After we were done with finishing 200 KM’s of cycling and there was this pain that comes as a proud battle scar. My friend Ronak asked me why we are doing things that give us a lot of suffering. Not that we have a problem with the physical suffering in endurance sports but life without physical suffering is not bad either. The only thing that came to my head was that we practice suffering in endurance sports so that in real life we live beyond the suffering or a nirvana from the suffering of life. Any form of endurance sport is no less than a philosophy of life. I remember during our 200 KM cycle ride we were discussing things about life which normally don’t get addressed in our self proclaimed busy lives.
I am running on a dream to finish the IRONMAN 140.6. An ‘Ironman 140.6’ is 3.9 KM swimming followed by 180.25 KM cycling and 42.2 KM running. All this needs to be done within 16 hours. This dream has been there as part of me since 2015 and it is 2020 now. Each year the dream matures and I feel I'm getting close to it. I believe that being an IRONMAN is not about the title but it is living the lifestyle physically and mentally. For the same reason, I'm on a mission to build my aerobic, mental and muscular capacity from few years. I have been quite fortunate to participate in 4 Half Ironman Events (1.9 KM swimming, 90 KM cycling and 21.1 KM running) & 1 Olympic Ironman Event, a few Marathons and Swimathons too. An IRONMAN 140.6 is an expensive deal to participate, so I am taking it easy and getting ready for it too. Whenever it happens it will be beautiful.
Ronak is a great friend and we have known each other since 2014. He was part of the 2nd trek of Get Beyond Limits to Kodachadri. He is one of the fittest athletes that I know personally and quite humble too. Last year in 2019 he did the Tata Mumbai Marathon within 3:21 Hours. Isn’t he too fast? Well, he worked for it. He might have skipped so many late-night parties so that his practise doesn’t get affected by temporary happiness. This man has done the Malnad 50 KM Ultramarathon and Olympic Ironman (1.5 KM swimming followed by 45 KM cycling and 10 KM running) in Chennai as well.
HOW DID WE DECIDED 200 KM’s?
In the past, I have done 160 KM cycling from my place to Nandi Hill Top on a single gear bike. Once you do a certain distance you will become comfortable with it and would like to give something more to your body and mind. 200 KM is a challenging number at least for me. The distance memory of 160 KM in the past was alright. I was aware that 200 KM can be done. Given that now I have a road bike I wanted to complete 200 KM in 13.5 Hours (as part of the Randonneur Standard Timings).
The initial plan was with my friend Arjun who couldn’t make it. Well, he has finished IRONMAN 140.6, Malnad 80 KM Ultramarathon and Swimathon 15 KM’s. This is what I can remember beyond other crazy things he would have done.
But life has its own callings.
I remember having a word with Ronak about a 200 KM cycle ride. There was a sense of excitement and fear when we spoke. And that is when I knew that together we could do it. I was going through the same feelings of excitement and fear. Ronak had to adjust many things before the ride at home. One small secret Ronak has never done a century on a cycle. He straight away went for a double century.
We had our first, second and third set of discussions for the ride. We knew that together we would do it in 13.5 Hours (at least this was the initial plan).
A NIGHT BEFORE THE RIDE (Breakdown)
My cycle broke down at around 1130 PM when I was rechecking the air pressure for the 200 KM dream ride for the next day. The pump just got stuck to the ‘presto valve’ and never came out. It was disappointing to some extent but somehow life teaches you to accept situations and ‘let it be’. I dropped a text to Ronak with pictures of the my ‘Acariya’
(Acariya is the name of my cycle. It is a Pali word and means a teacher or a mentor). It was heartbreaking for us. Kavin from Decathlon Bannerghatta tried helping me with a video call but nothing worked out that night. Had to let it go.
IF NOT TODAY MORNING WE WILL DO IT TOMORROW MORNING
The ride was so much on the head that quitting it without attempting it would have been the worst thing we would have done to our souls. We changed the ride day to Monday instead of a Sunday. My whole Sunday was occupied with fixing the wheel. Never mind we started at 0530 Hours in the morning. Guess what it was raining early this morning. And you know how Bengaluru rains are, they never stop if they drizzle light. I waited for almost 1 hour for the rain to stop but finally gave up on the thought and left home at 0530 Hours. Surprisingly the rain was not happening in other areas of Bengaluru. It was a relief.
I met Ronak at Sarjapur Signal after starting from Bannerghatta Road. We did some basic fixtures with respect to the seat adjustments for the long ride, took one picture, gave a HiFi and started the ride on the outer ring road of Bengaluru.
