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Backlogs including - Bullet through Kerala, Auromara 2010, The Great Tibetan Marathon photo blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dream Runners Half Marthon 2014

(*my spoils from the last 2 months)

After last month’s Ultra marathon in the hilly bay area, to come back to sea level, to a flat course for a half marathon in the Bay in Chennai, was not the most inviting.

But Risky provided the much needed motivation to start, when he asked me to pace him for a sub-2 hour finish. I checked with the organizers – Dream Runners, if I could be the official pacer for the 2 hour bus, but it was too late to make add a pacer I suppose.

So, I got to the starting line, with no mileage in the bag, I had had only run twice since the Ultra. On the contrary, Risky was well prepared. Risky made his debut half marathon at the Airtel Hyderabad Marathon in 2012 and has been steady with the Run less Run faster program.

We started off in right earnest, at the 5:30 pace, but the humid Chennai weather caught up. Risky was not used to the conditions and had to stop to catch his breath. Before the end of 5k, we knew that the sub-2 was out of reach. There was a ray of hope for a good timing as we got into a rhythm near the U-turn.
But we were not able to keep the tempo and the second half was mostly me dispensing a lot of gyan.
·         Eat well, sleep well, hydrate well before the race
·         Have a good breakfast before the race
·         Race shorter distances to get to used to ‘racing’
·         Have realistic goals based on time trails or more scientific goal setting
·         Blah blah blah…

I finished in 2:28 mins and 450th in a field of about 1500 runners. When I signed up for this, I was hoping for a sub-100min to get a Personal Best, but that will have to wait some more. Personally, I am happy to have started running with this, its 16 weeks to the very promising Bengaluru International Marathon in October.

If you came here looking for a DRHM review, read on. Most of the good points were retained from the last year as well, where I finished in 1:47.
The Good:
·         The water stations were well stocked, great support, with water, energy drinks, fruit, medical aid, water sponges, water sprays, etc
·         Early start, started on time, with minimum fuss. A drone at the start taking pictures sent out wild cheers from the runners at the start line
·         Flat course, fast course
·         The medal (see the shoe medal in the pic?) is very lovely indeed
·         Breakfast was simple and functional (regular idly, vada stuff – good post race meal)
The not so good:
·         No crowd support – Chennai has never been a runner friendly city (weather, traffic starts early and is non-accommodative, lack of parks, stadiums, play grounds to run) and this doesn’t help the runners’ cause
·         Perhaps I finished late, the finish area was crowded, the was severe shortage of water in the finishing area

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Horseshoe lake 50k trail Ultra

Report of my first Ultra marathon overseas

I can’t help but get a little philosophical here, but what’s a report of a Bay area Ultra without a understanding a bit of the ups and downs.

You start strong, knowing you can take on any challenge. At some point, a reality hits you, it’s too steep, the going gets tough and despite your best efforts, you can’t run up that hill. You have to slow down.

The book, Road less traveled, begins with:
“Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult NO LONGER MATTERS”.

And then, when that hill comes, you just don’t climb it, you transcend it; knowing that it will not last forever; that a refreshing view, an inviting downhill, will bring you back to cruising pace. And soon enough, there will be more hills. By now, you are tougher; you know you have to take it one hill at a time, slowing down to briskly walking uphills and shuffling down hills.

Again from the book, “Benjamin Franklin said “Those things that hurt, instruct”. It is for that reason, that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems.”

Then you begin to welcome the next hill, you see it as a walking break, when you pause and understand yourself a little more.
Reminding yourself all along; that you are in a good place, how beautiful the view is and just soaking in. In the end, when you cross that finish line knowing you gave your best, you will be duly rewarded…

In the 2 weeks that I spent in the Bay area, I was lucky to be a part of more than a couple of Ultra marathons. The easiest of them of them all was the one that I ran - Horseshoe lake 50k, the one where I knew where the finish line was.

I am inspired by stories of incredible resilience of the protagonists of the other “Ultras” and will pray that their races will also finish on a high.

