 550km so far and we had 50 more km to be done. I felt very relieved. Myself and Mohit took it very lightly and we didn't try to chase Aman and Parameshwar. We were thinking more about the 3 hrs left than the 50km to be covered. But we were proved wrong. There is no way a rider can become complacent especially during brevet rides especially after it gets dark.

Avoiding An AntiClimax : Chikballapur/Devanahalli/BEL Circle/IISC ( 53km )
From Nelamangala to Devanahalli we took a lot of time.How much ever we ride we felt like - There was just no end to it. After Devenahalli at one point of time mohit shouted "Hey I am dying man. I need water". I was fine but i couldn't see him struggle. It was already 9 PM. We stopped at a bakery and had some mineral water. And we still had some 15+ km to be done. I went mad. What if some mechanical failure or a flat happens ? What if there is a lot of traffic on airport road ? All that effort i put in for the last 39 hours would be in vain just because something happens at the last hour. This is not fair. But everything is fair in love/war-this is a brevet ride & not an weekend ice-cream ride.

I had promised my kid that i will get her another toy to play. All my running/cycling medals are just toys for her. Forget the medal. I wanted to complete the ride on time. I started riding very fast and mohit too was pushing very hard. We quickly reached the end of airport road and took a right towards BEL circle. I didn't even know the exact km to BEL circle. All i knew was that time is running out and i have to keep on pedalling in an aggressive position. No coasting just put it in high gear and maintain a good cadence. I was on my drops with both my knees banging my chest. Within few minutes I reached BEL circle and i took a left to NEW BEL road. I called Sreepathi just to let him know that i am somewhere close.

I entered the IISC gate before 10 PM. Manjula was there and she congratulated me. I was asked to sit.I really don't know who took my bike aside. I just wanted to eat something other than energy bars. I just wanted to sleep at my home and not anywhere else. I just wanted to see my daughter. I just controlled my emotions and spoke casually with others.

Like the 400km ride climax I was so fast during the last few km that Mohit lost me and went straight instead of taking a left turn.Folks asked me to call him and I spoke to him on phone and he too made it on time.Later we handed over our ATM slips, paid the money for the medal and went to pizza hut, freshened up, and had some pizzas.I left home trying to forget whatever had happened over the last 40 hours :-(

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Auroville, Autograph and Anuradha

Auroville marathon- This was supposed to be a family run - My wife running her 10km and myself running a 21km. We had booked the train ticket, hotel and return bus ticket well in advance.

Unfortunately my wife fell down during a cycle ride and her marathon participation was ruled out.

I discussed this with my cycling buddy shankar and he agreed to accompany me as he was running a 10km. Initially we had some apprehension about railway authorities not allowing shankar to travel with a ticket booked under a different name.

On Friday night we met at yeshwantpur railway station. Everything i heard about this train was funny to both of us. It's called garib rath - which means it is meant for poor but it was a complete AC train with nice comfortable seats and berths.This train has generated very poor response due to the route it takes or maybe due to very few travellers between pondy and bangalore.

Anyway the TTE was very nice to us. He asked shankar to take a ticket on the spot. Then it was the usual chat with fellow passengers. The discussion obviously was about running and cycling. Once they got bored of us and slept ( some were pretending to sleep to avoid us ) , myself and shankar continued talking about guitar and western music. This is what happens when 2 extroverts suffering from insomnia decide to travel in an empty train. Shankar also has a nice habit ( which proved fatal to me the next night ) of reading novels before he sleeps.So it was around 3 am that we decided to close our eyes and go to sleep.

The next morning i also met my friend and running buddy John leo who was in the next compartment. Fortunately john also had booked the same hotel. All 3 of us got down and started walking towards the hotel. On the way we had our breakfast too. I saw lot of people cycling on the streets of Pondycherry including ladies and most of those cycles were single speed-WOW.

Once we reached our hotel, we got freshned up and ordered lunch ( thali ). Post lunch we planned to visit Auroville to collect our BIB for the next day run. We got to know that the marathon organizers had arranged shuttle buses that picks people form different hotels and bring them to the venue.
It was during this time i met Anuradha - mother of 2 kids who is passionate about running marathons across cities. She has run in Mangalore, Mysore, Bangalore etc. More about her later.

We reached the venue very late - thanks to the driver who was told to stop at every hotel and pick up other runners on the way. Once we collected our BIB we headed to a session that discussed about Auroville marathon and barefoot running session by Frederick and Barefoot Ted

I am a barefoor runner too. Sometimes i run with minimalistic shoes and sometimes i go completely barefoot. I somehow got an Autograph at the back of my BIB.

People who are interested to know why we should run barefoot can read this book - BORN TO RUN

Shankar collected his BIB and had left us to meet some of his friends. Lot of runners had pasta as their dinner @ Auroville. The shuttle bus returns back to pondycherry leaving the venue around 8 pm. This pissed me off as i wanted to hit the bed early. Somehow i reached the hotel around 9 pm and had curd rice with john. John's room mate was running a full marathon and hence the 1st bus was @ 2 am. Our plan was to take the bus and reach early. I called shankar.

Rajani   : Hi shankar, where are you ?
Shankar: Hi. I am waiting for my PIZZA
Rajani  : You left around 6 pm. I thought you would have finished your dinner by now.
Shankar: No man. We were just chilling around.
Rajani :  Please come soon. I am about to sleep.
Shankar: This place is just 2 km away and I will be there in 30 min.

