Category Archives: Brevets

LEL 2017 ( London Edinburgh London)- Part-2 – Southbound

Dry clothes made us feel fresh and we rode with good energy. My odo stopped functioning due to heavy rain earlier before Edinburgh. We are not getting a clue of distance covered. During nights, the hills of Scotland proved to much colder than we actually expected. Irrespective of our condition, sheep are grazing happily and encouraging us with constant ‘maaah’ sound. I like cartoon ‘ sheep in the big city ‘ very much. There was always a smile on my face, whenever I saw a sheep. It helped to relieve some tension.

While ascent was somehow manageable , I shivered a lot during descent. To add to woes, cold air hitting my face is like Lullaby putting me to sleep. A dangerous condition.  I remembered word, I have given my wife that I will never ride if my sleep is not in control. So in that moment I felt riding somehow, in cold is better than standing still in cold. It must be 10°c or less. I again sang in a harsh voice to gain some heat and be awake. Mohan always waited for me, whenever he felt that I’m not following him or felt I might be sleeping on saddle. We reached next control Innerleithen( 753 km, CP-10) , 20 minutes after the cut-off. It’s mid night.

Almost all riders in control are draped in rugs ! Volunteers gave us one each seeing our condition. I felt like giving up riding during nights and wait till light arrives next day. I didn’t feel safe as my bike might go out of control due to my shivering hands. That too with sleepy mind and body,  I feared I might fall in the valley. Once again, Mohan ridiculed my idea of spending anytime waiting or sleeping if we have to make it to end within time.  It was again a tough time : to go with right and tough decision of a wise friend ? or go with my decision of staying safe ! I nearly got tears. Suddenly, Raghavendra Jhala, who is riding strongly till there, decided to quit due to knee pain, and was discussing options of reaching back London in train. I can tolerate pain of being late but not quitting ! So I had a hot coffee very quickly and told Mohan that we should move right away. I wore two base layers, a Jersey and a rain coat over it. Two pairs of gloves and woollen socks under waterproof socks to save myself from cold. I appeared like a big fat bun 🙂 . We started in a flash.

Some of my friends , expressed their opinion that such a level of layering is not necessary. But I know what my body can with stand. So covering myself is really necessary to move ahead. There are light weight and thin cold protection layers, but they are very costly for me  to buy. Might be for Paris in 2019.

Day-4 : 2nd August 2017

Our journey to next control – Eskdalemuir is again a rough one. It was dictated by sleep and cold. There was constant gush of air in ears and sound of river Esk flowing beside us. Even day light didn’t give us much push. Mohan was still checking on me. Inside there was a guilt that he would have been much ahead, if not for me. I moved on with mixed feelings. We reached control ( CP-11, 802 KM) 1.5 hours after the cutoff. I couldn’t control sleep there.  so slept for 1.5 hour. 3:24 am is cut off , we reached at 5:08 am and left around 7:30 am. I realised that it is end of brevet for me within time. There is still 600 km to go ! I know I can make it to end, but not within time. I felt sad about the time I spent about this event, money and encouragement I got from many. I didn’t want to lose without trying. So with a heavy heart, we started peddling back to England.

Our speeds are dampened by growing headwinds. Life appeared miserable with continuous rolling terrain, where we couldn’t gain speed during downhills. We kept the fight on. Though we covered those 60 kms in 3 hours, which is good in normal conditions, it didn’t appear so at that time. We reached Brampton ( Cp-13, 861 km) ,2h 20m after cut off. Because I know there is Yadmoss climb, I refilled tummy and moved on. It was really a struggle.

20170802_090331
Our Expressions convey our sadness 😦

The first 30 km out of Brampton is steady. Weather was good till Alston. Mohan got couple of Coke’s for us to use during the climb. Like last time, we walked over the steep cobbled ascents. During normal weather, Alston appeared really beautiful. I wanted to spend some time with the riders chatting there in  a bus shelter, but I had no choice except to ride. I  looked surprisingly at people having ice cream in that cold weather. As soon as we started climbing Yad moss, the intensity of head winds, which was just alright till then, doubled. Gradually it tripled and then quadrupled. Bike didn’t move, even when gradient is normal. As if the fun is not enough, it started drizzling and soon it turned out to be rain ! Visibility nearly became zero. Almost everyone struggled. Only those who are riding in groups got some relief. Climb appeared never ending. Soon I lost sight of Mohan and every one else. I feared that I went out of route, but it is just a feeling due to loneliness. I stopped quite a few times to check distance in mobile, as my odo is not working anymore due to heavy rain in Edinburgh. It took nearly 7 hours to cover those 83 toughest kilometres of brevet. Reached Barnard Castle ( CP-14, 944 km) 2 h 20m after cut off. This time I made sure I took picture of the castle in that town. I forgot to mention that school, which is the control appeared majestic.

IMG_0243

I was again greeted by my French friend Thomas. It was quite discouraging to hear many DNF stories. I made sure that my mind is just focusing on finishing, irrespective of what I hear, see or challenging conditions I may face. Here I want to make a mention of dear friend Kaviarasu. He started four hours later than us, and missed route for about 50 kms. Still he was on time to every control, much ahead of us and getting proper sleep as needed. It was mixed feelings of jealousy and inspiration at same time.

We moved on….It was again pushing till Next control Thrisk. I felt sad that I couldn’t capture Whorlton bridge even in return. We crossed 1000 kms as we came close to control.  That was a happiness among all miseries. We took approximately 3.5 hours to reach Thrisk ( CP-15, 1008 km). It appeared as a decent time after 900 kms in legs. We are just two hours behind time now. This was my dropbag point. If everything was good, I’m supposed to wear LEL jersey for last 400 kms. As I am behind the clock, I didn’t feel like wearing it. I have dumped anything felt as additional luggage into drop bag and reduced load on bike. Got my bike lubed, while Mohan was taking a nap and finishing his food, I used loo, took bath and went to refill tummy.

It was quite shocking to learn that Mayank and other rider met with accidents. Amol has decided to quit and many others have already quit. Some of fellow Indians lost route and some didn’t knew where they were ! An alarming state. I pathetically requested Mohan , that we should sleep before continuing as we are close to midnight. But after discussion with Amol, we came to know that controls are being closed based on last riders timing and any delay beyond 3-4 hours might put us in trouble of reaching control after it is completely closed. If it happens so, it is uncertain that our ride might not be validated even as a late finish. Also reaching next control is really a big hurdle as we have to cross Howardian hills.

We collected emergency blankets from control. Again with already sleepy eyes and a heavy heart we started for Pocklington. Around 1.5 hours were consumed at control. Still we had around 31 hours in hand for last 400 odd kilometres. It seemed a reality to finish within time. As soon as we got out, we joined a road that passes through a national park. We were already assured that there is no threat of wild animals and there won’t be any stray dogs. So we pedalled with confidence. All the tricks with me are exhausted. I continued a sleepy ride enjoying the darkness. I couldn’t see Castle Howard as it was past midnight. Since it is a fully rolling terrain, so I had to make sure that I was really awake during descents or it would be end of LEL due to a crash, if I sleep.  Determination helped me to be awake and sustain the ride till we completely descended Howardian hills. We took a nap for 30 minutes at doorway of small house in next town.  As it is 3rd night we spotted many riders who were sleeping at random places on roads. We entered into 4 th day and reached Pocklington (CP-16 ,1075 Km) as it dawned. We are nearly 3.5 hours behind cutoff.

Day-5 : 3rd August 2017:

As soon as we got into control, while Mohan is having breakfast and little nap, I once again used loo and took bath to be fresh for day. Still it is only sleep that is bothering me and everything else is fine. I felt Pocklington contol provided best and tasty food. I had a feast there. Once again saw Kavi.

Due to hot water bath or sleepless nights past three days, my body was reluctant to ride. Sometime into the ride , I gave up and told Mohan to go on without wasting time and I will have a nap somewhere and join him again. He told he will wait for me. We started hunting for a place to sleep. A bench on roadside seemed to be perfect  as a bed for sometime. He kept a watch while I slept. After he woke me up , he asked ‘how far should we ride till Edinburgh ? ‘ I was shocked for a second and told we are heading to London ! He laughed and said if my mind is working or not ! Some fun in the tough times !

We moved on. Headwinds are showing their full might. We couldn’t move pedal as we climbed onto Humber Bridge. They are the strongest side winds I ever experienced , since I started cycling. It was a relief to cross that bridge while heading south. We still had around 50 km to ride for reaching Louth ! It appeared daunting to ride in those headwinds. After what appeared to be an eternity, we reached Louth ( CP-17,1172 Km). We are 4.5 hours behind the time now. We had 17 hours in hand to cover 264 kms. Seemed tough but not impossible.

