Minimalist shoes/barefoot run comparison

I ran from Koramangala St Johns Ground towards EGL Domlur on Wednesday. Towards the end of my run, I found it difficult. Even though the foot landing felt okay, I felt that my forefeet/paws were badly constrained by the shoes and felt a bit of a pain both on my fore feet and my calves. So I stopped, took the shoes off and ran (carrying the shoes in my hand) just for a short while. I immediately felt much more comfortable.
Link to my workout, with shoes
Link to my workout, sans shoes
The second run was far too short, but keep in mind was that the only break i took was to simply take off my shoes, and for both runs I was trying to maintain an easy comfortable pace.
An speed of 5:23 min/km as opposed to around 6:02 min/km to me at least suggests that my speed barefoot is much better than with the shoe I wore.
The oxylane shoes I wore

The Saalumarada brevet

A quick short writeup about the upcoming 200km ride. The title Salumarada should be a dead giveaway to the folks that know its meaning, and even better, its significance. The word means ‘A row of trees’, and not just any row of trees. The route passes through a stretch of 4km Banyan tree s a little off the Nelamangala Hassan highway. What is significant is that this entire stretch has been made possible due to the efforts of one person. You can read about that person here.

Saalumarada Thimmakka
or here
A childless couple transform a highway

You get to see the significance of the stretch when you pass the town of Hulikal. Suddenly the sun shines down on you ;( Allow me a moments pause as I salute the spirit of a lady who has shown what an Aam aadmi can do — before the term became embedded in the public subconscious.

The route starts from BTM layout , goes towards Ramnagara, where you take a detour towards Magadi. At this point you start forgetting the hustle bustle and pollution of Bangalore, and start soaking in the greenery and the scenery. Continue to Magadi past the monolith of Savanadurga and continue from Magadi towards Kunigal. You take a deviation from the Magadi-Kunigal route towards Kudur which is on the other side of the Nelamangala Hassan highway. Soon after you cross the highway you reach the town of Kudur , after the Kudur bypass begins the row of trees. the stretch ends at the house of Thimmakka-Ajji (as she is called lcoally)in Hulikal. You continue on to the town of Tumkur and return via NH4, ending the ride in the IISc canteen gate

Highlights of the ride
1) I’ve highlighted a 4km stretch in the middle of the ride. But there is lot of greenery throughout.
2) Starts and ends on highway sections. Lots of greenery in between.
3) Passes through the town of tumkur. Lunch options
4) final stretch is the scenic highway of NH4 , the same stretch as the master brevets.
5) No killer climbs here.(Subjective)

Turn right at Ramnagara, towards Magadi

Turn right at Ramnagara, towards Magadi

Ramnagara - Magadi stretch  -- Start drooling

Ramnagara – Magadi stretch — Start drooling

Ramnagara - Magadi stretch  -- Its real

Ramnagara – Magadi stretch — Its real

Crossing the Nelamangala - Hassan highway

Crossing the Nelamangala – Hassan highway

More within the Banyan stretch

The Banyan stretch

More within the Banyan stretch

The Banyan stretch

More within the Banyan stretch

The Banyan stretch

Thimmakka-Ajji's residence , after the Banyan stretch

Thimmakka-Ajji’s residence , after the Banyan stretch

Beautiful late , after Hulikal

Beautiful late , after Hulikal

Control -- Tumkur Town

Control — Tumkur Town

Bangalore-Ranebennur-Bangalore 600k ride

Prologue :
After having botched up two 600′s (The 1st one before I really got a hang of brevets, the sleeplessness ,etc) (The 2nd one due to mechanical failure ), I decided to go ahead with the Ranebennur 600. Of course I wanted to do the 400 and the 200 as well but could not find the time. As luck would have it, I still managed to goof up. I tried to fix the broken derailleur hanger for my Btwin Sport 1. as luck would have it, the part is not easily available.So I had to choose between two options, ride my MTB or borrow/rent a road bike. Nalla had agreed to loan his BTwin and Rafi had agreed to give me his lights. Again, circumstances contrived to create a situation where i could not get these well in time, so I would have had to make a trip to WhiteField and Malleswaram the day before the ride. Pradeep Naidu graciously offered to loan me his Bianchi for the ride, God bless him! Of course, there was drama here as well. I don’t use cleats, and we could not change pedals easily, so off I went to BOTS , and Rohan helped me change the pedals, and adjusted the seat to my liking (Of course he was more than a little surprised by how I ride , my seat position — the way I ride is not what you hear typically from the pros. I tilt my seat a little forward and never really fully rest on my seat — This means more pressure on my shoulders but less on my perineum and buttocks — not the officially recommended way of riding, but the way I ride). So fixing the height ,seat etc meant I reached home at around 10:30 pm. I had to spend the next two hours getting my bicycle for the early morning ride. The whole idea of riding a road bike was to chop off a few hours , and finish early, something as I would discover doesn’t work if you don’t get enough sleep.

Start of the ride/sleepathon
I rode at 2:15am  with Parag to the starting point, the old Citibank building where all our master brevet rides have begun. We started at around 3:15 am. Sandeep mentioned that Saturday would be cloudy with chances of rain on Sunday, and to be prepared for headwinds on the return. Me and Parag rode at a steady pace and reached 50km in about two hours. Somewhere after that I went ahead of Parag, don’t remember why, i possibly had started dosing off and was too focused on not falling asleep that I did not realize i was not riding with him. Luckily i found a kamat on the road along the road.The Kamat was closed but an adjoining CCD (Cafe Coffee day) was open 24 hours. Ther were three people sitting on the porch outside having their pre-breakfast meal and Coffee. i went inside , had a quick crash, drank a coffee to refresh myself. I had parked my cycle outside leaning against the wall. After having used the restroom I came out , stretched and noticed that a bunch of monkeys were eating the leftovers of the group that was eating outside. the CCD manager assured me that the monkeys were not aggressive. I happenned to discuss with another patron about the monkeys at Nandi, who tend to be very aggressive. However, when I went out I would discover that 5 satchets of Gatorade were missing, ripped off by the monkeys. The bike was still well balanced. Nimble thieves!