Hoping that he doesn't go in search of ice cream after his dinner i tried to sleep.Normally before a lond distance cycle ride or a marathon i don't get sleep due to excitement. It was 10 pm and here i am still awake thinking that the previous night too i slept after 3 am.Somehow my eyes closed and i don't remember when i went into deep sleep. I had a dream that there was some noise. It was not a dream. It was dear shankar knocking the door. Shankar was busy finishing his restoom formalities and i was trying very hard covering myself under a blancket to close my eyes to get some sleep. The lights were still on. Shankar and Robert Ludlum were still romancing each other.

Rajani: I don't think i can get up early to catch the 2 am bus.
Shankar:Let me check the bus details on my mobile. We have 4 buses overall.
Rajani: Cool, i will take the 3 am or 3:40 am bus. I will change my alarm from 2 am to 3 am.

Thanks a ton to shankar he woke me up around 3:30 AM to tell me that i can still try to catch the 3:40 AM bus :-). He had slept with the novel on his face and the lights were still on. Looks like Robert Ludlum did a good lullaby job. Anyway if he had not woken me up i would have done my marathon in my dream. Somehow i quickly got ready in 30 min and went down hoping that i would get some help from somebody. Luckily i met a guy who was waiting for his friend and they offered me to help.They were full marathon runners and i thanked and wished them good luck.

Since i reached early ( around 4:30 am ) i could see the FULL marathon event. It began with a warmup session. I saw yogesh rao and sunil ( daily mile buddies ). I spoke to sunil for sometime and wished him good luck. It was very nice to see the full marathoners running in that dark night with torches in their hand. There were few cyclist with headlights and taillamps guiding them in the dark.

6:15 AM : HALF marathon starts. I saw Mayank Rungta and his friends. I also saw Anita bora . We handled the bag to the staff at the baggage counter. I had a nice warmup session running around with John. I was right behind the 1st row as i didn't wanted to run with many people around for the 1st few kms. Lap by lap I was passing through the amazing woods of auroville. At some point there was LIVE music to cheer the runners and ofcourse several aid stations where water, electral and snacks were provided to runners. I never stopped anywhere until i completed 12 kms. It was a continous run. After the 12th km i stopped for 5 seconds to take a cup of water. I might have stopped 2 more times to pick few more cups of water/electral. All the way i was monitoring my GPS watch that records the distance and time taken for each km. My average pace was around 5:30. I knew i would finish this half marathon within 2 hours but i wanted to finish it by 1 hour 45 min which seemed impossible at the pace i was running. Pondycherry being a coastal town and i being a bangalorean - the heat around 7am was not what i expected. But no excuses. A marathon has to be intense, challenging physically and mentally or else why would we travel so far to run. We could as well run in our neighbourhood without getting out of our comfort zone.

I was slow towards the end but i somehow wanted to reach the 20thkm asap. I have a habit of running the last km very fast - I think most of us do it though we don't know where we get that sudden energy - we just want to reduce the total time. I was like a kid who was coming out of his school. I just sprinted and finished my 1st 2012 half marathon within 2 hours. The official timer board displayed 1:58:29 and my GPS watch showed more or less the same. As with other marathons i have run, here too i found that it was not exactly 21.0975. Infact it was 21.54 as per my GPS watch. For details see here -

Anyway why bother or rant as long as i am happy - Auroville says - Run for joy. And it is TRUE.
Post run it was all about medal and pongal. I also collected a beautiful free marathon T shirt.
As per this list i am @ the 43 rd position out of 515 folks who ran the half marathon ( 21.1 km ).

Thanks to the organizers who have done a fantastic job right from start, publishing every details like map or hotels on their website,arranging shuttle buses from pondy to Auroville and choosing a track which was predominantly dirt road. I hate running on asphalt or concrete.

Once the run was over i wanted to quickly come back to bangalore. shankar wanted to return by car with his friends. John wanted to wait for his friend who was running a FULL marathon. I decided to come back to the hotel and this was when i noticed Anuradha. She had come from mysore and thus she was more desperate than me to return home. We took the 1st bus back to hotel and we decided to quickly get refreshed and catch a Bangalore bus. After sometime Shankar returned and i informed him about my plan. We settled all the bills and myself and Anuradha caught an auto to bus stand. This guy charged 60rs for a distance less than 2 km. Anyway we are used to such bad experiences in bangalore. All i want to say is that there are bad auto guys everywhere and not just bangalore.

Also we met few more banglore runners at this dirty bus stand. It was a horrible 8+ hours of journey - rash driver honkering too much, bad roads, some water leakage problem leading to a hot engine.

But thanks to Anuradha who was sitting beside me and chatting, the whole journey seemed to be fun. We spoke about running, biking, her kids, my kid,how to train, where to run in Mysore etc.

It's amazing and inspiring to meet such wonderful ladies - who inspite of managing everything - home, kids and job still find time and energy to travel so far and participate in marathons. Anuradha took 63 mins to complete her 10km and every runner out there should be proud of it. Normally It's not easy to run 10km in 1 hour. I have asked her to run uphills especially chamundi hills once a week so that normal flat roads becomes a heaven during a marathon. We got down at Laalbagh and took an auto to mysore road bus stand. I wished her a safe and happy journey and returned home in another auto.I had a heavy dinner and closed my eyes but could not sleep. I wanted to try shankar's technique but i had a boring novel and snoring kid beside me :-)