Rugged Sahyadri Race, Kolhapur

When Meera Velankar first posted in our group page on facebook about the Rugged Sahyadri ride, it sounded like a cool thing. Kolhapur was near enough, and it sounded like a real different experience. However I was not really into off roading but was hoping to just come there with an open mind. Meanwhile, she roped in Dipankar as well and we were confirmed as a team. I tried to back out in the middle, as I was not really into racing, but since Meera had not found other partners, decided to take the plunge. Drove 230km to Kolhapur,my car got to go out of the garage after nearly 45 days. I had left a flat alone for 30 days and had to change tires and fix the flat on Friday, the day I left for Kolhapur. The tire had gone, so replaced with a new set of 2nd hand tires as a backup.(This was the tire that I had put on my car at Hiriyur, during the recce of the 400k in early Jan). At the last moment, Lifecycles in Pune, which had promised me a cycle on rent before I left Bangalore, backed out. They did this without giving me a notice, and I was stuck. Now I did not have an MTB to ride in Kolhapur. Meera talked to Akash of KASA ( Kolhapur Adventure Sports Association) who gave me the contact of a company Cynour that rented cycles out in Pune. They had a GT racer (never heard the brand earlier) but it as an MTB so went for it, not too many options. I did not get my MTB wfrom Banglore since I did not want to have the hassle of taking a cycle all over the place in a bus. I managed to go to their office in karve nagar at around 6, got the cycle and left at around 6:30. Managed to reach the hotel where Dipankar (D) and Meera (M) were staying( they had come in earlier from Bangalore).
There were a few speeches from local biggies , and this was apparently a 1st major event around town that was advertised outside. Quite a few teams came from Pune , including regular Enduro jaunters. The event was flagged out after 9 am by the time many of us had cooled down from our adrenalin rush early morning. The time was started from some place outside Kolhapur. All participants were waved off in 5 min intervals. The 1st stretch was a long climb over a hill to a place called Jyotiba. And as we were making our way downhill , a race marshal pointed us to an offroad track. This was a staircase that we had to take down. When it ended abruptly we had to find a way to the road , and I had my 1st fall. The backpack got stuck on the cycle and i could not balance when i fell – my right knee hit a rock. A swelling but nothing serious.
We were back on tarmac and soon we had an uphill ride to Panhala fort, the last leg was very very steep. I had to dismount once to avoid a collision, but once I dismounted, I  found it impossible to restart cycling without serious exertion. Pushed the bike to the top, and the sun was hurting a bit now. Thankfully ( maybe not), this was the last that we would be seeing the sun for 2 days. We started shortly from this place, and I believe the adventure started in right earnest. We started from here on an offroad path that looked nice and easy at 1st. Then it progressed to a serious downhill of rocks. And finally ended with rocks and slush. I think by the time we finished this section it was late afternoon. And then we went off, in another direction. We started from Masai resort and made our way through a few uphills, all offroad. Finally we reached what looked like the top of a table-top mountain.
Nothing that I’ve seen prepared me for what I would see now. The Masai ‘pathaar’ as it is known in Marathi, is one amazing out-of-the-world place , especially at this time of the year. I could easily make out that I was on top of a mountain, but there was no single peak. Instead, there was a huge tabletop and a flatland as far as the eye could see. It had rained in the recent past.

Masai Valley

Masai Valley , when not wet

The whole place was filled with short grass and the grass had flowered. The flowers were like large violet buttons and in the mist , the whole place looked like a violet carpet. One of those moments in life where you think ‘ God am I not lucky to see this?’ The organizers of the race had put many marshals at various places, and flags. In the dense mist and winds, the flags were invisible. The whistles helped then. The marshals would whistle and we would follow the direction where it came from. On the top of the plateau, we had no other way of figuring out the direction in which to go.  The experience on top of the plateau for me was something that made this entire trip worth it. And given that there is only one kachcha (rugged) road to reach the top, accessible only by bicycle, motorcycle or an all-wheel drive, the place looked quite pristine to me. People who are used to tourist spots in India being trashed will know what I mean.  The end of the trail also meant we had a section where we had to come down on really bad terrain carrying the bicycles. Once we came down from the plateau, we continued cycling on non existent roads on downhills till possibly the fag end of the day. One of the fundamental problems that I faced was that I never really had done any sort of serious off-road cycling, and was , in retrospect extremely defensive in many offroad downhill sections. As a ‘race’, I was pretty sure, we were nowhere in the picture. And one of the race marshalls informed us that we were 5th among 8 teams. Once we were done with the offroad, there was no respite in the final section. The final stretch was a strenuous climb that had a good road. And just as the climb started plateauing off, the roads disappeared as well. I figured this was the idea of the organizers – All the downhills would be on rocks and roads that had not been repaired for 20 years, and we would be going up steep slopes in all the smooth-tarmac sections. Finally we reached the village of Kotwadi.  From here we had to complete a walking loop that led to another table top hill behind the village.
We took the road suggested, missed located the walking trail that led to the top, continued but realized after a while that we were going down rather than up, so retraced our steps to go on top of the hill. As we went up the hill, we had to keep brushing against the shrubbery that was almost hugging the path to the top. Eventually we made it to the top. Then, of course another control. Once we made that control, then we had to go down another hill, and then yet up another hill, and then finally again down that hill. Finally we made our way around the back of the village,and came across what looked like the remnants of an old fort made of stacked up stones. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of that place, but you just have to head to Kotwadi village around 40km from Kolhapur to figure out what I am talking about. Of course, it was still raining, and as we came down to the bottom, there was more rain. Eventually we had to wade across some fields, and then some temporary slush streams. These streams meant wading through slippery rocks , flowing water and of course piled up clay, easier to step into than step out.
The ‘sweeping’ team caught up with us on the way down. We were apparently the last set of people to come down to the base. By the time we completed walking towards the village it was quite dark.The approach road to the village had a layer of slush about a feet thick, and I found it prudent to walk without my sandals. By the time we reached the village , it was quite dark. We had to wade through slush for the last 200 meters or so at the entrance of the village. We made our way past the village to the school at the other end.A surreal experience of a dimly lit school in the back ground of the Sahyadri and constant drizzle and muggy weather at night 🙂
I had a really bad upset stomach and decided to take it easy with food for the night. There was one toilet at the back of the school, about 30-40 meters from the classrooms. Only, no paved way to get there and we had to walk over huge slippery stones.
Too bad I don’t have any photographs, but with an upset stomach, we had to walk oer slippery stones to reach the toilet at the back of the school. I carefully searched every step of my pathway making sure i did not step on any snake. Finally I reached the toilet, gently opened the door , flashed my light on the entire floor (of the the Indian toilet), again to ensure there nothing was moving around. Now remember this was a cloudy night and it was pitch black, the light leaking out of the nearby school rooms was too weak. So having thoroughly investigated that there were no snakes on the toilet floor, I proceeded to begin the process of readying myself for the dump. Of course I had carried a bottle of water with me to aid in the cleaning later on.

In case you have never seen an Indian toilet,this explains well.

