BRM 400 Kolhapur Curry. No Pain no gain.
In the conquest to achieve the Super Randonneur (SR) title in the current season of 2017-2018, I signed up for the 400 BRM. I did my first BRM 200, my very first 200 km in May 2018. The Pune calendar had a 300 and a 600 in their schedule, however, a 400 was missing. I choose to not attempt the 400 from Mumbai or Aurangabad because of the rains and my usual fear of being blinded by rain in the night because of my spectacles. However, Pune Randonnuers opened a BRM 400 on August 11 and I signed up.
Training for the BRM 400
After the super ride to Pune Pandharpur and back and being one of the only few riders to make it back, I was mentally prepared for a 400 km. The headwinds and the rains had given me enough practice. Also riding with a very experienced team of Dr. Dhanraj, Sunil(Sidhu) and my new ride partner Mayur had taught me a lot of new and important things.
I still had an inkling that I would want to do a 300 km ride before a 400. Doing a 400 directly post a 200 ride did not logically seem correct in my head and I planned a ride to Karad. Some 350 km for a return ride from Pune. Called up Mayur and as I have mentioned earlier, my soul cycling brother, he agreed immediately. You can read my Karad ride story here.
I picked up an IT (Iliotibial ) band injury during this ride. In fact, I had picked it up a month back and we were not able to diagnose it correctly. We had roughly 11 days for rehab. My wife who is a physiotherapist created a stretching and rehab plan for me. I will soon publish the rehab plan in another blog.
I realized that I need pedal cleats to fix the recurring injuries, however, getting cleats, pedals and new shoes worth 7000 INR for a 16000 INR bike would be an overkill. So I decided to get pedal toe clips and better shoes to handle the toe clip pressure. Some setbacks at home ensured that I could finally manage to go to Decathlon on Tuesday, 4 days before the ride. Picked up new Btwin pedals, toe clips, and Kipsta Dry pitch football shoes. Why football shoes you might ask? Well, they have a hard toe support and are pretty water resistant, at least better than sports shoes. Could test the toe clips and shoes for only one 50 km ride and a few small 10-15 km rides. Felt confident with the setup.
The first BRM was all about just completing the ride, however, this one was more of a time trial. Mayur and I had discussed a sub 20-hour target for this BRM. A sub 20 hour 400 KM meant very few breaks. The nutrition and hydration needed to be spot on. From my previous experience, I knew I could maintain an average speed of 24 kmph if not 25 kmph. This meant we had 3-3.5 hours of maximum break time. This would include a lunch and dinner break, plus additional time at each CP (Checkpoint).
I picked up some chikki, energy bars, protein bar, some cheese and my usual ORS. Also picked up some dates and dry fruits. Mayur was to carry some Aloo parathas for all of us for quick breakfast.
Ride Day for the Pune BRM 400, Kolhapur curry
Woke up at 3 am after 4.5 hours of sleep (the longest before a long ride). Quickly made a dash to my own house from my mother’s house (had to be there with my mother due to some reasons). Reached my house by 3:30 am, quickly boiled two eggs and ate two bananas. Cycle and the ride packing was already done the evening prior. Checked on Mayur at 4:30 am.
I had a couple of saddle sores and was worried about them. Applied some Vaseline to take care of them.
Started from my home at 4:50 am and cycled slowly for Pune University. The aim was not to pedal too fast and conserve as much energy as I could.
The scene was hot at Pune University as we had a 200 BRM too with our 400. Met the sunrises group, Col. Milan, Dr. Dhanraj, Sagar, Rohan and many others. Anand Thakar sir had come to wish us luck. Mayur’s wife was very kind enough to have woken up early in the morning and make aloo parathas for us. She gave us three parathas each. I put one in my back pocket for breakfast and two others in my backpack.
Start of the BRM 400
Prashant Jog sir flagged off the ride at 6:08 am, slightly late because of the mad rush. I started slightly late. Had to start Strava. Mayur took off at the word go.
