I am not gifted with unusual endurance or abilities and as vulnerable as any seventy year old. I had never been on a cycle ride of this distance and this duration. Three thousand kilometres over two months was something that I had never dared venture to do before. Now at seventy I needed a lot more time and effort training than a younger fifty year old may require.
I trained for approximately six months, gradually increasing the work load and then tapering it off over the last 15 days before the cyclothon. In the mornings I cycled or walked /jogged in the park and in the evenings I would work out in an improvised gym at home. At peak effort I would cycle for about two hours in the morning and work out in the evening for about 1 1/2 hours.
I used a heavier hybrid cycle for the training than the light weight carbon fibre cycle I would use on the cyclothon. For a month and a half before the event I was in Bangalore and cycled on rolling roads; cycling on some occasions on the road leading to Tumkur and the one leading to Hosur to be as close as possible to the actual ride conditions. Many of my friends who are ultra cycling enthusiasts said that this level of training was inadequate. I however stuck to my plan taking care to avoid injury or sapping illness. A gym in the colony where I was staying in B’lore gave me the opportunity to step up strength and cardio training.
Planning the route, daily distances and night halts for the cyclothon was a very critical part of the preparation.With copious use of Google Maps for the route and distances, and Google Pro for checking the elevation profile of every likely path, I finalised the route and daily ride plans. Inputs from cyclists who had cycled on these roads before also helped in the decision making.
I eventually decided on riding along the NH48 all along the way from Chennai to Delhi. For the Pune-Panvel and Vadodara – Ahmedabad stages we had to get off the express way as cycling was not permitted on these roads and cycled on the old national highway. The daily distances planned was 60/70 kms per day. We had some days when the ride was just 50 kms but other days when the ride was 100 or more kms.
Now when all is done and dusted, I can say that the detailing that went into the planning, including the rest halts, played a major part in ensuring successful completion and I had so much left in the tank that I could have continued for another month or more when the ride ended at Delhi.
During the ride stretching and staying hydrated were very important. In the initial and relatively easier part of the cyclothon I took breaks at 10 km intervals for stretching and alternatively drinking water and tender coconut juice. Later on I extended the early morning rides to intervals of 30 kms as the rides were of longer duration and the early summer heat was beginning to make an impact. Drinking Electrol/ ORS after riding for approximately two hours was also mandatory. This regime ensured that I had little muscle soreness on the entire cyclothon. Must be quite remarkable for a seventy year old.
Food was very spartan to avoid infection and also for easy digestion and keeping the stomach light. A couple of bananas along with a protein drink was the early morning pre-ride nutrition as we set off at 6.15/6.30 am every day. During the ride a couple of hard boiled eggs and idlis/ pohwa was the breakfast and after the ride lunch and dinner was just steamed rice and boiled dhall with salt. A dhal kitchidi was a luxury at times.
This spartan diet seemed more than adequate for the entire cyclothon. I had lost a couple of kilos during the training phase to reach a weight of 74kg. When I reached Udaipur and ventured to take my weight it had dropped to 68kg. I maintained this weight till I reached Delhi. Apparently I lost body fat and fluids during the early part of the cyclothon before stabilising at around 68kg. At no stage did I suffer from cramping or excessive weariness.
Staying healthy and illness free was of utmost importance in such a long endeavour. Supplements such as turmeric, calcium and magnesium and jaggery was a daily feature. Bananas and oranges were the staple fruits. Rigour and discipline is an essential requirements when one sets out on a physically strenuous venture of this nature. I made it with more than a smile and plenty in the tank as I said.