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 :-(