It was approximately 9:25 am. I hopped off my saddle and sat down on the road with my legs crossed over each other. Completely drained out with little strength in my legs, I was trying to answer only 1 question. Shall I call quits? I don’t know how many thoughts crossed my mind then. I could hear my wife, daughter, and friends all say don’t go overboard. You can attempt again next year. 60% of the race was done and here I was trying to figure out what next…
Those 3 to 5 mins were the fastest in my life. I could experience my mind racing with light. My brain was radiating heat. My face I am sure was red, ears hot, and nostrils trying to figure out how to balance my body temperatures with the surroundings.
The reflex reaction was obviously to quit. Then started the battle between the mind, body and the science behind the sport. I was still asking myself, how the “F” did I land up in this situation? Why? I would have munched upon some sizzling breakfast and relaxed on a Saturday morning. Instead, I was up at 3:15 am just to ensure everything is right for the race. They had asked us to report at 4:30 am. But then even this was not happening for the first time. With my group/team/bros/fellow participants, from SpeakingWheels(we call ourselves a tribe) all of us had practiced for this race constantly exposed our bodies to extremes.
Sometime in April 21 after recovering from Covid, when I cycled a very small slope that I would easily do during my college days, I was excited. Pune city has some good small inclines. So if you ride 50km you will easily cross 200 Mts elevation.
Soon I was riding in Pune now on my daughter’s bicycle. Members from the tribe would keep motivating me in response to my Strava posts. They would always ask me to join them on weekend rides. Finally, I decide to go with them on a Sunday morning ride. They figured out that if I change my cycle (frame size) I will be able to do better. My daughter’s cycle was too short for me. After a lot of deliberation with experts like Suraj, Amit, Rahul, Sanjay landed my gravel, The Marin Gestalt.
In no time, I was attempting my debut 100k in the first week of Aug. I was bull trapped in the initial 35km. Amit the cofounder of SpeakingWheels came and informed me about the race. ASC is scheduled in Nov. He said, he felt, I could do it. I smiled and with complete denial from within responded, I will think. By the time I could settle down after completing 100k, I already saw my name floating in the Men’s Open category of ASC within the tribe. For a week I was contemplating if I should back out from the position that I was placed in. But then on 15th Aug after eating half a kg Jilebi, I took a brave decision. “MAI KHELEGA”
I don’t know how many of you can relate to the term “MAI KHELEGA”. In the 1987 test series against Pakistan, this is what Sachin said with a bleeding and fractured nose after being hit by a nasty bouncer from Waqar, which he was trying to hook. These 2 words have made me play many innings in my life. I decided to play yet another one. 104kg wt, completely non-aerodynamic body, only around 250km of cycling under my belt, still trying to understand how to best decide when to switch gears, and trying to figure out the technicalities of the sport. The only reliable thing I had was a brand new Cycle which I was getting accustomed to, as it had a drop bar and I had a huge belly.
I have been very lucky all through my life. If I pick up a battle, I get friends to fight it out from all corners. My very good friend Vaidya Omkar Kulkarni and his wife Vaidya Sheetal Kulkarni, came yet again to rescue me. Yoga sessions, diet plans and exercise started, and the journey to recomposing my body began. Today this journey is in process. I did the race with 90kg wt. off-target by 3kgs. Thanks to Diwali and the awesome Khajuraho Panna Cycling tour with the tribe. For 3 weeks before the race, I was eating and drinking freely. “kaun kambakth yaha jeetnekeliye race karta hai”. My aim was to complete the race in time and not let the tribe down. By September the participants and non-participants from the tribe had started planning climbing routes. Dive Ghat, New Katraj, Mutha Top, Sinhgad, Simulation rides of Pasarni, Medha. I was able to complete each of the rides. In parallel, the Vaidyas were working with me on building my endurance and strength. Variations in training, diet got very aggressive because we were short on time.
This was my journey to THE MARLI(The name of the ghat is so symbolic). At 9:27 am, after all the super fast recap, to be or not to be, still persisted. The first thing I looked at was my heart rate. Stable said my watch. My breath resonated. Then I asked my legs, and they were still in denial mode. I checked if I am in a state to follow the guidelines I was exposed to during the practice sessions. Conformance on that part, all boxes checked. Suddenly someone was descending and shouted. Don’t give up… don’t give up just 2km and then it’s flat. Those two words popped up again from within. “MAI KHELEGA”.
I kicked my legs stood up and mounted myself on the saddle. With a stable heart rate and time in my favor, I decided to complete Marli. 9:50 I completed the 2nd ghat 10 mins ahead of schedule. Still not sure if I should proceed. But then the tribe had conspired to make me successful. Two wonderful ladies Jui and Deepa along with a gentle giant Sid, completely took over my mind. I got water, electrolytes, food, chikkis, and everything I needed to rejuvenate myself. You have 5 hrs at hand. You will easily complete the race. Just 1 ghat left is what they kept saying. I knew that meant 40km and another 800m elevation. Finally at 10:20 I just got up and got going. The rest is history. I completed the race well ahead of time. 1:45 pm I crossed the finish line.
I think what helped me conclude the race was, motivation from the tribe, practice, continuous support from family and friends, determination, superb arrangement by Arkade Sahyadri Classic, and those 2 magical words “MAI KHELEGA”.