Its 10am on 23rd Saturday morning. I call up Tima, and excitedly ask him, “hey, tima, where are you?”. “At home”, comes the reply. In the next 15 minutes, we convinced ourselves it was indeed Tima on the phone and he was nowhere near Mysore Zoo. Standing in front of the chimpanzee’s cage in Mysore zoo, what we were seeing in front of us had so much resemblance, we had to call to confirm. With the faith in evolution reaffirmed, we continued to see the rest of the Mysore Zoo. The first time I saw a peacock with the feathers fully open. The African elephant had 5 legs (!), and a mother was going red trying to explain to her kid why it was so. An area to keep away from, if you are on your honeymoon to keep the expectations under check. For Tima, the question “but why Mysore Zoo of all the places, da”, occupied his curious (and fairly large) head for the rest of the day, that had just started. But for buckeet and I, the day was already about 200kms old. We had started, after an sms goof-up at 7 from corporation at Bangalore. A very expensive (12bucks) coffee served in plastic cup at Kamat Lokaruchi woke us up fully. At Ramanagara, we were in the middle of an accident involving a Tata Indica and an Activa, never seen one from so close. We had breakfast at Gayatri Tiffin room (finding it was like looking for the needle…) in Chamundipuram. Belted yummy masala dosa, plain dosa and idlis at very economical prices. The plan was to set momentum to our newly launched Single serving project. And climbing the 1000 steps up Chamundi hills, was the alibi. Buckeet’s got some smart friends in Mysore (read, Deepa) who joined us at the Zoo. We started the climb close to noon. Buckeet had to take loads of stops, before we reached the top, it must have taken us close to 90 mins. Fluids like tender coconuts and butter milk flowed in without any resistance. I had no room for lunch when we got back, but would not let go the chance to lunch with Deepa. The next thing I remember is Kengeri junction which we had reached non-stop from Mysore. “but why Mysore of all the places, da?”, wish I knew.
Having a Healthy Disregard for the Impossible – Larry Page. A Marathon is an amazing experience. You wake, get herded behind the line on some empty street, a gun is fired, and you run until you drop. There are no wickets to take or defencemen to manoeuvre around – just kilometers to run. You reach the starting line at dawn on a frigid morning and because the night before you woke in pure panic every 30 minutes believing that you’d overslept and missed the race, you’re already exhausted. Self-doubt arrives shortly after the starting gun. But, by mid-race, this doubt is swallowed by fatigue. On a rainy evening a year and half later, I can still see the pavement in front of VIdhana Soudha as I struggled to the finish line at the inaugural Bangalore Marathon. - Johnson in the Sunday Times of India, September 17th 2006. And even as many are reading this in the luxury of their homes that Sunday morning, I and a few others were living every word Johnson wrote.
The second Bangalore International Marathon was held last Sunday. This time it was a part of a larger Refresh Bangalore initiative, The Times of India the main sponsor. I had started the practice in Aug, running about 50kms a week, but with no news of the marathon, I went slow mid way. With only 10 days left for the marathon, TOI started registrations. In the last minute ditch effort, I cycled up Nandi hills (about 100kms), only to injure my already damaged ligament of the left knee. The week leading to the marathon was a concoction of feelings – fear, anxiety, apprehension and disquiet, primarily fear. The knowledge of the track (which was same as last time) was the root cause of this. And I had set an ambitious target of 5 hours for the finish. I ran a 5kms on Thursday and spent the next couple of days in nursing my knee. I did this last time too, I sure am not learning from my mistakes. So, here I was, at 6 am on Sunday morning, running yet another Bangalore Marathon. I spotted a lot of familiar faces from Runners For Life and Bangalore Hash.
What did I find better:
Water stations: The water stations had water till we finished. There were guys around even when I returned home as late a 7hours after the start. Simply sooper, I say!!
Weather: So much better, running in Sep and not in May. I was at Hebbal on my way back when I first noticed the sun.
Things I did better this time:
Timing: I ran the first 13kms in 1.5hours, reached the half way point (21kms) in 2hours 20mins. The next 12kms to Hebbal took me 1 hour 40mins. By that time, I had done nearly 31kms in 4hours. In the scorching summer in May last year, it had taken me 5 hours to do this! The next 10-11 kms took me 1.5 hours of a mix of walking and jogging.
