Monday, April 18, 2011

Bangalore Brevets - 600K conquered on pedal

First of all, a big "thank you" to the Bangalore Brevet team. They have made me super randonneur.

After finishing the 200 Km in January, 300 Km in February, 400 Km in March on pedal, I was skeptical of the 600 Km in April - partly because of the distance and partly because of the heat that peaks around this time in Tamil Nadu.

I had not done any special training for all my previous rides. Nevertheless, I had lately kept myself fit in some or other way - be it the small distance of cycling to office everyday or tennis on the weekends whenever possible or running around the lake in Lalbagh botanical garden. I wish I was still going to roller skating classes or the football matches that my office colleagues play every weekend. Or I wish it was the Bangalore Ultra marathon season. Nothing is happening. Only 10 more days to go - countdown to the 15th of April - Bangalore Brevets 600 Km. I need to work up a bit. My best bet was run - run around the Lalbagh lake. Usually 45 minute of running gives me a lot more satisfaction than a whole day of cycling. I managed to run for three times on alternate days- each time about 7 to 9 Km. I cycle to the tennis court on the other days - 25 Km to and from. I think I'm ready for the 600 Km stint.

Just a couple of weeks back, Decathlon offered the bTwin Sport 1 road bike for 15K, an irresistible offer. The moment I heard of the offer from BBC, I called decathlon store to check if 54" was in stock. Yes, I rushed just to be there at 8PM and pick the bike for billing. I love tweaking a bit here and there for my comfort and satisfaction. I switched the seat post quick release from my Merida Crossway 10v to the road bike, so that I could adjust the seat height whenever I need to. I hate the tight bearings of the wheel hubs that these imported bikes come with. I remove the wheel, hold ends of the hub in both my hands and rotate the wheel to feel if I feel any grinding. Loosen the cone a bit until I find the wheel rolling smooth, but without a loose play on the bearings.

I played with the reach distance of the saddle from the handle bar. bTwin sizing is done on the horizontal bar length (or whatever that is called). It perfectly suits me. But I was just not sure which position on the saddle would be most comfortable in a long distance ride. I adjusted the saddle to droop down forward a bit, without too much sliding forward, so that I can sit longer time without getting hurt in the wrong places! After each adjustment, I would ride for a distance to ensure that I was comfortable. Once I got the right incline of the saddle, I focused on the distance of the saddle. Compared to my earlier Trek 4300 or current Merida crossway, bTwin saddle has more room for reach adjustment - at least 6 cm. Once I got it right, the next day, I realized that with shoes, the reach was slightly different as the foot spot on the shoes was slightly different for my comfort, to find the correct angle for my knees with the bums on the most comfortable place on the saddle. I was all set. I fit the cyclo-computer, tail lamps and managed a way to tie the head light with a thread as my order for a handle bar clamp had not arrived.

All set. I had already made other usual preparations - a spare tube, puncture kit (glue, patches, portable hand pump), electral sachets (oral re-hydration salt).

Attires - I prefer the cotton full sleeve shirt to protect from sun. I don't use lotion. A hiking goggle to protect from sun as well as dust (not for night though). A cap, which will cover either my face or neck depending on where the sun is. I have the bTwin cycling tights, with Jockey underwear - style 1010 - the best I could manage with the thinnest seam, rock rider globes. I wear regular shoes as my pedal is a regular flat one.

April 15. Friday morning on M.G. Road, 5:30 am in the morning. We are all ready to go. As I rode along the HAL airport road, inner ring road, Madiwala and soon on the Hosur road, it was bTwin sport 1 bikes all around me. As we crossed Electronic City, soon the group split into various paces. It was one named Harisha with me. We exchanged our views on how we could make the ride comfortable together through the heat and the night hours. In my past rides, I had either chased a faster guy or slowed down with a lesser paced guy. Harisha looked like a perfect companion with seemingly equal pace as mine. We decided to stick together.

