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Chasing a Wild dream. One Week SR- Nashik to Amritsar

by Anshuman Sen
5 day SR- Nashik 2 Amritsar

One Week SR- Nashik to Amritsar- Mayur Shanbhag

This is not my story, but the story of a rider who has featured in all my blogs, Mayur Shanbhag, aka Dragon  (I know it is cheesy but I will explain how he got that name). He recently attempted the one week SR ride organized by Nashik Cyclists. 1600 km in 5 days, 4 BRM’s and a BP from Nashik to Amritsar. I feel fortunate and proud that I am sharing this story on my website.

                                                  • Anshuman Sen

 

The Ride

5 day SR ride organized by Nashik Cyclists team of Audax India Randonneurs. Nashik to Amritsar, a total of 1600 km to culminate on 31st December 2019.

26/12/2019 6 am start 600 BRM

28/12/2019 7 am start 200 BRM

29/12/2019 6 am start 400 BRM

30/12/2019 4 pm start 300 BRM

31/12/2019 2 pm start 100 BP

 

The 5 Day SR story, Mayur ki zubani. The rest of the story is narrated as first-person by Mayur.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

400 and 300 Cue Sheet

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

200 and 600 Cue Sheet

 

Prologue

I started riding back in 2018 and managed to finish my first SR in the 2018 season. October 2018 is when I managed to ride my first 600. Over the next 2-3 months, I did a few more BRM’s and an epic solo ride to Panchgani- Mahableshwar- Satara and back to Pune. The last of the epic ride was less than 18 hour 400 BRM with Anshuman. Post this I had been looking for the next challenge to target. I have never liked the idea of racing. It was always about racing against self and proving self-worth.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Around the end of December 2018, a few things hit hard on the professional front and I decided to focus on my bread and butter. 2019 was a year that saw a big dip in my cycling. I managed to do very few rides. I did secure my second SR with a 300 and 600 Km ride with Anshuman in May-June and another yearly pilgrimage to Pandharpur in July. Things improved in September at work but with some noticeable weight gain and I started looking for my next challenge.

 

Training and Ride preparation

Oct 2019, Nashik cyclist announced their 5 day SR schedule. The moment I saw it I wanted to participate. I reached out to Anshuman to check if he would want to join. But due to various reasons he could not. In the meanwhile, I thought of starting my long ride training and getting back to shape. I have never been the structured training types, I am a very unconventional rider is what Anshuman and Sagar tell me. I started doing long rides. Lonavala/ Kamshet being my usual training ground. Managed a few 200 and 300 km rides during this time and was happy with how my body was responding.

 

Few Road Blocks

No story is complete without small twists, right? I managed to pick up a small knee injury in November while I was crewing for Dr. Dhanraj Sir for his Deccan Cliffhanger attempt. What followed was a few weeks of rest and physiotherapy. I was recommended by my Physio to abort the ride plan however, I decided to hold on and followed it up with a bit of traveling.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Ramped up my training in November end a bit and managed 1100 km mileage. In December I attempted to ride a 500 km solo ride. Riding alone in the night and being able to complete 500 km in close to 24 hours gave me the boost I needed. Also, the weather conditions, varying from humid and hot to the chill in the night gave me some confidence, or, at least I thought it did.

Also 2 weeks before the ride, I got to know that my cycles’ Bottom bracket needed a replacement. Ordered it online and got it prepped up at Cyclotech by Sandip. Big shoutout to the wonderful work he did on the cycle. To test the cycle before leaving, I did a 100+ km ride with Anshuman. Back after the ride with Anshuman struggling on the tiny climbs with me, he named me “Dragon”. He told me that I was in beast mode and I have never felt better.

