Gates of Hell – Day 4 (The end of cycling)

I WAS CONFUSED – I had seen the patient last year and his vision had been perfect. But now he could hardly see two feet ahead. I questioned him about it and he seemed reluctant to say anything. After some time, he slowly opened up that he had switched to an alternative mode of treatment. Now I’m not against other fields of medicine, but when something is working well, why switch unnecessarily? There were abnormal blood vessels all over his retina and a significant fluid collection in his maculae. He would now need to spend around 30 to 40000 on injections alone other than the other costs, with no chance of regaining lost vision.

Which brings us to:

DAY FOUR:

I woke up at 445am feeling battered. We decided to let Bhuvanesh skip Yercaud since he had arrived only at 130am. I sent him a text and the rest of us silently left the room without disturbing his well deserved sleep. (The plan was to recoup en route to Trichy)

Aravind was making great progress. We soon reached foothills of Yercaud in just an hour, had some tea and proceeded to climb the hill. The hill was slightly easier than Kotagiri and would have been easier than Kodai if it hadn’t been for the tiredness we were facing.

As we climbed higher, more mist and clouds came our way. It was serene, even though the usual hustle – bustle of traffic was ever present.

We stopped for breaks every 3 km and we were soon at the top at 830am. After a few photos by the lake and the U turn point at Eggetarian, we left and returned to Salem.

The next plan was proceeding to Pachamalai hills via Mettupatti and Maliyakarai. This hill was similar to Sirumalai and we wanted to finish the challenge before 6 pm, aiming to finish and descend back to the forest checkpost by 6pm.

It was already 930am. We also had to cover extra distance at Pachamalai to compensate for skipping Sirumalai. That would mean 23km uphill before returning to base. Making calculations in my mind as we pedaled I estimated we would need at least 3 hours to pull off this stunt, which meant we needed to reach the forest checkpost by 3pm.

Was that Bhuvanesh up ahead? Yes it was – our plan was going like clockwork. He had checked out, skipped Yercaud and joined the party. Welcoming him, I went back to calculating distances and times. Google maps showed 72km left to the forest checkpoint. It was already 1130am. Time was not in our favour as usual and we would have to achieve more than 20kmph average to achieve this feat.

I kept the boys moving at 25kmph with breaks every 10km and we took a half hour lunch break to gobble down barotas at Maliyakarai. We resumed our journey keeping the same average and managed to eventually make it to the cool hill base at 3pm as planned.

The forest checkpost guy sat lazily and beckoned Ramesh to come sign the entry roster. The three of us cycled past and continued uphill. The hill was not that difficult but after the cumulative effort of the journey, our bodies were taking a massive hit. My knee was also paining badly despite the medication I took after lunch.

We did see some really beautiful landscape up at the top and on the way. The air was fresh and rejuvenating with almost nil traffic.

A tree shaped like a deer with antlers

I relaxed, forgot the time limit, and inhaled deeply. The smell of pure air was at it’s best. We took a photo at the viewpoint and kept riding in the rain for another 10km before returning to the forest checkpost by 610pm.

I smiled – just a ten minute delay! These guys were awesome. We then cycled into the city and had tea following which we were back to driving like mad men at 25kmph. This time we took just three stops over a distance of 60km to Trichy.

The traffic was annoying but we grimly fuelled, had snacks, carbonated drinks and pedalled with everything we had left. The pain had numbed and our minds had pushed it into a localised area somewhere insignificant.

Thuraiyur soon arrived – we took a break there. Aravind went ahead for a while but we caught up again and overtook him. We soon reached Manachanallur – just ten km to Annamalais Toyota which was the designated finish point! All those hours were now coming to this – half hour or less of pedaling!

Bhuvanesh and I looked back and saw no sign of Aravind. Worried, I pulled over and called him. There was interference but I managed to make out he was just 2km behind. Bhuvi and I proceeded forward at a slower speed and finally finished the challenge at 9pm. Aravind joined us 15 minutes later and we took a finish photo before dispersing.

Finish point with both warriors!

Aravind was going to ride home to Tanjore to cross 1000km! Bhuvi was going to his place of stay at Dindigul highway and I had 8km left to home. We departed after handshakes and goodbyes. This was a memorable occasion. We reached home and Ramesh was emptying all the stuff from the car.

“Lucky guys”, I thought to myself. “I still have 100km of running left to do tomorrow”.

Ramesh responded with “Enna thambi?” and I realised I had been thinking out loud. “Oh it’s nothing”, I replied in Tamil. My family was of course glad to have me back (of course I was berated for straining my knee)

After a well deserved dinner of yummy noodles, in went the next dose of paracetamol with enzyme.

MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP! But still, I messaged Balaji, Ajay and Jeeva to come at 4am to start the run. What a day! Only God knew what the last day held.

AND WHAT A DAY IT WAS GOING TO BE!

Gates of Hell

“HE’S UNNECESSARILY EXTRACTING MONEY FROM ME”, complained the old lady who had been advised panretinal photocoagulation by green laser. She had almost lost all her vision due to visiting her doctor late, and has refused to visit her ophthalmologist again because her first sitting of laser did not give her vision back.(PRP needs three sittings of laser)

I sighed.

I sat her down and explained the need for the next two sittings of laser which were necessary to preserve the rest of her vision. I also gently broke the news that she was too far into the disease to get any of her eyesight back. I referred her back to her previous ophthalmologist and advised her to listen to her healthcare practitioner and not worry about the cost at this stage. She gave a toothless smile and blessed me. Ah, the perks and the disadvantages of medical consultation!

ONWARD TO:

Day 3

Waking up at 330am had become easier now. I rubbed my left knee that was throbbing a bit after the encounter with the platform the previous night. I got up and was happy to note there was no pain on weight – bearing.

By the time I got everyone ready, it was already 430am. As we rode on through traffic and bad roads, the sky was dark on one side, with the moon casting it’s monochrome illumination over the urban landscape. The promise of dawn awaited on the other side with a definite lighter hue toward the east.

We stopped for tea halfway to Ooty foothills then proceeded to our destination. We reached Mettupalayam at 6am thanks to significant downhill roads, then went on to take the right turn after the bridge to ascend to Kothagiri.

We realised there were already “animal crossing” boards and recognised the possibility of no restaurants for breakfast. Ramesh took the car back to town in search of parceling something to eat, while we cycled onward, attacking the elevation gradient which was definitely tougher than Kodaikanal.

With each km we recognised that we could never reach the top on time, our speed dropping to a dismal 6 – 7 kmph low at times and going to 10kmph only at slightly lesser gradients.

Ramesh returned toward the 15th km upward and we enjoyed idlis and sambar which he had procured from a food cart due to unavailability of hotels at said time. Food had never tasted better as we gulped it down inside the car while hungry monkeys jumped on the bonnet and tried to snatch our food from us. We refilled with tea at a nearby shop and went onward again.

The slope progressively rose higher and higher and we were eventually cycling at 6 to 7kmph with frequent breaks.

W

We crossed Kothagiri by 1230pm then pedaled ahead 19km to reach the U turn for the day, at Uwais CCD.

After this it was an all out sprint back downhill. The plan was to take the route via Sirumagai – Puliyampatti -Nambiyur – Gobichettipalayam – Bhavani and reach Salem by 1030pm. (142km from Sirumugai to Hotel Palm Residency, Ariyanur)

It was already 4pm and we were running out of valuable time. We pedalled as hard as possible and the roads had alternating elevation and troughs which both aggravated and relieved us.

The knee pain was becoming more and more intense. With medication after Nambiyur, the pain reduced enough to proceed. The rains returned after Gobichettipalayam along with bad traffic, who never bothered to give way for cyclists.

We soon had dinner at 8pm and found we still had 60km to cover but our bodies weren’t responding to maintaining a 20kmph average. Bhuvanesh’s head started nodding after a while and he couldn’t manage without sleep. He offered to rest while we moved on. Soon it was just me and Aravind, pedaling hard fighting exhaustion, to reach Ariyanur at 1130pm.

We requested Ramesh to bring Bhuvanesh back and we thank him for sacrificing his sleep to go back and escort Bhuvanesh back to the hotel. They arrived by 1am (I was drifting in and out of sleep waiting for them to return) and soon I was at peace, following which all of us were sound asleep.

The adventure cost me my knee though and the pain was slowly returning. I had to take another paracetamol with aceclofenac and serratiopeptidase before bed.

Two more days to go – will it be possible with this battered body?

Gates of Hell – Day TWO

THE PATIENT WAS IN TEARS. He had become totally blind in a matter of two months. His wife had expired and he had discontinued his diabetic medications and injections for three months straight. I examined him in as much detail as possible and could give him no guarantee for his lost vision. If he had taken his meds and visited his ophthalmologist and physician regularly, he would at least still have his eyesight.Diabetic retinopathy is real and it’s very serious. Kidding yourself that your doctor is lying will only bring you ill health.

Will my suffering over 1045km bring awareness to the public?

Onward to:

Day TWO:

Hotel Chenduran Park, Dindigul

I got up at 330am, proceeded to brush my teeth and get ready while waking up the others who were still fast asleep. The plan was to go to Sirumalai at 5am but we found that the forest checkpoint would open only at 6am. Losing one hour of valuable time didn’t sound cool since we had to cover 290km that day of which 50km was uphill.

The elevation to Kodai is for 50km as can be seen from the graph.We started straight to Kodai from the hotel.

There was a drizzle but nothing that could not be managed. After taking some time to find the way, we set out at a good speed. The morning was chill and the occasional call of birds meant we were not the only ones up and about.

Maintaining an average of 25-28kmph, we stopped for tea twice along the way. I bought the guys some cake to eat before the climb at 630am. We reached the base checkpost on time and clicked a picture.

The climb was awesome and I managed to keep a steady 9-10 kmph speed.

Photo of Manjalar Dam:

Aravind caught up with me when I was having breakfast at the 15th km uphill.

Both of us then rode together to the top, taking photos near the famous Silver falls.

We finally reached Kodai at 1230pm and I found a chocolate shop (Aravind’s favourite cycling snack), took pics by lake,

then had lunch at ‘Thatha’s bread omelette kadai’. Bhuvanesh caught up in half hour and we started downhill at 1pm (or so we thought).

The road to Palani had ten km of further uphill (which none of us noted on the graph) and weren’t mentally prepared for. Cursing and whining within myself, I pushed on. After that, we were blessed with downhill adrenaline rush at 40kmph speed, except for bad road patches every two km.We managed to reach Palani only by 330pm, and raced at 25kmph average to Udumalpet. After that, exhaustion took it’s toll, and the average fell to a dismal 16kmph being fuelled by tea or drink stops to 22kmph on and off. We crossed Pollachi only by 730pm.

The road to Coimbatore saw us fully drenched in rain.At 50km from the point of stay, the rain started pelting our faces and bodies making it hard to see. We jumped down a platform and ran to take cover under a building. The rain had no intention of stopping but when it reduced, we decided to keep moving. While returning to the bike, Aravind placed his palms on the platform and cleanly swung his legs up back to the road.

Forgetting my exhaustion I followed the 18 year old, only to bang my left knee square on the platform. My vision blurred as my knee went through pain and then numbness. I closed my eyes, knelt on one knee and focused, breathing slowly and steadily.

When I felt I was fine, I proceeded to examine my knee. No pain on flexion or extension. No pain on internal or external rotation. There was some dried blood but I figured no broken bones. We managed to reach Hotel Pranov Residency only at 1130pm after navigating through highly irritating traffic which slowed us down to a 10kmph crawl.

The pain in my knee was more pronounced now.”Worrying”, I said to myself as I proceeded to insert my phone charger to the socket.

Exhausted from the day’s events we fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow.This was probably our second most difficult day of the five day experience. (The worst was yet to come)

Gates of Hell Ultra Triathlon

Diabetic retinopathy – sounds boring doesn’t it? But when not intervened early this can lead to permanent visual loss. There are two types:

1. non proliferative, which requires basic blood sugar control and

2. proliferative, which requires green laser, intravitreal injections and surgeries to stabilize vision – none of which bring back lost vision.

Hence the need for something drastic to make people notice the need to keep their blood sugar under very strict control from the start! After all, why would you spend 100,000 on a disease you can prevent?

Which brings us to this huge scale event.

Day ONE:

5 AM

The pool at Ponni Delta was pitch dark. The only sounds to be heard were the water sloshing and the occasional sound of crickets. The moon was the solitary source of of light in an otherwise shrouded night sky.

I undressed, got into my swim trunks, got my refreshments ready inside the changing room to feed myself in-between what I assumed would be a 10 or 12 hour swim.

15km seemed like a daunting task. I had never swam more than 10km recently and that’s just what I love – a new challenge. The last time I swam 15km was at CTC Swimathon and that had taken 8 hours 35 minutes two years ago. (Read old post in my blog) I set off across the length of the beautiful thirty meter long pool with my Amazfit smartwatch logging my activity.

By 630am I was pleased to see I had already covered 3.5km. I had brought along cake and some fruits – I fuelled a bit, and continued. By 730am, 5km had gone by and I was happy that things were going well, when the nausea set in. Instead of panicking, I lowered my heart rate, slowed down and let my body take care of itself.

Soon the nausea had vanished and I decided to take a bathroom break at 8am. 7km in 3 hours – this was going better than I had expected. Back in the water, I focused on making my strokes smooth, breathing out inside the water steadily and taking short breaths of air before going in again. Bhuvanesh came by at 9am and stayed for an hour, taking photos to post on the fitness group on WhatsApp.

By 10am, 12 km had gone by.

My movements were becoming choppy at this point since my body wasn’t used to swimming such mileage. I forced myself to relax and concentrate on smooth strokes and breathing, eventually managing to get back my rhythm. I proceeded to count the number of strokes per length of the pool and it stayed at 28 to 32.

Toward the last km I started swimming more of breast stroke and less of freestyle to preserve energy for the next phase. At noon, I managed to complete 15km and collapsed by the side of the pool.

I ate the rest of the food, hydrated well and took a nap. Aravind and Bhuvanesh were supposed to report at 1pm to start the cycling phase to Dindigul, which was 109km away.

I got the banner from the car and met Hari Raman who had graciously offered permission to use the pool for the day.

After taking a few photos with him, we put up the banner for display. I went back in and took another nap.

Swathi soon called when she arrived with the photographer for publishing the article on Times of India. The photographer took a few pictures of me swimming, cycling and running inside Ponni Delta by which time Bhuvanesh also joined.

Aravind was running late and we managed to start the ride only at 230pm.

Phase 1a: cycling to Hotel Chenduran Park, Dindigul
Aravind – already an accomplished 1000km BRM rider, took turns with me switching up lead position to help Bhuvanesh keep up with the slightly heavier hybrid bike compared to our road bikes. We were doing pretty well at 23 to 25kmph. The elevation was steadily climbing but the energetic car support from Ramesh was more than enough to sustain us.

This is a rough elevation profile of our ride to Dindigul, from Trichy.

I kept pushing the boys to take no more than two minute breaks and it paid off when we reached Dindigul at 730pm. Finding the hotel was a different ball game and that took an extra half – hour, with Aravind and me overshooting the destination and making u turns to get back to the finishing spot on Google maps. Bhuvanesh found the hotel first and we decided to call it a day.

The hotel had a restaurant with nil maintenance and delayed room service but the room was neat and the food was good. Ramesh and I settled in early cos it was gonna be a very long day the next day. The boys went out (God knows where) and came back at 1130pm.

That marked the end of day 1- which actually became the easiest day among the five.

100 km ultra run (last day of #100daysofrunning challenge)

#100daysofrunning – I yawned, thinking I was mad taking up the challenge, because of the Dhanushkodi bicycle ride which clashed with the same (previous article). But as you all know, I decided to go with it anyway.

After 60 days of running were over, and the 600km cycling brevet was completed successfully, I entered all – out into running, climbing rapidly from 0 to 90th day from the 700th rank to the 200th in the country, in terms of cumulative mileage. When I expected my joints to disagree, I actually felt lighter and healthier than before. I was eating healthy and not skimping because I was giving it my all. The 90th day arrived and I wondered if I should keep a challenge for myself on the last day. I gave it some thought and decided to go with a slow 100k run over a timespan of 16 hours.

THE ROUTE

THE START POINT for the sake of convenience was to be my home.

Noone else was free to run with me on said day, and hence I chose a safe route- the same I had used for the 75km run previously described in this blog- the only difference being I would run an extra 65 km to Melur along the same Madurai highway road instead of turning back to Trichy. Melur is 25 km before Madurai en route from Trichy to Madurai.

2/8/’18 (DD/MM/YY)

AS THE DAY DREW NEAR, excuses cropped up, fears crept in, and laziness seeped into my mind. Pushing aside all negative thoughts, I starting calling volunteers to help me because I needed protection while running alone through the night. The plan was to start at 9pm on the 4th of August and finish by 2pm on on the 5th(Sunday). I had asked help from six volunteers but only two were confirmed – Jeeva and Abdul Basith. They were to drive motorbikes and assist with protection, nourishment and hydration.

4/8/’18

830pm: Sending the last patient away, I sighed. Wondering whether I would have the strength to do this, I had a light dinner of mainly protein and a handful of rice, double checked the mobile devices, smart watches, portable charger, supplements, energy gels, water, money and a waist pouch.

Jeeva and Abdul arrived at sharp 845pm and we started the journey at 9pm.

The initial 20 km was a breeze and the pace varied from 5:30 to 6:30. Abdul proceeded ahead 50 to 100 meters in front, illuminating the way, while Jeeva followed 50 meters behind. This ensured I would be well illuminated and safe from being hit by traffic from behind. I was horrified in-between when I felt a small catch in my right buttock and hamstring but this wore off with some electrolytes and a mild change of running form. We had crossed the Boothakudi toll plaza by 11:15PM.

I was able to complete the first 40 km in just 5 hours (one hour before designated time).

Soon it was midnight and before we knew it, we had dogs barking and howling all around us. I stopped in my tracks at one place and pretended to pick up a stone, and they retreated.

5/8/’18:

2AM (40km complete): We stopped at a Kovilpatty(10km from Viralimalai) bus stop, wiped off the dust and lay down on the cement seat for 20 minutes and were back on the road. Tea followed for another 15 minutes where an accident had happened nearby. We passed the glass shards carefully and noticed the Toyota Innova on one side, it’s taillights flashing after a truck had rammed the parked car from behind.

We had two more areas of dog – trouble but were able to walk through them.

5/8/’18:

5:15AM

60 km covered: In another 20 km at Thuvarangurichi, we made the next stop at the 60km mark, slept for another 25 minutes, had tea for 15 minutes, offered fizzling glucose – electrolyte tablets in water to the volunteers and we were on the way by 5:55am. We crossed a petrol bunk at 620AM and I changed my clothes there after using the washroom. Gone was the Blue Mont Run t shirt, which was now replaced by a Spandex top resembling Thor’s.

Feeling significantly fresher and lighter, I proceeded at 5:30 to 6 pace making maximum use of the time before the sun came up hard. I donned my cap and shades. We stopped for breakfast at hotel Aryas (Kottampatty) around 24km from Melur. Before we knew it, we had finished 80km at 9am!

We made a live video for Facebook to let our friends know about the last day of the challenge and the distance covered. This would be the first time of my life that I would cross the 80km mark!

THE LAST 20 – Me VS THE SUN – WHO WOULD WIN?

After another 8 km, my pace slowed from 6:30 to 7 and below. The sun’s rays were blazing now. With just 10km to go, every muscle was telling me to stop and my feet refused to move though my mental stamina was still fresh.

At the 94th km, I put on the 100 days of running t- shirt over the sleeveless top, to finish the run in style. I was still 100 minutes earlier of schedule and hence resorted to alternate walking and jogging for the next four km. Jeeva was very helpful in buying me bananas (Mondham palam) which were larger than the normal ones and these pushed me further over the next two km.