So I held the torch in my mouth and held the water bottle in my hand, I heard the sound of a small piece of plastic falling below. I scanned the floor again with my torch and noticed that a bottle cap had fallen below and it had made it to the drain of the Indian toilet. My immediate reaction was one of irritation. I was upset with myself for not screwing the lid of my bottle of water properly. I felt the open mouth of my bottle, but was surprised to see the lid still there. I had actually come to this toilet to take a leak while waiting for Dipankar and Meera to finish the cycling leg of Day 1. Dipankar of course was giving company to Meera, and motivating her to the final stretches. Then I remembered that when  I had come to the toilet at that time, there was a bottle cap on the small window sill towards the wall of the toilet facing the hillside. Now why did that fall down. I directed my flashlight that side and for a moment my heart skipped a beat. I saw what looked to me like a small Russell’s Viper making its way out through the small gap between the mildly corrugated ceiling and the wall. The snake was not a full grown one but not a baby either. I gather from the scales that it was a Russell’s viper, but didn’t really see the head. The head had disappeared before I managed to catch a glimpse. The rest of the body made its way through the gap. The tail was still about half a feet from my face when I as seeing this. And in an instance the enormity of what did not happen struck me. My face was within striking distance of a snake for at least 15-20 seconds. The snake probably decided that getting out was a better defence than giving me a bite on the face.
Obviously I did not dare complete my dump right there. I went out of the latrine, and made my way up the path that meandered into the hills and relieved myself on the roadside (of course, again checking for snakes). Once my stomach felt soothed a little I went back to the school classroom where Ashok Captain, the famous herpetologist and cyclist was relaxing. He mentioned that Russell’s Vipers do exist in the area , but the snake is unlikely to return having encountered a human being. Quite true, but doing it in the open felt safer way than squatting in the narrow confines with the knowledge that a snake might be lurking nearby. I had to relieve myself a couple of times before everybody crashed for the night.

The entire area was pitch black. Since it was 100% cloudy there was no night light either (except from the school building itself). I had not got a change of clothes, expecting to sleep in the same clothes I was carrying.I had accounted for a little bit of rain and expected my body heat to take care of the drying. But given the constant rain that we encountered, and the humid weather, there was no way I could dry myself. It was getting cold as well, but thankfully it was too cold for any musquitoes to breed.

On top of it, we were the last to come back to the school after our final walk. They had laid down beds on the floor of the school room with a blanket. I got to take the one nearest to the door. So to make myself warm at night, I took off my T-shirt and slept barebodied, without my jersey which I had hung out to dry.  However I had to leave my wet cycling shorts on my person. At night I must cramped all over my body about 10-15 times. By morning I got used to the cramps. When I got up I was still cold, and even in the morning I had to go take a dump and it was still very watery.So I skipped breakfast completely.

Day two started a little late , apparently due to bad visibility. Given that the organizers had promised a tougher day. It was one hell of a task getting warmed up for the ride. My body told me to go back to sleep but I knew that things get to normal after a few 100meters, so put on my *wet* jersey back on and stretch (or shiver) I  decided to fast and stick to diluted Gatorade to sustain myself till I felt 100% okay. I wasn’t feeling too well either, and my body was shivering. And on top of it, my jersey was still wet, it had not dried up overnight in the muggy weather. I had hung it on a door latch hoping that it would at least partially dry off. . Thankfully by the time we pedalled up the gentle uphill my body got used to it. We were told that today was mostly off-road , I was just hoping that there were not too many steep downhills on complete non-roads, that had slowed me down a lot yesterday. We started off with a long flat to downhill stretch.I still wasn’t a reall off-roadie. Eventually we saw a lot of the participants having to deal with a lot of punctures. There was some donwhills and I was extra careful on the downhills. At one point I was left behind. We went past a village where the slush was really deep and the mud really lose. My cycle brakes got completely jammed. There was a slippery uphill section where the soil was really lose. With every roll of the wheel, my tires would gather enough clay to jam the wheel. I would clear it manually and again push.A few times I slipped back (This was slightly uphill) Given that my cycle was jammed and I was really weak(my mind had gone into a go slow mode with my tiredness) my brain also stopped working I guess. I kept clearing the muck off my tyres and break and progressing about 1 metre at a time. It took me more than 1.5 hours, (probably 2+) to traverse a distance of about 100 meters. Dipankar came back looking for me and asked me to disconnect the brakes. I couldn’t believe that such a solution did not strike me earlier.(shows what happens when you can’t think straight) He had lost his way and had gone off to a different direction. As we were We went ahead and after a km I found a stream. I decided to try and wash my cycle. Dipankar warned me that it could result in more mud being jammed into the wheels but I was quite frustated and wanted to clear the muck completely, so I washed my cycle anyways. Thankfully after crossing this stream the ground became a little firmer and my cycle did not get filled with muck again.

Till we reached this point, I was so slow that the sweeping crew kept catching up with me. They told us that we were probably too late if they kept catching up with us. If they beat us to the next control ,then we would have to call off. At one point I tried to speed up but lost balance, and given my condition took a little longer to get going. I don’t quite recall whether the volunteers called me ‘Uncle’ or ‘Sir’, but their demenaour definitely suggested ‘Grandpa’. I think i was given some friendly advice that it was not so important to finish the race at risk to my person. My mind actually interpreted it as ‘Dude, don’t faint or break a few bones, or worse , collapse and die of strain, your age related frailties are obvious to us’. Though I tried not to show it, it felt like a not so gentle GPL. I did not want to let it known that i had fasted for nearly a day now, so pushed hard and finally managed to reach the next control. Meera was waiting for us here for about 2 hours +. That was nice of her, as she could have gone ahead on her own and completed the ride (She would have got a personal completion certificate).
We were told we had to make it by 5pm to the final stretch , which involved cycling on a real road. Meera had some melted cheese slices and day old bread, she was good enough to give all that to me. I wolfed it down, since i no longer felt weak with the infection but very hungry. And since Meera had waited for us here, it made sense to try and complete. I told her I would be fast hereon. I wasn’t lying. I had conquered my offroad demons, and my stomach infection had cleared by now, and I did feel a little energetic. Dipankar was ambivalent , he has the knack of enjoying any circumstance.

After this we managed to speed up, and thankfully i was much more confident by this time on the stones and the downhills and didn’t slow down to a crawl on encountering slippery surfaces, i also managed to confidently cycle through mild slush despite slipping on occassions. This part was still fun, riding through a wet forest with criss-crossing streams, wading through villages, and more offroad downhills. There were a couple of stretches where we had to climb on rocks whcih had become temporary cascades in the rain. The next control that we reached, the folks were surprised that we were still around because the last group had passed more than 2 and a half hours ago and they were about to wind up , not expecting anybody else.

A Stretch on Day Two

A Stretch on Day 2

We managed to go through the remaining sections quite fast and reached the final road section well before 5. This last section had everything. One foot+ deep slush through which we had to wade, uneven downhills through which we had to descend and meadows , beautiful ones, though not as out of the world as the ones on Day 1. Eventually on reaching Mhasavade, we hit a tar road, and rode there for about 2-6km before reaching the next control. When we reached the control, the folks manning were surprised to see us, as they were not expecting any team now to make it.However we were told that the group ahead of us were not more than an hour ahead. That meant that we had gained significant time. We were stamped on our cards alright and then proceeded to the final stretch which was a rolling but mostly uphill stretch. But the guys from the destination had begun winding up. 3 teams had already finished in both categories, and there were just few teams left. They just picked up riders on the way back. We loaded our cycles on trucks and boarded the bus to Kolhapur. However, we were not the only teams not to make it to the final destination, there were a couple of others too.
Once we were inside the bus, I started feeling a bit cold. But to me the second day’s experience was memorable. I managed to ride a good distance on all sorts of terrain with significant climbs on an empty stomach, and managed to cycle offroad with a little degree of confidence. An elderly gentleman, who happenned to be the oldest of the group was gorged on all over by leeches. I checked my hands and legs, found a leech bite on my left forearm. Amazing how they manage to find their way through clothing. Once we reached Kolhapur, we took our bikes and went back to the hotel.
One curious feature of the hotel was that all the helpers were recent migrants from West Bengal. None of them knew a word of Marathi.It was amusing to see Dipankar talk to them but Meera unable to make conversation. In the middle of the night I woke up with pain under my soles, I found a small wound that was festering. I put on some Krack cream on it and the pain subsided, enabling me to grab some sleep
I drove back from Kolhapur to Pune in the morning. On reaching Pune I found that my soles were still hurting. In the daylight hours it was apparent that there was a very small open wound and something had gone in. I cleaned the wound, and used a safety pin to extract mostly dirt from the wound, bought some Coconut Oil and turmeric powder, made a paste and put it on the wound.  Thankfully it healed by the end of the day.