I started slowly and Bipin joined me. I was riding with Bipin for the first time and within minutes realized what an amazing rider he was. Riding a Triban 100, he was maintaining a very high cadence. He took off like a rocket at the Pashan small climb. We caught up again after Chandani chowk climb where I had to take a small break. It had already started raining and I had to clean my specs for some visibility.
I lost Bipin somewhere around Warje. Koken crossed me, wishing me luck as he flew past me. It was raining quite heavily by now. I started riding with Anuraag sir. We rode together up Katraj new tunnel climb. However with my climb speed, I went ahead, I knew he would catch up soon, so would Mayur.
Stopped again at the tunnel entrance to clean my specs, I would have been blind in the tunnel sans my specs. Coming out on the other side of the tunnel is heavenly as usual, the cold breeze just hits you. Anuraag sir and I were again riding together. We crossed the toll, and I knew that I could not take a break so soon. I pulled out a Yoga bar and quickly ate it up. Anuraag sir enquired if I would want to stop for breakfast, to which I refused.
Mayur joined me soon post Khed Shivapur toll and we started rolling together. I was ensuring that I run only a 38 chainring today, did not want to stress my knee at all. Mayur wanted to catch up with Anuraag sir and as usual was at his super high speed.
Around Nasrapur the road surface was bad and the traffic was piling up. I went over a bad patch and my cycle front wheel catapulted a small stone right into my left shin bone. The pain was immense, but we cycled on. We faced multiple standstill traffic and some off-road experience for a few more kilometers.
The first break
We crossed Shirwal and as planned I signaled to Mayur that we should take our first break. We were around 60 km into the ride, some two hours plus. We quickly washed our bottles and filled up water, I ordered a cup of tea and had the aloo paratha. Mayur had a banana. I put one banana in my back pocket. We saw Dr. Dhanraj and Dr. Harpale ride on.
I checked Strava, we were running an average of 26kmph. This break was exactly 8 minutes. Stopped at 8:21, started at 8:29 am
We rode on, with an aim to reach Nagewadi CP by 10 am and take a break there.
First Signs of Struggle
At Kambhatki base I saw Dr. Dhanraj take a break for tea, Mayur and I moved on. I felt a slight struggle at the Kambhatki base climb. Crossed Kaiwalya and his ride mate after the small climb. Started the actual climb and for the first time, I was struggling. I was not sure what was wrong today, the toe clips were supposed to be helping the climb, I was targetting a PR and I was struggling. Dropped a few gears and still had to go for an off the saddle effort. I was still ahead of Mayur, but I could not guess why I was struggling on a climb. Thought I should take a break but pushed on. A few off the saddle efforts and I was done with the climb.
Pushed down the decline and decided not to pedal at all, the winds were bad so I ducked and went aero to gain some speeds.
Because of the advantage on the climb, Mayur was left slightly behind and I was cycling alone for some time. I pulled out a banana from my pocket and peeled it with my teeth and had it. Eating on the go was the key to the time target we had. Mayur joined me soon.
Mayur mentioned that we should take a small break somewhere. I quickly shot down the idea and told him that we could probably stop at the CP and pick up some bananas and water. Nagewadi CP was not on our list for 400 but I thought that we could stop by. Pre Nagewadi there were a few climbs and I gained an advantage on Mayur again.
First CP at Nagewadi- Secret CP
I reached first CP at Nagewadi at 10:18 am. Kaiwalya was already there, Mayur joined in soon followed by Dr. Dhanraj and Dr. Harpale. We realized that this was a secret CP. So officially this our first CP. We had done 105 odd kms within 4 hours and 10 minutes with just one break and a few more small pee breaks. The first BRM attempt we had taken close to 5 + hours.
Quickly got the Brevet card stamped, had two bananas and put one in my pocket, filled up some water and ORS too.
I also realized that I could not walk. My ankles were in massive pain. Seemed like the new shoes were too tight and were causing the pain. Because of the too few breaks that we had taken, I could not realize the pain earlier.
Mayur and I quickly pushed off, I guess within 15 minutes from the CP. Dr Dhanraj was to head back as he was doing BRM 200, Harpale sir would join us soon.