The monkeys that love sports drinks

The monkeys high on Caffeine and sports drinks

I proceeded ahead , and was riding alone till some point where I saw one rider waving at me from a shop. A little ahead I caught up with Parag , Sylvester who had just waved to me caught up. We took a break before Hiriyur to down some bananas, and I grabbed a few chewing gums to stop from drooping off to sleep. I had a constant niggle on my left hamstring that increased in intensity from km80 till I reached Hiriyur (km 175). Parag and Sylvester went ahead at some point. We reached Hiriyur after 11, After getting ATM slips (where i caught up with Parag and Sandeep), I shopped for a snack in a bakery and a clothstore for a big hanky to cover my head and ears in the rather hot sun. Its amazing how hot the sun bears down on you on the open highway even in the middle of winter. Sandeep told me they would stop at a place to eat so i just cycled ahead, and found them waiting at a dhaba at the edge of town. 6 of us were there Karthik, Sylvester, Sandeep, Parag, Sohan and me. Missing were Ratnaveer and Ravindra. We spent a lot of time there , 4 of them went off, Karthik hung back with me while I went off to answer’s nature’s call. I pretty much rode with Karthik for the rest of the journey(except at some points).
After we went off, we spotted Ratnaveer for the first time in a hotel off the road. Goal was to reach midway by 6 or so, but the heat was quite difficult. Karthik flagged me for a sleep break. I tried to follow suit but the flies made my life miserable. He was too tired to bother about the flies (or as he told me later – they were painful at first but after a few minutes i got used to the flies sitting on my face)
There were some shepherds in the vicinity, they bombarded me with the usual questions
1) Where are you from? – Bangalore
2) Where are you headed – Ranebennur
3) Do these tyres contain air? – yes , it is just that we put a lot of pressure in them.
4) When did you start? – 3 am.
5) Is this a race ? – No, it is just a tour.
yada, yada, yada, yada. ..

i started off leaving a fully asleep Karthik, who caught up with me in some time. With 50 odd km to go for Ranebennur it got a little tough. Even though tailwinds were on our side (discovered by the fact that we didn’t smell a few decomposing carcasses of dogs on the road as we were approaching them, but could sniff them well after we passed them, maybe upto 50m+ or more) The last 25 odd km felt like forever . We were cycling in darkness now and the road was not so great. In addition, on the outskirts of Ranibennur there are some polluting factories which give out a horrid stench. The town comes after an 8km detour from the highway. Once we reached town, we tried looking for the others. I called up Sandeep to ask him about the control and his whereabouts to realize we came before them. Sylvester meanwhile popped up in front of us. The 3 of us waited for the rest. Ratnaveer had also joined the gang. So we had a full house minus Ravindra. Karthik and I took a snooze after the dinner, to me it looked that Karthik managed a good sleep,I barely slept for 5 mins but that did help me recover a bit. I had a very light dinner, just two jowar rotis.
I learnt that in North Karnataka, when they say Roti, they mean Jawar Roti. While sitting down to eat,the server asked me what I would prefer – Roti or Chappathi, I was flummoxed. I started at him – What do you mean? What is the difference. His response : Roti is made from Jowar. Ahhh, okay.

The never ending night and sleeplessness
Sylvester and me went ahead to have a coffee on the highway. The rest of the folks went ahead and waited at a Dhaba after a toll booth. As Sylvie and I were riding , I stopped to check my rearlights and my cue sheet, my money , my mobile etc. It took me a while to fix my rear light again. Meanwhile in the distance I saw a train. In the open plains, when it is dark, looking at the outline of a train in the distance feels wonderful, its a nice little sight. I waited for the train to get out of sight before I started. I caught up with Sylvester and Karthik, who informed me that the rest had gone ahead. Soon enough, it was quite apparent that the sleep i managed at dinner was not enough, and i kept drifting off. Sylvester wanted to continue riding and looked for a Dhaba to refresh. i sighted a cafe coffee day hoarding in the distance, and i could sense confused looks from them. It turned out to be an Indian Oil petrol bunk — my mind had begun playing tricks.Soon I could go on no more, Karthik wanted to stop and sleep as well. We used the barrier on top of a culvert to lean back and sleep.
Either at this point, or just before the next ‘sleep-off’ , we asked Sylvester to go ahead. ‘Asked’ of course, is a mild word. He was pretty much told that if he stuck with us( As i would discover during the remaining of the night, Karthik was in far worse shape than me), he had a pretty realistic chance of missing the brevet. I told him that, for the moment, my goal was simply surviving the night and go ahead as much as possible, but i was not in a position to fight sleep. Poor thing , one should have seen his face. He was oh.. so looking forward to good company at night, what he had was a couple of drunkards who were delirious without a drop of alcohol. He went off ahead and we slept. After the 1st or the 2nd sleepover we discovered a Dhaba with a charpoy. The Dhaba owner let us sleep. I suggested we share the bed but soon saw a broken leg propped by a flimsy plastic chair. Karthik graciously agreed to sit and sleep, i was thankful. My lower back was quite badly inflammed and I wanted to sleep on my stomach , arching my back for the 40 mins or so of sleep. Once I got up , my back was much better and I woke up Karthik after some stretching. A tea each later, we left. Only to fall asleep maybe after 15 mins or so. We could continue in this mode , sleep for a while , ride for a while. Amazingly we could not ride more than 15-20 mins at a time. Maybe checking into a lodge would have been better but the danger of a good bed is that you would really sleep , then miss the next control. At many points, I would go ahead (even though I was not pedalling hard), and would see that i had left Karthik behind. Karthik told me not to wait for him, but that didn’t feel right, many times I caught him wobbling at the wheel, and cycling in such a state at night definitely seemed risky, esp with traffic still around. Just when we reached the final climb before Chitradurga, we told each other that we would clear it in one go. And we managed(or we didn’t, was too dazed to remember). But what I did rememeber is that I was surprised when we reached the entrance into Chitradurga. At this point Karthik suggested we go through the city. I wasn’t quite hungry , and I had some emergency food (Chikkis and dates). He started detailing how cycling through the city would be easier with less climbs. I was a little surprised, since even though the bypass was longer, it being the highway we would be faster. That was when he dropped the bomb. He told me he was quitting. i was surprised , since this was the guy who completed 1200km in less than 70 hours with three nights of sleeplessness. i guess everyone has his or her bad day. He apparently had made up his mind around Davangere.