You can checkout the 2nd edition of the race here

http://ruggedsahyadri.com/index.php

Its sure to get your heart beats up, and dang, in this year’s monsoon, you are bound to enjoy it. Do carry a change of clothes for Day two though. You can check out the official photographs of last year’s edition

https://www.facebook.com/ruggedsahyadri/photos_stream

I strongly recommend checking out this years race if you have the time on the weekend of Aug 31- Sep 1st. And my apologies for this late and curtailed blog-post. I had written up most of this last year, but my motivation to post it ebbed. But with the next edition around the corner, I thought it was a good enough time for a refresher.

September 29th, 2012 ride to Anchetti

Kanakapura road is quite scenic as far as highways go, but the road from Harohalli to Anchetti via Maralavadi is something else altogether! A well-surfaced, quiet, narrow road  nestled in the hills and forests. Quite amusing to see notices of “Elephant Corridor — Elephants have right of way!” .  It’s a very rolling ride with long ascents that can sap you.
— Sreepathi Pai

There is a  non stop upward incline on the way back from Anchetti, the one where you didn’t really see hills but are climbing like crazy – Vivek Radhakrishnan

Personally, I found this ride more challenging than Bheemeshwari especially some sections on our roadbikes were bone-jarring to say the least. There was a fair interspersing of climbs which made it a tough ride. – Dr Arvind Bhateja

These are three quotable quotes that I picked up from the annals of BBC from two rides organized on this route.

There was a time in 2009-2010 when the legendary Yogesh Rao used to send about 100 mails a day , motivating Bangalore riders to participate in monthly long rides organized away from every part of Bangalore. This , from my memory was a good tonic for regulars as well as folks who had recently taken up cycling. Other than saving time and money on commutes, the prospect of exciting weekend getaways on the cycle did attract a lot of people to cycling. Personally this was the 1st time I rode a real long ride (100+ with serious climbs). I had done it the 1st time with a day old bike, and never realized that this was one of the toughest rides in town. (I was a long ride newbie and probably any ride would have sucked the ride out of me )

Blog of my 1st long ride

You can read about what folks reported for that first big long ride that I remember.
Junta Speaks

Of late, after the stonehill race, Georg had organized a ride in the Magadi-Ramnagar region, that had its fair share of participants. I have been away from Bangalore for a while, so had stopped riding much in Bangalore. Also the fact that it had been 10 months since I had been to Anchetti made me want to ride that route again. I figured, I’d spread the word around a bit. My 1st target group was a bunch of Brevet riders who rode the 300,400 and 600 and a recce with me. They evinced interest (Only Aman turned up from that group, thats a different matter). I decided to announce to the cycling fora in Bengaluru as well , to check interest for the ride. And I tried and did it at least 2 weeks in advance. About 18 said they’d come, however 12 turned up. One of them, Anil decided to ride back at Harohalli. Karthik turned up unannounced, and Manjula and Sohan were notable absentees (There were other, but remember these two, since I was expecting them).
The goal was to start very early, and have breakfast at Maralvadi instead of Harohalli , to enable us to start the climbs earlier. I briefed everyone about the route at the start point, at Harohalli and finally at Maralvadi.
As expected the frontrunners went ahead, and stopped as instructed just before the Harohalli bus stand. The rest of us caught up with them, and we waited for all riders, did a count and figured that 11 riders were set for Anchetti. A 12th ride was on the route, expecting to go on to Mysore. Anil Kadsur wanted to turn back at Harohalli, having some work – presumably the urgent matter of running a quick HM to attend to.

Waiting for the platoon to arrive at Harohalli

Waiting for the platoon to arrive at Harohalli

Taking stock at Harohalli

Taking stock at Harohalli

We rode ahead to Maralvadi, and I rode with Ashok at a relaxed pace, conscious not to miss the lagging riders.Once we reached Maralvadi, we located an idli shop, and had Thatte idli. The chutney and sambar were quite spicy, so relaxed on the side offerings.

After Maralvadi, I rode with Sreeju,Parag and Ankush. I relished the 1st long elevation gain. I gathered from Parag that there were 3 ahead of us, which meant 4 were following. The group went ahead of me in the long downhill ( I think, don’t clearly remember). I felt like a quick sip and a snack at some point, and when I stopped I realized realized that the sun was out. Given that my sunscreen was packed to my pannier, I took out a handy 1ml satchet of coconut oil and smeared my face , neck and the exposed skin on my arms with it. At some distance before KaaduShivanahalli (this is the 1st time I got the name right, thanks to a few hoardings in Kannada in the village), I took a break and applied some sunscreen.

27 kms from Harohall

27kms from Harohalli. This place is possibly about 40km from Bangalore as the crow flies. Amazingly serene

I got a call from Ashok, and it was apparent he had headed off i a different direction. I guided him to the right route, and not being able to figure out who the other 3 guys behind were, I decided to head back. I met Dipanjan on the way ( a rider who had followed us , unannounced), he knew the route and had decided to head this way , knowing that a bunch of us were riding it. I went past Sreedhar, then Ravindra, and finally reached Ashok. Given that he had deviated a bit and come back, I figured he had to be the rearguard guy. So from this point onwards, I rode with Ashok, bringing up the rear. Sumit, Aman and Karthik were probably far ahead.
There is a deviation on the route just on the final stretch to Hunsanahalli , the right goes to Kanankapura and the left to Hunsanahalli. This was the point that I had asked riders to watch out for. Unfortunately well before this route, on a sharp downhill bend, a road takes off to the left. Some guys (including Ashok) had got confused here.
There were a lot of butterflies on the route , many times dangerously getting in the way. My spokes killed a few specimen. As Ashok said, there were a huge amount of butterflies from Hunsanahalli to Anchetti as we headed into Tamil Nadu. The greenery in Tamil Nadu is a little more canopy-ish , never realized this before (The Karnataka section was more bush – like)
I got phone calls from Sandeep and Sreedhar at Anchetti that they had reached. Meanwhile Dhawal also got in touch with me.

Parag finished his lunch at Denkanikotta when we were about 10km before. I knew we could get there fast. I knew there was one tough climb at Marakatta , near the Agro -Forestry institute. It was always difficult to explain to a mixed group of riders on the difficulty of the ride.

The stretch from Hunsanahalli seemed to increase the presence of Butterflies. I was happy that I wore protective glasses for the day, something that I don’t always carry. May of the butterflies just crashed to my eyes , to my clothes and on to the spokes, meeting their tragic end. We reached Anchetti slowly (me and Ashok) with Ravindra following maybe 500 meters behind.

We lost Ravindra once we reached Anchetti, and he became unreachable on mobile. I had a lunch of a double omelette and Ashok downed some Parothas, then we started off from Anchetti. I warned folks about the double hair-pin and the slightly steep slopes around there. I had to stayed back at Anchetti for sometime , since I found my eyewear missing. Located it in a shop, rehydrated and started back. I didn’t see anybody till I crossed the hairpins and then after sometime, caught hold of Ravindra, and then Ankush, Sandeep ,Sreedhar and Ashok. Got a call from Parag,and quickly exchanged this information. He was surprised that Ankush and Sandeep were behind. After riding sometime, Ashok told of his intentions to quit at Denkanikotta, while the remaining wanted to ride back. Again, some quick co-ordination with Parag, who said he’d wait ad Denkanikotta so that we catch up and ride together. So all of us went to Denkanikottai, we went to the local Saravana Bhavan, some juice and buttermilk later, were set to start again. Unfortunately we came up against a police roadblock due to the Ganesh immersion processions. It took us probably another half an hour for the police to remove the blockade from Hosur road, and we went ahead. Sreedhar had taken a head start and was ahead. We caught up midway to Hosur , and took a break for 45 minutes, with some folks even taking a quick catnap. We stopped at Ramkrishna Lunch Home, Mathigiri for a pre-dinner carbloading session. Highlights were
1) An argument on whether long rides help in burning calories or building bulk, inconclusive – but the food was good
2) The local dogs had gathered , and a few of us ended up feeding them – good for them too.
Ankush started ahead at this point along with Sreedhar. The remaining threesome road steadily on Hosur road, this part of the ride possibly being the fastest. However this was also the most painful with the constant honking, sounds and dust of the busy highway. Once we went off the main highway and went via the contours of Madiwala lake, I relaxed a bit, and the resultant cool down of the body meant that I pretty much slowly trudged home.

