My earlier attemptLast year June 2011, I started out on a 1000 km brevet ride on bicycle. It stated with the first shower of the year. First shower of the year is always nasty as it carries a heap of dirt and debris on the road. I got three flats before I finally got a chain link snap. The link was completely missing.
The urge for second attemptI had been waiting to do this sooner or later. But I soon realized that I would never do it myself if not for an organized event like brevet.
Though I wanted to do the 1000 km brevet, it was always hard for me to speak about it to the family as it requires me to be away from home for three days. I have the guilt of having too much fun alone.
Nevertheless, when the brevet 1000 km was ringing close, I started hearing from my team-mates (of Cleated Warriors) that a few others are doing the same. That is it. I almost decided to do the 1000 km almost three weeks ahead of D day. As some house renovation work had taken toll on us at home, I was still keeping reluctant to open my mouth. I finally disclosed that I registered for the 1000 km brevet and a few of my team-mates are joining me. Fortunately, parents of my wife were with her over the weekend too and I felt at peace.
PreparationI'm a very unconventional type of athlete. I started running three years ago. My preparation for a 10 km run would be generally as as short as 10 km spread over two or three weeks. Similarly, my preparation for last year KTM 2011 half marathon was also a mere 2 hours of practice spread over two weeks. Each practice session would last some 10 to 20 mins. I still managed to complete my half marathon on the trail in 1 hr 40 mins.
I had been racing in BBCh (www.bbch.in) and except for the time trial (BBCh #1) and road race (BBCh #3), I had never practiced for any of the race. It is not that I don't want to practice, but it is hard to find time to practice. I wish my home to office commute was longer, but it is hardly 2 km!
So, what exactly was required for me to do this 1000 km? I did a lot of rest. My left knee got severely bruised in trail race in May. Wrist was injured in the fall. I couldn't cycle or bend my knee fully for four weeks. So, I was forced to rest. I had noticed in the past that I tend to build my leg muscles after some 12 hours of cycling. 1000 km brevet is spread over 75 hours. So, I was not at all worried.
Meanwhile, I had been trying to convince people to come to the 1000K, specially my best riding partner so far, Ganapathy. He wanted, but ruled out. He made a last minute registration. I later came to know that Chidu (Chidambaram) had been preparing for this. So was Vinay, all from my team. Kiran was eager as always. I convinced a relatively new rider, Deepak, that he was more capable than me in endurance and that he shouldn't be worried of the distance. He was easily convinced.
I had trued my wheels, greased hub bearing balls myself with some cheap SKF grease, adjusted the brakes, etc. I ordered a pair of tubes through another team-mate Deepak. I bought a few packets of mixed dry fruits. I already had 21 sachets of gatorade. I wanted to buy some more as I expected at least 6 per day and another 3 or 4 more in the night. But local store ran out of stock. So, I was content with the 21. I borrowed a pair of batteries from my friend, Rajesh, who also commute to work (21 km one way). He also lent me a goggle with night glasses. I was all set.
Brevet day (22 June 2012)I was in office till 2 pm. Home is a close 5 mins ride. I usually have my lunch at 12:30 pm. My wife called me at 1pm and tole me that she made plain boiled chicken soup as she was home that day. I told her that I would have my second lunch at 3pm!! I normally eat full and my "full" is usually "twice full" for others. I eat that much. Filled water, picked all items: refelctive vests, gloves, helmet, rain poncho, dry fruits, gatorade, puncture kit, flash lights, batteries, etc. etc. I also carried pieces of TCS 10K running bib as it would come handy if tire gets cut. I left home by 3:30pm and reached M.G. Road by 3:55pm.
There were too few people there. Anil met me there. We had always tried several times to meet in Lalbagh runs, but never succeeded. I was very pleased to see him. Ganapathy and Chidu were already there. Deepak and Kiran came in. Vinay was still not in. He came a good half an hour late and still not ready with lights, etc. All of my team except Chidu waited for Vinay and we made a good 40 mins late to start.
The journey startsWe started out in peak evening traffic stopping in long red signals. I noticed that we had hardly covered 20 km in the first two hours. Yet, I scolded my team mates for coming without the required water bottles. We had to stop in the rain and I bought bottles for every one. From then on, we made several stops and each stop was about 20 mins or more, completely mismanaging the time.