 

Ride Partners and the Plan

4 riders from Pune decided to participate, NM Rao, Dr. Dhanraj, Yogesh Bhat and yours truly. Dhanraj sir and I had planned to ride together and we also planned to complement our packing and load accordingly.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

A very important part of such an epic ride was the need to have a jersey which would remind us of this ride forever. Sagar Wakade designed a lovely jersey which was delivered by Maxx from Mumbai. Our team Jerseys for Team Still Training were also designed by Sagar and we still get compliments for that. Looking at the fantastic jersey design a lot of riders signed up immediately.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

 

Ride Preparation and Packing- 5 days on the road

 

We were notified that the temperatures would be low during the night in a few places. Temperatures of 2-5 degrees were expected and hence we were requested to carry warm clothes as well as a blanket in the drop bag. I started jotting down the items needed to be carried around a week before we started. A week before I started writing a list of items I need to carry for this journey. I intended to have a drop bag that I would access at the endpoints and a 12 L saddlebag which I would use during the ride. Here is how I packed.

Drop Bag

Tire, 2 tubes, chain, 4 shorts, 6 jerseys, and also one secondary spare short, 4 Fenix charged batteries, backlight, 1 sipper usual jeans and a few T-shirts were also a part.

 

Saddlebag

1 tire, 2 tubes, 1 jersey, 1 short, 1 spare Fenix light with 2 charged batteries

For Cold, Jockey upper warmer, short, warm fleece Btwin Jersey, rain jacket, full and half gloves. I have to mention here that purchased Apace shorts before leaving and loved the quality.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

2 days before the ride my packing went for a toss as my planned ride partner, Dr. Dhanraj sir had a small fall during cross-training and ended up injuring his arm. It wasn’t just the packing bit but my whole ride strategy went for a major toss.

One night before leaving, I lightened down. Removed jackets and blanket from the bag, the assumption was that the hotels will have provisions. As drop bag would be in the luggage vehicle which would essentially follow us, I only packed essentials. At night Dhanraj sir came to meet me and encouraged me to ride in my own fashion (reminded me of Sagar and Anshuman advising the same). He gave his Fenix Front Light to keep as a spare with 6 batteries and Cateye backlight which has a run time of around 120 hrs. He also gave few medicines with prescription which are safe to consume by riders during this journey to combat body pain, acidity, fever, vomiting and other likely challenges one may face.

 

Travel to Nashik and Amritsar to Pune was the biggest challenge

Our train tickets booked in October were still waitlisted when we left from Pune. Post the crash of Dr. Dhanraj, we had a last-minute entry to our list from Pune. Preeti Maske also decided to join. We were facing trouble in getting a bus that would be reasonably priced and also accommodate our cycles. Finally, we decided to hire an Innova and travel.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

This last-minute plan kind of almost backfired. We were 4 riders, so we decided to hang 3 cycles on the rack and one in the dickey. I decided to start at 8 am and reach Nashik by 2 pm. We started loading and picking up the four riders. Each place would need us to dismount the bikes and figure things out. By the time we reached Rao, our final pick up it was close to noon. Once we reached Rao, we had an even bigger problem. He pointed out that we had hooked the rack incorrectly, so it was a complete redo of our loading. We finally started at 1 pm, took a lunch break on the way and reached Nashik at 6:15 pm.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

With Mahajan Sir

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Post Briefing

This delay meant that our plan to rest a bit in the afternoon went for a toss. We had a ride briefing at 8 pm where we got to meet Mahajan sir. We headed for dinner and then back to the hotel.

As expected I did not get much sleep, so that made it two days of no sleep.

 

Ride 1: BRM 600 26 Dec

We woke up at 4:30 to reach the start point. Our hotel was right at the start point so not much traveling. However only trouble was that the tires were low on air and the pump at the start point was a basic one sans any gauge. I spoke to the organizers and they recommended me to use my mini pump. Panic was quickly setting in, however, Mahajan sir arranged for a pump which came in 5 minutes before the start. I quickly filled the air and lined up.

We were flagged off at 6 am for the epic, lifetime experience, what I did not anticipate that this ride was quickly going to turn into a lot of adventure.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

It was cold, chilly and dark, started slowly at my pace, talking and greeting riders and getting introduced along the way. Met Nashik riders (a group of cyclists led by Balasaheb Wakchaure (BMW is his nickname) at 50 km mark and was talking to them and riding when horror hit me at 60 km mark. I heard a loud bang while going over a set of those rumbler speed breakers. The wheel started to wobble immediately. I stopped, removed my wheel to check, however, I could not find anything. Was it the hub, a spoke, I had no idea. BMW recommended that there was a cycle shop at Chandwad 2 km away.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Broken Spoke

I slowly reached the shop at 8.15 am and noticed that the shop opens at 9:30 am. Then I called up a few friends in Pune and ordered breakfast while waiting for the shop to open. I also did try to call the shop owner from the phone number displayed to try and request them to open the shop early but finally, it opened at 10 am. We discovered that a spoke behind the cassette was damaged. This shop being a basic one, he did not have the tools to open the cassette. So we decided to manage the wheel a bit to reduce the wobble.