The whole 200 KM of cycling can be divided into 4 legs of 50 KM’s each. What we feel in the first leg may be different at the fourth leg. And you never know until you do it.
First Leg (0 - 50 KM’s):
Our initial 50 KM’s were a piece of the best cake except for the fact that I overloaded my bag with things like a swiss knife, steel tiffin for pack lunch (I could have used something else) and an extra jacket. You can consider this a mistake number 1. Don’t keep a bag in the first place especially for a long ride. It is the insecurity that makes me do it. ‘What if I feel cold and will need the jacket’? Even if it snows I will still not feel cold because I'm riding a cycle. There are attachments that can be put on the bicycle for long rides. They are a worthy investment for the long term. Nevertheless I had my learnings.
The other thing which was my mistake number 2 was having a seat cover. In my own arrogant opinion, they are one of the worst inventions in the cycling world. I will explain it. A seat cover will tend to move along the ride, even if the movement is a slight inch, it will still make the ride uncomfortable. Rather the bum is uncomfortable. I got it for the ride for the sake of my own insecurity. ‘What if my bum can’t handle the 200 KM’s pain'? I got rid of the seat cover at the end of the first leg (now only 150 KMs left). My bum felt so better than anything. Somebody from Decathlon Bannerghatta shared the same knowledge with me but some people learn going through pain by themselves. I hope you choose to learn from someone else's mistake.
The tolerance of the buttocks slowly increases with the time period.
2nd Leg (50 - 100 KM’s):
It is fun to ride on the flyovers of the Hebbal - Bengaluru Airport Road. While we were having fun Ronak’s bike got punctured. We were fortunate to have a Decathlon Store nearby on the highway. Our momentum was lost but fixing the puncture was more important. After this, we were super excited to speed up and take care of the lost time in fixing the puncture. To my excitement, I went ahead on the flyovers & crossing tolls but couldn’t find Ronak on the highway for some time. We started again together from the turn that goes towards Nandi Hills on Devanahalli Highway. Something strange was happening to his cycle. He was paddling hard but the cycle did not move much. I tried riding his cycle hard but I could barely keep up the pace. I felt bad that he was riding like this from past 20 KM’s. It was tiring for me to ride less than 10 KM of ride on his bike. Either it was the chain or the gear set or something else. We finally found a mechanic out of nowhere. He did something, well a lot of oiling on the chain, the motion of the cycle was relieved only by 20%. There was nothing much he could do and we did not trust his work, at least initially.
In my head, I was making a strategy of how to finish the remaining 130 KM’s. We came up with the idea of sharing our bikes for 10 KM’s each. This way the exertion will get divided between both of us.
We crossed the base of the Nandi Hill and now we were heading towards Doddaballapur from the country roads. Country roads are beautiful for the eyes. There is greenery on both sides of the road and less traffic or slow traffic as compared to the highways. It is very unfortunate that a cyclist is not paid respect on roads in terms of safety. We are on our own. Someday we hope to be a cycling-friendly country.
I am personally of the opinion similar to many cycling enthusiasts that cycling is a solution to problems like bad health, pollution and traffic in most of the countries.
In the meanwhile, wonders started happening to Ronak’s ride after we crossed the base of Nandi Hills. His cycle was moving better. Maybe the oiling by the senior citizen mechanic uncle did work. He did not share his ride with me as he was of the opinion that we both are used to our bikes now. Fair enough!
Now we were searching for a place to have lunch and riding in the countryside makes you feel like having lunch on a farm with a pretty view. In desperation for the pretty view and the hunger, we stopped at quite a pretty place but there was no shade. We took around 30 minutes in the peak heat to finish our lunch. We started with excitement but by the end of our lunch break, we were exerted. Now imagine getting exerted by doing rest. Weird, right? It was the peak heat time of the day that drained energy from us. We could have found someplace under a tree or a cafe or anything else. This was mistake number 3.
But guess what we ended the second leg by sipping ORS solutions. They help to rejuvenate the lost essential nutrients in sweating out. This was the longest leg in terms of time taken.
3rd Leg (101 - 150 KM’s):
We both wanted to charge our fancy Garmin watches for the next 100 KM’s. We took rest of almost 50 Mins at a road style Dhaba from Doddaballapur - Devanahalli Highway. This was mistake number 4. We could have simply put the watch in our bag with a power bank attached to it. This could have saved us the time. But nevermind it is not always about the time. It is the quality of the ride too.
