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!