After some distance, it was a big group. Uday, Sathish, Kiran, Gana, Vinay, Deepak, Sohan and myself. We stopped in a nice place around the 80 km or 100 km mark (not sure if it was after/before toll plaza, but before Siera). From there on, I pushed everyone to speed up the pace. Suddenly, we noticed Gana missing. Kiran, Deepak and I tried ringing him. His phone was switched off. Deepak tried ringing Uday and Sohan. No one was picking it up. A good 25 mins we waited with frustration. Finally when they turned up and gave the reason as flat, I was not willing to accept that as 25 mins for a flat was too much. We decided that we should SMS or keep the phone on whenever one is in trouble and left behind. From there, we continued.
First quittersI always see people from my perspective and I always thought that anybody who does some decent cycling should be able to cover a mere 13 kmph average speed even with tons of breaks, tons of climbs and worst of headwinds. But it was not to be. First sign of trouble came with Uday, who was struggling in an otherwise rolling terrain. We were going at such a pace that my wheels were just rolling with hardly any pedalling from my legs. After two or three stops to give him a breather, I explained to him that we were doing just about 16 kmph on the ride and with a few breaks, we would never make it. Deepak was not willing to leave him behind even at that stage. So, Gana and I decided to leave everyone behind so that we could get some sleep in Chitradurga while waiting for others. By this time Vishal, lone finisher of last year 1000K brevet had gone ahead with Sohan. On the way, we crossed Raman from Hyderabad too. I don't remember if he overtook us again or was behind. Ganapathy and I reached about 45 mins before closing of Chitradurgan time control, at around 3:45 am. Vishal and Sohan were already there. Deepak and Vinay joined in. We heard that Kiran and Uday were quitting. Everyone else were there. We slept for about an hour outside the ATM. Some slept in the ATM, which was surprising to me. I would later do a similar thing and put myself into trouble. More of that later.
Group splits furtherWe woke up in the wee hours. We were now all of us except Chidu who was ahead and Kiran and Uday who had quit. We continued riding for about 10 km when we saw a dhaba on the left side. We brushed, washed face, attended nature calls, etc. while our order for paratha was being made. We feasted on parathas with some dhal and omelettes. I was quite full and ready for a long ride. By then, we noticed that Sohan was unable to maintain good speed on the slopes. So was Vinay. Satish also seemed to have some trouble in the ankle. After a few trials of pace line, Vishal decided that he would keep going with Sohan with lesser breaks. So, Gana, Deepak, Raman and I were taking turns to pull the paceline while protecting Vinay and Satish. Satish was able to maintain and Vinay was getting dropped every now and then. But with this arrangement of taking turns for each 1 km was making our average speed better. It was a hot day. No rain, except for some hard and brief shower later before Hubli. Later we caught up with Vishal and Sohan too and asked them to join the paceline. We soon realized that it was too big a group with different abilities. So, we started losing time again. We stopped for lunch at Kamat (I think) at 300 km mark. I had meals. Gana had paneer fried rice. I ordered paneer fried rice too. So, double feast for me again. By then we had consumed so much time in the first leg of 100 km from Chitradurga that we were hardly left with 5 and a half hours to cover the next 109 km (till Hubli). It was an uphill task. We decided to hurry up. I yelled at Vinay for always being late to start after every break. We also left Satish, who was not fully ready to start. Raman was drowsy and he was in no mood to resume at that time. Vishal and Sohan had just left. Deepak, Gana and I formed a peloton for Vinay to protect from cross wind. Deepak and I took the front with Vinay just in between our rear wheels. Gana took the left of Vinay from where the cross winds come from. Soon, we caught up with Vishal and Sohan. We tried going together for a while. After a while, I saw Gana being exhausted and unable to keep up. I was heartbroken to see my best riding partner in that condition. From then on, it was only about taking Gana along. I completely left the idea of pulling Vinay and Sohan. Deepak, Gana and I were going well. Whenever we stopped for a few minutes break, Vinay, Vishal and Sohan would catch us up.
