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1000 kms on the bike - Part III (The Dream Came True)

Posted by Vikramsinh at Sunday, August 11, 2013

John Bingham says, “ The miracle is not that I finished the race, the miracle is that I had the courage to start”. Let us therefore sign up and get cracking. And what if I don’t finish this year ? Well, how will I know until I try ?

“You never know how tall you are
Until you’re asked to rise
And then if you are true to plan
Your stature touches the sky”

Back ward Tracing !
It was dark and cold night, road traffic was moving on the national highway. I saw less traffic on the road due to odd timing, and moon was illuminated to its full capacity. I could see all the trees , farms, small huts, civil structures on both sides of the road. Riding in the night was bit relaxed and easy .. moon light was helpful and different shapes of tree were creating illusions of actual living beings. Clouds were strangely attractive with gold, silver, or any other colored designs. Only time when I enjoyed night riding. I was feeling tired and sleepy but also need to reach next control. I took short stops and naps for 10 minutes at the road side. But I was not able to sleep as traffic on the road was too noisy for serene and peaceful night. Just rested and ate few items from backpack. I slowly rode towards Hubali, suddenly rain started after 40kms, I was searching for good place for sleeping. I found one dhaba where 2 small boys were preparing tea , 4 o’clock in the morning. I stopped and asked for tea, boy looked friendly after talking to him, I told all the things about my ride and asked if I can sleep for some time. He was happy to help , I had tea and slept on bamboo bed. No alarm set, I was wearing jacket but feeling cold. Sleep overtook and body felt good as it got some rest.
Woke up at 5.10AM, 23rd June 2013 Saturday, 1 hour sleep and I felt bit fresh, one more tea, bottles refilled and I was ready to go. I thanked him and left.. it was bit difficult to walk in the mud on the road side. Soon I was feeling heavy stomach and searched for suitable place. One more dhaba, place to stop, searched for toilet and found one in good condition, relief for stomach. I had paper soaps handy for such situations. Again started riding with dawn spreading light over the Earth. Kept eating roti, chikki, almonds, kismis etc. Somehow I lost track of time and mis calculated the distance to reach Hubali. I was going at good pace so thought it near. As I was constantly thinking of missed dinner last night and cautious about eating, I stopped for breakfast at Kamat. I dried my shoes by stuffing news paper in it and had 4 idlees. There I saw one watch on the wall which indicated that I was in trouble, 6.35 AM. I asked waiter how much distance I have to cover to reach Hubali and he said 40kms , time remaining – 1.5 hours , though distance and time were proportionate in normal conditions , I saw it was posing me challenge as I already covered 570kms. I hurriedly ate and left within 5 minutes ..6.40 AM .

Here started race against time, I increased pace and pushing higher gears. My training was paying well , I felt strong on climbs. Weather was clean, no rain and sun was out. This made some positive changes in mind and how I was feeling. Soon after one toll booth I saw one rider ahead ..I already lost hope to meet one, and my mind was dancing in rainbow of happiness. I pedaled fast to reach him and talked, Ashok provided me valuable information about location of other riders, distance to cover and time limits. He also told about few events from his journey. We need to move fast, I suggested him to follow my wheel, he was on hybrid bike. He suggested me to go ahead and catch Snadeep who was riding 2 kms ahead. I wanted to ensure I was following correct route as mentioned in the cue sheet, and didn’t want to waste time in asking people for directions. Entering in Hubali was tricky, we need to navigate through some of the twisting roads which I skipped while I was passing through same city. The known route for me was 10kms longer than cue sheet, with tight time lines I couldn’t afford to ride extra miles and still make it to the control in time. So I increased speed to 30+ and zoomed on climbs. I was sure to catch up Sandeep as there were multiple climbs on the way and I was climbing fast. After few ups and downs I saw Sandeep and relaxed my pace as I need to ride with him for directions. I also saw big truck lying in the trench close to road, might have toppled in the night. Slowly I closed down the gap, and had good conversation for almost 10 kms to the control, He was riding at steady pace and was looking fresh. Last few kms were bumpy , road conditions were not good. Sandeep told me that there are 2 more riders other than Ashok riding behind, Kalpesh and Sohan. Sohan had crash at the long speed breaker. Kalpesh was riding on MTB with broad tires. I imagined the efforts required to ride such long distance on MTB.

Once we reached at control, we swiped our cards and collected slip. We were relaxed as time on the slip was showing that we reached control 15-20 minutes before closing time. We went to Kamat and ordered breakfast. While talking to Sandeep I came to know many stories of other riders. Total 21 riders started and currently 6 were on the road.

Story1- Deepak got problems with his bike derailleur. Broken pulley from derailleur and he tried to convert it into single speed but not able to do so as chain length was not fitting well. Fortunately he had one extra chain which he used to convert his bike to single speed. He rode almost 450kms with this with Raman. What a courage and efforts. He also fell down on the same long speed breaker. The same truck which I saw lying in the trench brushed him previous night, he rode ahead and didn’t looked back. Due to missing time limits for next control both quit.

Story2- Ashok and Kalpesh reached the control ATM only 1 minute to spare. This was very close and when they reached to ATM it tossed same error to them, “this card is unauthorized”, Sandeep called chiddu and asked if he can take photograph as evidence and he said yes. I imagined the last minute rush to control .. it was so close.

Story3- Karthikeyan was riding continuously without sleep, He reached Belgaum (510kms – 28hours) at 8PM , he was riding on MTB, it was tremendous show of strength and determination.

Soon Ashok and Kalpesh arrived and able to get ATM slips within time limits, this time not 1 minute rush but ..still not much cushion , only 6-8 minutes. Now we were more relaxed as remaining 400kms we need to complete in 35 hours compared to first 600kms which we completed in 40hours. We had good breakfast and talked about next plans of riding and sleeping. I thought to sleep for 3-4 hours at some hotel or so. I was feeling fresh, called parents, friends and left alone. Others were taking time for food etc, Sohan missed the control, I felt bad, it was unfortunate.
Once out on the road my knee was bit painful not to the extent to stop me but tingling. More painful I felt about my bum and stopped now and then to apply Vaseline but it pain was not alleviating. As I didn’t find any hotel soon, I decided to sleep under tree, bit away from road to avoid traffic noise. Road was muddy and full of grass in all directions. It was amazing place to sleep after so many hours of riding. Slept at 11 AM and set alarm for 1 PM , again sleep overtook all the senses. I woke without any alarm noise and checked time in mobile thinking that I didn’t hear alarm, to my surprise it was only 12 PM , felt fresh and energetic. So I started again..