FINISH POINT: HOTEL TEMPLE INN, NEAR MELUR:

WE CROSSED THE HOTEL at the 99th km, and since we had not yet completed 100, I went on ahead for a half km and returned, sprinting the last 100 meters to complete the 100km run at 1230pm. Jeeva and Abdul were there at the finish point to give me the medal and we took some photos before I sent them home, profusely thanking them for all their help over 14.5 hours.

My cousin, Shruthi and her friend came by car to pick me up from Melur and we had lunch at Kumar Mess in Madurai, following which we left to Trichy with great memories. A 100 kilometers! From an average guy like me! Who would have thought it? Praise the Lord!

10 AM 6/8/’18: BACK TO WORK!

SEE YOU GUYS LATER! GOD BLESS!

P.s: an account of my Strava activity, enclosed (only moving time recorded)

https://www.strava.com/activities/1755146782

Dhanushkodi 600 BRM

All of us are bitten by bugs. Some of us by the food – bug, others by work, but for me I was bitten by something else altogether. Running, cycling and swimming keep my mind fresh and completes my sedentary day.

The Dhanushkodi 600 km BRM (BREVET DE RANDONNEURS MONDIAUX) was another try at pushing my body to the limit. Approved by the Audax cycling club from France, the route took us through 600 km of sunshine, wind, rain and thunderstorm. Quite the story.

THE START

Track & Trail, Ramsun was open at 3 pm, when Anand and myself reached the venue. We got our BRM cards, ticked off the final checklist and met co – riders from different Indian states,accounting to a total of 70+. I took some time to delete unnecessary apps from my phone to save battery and space. Joy took care of my drop bag which I was to use at the 350th km mark. I secured my helmet and strapped it in, switching on my Xiaomi smartwatch to track my progress.

Anand announced the route and in another five minutes, we were off.

Anand and I took the lead helping participants find their way out of Trichy, into the highway. Once we were there, they sprinted off. I kept a steady speed of 20 to 25 kmph to make things easy for Anand, but the winds were heavy up till Tanjore – something which we hadn’t predicted on happening this soon. We reached Tanjore by 645pm, checked in at the first water point, then proceeded to Pudukottai, little knowing we were heading toward far greater challenges ahead.

THE STORM

The headwinds up to Tanjore translated to tailwinds for around 10km. When all seemed to be going well, the winds picked up. Volunteers worriedly informed us about the thunderstorm at Pudukottai. The ride turned into a 18kmph crawl, which became worse when a fellow rider suffered a puncture. A few locals including an old couple helped us with the puncture. We spent 40 minutes with him following which we called Joy to help because of the tube slipping out. Anand and I then left struggling to maintain a decent speed against intense winds.

The lightning and thunder were dramatic and soon we experienced rain. Tired and irritated, we expected to slow down but instead the winds changed and the rain helped us move forward faster by lubricating our chains and reducing road friction.

(Picture from Google)

We overtook several riders and managed to arrive at the first CP, albeit late by two hours.

THE RUSH OF ADRENALINE

FUELED by the fact that we were among the top 15 at the first CP, we gulped down a roti and loads of grape juice, courtesy of Pradeepa, before we left in ten minutes. We had a fairly decent lead because everyone else was taking at least 30 minutes to rest.

The winds were still on our side and in spite of rain we were flying along at 26kmph. We stopped for ten minutes break every hour and pushed ourselves hard till Karaikudi(50km from Pudukottai). We took a diversion as advised to avoid bad roads but still ended up facing 30 km of mud and stone. Milind, who was now with us had two punctures but was very skilled in changing tubes in ten minutes each. To make matters worse the rain was relentless and we we’re shivering whenever we slowed down.

THE COAST

WE HEAVED a big sigh when we reached Thiruvadanai , following which the rains reduced and we pressed on at full speed making use of good roads to get to Thondi. We then checked in at the second CP, then sped along East Coast Road till Ramanathapuram. Joy and Venkat sir were riding in a car all night helping us and other riders to replenish our tired bodies.