The Horseshoe lake trail 50k
The Ultra starts at the Skyline ridge North parking lot, and winds up the Skyline Ridge, Long Ridge, and Russian Ridge Open Space Preserves. The majority of the course is along the Bay Area Ridge Trail with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Cruz Mountains. 

The seasoned Ultra marathoners of the bay area describe this as one the easier Ultras. With 1600m of climbing it was way beyond my league. To put it in perspective, Hyderabad marathon – arguably the most undulating marathon in India, has a total elevation gain of 350mts. Nandi hills, in the 7km of climb, gains 450mts or so. Even the famed Comrades 89km Ultra up –run gains only 1300m in 89k distance.
That explained the course record of 4h:35m for the 50k run.

Just getting to the start line posed logistics challenges. I had to travel across the globe a week before the race, drive in the US for the first time, drive 100miles to the race start.  A minor GPS glitch indicated the start point at no man’s land, I had to dig into some common sense to find the start point which was a parking lot, off a winding Skyline blvd road in Palo Atlo countryside.

My fortune cookie at the restaurant on Saturday evening prophesied that Green would be my color of the day. It did come true - Sunday started with a green race day tee, many many hues of green on the trail and a green second place medal.

I started off like I wanted to win it – ran the uphills and let loose on the down hills, the first two 5k splits were 5:31 and 5:34min/km, running some down hills at 20kmph. I took a longish break at the U-turn at 10k. I had to give up my speeding ways, when I nearly twisted my ankle sprinting down a hill. From then, I took to braking on the declines, exerting my quads. By now, the hills seemed daunting and I began to walk them.

At 22k, when I started cramping in my right Quads, I saw the great truth of bay area Ultras – Life is tough. And when the pressure of the finish line goes off, and you slow down, you enjoy the journey more. Although I had passed the horseshoe lake in the first lap, I only really saw it in the second. As I climbed higher and higher, the spectacular views opened up, the mist covering the towering pines as far as the eyes could see.

I sat down at the base of many of those gigantic trees to loosen up my thighs. The nod of the head, a “good job”, “you too”, exchange from fellow runners littered the trail.

By the time the second U-turn came, at 32km, I was welcoming the walking breaks that came with the climbs. 

With the average 5k pace progressively increasing from 6:06, 6:12, 7:34, 9:06, 8:54, 8:39, I completed the marathon distance in 5:10 The Ultra had to finish on a high, the last 8km was designed to do just that – climbing in excess of 250m, between 42-46k.

I survived the temptation to relax on the benches in the view points that offered great views of the skyline reserve. And also survived the rattlesnakes to finish on both legs in 6h:09m.

The effort earned me a finishers medal, one for the 2nd place in my age category and custom coaster for the Ultra finish.

Photo courtesy: Gene Dykes (who came in first in the 60-70 age category finishing 10mins ahead of me)

News of my running buddy, Dharam clocking 3:04 in another CA marathon, making the Boston Qualifier cut, coming in hours before I boarded my flight from SFO, seemed like a befitting end to a great 2 weeks in Sunny California!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A matter of the heart - SCMM 2014 marathon report

SCMM 2014 - A report

4 months, 1210kms in some 106hours of training, for an overall standing of 53 in about 2500 runners, a finish time of 3:27:32, and a personal best by 25secs.

It does not sound bad by any measure and search as I may, I find it hard to put my finger on what went ‘wrong’.

My mind is conjuring up these numbers in its defense, while my heart is looking for the lesson, for it knows, there was something that wasn’t right.
Coach Jack Daniels says, “Run with your head the first two-thirds of a race, and with your heart the final third”. I lacked the heart to race, to finish with the killer punch.

Along my 19 marathons and 3 ultra-marathons, I have overcome many ghosts –  an ACL tear, too much muscle, stamina, cramps, dehydration, hyponatremia, the mental fatigue, shoe issues, lack of structured training, diet – pre and during a race.
Seems like peeling an onion, every layer peeled reveals another one. Bad analogy, but I can’t help but wonder if you will be left with teary eyes and stinky fingers at the end of it all...