Now again same stretch arrived where I slogged fighting with head winds while going towards Belgaum. Monotonous riding with nothing much on the way . Difficult to find restaurants. I found one and hopped inside to have good lunch. Outside rain started again and luxury of riding in sun was gone. I rode at bit slow speed so as to keep my shoes dry. Nothing much happened for next 2 hours. Around 5 PM , I again stopped for meal . Need to be very careful about food and water. After eating I felt it’s time to use washroom.
Once again I was back on the road, bum was painful beyond imagination. Again stopped on and off to apply Vaseline. Also put my spare shorts upside down over the original short I was wearing. Bit of relief but not to make me comfortable. By 6 PM I was able to reach 700kms mark. My frequency of stops increased, at one of my stops – 2 mobikeres stopped to ask about my journey. One of them was more enthusiastic and excited to learn about me. He asked about the Prize money, I told more details. He said.. “hey come on , sit on the mo-bike, I will give you lift for 5kms “. I politely refused and started again.
One stop for water and next for food at 9PM . I was careful as my roties were over so I had to depend on Dhabas. I talked to boy at Dhaba who was very energetic in serving the food. I had dal rice, 2 cup of coffees to keep me awake. Boy said one of the riders went ahead 30minutes back. By description I figured out he was talking about Ashok. I was feeling bit tense, I need to reach next control by 2 AM, 50 kms to go and sleep was making me dizzy. I stopped multiple times, tried to sleep at the road side but traffic noise was worse. Slowly I felt good, and moon was out to light my way. Reached chitradurga control at 12.30AM . Bought 6 bananas , 4 in back pockets. Started again. By this time I rode 800kms and almost realized my goal. Next few kms were painful for bum. I stopped few times to search for place to sleep. At one small dhaba/shop or whatever you can say it . I found bamboo bed and people sleeping. As soon as I stopped riding, I felt cold, I slept with 3layers, one short sleeve jersey, next was full hand T-shirt, and then rain jacket , it was 3 AM and plenty of time to reach Bangalore.

Woke up at 5AM , Sunday 24th June 2013, last day of my ride. Started riding and met Sandeep,Kalpesh on the way. They were riding together for most of the returning distance. We talked lot, had good time as sun came out. I stopped for early morning washroom break. Again rode alone and soon closed the gap to reach them. Breakfast at Sira, Kamat gave me energy to ride ahead. I put 4 bananas in back pocket and I was ready to go. 9AM and 900+ kms and I was feeling fresh. Maximum time for completion was 7PM but I didn’t want to stop now, If I reach before 2 PM them I would able to complete the ride sub 70 hours. Again race against time, I rode with high pace pushing bigger gears , By this time bum pain was alleviated but now Achilles tendon got painful, pain above the heel was not stopping me but it was there, rode last 100kms with medium severity pain, I was very happy to see many riders on the way. Because 5 brevets (200,300,400,600,1000kms) were planned on the same route in such a manner that each would going to terminate at same time (7PM on Sunday) and place. Now last 100kms were fast as I wanted to finish this ride as soon as possible, go home and take shower. I was feeling fresh and no sleep in eyes. Stretch was full of uphills and I enjoyed it. Last 15kms though the city was full of traffic, but I was thinking only about finish. I reached at last control ATM and to my surprise it was 1.30PM , wooohooo .. I was basking in the glory.

Total time - 69hr 32min
On bike - 47hr 25min
Off bike - 22hr 7min
Total Sleep - 6hr 30min

Finally this long long long journey came to end. We met lot of riders at CCD, had sumptuous lunch and lot of phone calls, happy smiles, photos, everyone was wishing us for great achievement. Karthikeyan joined after some time as he rode 1000 and 200 km brevets back to back with same time limit as 1000kms on MTB what a piece of unbelievable achievement. We shared Happy moments.. and celebrations. I felt fresh and happy as I rode back to my friends place which was 25 kms away from the finishing point…
Five finishers from left - Vikram (me), Sandeep, Kalpesh, Ashok, Karthikeyan

After Thoughts
Finally mind was at peace, I was able to finish the incomplete task on my list..and relived through emotional moments. I also realized the importance of training and thought how ill prepared I was when first time I participated in Paris-Brest-Paris (2011) and failed, I didn't get proper guidance from other riders at that time and was new to understand the whole body dynamics. It was carrying big misconception that if I rest more, I will able to save my energy for ride at that time, this is only true in the last week where you taper your workouts. Otherwise you need to ride consistently as per training plan. (I earlier mentioned my plan in the first part of this story). Training is the most important thing to prepare your body for arduous efforts and pain. After that mechanicals, equipments, food, hydration follows. Riding such a long distance with so many variables needs lots of training/preparations in right direction, if you disrespect the distance/climbs/weather or think it’s easy then you will face consequences. Not many people can do it on this earth and I felt really lucky that I was able to finish it with elan. Countless people helped me and I will always be grateful to all of them.  It was life time experience and will cherish the memories for all my life. With this thought I started to read next item on my wish list … :-)

1000 kms on the bike - Part II (One way till Belgaum)