The Pain continues
Roads to Satara post Nagewadi are downhill and Mayur took at advantage and pulled a nice lead. Harpale sir overtook me at rocket speeds with Kaiwalya and team. Kaiwalya and his ride mate took a small breakfast break and I joined Harpale sir at the outskirts of Satara city.
Satara city has multiple small climbs, I was struggling on each one of them with the pain, which was very apparent now. However, I could still gain an advantage over Dr. Harpale. The usual story continued, I would gain on climbs and he would gain on the flats.
Mayur had taken a good lead. Dr. Harpale was also maintaining a small lead over me. Harpale sir stopped once and asked me to take those two minutes break for pee. However no pee for me. I was starting to get worried now. I was drinking enough water with salts and ORS.
Break no 3 At Umraj Toll
Mayur called me and asked my location, he had just crossed Umbraj and had taken a small break. I guess Harpale sir and I were 3-4 kms from Umbraj. I asked Mayur to go ahead and stop at the toll just before Karad. Mayur had a 5+ km lead. I and Harpale sir pushed ahead and quickly made it to the toll.
We took a 15 minutes break for some cold drink, water and we had another paratha and also a gurd poli by Dr sir. I could sense my pain over here.
We were close to 150kms at a speed of 26.8 kmph. The rains had ensured that I was running sans my specs and was picking up a headache. Also, the crosswinds were hard and I could constantly see Harpale sir flex and stretch his arms. I was good on the arms, some advantage of the upper body strength training I was doing.
The Final Push to Sai International Yelur
We started again. I decided to ditch the toe clips. I was realizing that the toe clips and large pedals were changing my foot position on the pedal and were affecting my ankle. I was also not being able to lift my left leg which meant I had injured some other muscle too, just not sure what and where. I was having to hold my leg with my hands and place them on the pedal in position, something which I had to do for the rest of the journey. Probably some muscle in my hip had given away.
Post Karad up till Sai international at Yelur is rolling terrain, the challenges were the crosswinds and the rain. I would stop to clean my specs and it would start raining again. Mayur and Dr sir went ahead and I kind of lost them. So I was pushing alone. They stopped a couple of times for pee breaks and I still had no pee. I was getting more worried as it was close to 3 hours since the last time I had peed. I was constantly drinking water and ORS.
The last patch to Sai International got very difficult with the pain, headache, and riding alone. Managed to reach Sai International at 2:37 pm, 30 minutes later than the target of 8 hours, 5minutes later than Mayur. 202 kms at 26.8 kmph.I could not see any officials, nor Mayur and Dr. I was confused if something was wrong. Just as I was looking around a support team member signaled me to come in. As I was parking my bike I saw Mayur’s bike.
I limped inside and quickly got the brevet card signed by the ever smiling Yogesh. Took off my shoes to give my ankle some rest. Mayur asked me to order food first and then go around doing the rest of the things. I ordered Dal rice and a black coffee, clicked a few pics, went to the washroom, peed and washed up. That was some relief.
We quickly had dal rice and some curd rice. As I was taking out the ORS packet from my pocket, I saw something white on the packet, I could not understand what had leaked. I dug more and realized that the cheese cubes in my pocket were crushed. So much for cheese. Emptied the pockets, and we all had whatever we could salvage.
In this meanwhile, Kirit and Anuraag sir came in.
We had almost 18 hours to complete our next 200. Double the time we did the first half in. At this point, we were confident that we could make it back in 19 hours if not 18. Our initial target of 20 was definitely achievable.
The Return from Sai International and the struggle began
We started from Sai International at 3:18 pm, a 41 minute lunch break. Of course, I did a few stretches to relive my hip pain, a few hamstring stretches etc. Had no idea as to what to do for the ankle pain. Dr. Harpale had recommended a few pain killers but I refused as I knew my problems with acidity.
We decided to make a quick halt at a a tender coconut water guy right after Peth Naka. Harpale sir had identified a shop on this side of the road while we were on our way. That is the experience and planning I am talking about of Dr. Harpale.
The roads were flat, but the rains and heavy cross winds were troubling us. I was again riding without the specs. I learnt how to clean my specs with a piece of cloth while riding, this would reduce my stops. Mayur and Dr. Harpale were gaining a nice lead on me and I had lost sight of them. I was riding alone in pain and was constantly bombarded by the thought to quit. I kept on asking myself “Why did I even start this journey? Why am I cycling?”
