”Well wishers are like beautiful street lamps.
They cannot make our distance shorter ,
But they can lighten our paths and make the journey easier.”
– unknown randonneur
I’m unsure of as in who wrote these words , but they resonate so much with a mindset of a randonneurs, I am sure the quote is written for a randonneur.
12 sept 2016 , the fateful day when I had to quit at 270 km mark , in a 400 km brevt , still haunts me to this day. The inflammation of the fascia lata is like an Achilles tendon for a rider. I had experienced the same during that brevet . The inflammation kept me out of action for good long time . I could not sit on a saddle , that was the amount of fear it had generated .
Lucky for me , I had guidance of my physiotherapist cum coach Dr Neena Sahu and Dr Soheb .I decided to give cycling some rest , and start my running . A visit to Neena mam , and I was diagnosed , quadriceps and core muscle weakness . All I needed was a regular training to increase the strength of these muscles with hamstrings and I could get my rides back. Easier said than done , especially in my case . I am a lazy person , and love to procastinate each n every thing . So to tell u the truth I went 40 days of physio in the last 6 Months , but each and every session helped me immensely .
I was just coping up with my brevet loss, when I was diagnosed with dengue . Dengue is a dangerous disease and I had lost my near ones , a few days back , thus increasing my anxiety . But thanks to my loving parents , I recovered fast . The muscle weakness remained for a month , and I was away from exercise. Slowly and steadily I started to gain weight , opposite to what I had planned . November 27 was my Nagpur half marathon, and I started to train for it. OCR ( ORANGE CITY RUNNERS) was the perfect group to train with . Dr Neena and Dr Soheb made sure that I was increasing my muscle strength and the hill repeats at hazaripahad helped a lot .
The fear had not vanished, each day was a different agony . Knee pain used to aggravate by any procedure , sometimes by squatting , sometimes by sleeping , sometimes by driving a car . It was becoming totally frustrating. I quit driving a car completely , gave up squatting and took care of each and every step I took.
Slowly , I started improving on my timings and I could run 10 k in 65-70 min. As I was training for the half marathon, my counterparts were achieving great targets in brevets . The new season has begun , and I wanted to do maximum rides in the winter . A stern look from my mom was enough to drown all my attempts down the drain . So I concentrated on my run , and could successfully complete 21.1 km marathon in 2hr25 min . It was like a dream come true . One more off the bucket list .
Enter December and the grand 600 brevet was on the menu . I knew I had not prepared for it , so I was planning to attempt only 300 km . However my gang , I.e. Jyoti, Sneha and Sudarshan , had a different plan altogether. They wanted to attempt the Raipur 600 as it was supposed (all were shouting post brevet about the elevation ) to be a flat route with minimum elevation. I had my doubts and I decided not to pursue it . 3 days before the brevet my knee pain increased and I decided to withdraw from the whole event altogether. I was part of support team . The rest of the gang started their 600 brevet and Jyoti became the first female of central India to complete the 600 target . Sudarshan also completed 600 with her . Sneha had to quit due to knee pain and a series of puncture and a wobbling tyre.
Our gang sans urmilla
1 MONTH TO THE PRESENT DATE :
I was gaining weight and had already gained 50% of what I had lost in the whole year . It was causing me to panic . I realised a pattern , and soon deducted that, I needed a goal to achieve . And hence I decided on January 400 . I had my gang with me and I was sure that if ( that’s a big if ) I practice regularly , I’ll be able to do it . So began my training program , and as expected I ended up doing nothing . Sneha was chosen the ride responsible and she was doing her task perfectly. Regular follow-up from her , kept me reminding me of my brevet goal . Sudarshan was unsure of his participation , which left me with the 2 champions ( Sneha n Jyoti ). I could already feel sweat in my palms . Riding with these 2 , is never an easy task , they both are wonderful riders and I needed to achieve that level within a fortnight ! Phew !!!! Easy task ( not even in my dreams ) .
I started my rides , and training . I installed new schwalbe marathon tyres ( 25 c) . I like comfort on my ride , speed is secondary. And so began my comfort rides, Most of them were with the gang , sometimes I had to go solo . However , I had made it a point to do regular squats and lunges to improve my quadriceps strength. And guess what , the results were showing up . I lost 2-3 kgs in the 7-10 days of training and that set the tempo . The day was arriving and I was ready .