Mohan reached Louth earlier than me. Now there is a fear that controls might close if we don’t hurry. Mohan was very quick and left control ten minutes before me. As I started, my navigation in ride with gps, which was fine till then hanged suddenly. I switched on OSMand app right away . I didn’t realise the surroundings during north bound , but way out of Louth is extremely beautiful. At any moment during LEL, we paid a price to see anything beautiful, in the terms of climbing or by facing headwinds. Now since this place is much beautiful being surrounded by endless corn fields and beautiful, clear blue sky, there are both headwinds and climbs on narrow roads. I enjoyed riding there and pushing myself. My mission now is to catch Mohan.

As I peddled faster, I realised that I could do much better and started working much harder. This brought a smile in my face after long time. It was like, I started riding LEL just now. I was completely awake, felt very refreshing and didn’t stop till I caught up with Mohan. He stopped there to lend a hand to couple of riders crashed due to some confusion. We found those headwinds very tough to ride. Sometime later, our paces were not matching and suddenly, Mohan felt very exhausted he asked me to move on and he stopped at a place to eat. I pushed myself till Spalding. This time, I didn’t enjoy riding through fens ( fens are flattest lands in UK) due to headwinds. I really felt sad and jealous seeing the riders who are taking rest or enjoying sunshine or admiring beautiful scenery. I cursed myself for keeping myself in such a tough condition. Adding bit more to my regret, I couldn’t click the beauty of beautiful channel that is flowing through Spalding. I reached control four hours after the cut off. ( CP-18, 1256 km).

Though I wanted to move right after having food, my stomach didn’t take my side and urged me for a loo. It took bit longer, while Mohan reached ,took a red bull and left in a flash. I’m feeling short of words to describe determination of Mohan. As I started , I felt it was very hot and got irritated due to layers I’m wearing. I had to stop for removing some and adjusting them. Again a delay. Angrier upon self , I moved on.

Finding myself at right side of road or stopping suddenly in front on grass , I realised that I’m riding completely under the influence of sleep. I’m riding beside a channel and it is not at all a place to sleep. I rode just like a  man, who gulped a bottle of whisky. Darkness all around, darkness in my mind, darkness everywhere. I didn’t see any reason to continue the ride, except for finding a place to sleep. When I finally got rid of that Channel and entered a town called Crowland. I informed Mohan and slept on walkway ( platform) in front of a house using emergency blanket. It was most pathetic moment for me in Brevet. I was afraid all along that I might be confused for thief, while searching for place to sleep in that darkness. I woke up 30 minutes after my planned sleep time of 2 hours.

Day-6 : 4th August 2017:

My brain couldn’t co ordinate with instructions from GPS, making it difficult for me to be on right way. I manged to go ahead till I found myself completely lost in a round about, where I met a Hong Kong rider , Hing. He was patient enough to tag with me for sometime. He even helped couple of other ladies ( From Romania ? may be ) to find a place to sleep, when they decided to quit due to injury and pain in knees. I felt very sad for them, to quit after coming such a long way.  He helped me to tag with another rider David, ( Rider no LL14) and stopped as he had to attend his nature call. David, was much patient rider, who is also finding it tough at that moment. Help from random persons like this, will make you love randonnuering more and more. He used to wake me up when I’m sleep riding or going right side of road without my knowledge. He kept me talking and announced, how far we are from St. Ives. I couldn’t thank him enough. When we entered St. Ives control, he told that he couldn’t let someone ride in such a sleepy state. I reached St. Ives ( CP-19, 1317 km). I am 7hr 15 minutes behind the control time. I felt shameful over such a slow ride. Yet I reminded myself that I’m riding beyond 1200 km and moved on.

 I applied coconut oil to butt abundantly and cleaned private parts for every 200-250 km. So there was never any saddle sore. There was some chaffing due to padding , but main concern was inexplicable irrigation under groin due to my movement over saddle. It would prick like a pin and cause intolerable pain till I find a comfortable position.

Because of my unplanned sleep pattern and slow riding, I was now left with two hours in hand  and over  126 kms to finish ride within time. As it is confirmed in every way that I couldn’t finish ride within time, I wanted to atleast finish it by riding till the end.   As I moved out of St. Ives I got confused about route once again at a roundabout, due to which I lost some more time.
Finally, when I was back on route it is the cycling lane to famous Cambridge. I was excited to be there and one of most awaited moment in brevet. Sadly it was during my crisis. One cannot stop himself from being amazed by the Cambridgeshire bus way and cycling lane that is built. ( it is longest busway in world). I enjoyed the scenery throughout.

 To avoid sleep, I started eating the orange candies I carried all the way from India. The routine became bored. I get sleep, bike shakes suddenly, I stop and wash my face ,chew a candy and continue ride. I felt pity on self for this weird situation, where my legs are ready to ride another 500 or 600 kms but eyes doesn’t want to be open at all. This happened till I joined road to Cambridge. When I entered it, I felt short of words to express my amazement. It is beautiful. Riding through cobbles was massage to butts. I stopped in front the main building for some seconds to admire it’s architectural Beauty. The Canals, professors riding bikes in suits, bicycles all over and mainly seeing lot of humans suddenly, it appeared as a different world. I substituted apple for breakfast.

IMG_20170804_065301
Cambridge

After some distance, I couldn’t take my eyes off the Audley end hall. It is a beautiful building in a well maintained lawn. I couldn’t take my sleepy eyes off that building. When orange candies are finished, I switched on to Dry fruit bar my wife made for me. I felt sad that I couldn’t make it within time, even with all the efforts she took to make sure that I train well. I regretted over the time we had to spent separately, when I had to go for a long practise ride. I didn’t want to put her down, so I continued with much more enthusiasm.

However fast I ride or whatever hill I climb, I couldn’t see next control. I rode till every part of my brain and body got pissed off yet there is no sign of Great Easton. Roads suddenly became narrow. A new climb appeared after climbing one, with headwinds teasing me all the way. I just pointed my middle finger at head winds and moved on. I climbed till my legs pleaded road to stop climbing up and up. My frustration increased, as I saw great Easton signboard, but not control. That was a tricky situation. Surroundings are beautiful, but I’m in no mood to enjoy.  I gave up looking for it and continued till I saw a tiny school, which is control.I reached  Great Easton ( CP-20, 1388 Km) seven hours after my cut off. I once again felt very shameful. The control was about to close. There is no food left. I ate some biscuits which are left, picked up couple of apples and started on my way back. to Loughton, the start point.

 

As I moved on I saw same scenery again and again. I wondered if I’m riding around the control in sleep, but I was following route correctly. It happened for some 20 kms, till I joined other road. Climbs seemed endless, so are the headwinds. I felt helpless and frustrated about the ever shutting down eyes. I stopped many times. I got hungry, but couldn’t stop anywhere as end seemed closer, but I never got closer. I’m crossing many signboards, but it appeared that I’m no where closer to finish. Meanwhile, there was another climb. Headwinds revolted back on me, whenever I tried to increase my speed. I felt like I was trapped inside a green limbo. I lost all the hope, till I saw a signboard – Theydon bios. It was very close to end and I know it. I pedalled harder, I know that I’m definitely reaching the end to experience the reality I dreamt couple of years ago. Two years is really a long time to wait for something. I came closer..just 800 m to the end. Many riders who are leaving to home are waving at me and cheering me. Many smiling faces and sore butt walks. I crossed the gates of Davenant school, parked my bike and ran inside. I don’t want to delay anymore.

My brevet card was stamped and the man sitting there said that ‘ you have finished the ride, here is your medal’. That’s it, I couldn’t control a sea of tears waiting behind my eyes past few hours. I couldn’t move or take my eyes off the final stamp on brevet card. That man understood the pain, I must have taken to finish the despite lagging behind the time. He cheered me and few people gave hugs. I went inside to see if any food is left. Amol and Nikhil received me and got me some potatoes, coffee. they are very happy that I made it. Tears didn’t stop yet. I cried after a long time. Finally I felt ride is over after I have uploaded it in starva and my tears stopped slowly. I took 6 hours 45 minutes additionally, apart from the allocated ride time of 117 hours 25 minutes.

IMG_20170804_140840IMG_20170804_170202IMG_20170804_172852

I met Steve Poulton and Liangzhi with whom I volunteered before the event. Steve is a mountaineer, who started randonnuering before I was born. He finished 4 or 5 PBP’s and 3 or 4 LEL’s. He had to quit at Barnard Castle this time. He appreciated way I rode with walking shoes and took a picture of my feet. Many finishers, many smiles and many stories of those who couldn’t make it to end. It’s a sea of mixed emotions. It was sad to know that Liangzhi had quit at 1200 , after his brave attempt on Brampton foldie.

I was surprised to see Mohan. I regretted that I couldn’t finish it along with him. Many Indian riders are still there. Now I didn’t feel sleepy. I got refreshed by taking bath and wore the LEL jersey with some pride now. Mohan’s friend arranged a cab for us and we bid adieu to organisers, school and end of beautiful brevet.

In the hurry I forgot my rain jacket there in school. It was gone now. I couldn’t have finished ride without it. It saved me throughout from rain and cold.

