Monday, February 25, 2013

Aroma Of Nilgris - Chapter 1 (The Preparation)

I really can't believe that I didn't write about my cycling experience yet.
Its been almost a month now. but the experience was life changing, confirming and affirming :)

It was after my long vacation after father's 60th birthday. I was sitting in office, bored amidst a discussion. i casually opened up the gmail tab and saw Sallu(Salahudeen Razak) online
just as usual, on curiousity I asked him whether there were any trip plans. He simply replied with a URL asking "are u coming?"

It was the URL for a bike(bicycle) ride to Ooty titled "Aroma Of Nilgiris" conducted by a group of cycling enthuasists based in Bangalore called "Cycling and More" or CAM.
The ride cost was 4k per head with all transport, food, accommodation, and support services included. Suddenly, I felt the need to do it. I never had done such a long ride, and the last time I even rode a bit was already 4 months back. I felt it would be really challenging to take the chance, and do something worthwhile. I was truly bored and stifled with the continuous months of hectic work( but really hectic was in L&T). So after nearly 20 minutes of indecision, I finished the payment and enrolled myself. There were only 33 open positions, so I had to hurry. The ride was on the weekend of the republic day.

I was so unprepared and out of shape, that the fear of collapsing in between the ride was always present in the back of my mind. But my friends assured me there was nothing to worry about, as they were more experienced than me and would take me along. That was reassuring enough for me, for worst case. Nevertheless I made it a point to start some basic workouts to prevent major injuries.

But I really wanted to do a preparatory ride to warm up the muscles and bring the breathing in rhythm. It is highly important that these be in sync, so that you don't get injuries by normal exertion. Because, on the road, in a long trip, you don't get so many chances to recuperate well. Also, all such rides need a good starting to keep the motivation and energy to go on.

So on the Saturday before the ride, in the evening, I realized I had done nothing so far. I made up my mind to break my lazy attitude and get cracking. I decided I would ride till the Bangalore Internal Airport(BIAL) which was like 35 kms from my place and the road was believed to be good. I had never been so far or never been there before. So I just briefly check the maps and set off. The going was quite smooth and comfortable for the first 15kms. Then I started slowing down, checking the map intermittently, wondering how far the airport really was. It honestly didn't look so distant in the maps. I had no supplies other than some water in my bottle. So I had to conserve water, sync up the pedaling and ride slowly without exerting too much. It was slow, but I managed to proceed at an average pace. The sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise for many months together was quite evident in every 200m I covered. But I just kept pushing, knowing that I could do better and thinking of what lay ahead the next week simply allowed me to tap into the spare reserves very quickly.

And so, in that fashion I rode up to the airport, saw it in all lights for first time, amazed quite many guards and travellers on my way in and enjoyed myself too. It was a great feeling to have achieved the target after 2 hours of puffing and struggling. And I ecstatically rode back in fashion, enjoying the scenery and often riding a bit too fast to fit in my original time schedule. On the way I called up Sallu and set up a ride for the very next day, to Nandi hills, which was 30 kms more from the airport. So I had to return quickly, get some rest and start again early in the morning. This quickened up my pace and I rode fast. But I guess there reached a point where I broke the limits of my physical endurance. The thighs started burning and a wrong twist of calf muscles ended up doubling the pain. I was in the middle of some highway, and it was already 7.30pm. There was at least 25kms more to cover. My water supply also was empty. I started riding back in short bursts, getting down every 10 minutes or so when the pain became unbearable. Each short break allowed me to carry on for another 500m or so. In that fashion, slowly and with concern I started coming home. In between, I had to try some gimmicks tying up my bike to the highway railings while I picked up a refill of water from the other side of the highway. Every step painful, every gulp of water like nectar and every gust of cool breeze a blessing. That was the combination I moved in. Finally I had to walk up most of the slopes in the route pushing my bike up and walking for a long distance to ease the pain. It was fun to watch the expressions on the face of many a shoppers in busy places, seeing a rider in full gear walking up with his bike :)

And in this fashion I rode for the entire route. I reached home by around 10.30, one hour behind the planned time. I just had some light dinner and settled down to sleep. But the pain, it was excruciating and being a Saturday there was quite a lot of noise in the house. I hardly slept well, and woke up by 3 in the morning for the next ride. Inspired by my heroics, even my roommates decided to go for a crazy trip at the same time, though on motorbikes.On the other hand, I was in a wrecked state, without sleep and pain lingering all over the body. But I was determined to not back out and believed that a slow ride would set it all up for me. After all, now Sallu the experienced rider was accompanying me. I seriously didn't believe I would be able to climb up the Nandi hills after such an exhaustive ride. But at least I wanted to ride to its foothills and wait for Sallu to finish the uphill stuff. So anyway I set off, generously loaded with warm clothes donated by my roommates who felt I was crazy but also were supportive for my cause. Also, I had just got over a few months long fever-cum-cold spree. Didn't want to the take the risk of getting sick before the big ride.
Fully clothed to fight the cold :P
The ride itself was quite comfortable, given the very free roads and cool air. The presence of Sallu who is a champ was quite motivating and the joy of riding with a company was welcome after the previous day's exertion. He even taught me how to optimize use of gears and energy utilizing the roads. I went on well until after Hebbal and the L&T campus in Bellary road, i.e around 20kms from my place. But as I went further, the pain in the legs start recurring and it started slowing me down greatly. I already was quite behind schedule, and Sallu had gone ahead after riding slowly for me for a long time. We had setup the flyover near the airport as the rendezvous point. But I seemed to be in no state to reach there in comfort;the exertions of the previous day were finally showing their full effects. I couldn't think straight, my head was drooping, and in spite of gritting my teeth and pushing and pumping, there simply wasn't enough energy left in my body to propel me and the bike forward. I knew then that I was defeated. To continue at this pace till Nandi hills and then to return the whole way back would at max put me in bed with injuries for a long time. And, that is exactly what I didn't want to happen. To hell with the ambitious goal, to hell with supporting Sallu. I had to return. I stopped and called up Sallu, whom I found to be waiting at the rendezvous point for nearly half an hour. I conveyed very clearly, that I had to return. He, initially tried to reason with me. But then he too saw no logic in getting me to push forward in my condition. It would be a headache for both of us on such roads if something untoward happened.He is far too experienced a rider to let his own goals take priority over safety of all riders in the group. I was silently picking up these qualities as well..

Anyway, I somehow made it to him, and we agreed to return. So after munching upon the Glucose Perk he had packed up, we set off in the opposite direction. There was a mixed feeling of regret and relief going all over me. Relieved that the struggle was coming to an end without mishaps,regret that I weighed upon Sallu and couldn't hit the ambitious goal. I also had the sense that I was asking for too much at that stage. For me, the 75km done the previous day was the longest I did in a day ever, that too at that high pace(almost 15kmph average). And here I was, 30kms away from home within a gap of 6 hours. So it was all right to just get back home and get a good rest. Fuelled by the perk, we made good pace until Hebbal, where I went out of fuel again. But by then we started riding slowly and skipping everything else .. "I came home, had a good breakfast, grinned widely to my inquiring roommates,and fell like dead wood, until the day after". End of Chapter..

(All images found from Google Images, hence copyrights belong to rightful owners)

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