It was a tough ride but not a difficult one. There was a lot of excitement about the 16th April 2016 night brevet in Nagpur. This was an historic event, first night brevet in Nagpur, 50 participants and several from outside. Having done two brevets previously I was not going to miss this opportunity to train for a long night ride.
The Nagpur – Savner – Pandhurna route was one which I have done several times. The last 15 kilometer were unknown but that was a very small part. I had decided I would do the complete ride in 10 hours, pace according to road conditions and not get tempted to race or try to keep up with anyone.
What was different from last time was that I was riding my recently acquired Marin Four Corners which is almost a full fleged tourer. Now touring cycles are a different being and I am yet to come to terms with the fact that you cannot push them but you have to let them guide you. Try how so ever hard Four Corners will not let you do a hard climb fast but be patient find the cadence which is almost effortless and it will steadily keep climbing. On flats you can make it go much faster than I ever expected to go. In other words the gear ratios and frame geometry is very different from my previous hybrid. This time I also had a better cyclo-computer which could record my heart rate + cadence – that was helpful. Not to forget that this heavier bike rolls very well. I pedaled only for 05:23:19 (74% of activity) out of 7:17:07 in my 165km ride. I am sure if I was to take only the return journey it would have pedaled less than 50% of the way. Four Corner Rocks!!!!
What this brevet was about
This was a brevet where everything that came my way was not a surprise. No! I am not trying to brag but honestly I was either lucky or I could just take everything dished out. I did not feel/encounter any headwinds. The climbs were there but not so much that I had to stop. In fact I would not like to write much about how I rode but about several small things which made the event mean so much more, inspiring and empowering.
Jitesh Thakker Bhai, a super randonneur, got his 15 year son Sidharth along. They both completed in 12 hours 45 minutes. A daring feat for a young boy and commendable patience and mentoring shown by Jitesh Bhai in guiding him thru the journey. The senior most randonneur of Nagpur, Dr. Bhupendra Arya, came on cycle at start time to encourage the cyclist and then he was again there at the end point, early in the morning, to welcome the riders back. He is someone who leads by example. Always ready, always there, always encouraging. Then there was Rashveen, petite, bubbly, and so much in love with her husband Pushkar. Pushkar was doing his first 200km. Rashveen had come to receive him at the end point. Her excitement, mixed with that tinge of anxiety was adorable to watch. The young men who traveled all the way from Washim for a taste of adventure without much knowledge but a lot of grit and determination. There was Manohar Golhar who came and offered buttermilk to all the participants.
There were several other well wishers and volunteers who came to encourage and help. I am thankful to all of them as well. In fact I would also like to reiterate that a brevet is not a race, all those who finish in the stipulated time are equal achievers. Future participants should not obsess about fastest time and reduce the sport to a mere number. Recognise the grandeur, participate in the journey.
This time I paid special attention to what I ate before and then along the way. Preloaded with 2 parathas with mashed potatoes and parmesan cheese at 4:00 (2 hours before the event). Then spread between checkpoints, 4 very lightly oiled parathas rolled with jam. 4 boiled egg whites and very little khichdi.
However I took in lots and lots of fluids. 800ml Enerzal liquid in tetra packs. 1800ml flat coca cola, this solved sleep problems too besides the sugar problem. About 8 to 10 liters of water, having 3 water bottles on the cycle helped. The heat was so much that despite this much liquid I hardly took any pee breaks.
Some youngsters want to try out coca cola as their ride drink. A word of caution for them. Coke gives you a sugar rush, however you have to remember that this sugar gets utilised very fast and if you don’t know how to handle it you can end up in a sugar low so bad that you can bonk or blackout. Just go easy on that…
tl;dr. To complete a brevet, get on your cycle start pedaling and keep at it, don’t over eat at any checkpoint.
Yes, that more or less says it all. Kartik Mistry had warned me that every brevet will be different; I never cared to ask him how. Having completed a 200km brevet about six weeks ago, I should have been ready for a 300km if the books, experts, and the interwebs were to be believed. I had my diet all planned out, I had practiced well, I knew my cycle a bit more intimately, but a day prior I started having teeny weeny doubts.
AWARE of Anxiety
I am prone to rare anxiety attacks, but when they are there, they can get bad, over a period I have also trained myself how to go thru them thanks to REBT.
I slept off, after setting an alarm for 4:00 am, 30 min would be more than enough to get ready and get to Zero Mile, the starting point.
3:00 am I woke up with a start; hazy thought flow flung me headlong into full-blown anxiety mode. I looked at the WhatsApp groups and sent “hum honge kaamiyab” (we shall overcome) to all my cycling groups. This was a part of the first step of AWARE to overcome panic. The parts of AWARE are Acknowledge & Accept, Wait, Watch or Work, Actions, Repeat, and End. It always works and is based on the principles of REBT and CBT.
The ride to the first checkpoint
I continued the Repeat step on reaching the starting point, talking to people, continuing it into the start of the ride telling several riders about my anxiety attack. Thanks to everyone who heard me out patiently.