Race to Hubli time controlI told everyone that once it was about 60 km with 3 hours left, we would all go on our own. we did exactly that. I gave some extra gatorade packets to Vinay. Everyone raced hard against the headwind and climbs. At some point it was becoming difficult to ride even at 18kmph. I had almost given up. Deepak convinced me that all remaining roads may not be that tough. Headwinds might be lesser as we inch towards city. That gave me a boost. He stayed with me throughout. We pedalled really hard and I kept updating the time and distance as he didn't have computer. He was right. After a while we were averaging almost 25 kmph, but we had to push to the limits. There is another reason why we pushed extra through the required was 20 kmph from that point. We saw the sign posts reading 8 km extra compared to what my odometer showed. We didn't want to take a chance if the time control was indeed inside Hubli. We were covering really well. I took the right turn towards Hubli a few minutes after 7pm. We thought we would make it easy as headwinds were gone. Nope. It was peak traffic and we would keep asking Rani Chennama circle and zip through the traffic. Finally in the last minute we were frantically looking for the ATM. As we saw the ATM on the other side of the road, we didn't even have time to look for a U turn. So, we lifted up the bike across the tall median fence. I asked Deepak to go first as I was waiting outside taking care of the bike. Then I went immediately behind him.
I don't ever remember myself riding that hard in my life. It was so hard that I had pain in lungs whenever I did a fast inhale and exhale.
As we were exulting about making at the right time, we saw Vinay and Gana. Gana had already quit and was working with Raman to take a bus or tempo back to Bangalore. Vinay was still planning to continue.
Another race to Belgaum time control (507 km)We again took a longish break, refilling water and drinking a lime juice on the road side. We struggled out of the town in peak traffic. It was so bad that we again took nearly an hour to cover just about 10km. We were chasing the Belgaum time station again. Deepak was still with me. We decided to stick together and ride hard. Vinay wanted us to wait for him, but I had to disappoint him as we could not risk missing the time control. Deepak and I raced every slope up or down for 30 minutes and maintained 2 mins break for every 30 mins ride. We were covering a good distance. Deepak was a bit tired and drowsy. He wanted a coffee break. We saw a dhaba. We asked if they had anything that was immediately available. We had chicken biriyani, one bowl each and coffee. The guys were quick to serve us. We resumed the race again even stronger. About 35 km before Belgaun, we saw Chidu. He was riding quite fast, but not as much in the race mode that Deepak and I were. From that point, Chidu also joined in the race. We were doing an average of 23 to 25 kmph. My watch had a feature to glow at a jersky shake of wrist. I used it to the fullest to time the breaks and we would check the distance covered at every stop. But what we didn't include in the calculation was the last climb before Belgaum. That was a killer. On a normal day, we would have taken that very easy. But after racing for nearly 200 km, it was a killer for me at least. We lost a bit of time there. Now the possibility of missing the Belgaum time control was staring at our face. Soon after the climb, we saw the Belgaum Fort exit. I was about to take that. Chidu told me that it could not be the right one. We opened the cue sheet and checked again. We cautiously moved along further and took another left, which was supposed to be for Belgaum town. We were looking at cue sheet for landmarks. We didn't see petrol pump, we didn't see the ATM. When we saw a few passerby in the middle of the night, we asked for direction. We were not sure, but we moved further straight. Soon, we saw the ATM. We were late by a good 10 mins. We three of us swiped the cards. We were almost about to sleep when Vinay showed up. He was more than half an hour late.
Belgaum police detains usWe decided to take a nap there outside the ATM. It was too cold outside. After a while all four of us were inside the ATM sleeping. We woke up after about an hour and were about to start again. Right at this time, two jeeps of police turned up and started questioning us. They checked the ATM conditions and some things on the screen, not sure if they can check any log! They asked why we were there, where we were from, names, what we do, etc. They asked for our company badge. None of us had. We showed any other photo id that we had. They took us to street light and asked us to remove helmet so that they could get a clear photo of us in their cell phone camera. They asked us to swipe the cards again to get another slip for them. We had to write our name, address, phone number. Every now and then, they kept saying that we could have gone to bus stand or police station if we wanted nap, not in ATM. All we could answer was "yes sir, sorry sir". This went on too long. All we wanted was to leave immediately as we were again late to the time control.
