The alarm rang, I looked at the time, it was 10 past 3. Time to get up, gear up and go for the 600k. Thought of sleeping for another half an hour, but felt fresh, despite lack of enough sleep. Had slept for about 2.5 hours the previous night and had gone in to sleep at about 11:15 or so. I was just hoping I would catch enough sleep on the way. I had spent the night before, cleaning my bike, taking out my chain , cleaning and lubricating it. The bike looked good to go. However, it meant that I ended up going to bed late the day before I had to go for the longest ride of my life! With all these thoughts still ringing inside, went through my morning getting-ready routines and was about ready at 4:40 or so. Suddenly the alarm bell rang. I had set an alarm at 3:40 and wondered why it rang now. I turned off the alarm but the phone showed 3:40. Confused, I checked with other watches and I realized that my original alarm clock was 1 hour fast, and I had woken up at 2:30 am. Just hoped that the lack of sleep wouldn’t affect me. So relaxing for some time, had something to eat and got ready. Set out at about 4:30 , a little away from home, realized that I had forgotten my protective glasses. Ignored it and went off to IISc anyways. I reached the traffic light before the Yeshwantpur flyover, realized I must have shot ahead. Called up Mustafa.
Me : Hey where is the starting point ?
Mustafa : Same as the 200k starting point.
Me : Well I didn’t do that, so where is it?
Mustafa : Under the bridge.
Me : There was a gate there, I didn’t see it. Okay I’ll go back.
Went back and realized that I had gone past the gate, but now there were a few bikes and folks around.
The cue-sheet was confusing for the outgoing leg in the morning, so I figured I’d just chase the guys in front till I got out to Kanakapura road. The early morning site of 15 riders with reflective gear, lights and helmets was a visual treat, shame that no photographer was around. I’d love to see Bangalore roads dominated by cyclists. It looks really cool.
On Kanakapura road, realized that my cycle mileage had not increased, so adjusted it. From hereon I took no breaks and reached Sathanur at 9:08 am or so. I was told I was the first rider to turn up. Had a quick breakfast and then started back again. It started getting hot by the time I reached Kanakapura. 5 km before Harohalli, started feeling very sleepy , had a tender coconut and dozed off on a stone next to his tender coconuts. Asked him to watch my bike. He fiddled with it, but at least I could feel safe about my stuff. Parameshwar and Vishal went ahead at this point. I must have had a 15 min break here and I started off. After Harohalli things got very tough, as it was very hot. I was riding that area at 12:30 pm, I took a break from the searing heat. And suddenly Parameshwar and Vishal showed up from behind. They apparently had taken the right towards Maralvadi and turned back. We took a big break in the village before the elephant corridor. I wet my clothes and hankies on my head. We continued and reached the end of the elephant corridor. I noticed that the turn towards Anekal had been asphalted now. After we took the left at the fork, the climb started, and it was one hell of a climb. I couldn’t believe how much I was struggling in this climb. The heat was there yes, but some serious headwinds. I had to go zig zag to not put pressure on my knees. And just when I thought it won’t get worse, there was a storm of dust that billowed over me for a few minutes. Nice day to forget the glasses at home. So looking askance I had to keep climbing . After the climb,we took a break before Jigani in a bakery. I needed a nature break desperately so went ahead to Jigani, got my break + some idli + coffee. Param and Vishal must have gone ahead , as my bike was off the main road in Jigani.
After the breather , I went towards Anekal. Dang, I do these routes regularly but it felt much more difficult in the heat. Shortly after taking the left at Anekal, about a km ahead, the road was littered with stones on the left, leaving an opening for a van to pass through. A van coming through paused for me to go ahead, but I waved him ahead and went in for my turn when *boom* a motorcycle appeared out of nowhere and went bang straight to my right calf. The impact pushed my right leg ahead ( in a kicking motion) and I lost balance but recovered to be still on my saddle after a slight jerk. The impact then made the jerk veer off to the right, but he too regained balance. I looked at him , and asked him did he not see me? He told me he thought I would go over the stones. Not wanting to start a fight, I told him to be careful next time, but a part of me wanted to bash him up. Right calf hurt a little (actually still hurts, but could be a cramp as well , now). I took some time to find the ATM at Attibele. Found Param and Vishal there. They broke for lunch, I had some juice and proceeded ahead. Again , felt tough to proceed after some time , the heat was quite stifling. Took too breaks on shops on the way, and finally a big break at CCD. I tried to sleep a little, as was against feeling drowsy. Probably managed a few seconds of closing my eyes, and then just went ahead. Some time before Krishnagiri, I saw Param on the side of the road with a puncture. I spent some 30+ minutes trying to fix his puncture, gave up and then used a spare tube of mine. Vasu caught up with us at this point. As I went over the Krishnagiri bridge, Vasu and Param went under the bridge. I expected to catch them after the bridge but they didn’t turn up. I rode slowly and stopped at a roadside shack a few km after the left. Waited here, Param caught up and we had 2 double omelettes. Vasu still didn’t turn up. I had reached the Attibele ATM at 3:30 pm and reached this shack at 8:30 , a distance of about 60 km in 5 hours. Left this place at 9 and I guess raced to Mufasa at around 10:30pm. I went in and slept a little. Went into my sleeping bag at 11:00 and got up at 11:36. By the time I got up and got ready, Vasu turned up as well, and decided to wait for him. It was 12:50 by the time we left Vaniyambadi.
