This blog is about my experience on a long ride, a 400km brevet ride. This site is a reference.After last week’s 200km partial recce of the brevet route, these were my thoughts
- Afternoon heat was not too bad. I should be able to ride well the whole day. However, we didn’t see north of Koratagere, so we can’t be sure.
- Night chill will be bad. Be prepared for that.
Accordingly, I wore 3 Tshirts inside my cycling jersey, wore an earmuff, and a pair of thinsulate gloves in case the cold became unmanageable. Made up my mind to cover distance in the morning. Here was a rough plan for the day. Ride steady in the morning, till the sun gets too hot. Take it easy in the afternoon if the sun decides to make life miserable. Cover distance at night. Was hoping to complete the brevet by 3am, since last week’s ride gave me confidence to ride fast on the highway at night, and I felt I could ride at 25kmph at night.However, the distance factor has a habit of making speeds unpredictable. Sometimes even 15kmph on a stretch where you have done 25kmph can be tough to achieve, after fatigue sets in. I got up at 3:10 and reached the venue at 5:45. No sign of the guys who came with me last week. Manjula and Arvind trooped in his car. At the stroke of 6, the 1st of us were flagged off. Rajani and Kiran came in at this time. Not wanting to waste time waiting now, decided to start. Was confident these guys would anyway catch up during my bad-road crawls. My goal was to return to the NH4 highway back from the Challakere/Bellary road section by sunset. Koratagere by 12:00 and Sira by 3:30 seemed reasonable goals. 9 hours for the final 180km of highway would mean end point by 3.
Phase 1: Ride to Koratagere : 1st control
As I rode ahead, I decidedly started pausing at the intersections, the left/right turns momentarily, despite having done the route last week. As if by Cue, the guy with the map and cue-sheet, aka Arvind caught up and was furiously pedalling on his hybrid. Not wanting to lose this God-sent beacon, I tailed him and ensured he was in my sights till the left at about 12km on the ride. There were a few guys close to me , and I instructed them to follow Arvind blindly till we got out of the Hesarghatta area. I tailed Arvind till we took the right on to Hesarghatta Main road. After entering the sperm institute, I slowed down in the bad roads, and Arvind and 2 others went ahead. The Sperm collection center midway on the right said Biosecurity Zone 2. My thought – High safety, since a place that collects sperms should be .. uh , impregnable? I looked it up today, here is a distraction if you need one .
By the time I exited out of the Sperm institute on the road to Madhure, Manjula and a couple of others caught up with me. About a km or 2 on this road, and on a sharp turn, saw someone in reflective clothing waving his arms wildly asking us to stop. On getting closer, the words spelt out ‘Secret Control’ and the face presented itself to be that of Sreepathi Pai’s, the IISc Randonneur and BrevetMaster for this years brevet rides. So, duly stopped and had my card stamped. Went ahead to Madhure, and Parameshwar who was tailing me started asking me of the route. He took me on my word that I knew the route ahead, so started tailing me closely.
I walked across sections of Madhure, where there chunks of rocks on the road, a prelude to laying down roads. After the town, I waved past Arvind, who was having his breakfast. Parameshwaran followed me, and skipped breakfast as well. On the road to Doddabelavangala, waved past 2 more cyclists who were snacking on biscuits. Road to Dobbspet had been paved this past week, and managed to reach Dobbspet by 9:00 am. All this while, the sun was safely hidden behind clouds and mist. 8 km before Koratagere, the sun started shining bright, and I had take off a layer of clothing and put on some sunscreen. At our Koratagere Jeera Juice point, I filled a bottle with the fluid, and relaxed,and Mr Parameshwaran again caught up. He gave a thumbs up for the Jeera juice as well.
Phase 2: Ride to Sira : Highway point
He went on to the SBM at Koratagere. Got our slips and continued on the road. He wanted to be close to me, so I rode ahead and saw him following me closely. I remembered this road as bad, but Nirmal’s description said that this road was moderate. I now realized that though no potholes were visible, the paving was highly uneven and progress was slow and painful. And yes, it was hot. I expected the peak heat to last from 12-3. I expected to reach Sira around that, since I had left Koratagere ATM at 11:07
Madhugiri fort is a treat to watch, walls built along the edges of escarpments. I wonder, how they must have built it , before the industrial revolution.
