07th Feb.- Saturday 23:25hrs.
It’s damn chilly out here and every breath you take in brings out just another sore cough. We careen round the corner and happen to sight a couple of lorry drivers gambling on the roadside by the moonlight. Mallik and I park the bikes and venture ahead to enquire how far we were from Thangaon. 18Kms is what we get in response. Almost instantaneously I spurt out – Give it a damn! I lose my patience and decide to quit. Quit a race that I’ve been mentally preparing for close to three months now. I believe in my instincts and truly live by it!Another look at Mallik and Trupti only reconfirms the decision – I was not alone.
We decide to move a bit ahead to a safer place, pedal uphill, take a left and glide down the hill. A bit ahead to the left, the rays from my head lamp happens to cause the Enduro vest of another cyclist shimmer. As we slow down we see a lady lying by the corner. A quick glance at him and he lets us know that she was finding it difficult to breathe and their third team mate had left about half an hour back to Thangaon in search of medical help. All attempts to contact the marshals out there was futile.This only strengthens our decision to leave the Enduro3-09 book open this time. Endurance is something you need to test at some point of time in life – But when you realise the odds are simply illogical and you could end up losing something more vital, you’ll know you don’t have to prove to some third person how high a bar you can jump.
That said, let’s move over to the rosier aspects of the race.
06:30 hrs. The pre-race registration begins at the University of Pune grounds. As we reach the grounds, we get to hear the Silver rock band tuning their equipment. Soon, the team leads are requested to report their teams and collect the vests, directions brochure and trash bags.As we adorn the vests and try demystifying the understandably abstract Google satellite maps, teams still scoop in to the grounds with Hercules, Atlas, Firefox, Merida’s and Trek’s. You won’t believe one lad had actually re-modelled an Atlas basic bike to sport derailleur and gears! In about an hour the vast ground is all vibrant with participants, marshals, organisers and people who’d come to cheer their peers. The ‘Silver’ band delivers a pumping performance followed by a random introductory call by the organisers. Meanwhile the teams are spread out on the ground categorically and at about 09:30 hrs. Enduro3-09 is given a flag off. It’s a tremendous feeling to witness the swarm of bikes flushing out of the podium.What with high bass rock songs being doled out as each category rolled out of the grounds. Man, You really need to be there to experience it!
The Warm-up ride
The first 10kms was a warm up ride from the University of Pune to the NDA campus [ Chandini Chowk]. In minutes, Pune roads are taken over by the red wave. Heavy vehicular movement literally comes to a standstill and paths are made to give us a free way. Knowingly or unknowingly, the city succumbs to the green drive! At about 10:15hrs we reach Chandani Chowk.
Well, even roses wilt on the Table top
Close to Garden court is where the first ‘Time Check’ -TC begins. Right at the moment when you think all is good, the dirt track begins. Prior to the race, I had this mindset that 80 percent of the roads that we were supposed to ride on, would be proper tar roads and that ‘dirt tracks’ was only for a short patch. Little did I know, this was just the beginning. A little before the NDA main gate we’re directed to take a left to the dirt patch. The first few minutes are rocking moments. Fifteen minutes into this and soon you get to know what really rocking is! With the mercury rising and you’re ass rising equivalently on the saddle, only time reasons out why you have that splitting head ache. The trail goes on for about half an hour and finally we reach the NDA Polo grounds passing through Table top and covering a few checkpoints.
Wish we were in the Amateur category!
The next section of the race was ‘called’ Orienteering. You’re supposed to follow the instructions, navigate using a compass and traverse through the hills, reach a specified point and then get back to the start point. All I can comment on this section is that is was a perfectly illogical, purposeless. What sense does it make to trek in the hot sun with no specific goal? In about an hour or so we reach the start point totally exhausted. The guys in the amateur category on the other hand were asked to do paddling at Peacock Bay!
Done with the ‘Orienteering’ we then are directed to head towards Neelkanteshwar Phata touching Peacock Bay, Khadakwadi and Mandvi.Thankfully, you get to fill your bottles with water at Peacock bay. All through the way, you get to see people popping off their bikes and crashing on the ground.Just round the corner yet another team stops over to mend their bikes, the Photographers tag behind to capture pain and emotions. It’s all a silent solemn ride. At about 17:05hrs we reach PC3.From here we’re directed to reach Kuran fork. This stretch is a mix of flats and slopes. Another two hours of silent struggle through Dawje, Kuran Budruk, Varasgaon dam and we finally reach TC4.
It’s 19:05hrs and we’re almost ripped out. At the TC4 check point a cheerful marshal comes across and gives us directions to the last checkpoint for the cycling section. Just 18 more kms is what she says. Ride straight, keep to your right – few more kilometeres again take a right and soon you should reach Thangaon. ‘How bad are the roads?’ one of us sarcastically asks and to our timed relief she responds saying – ‘Pretty good. Just flats!’.