The final solo-ride:
This incident jolted me out of my stupor and I rode ahead. I hoped to carry on, but about 2-3 km on the bypass i again drooped off. So located a stone on the side and sat and slept. I was a little irritated that the bypass had not ended and i had not left the city area. Oh well, I decided i’ll sleep over it. When I woke up i saw that i had actually gone a little ahead of the other end of the city. From here to Hiriyur was mostly downhill. Karthik had left me at about 5:30 or so, and it was now nearly 6. i wanted to try and make it by 7:30 (The control closed at around 9am). That would give me buffer for the end – control. I managed to clock good speed now, it was daybreak and the minimal light meant maximal energy for my pedalling. I used my strength to push ahead, I again felt sleepy somewhere near Aimangala (25km to go), i again found a stone . Nothing like a stone for a stoned person for rest. 8 mins of sleep and i was off again.( I was checking my watch now, as I wanted to speed up). Finally I managed to do a final dash to the city, found Sylvester outside an ATM. Went in, and took the slip, I had made it at 7:17 am , felt relieved for the 1st time in this brevet. I knew I would make it now even with lack of sleep. If nothing else , I knew I could do it Dhoni ishtyle, crawl crawl and just preserve enough energy for one burst. During my adrenaline fuelled trip from Chitradurga to Hiriyur, I was hoping to continue riding fast home after stopping at the ATM. But the moment I came out of the ATM, my legs felt week and I became unsteady – proof that I needed fuelling and I needed a rest, Sylvester went ahead. I stretched and followed suit and took a breat at Surya hotel (my usual eating joint in Hiriyur). Had a decent meal and rest and I was off again.
I gathered over the phone from Sohan that Sandeep and Parag were ahead followed by Sohan and Dharmane. The heat during the day made riding difficult, I wanted to ride fast. First just before the 500km mark, I felt too tired and had to sleep on the side of the road under a tree, using my bike as a (clumsy) shield from the oncoming traffic barely sitting 2 feet off the traffic. I took about 4-5 powernap breaks during the day. Once I took a rest off the road, there was a truck parked on the side. The truck driver came up to me and shot a few questions.
Truck Driver : I saw you in the morning near Chitradurga, amazed you made it so fast here, I just came here a while ago
Me : You’ll find quite a few leisure cyclists like me in Bangalore. We enjoy cycling long distances.
TD : Where are you coming from?
Me : To Ranebennur and back?
TD : How much is that? When did you go? When are you expected back?
Me : Started yesterday (Saturday) 3am and have to be back before 7pm tonight. I expect to make it before 5.
He went on to get his mobile and took a couple of photographs of me.
Me : Where are you from?
TD : Gwalior
Me : That is far. Where are you headed?
TD : Bangalore
Me : That should take about 5 days?
TD : 5,sometimes 6.
Me : What do you transport?
TD : Well, I am a truck driver? I transport whatever goods I am given
Me : I know that , I mean what are the goods you normally transport
TD : Biscuits, Brittania biscuits make their way here from Gwalior
Me : See, thanks to you I learnt something knew today

He smiled, after a few minutes, I got up and bid him bye. The talk had refreshed me, this time I didn’t need sleep. I had borrowed Pradeep’s bike for the ride, and he told me that the front gear stays high all the time, I would not be able to change it down. Believing him, I never tried to lower it during the ride. However the climbs about 20km before Tumkur made me want to try and change it, even if it meant manually doing it. I didn’t want to stand up and pedal that stretch, with a sore knee. And of course, the gears worked. I could downshift and upshift :) Never believe what someone says at face value :) The next event was that I started feeling sleepy with 50 km to go. The last time I drank Coke was at a shop in Dobbspet 40km before endpoint to help me fuel the last stretch. I did the same today. Of course, it did not work. About 7-8km before the Nelamangala toll I dropped off to sleep again, and had to find a clean place to sit under a tree to sleep off. Really surprised because normally your last few km are easily boosted by adrenalin, but today was not to be. But I was riding the last 50km moderately hard. I passed Ratnaveer on the uphill just before the (Nelamangala – Yeshwantpur) expressway toll plaza. Reached the ATM at 5:24 and went to the CCD where JP and Sandeep and Sohan were waiting.
I asked about Sylvester, I was told that he was behind. Sohan then mentioned how excited he was after catching up with them before Hiriyur. I told him about our sojourns the previous night and Sylvie’s disappointment on seeing two drunkards instead of two riders and the realization that he had to do it alone at night ;)

Finally there was some discussion on the toughness of this route . We all agreed that the Tristate was tougher but while i was/am sure that the june ride is tougher , here is an interesting piece. While 8 out of 10 finished this brevet (and the percentage was about 4 out o f 10-12 riders  finished the 600k back then,  the lone rider for both brevets (Parag) took about 90 minutes longer now.

https://brevetmgr.appspot.com/brevet/june2013-600/results

http://brevetmgr.appspot.com/brevet/nov2013-ranebennur/results

After some chit-chat, a coffee and some rest, I went home. Of course I managed to ride fast home despite the traffic (surprising on a Sunday). After I reached home, wifey remarks – Chiddu your eyes are bloodshot.
Me : What did you expect? I haven’t had proper sleep for about 60+ hours now.

Finally happy that I managed to complete a 600, something that seemed jinxed over the past 2 years. Even though I targetted an early morning Sunday return, at the end I was more than happy that despite serious sleeplessness I managed to pull through 600km. In fact, on this ride I struggled to focus from the word go! And finally, glad that I kicked my ennui and kick-started my brevet seasion with a 600. Looking forward to riding more this season.

The AK-BCB auto pilot ride

A bunch of riders , and rather a big bunch , is riding to Mysore on the 21st Sep(Saturday). It started with a mail from Anil Kadsur

We are riding to Mysore via Kanakapura Road. The ongoing journey is expected to be relaxed ,and we’ll be taking breaks and riding.  The return ride is probably going to be a brisk affair, given that most folks would be wishing to return home early.

The ride features folks who have done longish brevet riders as well as folks who are doing 100+km the first time. We’ll have MTBs, hybrids and road bikes. You never know, we might even have single speed riders.

Poster for the AK-BCB ride

Poster for the AK-BCB ride

  1. Some body (anonymous to me so far) has made up a nice poster for the ride.

Please make sure that you have the following for the ride :

  • A cycle to ride. Its a cycle ride, so it makes sense to ride on one
  • Yourself (or whoever else is going to be riding the cycle)
  • Spare tubes/puncture kit – Its a long ride , you need to be able to fix pnctures.
  • A relaxed mind (There are going to be 100+ people on the ride)
  • A reflective jacket
  • Front headlights
  • Rear lights
  • The above three are all the more important if you plan to ride back.

