I am a randonneur! Completed my first 200km brevet with moving time of 9 hours 45 min, a total time of 11 hours 9 min. The average moving speed of 21.12kmph on 20th December 2015.
Tarique, Barik! translates to “Tarique, the thin one”, this is what I used to be called in school and college by all my dear friends. It was true indeed I was till my early 30s just 48kg on the weighing scale. After that career transitions from a Doctor to IT entrepreneur did not help much. The lifestyle by 40s was essentially encapsulated in “from an AC home to an AC office to an AC home”… Yes, I did pay some attention to health, being educated as a doctor has to have consequences at least for one person! Sporadic episodes of Gyms, Walking sprees and some more happened, but the sum total still was that I could be bracketed in the middle-aged sedentary lifestyle executive demographic. Aliments were catching up with me.
Chain of consequences
Aasim, my son, came home for his Summer vacations this year and wanted to cycle around. (The) Dr. Tejinder Singh Rawal, was buying a new bicycle, and I just happened to ask him what would he be doing with his old one. He magnanimously gifted the cycle to Aasim with an understanding that we can keep it as long as someone was using it. It was a Firefox Axxis 2.6, a cute little bicycle that Aasim used throughout summer and rode for several hundred kilometers. Around this time I was suffering from severe Bilateral Idiopathic Achilles Tendonitis, swelling of both my ankles that were so painful that I could barely tumble down two floors to the office. I was on high dose of painkillers that were not helping much. During investigations it was discovered that one of my coronary artery had a 50% block. Even though it was not entirely unexpected, it was concerning. I was on medicines but not really exercising my heart, all I knew was how to walk and thanks to my ankles I couldn’t. It was time for lateral thinking.
I needed something different and a goal!
On 19th September, my 49th birthday I took out the Axxis and cycled for 10km. If you have been deprived the endorphins can drive you a bit crazy, and I almost foolishly decided that I will do a 200km brevet in about a year. Once again Dr. Rawal gave me the most sensible advice. Do not over train, cycle alternate days incrementing by not more than 10 or 15% each time. I kept at it, soon I was at 40km, since I was training alone I did not have a benchmark what speed others were doing, and that helped. The single gear built my legs considerably. With some amount of trepidation, I graduated to a hybrid Marin Larkspur CS2. My first few rides were pretty disappointing; I would keep slipping forward on the seat. I found a training program that was very conservative, started following it. Midway I also decided that rather than anything else it is the cadence that would be the important single measure for me.
I started doing some group rides and realised I was not really at the bottom of the pack and could hold my own. However after not being able to walk for so long I was still scared to push myself. I did an 80km solo ride. Then I pestered my group of fellow riders to do a 100km ride. It was decided we will go to Mansar and back. I was a bit apprehensive about that too because they talked about doing the climb to Ramtek Mandir, which is considered tough. Till before beginning that ride I was sure that I will just wait it out at Mansar for the group. Bobby Ji (Dr. Rawal) was once again very considerate and said it would be ok to do that. He also planned the ride so that it started at Brevet like time. I reached Mansar behind him. By the time the rest of the group came I was fired enough to try the climb or give up trying. I climbed, huffed, puffed, dropped gears till I was riding 1-1, cadence still 80, speed 7kmph. There I was at the end of climb!! Later Strava showed that I was the second fastest on the segment. That ride the final distance covered was 122km.
That day I also learnt that the December Brevet date has been changed from 18th to 20th. Now, Aasim wanted to do a brevet, but 18th was the day he was arriving. Shifting of date to 20th suited him, and he was all for it. Gungho with the ride I also decided that I will hazard and attempt. At most I will fail. The group was most supportive. Bobby ji once again came thru and wrote a detailed set of instructions for me and fellow riders on how to taper off, what diet to have and a bunch of invaluable tips for the day of riding. I meticulously started ticking each one of them off as days passed. I knew I was under prepared, but then I was going in with nothing to lose attitude. When you are nearly 50 things like loss of face etc do not matter OR rather should not matter. I studied the route meticulously, pored over the elevation of various segments in details and the day before I thought that I knew everything that I could. I kept instructing Aasim about things repeatedly, who was absolutely chilled about the whole thing but heard me out obediently none the less.
The Brevet, however, is a different beast.
I completed the 200km (aka the day of the ride)
Thankfully I could sleep early, woke up at 3 am a bit early than needed but I was too excited. Swati, who was going to be our support gave me Rice and Daal. Aasim woke at 3:45 had his usual mug full of milk with lots of sugar. I had decided that I will wear a tracksuit till the start point, we reached Zero Mile, and I decided that I will continue wearing the hoodie till the first checkpoint. This was mistake #1. Since Aasim’s headlight was weak, we had agreed that we will ride together till it is daylight.