Pre-race SHIT (Some How In Time):
Not the ideal race day eve. Spent 6 hours on Mumbai’s roads to get to the expo and then over an hour for falafels at Moshe’s – and I was guilty of dragging my nephews, Rishabh and Aryan, Shreya and Neha through this ordeal.

Even getting to the starting line was chaotic – I had to take a second loo stop at Azad Maidan (thankfully, they were clean and not crowded) and started warming up about 15mins before the start time. I budgeted for about 5mins to get to the starting line (the A corral), but had to wade through a lot of runners of the D-C-B corrals and barely made it to the start line even as the digital clock showed 5:40AM - the start time. Waved to Pankaj at the start, SHIT! Made it.

In that melee, I had to abandon my plan to run with the 3B’s of Pacemakers – Bobby, Brijesh & Brian. I spotted Sampath ahead of me and as we dodged runners we were negotiating on the target pace. Sampath was saying 4:30/km, I was on 4:50. We eventually settled down at 4:40 and decided to stick it to. (I am surprised how deep rooted this bargaining philosophy is – millions of $ business and our desi sales guy wants to start higher to allow room for bargaining, wah!)

For a long time, Sampath and I were only saying either “Too fast” or “Too slow”. We didn’t hit steady pace even on the flat Marine lines section and Peddar road, with its undulations, didn’t help either. Along Peddar road, we raced down, speeding past a lot of runners, hitting as high as 20kmph speed. As the course got flat, so did our pace, around target pace, despite the heavy cross winds on the sea link. Somewhere close to the 25k mark, Sampath shared a Gu gel with me and suddenly we found our wings. 26k came in 2 hours, 30k in 2:20.

Pause... look at the graph and you will know most of the rest of the story!

At 30k, I let Sampath go ahead saying I will slow a tad bit. At 31k, I stopped to relieve myself and when I started again, Bobby and Brijesh caught up. I stayed with them till 34k, 34k in 2:37. A 5min/km pace from here would have taken me to the finish line in 3:20.
Picture: digging deep on Peddar road

It is wrong to say Peddar road broke me down, it was the thought that Peddar road will break me down, that did it. By this time, the roads were filled with half marathoners and lots of cheering Mumbaikars – kids, families, littered with empty water bottles. For every positive push, there were those that were asking me to stop. I managed to do more running than walking, even ashamed to look at the Garmin. I did push myself for the last hundred meters or so to the finish.
At Azad Maidan, I picked up a bag of ice someone had discarded and helped myself so well deserved ice massage. Caught up with a lot of friends with many stories of personal bests, podium finish. Took the local back to Andheri with D, who had a great race himself (report here).
Picture: With D at the finish

Even a month after the race, I still have a confused feeling about the Mumbai marathon 2014… at the heart of the matter, it is all a matter of the heart.
Didn't have the heart this time around, perhaps next time. Cheers!
Here's how the Pros do it
And another one on mental training for a PR here

Friday, January 03, 2014

Training for Racing

Since I started training for the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon 2014, Sep 14, I have run 1000kms in training, logging 88h:47m. But it isn't time to pop the champagne yet...

Coach Jack Daniel writes “Think of racing as completely separate from training… training benefits and strengthens body systems, racing is your chance to challenge these systems.”

I review 2 marathons that I ran this year as a part of training for racing!

The Wipro Chennai Half Marathon 2013 - Report
Dec 1, 2013

I had run a couple of 1:37 half marathons during training this season and was hoping to dip under that, given my performance in the fuller version of this race last year. A 104° fever a few days before the race, gave me just about time to recover.

I planned to stick to an aggressive 4:30min/km pace from the start, I was happy with the start. But a mild drizzle turned heavy, and by about 6km or so, my shoes were soaked. Water logging at the corners of the roads, didn’t allow me to cut them corners. I started to feel strain in my collarbones – I have noticed this happen in the past too, residual fever effect. After keeping a 4:30 & 4:35 pace for the first two 5k splits, I was unable to summon up reserves to keep it going. The last 2 laps were done in 4:52 & 4:58min/km average pace. I caught up with Dharam as I finished, so we could both drown in our miseries together.