Soon we reached Krishnagiri (95 Km) without much sweat due to nice downhill roll - my top speed 66 Kmph! It was 9 am by then. We decided to skip the breakfast as we were still strong, instead try to reach Mufassa's restaurant (145 Km time station) for the breakfast. Along the way, another guy caught along our pace. Later I came to know that he was none other than a Ganapathy, whom the brevet organizers were skeptical about allowing to ride the 600 Km, because his longest ride till date was 150 Km in 10 hours, that too Bangalore to Mysore which was a down hill. He was looking very tired and I could sense that he had not stocked up well for the long ride. I had sufficient amount of those electrals to spare for him. From then on, he was unstoppable. Harisha was too losing the pace. It looked to me that he was not eating well enough. So, I suggested to him to eat his pack of bread-jam. He was also unstoppable after that. It must have been about 130 Km mark, when this gang of superfast riders of Bangalore bikers - Venky, Saravanan and others were all around a road side tender coconut seller under a tree, with a nice couch and nice water melon. They stopped us and others whoever came later. We spent a lot of time there chatting and kindling. After a very long break there, it was time to move further. For the next 15 to 20 Km till Mufassa's restaurant was a mad rush cruising at speeds of 38 to 40 Kmph. Within no time, we were all there at Mufassa's. Volunteers were greeting us with lights and camera :) Each one of us ordered whatever we liked, got the bill (with time stamps on it). Soon, we were ready to move beyond.

It is now Harisha, me and Ganapathy.... three of us who have teamed up. Venky and his team overtook us. They were doing the same 35 to 40 Kmph. I was in no mood to kill myself chasing them. Seeing Harisha trying to chase them, I shouted "I'm not going with those guys". Harisha didn't seem to hear it, he went along with those super fast train while I admired his energy. It was Ganapathy and me - cruising at a nice speed of around 30 Kmph. Soon, we saw Harisha waiting for us - he seemed to have lost the pace with the super fast team. After that, Harisha had a series of unfortunate things happening to him - a flat which could not be repaired. Ganapathy lent one of his spare tube. Harisha's knees were hurt (from his recent badminton game, as I was told). He was finding it really difficult to even ride at 25 Kmph. It was pain all along for him - reached Vellore (115 Km mark) before dark. I had my snacks. On the way, one more guy named Shreyas joined along. He was riding very strong, mostly slowing down only to match our speed. Meanwhile, we let Harisha lead the way with his maximum possible speed that his knees could push. As our 302.5 Km mark was approaching, we saw a nice restaurant named Sri Shakti Saravanan. It was already 9:20 pm and we didn't want to miss the dinner as the restaurants would close down soon. We decided to have dinner first. Within minutes, Shreyas slept on the sofa, while we were trying to finish the dinner. I had to wake him up to his disappointment. We got the ATM receipt from the Union Bank a couple of Km down the road. Not finding a proper place to sleep, we started riding back at 11 PM.

We were very sleepy. Yet, we, willingly or unwillingly, decided to ride further and find some sleep in Mufassa's which was 160 Km away. As we ride for another half an hour, Shreyas had to stop as he was too sleepy. We are again three of us. It was nice and cool in the night. But Harisha was still fighting at about 23 Kmph with his injured knees. He needed a lot of break - about 5 minutes for every 15 mins ride, which meant a very poor average. Sometimes, we were running short of water and food as shops were mostly closed. By around 3:30 am I was very sleepy too. We were approaching Vellore and I insisted that we should sleep in Vellore town roadside. We set an alarm at 4:30 am. I could hardly sleep with mosquitoes around. The alarm woke us up. I didn't feel that I slept at all. Poor Harisha was feeling guilty of slowing us down, I suppose. He suggested that he keep moving at slower pace as Ganapathy and I took breaks here and there, making sure that we caught up with Harisha evey now and then. Early morning wee hours, Harisha was shouting from behind again to stop. He was coming pushing the bike - flat again in the same manner as before. I suggested him to remove the puncture resistant lining (it sounded stupid on my part though, but I couldn't think of any other solution). I lent my tube, hoping that we would all go smooth from then on. At this point, the unspoken minds among us had agreed that Ganapathy and I would move along to reach our destination. Harisha was still trying to make his best effort. What a determination from Harisha! He had already finished his breakfast in Mufassa's as Ganapathy and I reached there at around 8:40 am. He told us that he would move ahead as he would need to go slower on the uphill. So, he left. Ganapathy and I started cycling again at 9:30 am in the scorching heat of the morning. We stopped at many places for drinks, tender coconuts, palm fruits, etc. We reached Krishnagiri at 12 noon. All these while, my stomach was too full and I was feeling something wrong. We stopped at one stop for nearly 45 mins, where I drank coconut water, water melon, limca line, mirinda drink - all kinds and then took a 10 mins nap in the chair of the shop. We started again at around 1pm. My stomach was still heavy, but feeling much better. Another 23 Km, we were at A2B restaurant. We stopped there for lunch. By this time, we had already done a stretch of deadly climb.

