A 200KM ride via Pala

January 23, 2018

On 21st January 2018, I completed my longest ride till date. It spanned 209 KM and I completed the endurance ride in 12 Hours 42 Minutes.

I am a Randonneur.

It’s a title given to those who complete the 200 KM challenge within 13.5 hours. You can read more about Randonnneuring here.

The Preparation

I always had BRM in my mind from 2010-11.  At a time when I was delivering the library books to different parts of the city on a bike. I knew deep down I could do long distance endurance rides. In December 2016, the dreams started taking shape as my mother gifted me a bike, a sleek looking Montra Blues 1.1. I had gone to Bike Tales with the intention of a buying a Montra Trance Pro. After talking to me Manoj recommended me to buy the next level hybrid. Today I am so happy to have made the upgrade.  (Click here to read more)

Before the ride, I was able to bike 50 KM+ on a consistent basis during the Christmas week. I took special permission from work to log in at 10:00 AM. Thanks to the wonderful team back in EY for granting my request. During the weekends I clocked 60 KM+ twice. The longest ride before the one on Sunday was 66 KM. The ride to the beach and the breakfast was really good.

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Ride to Kuzhupilly Beach

BRM in Kochi

BRM in Kochi is organized by Cochin Bikers Club, one of the clubs registered with Audax India. They have been forerunners in promoting professional cycling in Kochi and Kerala. They have supported many riders over the years. I have been visiting their store since they were operating out of Palarivattom near BSNL office. The price range of the bike was always above my budget, however, my interest in cycling was always encouraged by the patrons.  A week before the ride Murugan chettan was happy to service the bike I bought from Bike Tales; it’s hard to get his time as he is always busy with bike repairs. A true lover of a bike can relate to this easily. His dedication towards getting the bike fit for a rider is commendable.

The Ride

I was a bit nervous a week before the ride as I had never done anything above 66 KM. I talked to many riders who had done BRM previously and all of them said in one voice. It’s all on your mind. If you can do 50 KM, anyone can finish 200 KM within the stipulated time. A day before the ride, I got my bike chain and gears well-oiled at Bike Tales. The previous day when I had taken my bike to Manoj, he was very concerned about it. Thanks to him, the oiling proved very good during the ride. I was then with my Tripping Gang enjoying lunch at Vellakanthari, followed by the movie Carbon. I reached home and slept by 09:00 PM.

Tripping Gang
Tripping Gang

As always I woke up before the alarm. The funny part is a dream kept waking me up. I saw the same dream twice. It went like this, I look at the clock, it’s already 07:00 AM and no one at home or my fellow riders bothered to wake me up.  Sigh. I was crying.

I reached the starting point at 04:45 AM. Julian and Arun had already reached there before me. We got our Brevet cards stamped. We started our rides at 05:10 AM. Julian and I decided to stick together as Arun was on a road bike. Julian was on an MTB and we had done an airport ride two days back along with Hari and we figured out we ride pretty much at the same pace.  Hari gave us much-required tips for BRM. He is a Super Randonneur, a title given to those who complete 200,300,400 and 600 KM in a single season.

Our first stop was at Edapally church. See I do go to church. All I wanted to pray was to get all the riders back on time.

The next time we saw Arun was he coming back from Pala, the 100 KM mark. He was an hour and 20 KM ahead of us. That’s when I decided I have to get an endurance road bike.

Julian and I covered the Thodupuzha checkpoint within the time span we had given us ourselves. From Thodupuzha to Pala was the most challenging road. The road is brilliant, you will read it soon. The elevation is tough. The starting elevation was at 69 meters and ending at 146 meters and a total distance of 2 KMS. It never felt like ending.

Elevation Chart
Check out from 80KM to 100 KM mark

I challenged myself to ride all the way up. I did that; I saw many walking with their bikes. Maybe I should have done that too. Julian and I spent the next 10 minutes dehydrating ourselves to a good soda (ഉപ്പു സോഡാ). We then reached Pala on time. Julain needed some rest. I pestered him to start as we were the last set of riders. He did exactly as I wanted too. We were doing 50+ KM/Hour on the decline. Oh, my God, that was intense. We were overtaking motorbikes and cars with ease. Towards the 145 KM mark, we were exhausted. Our speed went down drastically; we started taking more breaks than we thought. We hadn’t had our breakfast or lunch. It was all bananas and plantains which kept us abreast. However, the effect was fading away. I couldn’t take it. I said to Julain, I need to eat something. We saw a Saravana Bhavan. The bike came to a halt automatically. We got rid of our helmets and went straight to the restaurant. I ordered ghee dosa and a coffee. It felt good.  The next 30 KM we covered it in 1 hour 15 minutes. We raced past many riders. This was the only checkpoint we were behind our planned schedule and of course the last checkpoint by 12 minutes. It was a leisure ride from CIAL to Stadium; we stopped over for a photo.

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When we reached Aluva, it was all about covering one metro station a time. Initially, it was breaking down 200 KM by checkpoints then to 20 KMS per stretch and then down to metro stations. A strategy used in cricket while chasing down targets.  It worked. We were so happy to reach Stadium. We had conquered the Pala Tial.

