So this happened, after all.
After some deliberation and accumulation of a lot of blind over-confidence, I decided to go through with it.
Even the morning of the event, as my alarm woke me up at 4.30 am, I got out and looked at my bed. It was so inviting, tempting me to just get back inside and stop kidding myself about this insanity I had signed up for. As much as I have come to love cycling, I haven’t reached a point where I can say my love for cycling has overtaken my love for sleeping in. The difficulty of waking up early is strong and real.
I went in completely devoid of any expectations of myself, fully psyching myself to give up if I needed to.
What I was lacking in confidence, I made up for in snacks. I was over-prepared in that department. Obviously. Lined my stomach with fruit and a sandwich even before the event began. Plenty of chikki, a handful of dates, two packets of ORS on the go. And I wiped it all out before end. This is not counting the large breakfast we had at checkpoint 1, and the ice cream at checkpoint 2.
I was one of two women in the event of about 25 participants. I was expecting more women. But clearly I was in the minority with that expectation because not one, but two dudes gave me the statement of utter surprise — “hey, you’re pretty good!” and I could almost feel the “…for a girl” subtext.
The ride: it was fantastic. For all the starting trouble I have, every time that I get on a bike and get going, it is rewarding. There is something
mildly massively addictive once you’re on a bike, zipping through the wind and experiencing early morning like nothing else can, really. Not even walking or running. Okay, maybe doing this in Goa adds a million points in favour of the activity, so yes, I’m giving thanks for the wonderful place I’ve found myself in. The weather suddenly turned that morning, and we had grey cloudy skies. A ten minute downpour was a welcome relief, and I seemed to escape even the harsh noon sunlight which caught up with me only in the last stretch of about twenty minutes as I was struggling to the finish line.
Thankfully, the event wasn’t a race. It was about finishing, and there was a very comfortable outer time limit in which to do it. There were enough triangular shaped, testosterone pumped men who didn’t have a moment to spare to even smile or exchange pleasantries because they were dashing off to beat each other, or their own personal records, I’m not sure. I was the very very very last person to finish. I can’t say I didn’t expect it.
I’m just glad I finished. That was my focus, and I’m glad I didn’t waver there. I couldn’t have done it without VC who pepped me up with his inspirational talks, R who absolutely insisted this was going to be a cakewalk and then stuck around cycling with me for the entire second half of the ride, and a random friend we made, let’s call him A. A is a 51 year old man (possibly the oldest participant) who was also lingering around the back of the trail with me. We’re the guys who stopped to take pictures all along, got lost a couple of times, bothered to look at the map, ask for directions and generally have a bit of fun along the way. He claimed all he’d ever done in life was smoke and work, and that bicycling was a new interest. He’d so far only ridden a maximum of 30kms ever. He stuck around with us, we definitely drew off of each others’ energies and somehow stayed together until the end.
I couldn’t have done it without my people. And my playlist, which I heard from end to end for the very first time in my life. Twice over, in fact.
Also, training. For all the heavy duty working out I’ve been doing in the last 3 years or so, I’ve never done anything that’s tested my strength or stamina. This was quite the test, and it completely reaffirmed my faith in sticking with working out and always trying to remain fit. It always pays off.
I’ve also never felt a gush of endorphins as strong as I did at the 88km mark, when R and I, unsure of what turn to take, stopped to ask for directions. Except I wasn’t of much use because I was collapsing in a huge outflow of uncontrollable guffaws. For absolutely no reason at all. R watched helplessly, not sure what to do next. And try as I did, I couldn’t hold back the laughter. It was coming out in heavy, loud bursts that just couldn’t be contained. We had just pushed ourselves over a 8 kilometre stretch, hitting the highest speeds I did on the entire ride, and maybe the energy rush just got the better of me.
A stupid move at the very end, possibly caused by the lack of oxygen going to my brain by then, made me take a wrong turn. I was leading the trio at the point, so the other two followed suit, and we found ourselves off track, adding a whole lot of unnecessary kilometres to the finish, not to mention one major chunk of which involved backtracking across the stretch we had just covered.
So as it happens, I didn’t just complete a 100 kilometre ride. In fact, I clocked 109 kilometres to the finish line. And it was worth every minute of excitement, adventure, pain and exhilaration.
Cold beers waited us at the finish line. Which we emptied into our water bottles to consume. Because, Gandhi Jayanti = dry day, it seems.
The next logical step is to attempt 200km. If someone had asked me last week, if I could see myself doing it, I’d have laughed loudly. But ask me now and I’ll say, hell yes, without batting an eyelid. I’d just like to be better prepared, maybe actually train for it next time around.
Honestly though, I didn’t think I could finish it this time around. I went in blind, like I said before. But maybe the endorphins kicked in, maybe being in the presence of all the other cyclists gave me a boost, maybe I just went into auto pilot, but it was hard to think about giving up. I actually didn’t feel the need to at any point. It was only somewhere around the 60km mark that I realised how far I had come and that I was actually possibly going to finish this.
So while the ride was physically taxing, as was expected, beyond a point it was entirely a mental game. Every 10 kilometres knocked down felt like a huge milestone crossed. There were moments when an unexplained energy kicked in, pushing through my lower back that had begun to ache, my quads that were tensing up, and my butt that had gone numb. I’ve never felt that kind of resilience in myself, I don’t think.
Clearly, I had underestimated my capacity to physically push myself, and overestimated the time it would take me, in the event that I did finish. I overshot my estimate by a 120 whole minutes, finishing in 6 hours. Despite coming in right at the very end, this was a win I needed to undo the collective shittiness that September was.
So that’s done and dusted.