I then paced a colleague, Ravi M, who was taking a shot at a sub-4 hour marathon finish and was very disappointed with what I saw of the marathon course. Last year, I raved about how awesome the course was and had convinced a few to include TWCM in their schedules. But this year, the course had changed for the worse.
  • First, one had to run on the service road near Tidel park, both ways. It was swarming with casual bystanders, 5k, 10k, HM finishers, etc.
  • Then there was a stretch where construction work left slush (remember the heavy drizzle) on the roads and then there were trucks
  • One ran into a parking lot of a hotel (?) and then had to cross a narrow alley, again heavy traffic had to be stopped to make way for runners to enter the IIT campus

None of this is good, especially since one had to do it from 26-29km and then again from 36-39km. Also, half marathoners who finished in around 2 hours had a nasty experience of running into the crowd of 10k runners, while on a narrow flyover!
My finish was nicer, the medal was good, the post run snack box decent, the tee shirt very good, and a timing of 1:41:10, not bad.

Bangalore Midnight Marathon 2013 report:
With about a week to go for the race, I received an email from the top brass at Dell to check if I would be interested in using a sponsor’s pass for the marathon. My weekly mileage was peaking and I decided to enter the race.

Jack Daniel says “You should know exactly why you are running each race!” My plan was to go 15sec/km faster than my usual pace and hold this pace (4:45/km) for as long as I can. Although conditions would be very different from Mumbai, this was a good pace check op.
I was setting myself up for disaster, and disaster did strike. The start point was close to office campus, despite the midnight start, there were no hassles in the pre-race routine. But a 15min delay at the starting line, in the cold night, made the warm up a vain effort.

I had to run 10 loops to complete the marathon distance. There was no trouble till about the 4th loop, I had a banana and then an energy drink by then. Some doubts started to creep in by the 5th loop, but I had clocked a 1h:38m for half the distance.

I was already slowing down by the time I hit the 7th loop and then drastically between 30-40kms. I took at least 10 walking breaks in this quarter, interlaced with some strong running. Although I gave up my pace targets, since this was already built into my race expectation at the start, it seemed ok to continue at a reduced pace. In the end, the average pace for those last two 5k were 5:27 and 6:04. There have been races while I have gone much slower after the mind had given up (see link).

The 3:30 finish was on the cards, provided, the last 4-5k were done at close to 5min/k pace. The course was about 500m short and this helped sneak in just below that mark.
I finished in 3h:29m:44s and was placed 9th in the men’s category, behind 4 Kenyan athletes, 3 from the army.

It is important to make adjustments during the race, to ensure that the mental faculty is still with you during the final third of the race.

BMM was reasonably well organized. The joker with the mike at the start (RK Misra?) leading to a delayed start was disgusting. Post-race nutrition is an important aspect of recovery and there wasn’t even a fruit at the finish line – shoddy work for a Rs. 1000 registration fee. Despite these, this time there was a marked improvement from when I ran this last (see link)

Isn't it obvious where the focus should be?

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Predictably irrational - B2C1D Ride Report

The Elevator version or the Twitter version

On 9th Aug, 2013 I rode from Bangalore to Chennai (B2C) in 15h:18m – a distance of 355km in 1 day, hence the B2C1D*
 *term coined by my cycling inspiration Venkat

Socrates said “The Unexamined life is not worth living”
And a 140 character spew hardly qualifies as examining. I will, therefore, examine the ride while you bear with me.

I have also been reading Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational”. While behavioral economics has little to do with riding, the psychological aspects seem to explain some of the ‘who-what-when-where-why’ questions. All quotations in the post below are from the book…

The Why?

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
“Imprinting: Sticking with a decision once it has been made”

A few decades ago, the naturalist Konrad Lorenz discovered that goslings, upon breaking out of their eggs, become attached to the first moving object they encounter (this is generally their mother). Lorenz knew this because in one experiment he became the first thing they saw, and they followed him loyally from then on through adolescence. With that, Lorenz demonstrated not only that goslings make initial decisions based on what's available in their environment, but that they stick with a decision once it has been made. Lorenz called this natural phenomenon imprinting.