Posted by Vikramsinh at

The D-day ..
As soon as clock shows that its 4 o’clock, it started raining. What we feared for so long.. rain arrived at very start .. It was first challenge. I fumbled to put on my raincoat, while I was finding my raingear in the backpack, all the riders left and it was terrible condition. Not knowing any of twisting roads and no one to guide you. As I was new to Bangalore, I planned to follow other riders for at least for first 30kms, And here riders were leaving .. I was bit scared and hurried put on my jacket, jumped on bike, cleated my shoes and zooooommmm.
Soon my anxiety was over as I saw colorful reflective jackets, helmets ahead ..on the signal. My mind screamed I come .. I got merged with other riders. Relentless rain creating havocs on the road, traffic got moving at pace of ants. We rode through .. muddy water, gravels, mud, potholes etc. finding paths to go from where ever possible … through inches of space . I saw Deepak stopped at road side, he was looking for me , we started again. Once we are out of the city , on the national highway, it felt like breathing in free air. 30 kms on, Deepak and Raman stopped for pee break, so I thought I can stop and ride along with them, I had one roti and started again. I was looking for anyone who can ride along, cause this ride is going to be endless. Deepak and I rode for few kms, stopping couple of times. He suggested me to ride with Raman and I followed him. Rain was not stopping, visibility was low and we were determined to ride .. in any condition. Once I started riding at bit higher pace, one by one I met riders , Ashok , Sandeep . On the downhill I tried to dry my shoes by removing foot out of shoes .. while riding. It worked to some extent . Then I met with Pradeep, a rider from Bangalore and we rode together discussing few things. At the toll, we stopped and I dried my shoes by putting news paper inside. Ashok arrived , few guys went ahead. We started soon and then I met good bunch of riders. It was dark now and head lights were on, though I didn’t ge chance to put my head lights. I was riding behind other people and light was enough to see the road. On this stretch I met to Aman who was riding at good speed we talked, he suggested to ride in streamline to fight with strong headwinds, so almost 100kms mark we rode together with good pace. At Sira we had our dinner, refilled water bottles with electral, I also mounted head lights. This is where I also met to Kartikeyan who rode 1200kms in 73 hours (same time limits as for 1000kms as per Brevet rules ) for the first and last time. Aman was staying for more time so I started alone in the dark and continuously looking for riders for the company. While I was riding alone in the dark .. I was thinking about many things .. and these lines flashed in my mind ..

"Eat before you are hungry.
Drink before you are thirsty.
Rest before you are tired.
Cover up before you are cold.
Peel off before you are hot.
Don't drink or smoke on tour.
Never ride just to prove yourself."
Paul de Vivie, aka Velocio

It’s very important for body to be fuelled for all the time. I kept eating and drinking good quantities of water. Later I saw blinking red lights at long distance. I was happy to see the riders, I increased pace to catch them, after some time I succeeded. I tried to ride with them and had few words. Along the way nothing was visible except the road. We rode with monotonous rhythm. Small town on the way.. we caught the opportunity to stop and had hot tea, refilled bottles added electral. When we were back on the road, others rode on side road while I opted for highway hence again I was alone. When riding alone it was monotonous and traffic was moving fast on the highway. I was now waiting for 200 kms mark where we had first control point, Chitradurga. Once I crossed the hill, I saw the city but now finding the ATM was task. I started to looking at cue sheet and was confused to in which direction I should go. So I wait for others to come. Rajani came, I followed him inside the city. All was pretty standstill, except few people on the road and couple of dogs roaming around. Meanwhile Sandeep and pradeep joined us. It was 2.30 AM in the night, We found axis bank ATM , swiped our cards, got the ATM slip and ready to go. Sandeep suggested to eat something at bus stand. It was busy place even in the night, as soon as we entered in to the bus stand many curious people gathered to see our bikes. We tried to keep low profile and ate. People asked from where we came , where are we going, what is the price of bike, how lights are working and umpteen of questions.. and bus conductor didn’t like our presence with bikes. He asked to keep our bikes outside and then to eat whatever we want. We ignored him to quickly pack our stuff and go. I put 4 bananas in back pocket, my full hand shirt was wet so I changed to dry jersey which I kept for return journey. Rain jacket proved very helpful in heavy rain. Rajani was contemplating to sleep so I left along with Sandeep.
Once on the road, it was dark and again monotony crept in to the mind. Not much happening, no scenery to see, only the patch of road where our headlights were illumination the surface of earth was visible. I felt cold and rain was intermittent. We rode till 4.30AM, reached at 240kms mark , stopped at toll booth. I was feeling cold and sleepy so I asked sandeep to ride ahead. I had 2 cups of hot tea. Removed my shoes , gloves and tried to sleep in the chair. Half an hour of nap and it was not good, I kept waking up in between.