Flashback :  Back then, in the year 2009 (which sounds really ancient now) , we used to ride every month in what was then called the monthly BBC long ride. Our chief mentor, chief publicist and chief motivating officer , Shri Yogesh Rao would be at it from the beginning of the month plotting a big ride in the country side near Bangalore, and I would be a willing accomplice. To have an idea of how far back 2009 was, picture this. We did not have BRM (brevet) rides in India then. Yes, it was that ancient. In fact none of the cyclists in Bangalore knew about the PBP ride. There were no registrations, no homologations, and a distance of 250 odd km was considered a massive ride back then. Of course we have progressed a lot now, and we know a ride to Mysore and back is at best a day sojourn.

But hey, wait, if the last paragraph intimidated you as a novice rider , relax. That was just me being wicked.  You’ll also get there one day. Seriously there are enough riders of all capabilities riding on that day, so you should be able to find a handful of people who will ride at your pace. And a few of us ( me included) will be sharing our phone numbers, so you don’t get lost. (Again, difficult to get lost , since we are going in a  straight line)

Spread this post far and wide, and ask interested folks to join. Simply show up to ride, no registrations needed. Or just stay put somewhere in the middle of Kanakapura Road at 6 am on Saturday. The thundering train of 100 riders might just sweep you off your feet wheel.

What’s with the name?

BCB stands for Bangalore  - Chamundi – Bangalore . As the name suggests, the folks who are riding back are very religious and they will do a Parikrama of the temple on their cycle before heading back to Bangalore.

AK – Anil Kadsur. The ride was conceived by Anil Kadsur, the original barefoot runner and cyclist in Bangalore. And so the name.

Auto – pilot ?: The route here is really remarkable. Even theough the distance is about 300 km , you just have to break it down into sections to realize that most of it can almost be done on Auto Pilot. We can divide the route into the following sections

  1.  Bangalore – Harohalli : Mostly Downhill I’ve seen most newbies ace this section in 1 hr 15 mins.
  2. Harohalli  : Kanakapura  Rolling terrain Not as easy as the previous section but not very diffcult either , a bit of rolling. 18km distance, and we are at our breakfast point
  3.  Kanakapura – Sathanur  Rolling terrain This section can feel a little difficult but the scenery makes up for it. Vast expanse of beautiful open terrain
  4. Sathanur – Halguru – Malavalli : Downhill Not downhill as you are tumbling down a mountain, but a gentle downhill throughout , minimal pedalling effort , you are chatting with your riding mates ,and boom you are in Malavalli
  5. Malavalli – Bannur : 20km of almost flat terrain . And a canopy throughout.
  6. Bannur – Mysore : Uphill  But you are nearly there now, and it is not steep uphill, but steady relentless uphill needing you to pedal constantly.

The way back is similar: You make it to Ramnagara , it is downhill, almost downhill throughout, and now you have only 50km to go to reach Bangalore. Your homing instinct kicks in, and voila , you are home.

A bit of detail on the plan for the actual day

Here is a rough plan that we have chalked out.

We’ll divide ourselves into three distinct groups.

1) Folks who will ride both ways , same day
2) Folks who will ride one way, return by bus same day
3) Folks will ride one way, stay overnight and return the next day.

Within these groups, there will be sub groups based on speed. It will be difficult to go into too much detail here , but basically on the day of the ride, try to find a group which rides approximately at your pace , and try to stick with them. I’ll (and a few others) will share our phone numbers, so you can ping us for co-ordination.

For groups (2) and (3), I would presume that it would be okay for you guys to reach Mysore even late in the evening. Abhay Kerur has made a list to get an idea of how many need transport on the way back, a separate exercise will have to be undertaken to finalize that by the interested parties.  The rest of the mail below is going to assume that you are going to ride back the same day.

We plan to reach Kanakapura around 8- 8:30 , have breakfast and leave by 9 am. We expect people to take shorter quick brakes on the way for quick bananas, refill etc. We expect most riders to reach around  1 to 3 pm. That is between 7 to 9 hours from the start, and should be more than enough time to cover the distance (especially if you are targeting the return leg). (Of course a fast group can reach around 11:30 – 12:30 as well but we don’t need to worry about them , they will be probably okay )  I plan to ride up Chamundi via the road that goes by the Nandi (this is the shortest and the most challenging route,and also a very peaceful road with a bit of shade, and walkers ),. There are two other routes – the most common being via the main road taken by the buses.

Folks who simply plan to go to Mysore and back (without the climb) can be a bit more relaxed and come later (still before 3). We can probably meet for lunch at around 3 or so – no venue planned for now, but how about the hotel where the rest are going to stay, is that feasible? I mean we will be a massive gang.

For now, we’ll start the return leg before 4 pm, and we should be back home around 10:30 – 11 pm.

PS : A bunch of 10-15 riders will be joining us from Mysore , they will ride towards Bangalore  , meet us enroute and ride back towards Mysore with us. We plan to round of the Bangalore Mysore segment with a ride around the city.

PPS : Abhay Kerur has made a Google Doc to get a list of folks who need to be transported back
Roster for return transportation

PPPS : The ride has got real big now. We have 100+ confirmations and it is very likely that a big lot will show up just on the day of the ride.

PPPPS: Follow the original thread in BBC Ongoing discussion thread on the trip

Update on 20th Sep  :

There are a bunch of folks who will not have the time to ride the entire distance, they are planning to ride till Kanakapura/Sathanur and ride back. This is in addition to the roughly 118 who have confirmed so far. Another bunch of riders are meeting us midway from Mysore and riding back to Mysore with us.

Its a self supported ride : Remember, it is  a self-supported ride , there is no official support vehicle. You and your riding buddies are on your own,but of course, we’ll form an informal support network as we go along and help each other. The groups will de-facto separate on the riders’ speeds and we request riders of similar pace to stick with each other. There are enough villages on the way to relax but there are stretches of 10km or so where you may not find any meaningful shops. 

Shreyas’s Tips , copied from the BBC Thread :

Having done the route quite a few times, I can share a few experiences.