For me the ‘anchor’ was Venkat’s B2C1D, done in 13.5hrs in Dec 2010 which created the ‘imprint’. The opportunity presented itself when Shreya went to her maternal home for delivery and I had been on this mission B2C1D since.

Most weekends were spent in clocking those 100k rides. Notable rides in the last few months:
  • 2 century rides in April (to Chikkaballapur) in 4:34 and 3:45
  • 2 century rides to Nandi in May in 5:19 (118k) and 4:11
  • 130k in 6:15 – Dabaspete – Doddaballapur on June 15th
  • 75k in 3:10 – ECR ride on June 9th
  • 300k Brevet night ride in 15:30 on July 22nd
  • 100k, including the 49km SKSrace on July 28th

The When

When you ride to Chennai from Bangalore, there is a net elevation drop of about 900mts, that doesn’t change with day of year or time of day. The southwest monsoons pick up during July-August, with strong winds blowing eastwards – very favorable. One of the proven methods to tackle headwinds, is to reverse direction and ride!

To beat the Chennai heat, budgeting 20hrs for the ride, starting at 4pm and riding through the night, would mean, I would avoid riding during the hottest hours. On Venkat’s advice, I decided to start at 3pm, to accommodate the Chennai-Bangalore bus traffic I would hit around 3am.

The What

So, I started at 3PM on Friday, 9th Aug, Ramzan holiday. Plan A was to ride through the night, with a dinner stop at Vaniyambadi before 9PM. I had borrowed headlights from Venkat, had my own for backup, 2 sets of Garmin to record the ride, 10 chapati rolls, Electral sachets, camelbak for water, a bottle for electoral, extra sets of batteries, detailed ride plan, spare tubes, puncture kit. Plan A was stocked up.

What about plan B? There was none!

There was a swarm of butterflies in my stomach right through the week leading up to the ride. There were plenty of what-if scenarios that cropped up. But sometimes, you just need to take a leap of faith. Wading my way out of traffic, while cruising on electronics city flyover, it struck me that was no looking back now.

Ariley talks about “closing the alternatives to increase focus”.
In 210 BC, Xiang Yu led an army against the Ch'in Dynasty.  While his troops slept, he burned his ships and smashed all the cooking pots.  He explained to his troops that they had to either fight their way to victory or die.  His troops won 9 consecutive battles.  Eliminating options improved the focus of his troops.

We feel compelled to preserve options, even at great expense, even when it doesn't make sense. Yes, we need a plan B, but not at the expense of distracting us from the real objective.

Cumulative distance

Ariely’s experiments on “Effect of Expectations”, led him to conclude that the mind gets what it expects. When we believe something will be good, it generally will be good, and when we think it will be bad, it will be bad.

I have always been an advocate of the self-fulfilling prophecy theory too, but the effect of expectation (plan) on experience (actual) in this case was stunning.

Apparently, we tend to always overvalue what we have (the high price of ownership effect), so I shall take you through a little more of my cherished clutter.
  • Rode the first 100k to Krishnagiri in 3h:20m, a personal best for the distance
  • Just as I was getting complacent about the ride, the head lights started acting up. I had to switch to lower lumen, but more predictable backup lights
  • And then rains caught up and played spray-sport after Vellore for nearly 100kms or so, on and off, effecting pace and rhythm. The spray from the passing trucks and buses were so strong, I needed to get off road for my regular dose of chapatti
  • Total stoppage time was 1h:30m including a dinner break at Vaniyambadi, chai stop at Vellore and chapatti stop at Kanchipuram
  • At the Vellore tea shop, the shopkeeper found it impossible to believe that my bike wasn’t battery powered
  • After the rains, I was so numb, I couldn’t push on my gear lever to change gears and stuck to a single gear for the last 100kms
  • Some stats to wind up - Total distance 354kms, total time 15h:18m, Average speed 23kmph, Average moving speed 25.8kmph. Complete details at on my Garmin site here 
My daughter, Neha, decided to award me the effort - by choosing the very next day to roll over for the first time!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SFS Bangalore Road Bike Race in pictures

Student Foundation for Sports (SFS) organized the 1st Edition of District level road cycling championship - a 49km race starting from Emerald Isle resort, Hoskote on NH4 on 28 July at 7AM IST (= 8AM)

Mass start: Riders tune in to instructions - NH4 completely blocked to traffic on one side for the ride till U-turn point at Volvo factory ~12.5km away. Ride back to start point, to complete 2 loops for the 49k distance!