At 19:30 hrs we start riding towards Thangaon. The purported 18kms remains an elusive magical number. A few people that we get to meet en-route tell us we’re still 25kms away and to add fuel to fire, we get to know roads are very much under construction and they’re in a pretty bad state now. Everty turn round the corner leads you to just another uphill and the gradient always seems to be on the positive side. To add to all this the road construction work brings about a totally different terrain. All you’re left to do is to push your bike up the gradients! It’s damn chilly out here and every breath you take in brings out just another sore cough. We careen round the corner and happen to sight a couple of lorry drivers gambling on the roadside by the moonlight. Mallik and I park the bikes and venture ahead to enquire how far we were from Thangaon. 18Kms is what we get in response. Almost instantaneously I spurt out – Give it a damn! I lose my patience and decide to quit. Quit a race that I’ve been mentally preparing for close to three months now. I believe in my instincts and truly live by it! Another look at Mallik and Trupti only reconfirms the decision – I was not alone. At about 23:30 hrs we take the bait. It just didn’t make sense to continue. Ideally we were supposed to reach TC5 [ Thangaon ] at least by 00:00hrs and complete the second orienteering section by 02:00hrs to remain qualified. We still had a very good chance of being in the race had we pushed a bit more. But the decision was taken considering several factors and it was best to enjoy the remaining part of the race at least.In this mad rush for the past twelve hours or so all we’ve done was to pedal madly on the roads without giving much interest to the ambience around. Only during the early hours of 8th Feb do we really take in the environs! A quick dinner(?) and we crash in our sleeping bags in one corner of the road.
The alarm hoots at 01:00am. We’d to reach the base camp by 04:00am. 18more kms to go and all that keeps us moving ahead is the fear that we may have to ride our bikes back to Pune if we happen to reach late. Just about five kms before reaching Thangaon, we take it easy and catch another nap for an hour or so. Finally at about 06:00hrs we reach Thangaon base camp. Enduro3 09 ends here for us.We leave the Thangaon base camp by the only available state transport bus at about 07:30hrs. Guess this was the only day in the whole year when the bus was filled beyond its capacity! But for a few smiling faces here and there, all you get to see is blood shot eyed faces and idle minds wondering on the day that was yesterday.As the bus winds back through the same route that we cycled, we still see teams still pushing their bikes up the slopes trying to reach the basecamp, teams lying on the sides catching sleep.
On the other hand, a few of the teams had already started the trekking post the night orienteering. Later we get to know they had to hike for about 12hrs, followed by a river crossing and a final sprint of about 40kms to reach the final destination. Two other infy teams – Team Vagabonds [Prawaal, Bani and Revathi] and Team Punctured [NIshant, Pankaj and Nikita] commendably complete the race. Team Punctured lose the second runners up to Team Vagabonds by a whisker of just about three minutes. All said, hats off to their mental endurance! And if this is for just the IT category folks, wonder what act of obeisance would the Open category folks call for!
A few things that I guess the Enduro3 committee needs to keep in mind while organising the event next year.
- Purandare. Thanks for anchoring this wonderful race but Chill! Out here everyone seems to be talking of your brusque attitude.I’ve not met you in person but that’s the image I’ve got!
- The Enduro3 website for the most part of it does not hold any information on the race details. For people who participate from outstation the dependency is pretty high!
- Not everyone who participates in the race is a super-human. Medical help or emergency action posts need to be setup at least every five kilometeres. Agreed, it’s a lot of overhead but at least radio contact can be arranged!I myself have come across two incidents when people needed help and would have been well off had they got it a bit earlier.
- Guys, I sincerely wonder if the marshals were asked to give wrong stats on the path and distance just to motivate people. If so, we’re highly mistaken. Details such as this just cannot be manipulated. Thankgaon-18Kms, flat, good condition roads? GIve me a break! Knowing one’s goal point is much of a necessity and all are not knowledgeable enough to judge distances based on the google maps provided.
- Agreed Enduro3 is all about endurance testing. But what if a team is miserably down and does not have water?
- Ah, for cyclists Treks, Meridas, Firefox, Hercules and Atlas are much more valuable than BMWs, Rolls Royce and Mercs. You just cannot pile the bikes as in a scrap van when getting them back from Thangaon to Pune.Gosh, a few folks would have spent 20 and 30 grand on them. Theses bikes DEMAND respect. Couldn’t you have brought them more humanly? [Let me see if I can get my friend to send across the picture of the transport truck that he had taken.]
- Teams which have completed the race deserve to be given credit. This year the only differentiating factor between a team that had participated and completed the race was a single strike on the certificate.And oh , Yes. They didn’t even have their names written on them! Next year if you need some help in filling the forms, call in a few more participants to help you out with the certificates. We’ll be all the more happy to show our respect for them!
And a few things commendable about the event this year:
- Awesome flag off ceremony! The red wave on Pune city roads caught quite a few surprised.
- Cool night reflector caps and vests.
- You marshals deserve a heartfelt thanks for those motivating words.[ Probably it was we who construed them wrong ]
All in all, it was a tremendous experience. Enduro3-09 has taught me to defy the saying – Never Quit! and equate it to – ‘Weigh your options!’ and I’m sure when I hit for Enduro3-’10 I’ll be a sharpened diamond with this years experience!
All pics courtesy: Ayush [Team SubZero ]