THE JUDGEMENT DAY
I got GARUDA (my Fuji sportif 2.1) ready for the brevet . A quick service at Khan bhai, and GARUDA was ready for the flight . I went to Aniruddha Ncyclopedia next and got the bag fitted on the handle bar , got a test ride and everything seemed good . As it was Sankranti I waited for the night to come , and then rode back home . Once home , I started filling my bag and as it was expected to be cold next day , I had lot of warm clothes to carry. I had just bought a winter jacket from Aniruddha, black and red , and it seemed perfect for morning ride. I got extra woolen cap , gloves , thermo wear upper n lower for the next night . All packed in seperate bag which I’ll get at 200 km mark . Then I started filling my bottles with water and getting the essentials for the ride.
It was 9 pm and I was pulling the cord from the power bank ,now fully charged, when my sister arrived . It was good to see her , but I had to cut short due to need for adequate sleep. I went to bed at 9:45 pm and the sleep took over in seconds .
I woke up next day at 3:45 am with a feel of calmness. The morning temperature had a rise in it , and I could feel comfortable in my shorts. It was a good omen for the brevet . Stomach is a problem on the day of such big events . Maximum time is spent to get it offloaded , and this day was no different . I got a warm shower , and got into my gear . Everything seemed perfect . I got a variety of halwa and a glass of protein shake , and another visit to the bathroom and I was ready for the day . I met Rishi bhai at Ravi Nagar , as decided earlier and went towards zero mile . Ofcourse I had started my strava ( there is no point in riding without strava measuring your distance, speed ). We reached well within time , and already a conglomeration of riders had assembled . Urmilla n Jitesh bhai helped me with the bike check and signing formalities . Gajanan bhau helped me apply an extra layer of crepe bandage to the handle bar , to help reduce wrist soreness and numbness .
Everything was in place , only Sudarshan was missing from the gang . He came to start point with a minute to spare and completed his formalities . The girls left early , and I waited till Sudarshan was done , and we both started our ride towarda kathiyawad , our first check point .
DISASTER STRIKES EARLY :
As soon as I took the right towards Amravati road, I could feel a drag in my cycle . It was slowing me down and I could hear some noise from front wheel . It was a nightmare , and I found out the brakes were clinging to the rim of front tyre . A quick nudge on the break and they seperated, and I could ride back smoothly . I thought it was one small event , and continued with my ride. But with each passing moment, the brakes seemed to touch the rim and reduce my speed. I was at a loss, I had checked the alignment of bag yesterday, and everything was working good. Why all of sudden was it creating problem today ? On the final day !!! Why ? I couldn’t decipher much and started riding towards kathiyawad, with nudge at the breaks every few minutes. It was frustrating , but ok . Nothing serious . My eyes were searching Mohammad or Gajanan bhau , so that I could ask them about the issue. The temperature were on cooler side , but the jacket was enough to protect . I was comfortable in my shorts and slowly and steadily , we started catching up with other riders . We met Shubham in a while and enquired why he was riding slow . Shubham is a wonderful rider , who can ride at a speed of 40+ over a longer distance , so seeing him at the back was a surprise . He smiled and said , he’ll speed later in the day . So we 3 began to ride together . Sudarshan has a different riding format , he will be riding at equal speed whether going downhill or uphill, on the contrary I like to make the most of my inertia during downhill . As the road was full of ups and downs, we were almost together . We caught up with the girls at 40 km mark near Rajkumar dhaba . Jyoti as usual was sprinting ahead and Sneha was accompanied by shakal . The further journey was with the gang , albiet knowing that jyoti will be sprinting ahead whenever possible 😉 .
Sudarshan , Sneha and urmilla
We reached kathiyawad and i could see Vikas bhai just leave for the next CP. Vikas bhai is another rider , I admire a lot . He has no great speed , but he makes up on that with his endurance . You ask him to ride 100,200,400,600,1000 and ull see him riding a constant AVG. Speed of 22 with few minutes of rest in between . No wonder he is always the first to complete the brevet . This time will be no different , I thought in my mind and got down from my bike . Kathiyawad dhaba is on right side , so we had to cross the road on foot. 6-7 riders were present there . I got my brevet card stamped by Rajiev Narayan sir and Sanjay ji helped me with water bottles . Swati was also present there , and I knew that we could have a mouthful of breakfast now 🙂 Swati is another person, who cares for you , and makes sure no rider is hungry before he gets back on saddle ( typically mummy types , and everyone loves her for that ) . We ate a heartful of paratha and dahi and were ready for the next segment . Gajanan bhau had a look at my cycle , and did some corrections with the bag , and assured me that the bag won’t create any further problem . True to his words , I was not troubled by my bag anymore .