The peloton: The tail winds make the ride to U-turn easy as the bunch averages 35kmph on the undulating highway. A pilot car, support vehicle & ambulance make it picture perfect.

Braving the winds: The group easily neutralized early charges by solo riders. It sure was tough work on the return leg with heavy head winds to tackle.

Falling back: On the second lap, after about 30k, I began to fall behind trying to get sweat off my eyes... there was no catching up the accelerating peloton.

The Sprint finish: With 6 places to fight for, the teams sprint off the saddle with the finish line in sight.

The Finish line: I finished 10mins behind the lead pack, managing a respectable average of 32kmph, finishing 49kms in 1h:32m (the first 25k @ 35.5kmph and last 24k @ 29kmph).

The icing: There were medals for the top 6 in each of the 3 categories (women, under 23 men and above 23 men), championship trophy for the top team. Kudos to the organizers SFS foundation, to the Bangalore police for the support and Bangalore Amateur Racing (BAR) for marketing the event and Veloscope for the excellent pictures.

Additional reading:
Perspective of a lead rider. Venky in this report
My previous efforts at bike racing here (the motorized kinds) and here and here 

All photo credits: Veloscope

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bangalore Hiriyur 300k Brevet - A report

One night to remember, One night to forget

Nights have an odd lure to us humans. The darkness creeps in a sense of fear, the lurking danger of unknowns, of delusions and hallucinations. But when you live the night through, when dawn breaks; you are awake to a little more of yourself, awake to a little more of your partner of the night. And by that I mean both - the nights you want to remember and the nights you want to forget!


Read about Brevets, Randonneuring, Paris-Brest-Paris and Bangalore Brevets.

The Start

Despite plenty of preparation for the Bangalore-Hiriyur-Bangalore 300k Master Brevet, I came up short at the start. Venkat & I are both growing old, evident from the fact that we troubleshot the headlight problem to the batteries, completely missing out the faulty LEDs.
End result: I don’t have a strong head light for a night nide!

With the Brevet starting at 11pm on 22nd Saturday night, I had to do with a weak commute headlight. No lights meant I had to quickly collaborate with fellow riders for the most needed commodity during a night ride – light! Arvind I had met on the CAM ride to Bekal fort. Yogesh was the other one with the brightest lights. And Arun, coming from Chennai had no idea what rolling hills meant, I had no lights. We were a team!

At finish, with Arun and Yogesh

Arun stuck around with me till we got out of the city on to Tumkur road. The roads were well lit till Nelamangala and I was making good progress. By now my head light was totally dead, and guess what, Mr. Genius did not even carry AA batteries!
With no light but only the Supermoon on the perigee cloudy night, I waited for Arvind and Yogesh to lead kindly light amidst encircling gloom. Luckily after about 12km or so, I was able to find a “fancy store” (yeah, in the middle of the night, making brisk business to truckers) and picked up batteries. Now, I was an equal partner in the crime of ‘drafting the winds’. The 3 of us got into some rhythm till we reached a Café Coffee Day just before Tumkur. We had done about 55k in 2.5hrs, time 1:30am. It was a longish break – coffee, cakes, chapattis were gorged down.
Arvind was sure he had seen a biker head in the opposite direction, we dismissed the only possibility of a 1000km Brevet rider returning. But if only we knew Karthikeyan had whizzed past, on target to finish 1000k in about 59hrs!