The adrenaline of anxiety fueled the pedaling and I was soon coasting with the head pack. About 30 minutes into the ride I noticed that I was anxiety free and enjoying the speed. Someone did say that I will exhaust myself out, I tried slowing but found that it put me in an uncomfortably low cadence. I switched back to my 85-95. By now I had hooked up with Dev who was more or less doing the same speed as I was. The road till the first checkpoint was mostly flat or downward slope, and we kept remarking to each other that this will be a b***h to climb when we cycle back.
We reached the first checkpoint just a few minutes after Anirudh, Swati, Harsh, and Bianca, who were the marshals reached. Swati happily remarked that I had taken adequate amount of water. She ensured that I took enough calories, so we ate bananas, jam, and roti, drank coconut water, stretched and were off in 20 minutes but not before seeing Dr. Bhupendra Arya, Uncle, roll into the first checkpoint. If at 72 years he could dare it we should be able to do it!!!
Maps are good Maps are bad.
The terrain around Nagpur is mostly flat so we cyclist dread the climbs. According to Google maps the climb (or whatever) was to start about 8 to 10km after the second checkpoint but, in reality, it started 8 to 10km before the second checkpoint.
The second checkpoint was as a Dhaba which served us hot Khichadi. I continued to be well hydrated and adequately fed.
The 200km riders were to return from here, and we would continue further to Gondia about 63km more out of which 40km was a slow climb according to maps but then it would flatten out. Well it did not! Rather it felt that it did not. The saving grace was that the route was thru the jungles and tree-lined which made it substantially cooler than the highway.
We entered Gondia town and were wondering which road to take when a Police constable called out and directed us to Dosa Hut our third checkpoint. He remarked that there were a few riders yesterday as well (the 400km participants), another motorcyclist came along and said he would guide us to the checkpoint. Yes, there are helpful people out there.
Do not overeat!!
While cursing the climbing road I had remarked that the Dosa at the Dosa Hut better be worth it. Yes, it was, and I ate not just one but before anyone else noticed I gobbled the second one too. Anirudh remarked that I should not have… How bad could it be? I thought. We were half way. The next 45km were mostly downhill. This was my near fatal mistake. The road was not as much of a downhill; it was a bit bumpy too. The chutney, sambar and rice in dosa by now was brewing a wicked concoction in my stomach which unleashed waves upon waves of nausea on me. I could not even dare to drink water.
Hey! I am a doctor I reminded myself, I carry medicines. I stopped, took out a pill but the moment I kept it in my mouth I knew if I swallowed it I would throw up and if threw up I would lose so much water and electrolytes that my muscles which were on the verge of cramping would definitely do so. I kept pedaling. Somewhere after the checkpoint I had pulled ahead of Dev, I was alone. I kept pedaling.
A few kilometers from the anticipated checkpoint I saw Swati’s car parked along with one another on the road. She noticed me and called out, “This is the checkpoint!” Anil Jaiswal, Amol Kanthe and a few others were cooking chicken gravy in a field by the road. Swati was giving her expert inputs. An impromptu picnic was in progress. They had also laid down a darri with a pillow. I told them what was happening, and I lay down. I closed my eyes and meditated. Though there was no heavenly light shining down upon me or such. Whatever it was it helped. Nausea rapidly subsided. Dev had also caught up. I still could not dare to eat anything, but I could drink water.
Coca Cola is good.
Dev and I made a pact that we would now stick together till Nagpur. It was soon going to be dark, and we had 85km more to traverse. Swati was concerned, she said call if you want to quit. There is no shame in quitting. I would damned if I quit after having endured so much!
I made a sage decision. I took a 600ml Coca Cola bottle. Emptied it a bit, shook it to de-gas it, kept it in the middle back pocket of my jersey. Any cold drink is so laden with sugar that it is almost guaranteed to give you a sugar high, plus some additives in it make sure that sugar is rushed to the bloodstream on a four lane highway!
The sun went down; the breeze cooled. We were doing much better than expected. We hit the last stretch, the same that we had dreaded about in the morning. It did not feel so bad at all, perhaps the experience of worse roads, perhaps the sugar rush. We kept cycling. Dev complained of Knee pain. I said let us slow down to whatever pace is comfortable. We were only 40km from Nagpur. About 12km out from the end point, I finished the last of coke. There was a slope; I pulled ahead confident that both of us are surely finishing. After a while I could not see Dev’s light in the mirror and assumed that he is taking is extra slow.
The 306km mark rolled by still no sign of HB town, the last stop. 307, 308, 309… was I lost? Can’t be. 310, 311, 312 – there it was!!! I had completed the 300km brevet in 16 hours 44 minutes.
It was only when I reached HB Town, that I learned Dev had a puncture. Felt really bad for abandoning him but was assured that he had changed the tube and was back on the saddle. He did complete 35 minutes after me.
Rajbeer Sokhi, like a little angel, descended with a glass of mousambi juice. I gulped it down. Hugged Swati and started laughing, I don’t know at what…
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…
It is estimated that an alarming 62% of students are marinating in toxic anxiety. I came across this article by Kristen Lee Costa which is headlined “Your Mental Health is More Important Than Your Grades” I wholeheartedly agree with it!