We stopped at the coconut water guy and continued.
Peth Naka to Karad Toll
This patch has to be the worst for me. Because of the constant plains, Mayur and Dr. sir had a massive lead on me. I usually gain on Mayur because of my better climbing ability, however this patch had zero climbs, small rolling which I was struggling. I was running a 38 in the front and dropped to using 16 or 18 on the rear, a 2×6 or 2×5 combination and I was not getting the cadence that I usually ride at. I was having to constantly adjust my foot position on the pedal, tried the clips and ignored the clips, constantly having to lift the leg with my hands as I had by now completely lost the ability to lift my leg.
Mayur and Dr. were very kind, they would take small breaks and wait for me to be in visible range and move ahead. I crossed Karad alone.
This patch also posed a big hazard with two wheeler, cars and even bull dozers running on the wrong side.
Just 2-3kms from Karad toll, I got a call from Mayur to check on me. They had taken a tea break post Karad toll. I launched into a small sprint to quickly make it to their location as I thought I was 5 kms from the toll.
We had tea, filled in water and I ate an energy bar as the shop did not have cream roll.
Karad Toll to CP3 Satara
We were targeting Satara CP at Raj Lodge by 7 pm. That was 95 km mark from CP2, approximately at 299 kms from the start.
Mayur and Dr. had again gained a lead on me, however as the rolling nature of the route had started a bit, I could have them in visible range. Moreover I was very confident that even with the pain I would be able to catch up with them at the 2.6 km 3% grade Khind climb before Satara.
I had a low energy attack some 10 kms from the climb. Quickly pulled out a chikki and then a protein bar. This patch alone was a real struggle. Last time Mayur and I were riding next to each other during this patch.
It was close to 7 pm now and getting dark pretty fast, and it was raining. My headlight was in the bag, the tail lamp was on throughout the day, I was also wearing the reflective vest. There was still a bit of daylight so I took the risk of continuing the climb and stopping at the top to get the headlamp.
Crossed Dr. at the start of the climb as he had stopped to get his lights switched on before the climb, I did not want to break the momentum, so I continued. Could see Mayur’s tail-lamp ahead of me and I pushed on. Crossed Mayur some 500 metes before the top. Told him that I would stop at the top to get my lights.
The climb was a struggle today, took 12+ minutes instead of the 9 the other day. Stopped in the rain and got my lights out. By this time Dr. sir also crossed me. Post the Khind climb, the road is a decline with some rolling flyovers into Satara. I knew that Raj was outside Satara as I had checked on the map. I decided to follow Dr. Dr. had great visibility with multiple rear lights, two on the helmet and one on the cycle. I could see and follow him from a distance even without my specs.
I saw Dr. Sir take the left and move to the service lane after two flyovers and I started getting confused. Was the CP inside the city? Did I see something wrong? I was not wearing the specs because of the rain and could not see or read the boards in the dark. My fears of riding in the dark sans the specs in monsoons were coming alive.
I stopped after a flyover decline and was going to pull out my mobile to check the location. Just as I was doing that I heard a loud shout. Dr was yelling for me to join him. Thank god for small mercies. I said I will join him from the next opening on the road, he yelled again. I quickly tried to go back a tittle and enter the service lane. But my legs were failing me in the pain to even support the move by those 5 meters. I somehow managed to walk back and follow him.
The service road was bad to say the least and in the rain I was not being able to see much.
We reached the CP at Raj Lodge at 7:30 pm, Speeds had dropped to 25.xx, but we had 299 kms to our name in roughly 13hours and 22 minutes.
Raj Lodge CP 3 299 kms
We entered Raj lodge and Mayur was already there. But no officials. We quickly clicked a photo and posted on the group. Then Mayur decided to go in and check and we had an official, got our Brevet cards signed, however the control sheet was missing. I could barely walk and wobbled to the shop next door to pick up water and a packet of chips. In the meanwhile the control sheet was found and we signed that too.