Day 2 – Unhappy Wind God
At 5.15 I started again with pretty cold in the early morning, red colour spread on the eastern horizon. I rode fast for some time but then started feeling sleepy on and off. Through out the journey I was constantly looking for other riders … but now luck stared turning its other face . Suddenly I saw someone sleeping on the roadside .. Sandeep probably. Road looked endless and boredom was shadowed my mind. I was not knowing this was going to be tough. Slowly we were entered in the wind gods territory, whole flat region spread across the horizon. Nowhere to hide from the strong winds. Simple flat roads become difficult to cross, you have to put your head down and push .. nothing else. Keep pedalling .keep pedalling .. and nothing other than pedalling.
One quick stop for sleep at roadside for 20mins, and bum pain surfaced back which I felt in 500km practice ride. I was near 300kms mark , it was around 11AM , I saw Sandeep again and felt good but it was short. He wanted to stop for breakfast and I was planning for minimum off bike time. Once again I was alone on the roads .. with all consuming relentless winds and intermittent rains. It was simply frustrating when you are pushing pedals with all your power and not getting anywhere. No place for food or water .. I kept riding.
My time calculations were crumbling as collapsing house of cards.. similar way how domino effect makes whole cards to collapse one by one. I was calculating about 200kms for every 10hours for first 600 kms and 12 hours for each 200kms remaining. This was tough time .. testing your determination , persistence , mind control more than physical efforts. Soon I started to questioning the very existence of purpose of this ride. Questioning mental strength and physical challenges .. at the end passion won over all the other things. I persisted and kept going.. crawling in the strong wind, bit hungry and thirsty looking for restaurants along the way. I found one dhaba and my eyes sparkled. When I reached near entrance and parked my bike, people gather around and started questioning .. same story goes .. this time people hurled funny questions .. iske anadar motor bithai hai kya ? motor pe chalati hai kya ..motor pe ? ( did you fit motor inside ? does it run on motor?) … tires are tubeless ? (pointing to water bottles) what’s in there? can I ride the bike for small distance .. I was patiently answered all the questions but diplomatically refused for bike ride saying its difficult to ride without cleats. After all this Q&A session I settled in the chair. It was around 1PM . I had full lunch and unsuccessfully searched for toilet. Started again .. with angry wind God.
Whole stretch was monotonous and no rider for company, now distance covered neared to 360kms and possibility of meeting any rider become distant dream. My lonely training helped lot in this difficult times. After riding for 2.5 hours in wind with frustrating speed, I reached next control at 410kms, Hubali , 4 pm in the clock. Moving inside the city was quite tricky , roads were full of traffic and no space available for free movement. Reading cue sheet and finding the exact way was pain , at every turn I had to stop and ask people for directions, this was so consuming that I opted longer but known route for getting out of city . I traversed same route and went back to the point from which I entered the city. It added extra 10 kms and now my speedo was showing extra 20kms compared to cure sheet. This consumed the time cushion I had created , now 100kms from Belgaum , I need to reach there by 2 AM. Once darkness started to cover all horizons wind disappeared and rain took its place. Climbs started to come and go, whole course of this stretch was up and down. I felt good as I always enjoyed climbing.
Feeling bit cold as I was wet in the rain, I stopped intermittently. After 450 kms mark I thought to call parents to tell them about my journey. Also messaged to Chiddu about my location. It was around 8.30pm, I was thinking about dinner but didn’t find any good restaurant. Also time was elapsing very fast and I was anxious about reaching the next control. At one place I saw speed breaker.. my speed was slow so I managed to cross it safely. It was very dangerous due to its length. Later I came to know some of the riders fell down at the same place.
Slowly I was nearing to Belgaum , I skipped dinner but kept eating roties after certain time period. Lonely ride in the darkness and mind was only focused on reaching next control. But road was endless, I climbed couple of steep hills and my head lights were bleak. Now Belgaum was very near so I thought to change the batteries after reaching to the city. I climbed down and reached in the city, again same story of asking people about directions. First ATM refused to identify my card, it said “this card is not authorized” I hurried searched for alternate ATM near bus stand. There I saw 2 machines, first machine also displayed error and no receipt for me. Now I was running out of options, last machine and I was thinking about calling chiddu . I tried last and it sent out slip … yieee …
Now I was again thinking about dinner, it was 12.30pm, I went to bus stand. Once again all people gathered around and so many questions .. where are you going , how many people are riding, when did you start , where are you from , what is the purpose , what is the prize money, how those lights work , switch on the lights. It was bit scary as I sensed some of them were drunk. I quickly ate and refilled water bottles and left. Once out of the city I tried to change the batteries of the head lights ..but alas as I replaced old batteries and tried to switch on lights .. it refused to light up. It was frustrating , riding without light in the dark was almost impossible and I need to reach next control by 8.30 AM. Soon I realized that I have to ride without original head lights. I was prepared for this situation with one back up light , so mounted it on handle bar and started again . The new head light was not much powerful but it was enough to show me the road. Again all cold night and monotonous road with rain. I started riding back towards Hubali , 2AM in the clock 530kms on the speedo, 510 kms as per cue sheet… journey goes on ..

...To Be Continued.

1000 kms On the Bike - Part I (Until the D-Day)

Posted by Vikramsinh at

"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. The relationship between the soundness of the body and the activities of the mind is subtle and complex. Much is not yet understood. But we do know what the Greeks knew: that intelligence and skill can only function at the peak of their capacity when the body is healthy and strong; that hardy spirits and tough minds usually inhabit sound gods. "
-          John F. Kennedy

Behind the Curtains !!
The distance, 1000kms .. creates such a formidable picture in my mind, I never even imagined in my wildest dreams that one day I could ride this distance on my bike with all the rain, wind, cold weather, riding day and night without any support.
The origin of riding 1000kms (Bangalore- Belgaum-Bangalore) lies in the accident happened to me 2 years back when I had short term memory loss. I still don't know how accident happened or how I fell down during 1000km Brevet on the same route in June 2011. So I just wanted to go back and complete the unfinished work.
Once I decided to go for the ride in Bangalore, there comes lots of preparations. I started training at least 1 month before the event. Ride date - 20th June 2013, I searched for riders who were willing to do this ride. I didn't find people from my city immediately, and when they responded it was pretty late. I got in touch with people from other cities who were interested in riding and decided on plans. My training was ready

weekly 5-6 ride each varying from 60-120 kms
1 tempo ride -80-100kms
1 Hard ride - 8-10 hill repeats – 70-90kms
1 Easy recovery ride – 60kms
1 long ride on weekend – 130 +kms
1 long ride - 500kms .. 10 days before the actual ride
1 week before the ride - taper the workouts

Big Training Ride
As per plan, I need to ride 60-100kms for each ride, 150+kms ride 2 weeks prior to event, 500kms ride 10 days prior to the event and tapering of workouts for last 8days, reach Bangalore 2 days prior to the event. Get lots of carbohydrates in the last week. So I was planning 500kms ride, pune-kolhapur-Pune on 8th(Sat) and 9th(Sun) June. The ride target was 24-26 hours, riding alone for long hours was boring, to avoid that I thought to ride with Sumit. But he got busy with some work which rendered no other option but ride alone. As I trained alone all the time, it was not big blow for the plan.