Post ride, I enjoyed a beautiful time in Scotland, before coming back to India. A blog on it later. My left hand is not fully functional as event is finished. My little finger was numb and I couldn’t hold fingers closer. Thumb of left leg is also numb. I didn’t want to get rid of them anytime soon, as they remind me of my beautiful journey to new dreams and adventures.

Signing off…till next brevet.
Sayi Rama Krishna.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

LEL 2017 ( London Edinburgh London)- Part-1 : North bound

Life is always a thrill when you challenge yourself with something, which you think is impossible. You never know what that challenge takes you through, until that moment is experienced. Waiting two years for a event is really a long time. There is lot of difference between me, when I registered for LEL as crazy aimless bachelor after PBP-15, and me after two years as a experienced randonnuer and a husband ! I want to share that two year journey in a separate blog later. I will now jump into my journey to London.

26th July 2017 :

After enjoying my first international flight thoroughly, I landed at Cousin’s place in London. Needless to say that I’m amazed by the facilities, neatness and civic rules being followed by everyone. As I approached outskirts I started loving the city even more. More than anything, I loved the way they are giving respect to nature and trees. I purposely roamed around in just a t shirt to get acclimatised. It’s very cold for a south Indian body.

Learning about the campsite at Start point , I shifted there three days before the event. That gave me the opportunity to meet many volunteers and riders. I really felt comfortable to sleep on airbed inside a tent. Outdoors anytime ! I felt happy to do my bit for arranging things at start.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Registration day was more exciting , meeting many riders from India and seeing nearly the whole crowd of 1600 participants. More excitement. The day to showcase the skills I acquired over two years is just few hours away now….

IMG_20170729_113514

IMG_20170729_133958
After Registration. Packed Dropbags – Nearly all set to go.
IMG_20170729_144635
I liked the way many riders camped at Star point.

Day-1 : 30th July ,2017 ( Distance covered -244 Km)

10.12 am :  All riders in P batch assembled at start point. My heartbeat is increasing. I couldn’t help recollecting all the memories past two years since I signed up for the event to riding six SR’s in a year to spending time away from my wife alone during practice, struggle for visa, research to face the weather, and more over lot of money saved and spent….

I got tears.

I resisted them to hold on inside, but they didn’t stop.

IMG_20170730_100946
All set to go.. few minutes left to start.
IMG_20170730_101035
At Start point

10:15 am- beyond: The gates were opened and we were off to live the dream. The recce ride previous day gave a hope that navigation is not really a problem as long as mobile battery is maintained properly. Ridewith gps offline navigation worked without any issue. It guided throughout. Me and Mohan did a nearly non stop 50 km, to stop for first time. Reached 1st control (100 km, St Ives) with 3 hours buffer. I liked the country side so far. Though on paper, the route appears flat, it is quite hilly, right from the start. The climbs were also long, which slowed us a bit. It was shocking to see Mayank Thripati reach here in the same time we did , though he started three hours later ! He met with a accident before event and riding with rods still in his leg. I couldn’t properly choose words to admire him.

IMG_20170730_150622
Entrance of St. Ives

I enjoyed riding in the Fens (flattest part in UK). As we came close to Spalding, I enjoyed the scenery along River Welland. Tailwinds gave us more comfort. We are surprised to spot Horses, which are size of Giraffes ! We reached Spalding also in planned time ( CP-2, 160 km). Buffer now increased to four hours. Things were so far so good. Apart from the ride, I also thoroughly enjoyed food provided at controls. It was like a buffet.

IMG_20170730_181427
Trinity Bridge- Crowland , Close to Spalding
IMG_20170730_181544_5CS
Me & Mohan ( On his MTB)

As we started to ride into the night, the temperatures also started getting decreased. Though it is similar scenery repeating or same houses all the time, I enjoyed seeing it again and again. I liked the similarity is maintained in building homes. Especially seeing a camping van outside almost every home made me love them more. Pets- they are everywhere. Cute and lovely. There are designated palaces for them to be taken and there was never a worry of being chased by a dog.

Just like these thoughts, time also passed and we are in 3rd Control by midnight. ( Louth- 244 km ). Now there is six hours buffer in hand. I felt like a millionaire ! It doesn’t usually happen in a brevet that you have six hours to spare.

IMG_20170731_003355
They ran out of anything vegetarian..I had to adjust with these.

Day-2 : 31st July 2017 :

Why will a brevet be thrilling if everything goes according to plan ? It waits for one simple mistake from you to make the whole thing exciting. So when we had six hours in hand, an hour was spent for food ( he he, I’m talking like time is Money , sometimes time becomes very valuable). Then, my lazy body which became much lazier after marriage demanded for sleep. I know a couple of hours sleep wouldn’t cause any delays and would be rather encouraging. Mohan’s idea is different, he wanted to push as much as we can in first 24 hours, which will make us put significant miles behind and can have a tension free ride for rest of the brevet. Also he had issue with navigation in his mobile, due to which we had to definitely ride together. Now it’s a clash of sleep vs ride. Though it’s a halfhearted decision, I gave respect to Mohan’s experience and we went on.

It’s significantly cold outside. Just an hour or so into the ride we felt sleepy. Keeping some distance from Mohan, I sang songs at top of my voice in a horrible tone. No tea shops, no sight of human, it’s just both of us, moon and corn fields around. Occasional passing of other Randonnuers assured that we are on course. Because the water in bottles is already freezing cold, I hesitated to even wash face. At a place, I was taken away by the kindness of a stranger, who offered us lift till next town, thinking that we lost route and were suffering in cold. We explained him that we are good and only then he left 🙂

It seemed like we rode a lot of distance, but the odo wouldn’t move ! There was no shade even to rest. After four and half hours of riding in cold, we finally found a dry place. Though it doesn’t have any shade, we decided to rest the exhausted bodies over there for 30 minutes. Sometime into the sleep, the curious house owner woke us up and asked the whereabouts. We proudly said that we are cycling to Edinburgh. She offered coffee, but I declined and requested to let me sleep for sometime. When we resumed again, we finally saw a store open. I picked up some bread and ate it. I was not sure if it has to be heated or cooked. Hunger !! We saw other riders also there.

IMG_20170731_060608
Humber bridge
IMG_20170731_060551

Then we cycled through the famous Humber Bridge. If one has to experience winds , they need to definitely pedal over this bridge. (Humber bridge: eighth longest single-span suspension bridge in world at 2220m, 1410m central span.  It is the longest you can walk and cycle over.)

After some struggle we were there at Pocklington ( 4th CP , 341 km). It took nearly eight hours to reach here. This is where lot of time got wasted and mentally made me feel low about sleep. Though we had four hours in hand now, it didn’t appear so.

I loved Muffins provided there. Even after the event, I brought them almost every day. Also from here, I started to carry an apple from control. The number of apples, I had at end of brevet are countless. Then we started to Thrisk. It is the one the most beautiful and challenging section in the brevet. It is a rolling terrain, but each climb is like a small hill. If we are unable to pickup momentum during a descent , there will be lot of struggle for climbing. We struggled anyway. One has to pass through beautiful arches built as a part of Castle Howard. We couldn’t see the castle in both ways. Our average between controls fell to 10 now. We made it to Thrisk ( 5th Cp, 408 km) with five hours in Hand, 28 hours were consumed overall. Being my dropbag point, I took a bath and changed gear. Again there is Sleep or ride confusion.I think, I slept for an hour here. Couple of hours passed by, which appeared like a fraction of second. We then moved on.

IMG_20170731_104102
Mohan Posing 🙂 _ We rode through many beautiful trials like these.

IMG_20170731_111336IMG_20170731_111818IMG_20170731_112654IMG_20170731_112739

Except for crossing a beautiful wooden bridge called Whorlton Bridge, I don’t remember much about what happened in between these controls. With two hours buffer time in hand, we reached Barnard Castle ( 6 th CP, 472 km). I met my friend Thomas , from France, who volunteered with me earlier. After food and wearing additional layers for most dreadful section, we left the control.

Day-3 : 1st August 2017 :

Between us and next  control stands the longest and highest climb, The Yadmoss. I have read that it is a ski resort during winters. So the level of cooling can be understood ! Long climbs welcomed us as soon as we left controls. Not sure, if it was cold or exhaustion we were slow. While riding it appeared faster, but on paper we were very slow.  Within 10 kms of ride, I felt very sleepy. Mohan waited for me as I slept for 30 mins , ( in the open again)

20901634_803379809821771_7185485853444137242_o
Cobbles at Alston. PC : Elizabeth Hunt – taken from FB.

When we woke up and resumed, it started drizzling and soon turned into a rain. There is an optional sleep stop at Alston. We decided to use that and pushed over the climb, carefully handling descents. One can notice sheep being present all over. Though their sound irritated sometimes during the ride, I became big fan of them now. Alston was (previously) a big market centre. But it appeared tiny and beautiful. The slopes and cobbles made me fear and we walked down the slopes. Check this link for many beautiful pictures on Yadmoss climb and to see variety of bikes used.