She points out 5 key lessons to keep in mind if you or someone you love is in the throes of college-related stress:
Know that education is a privilege.
Don’t scratch that ridiculous perfectionism itch.
Resist the bait of imposter syndrome.
Become a time management ninja.
Remember you’re not alone.
The article has details on each of the points and then some more.
Since year 2000 there has been a steady rise of self harm behaviour in teens1. Trying to replace self-harm with something less harmful works for some people. Encourage the young person to try a few of these to see if they work for them:
Wait 15 minutes before self harming
Hold ice cubes in their hand – cold causes pain but is not dangerous to their health
Wear rubber bands on their wrist to flick themselves when they feel like hurting themselves
Use a red pen to draw on the areas they might normally cut
Work it off with exercise, do something they enjoy
Eat a chilli
Take a deep breath and count to 10 or try deep breathing and relaxation exercises
Try to focus on something around them, something simple, watch it for a while and see if that can distract them from the negative thoughts
Talk to someone
Write in a journal, draw or express feelings in another way
Recently Shweta Bhattad through her Gram Art Project drew my attention to a very simple but immensely useful initiative started by the children of Paradsinga village. Paradsinga is situated on the Madhya Pradesh border. The population consists mainly of small farmers.
The children were introduced to the internet very recently. Seeing the wealth of information available on the internet they struck upon a novel idea. They would read up weather updates from various sites on the internet and then display them on a small blackboard near the village market. Initially the updates were dismissed and ignored if not outright pooh poohed. However, with recent unseasonal rains and hailstorms people noticed that those that paid heed were able to save their grains and shelter their animals in timely manner. Within a week almost everyone started coming to the weather blackboard to read the forecast.
This simple initiative is now saving time, labor, cattle and crops. With availability of mobile phones this can be replicated in every village in India at almost zero cost. One just needs to make a few children aware of it.
You may have hated the Deepika Padukone my choice video or liked it but trust Amul to come up with apt advertisements for themselves which are also socially relevant. This is indeed a long way to come for the Amul Girl. The Amul girl was created as a response to Amul’s rival brand Polson’s butter-girl. The idea was conceived in 1967 once ASP (Advertising, Sales and Promotion) clinched the brand portfolio from the previous agency FCB Ulka. It was executed by Sylvester Da Cunha, the owner of the agency and his art director Eustace Fernandez on hoardings, painted bus panels and posters in Mumbai. The mascot, since then, has been mobilized to comment on many events of national and political importance like Emergency in India in 1976.
While even I do not agree to many of the statements in the narration of the original video the critics seem to have lost it and are bent on depicting women as shallow, gold diggers.
Also, the reaction video seems to pay no heed to the fact that adultery, when committed by men, is something that is almost normalised in Indian society. In fact, sexual freedom, by and large is treated as a bit of a male privilege in many sections of the society.
Do I have a negative remark about the framework? Well if I stretch my mind I would say this version once again breaks backward compatibility. However CakePHP version changes should be seen like LTS (Long Term Support) releases and in it’s 10 year history they have only 3 LTS releases so this is certainly way better than most of the other frameworks out there.
Worldwide, 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year and despite tremendous progress, it remains a top disease killer of children. Like last year 23 first year students of MUWCI went Bald for a Cause and donated over 1.5 kg of hair to Children’s Cancer Centre for Lebanon. Aasim was one of them and I am proud of that.
Many patients lose their hair due to their cancer treatment. When our little princesses lose their hair, they often lose some self-esteem too. That’s why donating your hair to create a wig for our dear patients will make a difference in their lives.
The students made a nice video, Aasim can be seen at 1:54.
Traditionally you cook Mutton Biryani over a slow wood fire. Modern urban life does not lend itself to such indulgences. Swati who just launched her kitchen blog has learned and perfected the art of making the complete Dum Mutton Biryani in pressure cooker. Apart from the marination which can be anything between 3 hours to overnight the cooking time is just 40 min!
There are two basic types of biryani: pakki (“cooked”, also pukka) and kacchi (“raw”, also kutchi). In pakki biryani, the cooked meat and cooked rice are layered. In the kacchi biryani, raw marinated meat is layered with raw rice before being cooked together. It is also known as kacchi yeqni. It is cooked typically with goat meat (usually ‘khasi gosht’, which is meat from castrated goats and often simply referred to as mutton) or with lamb, and rarely with chicken or beef. The dish is cooked layered with the meat and the yogurt based marinade at the bottom of the cooking pot and the layer of rice (usually basmati rice) placed over it. Potatoes are often added before adding the rice layer. The pot is usually sealed (typically with wheat dough) to allow cooking in its own steam and not opened till ready to serve. A boiled egg and mixed salad often accompanies the dish. It is featured in wedding feasts in Bangladesh, usually served with borhani, a spicy drink.
The non-vegetarian biryani may include chicken, mutton and sea food among types of meat. Although originally cooked with meat, biryani is now also cooked with vegetables, especially in India, where a substantial number of people practice vegetarianism. The vegetable biryani is prepared with rice, masala and non-meat ingredients such as potatoes and cauliflowers. Egg Biryani is another type of biryani.