This is a long-ish post about my journey as a runner and a cyclist, over the past 2+ years. I thought I would share my experiences with fellow sports and fitness enthusiasts thru this post.
I hope it inspires a few people to take up some form of physical activity that becomes a life-changing experience.
I have been running on a regular basis since Feb-2017, starting out with the Manipal Runners’ Club (MRC) in the Manipal Marathon 2017 – I took part in the 10k event, which was the longest distance I had ever run in my life.
One of MRC’s taglines reads: “One run can change your day. Many runs can change your life.” That line is applicable to me in more ways than I can write down! Indeed running has changed my life – in terms of physical fitness, making new friends, pushing myself to do better and better, and so on.
I moved out from Manipal in end-2018 back to Gandhidham, where I stay.
Sometime in Feb-2018, I was nudged by my nephew into going cycling with him. It started off as a somewhat challenging ride of 17 kms to a nearby place, from where we returned by car (with the bikes strapped onto a rear stand).
I didn’t take up cycling in a serious way until I bought a new ‘hybrid’ bike in April 2018, after which I discovered a whole new world of delightful places around the countryside.
We would go running or cycling on alternate days 3 – 4 times a week, and enjoyed the experience.
And then in June 2018, we registered for a mini-Duathlon – 30k cycling followed by 7.5k running!
Up until then, we had never gone cycling AND running in close succession. There was a Triathlon event as well (swimming, cycling and running), but we knew that it was the Duathlon for us. This event was jointly organised by a couple of local sports clubs – the KDBA Swimming Family and the Gandhidham Cycling Club (GCC).
A good friend from my Manipal days, was thrilled to hear about this, and his only piece of advice for me was: “Sirji, please make sure you go for a couple of practice cycling + running sessions before the event day. It is alright to go cycling or running on alternate days, but not at all easy to do both in close succession.” Prophetic words for me! I did go for a 30k ride, and a 5k run – and quickly learnt the meaning of the term “rubbery legs”! LOL!
On the event day, it was exhausting to say the least – but what an experience it was for myself and many other first-time Duathlon participants in my town. During the post-event fun and socialising, we got to know about the GCC which was later renamed as the Black Panthers Sports Club for various reasons. I joined the club soon after that day, and there has been no looking back after that!
Joining this club changed my running & cycling routine from being an evening activity to an early-morning one.
A good change for me, despite my initial misgivings about getting up between 4:30 to 5:00 AM! We started going for “short” rides of 20k, slowly increasing the distance to 30, 40 and 50k over the next few weeks.
And then the big one came up – a 120k Gran Fondo ride in end-July! (A ride of 100k or more is called a Gran Fondo.) After the initial wave of shock, scepticism, and “no-way” reactions, some of us newbies took it up as a challenge.
Nine of us took off for the ride early on a Sunday morning – 6 first-timers accompanied by 3 experienced riders – and returned around 1:00 PM – completely exhausted, with painful saddle sores, and a new-found spirit and confidence that we did something that not many people may have the good fortune of experiencing. Fortunately during the ride there were no punctured tyres, or mechanical breakdowns – although we did go prepared with puncture kits, hand-pumps, and what-not!
Things were going well with running and cycling, though to be honest, there were hardly any club members who were really interested in running. There were 4 – 5 of us who would go running once or twice a week, but the majority of members preferred to go cycling only. A couple of the more adventurous members were training to participate in Half-Ironman Triathlon events, and I used to go with them on their running days.
We tried to get more people to join us in running, but met with mixed success. Some people would join us for a few days, but then drop out because it was tougher than cycling, or due to leg pain after their first couple of runs, etc…
(to be continued…)
Sometime in early January 2019, one of the club members (a triathlete, with whom I used to go for long rides) called to inform me that the Amdavad Crankmeisters had announced their second International Triathlon Challenge (ITC-2019) which had many events ranging from Triathlon to Duathlon in the Half-Iron, Olympic and Sprint categories in Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
He said that I should join him (and a few others) for the event on 17th February in the Half-Iron Brickathon (Duathlon) category. This was a combination of 90k cycling followed by 21k running!
My first reaction was – “Yeah, right! Thank you, but that is not for me!” But he was insistent, and then on second thoughts I said, why not!
Within a few days, 16 of us registered in different categories in the ITC-2019, and we excitedly started training and planning for the event!
Sure we were all nervous, and some of us were jittery about being able to complete their event within the maximum allotted time! Nevertheless we all started off with some serious training sessions in cycling followed by running, though not quite in ‘event specific’ conditions.
A couple of weeks before the event, the BPSC guys organised a small practice event of 20k cycling + 5k running (with support, hydration, nutrition, etc.). This was a good way to experience what awaited us in Gandhinagar on the 17th.
My training was not exactly ‘scientific’ or ‘well-structured’, but I was getting used to the demands of cycling + running and felt reasonably confident that I would not break down on race day.
We all left for Gandhinagar on the 16th for the pre-race expo and instructions. Things didn’t go exactly very smoothly during the road trip, with a minor scare on one of the bike stands that came loose! We reached there eventually, and after checking-in our bikes at the venue, and a short but informative session on the next day’s activities, left for the day.
The next day started early for most of us, with flag-off times starting from 4 AM to 10 AM depending on which event we were in. The Half-Iron Brickathon was flagged off at 7 AM, and we set off on the cycling leg. Perfect weather, a fast & flat route, combined with excellent race organisation made it a breeze – literally, because we had a gentle tailwind helping us along.
It seemed quite easy, almost effortless to ride along at a steady pace – and then I got the shock of my life when I saw my average pace at the 15k mark! I was riding at an average pace of 24 kmph – a speed well above my targeted average – and not feeling tired.
My primary aim while cycling was to complete the distance without getting too tired, and keeping more than enough in the tank for the much tougher grind of running 21k later, in the morning sun.
As things turned out, I completed the 90k cycling distance in 3 hours 44 minutes, and felt just fine! After a transition time of around 8 minutes (I can’t remember what I did for 8 long minutes!), I set off on the running leg, at a slow jog.
The running route was a 5k circuit which had to be covered 4 times by the 21k runners, with hydration and nutrition breaks every 1.25 kms. I must admit that it seemed a bit boring to run the same route over and over again, but the adrenaline of race day and my calm resolve to just keep going saw me through in the end. Also, the camaraderie of seeing fellow athletes with the same resolve and focus on the final target helped to keep my spirits up all the way.
We had a maximum time of 7 hours 30 minutes allotted to complete the Half-Iron Brickathon. I had been playing with the numbers trying to figure out the optimum speed for the cycling and running legs since many days. But come race day those numbers went out of the window, because I was just going with the flow and maintaining a much better pace than I had thought I was capable of.
After what seemed like an eternity (but was actually 2 hours 43 minutes) I finished the 21k run, and crossed the finish line with a sense of relief and elation at having completed the event in 6 hours 35 minutes – almost an hour before the maximum time!
I know, it may seem like a below-par time, but for me (like many of my fellow club members) the joy of competing in and finishing the event was of far greater importance than coming up anywhere near the top.
The post-race physio-cum-stretching session and some excellent food helped a lot in staying on our feet, and we all left the venue with our spirits high, and a promise to return next year!
This article was written by Khushnood Viccaji.