We started at 5:03 am, Aasim repeated several times that I was hyperventilating, and I was! Hardly 2km into the ride it was apparent that Aasim had a different gameplan. He was riding much slower than me! I was intermittently coasting to let him catch up. He asked me to go ahead not worry he would catch up and I did. The moment I crossed Katol Road naka the concerned parent crept back into my mind. It was pitch dark. My little kid was riding alone into that darkness. When I came to the Kalmeshwar bypass, the fretful parent completely took over. I stopped, positioned myself in the headlight beam to be visible and waited for Aasim. This was mistake #2. I waved at all the riders who went by. Most of them were kind enough to ask if everything was OK. Last of the riders went by; I was standing here for almost 25mins now. I called Aasim, “Where are you?” He replied, “I passed you about 10 minutes back. You were standing there puffing hard. I even waved at you. Shall I come back?” all I could do was swear!
I cycled hard, cribbed to every rider I passed about inconsiderate children, caught up with Aasim about 10km ahead. He was with a bunch of other riders, and he reiterated “I told you to go ahead, I will reach. I will not cycle faster than 22 or slower than 18.”
From there on the ride to Jalalkheda was a breeze. During the route saw Swati sitting in the middle of the road clicking pictures. Aniruddh was waving us by. Swati then raced ahead to the checkpoint and was ready with breakfast. I had already sweated more than anticipated because I was wearing more than needed. I had lost time (yeah! yeah! it is not a race I know) needlessly. I was feeling very bugged. Swati, cool-headedly, asked me to stretch on the mat that was laid, gave me eggs, bananas and dates, refilled my bottles, ensured my brevet card was stamped.
In about 15 mins Swati urged me to go ahead. Aasim had calmly coasted in as I was leaving. The next segment though only 40km was going to be the toughest. Everyone was saying that. I was mentally prepared for it and had it all pictured in my mind. I was not daunted at all as I was very sure that once I reached Pandhurna the last 80km from there were mostly downhill, and I will do it singing Gata rahe mera dil….
That is how this segment went. Grueling, feeling a bit tougher than anticipated at places but mostly easy. I almost coasted into Pandhurna smiling. Swati, told me that Aasim was struggling, was stopping, every 20 odd kilometers stretching and then continuing. Damn! I thought, we had presumed he was fitter than this. I ate very little Rice and Daal, drank a lot of Electrol, did not eat the awesome khichadi. Drinking more than a litre of Electrol, despite warnings, was my mistake #3. I did not care at all because in my mind I was already home. I had done this stretch before, a four-lane highway. It was an easy one, I will cruise at an effortless 20kmph, I said, and be at Nagpur in 4 hours. This was my last almost fatal mistake #4.
The moment I hit the highway, I realised that there will be some head winds. I cursed, that means more efforts. That’s OK I thought, I can still do it easily. 30km into the segment the head wind is worse than before. I am panting now. That is still OK after Savner the downhill will make up for all the slack. I pass Savner. Where is the downhill I wonder. I can’t see any place to buy water either. OK! Only 40km left. This much I do on a weekday and attend office for the whole day. 44, 45, 46, 47, 48… My eyes blackout. Luckily I retain control of the cycle. Stop. Vision clears. There is a parapet beside the road to sit. My mind races to figure out what the F*** just happened? Is this it? Is this my body saying no more? The doctor deep inside bubbles up. Differential diagnosis? Heat exhaustion? No! Glycogen wall? No! Acute Hypoglycemia? Yessss! I had not eaten enough. I am in the middle of nowhere. I am out of Dates and Chikki! I remember that I keep two lumps of Gur deep in my under seat bag. I dig that out. Chew and swallow both of them. Slowly sip water, hope I don’t throw up. Feel better in a while. Get back up on the saddle and ride again.
At that point, I began awfulizing the situation. If this were so tough for me, Aasim would be in worse shape, Swati had said he was struggling. I reached Koradi. This much I do for warm up! The flyovers started, I kept cycling. Now I just had to finish. At crossroads and traffic lights I got down and walked across. 10km from Nagpur I start feeling confident again. I can walk this distance, and I have the time. F*** it all! I will ride in. 4:09 pm I waved a V sign with my fingers to Sachin as I cycled in. Anirudh came and congratulated me. Swati hugged me. I whispered in her ear “Baccha?” “Oh! He has said he will reach by 5:10 pm” she replied. She elaborated that at the second checkpoint Aasim was the least bit tired; he still insisted that he will do it at his pace. Sure enough, Aasim came in at 5:15 pm cursing that the traffic delayed him.
Suddenly we all were hungry. Aasim wanted a Pizza!! We drove to the Futala Dominos not giving a damn about the strange looks we got for our appearances. Sometime while eating, we realised that if we hurry we can go for the “Christmas Carol” play. We went because we could!
A lot of lessons learnt in a day, but I will save that for some other time…