We were all set to rock the next 100 KM’s. Instead of going back from the highway side, we thought of heading to Hosokate from Devanahalli and then heading to Sarjapur. Our plan was to finish the 200 KM feat together. It was the conversation and pushing each other that kept us going with all the ups and downs in elevation throughout the journey.
We stopped for Coconut water on the highway. In fact, we were craving for it from the start of the 2nd leg. Coconut water is the best gift to sweating athletes. It does wonders from inside and energy levels become normal in no time. By the time we reached Hosokate, our 3rd leg ended & we celebrated it with buttermilk. The 3rd leg was quite the fastest one with few water breaks.
So far there is not much of an exertion. It was going great with sweaty smiles and sunburns.
4th Leg (151 - 200 KM’s):
Now the challenge was to finish the last leg before it gets dark. Cyclists are easily ignored on roads by huge vehicles. We both were trying our best to make it to the Chikka Tirupathi countryside route before sunset. For our own safety to reach before dark we dismissed the plan of visiting Chikka Tirupathi Temple. Although we were already late, the temple gate was closed. In a couple of minutes, it started getting dark. I stopped to take out the torch. All I needed to do was to fix it on the handlebar. To my surprise, all the batteries were discharged. I was supposed to take out the batteries from the torch before keeping them in the bag. The start button of the torch accidentally was pressed turned on during the ride. This was mistake number 5. Save your batteries.
Ronak and I had a difference of 12 KM’s in our distances. Since we both started from a different place but we wanted to end the ride together whatsoever. I was even thinking of giving company to Ronak for the last 12 KM’s. Everything was fine till I hit 170 KM of the final leg. There was altogether a different level of exertion that I could feel in the body. My mind was desperate to finish the 200 KM feat. It was no more fun for me. I was just remembering how great it would have been if I would have not been part of the ride. That is what exertion does to you. I have never experienced such an exertion before in any of the endurance activities that I had been part of. At the same time, I did not want to keep talking about the pain as it might impact the morale of Ronak. The agony all over the body increased by trying to finish the last dark stretch on the countryside road. The Countryside roads are beautiful but only during the day. It becomes a little scary to be on a cycle along those roads.
Everything comes to an end so did the dark road and the pain associated with it. Sometimes I wonder if it is the pain or the suffering that stops us. I think it is suffering. Suffering is the feeling of aversion towards the pain. Maybe we go through pain to get beyond suffering.
Ronak being an understanding mate proposed that I should directly go to his home and finish my 200 KM feat over there. In the meantime, he will finish his last 12 KM’s and directly see me for dinner at his place.
Once the ride was finished for both of us, we celebrated it by doing stretches for more than 30 Mins. Ronak’s sister guided us with the stretches. Even 30 Mins are less for such a ride but I'm personally thankful to her for the time she took out to make us stretch our painful muscles.
The day ended with a treat for me. It was Dal Bhati (a Rajasthani delicacy) for dinner. What else do I want after a tiring ride?
It was painful to climb stairs the next day. I did cold press on the rear side of my knee and did sleep like a baby for the next few days so the body can heal. One of the worst things I did was running 14 KM after 5 days with my running group (The Trail Blazers). I felt some weird pain initially but I ignored it and strangely, there was no pain for the next 12 KM’s. But that is just one side of the story. I could barely walk upon the stairs. This was mistake number 6. Not listening to the body can be dangerous. I tried running again after a week but the pain restarted after 6 KM’s. This time I stopped. I will seek some professional help if required and maybe now it is time to work a lot on flexibility than just cardio.
Ronak’s mother asked us, what did you get after doing 200 KM of a bike ride? Frankly, I had no answer at that time. I said Dal Bhati which was indeed my motivation for the last 30 KM’s.
But now when I look back it is the endurance towards pain that we build. It is the patience that we build on each leg of the journey. It is the team spirit that gets deeper into us. It is experiencing pain and suffering as different entities. Pain is an impermanent feeling like all feelings. This too shall pass. But suffering is the aversion towards pain. This 200 KM ride did mark a difference in my life between pain and suffering.
Pain is inevitable but suffering is evitable.
I would be more than happy to connect with anyone of you Instagram for any questions about endurance sports or doing your first 200 KM.
P.S: We finished the ride in 15.5 Hours instead 13.5 Hours but we are alive and happy about it and confident about increasing the distances eventually.