Race back to Hubli time control (604 km)This is going to be the shortest time we had for a 100 km. We had to cover nearly 100 km in less than 4 and a half hour (not sure of the exact time). Soon as we started together (four of us), I was a bit drowsy. This was the only time I ever felt drowsy in the entire ride. We stopped on a roadside tea shop, had tea and a few biscuits. I was fresh instantly. From there on, no tea stop, no water stop, no eating stop. We raced and raced. We entered the Hubli town again. Deepak was again with me. Chidu about a minute behind and Vinay probaly couple or more minutes behind. As we were approaching the designated ATM, we were not very sure of the exact distance to the ATM. We saw another ATM and we used it just within the cut off time. Then we proceeded to the designated ATM. We took a wrong turn and we ended up taking a little longer. We swiped the card again. We were 2 minutes late there. Still we kept the slip in case we are required to show.
We feasted on idli wada and kesri bath. I had two plates of idli wada and one plate of kesri bath. Just after the breakfast, one named Jaiprakash from GoGreen, Hubli caught us up. We were thinking of taking a nap on the highway road side. But he gave more hope that he should be able to find a hotel room for us to relax. He did that. Many thanks to him. He was such a nice person to talk to as well. We slept for about an hour. Then he saw us off upto the highway.
The joy ride beginsThe last 400 km of ride was really a joy ride for me. A strong tail cross wind and slight down slope made the ride really easy. We had sufficient time and we could gain speed as well. It was not hot. We got showers a couple of times. At some point, Chidu's hubs started singing. We poured in some coconut oil. It worked. Then my front hub started singing really bad. We poured in the coconut oil. It worked for a while. Then it became worse. I rode like that for about 15 km or so until we saw a toll plaza where I removed the cones and filled up lots of grease inside. We again continued. We had skipped the lunch as we had heavy breakfast. Towards evening, we started feeling a bit hungry. I didn't want to skip the dinner as I'm a guy who depends solely on heavy meals for rides. So, we stopped in Kamat. I had meals plus paneer fried rice as I had earlier. We stopped a bit too long there again. We still had sufficient time and tail winds were nice.
Dramatic run to Chitradurga time control (800 km)We hardly had 100 km more to cover to reach the 800 km mark and we had about 4 hours after dinner. Easy terrain. It was such a pleasure to ride on that weather. We hardly needed water sips, no sweats. But Chidu started feeling drowsy and hallucinating. He told us that when he gets it, he get it real bad. So, he wanted one of us to be with him all the time. We were going managing well. He kept insisting us to talk something and that is when we had nothing to talk. You cannot talk something without conversation, right? It became more and more difficult for him. After some struggle, he decided that he would just race hard to keep awake. I was right behind him assuring him that I would be there all the time. In fact, I was having so much fun as I had to keep at his pace. It helped him keep awake, but he was a bit tired. In the meantime, Vinay was left a little behind as his light was not suitable for speed. We waited for a while. When he caught us up, he also started racing like a maniac. I was right on his wheel as if I was waiting for this moment of chase again. I don't know how to explain this. My heart was beating as if resting, no sweat, no pain in the legs and yet, I was able to do full throttle in that night. I wish I could be in a BBCh road race at that moment. Just then, Chidu and Deepak called us and asked us to wait as Chidu was not feeling great. He was a bit drowsy and dizzy. They took quite a while to catch us up. Then we forced him to lie down for five or 10 mins. We just had about 10 km more to cover to reach the time control. As we were left with just about half an hour, we decided to ride again. We had a confusion on which right turn to take. With some frantic search and rush, we took the right and zip through Chitradurga to reach the ATM. We again made in the last minute. Chidu wanted to continue riding. I was not ready to continue for two reasons. My batteries were not going to last till morning and I need food if I were to continue in the night. I also wanted everyone to take the required nap. We searched for hotel for an hour, but none available. Finally we got led by one auto rickshaw and we got a safe place. We slept till morning.