The Team

Job, Arun, Julian and I

The Road

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Route map and our stats.

I have to give to the Government of Kerala, except for 6 KM stretch in the entire 200 KM, everything was a proper tarmac suited for road bikes.  The Thodupuzha –Pala route is a dream for any biker. Built to international standards, it can beat any developed country. Here’s a video.

The Vehicles and the Pedestrians

Kochi was very accommodative of us, I think there’s a shift in the change in mindset with the drivers and pedestrians, they were concerned about us, although a small incident resulted in a biker pulling out before the first checkpoint. After Muvatupuzha, I don’t think the people are used to bikes without a motor. They would carelessly cross the road. I did brush past a lady who was looking at the wrong side of the road while crossing. There were at least 5-7 instances of cars and bike overtaking us and taking a left. Oh, I hate them. It just kills all our efforts while pedaling.

Some idiots wouldn’t even care to switch on the bloody indicators. Julian and I almost banged on a tempo traveler which seemed like taking a right and then suddenly severed towards left. Let me not remember it again. All we could do was to give him a nasty snare.

The Secret

Visualization works, a week before the ride. I had jotted down on the route card the timings to reach all checkpoints. I couldn’t scan it, so here’s an excel screenshot.

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There were no authorized checkpoints between Pala and CIAL, so I had to create one to take rest, which I did. Ufff,  that was the toughest part of the ride.

Here’s a paper clipping about the ride.

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Courtesy Manorama, Date 22nd January 2018

BRM 200 is just a start of a long journey.

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Religion, Faith and I

January 12, 2018

I did like to clear the air around the Facebook status I posted on Sunday.  Some of you might think that I am a hypocrite going to church; No. I go to church when I feel like going to church. I remember an atheist saying this to an audience. If you think going to church makes you happy and it brings you peace, go for it and if you don’t,  use that time for something better. It should be your choice and not something to be compelled upon.

Why do I go to church?

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The first time I was asked the question was way back in 2010 by a reporter, she was covering an article on religion among youngsters. I had a very peculiar answer to it. That was the time when I would attend church almost 48 out 52 Sunday’s a year. Here’s my answer.

“The church is where I make most of my decisions. The atmosphere gives me enough time and space to plan ahead”.

Once I finished my sentence, she questioned me whether I concentrate on prayers and hymns? I replied, “I like to sing songs, there’s no one to hear me or tell me, it’s out of tune as most of the time the speakers would be at max volume. They do it purposely I think”.

So what do I do now when I go to church, I hardly concentrate, I just visualize my upcoming week, especially work, things I want to do, rides, photos and sometimes my thoughts go wild.  These days I tend to skip church as much as possible since I started riding.

Are you religious?

Now that’s an interesting question, no one’s asked me this till now so I will ask this myself. I am Christian, and I go to an orthodox church. I don’t remember going to any Holy mass outside my denomination. I have never felt the need too. I like the songs in my church especially the way it is sung. They are pretty good. You can check some of them here. I am pretty sure who likes music would like it. (Watch from 7 minutes).

I hope you have listened to Kandisa from the Indian Ocean. That’s an orthodox prayer song.

Oh, the answer is no. I like to keep peace with everyone. If I am to say my denomination is better than yours. Jesus is surely going to question me, He didn’t create denominations nor any religions, men did, women hardly had any part. There’s so much discrimination in religion.

Faith  

I was introduced to faith by my cousin Sebin who gave me the book, the Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I finished reading the book in about 4 hours. One of the tasks from the book was to visualize attracting small things in order to cultivate a habit of visualization. It was 2008, I was in my third year of college, the Olympics was yet to start. I saw people gathering at the college portico for a quiz programme. I said to myself. It’s time to test the secrets, the law of attraction. I closed my eyes; I visualized myself being asked the question, “What’s the motto of 2008 Olympics”? I saw clearly answering it, “One world, one dream”. I opened my eyes, two minutes into the quiz. They asked the question. I immediately raised my hands and answered it. I even got a prize.

I didn’t stop it there. I started using visualization techniques for attracting jobs, a bike, a car and guess what a skip level promotion. I had written about my promotion on a piece of paper and kept it in my wallet and it materialized. Some say the secret is nothing but prayers. I like to call it visualization.

It works for everyone. Listen to Jim Carrey and how he used visualization to his advantage.

P.S: If you want this post to be grammatically corrected, you are welcome.  Please don’t ask me to censor it.

My year in Review 2017

January 1, 2018

Facebook deceives, so here’s an honest review.

Cover Pic

That’s me being me,  I have got to reduce my tummy.  Pic courtesy: Arjun Balachandran

Let’s talk about me.

This has been a year where I have made the most number of friends ever in my life.  Facebook might give you a wrong number. I know the ones who I can count for. I know the ones who will count me. A friend in need is a friend indeed.  Invest in friendship and it will reap benefits beyond your imagination.  I thought of creating a collage. That will probably take a day to fit everyone in. I will rest the case. You can always look at my album.