We spent 15 minutes here and decided to stop for dinner within 5 minutes. Dr. Sir had a spot. His experience was coming to our help again.
We moved on from the CP in heavy rains and bad roads.
Dinner at Satara
We entered a small restaurant just outside Satara. Harpale sir quickly went ahead and placed the order, I went ahead and washed up. I desperately needed some warm tea as I was cold. However this place did not serve tea. We munched on the aloo parathas, all thanks to Mrs. Shanbhag(Mayur’s wife) and some dal rice and curd rice.
Saw that Kirit had made it to CP3 at Satara by 7:53 pm.
Other than the pain and being wet I was also suffering from bloating by now. The complex carbs of the energy bars and the protein bars were causing a lot of gas in my GI system as usual.
We finished our dinner, I wore my shoes and we were off at 8:15 pm. This break was very short.
With just 105 kms more to go, a midnight or a 1 am finish seemed very much possible.
Satara to Kambhatki Tunnel
Satara to Pune is mostly rolling with majority inclines. I was still doing better at the climbs than the team however I would leave the pedal on declines. I needed to conserve as much energy as I could. It was now a fight to complete the BRM. Mayur and Dr sir were also exhausted and we were all running slow. I had dropped to running a 2×4 gear, 38×20, a gear I usually use for climbs like Kambhatki, such was the struggle. The rain was not letting go either.
We were mostly riding together now, keeping some distance at times or just next to each other. Harpale sir and I would keep looking at the milestones, calculate our distance to kambhatki or Pune and motivate each other. I desperately needed a break, I was looking for reasons.
Just before kambhatki tunnel I pulled out my flip bottle and opened it to drink water and it slipped from my hand. Harpale sir somehow managed to avoid tripping over it. I stopped to pick it up and just as I could see it, a State transport bus went over it. Thankfully I had one more bottle. We continued. Caught up with the team at the tunnel base.
As we were entering the tunnel we all discussed that we would go down slow post the tunnel as the rumblers and the rain in the dark could be dangerous. I was not going to pedal, would just let the cycle roll. Heard Dr. brake and noticed his rear brakes were done up with. No life left on them. I had noticed that the break-pads had worn out at Sai International, the same was the case with mine too. These ones lasted less than 700kms.
Entered the tunnel and rolled down the other side. No pedal for the next 3-4 kms.
The story of breaks
We stopped for Thumbs up and water post the tunnel. Dr. Sir took sometime to come in. He was running slowly with just the front breaks working. This ended up being a more than 20 minute’s break.
I also popped a few gelusil at this point to calm down my tummy. I desperately needed this break. Took off the shoes again.
By this point I had no idea of time and the kilometers remaining, I guess we had 65 kms post this halt. I guess it was around 10:30 pm.
We started rolling again and I noticed that my legs were refusing to move with pain and muscle soreness. Cramps were setting in. The right leg had taken all the load and was sore. The no pedaling on the Kambhatki decline had cooled the muscles down and soreness was setting in quick.
Bad Roads for cycling
Harpale sir had requested me to be next to him because of his brakes. I was more than happy, he was running with a 2000 lumens lamp, I had a 200. Without my specs his lights were of great help. I knew the roads were very bad post Shirwal. We cycled cautiously with the loose gravel and potholes, primary target being to avoid any punctures. We thankfully had none until now.
However running side by side had its own demerits, I was ending up riding on loose gravel and potholes at times and was very worried that I might skid and fall. Harpale sir would constantly ask me to come closer and off the edge of the road.
We reached KhedShivapur toll in heavy rains at 12:40 am. Stopped for tea, cream roll and I popped a aloo paratha too. We had 25 more kms to go from here, complete climbs.
The last 25 kms were very eventful
We started rolling soon 12:55 am. We roughly had 70 minutes for 25 kms. I knew we had a huge advantage post the tunnel for almost 6 kms where we would be able to get a average speed of 35+. With this thought I started off slightly early ( a minute) from the team as my pain would be limiting.