I am no expert on grading difficulty of rides, but here is a summary

1)The ride is more difficult than Nandi.
2)There are a few tough climbs , but no single long climb like Nandi.
3) From 47km to about 130km mark, you rarely come across a flatland. It is either uphill or downhill.

Not a ride for the fainthearted. But well rewarded with majestic vistas, bountiful greenery, good climbs and long downhills in forest sections. A few of these descents are almost straight, so as you careen down, you see well in advance of you approaching a spot.

The total trip distance for me read 198.53km, that included the ~8km detour that I took to catch up with Ashok

PS: Some quotes from the ride that I cannot forget.

  • If I show a photo of the surroundings, I can easily claim that I spent the weekend in Coorg. Look around you, hills all around  – Ashok Kaliyamurthy
  • Those climbs near Denkanikottai are the most killing. You think that the worst climbs are over, and then , again you are looking at a steep incline – Ankush

PPS : Blogs by fellow riders

Parag’s report on the ride

Aman’s ride report

Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency

Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a rare genetic condition. You can read about it here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_1-antitrypsin_deficiency

It is a serious condition that is expected to lead to complications in the patient by middle age. The only available *so-called treatment* came  in the late 90’s

Here is a quote from the above wikipedia article. Note the lack of long-term studies.”In the United States, Canada, and several European countries, lung-affected A1AD patients may receive intravenous infusions of alpha-1 antitrypsin, derived from donated human plasma.This augmentation therapy is thought to arrest the course of the disease and halt any further damage to the lungs. Long-term studies of the effectiveness of A1AT replacement therapy are not available.”
And of course, the treatment is expensive , about $8000 a month, and has been thought about as the only recourse to the sufferers.

Now here is the actual story of a guy whose Doctor decided to wait on the medication despite it being available.
The guy in question meanwhile started cycling regularly as part of an exercise regimen, and over time , became an avid cyclist. Needless to say, the condition will exist for the lifetime of the person. But his lung function actually became *above-average* without any medication after cycling regularly. In his own words. You read and decide what to make of it.

Read on ……

I had my annual pulmonary function test (PFT) yesterday, and I’ll spare the details for anyone who doesn’t want to take the time by saying, my lungs are healthy and I have no reason for concern.

But… it turns out that things could have been very different for us over the past 10 years. For years my pulmonologist, Dr. Harris, was requesting that I have PFTs twice a year, and only a few years ago reduced that to once a year. He’d say, “you’re a ticking time bomb. We’ve got to keep a careful watch on things so we can begin the alpha-1 antitrypsin replacement therapy before any significant damage occurs.” This treatment became available on the market in the late 90s and is prohibitively expensive, about $8000/month. The price hasn’t changed since then.

When I had my first PFT with Dr. Harris in 2002, my test results were somewhat below average, but still within the “normal range”. Dr. Harris had several other patients with low alpha-1 antitrypsin levels (not as low as mine), and all had developed emphysema. But, he couldn’t draw any conclusions from that, since they were also smokers (talk about your Darwin award candidates…). He told me there was no reason to start the alpha-1 replacement therapy unless I dropped below the normal range, but it was a serious watch item.

So… over the past 10 years, my lung functionality has not only not deteriorated, but it has improved over where I first began. I was just below average when I started having these, and now I am slightly better than average.

With the improvement in my lung functionality, Dr. Harris has gained enough confidence to require only 1 PFT/year, and yesterday, let me in on some information I suspect he didn’t think would have served any positive purpose to have told me back in 1992. If I had seen him a year prior, he would have recommended that I immediately start the alpha-1 antitrypson replacement therapy. Apparently, it had been quite the revolution when it was introduced to the market, and it was generally regarded in the medical field as something that doctors had a moral obligation to seek for patients that had super low alpha-1 antitrypsin levels, even if it meant doing battle with insurance companies. It was within the months before I first saw him in 1992 that a number of papers were published based on studies that suggested otherwise, and the medical field experienced kind of an awakening to the fact that the drug company that produced the therapy was behind much of the information that suggested it was a must-have for my condition. So, as a result, I became his first alpha-1 antitrypsin-deficient patient for whom he did not put onto the treatment. Since then, he’s had several more, who he also did not start on the treatment, and who’s conditions have not worsened.

So, I got lucky. It would have meant several significant strings attached to my lifestyle if I had been on the therapy this whole time. It might have significantly changed our financial situation, and the medication would have introduced other risks that could have caused severe additional complications. Plus, who knows what kind of facilities I would have required in order to have it administered. And, as he points out, we’d now be looking the results over the past 10 years, with my lung functionality improving, thinking it was entirely due to the fortunate existence of modern medicine and this therapy.

There’s no saying for sure that I won’t have to start the therapylater in life, but I feel pretty fortunate that I haven’t had to thus far.

Love to all,
-D

PS : The gent in question is Derek Shaffer (who’s commented below). I had initially left out names for privacy reasons. I haven’t had the good fortune of meeting him,but happen to know his mother-in-law, the avid bird-watcher, insect-watcher, photographer, cyclist , famous blogger, etc. Deepa-ji, forgive me if I have missed out something. Here is a link to her blog.

My 1000km ride , in brief

It might be a while before I find the time to describe the experiences and emotions that I went through while doing the 1000k but decided to take out time to do a quick jot-down of a gist of my experience.