8th June (Saturday) - early morning 5 am
Weather was pleasant, no rains, cool temperatures, less traffic on national highway. First 120kms were fast including 2 climbs and 10 minutes break for eating, consumed 4 hours. Along the road met with few people who were riding their own ride. I saw people in khambatki climb (4 kms climbing) who were heading towards Goa on their MTBs. I wished to ride with them but their pace was way too slow for my expected time lines. So I had few words with them went ahead. At the top of khambataki climb I saw Sanjay who along with his 2 buddies riding in same direction, I crossed and waved at them. Once I was climbed down, 10-15 speedy kms, sun was hot and first flat for my rear tire. Stopped at the road side and removed tire , tube. Small piece of thin steel wire was protruding from the tube.. fixed the puncture and put back all things in place , sun was scorching and my hands felt burning sensation. I checked the air pressure and thought I should put some more .. there was no support for the bike to stay in standing position . I tried to fill some air and it was not inflating the tire. I tried to move my hand pump and boomm ... the pump detached from the place breaking the valve.. with tip of valve inside the pumps front part. I cursed my decision for pushing more air.. That's when I saw Sanjay and his partners zoomed ahead. I was burning in hot weather. Again I put down all things, removed tire tube and this time replaced old tube with new one. Now I only remained with one more extra tube in the saddle bag and instructing myself this should be handled with care, lost at least 45 minutes and momentum also. I lost the rhythm, now ugly thoughts started to gather into mind. I was contemplating about the cutting this ride and go back to home .. but somehow I persisted and went ahead. As air pressure was not up to the required limit (110 psi), I felt myself dragging. The hand pump was able to inflate tires to 80 psi pressure. I rode with low pressure for rest of the ride which means at slower speed and with constant fear for punctures.

Next stop was at Satara, I was running out of water and only shops available were in next city. I refilled water and ate last banana in my back pocket. Till this time I ate 4 bananas and time was almost 5 hours and 135 kms. Now I was feeling bit energetic and willing to go as per the plan.
When I was about to leave the shop where I refilled water, shopkeeper asked me to take my bag which was lying on the chair. Had he not mentioned it, I would have landed in coming back for my bag or worst case it goes missing. Thanks to the shopkeeper for reminding me. Again I started ride with good pace and here comes rain ..not very heavy , so I kept riding.
Around 200kms mark I was hungry and stopped for lunch, total 8.30 hours and 7 hours on bike. When I entered the restaurant, waiter inside was confused/surprised by seeing my appearance, maybe he was not expecting someone like this in the rain. I put my bike just at the entrance so that it can be visible , waiter was not happy and wanted to put it in parking area but I insisted and kept at same place. Lunch done, bags packed and I left by 2 pm. not much happened for next 40kms except intermittent rain but as I neared Kolhapur, winds were crazy finally I cut short my ride by 10kms and turned back at 240kms mark. Kept eating all the time, chikki, banana etc. around 5 pm stopped for snacks, misal and rain was not giving any respite. 6pm 310kms stopped at the road side and took some rest as I was feeling tired, and bit soar bum, applied Vaseline, talked to dad, friend and messaged my where about. Started again and sun goes down, now I was riding in the dark and rain, boredom started to overshadow my mind . I switched on the lights, put reflective jacket. As my hometown was next destination for food/water, I kept riding in the hope to reach Satara as early as possible. Met couple of mo-bikers who asked me about my ride and astonished when they came to know about details. Some people offered help which I politely denied. Some people suggested not to ride, and iterated list of woes my parents might went through due to my crazy riding. It was all mixture of people, positive negative, hopeful, encouraging, curious, surprised, discouraging..and so on
Finally I reached to Satara, I was all drenched and bum was painful. I was not willing to ride further, it was very cozy feeling that your home is just 2 kms away when you are soaked and feeling cold. I ate full dinner, and changed my plan to ride further. Parents were happy to see me at home, 340kms by 9pm. I slept in warm blanket and enjoyed 7 hours of sleep.
Next day woke up at 5am and ready to ride by 6am, riding with slowed the pace. After 40kms pit - stop for the breakfast, had chocolate bars, idlee sambar, wada sambar. Next journey for 60kms was slow, lonely, with drizzling rain. When I reached Katraj tunnel I saw lots of traffic which I always hate, I rode through pool of cars , trucks and many other vehicles to reach the fork for new and old highways. Police on the road were diverting all the traffic towards old highway road and not allowing anyone to go further on new highway. I was unaware of all the events happened prior to reaching there. Somehow I managed to pass those barriers and I was alone on the new highway road, I went through the tunnel where lots of construction work was going on, I carefully rode through all the barricades in the tunnel and came out safely. Going downhill was an easy part..empty road without any vehicle, I guessed some part of tunnel might be got damaged due to rains. Last stretch was fast as I was eagerly waiting for my last stop. Reached home, had hot water bath, and I was as fresh as I was woke up from good night’s sleep. Later I came to know about the incident happened in new tunnel, 3 days back tunnel got over flooded with water, all the vehicles inside the tunnel were floating in the water. Few people injured and one lady along with her child lost their lives. I was bit nervous listening to this news. Now event was 10 days ahead so I started my final preparations.

Transition Training --> D-day
As I got bit of experience of riding in rain and problems I might face in those conditions, I prepared myself with preventive action list. This included new light weight rain jacket, carrying extra pair of shorts and jersey, good lights, back up lights, extra tubes, saddle bag, Schrader to Presta valve convertor. Though I was not prepared for bigger problems like broken chain/spoke or any gearing problems, luckily I didn't face those in the ride.
5days for the event, I had broken spokes while riding, I came to home and after that my riding almost stopped till event day. Got serviced my bike, spokes fixed, new rain gear, tires, tubes. Ready with all the required things, food, cloths, my tickets, bike, helmet, lights, batteries and I don’t know n numbers of things. On Tuesday 18th, I left Pune in the evening to reach Bangalore on Wednesday. Got roti with jaggery stuffed inside for the ride, This was very helpful for eating on the bike. I didn’t feel hungry anywhere as I kept eating small chunks of roties along the whole journey. Once I reached Bangalore, I found my friends place 10kms from MG road which was actual starting point for the ride. Wednesday went well and I bought Schrader to Presta converter for me and chain tool for Deepak. I was searching for shoe covers which would have saved my shoes from the rain but I didn't get it. I was rested for all the time, I left the place at around 2pm as start time was nearing fast, I had to reach to MG road by 3pm, with 1 hour cushion. I reached the starting point and found no one from official organisers. Soon people started arriving and all sorts of talks about cycling, racing, riding, RAAM, weather, equipments, shoes, rain gears, food started to echo in the air. Whole atmosphere was very energetic and encouraging. Deepak reached CCD after some time, I handed him chain tool and we talked about ride, weather. Arun who came from Pune was also there, we met other riders and organizing committee members. We got Brevet card, cue sheet, route map and no need to fill any forms, all things were printed on the card. I expected no rain and thinking of riding without rain jacket. As needles neared to 4 o'clock, we were ready for the start but alas .. as soon as clock showed 4 pm it started raining heavily....