Sagar Coming to Rescue

While all this was happening, I called Rao and Yogesh, only to realize that Rao had a puncture and they were close by so they joined me for breakfast and were with me till I got a temporary fix. Three of us started together at 10:45 am from 60 km mark. Next, CP was Dhule at 150 km mark with a CP close time of 4 pm. We decided to target around 2 PM to make it in the CP cutoff time.

Meanwhile, Sagar called up all shops in Dhule and spoke to a Track and Trail guy named Parag Patil there who agreed to help but wanted me to reach the shop as the shop was 15 km away from the CP. We reached the CP by 2 pm. After a short discussion, Parag himself being a Randonneur very kindly agreed to come to the CP with the mechanic and help. He managed to change the spoke and after lunch, we resumed at 3:30 pm. The target from here on was to just meet  the cutoffs.

 

More trouble in store

As we moved ahead for next CP another 100 Km ahead, after riding for some time together, I speed up a little as evening was setting in. Yogesh was riding along with me leaving behind Rao a bit. 30 Kms to the next CP at around 7 pm as the temperature started falling, I had my first puncture over my 2 years of BRM history. Yogesh and me starting fixing it. I inspected the tire, removed the tar which was the cause, put the first tube, filled air and nada, nothing. Realized that the new tube was damaged. Meanwhile, Rao also joined us. We took off everything and replaced it with another one. In this melee, I ended up damaging and breaking my mini pump and also wasted additional 30 minutes.

Reached the next CP in cold at 9 pm. This was the slowest time to date, 250kms in 15 hours. I had dinner, handed the tubes to Yogesh as he had given me the tubes earlier, which were handy.

 

The Long cold night

We started our journey together at 10:20 pm. During the ride I realized, I had no tubes and no pump and 350 kms to go. And the best part was in this cold and all the drama, I forgot to check my tire pressure at previous CP. The night was cold and things were getting wet due to the dew. All we could do was keep riding to feel warm. At around 12:30 am Rao and we decided to stop for some coffee. Ended up taking a long break of 45 minutes. Reached the next CP at 4:30 am, 357 km mark. I started violently shivering the moment I stopped. Spent some time having a plate of poha and cup of tea again. This was also the sleep break CP but we just didn’t have the time to sleep though and neither sleep was in the plan.

We started back again with the riders (BMW and group) who had taken a 3-hour sleep break at 5:15 am. The roads were very bad for the first 35 km and the cold was getting to me now. After the Nashik riders overtook us during this patch I decided to take off after them in a bid to feel warm. Dropped the Nashik guys within 10 km and then hit the highway after 15-20 km. Now with good roads, I was feeling fresh as if starting a new ride in daylight and decided to go for a non-stop ride to CP. Reached the next CP at 10:30 am, 490 km mark ahead of even the officials. Even after the massive drama the other day I had managed to catch up.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Alone at CP

 

600 under 34 hours

I had a heavy breakfast as again I wanted to ride non-stop to the last CP without a lunch break and took off again at 11:15 am. A few water breaks and managed to reach the final CP at 3:45 pm. All done under 34 hours. A very interesting and eventful first part came to an end and I was now in Madhya Pradesh. All thanks to Sagar, Rao, and Yogesh for helping me, else my BRM would have been over in the first day itself. I guess God has a way of taking care of you when you want something to happen. This ride helped me test my mental strength to face the challenges without panic in an unknown place and keep moving. I think this is the true spirit of a Randonneur

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar- 600 Done

Officials had arrived at the end CP but the bag was yet to arrive and I was very sleepy. I decided to skip lunch as I had to go back to search for a hotel in the town, rather decided to grab some sleep after 3 days of no sleeping. No warm water available, so I took a cold shower and wiped myself with the existing clothes from the saddlebag. Slept a bit before the other riders came in and we went for dinner later.