  • Learning from 600k. Help yourself before helping others. Stay focused on finishing your own stuff. Be prepared to ride all alone for the 1000k if necessary. To that end I stopped listening to music while riding for 2 months.Did a 240km Mysore – Bandipur – masinagudi – 4th hairpin – masinagudi mysore ride in intense heat without any gadgetry.
  • Ride started somewhere between 4 – 4:30 pm. Raman and Sohan took the lead in getting out of the city. I overtook them on the Nelamangala flyover
  • Started raining after the Nelamangala flyover. Put on my rain jacket. Kept it on for the rest of the day/night.
  • Rain stopped soon after. I had a quick food break at Kamath, Dobbspet
  • A motorcyclist reported 7-8 cycists 2 km behind. I waited for a short while around Tumkur. Continued.
  • A pillion rider insisted I take his *hand* to go to Hiriyur. Tried to explain the concept of a self-supported ride. Gave up. Requested him to please move on.
  • Another motorcyclist reported 7-8 cyclists about 7km behind, just before I touched Greenland
  • 2 double-omelettes and a tea at Greenland. No sign of other cyclists.
  • Reached the dreaded windy uphill area after Aimangala toll booth about 00:30 am. Struggled to control my cycle , strong crosswinds from left to right , pushing me into traffic. One gust made my bike skid abut 1/2 a feet ( I think). Thankfully no damage done.
  • Got confused by a left sign that said Chitradurga. Went into a service lane. Called up Sreepathi who opined Chitradurga exit should not be confusing.
  • Further down the road the exit came. Went to an ATM at 2:15 or so. Slept a little. Woke up at 3:00 and waited for some 10 minutes.
  • Lost my way inside Chitradurga. Asked the locals for directions to get out. Got out.
  • Started feeling sleepy and tired. Meandered towards Ghar Dhaba. Wanted to reach by 8:30 am. Probably reached around 9:30am. Heat was killing me.
  • Ghar Dhaba had now become “Kamat Upachar” – Awesome. Had a breakfast/nature/nap break. Started again.
  • Good for a while, then found the going tough. Kept drifting into sleep.
  • My first attempt at sleeping by the road side. Stayed well of the shoulder, used my cycle as a barricade. Lasted few minutes maybe. Sun was on me, sleep tough.
  • Continued. On a road to Asundi, there was an arch. That seemed to have some shade. Slept for a few minutes. Woke up hearing a loud horn. A bus. Honked. Just to wake me up. Felt disgusted.
  • Decided to enter Haveri town. Had 1.5 glasses of lassi. There was a huge gathering for a mass wedding in the heart of the city. Everybody was curious. I answered them in my Kannada to the best of my abilities.
  • Started drizzling. Quickly went back to the highway, hoping to use the shade. No luck. Sun started killing again. And of course headwinds a constant phenomenon.
  • Found a tree on a field off the road, decided to trespass and sleep. 5 minutes was showered by lots of leaves. Looked up. Hanuman Langurs unhappy to see me in their territory. New learning. Langurs do exist in human habitations. Left, had to.
  • Entered the hills, Hubli wasn’t far away.
  • Had to answer Nature’s big call. In a village. No obvious place. Asked the villagers. They pointed to where they do *it*. I proceeded there and did *it*.
  • Reached Hubli at around 5:40 or so. Was pushing, very tired. Found the corporation bank ATM.
  • Had Coconut water 1st time in the trip. Ate some kernel. Had a curd rice in a hotel. Felt better, hit the road again. Was 7+ by now. Giving up hope on others. Hubli TS closed at 7:20pm.
  • Entered the highway, attacked it with gusto. Tough. Kept drifting into semi-consiousness and out of it. On an undivided highway. Was conscious of the danger but unconscious. Figure!
  • Kept taking micro-naps , riding and again sleeping. At one point when I blanked out, I checked my odo. Was about 7km extra. Had no clue how I got there. Was in a very hallucinatory state.
  • Relaxed, pushed ahead. Drank a coke in the last hotel I found. Hoped it would help. It did, to a point.
  • Again dozed off in a highway construction area behind barricades.
  • Got up, started cycing. A group of men ran from all sides, brandishing torchlights straight at me. Surrounded me.
  • Heard vague sounds of bomb, bomb. One of them physically restrained me. Volleyed questions at me.
  • I answered in Kannada. Saw some of them relax a little. Others kept up the pressure, they suspected my tail-light was a timing LED device.
  • They wanted explanations as to why I was doing what I was doing. I reasoned that a cyclist is bound to get tired after a while and use some rest.
  • Again, heated confabulations among themselves as to how to deal with this strange situation.
  • Eventually they demanded they search me and all my belongings. I let them. Finally they got convinced. They let me go. I did, relaxed a little.
  • It dawned on me later on that the reason they held me was to prevent me from pressing that button that would blow us all up.
  • Tried sleeping again, short while. As I got up, a highway patrol vehicle came up. Again the questions. I realized there aren’t too many people enthused in this world about a lonely cyclist who cycles alone at night in a highway.
  • They told me to get in their vehicle since I was tired. They would drop me to the nearest Dhaba to rest. I told them that it was not allowed. They said they were well within their rights. I told them “Not allowed for me”. More talk, more arguments. Finally I convinced them that I’ll walk for a while, use it to refresh myself and then cycle. I did , only to realize that walking was also tough. Decided to take a sitting nap and make a final dash. Sat by the side, closed my eyes, napped.
  • Started , slowly. Just as I gathered momentum, Whoooosh, whoooosh.
  • 2 cyclists. Knew one of them had to be Opendro. Asked them to stop for a sec. Told them we’d ride together. Opendro & Deepak they were. Finally my hallucinations disappeared.
  • Entered Belgaum town. Took a while to find the ATM. Found it, used it. Lied outside the ATM. Too many musquitoes. Went inside
  • Vinay D Raj showed up. Eventually all 4 of us inside.
  • Prepared to leave. Cops showed up. Interrogated us for a good 1 -1.5 hours. Took photographs, phone numbers, checked IDs of us.
  • Sleepy folks. We refilled water and had tea on a roadside dabba.
  • Raced on the highway , covering 100+km in hilly terrain in 3.5 hours. Phew!
  • Entered town, took ATM slips.
  • Ate breakfast. Idli wadas , kesari and khara bath. Deepak gawked at me and Opendro feasting on the ghee laden Kesari. Obviously we were not textbook nutritionists.
  • Jayaprakash of Go Green, Hubli caught us outside. Awesome meeting a cyclist. Arranged a lodge room. we slept. I gave my cell to him to charge.
  • He came back in 2 hours, we slept 1.5. Had a charged phone, so could now keep it on more. Called Rohini, who was happy that now I had 3 more people with me.
  • JP escorted us out of town. We continued. Opendro diagnosed the sound from my hubs as grease grinding on the ball bearings. Thank goodness for the specimen samples of Oleum Cocos Nucifera that I always carry. Put it in the hubs. Sound disappeared.
  • Further down, heavy rain. Grease from Open’s hub washed way. Again C.oil to the rescue. Temporarily, albeit
  • Bankapur toll plaza, he found a mechanic, fitted his hub with grease. My multi-size wrench came in handy. Yay!
  • We rode till till Kamath. Took a 1.5 hour dinner break. Bad idea. I again started hallucinating. Wasted another 30 mins try ing to rest me and get me some tea.
  • I said, let me try going all out to kill the sleep. Worked. Cycled like a maniac with Opendro nipping at my legs, (possibly scared ). Covered about 25-30km in 45 mins (don ‘t remember exact number – Open would) Had to finally relax it was too much effort.
  • Again after a while , hallucinations. Open and Vinay went ahead. Deepak stayed with me. God knows what life secrets I shared with him. Once we caught up, I slept for 2 minutes. Now felt okay. Raced to Chitradurga.
  • Open and Deepak rushed towards some random exit, while I hollered that the exit was ahead and I was alert (Nobody believed me)
  • we entered town, went to the ATM and got slips. I was ready to continue. Got glares.
  • Looked for lodges, checked out lousy ones.
  • Auto guy comes , takes us to a lodge. Collects commission from lodge. Decent place. I put moov on my legs to avoid getting a cramp.
  • Morning wake up. Open the door. A marriage party guy asks me if I am from the music band. I look at myself, then at them and say “No”.
  • Have a tea at the base of the flyover on the highway. Deepak asks me to cycle at good pace. I end up racing ahead.
  • Start seeing folks returning from 600, 400 , etc. Waved to Aman.
  • Found Nirmal and Mustafa on the side relaxing. Stopped by for a quick chat. They were returning from 400. Told them I wanted to return early.
  • Stopped at Kamath, Sira. Sugarcane juice/Idliwada/coffee. Called up my wife then Venkat the warrior, told them I didn’t want to risk going too late final day, after the prev two days hallucinations.
  • Saw Open/Deepak going past. Ran outside with the coffee cup in hand. Waiter gave me a wierd look. They went ahead, too late to notice me.
  • Thought I’d catch up, never did.
  • Caught up with Vinay, borrowed my unfair share of dry fruits.
  • Rested ahead, Arvind caught up. Heat was on now. From experience decided to relax till Tumkur and then cycle fast.
  • Met Rajanikanth ( they guy who cycles 200km to recover from bike accidents, not the movie star). Chatted, cycled for a while.
  • Cute guy, he dialled Rohini and made me talk to her. I told her I’d be there around 3:30-4 at end-point. Knew she’d come. She didn’t know I knew she’d come. Thought it was to be a surprise. Unfortunately Venkat announced to the world.
  • Cycled very fast now, but took lots of breaks, a tea break where the lady refused to take money , telling me it was a privilege to serve a guy who cycled 1000km. These guys make the ride more worthwhile than any one else. I forced her to accept the payment. Filled my bottle with water from her drum.
  • Passed Sandeep, Ramesh Palani, Manjula and others. Alternate catch up and Go ahead. Took another break for some coke. Finally felt confident that I wouldn’t pass out before end-point again.
  • Before left to Hesarghatta, got a flat. Rajani caught up. I just decided to walk. 2-3 km walk v/s puncture fix. Former wins.
  • Bad co-ordination with Opendro who decided to come back to give me his cycle. Instead got a puncture.
  • Arvind gave me his bike. I took it. Only to realize height , saddle position all different. Trundled slowly , missed the SBI atm. Had a huge reception waiting for me. including my favourite members of my fan club- my kids. Took an ATM slip from the bank above.
  • Completely overwhelmed by how many people knew I was riding 1000k, and genuinely felt happy for me.
  • Happy to see so many cyclists completing their rides. The timed finish is a great idea.
  • Had cake, and some Iced Eskimo. Soothing for a severely sore throat.
  • Venkat hired a Meru Indigo merina. Dropped Open somewhere in Jayanagar. Reached home. End of amazing 3 days.