As we approached the sleep point, we were shivering. We decided to sleep and opted a bed for an hour. Again, time passed like a second, before I was woken up suddenly. When I woke up, I started shivering a lot. I couldn’t bear the cold. I told Mohan that I can’t ride any longer is such a cold weather. He advised me to have a coffee and assured that it will be alright. It was ! We moved on and reached the last control in England -Brampton ( 7th CP, 556 Km) very close to cutoff.

IMG_0240
A busy place

Headwinds started to trouble us as we crossed border. Long straight stretches made the ride much boring. Only entertainment is route sheet provided by Nick Wilkinson in LEL Facebook group. Seeing that and my odo meter were only ways to pass time. More fields and more sheep. We crossed Lockerbie town. It had some history related to WW -II  and also dating past to Vikings. Some 25 kms later we were in Moffat control , again just making it within time. ( CP-8, 631 km).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Though we had reached just within time to Moffat, our spirits were not much dampened. We continued to Edinburgh, in a hope to gain some time even though we know there are quite a few climbs on the way. Our minds became relaxed looking at the amazing landscape offered by Edinburgh scenic trail. It is endless shades of green spread all around. Even after 600 kms our legs didn’t complain of any pain, while climbing Devil’s beeftub. It is a gradual ascent. At a place I even saw a rainbow, but my mobile couldn’t capture it. I was delighted as I’m expecting it. Sadly, Mohan couldn’t see it as the background is cloudy and didn’t seem that he believed it either !

20170801_092616
One of my Motivation to be in this ride is this to click this picture.

Life appeared very pleasant till 50 km into that segment. All of a sudden it started raining. It’s a heavy rain. Also the roads which were empty till then , are filled by traffic. The descents were steep , and it is cold to top everything that’s happening. How a brevet can change in moments of time ?!?

Then we had to suddenly join a very narrow Cycling lane for around 10km. Due to rain, the lane is filled with mud and water. It really pissed me off, but only thing that’s in our hand is going ahead ! In this chaos, I couldn’t click a picture of famous Roslin Chapel. It has reference to The Davinci code novel. One of my favourite.

Few kilometres later, my front shifter stopped functioning. Somehow , I managed to ride in a hope to get it fixed near control. As we are coming close to control, route appeared confusing at a junction. While Mohan is patient, I’m getting angry for no reason. Suddenly while getting onto my bike, hood of my front shifter ( left) became loose and was about to fall. Because I ride mostly on hoods, I felt it is end of my brevet.

In anxiety, anger, vain, wet dress, and lot of other feelings we reached control with an hour to spare. Before the ride, I was so excited about the concept of cycling between two countries, and reaching it’s capital on bike. But due o the hurry, I couldn’t properly enjoy the moment. Mechanic fixed the loose hood, but since then shifting became too hard. A stable hood appeared as a luxury during that time than worrying about shifting.  Being drop bag point, bath ,food, changing to dry clothes took 1 hr 40 minutes without realising.We are already using time to reach next control. Damn !

Checkout  Part-2 : Southbound here.

POWER IT UP – 1200 BRM – MUMBAI – DAY -4, Epilogue

Read Day-1 here and Day 2,3 here

Day 4:

Dhule-Nashik (Cp 8, 1064 km)-Mumbai (End CP 1214 Km) :

Just as to take away the chance of bragging this as a perfect ride, Mohan got a puncture as soon as we started. It was unusual, but it took a lot of time for us to fix. Also, this was his first puncture since past three years in Brevets. Another reason to love brevets. They always give you a surprise. One should always be ready to face such any situation. Buffer time always helps.Later we are on move, except when we were very exhausted. Dry fruit bars and grapes kept me going without much hunger and trouble.It was not at all cold. We are managing without any warmers.  Just like the previous day, we want wrap up the climb before it gets hotter. We sailed through the rolling terrains. As we are discussing about climb, I mentioned that it may appear long , as I have climbed it in dark and a heavy rain last time. Mohan hinted that it is not as long as it appears. This is the last big climb in the route. So I pushed myself to see if I can climb faster.  I did. With a little additional effort, I did climb with ease as well as fast. I rode till I have reached Chandwad town.

I crossed thousand kilometers. There was not much traffic now, It was pleasant.  I’m beyond a 1000 Km for fourth time. I could feel the calmness in my mind and happiness, endless rush of excitement in my blood flow. I want to mash-up the gears and just wrap the ride real quick, but then I want to do it easy and slow to enjoy the Brevet. I waited for Mohan. After sometime, I got a call that he is having breakfast and asked me if I could join. I didn’t want to go back, so I went ahead. I stopped at a dhaba few kilometers ahead.

Beyond 1000, I felt like I should get all the royal treatment. So I stopped at an empty dhaba, chosen a empty cot and sat like as if I owned it. I ordered a sandwich and a Poha. At the end, I topped them with a Pepsi. I gave a lot of rest to my bums, body. I savoured every spoon of Poha, as if I’m having it for first time. My mind is already in joy that I’m just 190 km short of celebrations. I enjoyed riding in this zone past 1000 till next CP very much. I have never experienced such calmness in my mind.

Mohan joined me once again. We rode nearly non stop till Pimpalgaon ( stopped for some pics and to escape from heat). At Ojhar, Mohan had a flat again. What’s with his Monster bike ?!!! which never gave trouble. Since there are puncture shops around and CP at Nashik is just 15 km away, I decided to move ahead.

With every pedal, I’m getting much happier thinking about the finish. Within no time, I reached Nashik. Mohan joined few minutes later. Heat started to intensify now. After lubing the butt, one more Poha , butter milk and we both are off.

img_0858
Flyover at Nagpur
img_0861
With Kabir – On my right and Chirag Shah
With Manageable winds, we decided that we should stop at Kasara top for few pics and then only at Asangaon ( 50 kms before start). Heat is again getting beyond  ,what we can bear. But taking rest is also not an option, keeping the traffic in mind which might slow us at the end. We pushed. We got more and more thirsty as we rode. We countered it by chewing sugar candies. Having food on roadside dhaba at Pune on Day-1, scared us to try food at not very decent places. We waited till we reached Kamat hotel.  I feasted on a curd rice, while Mohan had a Thali. After eating and then drinking a sprite, I had around 10 small glasses of lemonade with lot of salt in it. The level of heat outside can be understood ! Yet there is some more space in my tummy for one more glass. When lemons on table were finished and spent around an hour inside hotel to escape heat ,we moved in that heavily rolling terrain once again. At Kasara, we posed for few pics and then I went ahead. I informed Mohan that I will stop at Asangaon.
img_0863
Long uphills
img_0867
Along the route
I love the Kasara downhill, it is not very steep. Yet, one can gain maximum speed without much effort. Also it is very safe. 10-15 Kms were finished in a flash. That terrain started teasing us once again. Very long uphills followed by steep downhills. Burning heat made me feel very weak and exhausted. The fight was on – Me or Sun ? I’m in no mood to rest nor he was in no mood to cool down. I got an upper hand, though not very strongly. I rode till Asangaon. Mohan was here once again.
img_0874
Me at Kasara.
img_0878
Mohan

img_0868

img_0884
Weird shapes on hill top at Asangaon.
Last time when I was DNF in this route, while roaming for a place to shower, I found a hotel (Parivar garden, beside Food hub) with a Recliner sofa massage. Then it relieved me from pain of riding 500 km. This is one of my motivations to come a long way in this ride. To have a massage at that place after 1150 km without any tension is one of my goal before the ride. I’m happy that I fulfilled it. We both enjoyed two sessions of a 6 minute massage in that sofa/chair. I refilled my tummy with a sambar Idly for last stretch.I relished on a tasty coffee. Coffee after two months tasted really great.  Just 60 km approximately and we are there.  I was happy, I want to wrap up things happily.
img_0885
Relaxing on recliner.
That moment was very short-lived. As soon as we were back on roads,I was awaken by the harsh honking of motor vehicles and thrown aside by fast moving vehicles. I got pissed off. Mohan wanted to wrap up ride quick, so he is not stopping. Traffic is making me very very angry. I lost all the feeling that I rode around 1170 km. I want to just reach the end point and never ride in this mad rush again. I want to carry an EMP and disable all honking with just a click. I wanted to even break every windshield and teach every driver, proper sense of driving and honking. Alas, I’m just a cyclist ! All this time, Mohan is riding at a super pace.
After much frustration, we took one final break to ride towards Mulund. There are atleast five traffic jams as we entered last 5 km. I even pointed middle finger at a senseless driver honking at me ,while I was struck in traffic jam.
Last two km…. last km. We reached. Secret spice restaurant. The end point of an exhausting and a really long ride. 1224 km as strava showed it. A ride which I thought that I would never complete, a ride in which I couldn’t finish both halves within time. A ride which I will cherish for a long time. I’m very much elated. After a sad and neck to neck finish at 1000 few days ago and then finishing a 1200 now with around 7000 metres of climbing with 2 hour 40 minute buffer is a great achievement for me. I have to still admit that headwinds are really in our favour, else our life would have been much more miserable.

