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.