Career

Getting promoted was the best highlight of the year. I was able to rediscover myself and bring in the AIESEC elements in me to work. An ambassador program with over 35 volunteers was the next big thing at work. Leading them was such a pleasure. We achieved our objective in a very short time. I also got the opportunity to deliver leadership connect session to a large audience. The learning experience in these two activities easily outweighs the rest of the year.

Ambassadors

The Ambassadors

Interests

I have already posted a blog on it so I will keep it short and crisp. I found a new love of cycling. It’s a new addiction in my life.  Guess what, Strava has made an amazing video. Strava doesn’t deceive. It’s all the calories I have burned pedaling my bike in and around Kochi.

Relationship

I guess this is something I need work on.  Many of my friends have got married or are in a relationship. Some of their stories are scary. I guess it’s better to stay single. That’s me being a bit defensive.

2018

Things look promising stepping into 2018. I was with my friends in MG road sipping hot chocolate aka boost when the crackers announced the new year.  Today morning I was with my friend driving my happiness who turns 2 tomorrow.

That was 2017 in a nutshell. I hope to write more in 2018.  This perhaps is a perfect start.

Happiness

My Happiness

 

 

 

 

Lessons from riding a bike.

December 23, 2017

I always wanted to ride a bike. It was for me the easiest form of exercise which I can be consistent with. I decided to buy a bike, that was last December.

Montra -Bike

Here’s my bike with my partner in fitness @Ann Rose; she is an inspiration. She runs daily. I got the motivation to bike every day from her.

Almost a year had passed by where I would take my bike out on weekly rides. I knew deep down I was missing something. I knew I could ride every day. A month ago, I was added to a WhatsApp group created by Gokul. The group has primarily members from Decathalon Fun Riders club. We started slowly, the real change was visible when Arun and Anand joined us. For them riding 50 km was easy, for me 20 km was difficult. Today I completed 42 km. It felt effortless.  I can do more. Here are some of my experiences during everyday rides.

Pedal Kochi

Arun , Anand and I at Pedal Kochi

Learning to greet complete strangers. 

This happened a week into the rides. We were taking a break from a ride and a few youngsters belonging to bike club whizzed past us. All of them said, “Good morning”. I was so happy the entire day. I said to myself. I have to learn from the kids.

Sharing knowledge and motivating others

I never knew Kochi had such a group of enthusiastic riders, every day I would meet someone new on the road. We would talk for a few minutes and exchange experiences. I started learning a lot about cycling from them. I met a couple, they are perhaps older than my parents. They have already done BRMs, I was thinking when will I do one. Today I met Manoj, owner of Bike Tales and his colleague Akhil; Akhil had already done BRM 400 and I guess BRM 600 too. They are participating in BRM 200 in Kochi early next year. They asked me to enroll too.  Fingers crossed.

Couple I met

Long rides are a norm for them

INR 20000 bikes

My friends would always say, I spent a lot on a bike. I bought a Montra blues 1.1,  which cost me roughly about INR 20,000.  Today I would say, it’s probably a good decision as a starter. My next ride could easily cost beyond INR 50,000. Bikes aren’t expensive once you start riding and understanding more about bikes. During one of our rides,  I met an elderly person who was selling lottery tickets. He was very keen seeing our rides, we started talking and we came to know from him that he bought a Raleigh in 1956 for INR 50 at a time when his annual income wasn’t probably that much.

I will stop now, there’s more to learn. Every day is a new lesson for me. If you are in Kochi and you want to join us for rides. Ping me on Facebook. We can ride together.  Or you could also join through WhatsApp. 

 

 

 

 

Nationalism ?

August 19, 2017

The talk of nationalism baffles me to a great extent. We now live in a connected and open world. We work for firms spread across the globe. In spite of all this, the love for our country should come first. You never decided in which country to be born.  It was a mere coincidence. There was a time when I would think to fight for my country in times of war. Now I realize, wars are a result of propaganda decided by governments.

You are currently reading my post on a blog created by an American. You saw my post on Facebook, again created by an American.

You should be proud of them too. They have opened the world. I am sure you are thinking that we Indians also have made things to be proud of, yes I am proud of them too, even Patanjali. They have provided jobs to many, provided people with the opportunity to do business. Their ads boasts about nationalism and patriotism to attract customers. Their strategy is good.

Patanjali

Nationalism is defined as an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.  Do we really require that? Don’t we watch football matches played by clubs where players from different countries are part of? We even have an IPL that has the same concept. The Internet has helped us understand people from different countries. We are not so different; everyone needs food, shelter, and jobs. The basic needs are same all over the world.

When farmers are dying, we enforce flag hoisting ceremonies in schools, when children die, government orders celebrations. Governments spend their valuable time over debating over a movie, they even have time to bring an ordinance to ban a movie. Who are you trying to please?.

Kerala is one of the places in the world that has welcomed cultures around the globe. For some atrocities of a few men, a whole state is targeted. A surgical strike on a state? have we stooped so low that a state which considers everyone as equal gets targeted for petty political gains?. Visit Kerala, this is one the best places to live and express your feelings and release your movies.

Let’s start considering humanity first. We all are the global citizens of the world. When we start understanding the people instead of our governments, there will be peace on earth.

 


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