Day 8 – End of Epic Ride

We started early on Day 8 as well to have more stops on the way to take pictures of Valparai and make time so it helps Adhyas catch his return flight to Delhi. We probably stopped at every possible scenic location and took pictures. We took our time.

After descending to Aliyar it was pretty much a relaxed ride to the finish which was located at Shakthi River Resorts.

Day8

At the finish we were greeted by my uncle. I was so glad to see him there waiting for us, we decided to pack our bikes, get everything setup for our onward journey, have lunch and leave the resort. I bid adieu to as many riders as possible and congratulate them on this epic ride. Hope to see some of them in future rides.

Gamin – Edge 200 – TFN Data

Activity Name Start Distance Time Avg Speed(Avg Pace) Max Speed(Best Pace) Elevation Gain
Valparai to Pollachi Wed, Dec 23, 2015 7:14 AM

45.39

5:16:56

8.6

30.7

2226

Palakkad to Valparai Tue, Dec 22, 2015 6:45 AM

66.65

9:25:58

7.1

30.3

5853

Ooty to Palakkad Mon, Dec 21, 2015 7:04 AM

96.64

8:12:56

11.8

33.6

1895

Sultan Bathery to Ooty Sat, Dec 19, 2015 6:48 AM

56.55

9:33:39

5.9

32.3

12004

Madikeri to Sultan Bathery Fri, Dec 18, 2015 6:30 AM

91.02

10:37:02

8.6

35.8

5548

Mysore to Madikeri Thu, Dec 17, 2015 6:58 AM

74.42

7:32:49

9.9

32.5

3760

Bangalore to Mysore Wed, Dec 16, 2015 7:01 AM

107.41

9:11:57

11.7

32.3

2612

At a personal level I am glad I did this tour because TFN gave me the opportunity to experience something beyond what I had originally anticipated. I raised funds for underprivileged kids education in India for 2015, last time I did this was 2006. All the contributions however small or big have an impact on the society. At least in the routes I went around in Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka I witnessed only positive things, for example, I saw happy kids (boys & girls) going to school, no mugging & no beggars. Everyone or almost everyone had a mobile phone, women health centers in smallest of towns, I had connectivity on my iPhone and roads were phenomenal. I would say < 10 kms of the road were really bad but for ~850kms I did not see any problem with infrastructure.

TFN provides a glimpse of what Nilgiris could offer in terms of scenery, local food, culture ..etc and biking would be one of the best ways to experience it. Tour coordinators made it a pleasant & memorable experience with excellent road markings(hard hard work), route maps, enthusiastic volunteers, baggage logistics and access to ambulance & physiotherapists  in case of emergencies. Special shout out to R.A.Y Photography for helping us carry our memories forward with excellent photography. For future TFN editions I would like TFN to challenge itself and improve on identifying lunch spots en route, lodging, eco-friendly restrooms and nutrition at all aid stations.

Day 7 – Valparai

As usual we started early and thanks to riders ahead of us who waved to stop and have breakfast at this nice hole in the wall place which was serving hot aappams and coconut chutney around 9:00am. We took ourselves easy after the nice meal and settled into a relaxed pace to ride through all the farmlands and village roads around Pollachi.

Day7

After some time I was having stomach issues and we stopped near Anamalai town at a bakery (equivalent to a coffee shop in US) and decided to take a break. We had some freshly baked veg puffs(veg pups – local language) – curried veggies inside a crispy pastry may be equivalent to veg wellington?!. I asked them to make a ginger tea (black tea + raw ginger + sugar) so it can aid digestion and prevent nausea. BTW, ginger tea was not on the menu but I had to give instructions and they will usually get it right. After an hour or so I could feel that I was able to recover from nausea and ride comfortably.

We reached the base of Valparai around noon and we decided to relax little bit more, put some calories on and hit the restroom before we tackle the non stop climbing for next 40kms. The aid station was in some kind of children’s park right next to the Aliyar dam and the public toilets were surprisingly good and well maintained. Bio-degradable baby butt wipes are cool and it was very convenient so I don’t have to use any water on me but only to flush the toilet.

Climb to Valparai from Aliyar was very scenic but long like 20+ miles. It was very similar to Mt.Hamilton, CA. It was steep but it was different from Kalhatty because it had sections where it would be flat to give your legs & heart a little break before the next climb. I was feeling very comfortable and was breezing through all these climbs till 40kms.

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Beautiful climb in Valparai

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@ Last aid station

I would like to caution riders when they ride from bright to shaded areas of the road. I noticed that wherever there were thick tree cover over the road,conditions could be hazardous like there might be broken branches on the road, deep potholes etc.