img_0889

img_0887
We did it
Post ride, Mohan left soon. Chirag, other finisher also left after sometime. We are now waiting for the last two riders Lara and Siddarth. Myslef, Anil Uchil and Rajesh discussed a lot of things. I ordered a Cheese fondue. A couple of hours later Sid and Lara showed up. Lara is second woman in India to finish a 1200 BRM. We then spent an hour talking about everything.
Epilogue :
Later everyone departed in their own ways. At railway station, since my train is at 6.50 am, I had to be awake atleast till 4.30 am to book my cycle under luggage. I tried to be awake,but after riding 1200 km and not riding anymore body was reluctant to be awake. I slept with many ,on floor outside railway station. I waited for clock to go past 4.25. Finally, after handing over bike at luggage office, I had a good one hour nap at retiring room. I made sure that I catch train without missing. In train, I slept all along journey eating almost everything, that passed me. I couldn’t avoid thinking about the roads I have just travelled. Also in my heart I’m  much confident about attempting  LEL -17 (London-Edinburgh- London)now.
In Hyderabad, as bags were heavy, I brought bike in auto to home. I then met two sparkling eyes, waiting to meet me past six days. We smiled at each other, we rejoiced at my achievement and then we were lost time.
Post ride, even after a week there is some lower back pain, which is still hurting me. Neck pain is not completely eased off. I’m just waiting as time may heal. If they pesrsist for one more week, I have to visit a physio.
Though there is not much chaffing during ride, but post ride – there was lot of itching between the bums, for which I’m applying candid dusting powder. Rest of my body is fine.
-Signing off.
Sayi mera naam,
Cycle chalanaa mera kaam.
Strava link for ride

POWER IT UP – 1200 BRM – MUMBAI – DAY 2,3

Link to Day-1 if you have not read it !

Day 2 :

Atit-Lonavala (Cp-4 , 523 km):- After a 30 minute nap, we decided to move. Yet, some laziness in me prompted me to ask for more rest. Mohan is always a man on move. So I asked him to ride. I took one more nap. This second nap is very disturbing. Also I’m waking up, just by the sound of a freewheel, whenever a cyclist is passing by. I hated thought of wasting much more time. I got ready to ride. It was slow, because of sleep. Also I got hungry. I couldn’t swallow sweet items now, so just managed with bananas and a hot tea at Satara. I’m also feeling sad that I’m missing to enjoy moonlight because of sleep. Here I met a group of cyclists, who couldn’t continue to ride further in 600 BRM. ( It was a multi BRM, with 300,600 and 1200 BRM’s). One of them asked how could I manage to ride alone.I just smiled and went ahead.

But thinking over that question, I wondered why should one always stick with someone to ride ? I always enjoy the peace and calmness when I ride alone. If riding bicycle is freedom, riding alone is the next level. I’m not against riding in group but, riding alone is fun and peace in its own way. In a Telugu movie, hero asks someone – ” you are born alone, can’t you jog alone ?” , I want to put it same way.

img_0818

One goes down to give way for another. Moon is going down on west.

img_0821
Just before sunrise , at Surur

 

Back on the roads, my goal is to reach Kambatki ghat, which will give me lot of buffer due to descent. I pushed till Surur ( where there was a deviation for Mahabaleshwar, yesterday) and then dragged myself till I descended Khambatki ghat. Some how , I’m not very comfortable with food in that region. The thought of having vada pav for breakfast didn’t sound good to me. I rode till I saw a good hotel. Mohan is already having food there. After refilling tummy with Sambar Idly and discussing about reaching next CP we started riding.

Meanwhile, a small drama happened. Jagadeesh, who is with Anil Uchil at Mahabaleshwar , called me to ask about my whereabouts. I told I’m riding towards Pune. He was surprised saying that, he was informed by Anil that I was DNF . A chill went through my spine. Luckily, it took few more calls to sort the issue, which is name confusion with another rider.

The beautiful sunrise over hill in the morning, turned to blazing heat now. We know until we cross Pune, taking rest will waste time. So we are pushing to the extent we can. A very long down hill at Katraj tunnel lifted our spirits. A good rest to the exhausted legs. I completely enjoyed coasting in that slope. As soon as I entered city, I hated the chaotic traffic. Everything is moving like an excited electron, trying to get bonded,except that reaction will be a disaster in form of accident here, which luckily didn’t happen.

img_0824
Katraj Tunnel

Past 50,60 km I have controlled my feelings to taste Neera, but increasing heat and traffic gave me a good reason to stop at a Neera shop. I gulped three glasses back to back. My taste buds are gratified, so does my mind. Mohan went ahead.

I crossed paths with Chandramouly and Kabir. We three stopped for a quick-lunch at nearly end of Dehu road, where we should take a left to join road to Lonavala again. After a talk and giving good rest to bums, we started at our own pace.

Heat grew much intense now. I wanted have one more neera. I know, too much of anything is not good. I already had 11 galsses of it, but I feel like having one more. it was a game between mind and taste buds. As soon as my mind realised that I may not find neera stores ahead, it gave up giving way for taste buds to score.I had three more glasses. I hated that I’m lost to my senses,but it is invetible.

After that, I started feeling sleepy. In that heat, I didn’t want to stop for a break either. So I just pedalled thinking about last year, when I’m at same location after missing many controls, yet trying to finish the ride. I had a lot of buffer this time. In that dizzy mode, I reached Lonavala control and refilled tummy with a Pista Milk shake. Met Mohan once again.

At exit, we clicked few pictures of valley and moved ahead. Since my thin tires are faster, we had to separate before the Bohr Ghat descent. As it is very steep,  I couldn’t enjoy the downhill. All my concentration is on controlling bike from over speeding on steep slopes. 14 minutes for 12 km. I’m at Khopoli again.

img_0831
Myself at Lonavala
img_0832
View at Lonavala.

To escape from the unbearable heat, I took shelter under a tree. I overloaded tummy with two more glasses of sugarcane juice. It was not necessary at that time, so they started to come out soon.

After some time, I met Mohan again. I felt very dizzy, so I asked him to continue and rested at a bus shelter. I couldn’t sleep. I realised that my mind is looking for excuses to stay off bike. I moved on. I caught up with Chandramouly once again. I couldn’t match his slow pace on Trek Domane (Full carbon) bike. Yet, since I don’t want make any navigation error, I followed his wheels religiously. Traffic pissed us off. After heat, the honking now became unbearable. I couldn’t enjoy the feeling that I have finished the first toughest half. Only sunset over tall buildings eased my mind a little.

 img_0834

At some signals, he waited for me. We saw Anil Uchil on the way, who clarified once again on DNF issue earlier. Pushing through the traffic, we made our way to Mulund again. It took 38.5 hours to ride the first 607 km. It was an exciting momet ,as I couldn’t finish this route earlier.

img_0837img_0835

It was really nice of Chandramouly to guide me till the end. Also he offered me stay at his home before brevet. Thanks for all your help.

I emptied my overloaded tummy at secret spice and reloaded with Pasta. Never a deficit with regards to tummy.

I then went on to McD to pack 3*Aloo tikki for early morning, and a Panneer burger to reload carbs for next half. Drinking a coke after ages gave lot of relaxation to mind. I skipped cool drinks, coffee ,tea since two months before this ride.

At Dream residency (stay arranged by organisers) , I took a shower,lubed the bike, got everything ready for next half and  tried to sleep. Mohan already reached here and wad set to rest. Our plan is to start riding by 11 pm.

Alarm did ring at time specified by us, but our bodies tired by riding a lot demanded more rest. When we heard doors being knocked, it was around 12.30 . We got up in hurry and was on bikes in next 10 minutes. 607 km more to wrap up the ride.

Day 3 :

Mumbai -Nashik (CP 6, 758km) -Dhule ( CP7 , 958 km):

As we both started again, we know reaching Nashik ,150 km in 12 hours in not very difficult. Yet, with our own shares of mishaps during brevets and also to ensure that we have enough buffer, we want to reach there as early as possible. Riding after 600 km, our bodies we are not very active, but the rest ensured that our legs were fresh.

Sleep didn’t spare us though. A tea near Thane couldn’t keep us awake. We gave a shot to the best trick that we saved . We spoke ! Spoke till we couldn’t think of speaking anymore, spoke till I lost my throat and couldn’t speak any more. Talking continuously for an hour will definitely keep you awake. I had a Aloo tikki in between,

It was endless up and down till Kasara base. We refilled our tummies to climb the ghat. It was very easy than we expected. I felt terribly sad, thinking about my DNF in this route last year. I thought I will run out of time, I had to climb this and quit after riding 500 kms in a 600 BRM. Damn me. I realised once again that, whatever may be the case, reaching the end point should be only motto for a randonnuer.