 

The next day was going to be an easy recovery paced 200 BRM.

 

Event 2. BRM 200- 28th December

 

The ride for 200 was to start at 7 am. I decided to travel light. No warm clothes as the ride would get over by evening and we would be riding mostly in the sun.

The ride started at 7:15 am and the plan was to ride with Yogesh and Rao. I remembered Rao and Yogesh were riding wearing green Btwin jackets and went looking for them, but everyone was wearing the same green jacket. It was colder than I had expected and on failure to identify Rao and Yogesh, I decided to cycle hard to feel warmer. While on the way ahead I had another incident where avoided a crash due to those pathetic speed breakers again that too on a nice rolling terrain on a multilane National highway.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Reached CP1 116km at 12:15, had lunch and started again at 1 pm. Without much drama finished the ride soon at an average speed of 27.3 kmph and this was supposed to be a recovery ride. In my head, I was probably in beast mode. Now I was in Rajasthan and the CP was at a roadside Dhaba. I could not resist eating food served on the charpai.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

The hotel was 15 km away from CP. Reached the hotel, had a warm water bath and also washed the gear which of course did not dry. I also cleaned the bike and chain. Skipped dinner as I was not so hungry and hit the bed at 11:30 pm. The next day was going to be a long 400 km and somehow I could not get sleep.

Till now I did not face any saddle sores. My usual policy as recommended by Anshuman was vaseline petroleum jelly before the ride and Kailash Jeevan post it before sleeping.

 

Event 3: BRM 400- 29 Dec- Probably the most difficult BRM

The next day morning when I woke up as the alarm rang, I was feeling fresh despite not much sleep. 800 km out of 1500 were done. We started at 6:20 am fighting a bit of cold. The day ended up being marred by way too many breaks because of my ride partner who would stop very frequently. I noticed Yogesh riding consistently at 21-22 kmph and despite us riding fast, we reached 150 km together. We reached the 257 km CP by 8:15 pm riding almost 200 km on bad uneven roads, quickly ordered dinner and called Yogesh as he was nearby. We had dinner and time was flying as the hotel took some time to prepare food. The temperature was falling.  It was already very cold and dark outside.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Me, Yogesh and Astasham (another co-rider from Mumbai) started to ride together at 10:15 pm. We were greeted by bad roads, ice-cold weather, and fog. 30 km ahead we were hit by massive fog and the visibility was a few meters. We were riding at close to 10 kmph and struggling due to no visibility. Gloves, shoes, and clothes everything was wet. We were at 340 km mark and  Astasham was in panic due to very low visibility. He called ride officials who were 20 km ahead of us, to warn the dreadful situations.

Fog Hit Us

We reached 360 km at 2:10 am and officials asked us to stop till visibility improved. We decided to get some sleep in the tempo, however, it was extremely cold and probably a very bad move. The temperature was around -2 degrees. I was ruing the slow day and lost the opportunity to finish before the cold hit us. The previous slowest 400 km BRM was the first BRM which we had completed in 20 hours. We halted for 3 hours and restarted at 5:15 am when the rest of the riders had already gone ahead of us.

The situation did not improve rather had got worst. 60 km to go, 4 hours in hand, no visibility, bad road with speed breakers, brakes not working as the rim was wet in the fog, no sensation of feet and hands and we had covered the distance at a speed of around 10km/hr. I had always completed BRM’s well ahead of time and now this situation was alarming. Any odd situation like a puncture could cost me this event. So I decided to just ride without thinking much.

After riding for a few km, I saw all riders had stopped for a break. Preeti saw us and decided to ride with us leaving the group she was riding with. I rode the last bit supporting Preeti as visibility had still not improved and finished by 8:45 am. Just in time as I would say.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

Rao had a late finish trying to support his ride partner who had a crash and then could not ride because of sleep. Rao is a true example of selflessness.

A small breakfast and we hit the bed as we had to ride the last 300 that very night.