• If you are cramping, you have lost too much salts. Please keep yourselves well hydrated with electrolytes and additional salts if needed. Particularly in the afternoon.
• Take longer breaks around noon to avoid the heat. This means smaller breaks in the morning
• Carry as little as possible. Whatever can be bought enroute can be bought in instalments. Don’t carry unnecessary weight.
• Please carry spare tubes. Fixing punctures will remain an option once you run out of your spare tubes. It slows you down and unless you are riding alone, others as well
• Ride with partners (old or new found) as far as possible. Accommodate some changes in pace. It’s a long ride and you will love the company later.
• Don’t draft vehicles. It’s not illegal, but very dangerous.
• Carry rain gear. Though there’s green house effect, your sweat is not cold enough to cause a fever.
• Not my line, but here goes “look how far you’ve come before you decide to quit”.
• If you’re coming back by bus, get some pieces of carton and local jute rope to fasten your bikes to the Volvo chassis.

My maiden half marathon run at the SCMM2013

I’ve been pretty lazy in my blogging of late. Have a couple of blogs partially written up but haven’t had the chance (or motivation) to finish them. Given the freshness of the just completed HM, I thought I might just do a quick write up and be done with it. My thought earlier this year was to do multiple 10k and get as close to the 50min mark as possible before attempting a HM. But when the registration opened, I was based out of Pune and the temptation was too good to resist. I decided to register and motivate myself to run the distance. While I continued to run over the past few months, there were only 3 instances where I ran a distance of at least 10k at a good speed. In short, I really did not try to keep a proper training schedule but just tried to run frequently, sometimes slow, sometimes steady, but never too fast. I just tried to run hard once in a few days. To gauge my preparedness, I ran 20.93 km early November , and managed it in about 1:52:31. Of course this was on flatland( multiple rounds of my apartment block), but I hoped that race-day adrenalin would power me that extra bit. Some unfortunate events and lots of food over the next couple of months meant I was anything but in shape for the 1st HM of my life. ( I ran the 25k during Bangalore Ultra 2010, but that was more of an exploratory participation where I took it really easy and only pushed myself for the last 5 km and finished in about 3:22:13). This was my serious attempt at running a HM distance at a steady pace.
Really devoid of serious race preparation, I ran 10k on Pongal day in about 54 minutes, and found the going a bit tough. Tried to follow a frugal eating pattern from the 16th accompanied by a heavy meal on the 19th evening, as a carb-loading exercise. On 17th night, I badly twisted my left leg, and hurt at least till I slept that night. The next day morning I decided to try out a short run after strapping up my left ankle, and was surprised I could do it without real pain. I kept working on the knee for the next day till the pain eased out a bit. No real work outs till the race morning, other than the travel to the World Trade Center Expo to collect my running day stuff. On the race morning, I felt comfortable enough to run without the crepe bandage. (Past experience has taught me that a crepe bandage or a supportive device helps protect the injured part, it tends to limit cirulation in other muscles, leading to cramps. – I knew my calf or hamstring would cramp earlier than usual if I strapped up my left ankle, so I gave it a miss).
I went to the venue along with a friend who was participating in the HM. Wanting to limit the weight I carried, I did not carry my phone. I was armed with 3 satchets of Gatorade , and a 1/2 liter sipper filled with Gatorade at the start, along with a satchet of GU Gel. I ran wearing my Go Green bike jersey to hold these things in my back pocket comfortably. I also carried an mp3 player for some musical distraction if required. The Garmin fever hadn’t got on to me as yet, and I used to run many regular road runs using the Endomondo app on my Nokia lumia 800.
I reached the front holding section (A) at around 5:10 or so after taking a loo break. There was serious chill in the morning, and at 5:25 or so , decided to head back to use the bathroom one more time before taking up my position.But the lines were too darn long, so I came back. I wasn’t desparate but considered it a precaution before starting the run, so as not to overfill my bladder in the middle of the run while trying to keep myself hydrated. But it was too late for that, and as I went back, I noticed that the holding lines were taken away by the organizers and C and B section folks had spilled close to the starting block. I coaxed my way into a position close to the starting block. So when the starting block was sounded off, it did not take me long to be free of folks around me. On the HM, the Sea-link emerges into view within a few 100 meters, and I think around the 1st km mark we reached the sea-link.The sea-link start was slighly uphill followed by a plateau and then followed by a slight descent onto Worli. I think by the time we were done with the Sea-link it must have been about 5+km and the early morning darkness had not yet lifted. But the 1st sign of spectators as we took the left turn from the sea link. Even though I did not have a timer with me, I was conscious of running close to 5min/km,possibly slightly slower. I was listening to songs on my mp3 player and roughly had an idea of the song lengths. I was running at a pace that needed me to push a bit, but not too much. I was simply basing it on my previous runs where I felt I had too much mojo left at the end of the run, and could push things a little bit in the early part of the race.
Once we crossed the bridge, it was all flat till we crossed Mahalaxmi and headed towards Malabar Hill.  The 1st stretch was a huge loop which ended at around the 9.3km mark. As I approached the U turn, I could feel myself tiring a little, I had emptied close to 1 liter of Gatorade by the time I crossed the 10km mark, and reached out for the GU gel that I carried with me. I kept sipping it for a while along with water for a while. I could sense myself slowing down a little. I decided to not take it too easy, and still tried to maintain a steady pace. But I could make out that I was slowing down as I could see that the number of people who were going past me had increased to more than a trickle now. I think as we crossed the Haji Ali area, I started cramping up a little, but still kept pushing on. When we reached the Peddar road flyover, I kept going up at a steady pace, conscious not to relax too much. I let myself go to the extent possible at the downhill after that. I think around the 16km mark, I was conscious of some serious cramping sensation on my left leg. I guess, the injury had forced me (automatically) to use up my calf and thigh muscles more to compensate for the injured ankle.I could feel my quads really stiffen up, and when I tried to look at my running, it was obvious I was no longer running with a balanced even gait. Whenthe 2nd uphill came ( I think around Walkeshwar) , I found it a task to push up without slowing down too significantly. When I started off the race, I was hoping to keep some mojo till the 16th km and try and accelerate after that, reasoning that even if I got exahusted by the 19th or 20th km I would just pull through, giving me the best chance of a good finish. But it was obvious now that it would be a struggle to simply maintain a good pace.
Somewhere near Haji Ali, I saw another barefoot runner overtake me. I think this was the first time on the day that I saw another barefoot runner. I didn’t meet anybody during the start of the run.
As I neared km number 18 , around Charni Road railway station, I realized that the number of people who were overtaking was swelling by the minute. And on top of that, there was this elderly gent, who seemed to be leading a group. Every now and then he used to run backwards, and I was shocked that I could not match his pace even when he was running backwards. My body started telling me to give up and walk for a while. But I knew that if I stopped for even an instance, I would stiffen up and would struggle to come back to even the niggardly pace I was managing now. A little further down the road, a young boy, maybe in his late teens or early 20s started walking, and I realized that my running pace was close to his walking pace. My thoughts went out to Manjula doing her 300 co-synchronous with my 1000k cycling effort, and her complaint of me, Open and Deepak racing past her.
As we ended the Marine Lines stretch, the km count went past 19 and we took the left turn past Churchgate railway station, I knew I was in the final stretch to VT, and tried to motivate myself. I put on my music player again, to try and extract some motivation and pump myself up using the beats. By this time, my left leg was a certified log. As I saw the mark that said 1000 meters to go, I forced myself to push up a little bit, and scanned the runners ahead to spot one slow enough for me to pace myself. Found one such person, who had overtook me about a km or two ago. I narrowed the gap between us and now 200m or so was left. As the final turn approached, I was scared to see the digital clock at the finish, thinking it would be well past the 2 hour mark. But to my surprise it showed a little more than 1:56. I summoned whatever strength I could and made one final dash ( if I could call it that – a speed that I would normally associate with a hopelessly overweight mass of protoplasm pushing ahead using its inefficient propulsion engine was today a sprint speed for me). As I crossed the finish line, I mentally eased out and realized I didn’t even have the strength to stand uup, made my way to the side and just lay down on my back for a few seconds to regain my breath.

