16 March 2014

The KGF 300

After a number of missed opportunities, I finally attempted the KGF 300 BRM - a super scenic route that passes through two neighboring states - Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The ride was certainly not easy for me, being my first 300K brevet, with summer weather making things even harder on an otherwise easy route. I was riding the pre-ride with Sohan and Chiddu a week before the actual event since we would all be volunteering at the controls on that day.
Photograph of a randonneur bicycling on Hoskote Malur road
Belting it on Hoskote-Malur Road

Although I had all my equipment set up and ready well in advance, last minute jitters and a generally keyed up brain prevented me from getting much rest the night before. I got a couple of hours of restless sleep till 4:30AM, when I got up and got ready. A quick breakfast (packed from the "Pavillion" canteen the night before), filling up of water, and I was off to the start at MG Road. While I waited for the others I ate one of the energy bars I was carrying. I generally find it better to eat small quantities at regular intervals. Sohan arrived by 5:45, and after determining that Chiddu was not riding the two of us set off just a couple of minutes past 6AM. Roads were empty and we made good time covering the 50k Malur in about two hours. We quickly collected our ATM slips and went to have breakfast. The usual place (known to Sohan) was closed, and we had to backtrack a couple of Km to Balaji Circle in Malur. After some steaming Idli-sambar washed down with coffee we set off towards Bangarpet. 

Bicyclist on road from Malur to Bangarpet
Patchy roads till Bangarpet

The sun was still not up, and we kept the pace up at 20-25kmh. I kept nibbling on nuts and dry fruits from my improvised handlebar bag. We reached Bangarpet around 10AM and by now the sun was making its presence felt. After a quick stop for coconuts and filling up our bottles water with ice cold water we continued east. I had never been on this stretch before, and I kept myself entertained eating nuts and reading the route notes I had made earlier using satellite imagery. By the time we crossed BEML and Kotilingeshwara these tricks were no longer working and I could no longer ignore the sun. The sunglasses made a huge difference by cutting out most of the glare. At Betamangala we took another short break to refill water. Sohan kindly offered me a packet of peanuts, which I gobbled up greedily. I was beginning to realise I was carrying loads of junk, really - and not enough of the really useful stuff. Like wet wipes, which Sohan offered me. A cooling wipe down of the face and neck felt so refreshing I was ready to take on the remaining 50K to Pernamput. It is immensely instructive to watch how and what the experienced randonneur carries. 

Cyclist on road to Venkatagirikota
The heat of AP - BEML, Kotilingeshwara and Venkatagirikota
As we crossed into AP, the worsening heat and rolling terrain slowed us down, but we still managed the 20 odd kilometers to V'kota in an hour, where we had some so-so Mosambi juice. The patchy roads and bad segments were not bothering us too much since we both had reasonably wide tires. I had a mental picture that the road descends all the way from V'kota to Pernambut, but that is far from the truth. There are lots of climbs and the road rolls through the hills. There were powerful cross winds, the dry scrub of the Koundinya Reserve forest providing no respite from sun or hot wind. We zipped down the hairpins, wary of the big speed breakers near the border. 

Pernambut, Tamil Nadu, was even hotter, being at a lower altitude. I had fallen behind, so I hurried to the ATM and took a photo (my card was still not working). I then located Sohan, who had found his regular ice cream shop. We had ice cream and refreshing sweet curd, which along with the kind hospitality of the proprietor couple the did much to lift our spirits.
Fuji Touring bicycle on KGF 300 brevet at Pernambut
Sohan's Tourer at Pernamput Control [*]

After we started off I realised that I had only filled up one of my water bottles, and Sohan got slightly pissed off at the prospect of having to make another stop. I drank on average only half the water I was carrying - the rest I sprayed on my head and neck at regular intervals to cool off. Sohan pulled like a locomotive all the way to Vaniyambadi in a little over two hours, including a ten minute "power nap" and a stop for watermelons.

Powernap - a ten minute snooze just before Vaniyambadi [*]
Once on the highway we picked up speed. We stopped just outside Bargur for some rasam and curd rice, and topping up our water bottles, figuring it would be better to eat well before the climbing began. By the time we finished up the sun had set and the heat had reduced significantly.

Randonneur cycling into the Sunset on Chennai highway near Bargur and Krishnagiri
Sunset on the Chennai highway, somewhere before Bargur
The climb to Shoolagiri was easier than I had thought. The grade was uniformly gentle, and the tail winds cool. I passed Sohan who had stopped to water the plants at the base climbing at a steady pace. The shoulder is very wide and riding was really quite enjoyable in the full moon light. I was feeling happy that Sohan caught me only just before Shoolagiri - until he told me he had deliberately kept me ahead to make sure I kept moving and didn't fall behind! I had pushed myself a little bit on the climb, and pain in my left leg was beginning to worry me. It was around 9:30PM when we got ourselves some dinner at McDonalds Shoolagiri. With 4 hours in hand for the remaining 50km we allowed ourselves to relax. (A little too much - since we took an hour long break!). The last leg was uneventful - averaging 25kmh to finish my first 300 BRM at 1:30AM at Silk Board, ten minutes behind Sohan. The 15km from the control back to IISc seemed more daunting than ever. Sohan took me to a late night chaiwallah at Madivala signal, after which we rode back to our respective homes at a super relaxed pace. 

Looking back, credit for my homologation will go almost entirely to Sohan. If not for him I would have dropped out, mentally defeated, at Pernambut or Vaniyambadi even with lots of time to spare. When the going got tough he made sure we kept our sights only on the immediate target - first Pernambut, then Vaniyambadi, Krishnagiri, Shoolagiri and Hosur - so as to not get overwhelmed with the magnitude of distance remaining. This ride was also a successful test of my ride strategy and equipment which has now started to crystallise - other than the bike itself - the amazing IXON front light, my fender and rack setup despite the improvised bags and velcro straps, and toolkit.

Some info I missed:
1. There is a temple after the descent towards pernamput, with a 'pyau' - a source of cool drinking water. Given the severe heat, this was a godsend.
2. "Eat before you get hungry" becomes more important on hot days- as the heat increases you will lose ability to eat or digest anything. It is therefore important to keep the calories coming to prevent bonking.
3. Recovery was not much of a problem, just lots of sleep fixed everything. Note to a self- do jot plan any critical work the day before or after a big ride.
4. Pacing is everything. Experienced randonneurs take very few, very quick breaks, and ride a far more consistent pace.
5. For future riders- make sure you have good lights, and have lots of experience riding 200k brevets if this is your first 300k brevet.

*Photos  courtesey of Sohan Sintre

No comments: