This blog as might be apparent from the title has to do with running, biking and basically other outdoor individualistic sports, sometimes extreme, such as rock climbing . But don't be surprised if you find articles on work, personal life, music and even philosophy, this blog is an exception in this aspect in the blogosphere of running blogs and I am trying to revamp the blog to make it more runner friendly. You might want to look at the sidebar titled 'categorised', which as is obvious, categorizes my posts into different areas of interest.
The other thing that might interest many people is a section on 'running videos' and 'general videos' on the side bar, which I keep updating now and then.
I plan to bring in more posts on running and biking, with some added colour, so as to make them 'complete'. That's about it for now.
As a post-note, I have run a half-marathon, but I am yet to attempt a marathon, which through some concerted effort and time should happen in the future, but that ofcourse is not the culmination of this blog, it would on the contrary be something to jumpstart this blog onto new vistas.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chennai - Mahabs Express (The full story)


It was 3 am. I was placed comfortably on the bed looking into space, looking no where in particular. I was thinking, deciding, looking at the pros and cons. In my hand was "It's not about the bike" by Lance Armstrong and I was more than half-way through the book. I had just finished the chapter that detailed his training for the 'Tour de France' after he had successfuly recovered from testicular cancer against a huge odds of 3% chance of survival. He had not only survived the cancer but was also becoming stronger by the day during his intense traning in france with a determintaion and dedication that was awe-inspiring.
In an instant I decided that I would go cycling to Mahabs, around 45 kms from here in another hour, notwithstanding the lack of sleep. Though this was an impulsive decision, the trip had been on the back of my mind since the past two days. This week seemed like I was getting inspired by a lot of people to do stuff that's crazy. The other day I was going through this blog and found it amazing that the blogger had covered Bangalore to Madikeri, a distance of 240 kms in a day(18 hrs). This made me wonder how much distance I could cover in a day. What about pondicherry, which is 140 kms away from here or a 280 kms round trip, I thought. Possible but very difficult, because of the headwinds to be negotiated on the return from pondy and of course the heat and humidity, the most important factor on cycling trips. Anyway, pondy seemed a long-term goal; for starters, I would have to see how I fared on a trip to Mahabs and back minus the sight-seeing, which I had done on the previous two occasions.

Keeping in mind the head winds and the heat during return from mahabs, I chalked out the following plan:

Scheduled plan of action:

4:00 am - Out the back gate
4:10 am - Thiruvanmiyur
5:10 am - Muttukadu lake (brief halt for catching my breath and also to taking in the sights)
The distance covered so far: 21kms from Tiruvanmiyur thus reaching The halfway point. The average pace so far: 21 kmph
Also I would be refreshing myself(just a sip or two) with glucose-laced water every 10 minutes so as to ensure constant hydration of the body.

5:20 am - Head off from Muttukadu
6:30 am - Reach Mahabalipuram town
6:30 - 7:00 - Breakfast and stretching for the return journey

Now, I have been on cycle to Mahabalipuram on two occasions and I have found both the times that the return journey is always more taxing and slower due to two reasons:
One, the head wind blowing along the coast that actually halves my pace(12kmph) and two, the moderately steep slope that I have to traverse for atleast 10 kms from Mahabs. Another disadvantage I might face is that my cycle, though faster on plain surfaces, is equally slower on uphills. Having even a 3-speed gear system would have helped lessen my effort and increase the cadence(wattage or rate of pedalling) and probably also my speed on uphill slopes. Lance Armstrong is said to be a high-cadence biker as opposed to Jan Ullrich, who favours high-geared biking and therefore a lower-cadence and I am a fan of Lance.