When I reached Madhugiri, couldn’t see him, so just continued on the road. The road to Sira starts a nondescript road behind the bus stand, but knew this from before. I found a tender coconut vendor and had my fill. Continued on this road. Took another break for an Omelette from a road-side vendor. The locals , as usual animatedly wanted to know about the cycle, and cycling, etc. All fine, but both times I realized my cyclcomp had stopped recording the ride. Grrr, the local kids had turned the magnet around, while fiddling with the bike.
As I neared Sira, it was getting hot and dry, and more dry than hot. And as if to magnify the pain, I sensed a mild version of the loo. Granted that this was January, and the temperature was around 32 not 45, but still hot headwinds are incredibly energy sapping. Many points I felt I couldn’t go on. It is precisely at points like these, that past experiences help. I knew that if I stayed hydrated and was easy on myself during this time, I would have enough energy left in the evening. I had a longish break at another coconut vendor site, and stretched. Still didn’t see Param so went ahead and reached the town of Sira a litte after 3. Went to a hotel for some curd rice and Sapota milk shake. It wasn’t pleasant to ride now, so killed time and relaxed for some time. One of the locals told me that he had seen 4 cyclists , including a lady today afternoon. Figured Manjula and co might be ahead, but was surprised since didn’t see them going ahead.Called up Kiran, who informed me that he decided to not do the ride, so then called up Rajani who told me he was 10km from Sira. I bought some Coconut burfi and Chikki as an insurance for the night. Started till a little before 4pm.
Phase 3: Sira -Hiriyur – Eraballi – Aimangala – Hiriyur
After I went on the highway I caught up with Parameshwar, he was riding alone, and quizzed me on whether someone was ahead of us. We went on ,slowly till Hiriyur, had a 15 min tea break here before heading to Chellakere at 5:10 or so.
Midway towards Eraballi , got a call from Rajani and learnt that Manjula was contemplating quitting. They had located a lodge on the highway before Hiriyur. So the mystery lady who cycled near Sira in the afternoon was definitely not her. Reached the Aimangala bypass at 5:45.
Took the photographs and then had a long animated discussion with a local who demanded to know our *goal* of riding (Nim uddesha enu saar?) and no amount of convincing that we were doing it for fun made him budge. Finally I had to start asking him why he was riding his motorcycle, and he seemed to get the message.we went on the Aimangala route, and I wanted to reach the highway before dark. Along the way, I noticed that some of the villagers housed the goats inside pens which had high wooden fences. The meant only one thing, that they had probably lost some of their domestic animals to leopards. Genuinely impressed now, this whole area is very hot and dry with barely any shade. And no forest nearby. Amazed at how a stealth stalker like a Leopard navigated at night to the villages to snatch local animals. At Talavatti, one of the locals ran his bike onto Parameswaran’s front wheels but thankfully no damage done. Underscores the need to ride in groups in remote places, should things go wrong. In Aimangala, noticed a fort on the right side of the road built with what looked like flat rock sheets stacked on top of each other. Was too focused on the riding and too lazy to start taking pictures. Reached the highway at 6:30 and continued towards Koratagere. Got the ATM slip at around 7:30 and decided to have dinner.
Phase 4: Nature makes its own calls
Was quite sleepy at this time. We started after dinner and went towards Sira, sometime on the road and Parameshwar wanted to take a break at Kamat after the Sira bypass. In what looked like an eternity , after multiple breaks on the road to stretch our tired muscles, we reached Kamat.We checked in at around 10:30 and left around 11. I had some sour chewies which I use to avert sleep. I am actually quite paranoid about dozing off, since I have dozed off even on a bicycle once. On a highway where cars do speeds of 100+kmph that is suicidal.So afer a few breaks of stretching and waking up,full of Bravado we told each other we’d cycle nonstop till Tumkur. The determination lasted maybe 500 meters(Time unknown, since I was pretty delirious now) I kept taking breaks now , and riding slowly. We may have rode maybe 6 km for the next hour with multiple breaks, Tumkur now felt in a distant country. Forget in 2 hours , I started having doubts whether I would finish the ride in time. I told Param as much, that I need a break, and possibly some sleep.Sometime before midnight we checked into a dhaba for some tea and omelette. I just realized that for about 2 hours, we had rode a grand total of 10 km , and about 30km for 2 hours before that. This was ridiculously slow since I was averaging 23.5km on the saddle despite bad roads before that, and had reached the 205km mark by 4:30, in a total of 10.5 hours, averaging 20kmph overall including breaks.My shoulders and neck were really hurting from the roadbike pose. From the 255km mark to the 295km mark it had taken us 4 hours. I wanted to try sleeping now so we asked the Dhaba owner, he made us take the charpoys outside and there I lied down on my stomach. Felt relieved straightaway. Told Param to go ahead and promised to catch up with him, but he was happy to let me lead the way and follow, so he too slept setting an alarm for after 30 minutes. I don’t think any alarm was necessary. This was just by the road and the traffic was diverted to the service lane, topped with horns , dogs barking and trucks coming close to the Dhaba to park their vehicles. And it was really cold, we didn’t borrow any blankets, just slept with our clothes on. It didn’t look like I was getting any sleep , and was constantly aware of the noise outside.Only when I caught myself waking up did I realize that I had slept for a while. As we got up gearing again for the ride, we saw 2 riders go past. I waved to them, and they seemed to notice us.