Valparai had much to offer in terms of scenery compared to Kothagiri and Ooty. It felt like it was frozen in time because it hadn’t changed much since I came here last on a motorbike around 1994. In the evening we had so much time to kill and it was the last night with all fellow riders so we explored the town little bit. We ran into fellow riders Hari and Jazr from Chennai and we took a stroll in the “New Valpari” and “Old Valparai” market…:-). It was 2 roads with 50 meters in distance each and it was interesting to see the stores and their wares.

Day 6 – Coimbatore…Palghat

Ooty to Palghat was one of the longest legs in the whole tour. It was mostly downhill with negligible climbing compared to Day2, Day3 and Day4. As usual we left early from Ooty and it really helped me and Adhyas to soak in all the beauty of Kothagiri during our downhill journey. We arrived at the first aid station and as planned we finished our pre-packed sandwiches. We dropped off all our cold clothing and reminded ourselves about the coconut water strategy to keep ourselves cool till we reached Palghat. Downhill till Mettupalayam was fantastic and I would do this section again either Downhill or uphill from/to Kothagiri/Ooty.

Day6

It was a hot day and as we reached Coimbatore suburbs via Karamadai we stopped by “Sri Krishna Sweets” outlet to check out what they would have to tackle our hunger and weather. They had this Mango & Pineapple flavored rasmalai in a chilled cup. Adhyas and I probably finished 1/3 of their stock. They were thrilled to have us there and asked questions about where we were coming from and where we were headed etc.

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Sri Krishna Sweets – Air Conditioned Sweet Shop

After this stop we resorted back to coconut water strategy till we reached Palghat. As soon as we reached Palghat we quickly showered and headed into town for early dinner. During the ride I noticed that one of my low gears would slip and I would lose the stroke so I had to stay in high gear for my climbs or go to the lowest which will slow me down further. In the evening I was able to pull aside busy Nihkil from Crankmeister for adjusting my bike so it would not slip on one of the low gears. I need that fix to take on Valparai Climb next day because all gear ratios will come into play there. We got some food for breakfast and hit the bed early so we are all set for Valparai.

Day 4 – Face off with Kalhatty

We started early from Sultan Bathery as usual and started our trip to Ooty via Gudalur and Mudumalai. It was a scenic route and we took our time to take pictures and we were relaxing as much as possible. We had to do atleast 9000ft+ of climbing in 100K so we thought it would be wise to take breaks and take it easy till we hit the last climb Kalhatty via Masinagudi.

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Exiting Kerala – Entering Tamil Nadu

In the morning we took our planned detour and spent some quality time at Indian Coffee House restaurant in Gudalur to finish of some idlis and masala dosa. Adhyas came up with the idea to pack a masala dosa ‘to go’ like a burrito so it would be our backup lunch. I said it should be like a sandwich and very compact.

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Idli and Dosa on a Banana Leaf

Note: Especially in Tamilnadu, one can ask food to be served in a banana leaf if there was a concern about hygiene.

We asked the waiter to pack the masala dosa and gave him a specification to pack so it will not drip (No chutney or sambar) and fit perfectly in our bike jersey. After the brief but well deserved stop in Gudalur we started towards the Mudumalai National Park. Temperature was raising a little bit but we pushed on to the entrance of the park so we can regroup and ride through the forest section with a patrol vehicle.

As soon we entered the forest, the temperature dropped and it was well shaded throughout. It was peaceful riding through this section and we ran into some sections where I had to get off the bike and push because it was full of gravel and very soft mud. I was glad that it hadn’t rained for a week so it was all dry and it was easy to walk or else it would have been even tough. Ran into at least 2 or 3 different type of monkeys, spotted some deer and wild buffalo. After a short ride we exited Mudumalai and started riding towards Theppakadu to make a diversion for Masinagudi. We stopped for brief coconut water break in Theppakadu and raced towards the aid station before the climb to Ooty.

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Section in Mudumalai

At the aid station I didn’t feel like eating anything so I decided chow down an energy bar, a gel and a block. Adhyas and I decided that we should move on sooner to avoid getting swept because Kalhatty was a big unknown and we were expecting at least 3 hours for 16km distance. We rested up for may be 30mins, refreshed ourselves and it was good to see a decent restroom at this restaurant in Mavanalla. Bio-degradable, flushable baby wipes are all you need in any type of restroom whether it was Indian or Western style. After refilling our bottles we decided to move on to face Kalhatty.