Anyway, due to the above disadvantages, I scheduled my return journey to be much slower:
7:00 - Leaving Mahabs
8:00 - 8:10 : Unknown stop somewhere in between Muttukadu and Mahabs
8:45 - Reaching Muttukadu
9:00 - Continuing the journey
9:30 - 9:35 - Stop near the toll-gate/uthandi
10:10 - Reaching Thiruvanmiyur
10:30 - Back in the hostel and crash max till lunch

Scheduled Stats:

Tharamani-----45------2.5 hrs--------18------45-----15

Mahabs -------45------3.5 hrs--------13------40-----10

Round trip----90------6.0 hrs--------15.5----45-----10

The trip:

Payanigalin kanivana gavanathukku. Vandi en pujyam pujyam pujyam pujyam(0000) Chennai lerendu Mahabalipuram sellum East-coast Mach Express innum sattranerathil 'Tharamani gate Platform' lerndu porapadum.

That in Tamil is a satire of how the commencement of my cyling journey would/might have been announced at the Chennai Central station!

Here's how the trip turned out:

4:25 am - Out the back gate
4:31 am - Thiruvanmiyur
5:31 am - Muttukadu lake

At this point,I was 20 minutes behind schedule. At some 6 kms before muttukadu, I met a guy called Chellapa - He had stayed in US for 30 years and was now retired. He was riding a 9-speed, 27 gear 'specialist' bike(aluminium frame) at a good pace. We chatted along till kovalam beach and I learnt that he trains 5 days a week along the ECR road and goes sometimes all the way upto mahabs. He was currently training for ride the rockies race in Colorado along with his brother whom, we intercepted as he was returning back.

It's really good to know that there are people out there on the road who are
training regularly either to keep fit or to do well in a race.

After a little beyond kovalam beach, I was on my own. My left calf muscles were giving me signs of wear and tear through the stiffness and pain in the left leg. Anyway, I was riding at a comfortable pace and somewhere around 10 kms from mahabs, I noticed that the sun was already up and as I looked at it,a crimson yellow, I felt lucky to be on the road.

6:40 am - Finally at mahabs.
I was very hungry and longed for a sumptuous breakfast. I headed to mamallapuram hotel and had idlis and pongal.

7:15 am - start of the journey back
Now, the sun was up and it was getting hotter and I feared the return journey. I was feeling sleepy and wished I could stay back in mahabs till the evening.
3 hrs I thought. I would struggle, fight or even yell but would not take more than 3 hrs to do that.
I started to focus and found rhythm and how good it was to be in rhythm. I was clipping a steady 25 kmph and feeling good. All that was visible to me was the road 10 feet ahead of me and I didn't need to fear the traffic since, I was within the safety of the shoulder.

8:01 am - Hitting Muttukadu. 26kmph avg speed so far..much faster than the onward journey.

After refreshing myself with biscuits and refilling my handy bike bottle, I left at 8:10 am.

The only thing in my mind right now was to reach back asap. I had already started to drip sweat
continuously and I kept sipping water every few minutes and cooled myself by wetting my
head and shoulders.

8:55 am - I hit thiruvanmiyur and I was pretty happy with the pace I had pedalled at so far. I had averaged 28 kmph from muttukadu upto this point.

9:05 am - Back in the hostel.

What was amazing about this trip was that, I had to face my worst fear - the return journey with its head winds and the sweltering heat. But it turned out that the retun journey rocked(thanks to the rhythm and the lack of head wind).

Actual Trip Stats

Tharamani-----45------2.25 hrs-------20------35-----15

Mahabs -------45------1.75 hrs-------26------42-----15

Round trip----90------4.0 hrs--------22.5----42-----15


NaiKutti said...

cool stuff mannn... whenever i read ur cycling experience, i have a feeling of having done it myself!

arbit said...

Thanks man...maybe u shud take up cycling soon

EP/ UK said...

me too da...amazing narrative..and oh-so inspirational..

arbit said...

Good. Now run from narmad to gc and back regularly so that you dont get exhausted after the run. :-)

Capricorn 83 said...

dude...u r rocking man!! jus happend to visit ur updates...nice to see ur gettin time for it all :)i wanna go to Mahabs sometime soon and make a chennai-Pondy trip one day...lots in my to-do list!

btw...whr r u based out of ? do gimme ur email / contact numbr!


Kennenisa Bekele with the WR

Robbie Mcewen and steve o'grady - The 'Nudge'