Elusive 100mile mark

Last weekend was a special weekend for me. I was in Sundance, WY riding the MS Close Encounters bike ride organized by the Wyoming chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The preparations leading to the ride was fine. I had logged about 540miles on the saddle for the last 75 days; I had multiple 50+ mile rides. I started on Friday, late afternoon and reached Sundance well before 7PM. I had enough time to register, have my "foot-long" and set-up my tent. It so happened that the school's Outdoor Programs Office could not rent me a sleeping bag. So, I was there with my comforter, hoping that it would be just fine. Fine it was!

The evening was cool. I had time to chit-chat with fellow campers, all of them were members of the team Bioness Vitesse. It got dark and I found myself reading a Kannada short story book under the street light. Soon, I decided to call it a night and got back to my tent. I could not sleep for some reason, and I felt very cold. Apparently, it is very difficult to sleep just with a sleeping-pad and a comforter with the temperatures under 40deg F. Listening to podcasts did not help my case.

As the morning approached, I got very keen to get up and get going. By 6:00AM, I was at the breakfast, trying to see if I can meet up with some familiar faces. I saw KB and TB. I rode with them for Team Pokes last year, this year 4 members of our team had missed out. Anyway, we agreed to ride together as long as we can, or I should say as long as I could keep up with them.

We started at 7 with the team Megasorasses, who raised the highest amount of money and get the privilege, rightfully so, of leading the ride. Just a couple of miles out of town, we were on the century loop. Myself, KB and TB were the first 3 to enter the century loop.

Century loop is an additional 14 mile or so to complete 100 miles in the day. What makes this part of the ride specially attractive is that it's a climb all the way to the top of a mountain. 7 Miles of pure climbing. If it interests you, here is the climb profile.

I should mention that I am not much of a climber, my bike is not very well suited for climbing either. But one thing helped a lot - elevation. Laramie is at an elevation of 7300ft. Sundance is at about 4700ft. You can feel the difference in the thickness of the air, you really can. Anyway, back to the ride. Soon, KB, being an expert rider, broke away from us and somehow TB was behind me. But then a familiar face from the previous night's camp-side chat was riding next to me, Mr. C. For the next hour or so, we had one long conversation, as we tackled the mighty climb. Doing 5miles an hour on a steep long climb isn't exactly fun. But we managed it, by talking about power system, engineering as career choice, politics, federal elections and fibrosis, which is what C works on. He also happens to be a MS patient.  A lot of people passed us, but we weren't bothered about it at all. It's not a race!

At some point before we reached the peak, C broke away from me. I just tried to hang in there, and enjoy the ride, the scenery - the Black-Hills National Forest. I did reach the top of the Warren peak, took a few minutes and talked to the volunteers waiting for us. They gave me this badge for completing the century loop. But somewhere on the way, I had already achieved my goal, to make friends with an MS patient.

Coming down was a real cyclist experience! It is very difficult to put that in words. And then, to realize that you went up that very hill, just quadruples the excitement. Imagine going down a 6% slope at 40mph, on zig-zag roads. I was bloody scared to touch the breaks. I knew if I did not break going into a corner, I was gonna hit the railings. I knew if I could not break very quickly, for that will be disaster. Its such an adrenaline rush, to use both the lanes on the road and find it not wide enough for your 45mph turns! I was out of the century loop very quickly, I must have done the return trip in 10 mins or less. But by that time, most people had covered a lot of distance on the main course and there were only 2 people behind me. I was the third one to enter the loop and positioned last but three when I exited.

Anyway, I would catch up with them soon, I thought to myself. At that same time, the two people who were behind me, passed me. I was the last person on the ride and I remained so for the next 20miles. Soon, I was going through rest-stops every so-often as I could. I did catch up with people, by the time I was at lunch stop, which is about 50mile mark for me (with the century loop), there were 5 people behind me. 5 out of the 284 riders total. If you think about it, being so behind the pack can be both motivational and disastrous!

Lunch, sadly did not go well either. They had a sandwich, with some meat in it; I cant remember what it was. But I decided not to eat it. I ate an apple, a banana, a cereal bar and continued.

Rest-stops came and went, so did other riders. Some people stopped at lunch, some others stopped at various points. There are some long climbs in the post lunch ride. These climbs are not very steep, may be 3% for the most part and sharper at the peaks. But they are very long, say 3-4miles. I was going very slow, even stopped a few times to catch a breath; eat an energy-bar or two. But yet, I think I did well on these climbs. Compared to last year, I did exceptionally well.

The good part of a long climb is that you can go downhill after that. Boy! oh boy did I go! Next 30 or so miles were fast. I think I did them in a under 90minutes.

Heading back to Sundance was when I started chocking up on my own saliva. For reasons I can only guess, I started to have hick-ups. When I had about 15miles to go, I was sat down at the stop #6 and rested a bit. I had about 15miles to go, an hour or so, I thought to myself. I have done around 85 miles today and a silly hick-up isn't going to spoil my day, because I wont let it happen. I set off.