Phase 4: Recovery and quiet finish
We started and soon caught up with the two riders on the road, it was Arvind and another guy. We went past them, and Param’s question to me was, are there others ahead. My response was yes, I believe Rajani, Vasu ride faster so they must be ahead.(My apologies to Arvind, if I offend you) The stretch from Sira to Tumkur is a looong , steady uphill, and amazingly something you attack with fresh legs, seems incredibly difficult to do after 300km of riding.
The 1st visible effect of sleeping was that we managed to reach Tumkur at around 2:45 am, despite the uphill climb.We reached Dobbspet toll plaza at close to 3:15 am, took another break to fill in some tea and snacks. I bought a couple of bubble gums, knowing that chewing gum is a very effective way to fight sleep. Popped one into my mouth and didn’t let go of it till the Nelamangala toll. Incredibly difficult to hold a tasteless piece of gum in your mouth, only the knowledge that If I spit out , I might again feel drowsy made me keep it in. I kept popping in the sour chewy candy once in a while to keep me alert as well. We reached the Nelamamngala toll plaza at about 4:50 and called up Sreepathi, and he informed that we were the 1st to call. Only now I realized that we were actually ahead of the rest of the riders. I had pretty much expected everyone to be ahead during our sleepy meandering and rest for a good 2-3 hours. In hindsight, faced with such a situation, I’ll probably look for a place to sleep 1st thing. Its amazing how just 1 hour of sleep refreshes you.
After taking a short break where we ate some dry fruits and snacks that we still had with us, we raced down the Nelamangala – Yeshwantpur tolled road. Reached below the elevated highway and now had to deal with early morning traffic. The elevated highway stretch surprisingly ended quickly, but the stretch on ORR was a real bummer. Lot of patchy road till we took the ride towards IISc. Why this road? The other road straight towards Mekhri circle and then left on BEML road was equally good and pleasant, and more importantly approximately same distance. We reached IISc shortly after 6, and I chatted with the watchman while waiting for Sreepathi. He seemed to think there was another ride today, and I told him that yesterday’s riders were just returning. So finally our Brevet Director turns up and stamps our cards. I learn now that Manjula is still riding, and she was with Vasu and Rajani. I expected Vasu to race ahead of the riders. Sree told me that most of the riders were near Tumkur at 6 in the morning, so it looked like a tight finish. I waited for some time for other riders to arrive , and we were repeatedly seeing riders go straight on the road , but most of them were local riders on a Sunday morning. I took my leave wanting to reach home as soon as possible. Amazingly, my wife was concerned about me riding home from IISc (after enduring the highways at night). Called up Sree at 11 and he told me all the riders made it save two. And apparently one of them just because he didnt turn up at IISc (He returned to Bangalore on time). Pretty commendable performance, I thought the heat in Sira, the long night, and the sleep deprivation made this a difficult ride. Special congrats to Manjula and Arvind, since just last week they were not sure about doing or completing the ride, but showed their mettle. Never doubt the ironlady and the man with the map and cue-sheet
My cyclocomp showed about 445km at an average of about 22.85 but I missed out about 11km because of the magnet not being aligned. I’ve been praised to the heavens even before this blog about me being a strong rider(among other things), but I believe it is just a case of realizing my strenths and limitations. I tried covering as much ground as possible before the Sun made its presence felt. Also , took it very easy during the hottest part of the day. I forced a break at Sira. I also had a sudden recovery during Feb 2011′s 300km brevet after I simply lied down for 10 minutes. Micro-resting seems to be an undersold activity during an endurance event, and I’m beginning to believe in it.