The Teak forest

How I became a Randonneur


November, 2015
After years of deliberating, I finally purchased a cycle. It was a Marin San Anselmo and was a good and comfortable bike, perfect for small distances. In any case, I did not plan to cycle beyond 25-30 km. That was till the bike came home. I was looking for training programs and one with the 30 Mile beginner cycling plan appealed to me. Even if I do half the distance, it will work well I thought and saved the pdf to my iPad, and started cycling as advised in the training plan.

My Marin San Anselmo with Tarique's Four Corners.
My Marin San Anselmo with Tarique’s Four Corners.

Soon I was easily doing distances I never imagined I could. On 6th February, 2016, I clocked 53 kms.  The training was complete, goal accomplished but I was just starting. Cycling is addictive, and I wanted to go longer distances.  By now Tarique and Aasim had already become Randonneurs having completed 200 km brevets in December 2015.

May, 2016
Since I was already doing longer distances than originally intended, Tarique gifted me a Surly Long Haul Trucker on our wedding anniversary. The bike was a dream to ride on. Following the convention of surly owners, I named it Dhanno (ref: the movie Sholay). I was clocking longer distances very comfortably now.

Surly LHT aka Dhanno
Surly LHT aka Dhanno

June, 2016
Everyone I know had told me not to attempt my first brevet in the crazy heat of Nagpur. But I had already done an easy  125 km ride on the brevet route in the month of May, when the temperature was touching 46 degrees, and I thought how bad it could be, I ought to give the June Brevet a try.
So I did. And I failed.

Fast Forward to October 2016

All through the monsoons, I kept cycling. My cycling speed improved, so did my technique and stamina. I decided to try and attempt the December 2016 brevet.

I began the preparations earnestly. One of the reasons I could not cycle faster was because my muscle mass was very low. To remedy that I increased my protein intake by eating three egg whites along with my breakfast, and also took care that all my allergies were in control. During the training sessions, I pushed myself, did interval training to improve my speed and was now regularly cycling at an average speed of 20kms per hour.

The Brevet day was coming close, I learned how to keep myself hydrated and fed during long rides. One of the reasons tiredness creeps in during and after rides is due to the depletion of water and electrolytes from the body. Replenishing these at the right time is critical for me, along with a measured quantity of food as I am a diabetic and can not risk hypoglycemia.

December 18, 2016. The Brevet

I am one with the force and the force is with me!

A cold winter morning, I was alone as Tarique had already left for his 600km brevet the previous day. He chatted with me when he was at 400 odd km, and I had told him that I am about to leave for the 200 km brevet. I decided to enjoy the ride, and not worry about the result. I was carrying a small camera and was planning to take some pictures along the route.

The route, however, turned out to be quite a drab. We were cycling on the Calcutta-Bombay highway and there wasn’t much scenery on the way to take photos of.  A few of us had planned to cycle the route together, but everyone sped past me, and I was alone most of the route – not an issue – I do enjoy cycling alone, it gives me time to think about so many things. Then the truck traffic started. They sped by in great speed and too close for comfort. I was glad we split and were not riding in a group. An accident is just not worth it.

The dawn broke. I stopped and clicked the sun rise across the highway.

Sunrise on the highway
Sunrise on the highway

The journey to the first checkpoint at 45kms was otherwise uneventful, got rid of my fleece jacket and gloves. I was well in time for a quick snack of Idli, biscuits and a cup of sweet tea. Despite being a diabetic, I make sure to drink tea with sugar while on the road, to give me an instant energy boost.

As I crossed the next village, the children there cheered and waved to me. A few of them shouted “Pick up, pick up”  – perhaps they meant “buck up” I laughed aloud as one of them gave me a high five.

Crossed several small rivers and hit the town of Bhandara. It was mid morning,  and the city traffic was bad. One of the motorcyclists slowed down started cruising with me and asked me a few questions. He wanted to know where I was from and where was I going. Then he asked me as to why am I cycling, and said it’s crazy to cycle around. My reply “because young men like you ride motorbikes” made him speed up, I did not see him again.

The river Wainganga was in sight. The graceful meandering river is very wide and a sight to behold. I have an affinity towards water, and I love the sight of any large water body. I got down from my cycle replenished my electrolytes by drinking 200 ml Enerzal, and took some photographs of the river. Decided to take more pictures on my way back and climbed back on the saddle.

Wainganga River
Wainganga River

Headwinds and crosswinds began somewhere around 9.45 am reducing my speed a bit.

Soon the road was passing through what seemed like a small teak wood forest, another quick break, took some more photographs before I pulled at the food point at 10.58 Am.

The food point was at 95kms and had Khichidi ready for all the riders. Met some fellow riders there, got rid of my remaining woolen clothes and gave to Mr. Aniruddha Kulkarni who was the volunteer at that point, to be carried back home. After a 35 minute break, T K Prashant decided to ride with me and I was back on the saddle towards the selfie and U-turn point at 100 km. Prashant had fallen down while coming was hurt and wanted to give up, I was urging him to cycle on.

While we were taking selfies, Nitesh pulled in. He too was suffering from muscle cramps. Told him to not give up and carry on the remaining 100 km.

I had eaten and was well hydrated so my energy levels were high and the return ride was reasonably fast despite the cross winds. Nope, there is no such thing as tail wind. I was cycling at 22-24 km per hour. Sped past a few riders and stopped over the Wainganga bridge for a few more pictures.

Wainganga River
Wainganga River

After Bhandara town, I noticed Poornima and caught up with her. The third checkpoint was about 12 km away, and she was tired. Urged her to keep up with me and we both reached the third checkpoint at 155 km almost together. Met Mr. Rajiev Narayan there. A quick tea and biscuit break and I was back on my cycle for the home run; Poornima decided to wait and eat something more there. As I crossed over to the other side to be back on the road, I hit my knee with the handle. A shiver ran through me as the pain took over. But I decided to continue. I had time, and even a bit of slow speed would get me to the end point in time.

The next stop was HB town at the edge of the city. As I entered the city, it was chock-a-block. Market day! I cursed the traffic but kept paddling. At HB town I had a glass of refreshing juice and was ready to brave more traffic through the Central Avenue. I had to reach the other end of the city where we had the end point -and my home. It took me one hour to cover this 16 km distance. 12.5 hours to complete the 200km distance, of which 10.5 hours were on the saddle and remaining was the numerous breaks I took.

Reached the end point amidst cheers of friends and called myself a Randonneur. My Surly LHT was a pleasure to ride and I was not tired at all except for the nagging pain in the knee due to the handle injury. A couple of hours later, Tarique pulled in having completed a distance of 600km.  Pleased with ourselves, we waited for more riders to come in before going out for dinner and retiring for the night.

Tarique finishes 600 km brevet
Tarique finishes 600 km brevet

10 thoughts on “How I became a Randonneur”

  1. Wow … Wonderful write up Swati . To see you struggle through the days and night and emerge victorious is heart warming . Also I’m happy that you never gave up and kept riding 🙂
    See your dhanno soon on 300 km brevet .
    Cheers 🙂

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