Day4

Kalhatty (Sigur Ghat) was phenomenal in terms of the climb. The roads were good but narrower than usual roads and they were of steep gradient. For example:- Cars would overheat in this section and I saw cars coming in reverse because they could not shift into lowest gear on a steep hair pin bend. There was may be less than 1% of the section in Kalhatty which was flat that means you are in some form of steep grade throughout and there was no way you could take a break on the saddle coasting. Of all the riding and training I had done it was the only section where I had to use push/pull stroke on my pedals to keep my bike moving and still I was doing may be 1.5-2 miles/hr. Thanks to my cleats and speed play pedals. I could feel that my whole body was working to keep me upright on the bike and make forward progress. I got into a rhythm after about 2 hair pin bends and I was able to consistently keep pedaling without stopping. It was the first time I could see that I was dripping with sweat faster than I was drinking. It was completely a new experience and I have never experienced like this during my training. My goal was to get to the aid station without un-cleating and staying in the saddle. I had decided that I would walk only if I felt that I could not stay in the saddle anymore to there was a risk of falling or injury.

Refilled my bottles in the aid station with new sachet of Perpetuem and finished another energy bar. Took a 5 min break and started pedaling again. I got into a rhythm quickly and was able to maintain 2-3mph where possible but it was getting harder to maintain cadence at this point. I thought to myself that I would be be better off walking rather than biking to prevent any injuries. If I get injured I might have to carry that forward for next 4 days of the tour. I turned around another hair pin bend and I saw the section  of the road that went straight into the clouds and I could not see where it ended and no road visibility thereafter. I knew I had about another 3 kms to go from here and thought it might be a good idea to get off the bike, put back some calories, hydrate and start walking to gain back my rhythm with breathing so I could have clear thoughts. I walked about 2.5 kms, it was easy to walk and road markings confirmed that I was pretty close to the finish and I heard from one of the volunteers that there was one last climb and finish line after that. It was good to see her out there cheering everyone to get on the saddle and get to the finish. I got on the saddle, started pedaling and finished strong. It was a great feeling to finish this tough section. I would do this section again to challenge myself to finish with different set of goals each time.

After Kalhatty we decided to head straight to our hotel for stay and relax for next 2 nights before we embark on our onward journey to Palghat. Adhyas and I stayed in Taj Savoy as planned & booked by us separately. We were very particular about the massage in Taj and preferred some place close to the city.

Day 3 – Madikeri…Sultan Bathery

As we did during Day2 we started early from Madikeri (Scotland of India) to make use of the cool weather in the early morning. We decided to stop at Virajpet or soon after that like ~30km because we would like to have a small brunch before we head into the forest sections where we might not have much opportunity to stop and cool ourselves. Morning ride from Madikeri to Virajpet was through coffee plantations and paddy fields. It was one of the best sections of the entire tour.

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After Virajpet it was pretty dry till we got into forest sections where we could experience some shade, coconut water and relax a little bit with some cool breeze.

Day3

We didn’t have a time goal on this day but we would like to finish early so we can reset up before our mighty Kalhatty climb on Day 4. We stopped at a nice restaurant to grab lunch like dal, rice, rotis and ice creams. It was a welcome break because it was extremely hot during that part of the day. We said to ourselves that it might be a better idea to stay indoors and finish lunch than pushing forward further. After the lunch stop we managed to pull ourselves out of food coma and started riding towards the aid stations to get checked in and proceed forward to finish in Sultan Bathery after a brief competitive section.

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Riding through Nagarhole National park via Kutta and Tholpetty was good to finish the day on a high note. We crossed the Kabini river and it was important to note that this river joins the Cauvery river eventually which ends in Bay of Bengal. Looks like areas around Kabini river and Nagarhole national park would be a good spot to witness wide variety of wildlife in Karnataka. Note to self for future visit to enjoy the wildlife. We did manage to get a traditional kerala massage in the hotel that we were staying in Sultan Bathery and it was good to reset our legs, upper body and arms. We were feeling the soreness after 3 days of biking.

Day 2 – Mysore…Madikeri

Got up early like 3:00am because of jet lag, got ready and went back to sleep in biking gear around 5:15am. We heard breakfast was being served around 6:15ish so we went ahead with our plan and we got off the tour hotel around 6:40ish with GPS tags.

Day2

It was much easier to get off the Mysore city at that time and there was no traffic. We were maintaining a good pace around 14-15mph because we felt fresh and weather was cool and we would like to take advantage of it as much as possible. We knew that it get tougher later because it was going to get hotter during the day and we would have to slow down for more coconut water stops and loo breaks. We stopped in the aid stations to refill water and get a banana if it was available. Stayed away from any other sugary drinks unless it was orange juice in a seal bottled to reset my palate. I survived on energy bars, gels, cliff blocks and salt tablets.

