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...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ju Leh Ji

(All of one year has gone by since Shreya and I made this trip in July 2012. Nevertheless, hope you have a nice read)

Ju le (n) pronounced joo-lay meaning hello, goodbye, please, thank you
It’s been 4 glorious years since my first trip to Leh Ladakh. A lot has transcribed, but somethings - friends, runs, have stood, much like the mountains of Ladakh, unchanged and unchallenged.

The motivation for this trip was probably a desire to re-live with Shreya, all the fun that I had in the previous visit.

One of the first things that struck me when the taxi drove us from the Rimpochee airport to Changspa was, how little the town had changed – like it was in a time capsule. Vijay-ji from Infinite Adventure had taken care of the logistics for this trip. We were booked at Sheldon Holiday Home – a quiet home stay in the heart of Changspa. As is typical of home stays in Leh, the home had it’s own vegetable garden, cozy rooms and warm congenial family, kids, grand parents and all.

Day 1 was largely spent in lying around and breathing hard – getting acclimatized to the 11500ft altitude of the quaint town. We walked up to Shanti stupa for a bird’s eye view of the landscape in the evening.

Day 2 & 3
Riding snow, riding rains
Up Khardung La, the elevation gains
Dub dub dub dub to the bullet’s tunes
To the warmth of the sand dunes

We checked out the following morning and packed a little bag for a bullet trip to Nubra Valley. The bullet was an almost new Standard 350 which was yet to receive a registration number. Yes, it was as if I was cheating on my Thunderbird, but I have begged for forgiveness, my bullet needs a full body massage actually. In contrast, the Standard 350 was in top shape. A gentle kick and it roared into life. The town was more than one petrol bunk and ATM now, we topped up both before riding under the arch that said – Khardung la 40kms

Riding snow, riding rains
Up Khardung La, the elevation gains
Good roads, great views warmed us up till South Pullu at 4800m. Warmed up, because, for the next 50km till North Pullu, we were chilled to the bone. We were warned at the check post of the rough terrain ahead. Riding this up to Kardung La was an experience. With the melting snow forming small rivulets taking down lots of tarmac with them. In other places, the Border Roads Organization was clearing away one of the frequent landslides off the road. We stopped only for a couple of quick photographs at Khardung La, arguably the highest mortorable pass.
To make matters worse, there was mild snowfall as we made our way down to North Pullu. I slowed down at every army shack hoping to find some warmth from the rain which was now a cold heavy drizzle. The halt only came at North Pullu, where we savored some hot Maggi and tea. Shreya contemplated heading back – the proposal was quickly dismissed.
We pushed through despite the drizzle. And as a reward for this, the rains stopped, the road got better, with no climbing to do, we cruised down towards the valley.

Dub dub dub dub to the bullet’s tunes
To the warmth of the sand dunes
As we neared Diskit valley, the vistas changed from the snow lined mountain path to arid lake bed and sand dunes. Although the rain had stopped, our bones were still cold. We made some quick basic enquiries and slipped under blankets in the cozy room at the first home stay we came to – Olgok guest house.
Late evening, we strolled down to the sand dunes (not wise, it was a 45min stroll!!) and rode on the Bactrian double humped camel. A good Samaritan offered us a lift to our home stay on the way back coz it had started to rain too. We had a breakfast of Ladaki bread (barley?), apricot jam, omlette and tea.

I took off early in the morning, running on the empty highway towards Pakistan, towards the town of Turtok. The complete silence was broken by the rivulets running alongside, running to join the Shylok river. The road curved up towards a bridge across the river in a bit. The altitude of 3100m did it’s bit too, running uphill I was easily out of breadth. I made up some pace on the return to finish a 10km in about 58mins. Details here.

We visited the Diskit monastery enroute, where a Kannada speaking monk explained to us the meaning of Maitreya and the fierce deities in the temple. We made a quick stop at the Diskit town to shop for much needed gloves and dry socks. The prayers and woolens helped, we totally enjoyed the return trip.
Back in Leh, we had enough fuel in our tanks to pay a visit to Spituk monastery. The Buddha overlooking the valley from atop the monastery is one of the lasting images of Leh.

Day 4 & 5
Only 2 in a car for eight
Passing Chang la at its height
Down treacherous roads we went
To Pangong Tso, to a cold windy tent

Only 2 in a car for eight
Passing Chang la at its height
Although we had a great time with the return leg from Nubra, the rains were still on our minds. So for the trip to Pangong Tso, we decided to get into a car and be caged! With no luck with accommodating any other tourists with us, it was just Shreya and I in the Innova. As luck would have it, it was a glorious day… to ride a bike!

Down treacherous roads we went
To Pangong Tso, to a cold windy tent
As we climbed up towards Chang la, the roads began to deteriorate and with it, Shreya’s car sickness. We stopped for a short break at the café on Chang La. It must have been a combination of cold, altitude, claustral conditions, Shreya was a wreck by the time we reached our camp site on the banks of Pangong lake. It was almost 2pm or so when we got ourselves some lunch. We spent the rest of the day inside the tent. There was a heavy gale during the night, but thanks to some hot water packs, we managed to sleep well. A 5k jog the next morning, left me breathless within minutes. The next morning, we headed back to Leh after breakfast, thinking more than once that we would have perhaps loved this more on the bullet.

From a cool town called Chilling
Past chocolate rocks, whirlpools, rapids swirling
Life jackets, wet suits, our rafts we oared
Up and down white waters, while Zanskar soared

The last day was perhaps the best of the trip. We finished off with a fantastic 2 hour white water rafting in Zanskar from Chilling to Nimmu. We were driven from Leh, some 50kms to Chilling, where we were joined by about 30 other tourists from all across Europe and the US. We got into the gear – wet suits, life jackets and shoes. After a briefing by our coach, we set off. It was a 20km ride, took us about 2 hours. The river was wild, scary, intense, mild and calm all at once! The Class III & Class IV rapids kept us engaged through out. There were 2 other dinghies like ours, one folded up, spilling all its crew into the icy cold waters. There was then a bit of rescue operation!
When Nimmo was in sight, I jumped off the raft to drift the last few hundred meters home!
I got this on my GPS, take a look here.

It was a great holiday, one year on, the good memories still linger on...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Diamond for my dear daughter

Her "Hello World" moment happened on 5th of May. And on the eve of her naming ceremony, it's only apt that I present a 'Diamond for my Dear Daughter'.

For details on how the diamond was cut see here