Left leg stretched forward,dead straight

Left leg stretched forward,dead straight

Right leg ahead, bent at the knees

Right leg ahead, bent at the knees

As I got up, my lower body infrastructure, especially my left leg , had completely ossified. I made my way to the open holding area in Azad Maidan, trundled my way to one of the mobile restrooms. They had put these up on elevated platforms, and climbing up and down was a challenge. I came back, and decided to try and wait to see if I could catch a familiar face, I couldn’t. I met Chetan Bhagat (the author) sitting with a couple of other runners, I plonked down next to them and chatted for a few minutes. After that, I headed out slowly.
I got out of Azad Maidan slowly, and it was another major exercise to find my way onto VT station. There was one narrow lane and a huge crowd was headed in the opposite direction. By the time I figured out the way to the subway and reached the station it must have been well past 9. The train was quite empty, and met another runner who was getting down at Bhandup. He was 47 years old, and quite unhappy that his timing had gone down from 2:05 to 2:25 or so, with a sore knee. As is my wont, I advised him to try and transition into a barefoot runner.
My final timing was 1:57:23 with a gun timing of 1:57:30. There must have been a time differential between the start point and end point digital clocks, accounting for the difference. Hopefully I’ll train better for my next run, losing some weight, and getting into a better rhythm for longer runs. But at the end of the day, if someone had told me that I would finish my first HM in less than 2 hours, I would have taken it, so I do go home happy, my timing cribs notwithstanding.

It has been 3 days now, and I am still ‘limping back to normal’. A friend, Firoza shared the following video on Facebook,  I can’t emphasize how much I empathize with the folks in the video right now :)

Night riding tips

Before you read the following, please be warned that the following are essentially based on my experiences. Your experience might be slightly (or drastically) different, but a large part of my experiences and the experiences of my cyling friends seem to overlap. But in general, it helps if you ride regularly at night, its even better if you have regular ride partners that share your passion for night riding and match you closely in terms of riding speed.

Some pointers for a night ride:

  • Try and get as much sleep the night before the night you ride. If possible , knock off some sleep in the afternoon before you ride. It will help you stay fresh longer and ride longer with less sleep deprivation (Common-sensical point, but still worth a mention)
  •  Get used to riding at night *before* you get into a situation where you have to ride at night. Riding on a highway with nothing/nobody for company in pitch blackness, with only your headlight guiding you, interspersed by a speeding vehicle whooshing you by followed by extended periods of silence and darkness can be disconcerting, *especially* if you are not used to it. It can feel really creepy. Get used to it,you’ll actually learn to enjoy it.
  • Riding on Indian roads, you are never sure where the next pothole is going to come from. You might have been riding on 200km of awesome tarmac, and out of nowhere be greeted by a crater that would put the moon to shame. You have to stay alert while riding at night, at all times.
  • It is very difficult to get a sense of how fast you are going. During the day time you have a much better sense because of the surroundings. On a pitch dark night, on the highway where both sides are largely open, it takes time to get a sense of how fast you are going. You probably get it after some time, but the first time you ride at night, chances are , you may not be able to guess your speed. Over time, you probably get a sense of the speed by correlating your effort and the gradient and headwinds. A visual sense is tough to get , even after riding regularly.
  • Make sure you have powerful headlights with you, and a spare light for looking around, focusing on your tyre if you end up with a puncture , etc. Also ride with a tail light and be sure to wear a reflective jacket when you ride at night. You should have enough visibility in front to ride comfortably at a pace of 25kmph , preferably even a little faster.
  • I fell at night while riding alone at night on a road ( I believe the first instance of me riding a unlighted lonely road at night), because I misjudged my speed. Was probably going too fast when I pressed the brake and that resulted in me toppling over the handlebars ,thankfully with minor bruises. During the 600k last February (2012) in Bangalore, one of the riders (Nirmal Iyer) hit a speed breaker suddenly and fell down. He was bruised badly enough to have to call off the ride.
  • Between midnight and 5 am (sometimes 6) , it is very unlikely that you’ll have eating and drinking options on the road. Most places on Indian highways (at least in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) close at midnight , or 30 minutes past midnight. Make sure you eat and hydrate before midnight. Stock up a liter of hydrating fluid (Electral, Gatorade , whatever – choose your poision) before midnight. And make sure it lasts till the morning. Keep dry fruits , chikkis, chocolates or energy bars handy during this time in case you need nutrition.
  • The best part , of course is that the time from midnight to dawn is the best time to ride. There is very little traffic. By 2am most Truck Drivers will call it a day (or night ) and be parked at various pit stops. You’ll have the occasional Volvo bus whizzing past, but other wise , you have the road to yourself . Of course, there is always the danger that someone would lose control and run over you, but that danger exists anywhere, anytime, not just in the dead of night.
  • This is the time of the night when riding also requires least effort. I had rode a distance of 100+ km between 2 to 6 duuring the 400 brevet with just half a liter of water (no electrolytes). You can ride at a steady rhythm without exhausting yourself. The ambient temperature is typically at its coldest, and riding continuously actually helps in keeping you warm.
  • If you last the night, you’ll probably experience a high as dawn breaks. The sight of creeping daylight on you and enveloping your surroundings  as you whiz past on the highway is something that makes the experience of riding at night really really worth it.
  • If at all you end up being severely deprived of sleep , and somewhat dehydrated/exhausted from the cycling itself, beware that you can face any of the following
  1.  Hallucinations : I imagined riding on a narrow lane with steep ledges on both sides. At times I could not focus beyond 10-20 meters ahead. Imaginary people seemed to be crossing in front of me. Pretty whacky, and there is no way at that moment for you to realize that its virtual reality. Its like being high on ‘Bhaang’ – Reality and imagination weave a smooth co-existence. Of course its not helpful.
  2. Complete exhaustion due to lack of sleep – You just cannot go on. There was a time when I found it difficult to stand up. I tried to find a place on the side of the road which I felt was safe enough , and just swept a wide area with my torch to ensure there were no snakes crawling about and promptly slept on my back.