...To Be Continued.

The Journey - A Score to Settle - Part VII (Finale)

Posted by Vikramsinh at Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever
-Lance Armstrong 

The Ride – Day Three ..Missing a beat

Riding early in the morning, "Carhaix" – the only thing on my mind. Ride was very slow, time limits were out of reach, and eyes were very sleepy. Hard to stay awake, asleep on the bike and veered out of the road for few times. This is dangerous, I thought. After some distance I decided to sleep to avoid perilous consequences. I slept at road side for half an hour but I was already running out of time. With bad knee my bike was crawling slowly. It was Tuesday morning, no rain, bit warmer, I rode with determination. I reached "Carhaix" at 11 AM , 2 hours extra, over the time limits. I thought my ride was over, stamped my brevet card and asked about if "I can ride or it’s over?". Again I wished I could have understood the French, many of the officials didn’t knew the exact rules, after much discussion I understood that if I reach the "Brest" which is 618Kms by 7.30 pm and complete whole distance back to Paris within 90hours then officials might approve for the medal. I met another rider who lost his way, in turn jumped time limits and reached the control late. We explained the situation to volunteers; translators were of great help while working out whole thing.

I met some of my friends and talked for some time at "Carhaix". Then I left at 12 without eating much. Some distance ahead, sleepy feeling was back, terrible situation. I decided to sleep. Slept for 1 hour at roadside, many riders crossed, sleep was not quiet and pain became worse, hard time to get moving. Next control was at "Brest" 618 kms.

Road was scenic and hilly, I stopped clicking photos long back before "Fougères". The constant ups and downs were taking toll; I started to stop more frequently as pain was getting bad. After some distance I slept at roadside again, I was feeling exhausted, then the crucial moment, the decision quit or not, target was elusive, 60 more kms to ride in 3.5 hours with bad knee and exhausted body, knee was in bad shape, and most of the riders were on the return journey.
I met one of my friends on the way. Moving ahead, Route transformed from low to high traffic, cold winds had shivering effect. I tried to get lift from cars moving on the road, but no one stopped. All options closed except riding. Continuous ups and downs made it difficult and painful. Returning riders were moving fast, crossing me, I was happy for them. They were cheering most of the times. I saw a returning rider stopped at road side, I went to him and asked if he can call to control point and get some help. But after discussion we thought it was of no use, he told me ride ahead and get help in the next town. Then I rode some distance, and met Indian-Seattle guy on his return. He quickly stopped and turned his bike, crossed to the other side of the road. He suggested some exercises to relieve pain. Talking to him was nice. We thought about the options, the best bet was to ride some distance, search for help from locals. It was 6 pm by the time I reached the small hill top where some locals were present.

Just before hill top, encountered old biker, I tried to convince him that there is no use of riding as control will get closed by the time he reach there, but he was under some magic spells, he imagined that there was lot of time remaining. I met many riders who lost the track of time, and made them realize that it was 23rd of Aug and not 22nd.

Once on the top of the hill I talked to some local guys who were standing on the road side and cheering the riders. I was feeling exhausted, bad knee and cold winds, I explained the situation. First thing I did is asked him to inform to Brest control that I am quitting. He repeatedly asked me (more than 3 times) if I really wanted to quit. I was feeling more pain while saying yes. Finally he informed to control officials, the other guy with car was ready to get me to the nearest train station “Morlaix”. The spirit and selfless nature of people was always touching. It was wonderful experience.

By this time I was 40kms from Brest, total of 580 kms. We put my bike inside the car and travelled to station. I was feeling the cold, next bad news was we were late, no trains available for that day to Paris. No place to sleep. Train official helped me to find out hotel, the cheap one. The guy was never reluctant to help, we went to youth hostels. I thanked the guy from bottom of my heart for all the help he extended despite being unknown.
Inside the room it was warm and I was in deep sleep within few minutes.

Day Four… In Security

Next day, Wednesday 24th , I left the hotel early in the morning, reached train station at 8 AM. I heard from my mind “The bad new is, TGV(high speed train) does not allow to travel with bike unless bike is packed, the good news is people are ready to help”
Scanning the PBP logo on my jersey, one lady stared talking to me regarding the race. She helped at ticket counter with language and also offered any help, if needed in packing my bike. Her husband was ready to drive me to Decathlon store. When I insisted on checking other options to ticket official, he figured out that if I reserve the seat in particular compartment then it was ok to take the bike without packing it. I booked the ticket. Now I was thinking about how to spend next 8 hours on the station. train arrival time - 5 PM in the evening.
I asked the lady “when will it reach to Paris” she said “at 9” it was almost 600 kms so I asked “in the morning?” she started laughing and said “no in the evening itself, you know it’s much faster by train than bike”.

Later she told me about the tragic death of one rider in an accident on Monday night. She showed me the newspaper. An American veered across the road (presumable fell asleep) and got ran over by long truck. Thai Pram was a 58 yr old from DC Ranndoneurs and he died on the spot. This is the second death in last 2 editions, an Italian died in 2007 after falling asleep on a fast decent.

I remembered about the recent similar incident, Wouter Weylandt (who was making a descent during the Giro d'Italia when he crashed and died on 10th May 2011).  His friend Voigt said about the incident "I never was the bravest. I like to think I know my limits, know the consequences and try to stay away from trouble, but when you're young, you think you're invulnerable, that you're never going to die. Just like James Dean." I also remembered few moments of my sleepy riding and felt terrible.