All about the Paceline

For the uninitiated, Paceline riding at a set pace in a straight line. The idea is to slice through the wind like a knife through butter. The rider in the lead, breaks the wind for the others to follow in his/her slip-steam. Effective when the gap between one riders back wheel is scarily close to the next riders front.

From 2am to about 3:45am, the 3 of us stuck to a paceline and covered quick ground. We hit Sira tollgate by 3:45am, with 106km done in about 4h:45m. Arun joined us here, having stopped earlier for refreshments.

Sometime between 4am till the break of dawn, somewhere on the highway some 100kms from the comfort of home, a single paceline of 4 riders, noiselessly knifed through the still night. The only sound was the hiss of the tires on tarmac. When the lead said “watch out”, it snapped me back to reality.
During my turn to be the lead rider, I would put my head down and try to keep a steady pace. I was constantly riding into my own shadow cast by either Arvind / Yogesh’s brighter lights. And then when the uphill was conquered, a fair distance done, I would signal to the next rider to take over and move over to the left, wait till all 3 had passed and join them at the back.

When the lead rider's turn at the front is over, he (or she) does a shoulder check for oncoming traffic, then peels off TO THE LEFT and begins to soft pedal in such a way that the rest of the line overtakes him on his RIGHT side. As the last rider in line passes by, the erstwhile leader accelerates enough to fall in behind, thereby becoming the caboose. Now that rider can recover, take a well-earned drink, scratch his nose and grope for a broken cookie in his jersey pocket. As other riders complete their turn at the front they will fall back to the end of the line in turn and our original 'leader' (now hopefully well recovered!) resumes his place at the front once again. In this fashion the entire line recirculates continually as it moves down the road somewhat like a bulldozer's caterpillar tread. Except lighter, quieter, faster, and more graceful.

I was actually using the caboose time to sit up and ride, drink off my camelback, sip from the electoral supply (scratch my nose?), etc. The Supermoon coming out of the shadows, it was an awesome night for riding – no winds, no rains.

At day break, 6:20am we were at the U-turn ATM (yes, a mini statement taken at the ATM from your debit card is time stamp in a brevet ride) at Hiriyur. 161k done in 7h:20m, well within the 10.5h cut off. At the only hotel open that morning, we had breakfast of chow-chow bath and coffee, spending 40mins.

The Return

The plan was to keep to a paceline, but with no winds on empty highways, there was little motivation. Arvind and Yogesh fell behind while Arun was getting stronger. Arun and I maintained a decent clip till the Sira toll gate. Having done 215km in about 10h:15m or so, we rested under a shamiyan, the only shade we could find.

Quiver full of chapattis - (the luggage I had carried)
10 chapatti rolls, 3 chocolate bars, 3 sachets of electoral, 2 ltr camelbak, 1 liter bottle in the bottle cage, 3 spare tubes, mini pump, puncture kit, Allen key set, 1 spare garmin, cue sheets, phone, wallet
My quiver was still churning out chapattis non-stop, Arun & I had one each.

Next stop was outside Tumkur, 250k in 12hours by then. Arun dozed off when we stopped for chai, sleep was catching up and we didn’t waste too much time. Ashwani, a 600k rider, zoomed past, while I had to take mini massage breaks to keep the cramps at bay.

Yogesh and Arvind. Photo courtesy -Yogesh

The Finish

It was awesome to see the Garmin show up 300k in 14h:14m, I was riding ahead on one of the flyovers on the toll road and bang on top of the flyover, I get that “here it goes” feeling. I had a flat. I urged Arun to go ahead and finish, but he wouldn’t have any of that. He happily power-napped on the flyover leaning against the parapet; while I set up my puncture shop. It took me 2 tries before I was able to fix it – 35mins gone!
The good thing the flat did – it took care of my cramps and Arun’s sleep & when we got off the flyover, Yogesh had caught up with us. He led us to the finish point, another ATM where we swiped our cards.

We then made our way to the Café Coffee day at Hesarghatta to hand over our brevet cards, ATM slips and have that well deserved Mango shake with double ice cream!

309km in 15h:30m

… and that, ladies and gents, is the story of the night I like to remember...