Notable memories from my cycling experiences at night

  1. Seeing a shooting star streaking past the clear sky as I rode between Ramnagara  to Bidadi.
  2. Zooming between Belgaum and Dharwad as dawn broke, assisted by good tailwinds, at the end of an eventful night.
  3. Riding in pitch darkness with strong crosswinds as I cimbed my way to Chitradurga in the dead of night, and windmills emerging in the distance, one at  a time, till you are staring at an army of windmills, all the while, struggling to grapple with the wind and riding steady.
  4. Riding a steady uphill between Vellore to Pallikonda after an exhausting night. On the way to Vellore we never realized the slope. On the way back, the slope wouldn’t let us forget it.
  5. Feasting on Omelettes at 4 am along with a gang of 4 other riders on our way back from Koratagere , again early Jan 2012.

1000 kms from Bangalore to Belgaum and back

I had been thinking of the 1000k brevet ever since I missed the inaugural 1000k brevet on June 2011. I had registered for the event but for some strange reason suffered a case of calendar amnesia. The day the ride was supposed to start, I was caught napping, or rather working. Only on seeing a mail from Rohan on the morning did I realize my folly. However, having said that, I doubt if I would have made it to the 1st time station last year, forget completing the 1000k. Maybe I wasn’t really serious about it at all, given that I had missed the date, literally. However, I decided that I would do it the next year, aka 2012.

I made it a point to do all the brevets I could, in 2012, to enable me to be better prepared to complete the 1000k. The brevets this year definitely helped me in preparing for the big ride. I did not pace myself during the 300k and ended up finishing it barely with 30mins to go, literally dragging myself for the last 50km. I rode the 400k fairly well, managing the mid-day heat, as well as the night chill, and with just some 30mins of sleep or so. Even though I called off the 600k brevet due to multiple reasons, I learnt valuable lessons on that ride that served me well. And of course, unlike the other brevets , I wanted to make sure I went on the big one. I ensured that my work calendar was free from the 20th to the 25th of June, giving me enough of a buffer to plan.

There were few things that I took out of my failed 600k attempt.

  1. I suffered hallucinations on the 600k ride. Now I’ve read about the phenomenon but when it happens to you the 1st time, it does spook you. This time I was ready for it, and was ready to try and maintain focus even if I was delirious, and not to let it dishearten me, or (as it happenned in the 600k), scare me.
  2. Time wasted : I wasted time on the 600k ride due to a) Fixing somebody’s puncture, b) Trying to sleep when I was not 100% exhausted , and c) Waiting for others , riding in a group. I believe it is important to keep going if you have energy and rhythm by your side. Dont’ stop for a big meal if you are not really hungry. Keep nourishing yourself throughout though.
  3. The sun really exhausts me, I typically don’t ride as fast as others during the heat of the day, but I do quite well in the evening and night. It helped that the 600k brevet ended in February, giving me the time to mentally and physically prepare for the 1000k brevet. The other really important piece of random cycling realization that dawned on me is that it pays to ride fast. If you can ride fast when you are on the saddle, that means you can take more breaks , and have a better chance of refreshing yourself.

Some of the things that did help improve my speed and stamina.

  1. In the month of Nov 2011, I did the Part 1 Course from the Art of Living Foundation. Regular breathing exercises and meditation did help increase my stamina and my breathing over time. I’ve been trying to be fairly regular in doing the breathing exercises and I believe it has helped me.
  2. I was based in Mysore from mid March to mid June. I decided to try and use this as an opportunity to do a few Chamundi rides and Bangalore-Mysore or Mysore-Bangalore rides.

The prep ride , early June
I did a fast ride to Mysore on 8th April but after that riding took a back seat thanks to the TCS 10k run. So after a nearly two month hiatus, faced with a Friday to myself, I decided to try my hands (rather legs) at climbing Kalahatti. Even though I value each one of my rides on their own, I was definitely thinking of the 1k when I decided to try and go to Masinagudi and do the climb. The day was interesting, I started off before 5am and had to negotiate speeding vehicles on an undivided highway. All useful practice, in my opinion. Once I entered the Bandipur forest area, a bear crossed the road in front of me, and two adult female elephants with a calf on the side of the road, gave me a keen look from the side of the highway. I focused on an imaginary horizon straight ahead and pedalled for whatever I was worth. I tried climbing the ghat but it was difficult in the heat, and in the interest of getting out of the forest by sunset , I went back. My heat exhaustion was so bad that I felt too dehydrated even on the mild slopes inside the forest. And , almost ashamed of my inability to pedal, pushed the cycle up a few slopes in the forest. Once I got out of the forest, aided by the milder sun and a dose of tender coconut water, I did manage to pick up speed from Gundlupet to Mysore. In the end I cycled about 240km in a total time of about 14 hours at less than 19kmph on the saddle. A valuable lesson learnt was that I needed to be cycling to keep the muscles cycling ready, running won’t cut it. And to make sure I was nourshed , especially with sufficient fluids throughout.