 

Event 4- 300 Night BRM: 30th December

The BRM started at 4:20 pm after our short sleep break. I decided to cover the maximum km before it got too cold and decided to ride solo to avoid unnecessary breaks and took off from the start itself. Legs still felt nice after 1200 km of riding over 4 days.

Reached 95 km cp at 8:40 pm, had dinner and Yogesh also reached CP. We decided to ride together so I took a power nap by the time he completed his dinner. When I woke up, we realized that the fog situation was worse than the earlier night. The officials decided to divide us into two groups of 10 riders each and ride behind the support vehicle for safety. We started together at 10:45 pm but then the slow ride was getting to me as the clothes and gloves were wet and I was feeling very cold. Rao went with the support vehicle and got lost and went down an incorrect way and covered 13 km in 3 hours. The lost time and bad roads cost him and he picked up a knee injury and a broken spoke in the process.

Success Finally Sinking In

While I was moving ahead of the pack on this unknown route with zero visibility a thought crossed me that “Leaders have to ride alone.” Since I was leading, I have a choice to ride alone at my own pace or ride slow with the team. Recalled the mechanical failure I had at 60 km from start and then I had to ride from the last to catch up with others. Had I been in the same situation in this patch then would I not ride alone? What choice one would have in such situations – ride alone or quit? Quitting is never an option for me, so the answer was obvious.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

The roads were unknown but I had just done a solo 500 in Pune. I decided to take off with new confidence to face the fear of the unknown. Broken bad roads, zero visibility, cold, rarely vehicles passing across, and strange noise you could hear while you would not see anything to your left or right, nothing was a roadblock tonight. With a steady pace and without any break I reached 200 Km CP at 4:20 am and was already in Punjab. When I reached there, things finally sunk in, 1400 km was done and I had a lot of time to complete the 100 km. 15 km before the CP I realized officials were following me. At the CP, Officials greeted with warmth and were very excited to see me riding solo in a consistent rhythm throughout the entire journey from Nashik. I think I had proved myself, it was a war within and I had quelled all my fears and apprehensions.

The Final Group Ride

While waiting at the CP I get to know that no one planning to do the last 100 BP post the 300 BRM, I decided to stopover. BMW arrived with 2 co-riders at the CP after an hour. Did some chit chat with him, had tea and within minutes we became good friends. We decided to ride the last leg of 100 km together. As we were about to start at 5:40 am, we saw lights as few riders were approaching CP. It was the Nashik Gang. All riders were so excited to reach CP within time and we decided to wait a bit more and do a group ride with the entire gang.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

With Nashik Gang

Group ride started at 6:10 am with the crack of dawn as if it was a new beginning. We were riding slow and steadily sharing stories and experiences with each other. BWM is a seasoned rider who completed PBP in 2019. Few Nashik cyclists had sore legs but BWM kept them motivated and engaged in a steady ride to ensure everyone completed the ride successfully within time. He is a great sportsman and gem of a person. 50 km to finish, we stopped for parathas and thoroughly enjoying the moment and making new plans with them post completing the SR ride.

Five day SR Nashik- Amritsar

With BMW

We all reached the final CP at 11:35 am very comfortably.

All Coming to an end- SR in 5 days

The celebrations had long started almost 100 km back. All the efforts were finally showing. I was one of the few riders who had managed to complete the 5 days SR ride, 1500 km over 5 days with some very treacherous weather conditions but I had managed to do it without fatigue, injuries or body pain. Personally, very satisfied with my achievement as I stretched my limits with thrilling experiences to make a lifetime memory.

We went over to the Attari -Wagah border to celebrate the new year looking at the closing ceremony and parade. I can’t describe that feeling to ring in 2020 in style. Starting the 1st day of the year 2020 with the blessings of Harmandir Sahib and spending my entire day at this holy place.

I sincerely thank Dr. Mahendra Mahajan for organizing this event. Our marshals Yeshwant Mudholkar and Naik Kaka with the team of drivers Sandeep and Dinesh have put endless efforts to plan, execute and support. You are the pillars of the success of this historic event.

 

Signing off

Mayur Shanbhag (aka Dragon)

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1 comment

Kunal Shahane January 29, 2020 - 10:27 am

Mayur….. You nailed it bhai….. True sportsperson…

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