Just as I started I realized that my headlight batteries were low and my lights were getting dimmer. Why couldn’t the batteries have given a warning like 5 minutes back? I could have replaced them during the break. I did not want to waste time in the rain to dig into my backpack to get the batteries now and it was raining quite heavily. I could not run the risk to damage the lights all together by opening them in the rain. Just as I was thinking this, a mad biker came out from behind a parked truck and decided to cross the road, without looking behind or beside at all. I moved to the right as much as I could to avoid a collision, thankfully there were no vehicles on the road. I yelled at him and he controlled his drunken trajectory. I was shaken but knew that I was alive and could complete this ride.
I slowed down to have Harpale sir catch up so that I could ride next to him with his light to aid my dim light. As I told him about my problem, he asked me to stop and exchange helmets. He had a headlight on his helmet too. But we realized that we had a major size mismatch. Mayur took off during this.
We decided to pedal together and I would stop at the tunnel entrance to change the batteries. We continued and I stopped at the tunnel entrance. Sir said that he would continue slow and I should definitely catch up soon as he would be riding slow because of the brakes.
I wasted a good 10 minutes in changing the batteries.
The Last Patch
The moment I came out of the tunnel, I was hit by torrential rains and heavy cross winds. The wind almost blew me off and I was scared that I would fall 2-3 times. Then my handle started wobbling and I started wondering if I had run a puncture. Without the specs it was difficult to ride down.
I crossed Narhe bridge and still could not see Dr sir. I started pushing a bit, now running a 48 chainring in the front. Saw Dr sir around Warje and we started rolling together. I started talking to him and constantly looking at the watch, it was getting close to 2 am. I told him with the pain I do not think I should attempt the Chandani chowk climb, I would rather walk that today.
With 13 minutes to cover around 3 kms and all climbs, I mentioned to Sir that I think we are going to miss the sub 20 by a couple of minutes.
As I mentioned this to him, he looked at me and said, “Anshuman hojayega, tu mujhe push kar.” I heard “ Anshuman let’s start pushing.”. I have no idea from where I could gather the energy but this helped trigger a massive sprint. I forgot the pain, the rain and my difficulties, we both started an off the saddle sprint. As I was pushing all I could think of is “I think now I know how professional athletes sprint like mad at the finish.” I did not stop, I even cycled the climb of Chandani chowk, I tried dropping to the smallest chainring of 28, however the gear got stuck, I had to fight to push the gear back to 38, well what do you expect out of a Tourney?
I was constantly looking at the watch. I entered CCD at 2 am. Mayur was trying to unlock his phone to click in the rain. We were both absolutely wet. I took out my hankerchief and asked him to wipe the phone. We had a passerby click a pic, and then Harpale sir joined in soon, we clicked another picture and put that up on the group. Limped into CCD and I stood in the line, Mayur went ahead and requested the manager to just swipe our cards for a bill. The billing guy was very kind and agreed. We quickly ordered a coffee and a sandwich. Clicked an image and posted in on the group.
My first BRM 400 was done, 403 kms at 23.9 kmph, ride time 17.xx hours, total time 19:54.
The time management and breaks were the most important thing. Eating and drinking while riding helped a lot. I owe this ride to Dr.Harpale and Mayur for being a very great and strong team.
Also the biggest support was my wife, who helped me recover before the ride from the IT band injury and also providing constant motivation during the ride.
Post Ride Report
After completing the ride I was in no condition to cycle another 20 kms to home. Decided to park the cycle at Mayur’s house and take his two wheeler. Even Cycling to Sus road downhill was a big task. Got wet on the way back on the two wheeler too. Riding the Activa in the rain and cold was another task.
Wife diagnosed a hip flexor strain and even after three days of rest, I am still in slight pain. Am being able to lift my leg though but still cannot walk. Also the left ankle is still swollen and very painful, also has some residual blood clots.The cold ensured that I run a fever the next day.
I have decided to take a 2 week rest. However I realize that the bike is a misfit for me and the bike geometry is not suiting my ride style. Probably I might be forced to abandon all long rides until I can afford a better bike, probably a road bike and afford cleats and shoes and get a bike fitting done. I don’t see a possibility of that happening until sometime next year.
This would probably be the last cycling blog from my side in a while.