I had done this stretch earlier in my 400 K ride. I knew the deadly climbs ahead of us. At 2:30 pm in A2B, I updated the facebook that we should be in M.G. Road by 7 pm, though Ganapathy was more willing to change the target to 8 pm. I said, we had 4 and a half hour to cover the 67 Km, which was very much doable. From that point onwards, what a memorable ride it was. We were enjoying sprinting each of the uphill and then stop at the end to catch our breaths. We sprinted so much that we would have reached M.G. Road before 6 pm if not for the traffic after electronic city. Finally we reached M.G. Road at 6:15 pm Saturday, but not before we could enjoy some more over-throttle to catch up with Venky - after all how fast could he go with all the heavy traffic :)

And guess, who was there to greet us - Harisha!! He made it in spite of the injuries to his knees. A big bravo to him. It was awesome feat Harisha. I would love to ride with you and Ganapathy in future too.

Not to boast myself, but for a change, I was not feeling any pain in the body. My legs were forgetting that they had pedaled 600 Km. I was able to jump, hop. I was then decided to join the BBCh road race next day. I did go to the BBCh road race, but only to finish among the last :( I exhausted myself to reach the place of the race event, which was on Bellary road, 32 Km from my house. Even otherwise, did I have a chance to win against those professional racers of BBCh? They are too fast for me. But it is always "seriously" fun to ride in such events :)

I will try to stay away from the 1000 Km ride in June, again in Tamil Nadu. But I never know! Temptation might overpower me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bangalore - Krishnagiri - Vellore and back - 404 Km on bicycle in 21 hrs 44 mins

Even since I restarted my cycling in 2010, I would have done roughly four rides of 100 Km plus, two 200 Km plus, two 300 Km plus and I just added 400 Km plus to my list. All the rides are within 24 hours. Thanks to BBC (http://groups.google.co.in/group/Bangalore-bikers) which is the only reason why I get such opportunities.

Bangalore Brevets
I restarted my cycling with my office colleage Chirag in late 2009. I started with a mere office commute and quarterly weekend rides of hardly 50Km. I accidentally bought a Trek 4300 MTB again through Chirag. I had to use the bike now for some serious cycling. BBC gave me the right platform to kickstart that. Though I started my longer distance cycling with BBC, it is the Bangalore Brevets (http://www.bangalorebrevets.in/TheRoute.htm), which is the real challenging one, because here we are given a fixed time and the clock never stops.

The 400 Km ride
I did my 300 Km plus Brevet ride on Feb 12, 2011. It was time to test 400 for me as the 400K brevet was planned for Mar 12. Route looked attractive except for the scorching heat. Cut short to the actual event. A bunch of about 40+ rides started from M.G. Road, Bangalore at 05.38 am. Ride til Krishnagiri was a joy ride with downhill all the way. Myself being a heavy eater all the time, I stopped for breakfast in Hosur (at 39 Km), ate idli-wada and pongal. After 67 Km, I had to stop at one highway restaurant named A2B. Since my stomach was still full, I just swiped my debit card in an adjacent ATM to get a time stamped bill. Bought a couple of Britania plain cakes and ate my biscuits.