Kalahatti in the background

Kalahatti in the background


Cell phone photo,but the heat and humidity of the surroundings are apparent ( at least to me :) )

Hereon I made a conscious effort to cycle regularly. On the 8th of June I managed to come to Bangalore in about 5 hours, 36 minutes – my fastest Mysore – Bangalore ride. I followed this by a few trips to Chamundi. I figured the climbing route via the Nandi, that was slightly steeper than the wide road which the buses used. 6 days before the 1k, I climbed Chamundi via the Nanjangud side, which is actually a gentle slope, but longer. And quite green. I did 3 Chamundi climbs on 3 consecutive days without drinking or eating anything. (about 18km one way including the climb) The pros will tell you to do hill repeats , interval training ,etc along with a diet to improve your cycling fitness and stamina. But I had my limitations as evinced below

  • Hill repeats were fine, but not the *same* hill – Too boring , can’t risk demotivation. Boredom is a bigger enemy in an endurance event than exhaustion.
  • No gadgets for me. Monitoring HR , cadence is definitely a very good way of measuring strength and stamina – no arguing that, but somehow I prefer to keep it simple – I prefer to cycle looking more at the scenery and sights around rather than look at a device – Though I occasionally peek at my average speed, maximum speed and distance covered.

The day of the ride

I had written a brief about the 1000k ride a little after the ride, you can read about that here

One issue with my aborted 600k ride was that I had not had enough sleep, having slept a total of 5 hours over 2 days *before* the 600k. I decided to ensure that that would not happen this time around. I decided to enjoy a good night’s sleep before the event, and if possible catch some sleep a couple of hours before the start. In the event , the previous night’s sleep was quiet good, while I did feel like I should take a nap 2 hours before the start, after 12:00 pm I was pretty much jumping all over the place. I taped Gatorades all over my cycle, this was my strategy to ensure that I did not run out of rehydration. I called up Sohan to make sure I was not missing anything. Tied the rainjacket to the frame , and as previously mentioned was probably brimming with excitement. Came over to the start point at around 3:30 or so (don’t remember now- Sohan , Manjula, NayanPatel, Gana, and some of the non-Bangalore riders were on display. Opendro showed up too, as well as a few new faces. (Manjula and Nayan were not riding today) . Did not see Vishal, last year’s finisher – I heard he was held up.

At the start point, bike taped with Gatorade satchets

At the start point, bike taped with Gatorade satchets

Here are all the photographs taken by
Aman at the start point

A few observations about the ride itself

  • The flags just before Chitradurga which showed the direction of the wind. It was a beautiful sight in dark surroundings at night, all the flags violently swaying to one side. However Chitradurga at dawn felt quite mild without too many cross winds.
  • The emerging of the windmills at night as I made my way to the Chitradurga. Majestic, as you approach them
  • The climbs towards Chitradurga. Nirmal had warned me of the difficulty and he was right.Not super steep but with vehicles whizzing past you and the crosswinds, this part was something.
  • The scenery changes as you approach Ranibennur, vast plains, and it does get hot,very hot
  • Once you cross Bankapur toll plaza, it starts becoming hilly , more pronounced as you approach the Hubli Dharwad area. From here to Belgaum it is rolling with 2 climbs just before Belgaum, the 1st one being slightly long, and not so easy.

Photo captured by Kiran Kumar of Veloscope just at the point of me reaching the endpoint.
My photo , taken by Kiran kumar

Some stuff from the ride:

  • Having lost my smart phone during the 400k nearly Challakere brevet, I decided not to carry one, and used a plain old mobile phone. Only problem is, I forgot to charge it. So a little beyond Tumkur, I turned off the mobile, except when I wanted to call people and find out their whereabouts. I tried calling Opendro, Gana a few times on Day 1 and 2 but they might have switched off or found it difficult to hear the phone in the background noise. I kept texting Sreepathi to let him know of my whereabouts till I reached Hubli. After that , it was a crazy time. On day 2 morning, I called up Rohini to let her know that I was having breakfast near Ranibennur. I was rationing phone calls to reduce the chances of my phone dis On the 2nd night, when all of us were racing to make it to the Belgaum control, all of our phones were switched off, and nobody got an update that night. Only when we reached Hubli on the way back did folks get to know of our status. Rohini (my wife ) was also worried. Finally JP charged our phones in Hubli and threw a lifeline ( at least to me).
  • The fact that each one of us is different was brought out by our different priorites at the end of Day 3. I was more worried about sleep overtaking my body and suffering hallucinations rather than food, while the rest of them wanted to have a big hearty meal. I had a couple of idlis at Ranibennur on the way back while the rest had 2 courses of dinner. We spent 1.5 hours for dinner , and as it turned out barely made it to the Chitradurga control in time.
  • In hindsight, what Deepak and Gana did was amazing, they tagged along a whole bunch of riders and rised themselves. I believe Gana also dropped out because he eventually bonked. I learnt that the hard way on the 600k. When the going is good, keep going. No point taking responsibilty for others. A 1000k ride requires a certain level of physical and mental preparation, in addition to being prepared with adequate gear and enough resourcefulness to be able to handle a few situations. You can’t expect to just land up and complete this. I am sure a lot of us can do it, I am not discouraging anyone, but how they get around to doing it is best left to themselves. If you need a lot of help just to get to the 1st control, chances are you may not make the cut. There are times you are so exhausted, even 10kmph feels tough. And at times a 25kmph against headwinds feel doable.
  • From the time we left Bangalore , and till we made it back, there was an ongoing thread in the Bangalore bikers club google group. The thread discussed us in detail, till all the 5 simultaneous brevets ended at ChikkaBanavara. Gives you a good running commentary as seen by Bangalore riders. This thread, as well as some pep-talks from Rajani helped keep my wife’s spirits up. BBC thread during the brevets I rode nearly 475km all alone feels good, and also reassuring for rides in the future, but I doubt if I would have done it if I had not prepped before hand, both physically and mentally.
  • And finally, its been a while since the ride, I had finished 3/4th of this writeup earlier, but just have been laggard. Recently there was a 500k ride that folks finished in 24 hours. And next years calendar has 3 1000k rides and 2 1200k rides. The culture of long distance cycling is spreading its tentacles beyond Bangalore now. That can only be a good thing. In 2011 , Vishal was the sole finisher, we had 3 finishing in June 2012. Hopefully there will be a few more finishing next year. But overall, in 2012 as well as now (2012-13), the Bangalore rides are definitely tougher.