Sudarshan was keeping info on the segments and that helped us determine how much our pace was . We were comfortable with time part . We zoomed through the Talegaon downhill , reaching 50+ . We reached 100 km mark and were treated to wonderful tilgul laddu by Yogesh Dapurkar sir and Swati mam . We took a lot of photos and started our journey back towards nagpur. We were well within time , and were doing good.
The riders at talegaon CP
The next challenge was the Talegaon ghat . It’s an stretch 1-2 km with a steady elevation . I could hardly touch a speed of 8-10 , and I saw Sudarshan overtaking me with utmost ease . My quadriceps started to pain on the climb , but the pain was over as I reached the top . The gang was waiting at top , we stretched a little and soon found ourselves in company of Balraj bhai and Tarique bhai . Tarique bhai was having some trouble with his knee . There was no chance of him being left alone , we all pedalled merrily forward. A note Balraj bhai, he is fabulous rider , who can ride at any speed if required . He has the distinction of maximum distance in a month of 1800 km , daily 60 km … Each n every single day . After a while I felt little muscle cramps and we took a halt . Balraj bhai helped me stretch and all my pain vanished in a second . We soon reached kathiyawad and a sumptuous lunch awaited us . I chose to eat khichadi and dahi . Aniruddha kulkarni sir was happy to see us and he was encouraging us all to continue and tried everything to boost our morale . After the lunch we all went to lie down on the garden , a good 15 min rest . Nilesh lakhotiya ji was kind enough to wake us up and instill confidence into our system . Ranjit Jain sir helped us with water n electoral and we were off towards Nagpur … Just 44 km to go.
Here we were joined by Mihir Hardikar and he was riding at a good pace . He was having some trouble with his knee , but he continued to ride. After a while I started to slow down . I couldn’t understand why , but my guess was water . We all took a chai break . I drank loads of water and had some electoral and off we went . At around 15 km from Nagpur , Sneha pointed out saying that Tarique bhai is in front , he was slowing down .A point on bhai, he is a seasoned rider , who like me prefers comfort over speed . That’s why he chose a tourer bike, yet he easily achieves a speed of 30+ on it. Sheer determination. He was having knee pain , but he looked more exhausted than usual .He was determined to finish and said that he will continue. We waited for while , when he had his salt and water . We reached zero mile well within time , roughly 11 hours from start . Anand fiske was there , he had promised to bring the camera . And as soon as we saw him , we started posing for the clicks .
A huge feast awaited us. Sneha’s mom had brought parathas and Balraj bhai had arranged for food too.. we had satranji to seat on , and we merrily are the gala buffet . Time was not a concern . We had 16 hours to do 200 km . I thought in my mind , I could have some good nap in between if needed.
That’s for always sprinting ahead !!!!
We could hear jyoti , she was always the first to get ready and shouting , chalo chalo … Me n Sudarshan , as lazy as we could get , slowly n sluggishly got back on our saddle . Urmila was there , she had bought some electoral for us . She is the 5th member of our gang , but out of action due to ankle sprain . She had attempted the most difficult brevet of our times , in the heat of June , and I am her great admirer since then .We said good bye to all present and started towards koradi . There was a fear for Sunday Sadar traffic , and lot of discussion was done for the same . When we passed through Sadar, I could speed and ride as smoothly as if I’m on a highway. Only the square at koradi , in front of temple had some rush , except that , it was a silky route .
The koradi road is always special for me. I had done my first brevet ( it was a night brevet ) on this road . 200 km night brevet, and I knew the road like back of my hand . The aim was to reach savner by dusk , we managed to reach a little after . Prasad Pitale stood there as a lone warrior and was helping us all with the same enthusiasm he always has. I got hold of cold garments and made some clothe swipe. The road ahead would be dark , and cold and we would have few spots to fill our bottles and tummy . We had decided to stop at badchicholi and eat something . Just a few km before badchicholi , rishi, Gajanan and Kishor sir overtook us.
After few km , a rash car driver , with fully drunk companions overtook us , hurling some good swear at us. We found out that , he did the same with the riders in front and thus we all decided to ride together . So we were now a group of 12 riders , riding together in the night . A group , slows you down , but it has an advantage of comfort and talks . And the distances evaporate like a mist. We reached Balaji dhaba, pandhurna and decided to have food . Balraj bhai and Sanjay bhai decided to ride ahead and eat on return . We had a good roti , daal and took some good rest .