Joy ride contiuesThe final day morning was such a pleasure to ride. The whole day, well 13 hours, to cover just 200 km in downslope for the first half and slight up on the second half, with no threats of headwind. After having tea, Chidu rode fast ahead of us. Deepak and I wanted to keep the gap closer without dropping Vinay. But Vinay was not able to keep Chidu's pace. He looked tired as he was not pedalling in down slopes. We ate good amount of dry fruits while letting Chidu go on. On the way, we saw one guy, from Mumbai, struggling to fit in his Indian made road bike tire. I wanted to help, but asked Deepak and Vinay to continue. It was not like the imported tires. I had to use the lever to close the tire and yet took almost 5 minutes. I would not take even 20 seconds on a normal tire without lever. I left him to fill the air himself. Then again, I enjoyed riding as fast as I could to catch up with Vinay and Deepak. I caught them soon. Later Deepak and I dropped Vinay too. But we could never catch Chidu. Soon after Siera, we stopped for a road side poori. I had five poories. Then we continued. So far two of us were never looking forward to the finish line as we were enjoying so much. But soon after this break, it became very hot. Clouds were gone and climbs started. It was not more fun. We fought the heat by hydrating ourselves well. Drank as much coconut water we could and poured water on the head. By then, we were just looking forward to the finish. We reached the nice road jn at about 3pm. With some zig zag cut in the service road and deviation and my recollection of the last year finish point, we managed to safely find the Cafe Coffee Day with a big welcome, specially from the Cleated Warrior clan. We wanted that four of us reach at the same time, but we were unable to guess the location of Chidu and Vinay. Just after I took the ATM slip, I got call from Chidu that he got a flat just before the Hasserghatta turn. I told him to wait, but he insisted to keep walking. This made it difficult to sync up at a place. As I went in the service road, I missed him and I went till toll plaza again. I called him again and he told me that he had taken the left turn to Hasserghatta road. I raced at 40+ kmph on the service road as it was empty. One car was peep peep honking behind me. I got annoyed and I just taunted him in the middle with full speed. Just before the turn I hit something like a stone or an uneven piece. I got a flat. I replaced my tube and started back to finish point. Chidu had just arrived then.
I had ridden a total of 1040 km including from home to M.G. Road. Riding average was showing 22.9 kmph with ride time of about 45 hours. Otherwise, it was 72 hours with breaks.
It was an overwhelming party for the finishers there, specially with Chidu's kids and the cake cutting. Kiran booked a cab for Chidu and I tagged along as I didn't want to ride in the traffic. Reached home just at 7:30pm or so, took shower. I took out the car with wife and kids lifestyle shop. By this time, I realized that my brain was still in brevet mode and not able to think or do anything else. Even the familiar roads were looking like the highway that we munched on in the last three days. I developed some sore throat making my voice changed. My face got burnt with heat on the last day as I never use cream. Otherwise, I was back to normal with some sleep to make up though.
Surprisingly, this was the only brevet I hardly gained weight. My weight was just 61 kg only. My usual weight hovers between 59 kg and 61 kg and brevet days usually push me upto 62 kg.
Will we get medal or won't we?As we missed the Belgaum time control by 12 mins, we are unsure of the medal. Organizers had asked us for reason for not meeting the time control. The reasons had to be strictly beyond our control as per the rules. This does not include helping others, mechanical failures, getting lost or being mobbed. It could be something like road blockage, held up by police or villagers, etc. There were many instances where we were really bothered by highway travelers, cars and jeeps in the night cutting across us and even halting us. Mobs fiddling with our bikes when we had to stop and not allowing us to refill peacefully, etc. We also lost a lot of time helping each other before others quit before Hubli.
I know that the rule will not respect most of it. But when I look back at the time I lost on other reasons that are not covered under the rule, I feel it so trifling to have to explain those bits of incidences where we were really hindered unexpectedly. Those hindrances were so small comparatively. Anyways, Deepak and I rode together all throughout and we have given our reasons for the 12 minutes delay in Belgaum. Fingers crossed whether our ride will be homologated or not. I don't really value the medal more than I enjoyed the ride. But I would be extremely happy if Deepak gets the medal. He is new to cycling and he is one hell of a rider. He really deserves the medal. I honestly hope he gets.