The enjoyment of effortless climbing was much intensified with the sunrise, fall colours and the trains that are passing in and out of tunnels. I felt sad that I couldn’t click any of train picture. It was an amazing sight to see train moving in those hills. Ghat is beautiful even in fall. Last time, I was mesmerised with it’s beauty during monsoon. Cycling or not, this ghat is a must visit for every wanderer.

As I rode ahead I wondered about the way nature has arranged itself over different terrains. It was a terribly rolling terrain with slight head winds for last 50 km to Nashik. We took our time. Luckily roads are smooth here, which gave us some comfort. We reached the designated CP, Dwaraka hotel with lot of time to spare. After a lassi and one more aloo tikki, we went ahead as we want to make buffer at Dhule for sleep.

Heat is intensifying. We rode further 30 km and stopped for lunch. Once again, we figured out that thirst is not real but was caused by heat. Drinking too much of water is not a solution. Our eyes found grapes. This region, is famous for them. There atelast 50 shops on either sides of road. Mohan got green one, I brought black. They are very tasty and seedless too ! I wanted to go there once again, just for them.

img_0838

Just when the temperature was unbearable, we took shelter at a abandoned shop. Yeah, body demands rest as soon as it knows that we crossed half way. I had to obey it’s command. Terrain is nearly flat now. Bearing the heat and greeting the occasional winds , we reached Chandwad. Enjoying the Chandwad descent, we pedalled ahead till Malegaon.

img_0841-copy
Road to Chandwad

img_0843-copy

img_0844
Past Chandwad

I had most tastiest lassi in my life there. The ice cream that guy added in it was much more delicious. I wished just like hard disk space, we can add more place in belly to accommodate such delicacies.I licked till there is no drop left.

Just with one more tea stop, we pushed using our maximum strength at that time, to reach Dhule as early as possible. Winds were acting crazily. Sometimes, they come from forward, then backwards and sometimes sideways. Just like life they became unpredictable.

A long downhill guided us toward Dhule. I’m very eager to reach Dhule as control point is Gurudwara. I have never visited one before nor stayed inside its premises. Though, I know that with this attire and all sweat, mud one cannot go inside, yet I felt delighted just with thought of going to a holy place.

I headed to Langar ( free food offered at Gurudwara) as soon as I reached there. The rotis and sabji ( curry) were delicious and filled tummy. Though it felt tiresome to wash plate  after eating, it served as a great exercise to fingers which were held in same position for long time.

I took a 75% shower, emptied my belly, set everything ready  to ride back. Here for first time, I spoke happily with my parents and wife. My tone gave them confidence that I’m fine and can do it with out any trouble. Yeah, it was just 300 km more.

After the call I realised that , my neck is paining if I’m standing straight. I got worried a little, but then felt that sleep will solve it. It was not solved even after a 2 hour sleep, yet I felt it was alright to move. Mohan and me started again for my first ever epic journey.

A special note : If you are riding beyond 200 Km,depending upon sweat levels, it  will be really helpful if private areas are cleaned once for every 200-250 km. Using a base layer and this cleaning helped me stay away from chaffing which used trouble me after 400 km usually. There was little, but not much. Especially the region around anus is absolutely free of any chaffing, that has let me pedal with much happiness.

Read Day-4 here

Power it Up – 1200 BRM – Mumbai – Day 1

Route : Mumbai- Pune- Mahableshwar – Satara -Atit- Pune- Mumbai – Nashik- Dhule – Nashik- Mumbai.

Elevation gain ( Post ride from Strava) : 7800 m

Map : https://goo.gl/4px6ug

Life without challenges is boring. When you achieve something big, you always feel the itch to try the next big thing. That’s life. After a very exhausting 1000 at Hyderabad, I wondered if it is really necessary for me to attempt another 1200 without improving my strength or a good practise ? At the end of 1000 brevet on January 23rd, I have decided not to ride in 1200. As days passed by I couldn’t resist my temptation to think about the route that made me realise I’m weak. This brevet is combination of two of Mumbai’s toughest 600’s . I have failed to finish both of them earlier. I wanted to settle the score. I have decided to ride, yet there are other thoughts that are dragging me back.

Staying away from home for a long time, with just three months into the marriage is not really ideal. It really takes a lot of maturity from partner to understand your passion and purpose of what you are doing. I can say I’m very lucky in this aspect. Not only, did I get her encouragement to ride, but also I got lot of love in form of food to eat along the route and smiles to be happy along the very long , tough journey.

Travelling to Mumbai always make me nervous as it is either the route or some situation will cause lot of issues in the ride. ( They can be read here 1. When my seat post clamp came out and also a late finish, 2.When I faced rains to remember for life time ).Yet, I gathered lot of courage to see the hills and valleys of Lonavala and Khandala from window of train, which I have to climb next day.

This time, whatever may be the case I have decided to come over sleep,which is my biggest enemy.So I need lot of privacy to sleep happily. I made booking at Hotel in Thane, though my finances didn’t allow me to do so. I have requested Anil Uchil to keep bike at his place, for which he readily agreed. I loved roaming in the market area. Resisted all my feelings to savour the mouth watering food along road in name of big one. After having a early dinner ( pricey), got a ghee dosa to eat before starting for ride, a Mc Aloo tikki and made a lot of bread and jam ( some with peanut butter too) for skipping breakfast. Yeah, that was the only plan I made for ride, to save every possible minute till I climb Mahabaleshwar. I went to sleep by 9 pm and had a seven hour sleep, which is highest ever before any event in my rando life.

I made one new experiment in this brevet. It is usually suggested not to try new things in a big ride, but chaffing is something that always hurts me beyond 300 km. Reading some of posts in YACF, I wanted to try wearing a base layer under shorts. I tried it.

Start point till CP-1 (Pune, 150 km) : After having ghee dosa, I went to meet Anil and brought bike to start point. The traditional bike check, meeting with riders was done. We are off,on a journey that will be remembered for a long time. As I started pedalling, I couldn’t help remembering three times where, I have quit 1200 BRM at 500 km. I do not want to repeat that. I wanted to keep the fire alive, that was lit by many riders who finished PBP and many other tough events. I have mentally made up my mind to be on bike for four full days. I have looked it in a way , in which it is fun and a great chance to be on bike rather than suffering. That gave me a great advantage throughout the ride.

Also, my confidence levels were pumped up with many riders whom I do not know ,wishing me for the record I have created last year by riding six super randonnuer’s in a season. Highest by anyone in India, till now.

As I shifted from MTB to roadie, things were all different.Also with reduced intensity of headwinds, it was quick ride till Khopoli. I had McAloo tikki on the way ( It was good even after 15 hours). Also it gave me lot of energy. Also I met and rode along with Mohan Subramanyam, my mentor. I couldn’t write further without appreciating his great determination not only to continue brevets on his MTB, but also improve his speed. A 700*25 C is trailing behind 26* 2″ .I hope, I need not explain further. He was just flying on his bike.

While I literally cried to climb Bohr gaht last time, I didn’t feel it was tough this time. I just rode along it as if it was a normal road. It might also because of Dry fruit bars, my made specially for the ride. I had a couple of them before climb. I felt really energetic with love, power in food.

After climb, I had a couple of sandwiches I made, along with Neera, a local drink. I completely do not know the advantages of that drink made from Palm tree, except that it make my body cool and keeps me going. I learnt about it in last 600 at Mahableshwar. As I’m riding I met one more rider who recognised me, wished me and clicked pictures with me. At this moment, I realised that I have achieved something in my life, with still a long way to go.

It was a fight with rolling terrain and head winds till we reach Warje, Pune , the first control point. Life was all good, we had 2.5 hours of buffer. I just made it in time, last year due to a seat clamp issue. This gave me lot of confidence. We (Me and Mohan) had a not so good Dal Kichidi to just stay alive. At any place we are not loosing a chance to refill salts, by just gulping salt available at hotels/shops.

Pune- Mahabaleshwar (CP-2, 256 km) : Heat began to test us. We are countering it with Neera, lot of water and riding without stopping much. Things became easy after riding through Katraj tunnel. Kambatki ghat appeared little challenging, but I made my way to the top without stopping. It was a big achievement for me and here I know that I will definitely climb  till Mahableshwar. I missed Mohan here.

After refreshing with couple of sugar cane juices and refilling love from dry fruit bars, I started towards Panchagani. I’m partly happy because I made it here in day light, as I rode entirely during darkness last time and much more happy because that I will certainly reach CP in time, to which I’m late by 1 hour last time. As I rode along fields of Surur and Wai, I felt sad that I’m not able to click any pictures. As I approached base of climb, I got pumped up and started climbing to take all the revenge and suffering I had in mind over past one year. It was as if the gladiator in me is ripping the opponent nerve by nerve with blood shed all around. The fall season resonated my thoughts. Every metre increase in altitude, I felt the improvement in me.