Considering the statistics, ride involved roughly 5,000 riders, and something like 350,000 miles of riding, there is always probability of dire consequences if someone is not careful. I felt sad, there is so little one can do to help. But then the racing will go on. It has to, It's the best thing we could do.

I roamed to areas nearby station, waited for the train. In the evening I boarded train, the journey was fast and smooth. Few DNF’s (non finishers) from PBP joined over the course. I chatted with a German rider who met with an accident and couldn't ride so abandoned. We talked lot, shared many experiences. Lastly I reached at station, took local train to Plaisir. In the night it was difficult to find roads. I asked help from station officials, they gave one big map of the area and explained how to reach the hotel. Lastly hotel at 11 PM.
Next day, 25th Aug – the last day of PBP. we joined the valedictory function followed by the party in the evening, cheered for all who completed the PBP within time limits. Again nice time, met more riders with amazing stories. At the age of 76, Italian rider completed in 75 hours. We heard his story of PBP, he said “I was on the bike for 50 hours, and rested quite well.” While discussing about the rider with amputated leg who rode the PBP, he formulated his emotional words “I saw the guy, he was so determined. I also saw someone who is blind and riding along the way, these things made me cry”. We spent most of the time at gymnasium, collected directive arrow signs as a lifetime memory from volunteers.
Now flying date was one day ahead. I was eagerly waiting for the Saturday. Days after PBP were full of rest and packing. We flew back to India on 27th Aug, Saturday.
Before I left France, I had accepted that, the idea “I might not finish the ride, but that I would have fun either way”. Maybe that was a bad Idea (in terms of finishing), an unfinished PBP a new challenge ...A Score to Settle...might be in 2015, but I did have fun. I saw the amazing passionate riders some riding with amputated leg, with only hands and blind also ..and as old as 75 + ...the sheer human spirit that goes beyond limits . The enriching experience which will remain with me for rest of my life. Lastly I thought about Thai, his family and the wonderful people I met in France.

The End

The Journey - A Score to Settle - Part VI

Posted by Vikramsinh at Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This is not Disneyland, or Hollywood. I'll give you an example: I've read that I flew up the hills and mountains of France. But you don't fly up a hill. You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else.
 -Lance Armstrong

The Ride – Night Two…Uncertainty Principle

Night has always its own flavor of riding. Night looks beautiful when you see full moon in the sky but when its dark, strange and silent it scares you.

During the second night, I began to see the headlights of returning riders—those working as teams, with support at controls attending to every need. These were the randonneurs who would finish the ride in under 50 hours. They were riding like buzzing machines, cutting the distance with high speed. I felt envious about them and of course respect.

Out of secret control, I met couple of friends who told me its IT band pain and advised to try some exercises. I rode for an hour, pain was bit reduced which allowed me to ride non stop till next control. I was loosing the grip on the time limits to reach control points.

The road was illusive when it seemed like road was sloping downwards, the actual bike speed indicated otherwise. Riding alone in the night was bit scary, few cyclist crossed, over the time period. I felt my headlights were not good enough to show me the road. Batteries dying or may be some internal connection problem due to rain. Tapping the lights was temporary solution which worked for me in my previous rides. So, on one of the uphills, while climbing slowly, I tried to do some adjustments to headlights, tapping etc, and ..

Front part of light was off, flying on the road and it was totally dark. Only light remaining was the light on my helmet. Next moment I saw one car is coming in the same direction, sudden thought of getting my headlights crushed under its wheels caused panic. Adrenaline rushed, legs moved quickly. Standing in the middle of the road, I stopped the car and picked up the lights, moved back to roadside. It was terrible. Within next few minutes I fixed the light, working fine.. fortunate.. I started moving again.

The next incident followed very quickly. Bike was going downhill with good speed, more than 60kms/hr, following the red lights of riders ahead. Then at the end of downhill, a sudden sharp turn, the lights I followed turned illusive, as they were quite far away from me. Divider was just ahead, I applied brakes hard,
and …booommm!!!

Bike skidded within no time. This time, no serious injuries once again. Dreadful feeling surged the moment I thought about the bike, how much damage it caused damn it. Looking in the darkness, I tried to figure out, Chain was out of place. No other damages .. wohaaa….Fixing the bike was easy part. Soon I was back on the bike.

High speed needed now, time limits for next control - too close. I managed to reach the control just in time. "Loudéac" - 3 AM. Pain returned and eyes started shutting down quite frequently. It was time to get some sleep, planned for 1.5 hours sleep. The control was quite warm compared to chilly night outside. Gloves, shoes, socks were out on the table, all wet. I felt bit relaxed to getting rid off the wet feeling. I already missed last night’s dinner, and feeling hungry. I bought dinner, my plate was full, too many items. After eating some rice, pasta and vegetable soup I was done. That was not like typical me, wasting food. ‘What’s happening, my mind and body are not working coherently’ I thought. Mind was saying I should eat to cover up lost minerals, carbs, proteins but body refused to take any. That landed me in wasting too much of the food, almost three forth part in the plate.

Being the central control, “Loudéac” soon becomes a hub of hubbub, with riders from both directions trying to refuel, sleep, repair bikes and themselves. Signs of attrition are everywhere, with riders curled up in every corner, shivering under silver space blankets, on tables, under tables, on floors, outside in the rain (with and without space blankets). I followed my own way, 3 chairs lined up in a row beside the same table where I ate and I was flat, within few minutes I lost the surrounding sensations.
When my senses were back, I suddenly woke up with extreme fear
‘How much time I lost in sleeping.’ I realized that I forgot to set alarm. ‘what time is it?’.. 5 AM in the morning. ‘ahh.. not too late’. Sleep of 2 hours was not enough. Total of 3 hours of sleep in last two nights. I put my things in place hurriedly and came outside. Body felt sudden gust of cold wind. The surrounding was wet and cold, body started shivering. I was feeling exhausted and didn’t want to ride in such cold weather, but there was no escape. The next target was gradually turning difficult, at 525 kms "Carhaix". Within 3.5 hours 75 kms.