Running: This time I jogged without a stop for the first 26kms. Last year, I had stopped before the half way point. And after the 26 also, there were longer stretches of jogging than walking.
Running mate: When I reached Hebbal in just over 4 hours, I was overtly pleased with myself, despite my over-worked joints and legs. It was then, the mind took over and I had gotten walking mostly. In all fairness, I had submitted myself to walk to the finish by then, I had time on my side (the brain conjures many such mirages). And I had this one bad experience last year, running with a state team rowing member, so this time, I wanted to motivate only myself and no other. Then came Shyam, walking briskly past as we went up the Hebbal flyover. From then on it was his optimism that took me to jogging again. Be it the distance, the sun behind us, the pain in the joints, the killing pain in my knee, the glass was always half full for him. We struck a chord easily with him sharing my passion for ‘thunderbird’ing and ‘hero hawk’ing. We finished together in 5 hours and 30mins.
How Bangalore played host: The finger: There was this one pot-bellied middle aged man, waiting for the traffic to clear, who was shouting at the runners in Kannada, "if you run like this, you will fall sick". The least you can do to help, my fellow Bangalorean is to keep your crapping mouth shut. I had to show him The Finger. The Applause: Shyam and I were nearly crawling on the 37km mark, near high grounds police station. One constable was rolling up the police-do-not-cross tape, the moment he saw us, he put the tape down, ran off to avoid coming in our way and stood to applaud us as we passed him. A small gesture, it made my pain disappear.
The Medal: Unlike last time, when I got the medal and certificate one week after the run, I was early enough to pick it up immediately. Since then, I have been flaunting the medal everywhere. If you want to see it post a comment, I shall mail a pic. (yes, that is the link you got to click to leave that comment…) Ps: My chest number was not 00007 for nothing.
Date: 9th Sep, 2006 To: Nandi Hills Route: Hebbal > Devanahalli > Nandi Hills Distance: 100kms Mode: The ‘other’ Bike – Hero Hawk
As a part of the cross training in the run up to the marathon, I decided to ride up to Nandi Hills on my other bike – a Hero Hawk. Ever since my friend Sathish mentioned this to me, it had caught on my fancy. I sold this idea to Raghu and he was willing to join me, till on Friday he decided that the 100+ km ride would be too much for his stamina. I decided to go ahead and do it alone.
I was on my cycle at 630 on 9th Saturday morning. Nandi hills is about 50kms from Hebbal, 2kms after you pass Devanahalli (27kms), take a left at the Nandi cross and ride another 22kms to the top of Nandi hills. The climb to the top of hill is 8kms. I met up Shashi and Varun a lil after Hebbal, who were on their way to Doddaballapur. They took cycled for 10hrs that Saturday, varun told me later. I have company next time I plan such crazy stunts. I reached the bottom of the hills about 40 odd kms by 845, but the ride to the top the next 8kms took me a full hour and half. I rode up the ghats 3kms and then gave up, walked along the cycle for the next agonizing 5kms. It was comforting all the while to think you don’t have to do this when on the return. I spent about 15mins enjoying the landscape view mostly. There is nothing much to do in Nandi if you don’t have a partner. And as evidence, there were many ‘early birds’ already up there. The ride downhill only exercises your forearms, when you have to squeeze the brakes all the way down. Before I reached Devanahalli, my thighs had started to lock, this is the first time I have exp this. The quadriceps of the thigh lock and begin to hurt. Everytime this happens I had to jump off the cycle and walk a bit before it recovers like it was never there in the first place. Reached home at 215, a grueling 3.5 hours later. It sure was not pleasant, a good preparation for the marathon, however.
Ok…after a lot of prodding from my good friend Manoj, I’ am finally writing my first ever-blog entry…as a guest-writer on Manoj’s visorview (road conquests??) blogsite!
The event: Nidhi Bete 2 Date: 10th Sep 06 Organizers: RTMC Participants: 22 teams (solo or with pillion)
As a precursor to the events to follow, the first task was difficult enough….meet at 7.30 am at Sarovar, Lavalle Road. Now, for heaven’s sake, this was supposed to be a Sunday, ain’t it meant for catching up on lost sleep???!! Anyways, I was determined not to ditch my dear friend Manoj (ask him for my track record on this one!!)...so woke up by 6.45 am, quick shower and after a lot of searching & directions on the phone, finally reached Sarovar at 7.45am. I thought I was late, since the flag-off was scheduled for 8 am, but I should have known better!!