General ostentatious gyan on a 1000k

  1. Fatigue makes it difficult to ride the 300 per day quota after day 1. 
  2. 1000k (or more ) rides are no place for squeamishness. No place to sleep , sleep by the side of the road. No place to answer nature’s call, do it in the bushes
  3. You need to prepare , period. Don’t expect to get up one day and do a 1000k
  4. You need luck, something can still go wrong.

My TCS 10k run

Around this time last year, I had participated in the TCS 10k.
The thought happenned sometime last year. Can’t remember the date or circumstance. A few of my friends had acquired the Vibrams *barefoot* shoe. And somewhere along the line, Sharath Raju started his business of high end sport retail. Then I started hearing the name of Vivo barefoot shoes. And somewhere along the line, ( don’t recall exactly when) I met Anil Kadsur, most probably during a bicycling trip. Dang I don’t even remember when met him, I can go through my email archives but trust he’d remember and just post it. But he’s probably the only *real* barefoot runner I met.I caught him barefoot once in Lalbagh, and remember reading about his barefoot run up Nandi, at a speed in which some of our cyclists might falter.

I had run 25km in the Bangalore ultra event, Nov 2010 . At the end of 20km I was just limping, and just dragged my left foot for the rest of the course. Of course I had a slightly sore left knee at that time, the knee having picked up an injury sometime in 2009. While I was sure I would finish a marathon, I wanted to more than finish one, were I to take part in one.More than the timings, it felt important to be able to run a distance steadily at a good pace. Somewhere, sometime, I had a discussion with Anil Kadsur, he opined that he was relatively free of injuries ever since he started running barefoot. I figured that in any case I was not running well, so had nothing to lose. The last event that I ran was the TCS 10k in May 2011. I finished in about 01:02:31. I had trained a bit for this event, and it was the only the 1st time I practiced regularly and had anticipated and actually expected a sub 60 finish. The previous year (2010), I had to take a loo break in the middle and still finished in 1:00:52. Disappointments don’t come any bigger than this.
I could never figure out how folks could run regularly, while I would take at least a week to recover from a 5k run , forget 10k. So when during a chance discussion with Anil Kadsur , he talked in detail about his barefoot experiences, I decided to try it out.
A gist of the conversation, as I remember it.

(me) : Doesn’t it hurt? I tried running for a while, it felt a little painful
(AK) : Well yes, you need to give it time, to get used to it.

(me) : But what about glass pieces?
(AK) : Actually I was cut by a shard of glass once, so yes that’s a possibility. But isn’t it better than a joint injury

(me) : So very true. Musculo-skeletal injuries never seem to go away.

I suffered a knee injury on my left knee sometime in 2008. It took me two years to set it right. I suffered another injury on my right knee , thankfully after the left got fixed. At the time of writing of this post, I still have an injured right knee. So given the tradeoff between a surface wound and a joint injury, I’d grab the former anyday. Most of my friends, relatives and readers of my FB posts would know that I don’t get too scared by infectious diseases or Tetanus.
With many of my friends taking up running and easily hitting the sub-60 barrier, I decided to try barefoot. And I had a very relaxed goal. I wanted to run the 10k in May 2012. This was sometime in August. So I had a good 10 months to get used to runnning barefoot. And I had set myself a goal of running the distance in 55 minutes. So with a low enough goal and a relaxed enough schedule, I figured , I could at least try and see if barefoot worked for me.

I stay in an apartment complex which has a loop of about 910 meters (give or take a few meters). 11 rounds of this makes up about 10km, good enough distance to measure my timings. Replicates a real world scenario of running where you have to manoeuvre around people, dogs and children. I started running around this, slowly increasing the distance. But I strictly decided not to log or measure any of my runs, to avoid putting any pressure on myself to try and measure my timings. The flip side is that I have no idea how much I ran from September to December. I do remember running one 10k and a few 5-8k distances, all at relaxed pace, ensuring that I didn’t push myself. One thing that I did notice was that my knee and ankle were no longer hurting after regular running, there were times I ran 3-4 days a week. But of course, I could be taking things too easy.

So, come mid-January , after feasting on Pongal, I decided to test myself for a 5 round course. ( a distance of approximately 4.55 km). 15th Jan 2012, I ran this run.

Barefoot Exhibit 1 : 5 rounds ( 4.55km) at 25:40.50,
breakup

  1. 05:12.60
  2. 05:01.00
  3. 04:58.70
  4. 05:12.00
  5. 05:16.20

And went and looked up comparable runs with shoes the previous year, I had only one faster run that I had completed on
19 Jan 11,
Shoes Exhibit 1: 6 rounds ( 5.46km at 30:04.40),breakup of the 6 rounds

  1. 04:38:00
  2. 04:52.20
  3. 05:13.90
  4. 05:12.60
  5. 05:28.00
  6. 04:39.70

Not convincing enough but in general I was feeling okay after runs, not to mention that I did not really push myself on the run. After I did a few runs for the month, slowly pushing myself, I decided to now check my timing. Ran 7 rounds

Barefoot Exhibit 2: 2 Feb 12,7,rounds ( 6.37km) at 33:33.00 , breakup

  • 04:32.16
  • 04:35.63
  • 04:43.11
  • 04:48.04
  • 05:06.16
  • 04:56.94
  • 04:42.75

This was better than my timings for “Shoes Exhibit 1”. And again, I had taken care, not to run too hard. So was very happy with my timings. I soon decided to test distance

12 Feb 12, 14 rounds ( 12.74km) at 69:00.79

  • 04:33.32
  • 04:44.63
  • 04:46.98
  • 04:48.34
  • 04:56.97
  • 04:56.58
  • 04:56.17
  • 05:04.44
  • 05:04.65
  • 05:07.09
  • 05:04.43
  • 05:09.04
  • 05:04.77
  • 04:43.38

Not only was my timing very good, but I managed to save energy for a burst at the end ( I was hydrated by about a liter of juice on the way,that I could place on the way, since I was running inside my compound)

I ran 2.73 km in 12:39.93 on 21st Feb, and that was my 1st brush with calf pain, something that I had not experienced during runs with shoes. Our resident barefoot fanatic, Anil opined that either I had increased intensity or distance too suddenly, I figured maybe he’s right.
I continued running regularly.