I was having some trouble with my stomach . Everything I was eating was getting offloaded . I was not having diarrhoea nor desentry . I hadn’t eaten anything rotten , still everytime something went down my mouth , it had to be offloaded soon .Plus the night was getting chiller . I put on my winter cap , gloves and thermo wear . We reached teegaon around midnight . Jitesh bhai and Rajesh Chansoriya sir were there. Both were really helpful and helped me multiple times .Rajesh sir asked about my health and suggested some bananas and made sure I ate few more before we left back. 300 km done . 8:30 hrs for 100 km . It seemed an easy task . Plus the route back was maximum downhill , so not much to worry about .
We next had a stop at Balaji dhaba again, we had some tea and fruits and took 15 min nap , before resuming our journey back . After a few km , I felt weakness or was it sleepiness , I did not understand. I asked Sneha to stop , as all others were riding quite ahead. She quickly pointed out that I was low on glucose as I was avoiding food. I sat down and ate 2 chikkis and electoral . This helped me a lot and I felt rejenuvated .We soon reached badchicholi and it was just 60 km to go . From here the group got seperated . Me , Bhushan Sneha were riding at the last . We all reached Heti dhaba around 3:30 am. The familiar sight of Aniruddha Raich car was a wonderful relief. We again filled our bottles , I ate few more bananas and started our final leg towards Nagpur . After a few km , I was having another bout of stomach upset , and had to stop . All the riders were already ahead , so it was just Sneha n me left . She utilised the time to have a good sleep. A point here on Sneha , the RIDE RESPONSIBLE. Well a duty of ride responsible is to manage everything , and she donned the role perfectly . She was cheering us all when needed, pushing us, singing, cracking jokes , stopping if anyone was left behind . She made sure each n every rider was riding to the end point . Not an easy task , kudos to her for all the efforts.
We started back and soon reached savner , and with 20 km to go , saw few riders parked in front of us. It was Gajanan bhau, Rishi bhai and Ajay Kulkarni sir. They were feeling sleepy and had decided to take a nap . We bid them good bye and continued our ride towards Nagpur . As the sun started to rise , we reached koradi . It is marvelous to see how much your body craves for the sunlight. As soon as the first rays hit us , my brain was fully activated . With just 10 km to go , we were having a good time in hand .
As we approached the Sadar area , I was filled with exhilaration . This was my longest ride till date , and it was a special one . I had quit at 400 BRM , and it was coincidence that I was getting back on the 400 BRM only . I was flooded with emotions . I tried to focus on last few km left . Sneha was all pumped up and excited as we crossed the RBI square. From here on it was a full sprint to the finish line . Tarique bhai, Swati, Bhushan, Sudarshan and urmilla were there to greet us . We got lot of photos clicked as we entered. There was a banner hanging , I finished 400 km . I looked at it and smiled . The smile of satisfaction. I have achieved a dream . The whole event took 25 hrs 30 min . Yet I was not feeling a bit tired . The joy was overflowing and palpable . We took lot of pics , and finally I took the pic with my bike in my hands overhead . I always dreamt of having this pic . I thanked all my gods , my parents , my sister and my friends , they had stood by me when I was at my weakest . They had given me courage when I needed it the most , and today it all had turned into reality .
The team of riders at the end point
My fav pose.
I sincerely thanked all my co riders for their support throughout the ride.
Rishi bhai, Gajanan bhau and Ajay sir rolled in few minutes later . And we waited for Mihir Hardikar, our last rider . To ride all distance alone takes lot of courage, and he had just shown the grit to achieve it . Salute to you bro .
As I lay still on the ground at the end point , I saw all the faces surrounding me . All were happy , and all were animated with their talks. I tried to see through them, and I could see the battles each one was fighting, i could see their war marks and the glory of the win in that fight . As the moment went by, I understood a simple fact , each one has fought something or other to achieve this. There is no easy way to glory and everyone deserves the joy 🙂 hats off to all the riders , you won the battle !
My friend Aarti called me up and said to write a blog , I CONQUERED !
More battles lay ahead , and I will face them , step by step . Right now I’m happy to see one item off my bucket list and happiness on the face of aai, Baba, Tai, Nikhil, Nikita , Aarti, Sudarshan, Sneha , jyoti , urmilla , Tarique bhai, Bhushan bhai, Rishi bhai, Gajanan bhau, Balraj bhai and many more .
As the slept on my bed , I could see the past 4 months & 3 days in front of my eyes, the pain, the agony. The efforts , the encouragement , the shadows , the light . The jealousy , the happiness , the water in eyes . The never ending alarms, the forehead sweat , the pounding heart and smile on achieving the task . The stretching , the rest, the determination to come back again . The mountain in sight , the glory of a fight . In the end a voice spread through my mind , a serene voice , spreading calmness as it echoes :
I M CONQUERED !