After a quick round of introductions to the other participants, my ‘pilot’ (read: Manoj= Kuruda) and I broke our fast on a helping of 2 idlis and a vada each. I changed over to the t-shirt (covered in the 300 bucks as entry fee), a couple of quick smokes, and bingo…we were ready to zoom….it was 8.40am…
Oh, btw Aetos (the eagle!!)..gave a brief on what we were to expect and he did mention that he wanted to see our butts when we got back after the ‘grueling’ ride….should have paid heed to that a little more seriously, but what the heck…aren’t we the daring sorts, come what may kinds… so bring it on!!!
After a series of bikes were flagged off…our time came and my pilot and I were on our way! The first clue was easy, because it was a part of Bangalore I know well ( Jayanagar ) ….but there was a hitch…Though we were bang on the right track, we happened to ask a person for re-confirmation. In his eagerness to be helpful (??), he confidently veered us back to a place we had already passed by….there goes 5-7 minutes!! Anyways, we recovered, rather realized our folly quickly enough and I was very soon dashing into the Royal Enfield showroom where we were supposed to pick up the visiting card of the store-manager…The guy actually stood up from his seat, handed over the card without even asking a word, realizing that I meant business and didn’t have time for small-talk.. And yes, I did take down the reg. number of the bullet from the poster there (I realized it should have be the reg. no. of the bullet with the side-car only later!)
Now, we were well and truly on our way…the next clue was to take the Hosur Road and get to the road to the place which means ‘Elephant Stone’ in Kannada…Bingo, my Kannada is good enough to decipher that as ‘ANEKAL’…but found that in the next clue the same was mentioned (was that a mistake on the organizers’ part??) Anyways, once on that road we were supposed to take the deviation to the place, the clue for which was an anagram – ‘INJAGI’. That’s an easy one…of course it has to be JIGANI (thanks to one of my many initial jobs, I had been to that place and knew it existed!)… Got the deviation easily enough (when in doubt-ASK…and that’s precisely what we did..ask an auto-rickshaw guy to reconfirm),noted down the name of the hotel there, picked up a red-looking stone and proceeded to our next set of clues, which included getting the name of a school (Royal School- at some injalwadi pass on the way), a charitable trust (forgot the name) & an organic products plant ( Kumar Organic Products, whose byline is ‘a positive chemical reaction’….good, na??!!) ….all pretty much sequentially on the way.
Next up was to find a school which resembled Hogwarts (Harry-da-puttar, anyone??!) on the Bannerghatta Road, just some 10 kms from the Zoo (All cats here, what r u doing here, u dog??).The school turned out to be ‘Savodaya Birla International School’ and thankfully we were not too far when we stopped by to ask, only to realize we had passed it! Anyways, these things do happen, don’t they?? Of course, the symbol on the board of the school resembled a Sun (that was a question in the clue-sheet) and I got down from the bike momentarily to look for a ‘white cock feather’ in the grass around...but could not spot one. Not wanting to waste too much time, my pilot said ‘yeno ondu white irodu yettko maga’..meaning ‘pick-up something that is white man’…I did as ‘boss’ said (anything that would save me some trouble!!)…hopped on as pillion and off we were again. Manoj happened to know exactly the destinations of the next few clues since he had done this route before, so I was like..’Ok, cool…we’r almost there’…only to realize that the tough part (read: bad roads) had just begun!!
Of course, the only respite was the NICE road…on which my pilot was in fullu josh..ripping at 120kms/hr (he thinks we did a max of 115kms/hr, but I was watching the Speedo all the while).The good part over, took the deviation to the “Big Banyan Tree “ ( ‘brother to the underwear’ , or so the clue said!!). I took a much needed pee-break while Manoj a.k.a Kuruda took down the landline number of the studio there and picked up a dry leaf….I thought I could have a smoke in peace, being stationary(after all, we had made it until here in good time, hadn’t we??), but I was wrong L The ‘boss’ was like let’s go, let’s go…so off we were again ( BTW, did I mention I also bought 2 beedis at the shop there, much to the bewilderment of the shopkeeper??!!)