Heard about the accident of Nirmal from Sohan around this time. He went off saying they wanted to rest at Brindavan. The 3 of us , Param , Vasu and me went ahead, and took a break at Pallikonda from 3 – 3:30 in the first available tea-shop. We were desperate for a tea in the cold. But instead of just leaving , we took a long break. Rajani called me and told us he saw us and was ahead. Got the feeling that we were pushing our luck by cutting it too close to the control cut-off time.
Vasu is an amazing character. Tends to relax and zoom off towards the end. In the end it worked out , we caught up with the rest of the guys before Vellore, and amazingly , all 9 of us reached Katpadi in a group, and went to the ATM at 4:30 AM or so.
Spent some time socializing in a Tea shop and having our early morning tea/coffee and biscuits. Vasu and me went ahead but stopped some distance before Pallikonda. Another episode of trying to sleep ensued , we wasted a lot of time here not sleeping, but had breakfast with coffee and completed our morning ablutions. But by the time we got out it was 7:30. I am not sure if it is the affect of adrenalin, but I was in a zombie state, unable to sleep and unable to stay awake. After we crossed Gudiyattam, the temperature started increasing a little though it was a little pleasant with the breeze.
Now it started getting really interesting. I was following Vasu at times or tailing him,but started feeling groggy. I started losing focus and seeing /imagining things. Spotted Sohan at some roadside shop. Probably a state of semi conscious delirium, I was constantly slapping myself and forcing myself to see the road. Trying to see straight and not hit anything. I must have cycled in this mode for about 15km when I finally gave up. Just kept the cycle on the side and tried to sleep on a ledge. Even here I was afraid of falling down. Vasu stopped by me, and asked me to try a caffeine gel. I decided to rest for a few minutes before trying it out. Sohan went past us now. Rested and got up, the delirium disappeared, I could at least focus now, though I was still tired. Took his gel and continued. Vasu went ahead, and soon the jungle patch and serious uphill started. I caught up with Vasu who was walking a small stretch. Hi motioned me to go ahead. I went on for some distance, before Vasu went past me. At the end of the forest there were few bad patches which I decided to walk. It was getting difficult. We had to reach the Mulbagal control at 12:40 or so and the Chikkaballapur control at around 6 pm. Mentally I was already contemplating quitting . The heat was getting quite unbearable by now. Also the knowledge that the ride would be repeated in July made me think about ditching the ride.
I had to take another break in the stifling heat amidst the climb – even though the climb was not serious now , uphill is uphill once you have crossed the 400k mark. I reached Palamner at around 11:00 and was mulling my next option, since I had decided to quit the ride, and was asking around for bus options. Again Vasu popped up. Was surprised to see him here. He gave me another gel and asked me to continue. I went with him for maybe 2/3 km and again decided to ditch it. I might have made it to Mulbagal on time but the thought of cycling another 4 hours in the heat completely deflated me. Even though I was going around 24kmph now, I quite clearly was not enjoying the ride now. The repeated sleepy feeling but lack of sleep was making life quite miserable. Add to that, I had to cycle on the highway now, and any loss of concentration could prove dangerous. I just headed back to Palamner, took a bus and went home. Amazingly, it did not take long for me to drift off to sleep in the bus. And I woke up only when we crossed Hoskote. The feeling I had was of immense relief at having been able to sleep. Reached home later and learnt that everyone else made it in time. Good that their effort got rewarded.
Now that I’d ditched the ride, I will have to do it again later , July 28th, if I wish to get the official stamp! The other 600k rides are beyond that! 3 days later, I feel a tinge of disappointment, but honestly at that point , I didn’t feel I had a choice , maybe if I had hurried earlier at night, I might have relaxed and completed. But Kudos to all the folks who stuck it out and completed the ride.