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Coconut Water Stops

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Typical Aid Station Setup

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Typical Aid Station Setup

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Support/Patrol Vehicle

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Fresh Cucumber

We also stopped whenever there was a fresh coconut vendor and we also felt like we didn’t have one in the last 1hour or it has been at least 10 miles. This strategy really helped us throughout our entire ride till we finished in Pollachi. If we bought water outside we would check the bottle to be sealed and if the seal was broken we would not drink it. I personally did not touch any fresh fruit that was cut by someone to avoid any stomach issues and same with cool drinks. For coconut water I would drink directly from the fruit and skip the straw if I found that straw was not clean just to be safe.

    Cucumber story :-
        Adhyas : Cucumber, It looks tasty man...
        Arul : We just had coconut water  :-), I am rolling ...
        Adhyas : Alright, catch up with you soon..

We hit the last aid station around our expected time and we were sure that we were going to make the appointment at 4:00pm. It was a good constant climb getting to Madikeri and I really enjoyed the terrain and scenery in this section. It was best part of the day 2. We reached the tour hotel around 3:00pm and we had plenty of time left to reach Vivanta for our massage.

I would highly recommend the massage center in Vivanta if you are around Madikeri and would like to rejuvenate yourself. Spa center was well maintained and the hotel was located in heart of the forest section completely away from heart of city. It will be a complete disconnect if you end up staying there for couple of days. See pictures below,

We got our massage done, had excellent dinner, was ready to rest up and ride the next day from Madikeri to Sultan Bathery. We knew it had serious rolling terrain and that can be a killer if we don’t pace ourselves during middle part of the day.

Day 1 – Bangalore … Mysore

Our flag-off venue was Shangri-La and we have to reach Mysore before ~6pm or we would get swept. It was around 173Km (100mile+) so it was daunting for me.

Day1

I have never done a 100mile distance and top of that it was totally unknown roads, traffic, pollution and lot of uncertainty that something could go wrong and I will not be able to finish this distance on time.

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Morning traffic in Bangalore – M.G Road & Brigade Road Junction

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got lane? – Thanks to Gangadhar & Ashok for getting us out of Bangalore

I knew one thing from my training that I could keep up 10-12 mile/hour comfortably and have a conversation for 60-70 miles (zone 2). As I had strategized during 2 months of training…I will keep the 10-12 mph pace and should finish within 10hrs so my finish time will be around ~5:30pm provided I don’t run into a flat, mechanical problem and/or nutrition issues. From the start I pulled back myself so I can have fresh legs to pound on for subsequent days. I was on easiest gear all the time whether it was climb or flat and made sure I pedaled with zero effort with good cadence.

It was great riding with Adhyas because we were able to talk with each other and strategize on the fly to make sure we hit our milestones along the way. I kept my pace and caught up with Adhyas during aid station stops and we shared notes on do’s and dont’s at every possible occasion to make sure we are learning from each others experiences as we go. Few lessons,

  • Don’t trust the vehicles or any moving objects around you. Yes…360 degrees.
    • Please be aware that any moving object can change its mind in a fraction of a second and come into your space.
    • Please calibrate constantly and recalculate stopping distance.
    • Please don’t fight by speeding …etc …bikers don’t have a cage around them. Collateral damage – unfair..:-(
  • Reduce speed to < 5 mph as soon as you enter a section of road where there are signs of civilization.
  • TFN was not a closed circuit tour even during competitive sections and it was open to traffic at all times. For example, I got caught in a traffic jam during competitive section for at least 2 mins where two buses have almost ran into each other in a blind curve and blocked both sides of the road. It didn’t matter to me because I was not shooting for any time.

Version 2

I reached Mysore comfortably around 3:30-4:00 pm. No flats and mechanical problems. First 100 miler completed with no injuries and fresh legs to take on next challenges facing us on Day 2. All preparations worked out really well…I was very happy with my bib short selection, saddle and bike fit. It provided me a boost of confidence that I can endure staying on the bike longer.

During dinner on Day 1, Adhyas and I decided that we need to get a massage in Madikeri so we have fresh legs to tackle Day 3 & 4. Before coming to India I had done some research about massage centers in Madikeri and found that Taj Vivanta was the best so I suggested that we should go there for a massage and combine with our dinner plan on Day 2. Due course of our dinner we booked a massage appointment ~4:00pm next day to give ourselves some room. Still it was little ambitious considering we had to do ~5K climb over ~70 miles we might barely scrap in for our appointment.

We thought about starting early like 6:30am sharp so we had ample time to get to Madikeri race hotel and catch a cab to Vivanta. We requested tour coordinators Santosh Lobo & Badri, explained that we had huge motivation to meet our massage appointment and we would like to start early. They were gracious to let us start early as long as we had our GPS tags on the bike.