Next up was Manchinbele post-office (we had to count how many pillars it stood on, and the answer was 4, but alas, we forgot to mention that on the clue-sheet!!), we noticed it, thanks to ‘Bamboo’ and pillion standing right in front of it….it was also a sort-of re-affirmation that we were indeed on the right track! We were running out of gas, but thankfully found a shop which sold petrol, filled 2 litres which cost us Rs. 130 ( who said fuel was expensive only in Bangalore??!!) and off we went to our next destination…the Deer Park at Savandurga. Got my ass off the bike (was that a relief or what, albeit for only 2-3 minutes!!), to enquire with the shopkeeper there about the number of Deers in the park. Once we had the answer (none), and after having noted the ‘who’ in the statue, we were gleefully on our road back to Bangalore…
Before I proceed to the last stretch, lemme take a minute to mention here that the stretch mentioned in the last para (Big Banyan Tree – Manchinbele – Savandurga) was probably the ‘super specialty stretch’ that Aetos mentioned in his intro before we left Sarovar…and boy, was it special??!! You could hardly call them roads, let alone good or bad….we were constantly in and out of ditches, going left and right to avoid some, and then in cases where it was inevitable to avoid one, my pilot and I used to just let out a shout in the anticipation of the pain it would cause our backside!! Whew, Manoj/Kuruda must’ve cursed the organizers for this, and what’s more, they even had the cheekiness to collect Rs. 300 as entry fees!!
Anyways, glad with the anticipation of the last stretch and lunch, we zipped back to Magadi, took a right turn…and hurray, we were on our way back to namma Bengalooru!! But, well, all good feelings must end, ‘coz just then we noticed a milestone saying “Bangalore – 48 kms” …48kms….crazy or what??? Haven’t we already endured enough??? And by this time, my ass as burning….and my pilot didn’t help (!!) by not being co-operative enough to stop for 5-10 minutes and recuperate…It came down to me almost begging him to stop for 10 seconds, which he did, only once!! He just kept saying “ let’s finish it off “…..well, I knew he was right, but when ur ass is literally on fire, does reasoning ever help??!!! But still, I braved myself to endure the pain (btw, I think I heard Manoj say something like iron-ass….hmm…!), no matter what and ended up trying to find various postures (given the limitations) that would help my backside, even just a little bit!
Finally, after a little bit of guidance from one of the shopkeepers (god bless them), we reached our starting point, Sarovar, at around 1.35pm ….hurray..we made it, and boy, were we glad!!
We submitted our clue-sheet to the organizers only to then realize that we had missed 2 clues on our way back….picking up ‘kadlekai’ on the Magadi rd – Bangalore route and finding out who maintains the clock tower at KR Circle, but who cares, I was just glad that I could stand still after 5 hours of almost constantly riding pillion (roads, did I hear anybody say??)…and Manoj cover-up line was “we don’t believe in bribing!!”….Still, we were docked (I think) 20points….Well, whatever….
Cut to scene of having lunch and then results….
Aetos announcing ….” The third place goes to team O…Manoj “ What the $&^&??….Anyways, Clap clap clap!!!
This is the defining moment, one that leaves an indelible mark on the memory. The hands of the tower clock push max angle between them; 12:30 on a hot Sunday afternoon on the Madras Motors Sports Club Race Track at Irungattukottai, Chennai. I see nearly 10 other bullets through my visor, ahead of me on the grid. There are spectators on the sidelines wanting to catch the start; the lenses zoomed in, larger crowds gather on the two towers overhead. A Marshal runs up with a “Three Minutes” Placard. A bead of sweat slides down from within the helmet, the breathing gets deeper, and all senses coalesce on the five red lights up ahead. There is a deafening thundering roar as the bikers rev up their variously modified bullets. “Two Minutes”, “30seconds” and “5 seconds” cards come and go, in quick succession; the 20 odd bikers looking ahead in enervating anticipation. I pull the clutch lever and shift into first gear, rev hard and keep it there. Five red lights go on, one after another from right to left… one, two, three, four, five opening the floodgates of adrenaline in sync. And then they go off, all at once… my race has just started.
Rewind quickly three days to find out how I landed here. The fourth leg of the Ucal Rolon National Road Racing Championship was adding (after nearly 10yrs) the Bullets and (other?) superbikes class to its 110 and 160cc categories. The invitation was extended to RTMC, and after re-affirming with Mamadi and Prashy, I decided to check out the track myself. In the hindsight, if I had even a semblance of what was in store for me, I swear, I would have chickened out.