Late March I moved to Mysore and started running on the road. At first my soles hurt running on the dimpled road. Running on Concrete was easy, running on tar now pushed it to another level. But miraculously enough, after sometime , I got used to this. I managed a 5km run in 26:13 minutes in mild hilly terrain. This was on 12th April. From there to the race, it was 50 days or so. I managed to continue running regularly and also ate regularly, with the result that my weight that was hovering around 72 during the 1st week of April went upto 75 a few days before the TCS run.
On 18th May, we played a game of cricket and I played it barefoot.Big,big mistake.During regular runs, I am convinced that my feet landed right on its paws, but there is no way to control things in cricket. There were huge pebbles all along the ground, and in the middle of the pitch. Even though i was running right, my sole would hit pebbles. The pain was quite bad (and actually hasn’t yet healed, at the time of writing of this post)
I looked up the condition, and here it is, a condition called Plantar Fascitis.
Here is some detail Plantar Fascitis
That means that I stopped running for a few days. Unfortunately that means no last minute pushes. But I managed a run on 24th just to reassure myself. An intense game of football on 25th, some intense cycling in the evening of 25th and swimming on 26th meant on race day morning, my left harmstring, right calf and lower back were extremely stiff.
I also spent a good part of Saturday evening figuring out how to fix the RFID on my foot. Tying around my ankle was an option suggested by a few guys in the know. I tried it but didn’t like it. Finally settled on putting a cloth medical tape on my leg and sandwiching the id between this tape and another on top. As an added safety measure, would wear a pair of socks.
As I went to the venue,looking at Junta, I felt a little lighter. But in the past, having being at the receiving end of back spasms , was paranoid. So kept stretching my back and promised myself not to push for the 1st km or two. Met Sudhir at the enclosure and somehow the topic of discuussion veered towards barefoot running, with him and with a few other strangers.
Knowing that Sudhir was a good runner, I figured I’ll pick a strategy of just keeping him in sight and pacing myself. This time I was armed with a phone that i intended to use as a stop-watch. So soon after the start, i started my stop watch. Tried running at a steady pace, and straightaway it was obvious that I was not at my best. At around the 1km mark, it showed around 6 mins and I pressed the split button. Further down as we took a right at MG road, I checked the timing. and was surprised to see that i had stopped the clock. So at the 2 km mark again, i tried starting it. Around the 3km mark, i had hit some steady pace and was trundling at some comfort level. Around the 5 km mark I hit a puddle of water, and my socks felt uncomfortable. I stopped and chucked the socks and continued running. I kept watching my foot to ensure the Rfid didn’t fall off. The oranges along the way really helped in hydration and delta nutrition. At the 8km mark I decided to push it. God my lungs felt it. I wonder how some of my friends can smile when they can run. Looking good is not one of the goals of running. Feeling good is. Albeit, after the run. I kept pushing that little extra till the end, and took off on a sprint just meters before the turn into the stadium. And found to my dismay that the end-mat was at the entrance to the stadium area. Missed a good 30meters of sprint, and possibly a few seconds. As I was waiting at the finish, Sudhir showed up. I realized that I had beaten someone who was miles ahead of me a year back. His timing was about 56.xx minutes, so I expected mine to be around 55.
The RFID was still intact, I took out the plaster .
As I waited for Rohini, an elderly gentleman accidentally stepped on my feet, and looked back as he told me sorry. He realized that I was barefoot and fell on my feet, got up and hugged me. I was stunned but guess this was his way of congratulating me on running barefoot.
The timings came out by the end of the day, I looked up mine. It was 52:26. I was happy, extremely happy if I may add. Even though a month before the run, I felt that I could try for 50 with some training, with my weight gain and lack of sufficient training and race day stiffness, this was more than a happy outcome for me.
I’ve been hearing more than a few friends who feel that running barefoot is a risk, or something commendable. For me, this was the only way I managed to get into rhythm and run consistently. In a sense I’ve actually discovered running after I chucked my shoes.

Stonehill Calling

We managed to get the route finalized pretty late for the April edition of BBCh12. So I had to rely on the advise of folks who rode around this area last year. After a small email exchange with Suma , I figured we might have a reasonably empty stretch to do a small children’s race. Suma and Arvind volunteered to do a recce mid-week but Suma fell ill. So based on her recollection of the route from last year, we announced it to the community that yes, we would have a children’s race .  I still had to do the recce before the main event to ensure that it would happen and we find a proper safe stretch for the children. So this Saturday morning was different for me , I drove Rohini and Vedant to the venue, met Arvind there and the threesome, ie Rohini,Arvind and Vedant  did a slow recce on the official route posted. Noticed that there were many trucks, so didn’t look like a good venue for a road race. Progress was slow since I was following Vedant and Rohini in a car. We met two Veloscope photographers who were doing a recce of their own. After doing part of the original route, we went back to the start point and did a route that went straight (at the point where the right goes to Stonehill). We took a deviation to the left and came back to the main road. Vedant got tired at this point as it was quite hot. But he did manage 5.2 km out in the open, possibly a record for him. That gave me enough confidence to hold the children’s event, my reasoning being that if Vedant could do it, most of the older other kids would be able to do it. Rohini now continued riding in a faster pace with Arvind to get some practice for the main race on Sunday, doing her own semi-recce, and getting some riding practice. This was quite exhausting, and the heat stifling. We moved on and decided to have breakfast on the way back. After what seemed like an eternity, we found a Darshini on the main road. After breakfast, while backing out and reversing , forgot to sight a pole and got a nice little dent on the back of my car. Dang! Was tired as hell on Saturday after the recce, but cleaned both Rohini and Vaibhav’s cycles , especially the drive-trains and lubcricated them. Packed them on the back of my car and locked them to the carrier overnight. Slept at 1 something, got up at 4 something, and got the rest of the pack ready. Had to give some serious pep-talks to my 8 year old to get him to participate (despite finishing 3rd last month). Younger one of course was eager to ride the same place he rode today. He wanted me to wake him up early morning. So Rohini pitched in with a bit of her own encouragement and Vaibhav realized that he could postpone his sleep. I realized that the rubber straps were missing from the rear carrier. Used some nylon fasteners to put them in place. Given that I did not have lube, used Coconut oil for lubricating the chains and the lift smelled like a Kerala kitchen as I hauled the bike(s) downstairs.

On race day  we started at 6 or so and reached the venue at 7 am. Rohini stood in line to collect her bib and there was a big line, and a mighty gala atmosphere. Vedant demanded his bib then and there, I  had to educate him that his turn would come later along with the rest of the kids. The registrations and bib collections continued till 7:35 or so and soon the race started. It looked sedate from my position and we made sure the kids were safely away from the race arena. Spotting each cyclist as he passed the start/finish line was a real challenge. A whole peloton whooshed past every time. Mansur and Ravindra were in the parking enclosure with the kids, and I was periodically popping in to check if all was well. After the 2nd round , Darren came in and complaining that one of his team-mates had been punched causing a big crash to a peloton. Soon, the race was called off, but restarted soon enough after barring the two teams involved in the scuffle. The race re-started for most of the folks who had come for fun and race, but was now shortened to 3 rounds. Unfortunately a whole set of riders, who were wearing a distinctive yellow jersey dropped out after the 1st incident. This included two women. Either they thought it was the end of the race , or they thought they had seen enough competition for the day. The race now continued in right earnest. Since two of the tightest pelotons had disappeared, spotting the rider numbers became easy for Roshni and SenthilVadivu. I didn’t have to shout out the numbers and avoided distracting Vasu Mishra.
The route contained very little trucks compared to the previous day, and a quick confabulation with Arvind and we decide to hold the race around the same road. I decided to go check the U turn point and just keepthe race from the main start line to the U turn and back. Somebody mentioned that it was about a km. I decided to do a quick recce knowing that all the biggie racers were riding the other side. Was surprised to see the original cleated warrior , Venkat riding alone , away from any Peloton. Went upto the U-turn point, it seemed much more than a km. After I came back to the start point, someone mentioned that it showed 1.7km on Garmin. So a 1.7+1.7 route for the kids seemed a little tough but doable for everyone, save possibly Vedant. I thought I’d still keep this distance, and just let Vedant ride as long as he doesn’t tire. Some more suggestions followed, we decided to move the cone a *little* ahead to reduce the distance. I figured we’d keep the distance to around 2.5 km , not too long but not too short. The young cyclists were aged 4.5, 8.5, 10.5, 12, 12 and 14. Given that the 4.5 year old had rode 5km the previous day in the heat, 2.5 for everyone didn’t feel impossible but it would make the kids pace themselves instead of a short sprint deciding the race. After I came back, as expected, the lead riders crossed the finish line to the last section for possibly a final sprint. There was a big group, I saw Saravanan and Venky in the group but didn’t recognize the others. At that point anybody could have won, the riders were quite close together. The final burst was exciting to watch, I had to push the kids back to ensure they didn’t get in the way of the riders. It was easy to lose track of the fact that riders were riding both sides and in the excitement of the finish, we might get in the way of riders coming from behind.
As in Turahalli, it was decided to call off all the riders who come across the finish line, in the interests of saving time.Timing would be tabulated at leisure by our pro-timers. After the flow of riders came to a trickle, we waited for sometime till we were sure no riders were left. It is tough to keep track of the large number of riders, and on top of that , nobody knew how many folks actually were present for the restart. From Rohini’s accounts there were 7 girls earlier, now there were 5.
So we started the kids race, 3 of us decided to cocoon the kids, the original idea was Venkat in front, I would be in the middle , riding alongside the children and Sreepathi would bring up the rear.