The ride to Rameshwaram was tiring under the heat. Long gone was the cold of the night, with the sun smashing against our faces.

Pamban bridge greeted us with open arms and we took a picture of it’s majestic view. Rameshwaram soon followed.

Anand and Milind decided to take a break and I pushed on ahead.

HALF WAY THERE!

Somehow managing to keep my speed at 18kmph, I surely but slowly approached Dhanushkodi, which was 20km from Rameshwaram. The road curved and twisted into a beautiful pathway going through forests and beach sand on each side, alternatively.

(Above pic taken from car during previous trip to Dhanushkodi)

The last 9km was mind boggling and it took all of my will power to keep pedalling through the wind and the sun. Milind caught up and we reached Dhanushkodi at 1115am. Not wanting to quit the running challenge, I did a short 2km walk at Dhanushkodi, which served as a cool – down.

Joy and Venkat sir treated us to food and drink at the third CP. Anand and Milind started back early and I followed them after ten minutes. We soon reached the hall at Rameshwaram where we were supposed to change. A fresh bath, food and drinks brought us back to 90% efficacy. Anand had some time to nap while I waited in queue to bathe. We started off in 45 minutes on our return journey, having oiled and cleaned our bikes.

EASY RIDE TO THONDI

WE MADE good headway with tailwinds on our side, but Milind had to drop out due to calf pain. We stopped to sleep at a bus – stop for 20 minutes after which we got moving again. It was the first time in my life that I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the cool hard stone.

We stopped for tea near Ramanathapuram and reached the 4th CP Thondi by 6pm with the last rays of the sun, setting just before we made it.

Thondi to Thiruvadanai was uneventful except for extremely dark roads due to lack of lighting and the clouds hiding the moon. We were chased by dogs but managed to pedal away easily. Then came the rain, which was now our worst enemy.

THE SECOND THUNDERSTORM

THIS WAS different from the first storm, with each raindrop pelting against our faces due to heavy winds. Worried about qualifying, I motivated Anand to keep riding at a slow pace. I used both my headlights to counter the bad roads till Devakottai but we still ended up being battered by then. The lightning lit up the whole road once in a while and the scene was straight out of Hollywood.

To our surprise, up ahead was the leading pack – Galin and co , fixing a puncture. We joined them at a hotel outside Devakottai and had dinner, all soaked from the rain.

We crossed them and headed to Karaikudi, gaining a good 30 minute lead.

THE REAL ENEMIES

KARAIKUDI SOON arrived and we took a 5 minute breather before heading to Pudukottai. The journey was supposed to take 2.5 hours but seemed a whole lot more.

Before we knew it, sleep hit us head – on. No amount of Red Bull or energy gels helped. I fought it off and pedalled harder but found it returned with a vengeance. Soon after, I thought I saw what appeared to be a few lead riders’ taillights conglomerating into a dancing figurine before spiralling into a cloud of smoke.

(Pics of hallucinations taken from closest similarities on Google)

This was my first time of experiencing visual hallucinations. I blinked, shook my head and continued to ride when I noticed shrouded figures of humans and animals standing by the roadside which disappeared on drawing near.

Figuring this had gone on long enough, I decided on a break.

Soon, I called out to Anand and my heart skipped a beat when he didn’t respond though I could see his headlight right behind me, swaying in the darkness. I tapped him and he woke up with a start. Two packs of riders went past us taking the lead once more, including Galin sir. We decided to rest at a petrol pump outside Pudukottai and another time at a toll booth. 45 more km to Trichy!

THE LAST OBSTACLE.

It was when we crossed Keeranur and had just 30 km left when my rear tyre went for a toss. Anand helped me with the change of tubes and we managed to resume cycling in 40 minutes. We crossed the Trichy toll booth and pedalled 5km before stopping for tea. Energised, we pedalled harder at speeds above 26kmph till we reached our end point at Annai apartments opposite Track and Trail. Pradeepa and Vijesh were there to welcome us with our medals and finishing pictures. Anand and I had arrived at 10th and 11th place out of 70- not bad at all.