There were a few easy-to-overcome roadblocks. Get the bullet in shape – replace the chain and sprocket and removed the main stand. The plan to go to Chennai was made over hot Mysore filter coffee at Java City at the club’s meeting. The forms were filled and everything was in place. I had to put lotsa gas to convince folks at home, this time I have stretched limits, I reckon. I applied leave on Friday (yes, contrary to most cases, my weekends are spilling over my work days and I, for one, am not complaining).
Mama, Anil and I left to Chennai on Friday (1st Sep) at 7 in the morning. Riding steady 80kmph on the bare Krishnagiri-Vellore route, we reached Sriperumbadur by 1:30pm, some 340 odd kms. The vroom vroom sounds of the 110 and 160cc bikes as we entered the MMSC race track, brought the first signs of doubts if I wanted to be among these mad men. We were welcomed with bad news at the pits from the Rolling Thunder Assault Team, Prashy and Abhi, out two leading racers had a crash, Prashy’s piston had two holes, exhaust valve broken and wrecked the head & tappet rods and Abhi had crashed trying not to run over Prashy on the track. All this on the very first day, two more such days to go!
The Madras Motors Race track at Irungattukottai was the first of its kind in India was inaugurated in 1990. The grand prix run a full 50 laps here. I was sapped out for a mere 5 laps, the 110cc and the 160cc classes ran 8 laps. In the next 24 hours, I rode to Chennai, met up my relatives, caught up with two batch mates from IIML, Kamal and Krishna at Tidal Park. I had to do a lot of “------- (replace by name of place) yenge?” to find my way around. “straight pongo sir, last le, right turn panna, ange iruku”. Meaning “go straight, and take a right turn in the last (end)”. You would not go any further on a straight road if you knew you had to take a turn, right. The road will continue, and hey, I don’t know where to go (if you get any of that, you are either a Tamilian or a genius).
Anyways, I got back to the race track by 3:15 on Saturday afternoon, with the practice for the bullets starting at 4:30. I thought I had enough time to take off my crash guards, mirror, tape the indicators, etc. Wrong! The bullets were already on track and there was 15 mins left to get any practice. I was ushered into the track on my fully loaded TB, just managed to take off my tank bag. As I entered the hot lane, instruction given to me was simple, “Ensure you don’t fall, you have too much glass”. For the practice, the bullets shared the short loop with the super bikes – Ninjas and CBRs. I was glad I had the mirrors on, to make way when the super bikes sped past. There was one rider who was flashing headlights and all, I caught him on my rear view mirror. After burning some fuel and rubber (off my foot peg only) on the wet track, I got back to the pits, 6 short laps later. The veteran racer, Subhash Chandra Bose, gave us some valuable tips on lines to take, there is so much more to learn.
After the practice, most of us headed back to Chennai. After checking out the MadBulls Shridhar's office (half of RTMC used the office to crash for the night), I headed to Porur, my cousin’s place.
On Sunday morning, I reached the race track at 8, hoping to get some more practice early in the morning. The rest of RTMC was late, sleeping over the hangover from Bikes n Barrels the previous night. Unlike the previous night, there was scrutiny of the bikes and riding gear. I was under clothed for the race, no full gloves, no knee pads. Prashy had pulled out of the race, despite an overnight engine rebuild and I got to use the champ’s riding suit. The races for the moped class, 110cc and 160cc class went on till noon. By now my ears for-ever reverberating to the sound the mopeds and bikes revving on track or testing in the pits. The 50cc mopeds race at 100-90kmph, throttles locked at max. At noon, the announcements for the bullets sounded. I said a silent prayer, the idea of backing out did cross my mind once, do I really want to go out there! Hell, I was not going to chicken out now. We wheeled the bullets to the cold lane and waited as instructions were barked out. When the bullets came out into the track, one after the other, it was almost like the gladiators come out into the Roman arena. I started among the last four on the starting grid, feeling like Narayan Kartikeyan. By the time the first curve (MRF curve) was taken, there were 3 bullets behind me and one close ahead. The qualifying was my best race, for a large part I was catching up with the heavily modified (it had a double silencer) No. 1 bullet ahead. I got him on three occasions on tight inner line, but was unable to keep the lead. I had to keep my nerves tight, especially when the lead was taken from me. For most part of the race, my strategy was to move from the outer to the inner line. I really loved most corners:
MRF Corner – Took this one mostly at 90-100kmph. The straight provides the chance to clip and take the curve at nearly fully throttle. GoodYear Corner – The straight before this is a long one, I would consistently hit over 100kmph before braking and gearing down before the Goodyear corner. The Never ending – This is one I loved most. Keep the throttle open, tilt the bullet till the rubber on the foot peg scrapes the camber, take the inner line and keep going and going and going, never ending really. I hear the super bikes take this at 220kmph!! The Bridge Corners – I hated these, the S-shaped corners were where I scraped my pegs and god-knows-whatever else most. Couldn’t do any speed on this either.