But the hick-ups got only worse. Do you ever have that feeling that your stomach is revolting against you and that your tongue seems to remember the scrambled egg you ate for breakfast? I had that exact feeling. I stopped. Got off the bike, put it down and walked around. It's all fine now.

Let's get going. And that feeling again, damn it. Lets drink some more water, may be I haven't kept up my water in-take. Some Gatorade should help, it's supposed to. I was doing 7-8 miles an hour with a light tail-wind, in my defense though, its one of those rolling-hills of Wyoming with more uphill than down.

Anyway, I stopped again, this time under a lonely tree. Leaned on the handlebar and did a quick prognosis. I think I will throw-up, any minute. Right then, a fellow rider pulled up. "Are you alright?"

"I don't know, I have this funny feeling that I am gonna throw-up, I hope not."

"You should sag! By the way, I am D".

"Hi D, thanks for stopping, I should be okay! I will have some water and get going. We are almost here, another 7 miles to go?  oh, sorry! I am Guru."

"Yeah, 7 or 8. Next rest-stop is in 4-5miles. Do you have enough water?"
I had enough water and I asked him to leave and told him I will sag if I don't feel like riding. Sag is the word we use for taking a ride on the support cars, they are called sag-wags.

I just sat down on the ground, had more water. Right then, a bit of the apple and banana was on the floor. Oh! what a relief. That does it. I can only get better from here!

I sat of the bike and started riding. Some calculations - I have about 7 miles to go, at this pace I will have to ride for an hour, if I just stand up and go for an all-or-nothing effort, I will reach in 30-40minutes. Let's go.

People so easily talk about last ditch efforts, as if there is something magical about it. There is nothing. It's the greatness of people doing it. Think of famous athletes, unknown soldiers and perhaps critically ill patients. I don't know what it is that makes them do these heroic and almost magical acts of bravery, courage and strength; I am sure of that, for I gave up.

In the next half mile or so my last ditch effort dint pan-out. I stopped. I remembered what my friend KM had told me as I left Laramie. "Guru, at any time, if you feel like you can't do it, just call it quits". At that moment, I wasn't enjoying it nor did I want to continue anymore.  I waved thumbs down to the sag-wag and asked him to take me back. There goes my 100 mile ride! I got a batch for the century loop, which I never completed!

After getting back to Sundance, I remember I lied down on the lawn at 3:30pm-ish. Only things I remember are signing up for the free massage, blabbering something to Mr. C, Mr. D and somebody else.

I think I passed out, asleep at least. I got up at 4:30 or something, the dinner was ready. I dint ask what it was, served myself. I met up with D again and his friend Mr. B. Had my dinner and retired for the day. Back at the Sundance High School, where we had camped. A quick shower later, I called KM and told him about the ride. He is the one who got me into it in the first place. Being a biologist, he said how remarkable human body is, that it can recover so quickly.

Fifteen minutes after that call and a Subway "foot-long" later, I saddled my Motobecane up. I rode from corner to corner of the town of Sundance. A total of 6+miles, my way of reaching my goal, may not count for anything, but it does mattered. I had a good night's sleep that evening.

I will not trouble you with the details of the day two of the ride. It suffices to say that myself, Mr. C and Mr. D rode as a peloton for good part of the ride. Some other guys also participated in breaking the wind. I stopped at the 50mile mark or the lunch break after 3 hours of riding. Had my lunch and was on my way back to Laramie, thinking how wonderful my weekend was and what may it bring to the lives of people affected by MS.

Next five hours, as I drove back to Laramie, I was just thinking what would it take to end all the diseases, hunger and suffering. We, humans have a very long to-do list!!! I think we can achieve all of it, if we want to.

Finally, I couldn't close this post without acknowledging the contributions of some of my closest friends and family. Thank you, your contribution is greatly appreciated.
Jill - $100.00
Bonnie Zare - $50.00
Mr. Rodney Garnett - $50.00
Madhav Prakruth Athre - $30.00
Pallavi - $25.00
Sharath Aramanekoppa - $25.00
Krithika - $25.00
Anup - $25.00
Jim & Felicia Follum - $25.00
Avani Nayak - $20.00
Goutham Kamath - $20.00


Wow! You did it Guru!!! :) You're right... the extra 6 miles you pedaled, do count!! They SO totally count! :)
Wow! You did it Guru!!! :) You're right... the extra 6 miles you pedaled, do count!! They SO totally count! :)
Anu said…
100 miles......Great moment..
I wish I could have been there with u..:(

this reminds me ..@bvr.. when u got over new bike with 7 gears.. we used to pedal from home to sugar factory every morning in summer holidays, hardly it is 3 to 4 miles... now u did it Guru 100 miles...cheers.. i am not able to imagine pedaling 100 miles...
always u rock...

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