Just as to cool me down and bring me out of this sweat (blood) bath, nature blessed me with a beautiful moon rise over the hills. I saw it in plains and over sea, but never on hill. The bright red moon rising behind the hills, made me very delighted and realised that it is gift I got from nature for the hard work, I have put to reach here. I didn’t keep my foot down to reach on top of 11 km climb.

Though pricey ,because it’s a travel destination, I couldn’t resist eating a veg biryani after the climb. It was rolling from Panchagani to Mahableshwar. While having food, I saw Mohan. We both rode together to Mahableshwar and reached around 9.30 pm with 2 hours to spare. Pride was filled in me. My confidence levels are boosted multi fold. Riding a long way after panting to climb, from climbing with ease is really a moment to cherish.

While Mohan went to have dinner, I emptied my belly and got ready for ride further without halting for sleep there.

Mahabaleshwar – Atit ( CP-3, 337 km): I know it will not be very easy to reach Satara, after a long day with 250 km. The road was bad with long climbs and descents, Also I’m scared about the dogs in this route. They spared us luckily this time. A scary descent through Medha ghat and a three hours ride took us to Satara. Then a semi sleep ride took us till Atit, where a voluteer (Alok Jee) is waiting for us in cold, to stamp our brevet card.  Since sleep has hit me I didn’t want to continue without a nap. Mohan agreed to rest.

Read Day 2,3 here.

THE GRANDFONDO – 1000 BRM – HYDERABAD – PART 2

Part-1 : https://pathsandspokes.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/the-grandfondo-1000-brm-hyderabad-part-1/
Part 2 :
Lepakshi -Anantapur : ( 530- 655 km )
Small climbs welcomed me, when I resumed back. I had a banana to keep myself going. I have set myself a prize of cucumber if I could pedal further 15 kms, which is another mind game I have plotted to keep me going. As I hit the highway again, I gifted myself one more banana and when hunger was beyond my control, a cucumber. They tasted delicious.
I felt cheated by the roads.The roads which were uphill all the way were not exactly down today. They were either flat or going up. Down hills are very few. Headwinds spoiled all my downhill plots. As heat started to develop, it seemed that I burnt more calories trying to pedal fast, which made me weak and hunt for a hotel, though I felt nauseous.
One beautiful thing in south India is the availability of life saving dish – Idly. Yeah, it appeared as a treatment for much troubling nausea. I drooled over the thought of Sambar Idly, though I’m not a big fan of that combination earlier.Since I don’t feel like chewing anything, only thing I could have is Sambar Idly. They kept me going.
As I’m not pedalling faster, time is running out. Once again I’m neck to neck with next control timing. One thing I hate in brevet is finding myself at mercy of clock, which wouldn’t let me enjoy the scenery along the route. I pushed myself in the burning heat. As soon as I reached Anantapur, my eyes hunted for a ATM. Though I couldn’t find one, my eyes spotted a juice shop, where I gulped two orange drinks as fast as I can. Luckily in next centre, I found an ATM. I reached control with 25 minutes to spare.
Though, I tried to force myself, to have lunch I couldn’t swallow it. Even I couldn’t eat life saviour curd rice . As a token of gratitude, nature has shown me a coconut vendor. I gulped one and filled one litre of coconut water in my bottle, remembering advice of veteran Krishna Mandava sir.
Sun is not backing off. I felt it would be really waste of energy if I pedal in such a hot temperature.So I requested the coconut vendor if I can sleep in room behind him for one hour. That guy pointed me to other guy, who shouted on me. He told that they are a decent family and how could they let a stranger sleep in their home. I was baffled! I neither want to explain nor argue. So I slept at entrance of a closed shop beside their home.
Brevets often lead to very kind human beings. A person who is running a store beside, asked me to wake up and sleep inside his shop. Since he is going for lunch, he left the shop at my disposal, asked me to take rest and went away. I slept partially, giving much needed rest to tired body. When I woke up, he was with his son, who is looking at my bike in amazement. I bid them farewell, thanking a lot for their hospitality.
 
Anantapur- Kurnool : (655 – 796 km)
I have now around 9.5 hours to ride 141 kms till next control. It seemed very easy. I moved on drinking coconut water occasionally. Extreme heat is making me weak once again. I took multiple breaks. I pushed myself to reach in a hope to have food at Gooty, next town.
I met Col. Devinder and prakash on the way. Col, after hearing about my nausea looked in pouch for a tablet. Sadly, he couldn’t find it. He gave me his water bottle and asked me to go on. Also Prakash, helped me relieve by stretching my legs. I still felt that my muscles were arrested. I couldn’t do anything apart from cycling.
Here out of blue, I saw a cyclist riding a MTB in opposite direction. He took a U trun to ride with us.He introduced himself as Pradeep. I expressed my surprise, right on his face when he told that he is working in a bank, after graduating as Civil engineer from IIT.
He explained that, he has a hearing issue, due to which he has to be away from field and doing a silent job. I felt sad, yet proud that he is happily pedalling leaving all his troubles behind. I warned him against coming out, without a puncture kit. He accompanied me till Gooty. I enjoyed a beautiful sunset amidst all the chaos.
p_20170122_175819
Sunset before Gooty
Organisers have taken a room here for refreshment, but since it is evening already, everyone left vacating the room. I forced myself to have curd rice there. Sleep is hitting me terribly.Time is running out. I vomited entire curd rice I have taken. I lost hope, yet tried myself to push till the level I can. In uncontrollable situations, I took 5 mins power naps. When I realised that time is running out, I pedalled faster again. After a long time, I have maintained 19-20 kmph average to be awake. I remembered all the effort I have put till now, which made me not to give up. I feared that I may not be able to make it in time.
Every mile stone appeared like a angel welcoming me to heaven. My desperation increased as I’m just 9 km away from Kurnool with 40 mintues left. 5, 4, 3 my heart beat increased as my eyes searched for an ATM. I almost felt that it is end of brevet as I may not make it. Just as I pushed myself little harder, I saw an axis bank ATM. I jumped in joy, as I made it to control once again, with 20 minutes to spare at 1 am.
I ate cucumber in celebration. Over Penna river bridge , on goers stared at me in wonder as I started brushing my teeth in middle of night. I went to the 24 hotel in bus stand once again, emptied my half filled stomach to refill it once again with few Sambar Idly.
I covered myself as much as I can to protect from mosquitoes, cold and slept in open near a shop. I resumed around 4.15 am to ride, the last leg. I have around 15 hours to ride 200 km approximately. It seemed easy once again.
Kurnool – Hyderabad : (796 -1005 km)
Volunteers Rajeev, Dr. Murali and Hemath, were checking upon riders. Dr. Murali gave me a tablet ( I don’t remember it now) for nausea, and gave me Avomine just in case if it hits back. He told me nausea might be because I was dehydrated.My mind response is “Doc . but I drank already a lot of water”..but that’s a lesson for me, to hydrate much more, especially in dry weather conditions. Stocking few frooti’s and gulping one, I moved ahead. Within 15 km, I felt sleepy once again and took a long nap in Ghar dhaba.
When I woke up , I have 14 hours left with 180 km to go. I only wanted to stop for breakfast and lunch and decided not be stop anywhere else. Sadly, the food at a joint I stopped turned out to be very spicy. That guy mocked me for not being able to eat their “normal” food. My tired mind which have ridden 830/840 km got instantly pissed off. I scolded him, paid full for little food I have taken and moved away in anger. I continued till I found another decent dhaba, where I filled my tummy with lots of Idly for not stopping till lunch.
As I mentioned in beginning, headwinds are not letting me ride freely. I stopped at bus stands occasionally to pour water over myself to save from the heat. Many bus shelters have a water tank beside them,which appeared to be a boon. This activity wasted some more time. After the mandatory food break some where before Bhootpur, I was left with 100 km to cover in six hours.
Just as to make it interesting, headwinds blew very intensely. I usually want the last 100 km to be absolutely tension free, especially if it is 1000, 900-1000 is a very beautiful zone to be ride. But, headwinds made it worse. They appeared like a cruel villain, who makes hero helpless by kidnapping all family members. I know there is no other option except to maintain 16 average. I sincerely put my head down and pedal as fast as I can. I’m maintaining 16 average ,just as to survive.
Intensity of winds decreased after Shadnagar. I pushed myself very hard now, as I don;t want to miss end control after working very hard past 950 km. I pedalled like a mad guy over downward slopes to gain the valuable one minute. It was just zooming through traffic till I have hit ORR.
It was like a maze as I rode through Himayat sagar. My self and Col.Devinder were the only two guys left behind. We got confused to find road leading to APPA junction, but somehow made it. I know I can make it now. I didn’t sit on saddle for next few minutes.With tons of energy and many emotions taking over my mind, I reached end point,,once again with 25 minutes to spare.
It’s never over until it’s over.
I finished my 3rd 1000 BRM and laid a strong foundation for my LEL training.
I happily accepted the memento given by Hyderabad randonnuers. Celebrated my self by gulping a coke. Aditya was still there. We spoke a bit, and among all these I felt very inspired that Mohan has finished within 67 hours on his MTB !
p_20170123_184941
Brevet card
Epilogue :
Later, I once again celebrated in my mind and appreciated myself for not giving up. Col. Devinder gave me lift till Mehdipatnam. I walked to home from there which is just 2 km away.
After reaching home, I met those two eyes, waiting desperately to see me. My wife was very happy upon my finish. I now have answer to everyone who asked me, if I will continue cycling after marriage? She always took care that I never miss any of goals I have set for myself in endurance cycling. She made Palak rice for me, massaged my feet, kept hot water for bath and made every possible arrangement to have much needed peaceful sleep. I can never thank her enough. for everything she has done.
I pedalled as usual to office next day.
Once again – It is never over, until it’s over.
Signing off-
Sayi mera naam,
Cycle chalana mera kaam.
Strava link for ride : https://www.strava.com/activities/841674656

The Grandfondo – 1000 BRM – Hyderabad – Part 1

Some call me mad, some feel that I over do cycling , some feel that Indian roads are not safe for cycling. Yet my mind always thinks about the next ride. My mind knows that what I have achieved is just not enough ,to reach the next big goal. I have to do something to boost my confidence levels. Though my the gap between me and my bikes increased after my wedding and even I have put on ten kg extra weight, my mind didn’t back off to choose The Grandfondo 1000 in Hyderabad on 20 th January,2017  as my come back ride.
After cleaning the bikes which were covered in dust for two months, I went on two small rides of 160 km and 400 km to remind my legs that they have to pedal 1000 km. In those rides, I found that I’m terribly slow, yet to my surprise rides were finished in not very bad timings. They boosted my confidence to be at start point of brevet.
My endurance guru, Mohan advised to aim for sub 70 finish ( 75 hours is cutoff for 1000 Km brevet). I thought on a road bike it is not very tough as I took 72 hours for my previous two 1000 km brevets. Life on roads will be completely different than we always expect. As we rode along the new paths, I have lived a life which I haven’t experienced anytime before ………
To Start point and beyond :-
The 15 km ride to start point ( Mrugavani Resort) is not very strenuous. After volunteers and rest of riders arrived, start point formalities were done. Ride was flagged off and I’m there on my home – the roads. The not so sunny day combined with tail winds,adjusted our moods in highest possible level of pleasantness. Bikes are moving in a decent speed with a very minimum effort. Back in my mind, I’m already warning it, that I have to climb all of this in return with headwinds that try to demotivate me, in every possible way. A beautiful sunset assured that our moods are still high, paving way for the darkness.
I couldn’t forget the way in which I couldn’t properly sync up with Mohan in Belgaum 1000, last year June. This combined with other reason, demanded him to quit brevet. So my primary goal in this brevet is not to cross his bike at any given time. So, I just stayed behind his wheels spinning on easy gears, while he pedalled like a warrior on his MTB.
Sometimes when the wind is very favourable, I couldn’t control pedalling faster, but I managed to stay with him and Aditya, Aravind who are with us. After dinner, we rode slowly. With occasional sleep breaks, accompanied by lullabies of heavy vehicles, we reached Kurnool in the time we have nearly aimed.I’m now riding in Rayalaseema, which in movies will be portrayed as land filled with blood shedding, murders and bombs. I filled my tummy with a ghee roast and Idly at a 24 hour hotel inside bus stand. Thumping music at hotel energised my mind for a while.
I tried carrying boiled potato in this ride, which was of no use as they began to stink after sometime, so I threw them at hotel.
Kurnool- Betamcherla- Tadipatri-Anantapur :- ( 218-410 km )
After 220 Kms, body showed some tiredness and also since my tummy is full, body demanded sleep. In that semi sleep mode, we rode a decent distance hunting down for a place to take a nap. Finally after riding around 25-30 km we found the petrol bunk, Aditya has suggested. Aravind missed us here. Just to fulfil the demand of mind, though not very sleepy, we halted there. I took a nap, which helped me relive from tiredness. Another beautiful sunrise marked the beginning of challenges we have to face for the day.
As we started rolling terrain welcomed us to Betamcherla. Naveen joined us here. Marbles stone piles are scattered along both sides of road. It was filled with marble stone industries till the village. After having breakfast and using washroom offered by a good Samaritan ( Dr. Srikanth), we made a move.
The levels of pleasantness started decreasing with the entry of bad roads. Mood further deteriorated with the disappearance of tarmac. I hated the way roads welcomed me back onto endurance riding. Even the very beautiful OWK reservoir, nor the gigantic cement factory on the way to Tadipatri couldn’t lift my mood. It was different landscape all along the way. Land was being mined for stones all along the way. Larges cavities in earth formed the borders of roads. In the ever growing heat, I didn’t let my mind worry much about mining, but just concentrated on ride. Though I crossed name Belum, I couldn’t find a sign of very famous Belum caves.
p_20170121_103027
At OWK reservoir
Since it is very hot, we gulped a couple of sugandhi sodas, which relieved us to an extent. Also because, I very hungry I ate Poori’s which I got packed at Betamcherla. We manged to reach Tadipatri by lunch time , which is a also a control point ,leaving a decent buffer time. Our hunt for hotel presented us with a decent hotel serving good food. We took a nap there at hotel itself. While, myself and Aditya looked for a excuse to break, Mohan never seemed exhausted.
When we resumed back, I had to stop for buying AAA batteries for my tail light. I had to stop in between for lubing the butt and many times due to exhaustion. Heat is draining all the energy in body. Mohan and Aditya stopped for a refreshing break in middle, where I joined them for a nap. When we resumed, I couldn’t guess that is going to be the last time I see them in entire ride. I couldn’t catch up with Mohan and Aditya.
As per my brevet tradition I’m alone once again. Thoughts stirred my mind, while sleep played with my eyes. Throughout the route, I felt sad about the way this region- Rayalaseema, is portrayed in movies. While riding, I could feel just the pleasantness and beauty. While, in movies it is shown as land filled with goons, swords and bombs ! I hated the way which movies can alter facts and change opinion forever on something !
Somehow, I managed to reach Anantapuram. It was a great relief, as I’m still under my time limits of covering 400 kms within 24 hours. Since I got very hungry once again, I stopped to have Paniyaram ( Pongadalu). I saw Aditya one last time here in the ride ( not sure, where I have crossed him).
Anantapur-Lepakshi : (410-530 km)
With the joy that I’m not lagging very behind, I rode onto the Banglore highway to reach Lepakshi ( U turn point). It is gradually climbing terrain all the way up there. Volunteers – Bharath, Rajeev and Venu sir greeted me
along the way. As it is getting darker, body demanded rest and more sleep.I took occasional naps. I’m not sure if its sodas, I have consumed earlier in the day or if it is the mistake I did now, to consume raw coffee power for being awake – things terribly back fired on me. I felt nauseous. I felt like puking. I tried to empty stomach with a loo , but it too didn’t work out. I was not hungry either.
Yet, since I was warned that getting food further is difficult, I forced my self to have a chapati and packed a couple of them. While resuming from a sleep break, I met Naveen once again. We spoke and rode for sometime. Ride appeared easy with tailwinds supporting me, while I felt it is difficult because of sleep. We took sleep breaks till the time , further which we will not be able to reach control in time. Also since I was not stretching properly all along, my sore muscles were arrested whenever I rested giving me a great trouble whenever I resumed. At times, I had to wake up in same position as I slept, else my legs won’t move and cause a great pain !
In such hard times of never ending climbs, a great joy filled my mind, when I finally took the turn towards Lepakshi. This road is terribly rolling. While stars formed my roof, thick trees formed the walls, I rode in the house of darkness in search of my destin(ation)y. I loved the dogs along the way sleeping without bothering about the cyclists on roads. As a thumb rule of brevet psychology, the more closer we get to a control point, the farther it appears. If not for mile stones, it would have been felt like an eternity.
Finally around 2.30 am I have reached control at Lepakshi. I always wanted to visit ths place, but sad that it turned out to be the odd hour.Bharath welcomed me with a sugandi soda. Since I’m feeling nauseous , I thought soda might help, me clear stomach and the puking feeling. After taking a hot water bath, clearing the stomach, I slept for an hour. Rajeev and Venu sir, woke me up very punctually at time I have mentioned. As soon as I got ready, I vomited soda and banana I have consumed !
Many riders let by now, with just Devinder and Prakash left behind.
Uncertain about how to proceed further as I felt very weak, I carried a couple of bananas and cucumber to move on. I didn’t want to give up. I felt that this ride is the foundation I’m laying for LEL, so I cannot abandon it halfway. With lot of hunger ,yet helpless.. I started pedalling again hoping for a better today.