An egg and a muffin recharged me, following which I waved goodbye to my friends, disassembled my cycle and placed it in my Abarth.

A good three hours of sleep followed, after which I decided to return to work. After all, a hobby should never interfere with a bread – winner!

Overall the ride touched me in many ways. It made me more humble, more spiritual and gave me an idea of what my body is truly capable of.

Special thanks to my parents and wife who always give me space for my endeavors, for continuously keeping track of me via a GPS app instead of sleeping for two whole nights, for Vijesh and Prashant sir for awesome organising of the event, to Joy and Venkat sir for simply superb volunteering in the face of adverse events, to all the riders who faced the worst and overcame all odds – really proud of you! Till next time, it’s goodbye from me. God bless!

Fitness – what it truly means

I gasped for breath as I tried to make a new PR (personal record) but managed to keep my pace up for only 800 meters, ending up with 200 meters to cover at my usual speed. The result was 2.5 km covered in 13 minutes and a few odd seconds. Good, but certainly not my best. Was I fit? Could I be fitter? Maybe. But does fitness always translate to better speeds? Not really.

Most people get carried away when they hear the word ‘fit’. Imagination carries them to the Greek – God – like – image of a guy or dame with sculpted six pack abs and a toned body.

What does fitness truly mean?

To me, there are three levels of fitness:

1. Being able to carry out your professional duties without exhaustion

2. Having good health (with normal levels on all hormone – related and routine blood investigations) and immunity

3. Having both the above, and managing to spend time on moderate exercise without feeling exhausted.

So, if you have diabetes, but if you’re managing to keep your sugar and cholesterol levels within normal limits via diet and exercise – then yes, you are keeping yourself fit.

Which brings us to the next question: does looking fat make one unfit, or does looking thin, mean being in excellent health? The answer to both these questions is a resounding NO.

Going back to my 3 categories of fitness, you can find that a person who looks fat can actually manage to pass in all three categories, with both slim and chubby people having almost equal chances of imbalance in blood or hormone tests. To me, a so – called obese person who runs marathons, is a tee-totaller and leads an active lifestyle is far healthier and fit than a thin person with an addiction to alcohol and suffering from diabetes or a victim of starvation diets.

So do even thin people need to workout? My answer to that, based on the above paragraph would be a big YES.

STOP CREATING STEREOTYPES

The above info would have also made you realize that a fit person need not necessarily look like a sculpted model. Embrace your curves, and be active, giving high priority to diet and exercise. Laughing at a chubby person working out hard in the gym is also not a good idea when you are lazing it out!

At the same time, having the right to look chubby does not mean you shouldn’t do anything about high cholesterol. Always strive toward eating healthy and performing exercise for optimum health.

Women, and exercise

On one side, I have seen women who binge – eat just as much as men, and on the other, I have also seen them starving. Neither habit will bring about good results. Some feel they just need to walk, whereas others know that they have to engage in multi-sport discipline to shed their layers of fat. This varies with their goal of what being ‘fit’ actually means for them.

But regardless of what your goal is, ladies, let’s set a few things right:

1. Lifting weights will not make you bulky as long as your carb intake is low.

2. Running is not contra – indicated at any age. Studies have actually shown running to be good for your joints. That being said – one cannot set off to run right away – consult your doctor first, and make use of a fitness trainer or physiotherapist to slowly help you transition from walking to jogging, and then finally to running.

3. There is still a popular fad among women that eating food rich in fats will make one gain weight. Not entirely true. Eating food with good fats (rich in HDL) will NOT make you fat, as long as your diet is low carb and you workout enough to burn those extra calories.

4. As we already discussed, being slim does not necessarily mean being healthy. Irrespective of your figure, you need to workout on a regular basis.

5. There is an alarming increase in incidence of thyroid disorders and PCOD in women. Please recognize the need to being fit and to use multi-sport activity, along with a low carb + high protein diet and therapy by an endocrinologist, to remain fit or to bring back your fitness levels. In such disorders, walking and dieting alone may not be enough.

6. Above all, shed your inhibitions and get moving!