There is so much to learn to be able to take these corners with élan, to make the curves work for you. But when you clip on those curves, the bullet tilting to hug the curves, and every part - the eyes, hands, thighs, knees, ankles working in sync, you forget the world.
I finished 15th out of 19 bikers on qualifying almost feeling like Narain Karthikeyan. It was a good race for Abhi from RTMC, who finished first on the 350cc category and second overall. The next race was at 5:15 or so. In the meantime, the super bikes who took to track, to the delight of the crowds, also had a major crash, also to further the delight of the crowd. Ordinary packed vegetarian food tasted great, maybe also because it was covered in the 100 bucks you pay for the registration. The race in the evening was a replica of the qualifying – only this time around, I didn’t have the No. 1 guy running in front and had the track for myself after the first lap. I tried to catch up with Sultan on his 500cc, but fell short of power.
At the end of the race, all the bulleteers were given mementos – a trophy to take home and show-off. I had to fit back my side stands, guard and lights in a hurry to make the bullet highway-fit. We left the track at 6:30 in the evening. Boom was at the point, ripping at 100+, sultan and I formed the sweep. After Krishnagiri, we had to slow down, to stay with Manan, who had a loose chain. But the whole road is simply awesome and a great one to do at night. Got back home by 1am – 935kms of bliss!!
As I type this entry, I am being driven on bumper-to-bumper traffic on Airport Road and I am translocated, so much that I almost smell rubber.
Some race track terms that I googled: parade lap When the bikes in a race travel around the track before the start of a race. Done to warm up the bikes, particularly the tires. camber The roll, angle, or canter of the road surface left and right from the direction of travel. Often corners are angled or banked in favour of the driver; when angle is unfavourable the road is described as off-camber. cold lane Lane in pit where bikes wait to enter track. See "hot lane." hot lane Lane in pit used by bikes exiting or re-entering track. See "cold lane." green flag Track ahead is clear for driving at speed. yellow flag Standing or held steady, it indicates there is a minor hazard on track ahead or perhaps a bike off-track. Use caution. When the flag is waved, it means there is a major hazard ahead; so use extreme caution. marshal A person working at a station along the track, usually a corner. They monitor and report the condition of bikes and the behaviour of drivers. They will display flags to provide information or warn a driver. They maintain contact with the chief marshal or "track steward." decreasing radius A corner that tightens. It requires increased steering input after the apex. Very challenging. Opposite from an increasing radius. deep into a corner Braking later into a corner, usually to overtake a bike. Often needed when taking an inside line. Also referred to as "going deeper." inside line If attempting to pass in a corner, race drivers will often attempt an inside line or "groove." They move to the inside surface of the track before a corner, then they attempt to outbrake their opponent by braking later but harder. If done successfully they will shoot by the bike driven the racing line and be ahead at the apex. This often causes the aggressive driver to early apex giving the defending driver a better line at the exit. See "outbrake," "the line." in slow, out fast A reminder that your overall or exit speed in a corner will be faster if you're slower at the entrance. A driver that exploits this is described as being "quick in the corners." line, the An imaginary line around a track that permits the highest speed. Through corners this is the greater arc from the outside edge from the end of a straightaway (turn-in point) through the inside edge of a corner (apex) to the outer edge at the end of the corner (exit point). This is often visible on a race track as a darker region from tire residue. This is not necessarily the shortest distance around a track. Sometimes referred to as the race line or dry line. See "wet line," "off-line," "inside line."