Passed Krishnagiri. Headed towards Vellore on the Chennai highway. Road was good with hardly any vehicular traffic. But the heat started by then. I got a few riding partners by this time. We kept pedaling till the next time station, which was 139.5 Km mark at Mufassa's Restaurant. We reached there a bit too early and lunch was not ready yet. Four of us wanted to have the chicken biriyani. The owner of the restaurant promised biriyani in 10 mins. So, we ordered. We chatted and waited. We got our biriyani after near 45 mins. By then the restaurant was full of cyclists with shoes and socks strewn all over. If I remember correctly, we left the restaurant at around 1 pm. By this time, headwinds became stronger. I couldn't keep pace with the guys whom I came with. So, I rode solo to reach the 202 Km SBI ATM, which was our 4th time station. Took the ATM slip with the time stamp in it. It must have been around 3:30 pm, I suppose. It was scorching hot. But I wanted to enjoy the tail wind before it turned around. At the ATM, another guy who was also looking for a mate came up to me and we agreed that we would ride together. Later on the way, I came to know that he was a very serious sports guy, who also happened to start the TFN. His name was Rajesh Nair. He was much stronger and faster than my pace, but he was kind enough to slow down for me. We headed back towards Krishnagiri. We reached Muffasa's again at around 7pm, just when it became dark. I was very sleepy as I hardly slept the previous night. I washed my face, ordered two sandwiches and a coffee (as Rajesh suggested). I lied down on a floor and I don't know when I slept. I was woken up by the waiter in the restaurant. Ate them and left the place around 7:50 pm.

Next time station (T5) was supposed to be 311 Km in an Indian oil pump (gas station). But it came at 307 Km mark. We didn't have anything to eat or drink in this station. So, we left the place after 15 mins break or so. Five people had already taken their time stamps before us. As we left Krishnagiri, heading towards Bangalore, we desperately wanted a cup of coffee to keep ourselves awake. We stopped in a shop and two two cups of coffee each. Meanwhile, Rajesh had a doubt if our next time station is the final destination. I actually thought that there was no more time station. But I remember that there were a total of 7 time stations. We counted and one was missing. Fortunately, we checked and found out that there was one more at 350 Km mark just when we were about 325 Km mark I suppose. The uphills became worse and truck traffic was becoming a pain. But the cool breeze of the night kept us good. We reached the CCD (Cafe Coffee Day), which was at around 346 Km mark in my odo. I decided to eat another bread item. Ordered the chicken burger combo meal at McDonald's. Enjoyed it. Then we left the place at around 12:20 am. We still had another 20 Kms of uphills after that. We were hardly at 17 Kmph pace. But we kept moving. Finally at around 1:30 am, we crossed Hosur. We were sleepy and tired. But we decided to keep moving at slow pace. But Rajesh was sprinting every now and then to keep himself awake and I had to chase all the while. So, we ended up churning more miles. Road was flatter and better, though slight slope. Finally we reached the final destination, i.e. 406 Km mark in my odo at 3:20 am.

As I didn't want to ride back home alone at that time, I dosed off in CCD again, which was the start/final point. I was woken up by the laughter of the fellow cyclists and volunteers at about 5:50 am. I decided to head for home. Reached home and my daughter was already up. First question she asked me was "papa, are you going to play for a while before you go to sleep?". I obliged as she was not happy for my cycling in the weekend in the first place.

During this ride, I was almost certain that I wouldn't ride any further brevet as the heat was horrible. Then as I woke up at noon, I was kind of eager to ride the next 600 Km on 15th April. So far till 400 Km, I had not done any training and managed somehow. But I definitely need some practice for the 600 Km. Will update after the next ride.

Some snaps are here.