Venkat uncle telling the kids - you should not overtake me okay

Venkat uncle telling the kids (in his singsong accent) you should not overtake me okay

No sooner was the starting whistle blown, the kids just took off.

The kids start off the blocks

The kids start off the blocks

Took off, as in took our designated lead rider , Venkat, the cleated warrior completely by surprise, leaving him behind.The lead kid ( I think it was Aman, Mansur’s son) took off at a speed of 28kmph followed closely by the remaining kids. Vedant was trying valiantly to keep up with them but lagged behind. I’ll attribute it to his small size.

Venkat catches up with the kids

Venkat catches up with the kids, showing why he's a warrior

Also he kept calling out for me, so I had to switch places with Sreepathi. So Sreepathi rode alongside the riders and I rode alongside Vedant at the rear.

And they go off in the distance

And they go off in the distance

The folks disappeared a little in the distance and after some time I saw them coming back up. Rohan had moved the cone to a rather short distance , say 700 meters or so, and the distance felt really short. Aman, who I think was the original lead rider, threw up, possibly due to exertion or heat. Sreepathi was with him, while Rohan and Venkat rode with the lead riders. Seeing the others go the other way, Vedant started turning back, and was promptly prompted by Sreepathi to go to the cone and turn back. He promptly obliged, and came back. For a meoment I thought he might catch up with Aman, but some time before the finish, he got tired and had to be rehydrated with water. The remaining 4 had crossed the line before Vedant and Aman arrived on the scene.

The guy in front

The guy in front

Runner up

Runner up

Number 3

Number 3

Just missed the podium

Just missed the podium

Tough nut, dehydrated but not vanquished

Tough nut, dehydrated but not vanquished

Being the youngest rider, Vedant probably got more than his fair share of shutterbug attention,but he was enjoying everybit of it. He stopped at the finish line like you would at a traffic light(instead of rushing across). It sure didn’t bother him that he finished last.

Posing for the camera

Posing for the camera

The presentation ceremony followed , and started with the Cat2 riders of last race. I have been wondering where the Gatorade satchets were sold in Bangalore. Didn’t realize you have to go the podium of a BBCh race to get it. Put back everything on my car , and drove home. Was pretty dazed for the rest of the day, despite catching some sleep in the afternoon. Look forward to the off road race in May , and more participation, and more action of the relevant kind. Hopefully more kids participate.

All the photographs featured in this blog are from Veloscope. Veloscope on Facebook
Some of the photographers are pretty talented, as you can make out from the photos. Check their FB site for all the race photos.

The next race is likely to be near Decathlon , near the dried up lake close to the tracks. It will be an off-road race, so uneven but no traffic. Hope to see a good turnout there. As always , have fun but be safe.

Bangalore Bikers Championship BBCh 2

It all started with a mail from Rohan – Hey Chiddu, Vasu wanted to check with you if you would be interested in checking out possible children’s race routes in all our BBCh races. The idea sounded swell to me, especially since I happen to be the father of two children who loved cycling. This race was also in Turahalli , one of the last open space left in South Bangalore. So I went out to the base for a couple of weeks, and checked out the trails in the Eucalyptus Grove. My idea was to check out a loop that first went uphill and then downhill. I thought of getting some help on the day of the race and clearing a parallel track from the main trail. I went to the base with my kids a few times and rode around the area (with them). It was apparent that the area under the Eucalyptus grove was the best place for holding such a race. A day before the race, Akshay calls up and asks me to get some water, a dispense and if possible some Electral. So I organize that , dump them in my car. I make it to the venue at around 7:15 and find a lot of kids and their parents already there.I put the dispenser in place , hand over the electral/electrobion to Akshay and push off home, making a call before starting, telling Rohini to get the kids ready. I keep prodding her to come and see the race, and since her kids were doing it, hopefully she would make it today. Though we got some mails that indicated about 30 children participating in the races, it turned out that only about 16 children participated in the race. All these were in the age group 4 to 9. After the elderly races, all the kids headed out to the base of the Eucalyptus Grove where I checked out the trail. Many of the children were seen riding around this area. Some of the parents told me that they were scared of the rocky downhills at the base as their kids weren’t entirely comfortable with the brakes. After some general discussions somebody ( I think Arvind) popped the idea of a TT. Avoid collisions and safer. I was thinking of a loop As I was thinking of a loop, again it turned out that the uphill section was tough to negotiate for a few kids. ( This will hopefully change in the future). So we finally decided to make it a gentle downhill TT for the kids. Pronto my son says – but Appa the big race loop was 3.2 km , only this much for us? Was thinking about the race, so not sure if this was a complaint or a statement of relief. Never got time to check with him on that. We lined up a few volunteers to man the somewhat treacherous parts of the route , the bumps and the sudden deviations. Sohan was stationed at a point where I had planned for the U turn , and we pushed that back a little to make it a start point. I felt it was too small, and was trying to extend it when Parag quipped – Chiddu this is a race, please don’t make it a brevet. I opined that it would be better to make the uphill stretch as part of the race, and that too was shot down, reason given that all the bikes were single gear and many kids would find it tough to climb. So a gentle downhill it was and a race that would bring out our next Nilesh Dhumal. It took some time for us to get our act together. Arvind went to the start point and Roshni was there at the end point, timing the races. Once Arvind came to the start, I moved towards the end point point. Roshni told me the race had started and sure enough, Maya (Suma’s daughter) came to the finish. I saw the 2nd guyfollowing close enough, didn’t wait to check if he overtook Maya. All the riders went through, and apparently only one of them fell. Some of the parents were seen escorting the children from start to finish.Quite a workout they must have had, since the kids were not exactly going slow. The race was won by a pint sized cyclist who upstaged 2 older kids to finish 1st. We really need to do this on a regular basis, and hopefully we can find suitable kiddie racing options at other venues. However, this was purely downhill, we should have a bit of a climb on the other venues if not a flat stretch that required some pedalling. At the end of the children’s race, we had the prize distribution ceremony. Naveen made the podium despite a dressed up knee , and Darren gave a spirited speech. The women’s prize distribution inspired the women in my family and each one of them have promised to take part in the next race. At the end of it all, Vasu Mishra gave another speech. The next BBCh is a roadie event. Looking forward to it.

The Race venue

The race venue

One of the youngest riders in Bangalore

One of the youngest riders in Bangalore. There was one other 4 year old who did well as well, but don't recognize him

Ravi practices downhill running

Ravi practices downhill running. Either that,or he's motivating his son to go faster. However, would have been better if he ran ahead, if the latter was his intention

On closer look, looks like an unfinished argument carried over from home

On closer look, looks like an unfinished argument carried over from home, and Ravi wishing to have the last word.Bhaag ke kahaan jaoge , main tumhara baap hun!

Oh well, I knew i'd win

Oh well, I knew i'd win

The Fall Guy

The Fall Guy