The Ride – Day Three…Backscatter 

I started to ride in the direction of "Carhaix" . Rain was stopped but cold, chilly winds were making life miserable. Sun was hiding behind the clouds, after few kilometers I saw long uphill, and pain was back, for every pedal rotation, knee was absorbing pain. Going uphill was great task with bad knee.

At the top of the hill and thirst prevailed, I looked down to bottle cage..“damn it, what is this, where are my bottles???”, to my surprise both the bottles were not at there place. What the hell..!!!
Suddenly I realized the last night crash beside the divider.. When my bike skidded. Both bottles were out their on the road but I could not realized that until now, it was too dark to see those bottles. No clue about the next water station, I turned back to the nearby place where volunteers were providing water. More painful thing – riding in reverse direction, to come back and lose height. while riding back, riders crossing me were confused that I was quitting. I heard the encouraging words.."courage". I reached to the place, purchased new bottle. After quenching the thirst, I rode back to hill top, nature was best part to enjoy, and clock was ticking, "Carhaix" by 9 AM. Go go go …

...To Be Continued

The Journey - A Score to Settle - Part V

Posted by Vikramsinh at Sunday, October 16, 2011

To be a cyclist is to be a student of cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks.
-Scott Martin

New day - dawn
As dawn broke weakly under a grey sky, I was feeling better. Riding in the day light was more comfortable. It was Monday, 22nd Aug. I was close to the control point Villaines-la-Juhel” total 220 kms. 

The Ride - Day 2

I reached the control point at 8.30 AM. Stamped my brevet card, went to cafeteria to get some food. Tried to sleep for 1 hour on the wooden bench in the cafeteria, clock was ticking fast. I woke up soon. 10.15 in the clock.

Endurance sports can play havoc with your digestive system. I’d been enduring a belly ache for some time. I was worried about the horrid conditions of the control toilettes, but there was no other option available. Stopping more frequently means loosing more time. Ticking clock seemed paralyzing.
Controls were so cozy that you can easily spend couple of hours there, without realizing it. The loss of time at the control point – more than 2 hours. started riding at 10.45 AM.
Riders in the rain

Fury of Rain God

As I started riding, the rain God was not happy, within few minutes it started raining. Raingears were out, everyone was riding with silence. I looked at speedometer, it was stopped moving. Damn it, I stopped at roadside and tried to adjust, it worked for some time and again constant reading. So I stopped to worrying about it. Next control was "Fougères" 310 kms with maximum time limit 4 PM.
My bike
Riding in the day time was peaceful; country side views were amazing, quite a treat for eyes. I took some photographs, had exchanged words with riders along the way. But most of the time rode alone. Now I started to feel the wetness inside my shoes and cloths. My raingear was not enough to protect me from the heavy rain for long period of time. Low temperatures made it worse. On the way, just before the control point I met 3 children who were distributing souvenirs, I talked to them and took photographs, few good memories added to my memory bank.

Children with souvenirs
When I reached to "Fougères", watch was showing 3 PM. Time to rest for some time. Inside the control it was warm. I opted for coffee. One rider from US came to talk to me, he was very excited, asked me “you are from india?” I said “yes”. “nice to see you, I like Hindi movies, me and my wife always watch Hindi movies on TV, there is particular time when they air Hindi movies every week”  He said while introducing himself to me. I realized why he out of blue came to me and started talking. We talked for some time. It was nice conversation. These kinds of conversations were frequent. I would see a lot of the same people over and over. That’s the part of PBP culture, you can get really nice friends on the way. Chen arrived after 15 minutes, I clicked some photos.

Rain was not stopping, I decided to go out, tried to ride through heavy rain for some distance, darkness all around, though it was only 5 PM. I finally stopped as it was difficult to see ahead on the road. Bridge was good shelter; I stayed under with few other riders. Chen was standing nearby, chatted for some time.
After 20 minutes rain conditions were better though not completely stopped. I put my spare headlight on my helmet. That was for extra security. Anyone should figure out my presence on the road from long distance. Next control was at 54kms, "Tinténiac" total of 364kms. I started to cut distance through dark forest.

Right Knee – Wrong Time

Till this time I had no major problems in riding, not mechanical, not physical. The first thing that changed the fate and outcome of PBP was sudden rush of pain in my right knee. Around 350 kms , feeling of uncomfort, the moment knee started feeling pain, I feared that this could ruin everything.  Pain jeopardized the whole remaining ride. I applied pain reliever ointment and wrapped knee tightly with handkerchief. Next control was near, that gave me hope to get some help at control.
I reached to "Tinténiac", stamped my brevet card and went straight to medical help section. No doctors available; volunteers put some ice on the painful knee. Officials were reluctant to give any pills without prescription of doctor. But one lady volunteer turned helpful. She went outside, searched for pills, asked riders for help. She got pain killers from one of the riders. Some painkillers in my hand, unofficially; I thanked her. Then I saw a friend, explained him the situation, he gave me another type of ointment. He had issues with bike, broken spoke to taken care of, so we parted quickly.

Ride started, the pain was not going away. I was feeling it each time my right leg bends through 90 degrees. Next destination was "Loudéac" 450kms, and maximum reaching time was 3 AM in the night.
On the way there was one secret control. I entered the control, and again asked for medical help, it was dark then, and I was in pain. The best thing was that people were extremely helpful. Volunteers were everywhere, helping, cheering supporting the riders.   
I asked one of the volunteers if I can get medical help. She didn’t understand English so first she asked the translator to help, then after few minutes of discussion, she understood the situation. She called the doctor and asked for help. The doctor was ready to help. He came to the control point in his car at those odd hours, only for me. After inspection he gave some pills. I had some vegetable soup and pills. Muscle inflammation was the reason behind the pain.  He insisted to get some rest, so that medicines show their effect, but I was running out of time. There was no option left, except riding without wasting more time. Next control -  "Loudéac" , maximum time limit - 3 AM. Doctor was very kind to offer me the help without any charges; the selfless nature of all people was just touching. I started riding in the silent and dark night.

 ...To Be Continued