Reigniting the Passion: Gokul and Chitti’s Everesting

After a brief hiatus, my passion for cycling was reignited through Gokul and Chitti’s successful Everesting. While I never anticipated replicating their feat, fate had other plans in store. Krishna, an ultra-endurance cyclist under Gokul’s tutelage, sought smaller milestones in preparation for a gruelling 2022 event. The Trenching served as one of these milestones, and when Krishna invited us to join him, I seized the opportunity. My primary motivation was to prove to myself that if Gokul could do it, so could I. Thus began my journey toward the Trenching.

Training for the Challenge: Hill Repetitions and Nutrition Optimization

As a rule, safety always takes precedence for me. Hence, I abstained from racing due to the associated risks. Similarly, I refused to embark on the Trenching without meticulous planning and preparation. Accordingly, I focused on regular hill repetitions during training, substituting long weekend rides with similar drills. During the training sessions, we focused on finding the right nutrition. It was important to find what suited our bodies. We adjusted it to optimize performance. All of this was leading up to the Trenching event. Typically, nutrition was my Achilles’ heel, and so, we exerted ourselves during training to replicate the exhaustion that would inevitably arise post several hours of riding. As a result, we pushed ourselves to the limits, soldiering on even when exhausted, to prepare for the challenges ahead. To further solidify our climbing technique, we performed multiple half-everestings and climbed various hills leading up to the event.

Seeking Guidance: Tips from Gokul

Gokul, having completed the Everesting before, provided invaluable tips and recommendations to guide our efforts. Krishna and I agreed that conquering a hill like BNR, which requires more reps and covers greater distances due to its short, unremarkable gradient, was more challenging. Therefore, we decided to explore Horsley Hills, which seemed to be the perfect fit on paper. The climb spanned eight kilometres and provided 490 meters of elevation gain per lap. This allowed us to maintain rhythm for longer periods with fewer reps. The gradient was perfect, with a gentle 6% slope.

However, we were uncertain about the road conditions and opted to conduct a reconnaissance mission by performing a half-everesting ride to verify our plans. Fortunately, the route was in good condition, free of significant damage, and speed bumps. The climb also provided ample visual stimulation, with the first four kilometers evoking a city climb, while the last four resembled a forest ascent. Moreover, at every kilometer, we identified landmarks to break up the monotony of the climb.

The Crucial Role of the Support Crew

Our success during the Trenching hinged on the support crew, given the event’s extended duration. Any misstep on their part could quickly derail our efforts, increasing the risk of failure. Consequently, Krishna formed a seven-person support team. They had to take time off from work during the week to provide assistance. We scheduled the ride for a weekday, given the weekend traffic’s unfavorable conditions during the climb.

After the first lap

We commenced our journey on a Tuesday, traveling from Hyderabad and reaching Horsley Hills, roughly 550 kilometers away, by afternoon. After dinner and early bedtime, we elected not to set an alarm and commenced our ride around 10 am after a leisurely breakfast.

Commencing the Journey: Riding through Rain and Challenging Night Conditions

Our journey commenced at 10 AM after breakfast, and our aim was to limit our effort to Zone 2 during the initial ascent, unlike our training rides. The first three to four climbs were a cakewalk for me, and I even joked that I was deceiving myself as it was meant to be a rigorous and arduous event. Nonetheless, the sky was not impressed with my joke, and heavy rain poured for two hours, followed by a continuous drizzle for two more hours. We continued riding in our rain gear despite the rainfall. The downpour reduced visibility early in the evening, and the temperature plummeted. We wore our jackets while descending and removed them while ascending.

A Test of Endurance: Riding through Deer Encounters and Cold Weather

However, the real challenge occurred at night when the locals warned us that deer and wild boars tend to wander closer to the road due to the rain. During the second half of our ascent, we encountered several deer; some were calm and silent, staring at us like statues, while others ran away at an astonishing speed. We were aware that our safety was paramount, so we proceeded with caution during the descent. Throughout the night, we rode side by side both uphill and downhill, which increased the time taken for each ride. We had planned the event on a full moon day, hoping for some illumination at night, but the cloud cover prevented us from even seeing the moon.

Hemanth offering a massage after breakfast

Our cautious riding resulted in completing fewer laps by sunrise, which pushed our expected completion time further. Initially, we had hoped to finish the ride by the second evening before sunset, but on the second morning, we knew that we would have to ride during the second night, which irritated me. We took a shower, changed into fresh jerseys and shorts, and had breakfast. After breakfast, I decided to ride without breaks after the laps to finish faster.

Strategy Adjustments: Splitting Laps and Long Breaks

However, that meant Krishna would have to continue riding after I finished, which he was not pleased about. Eventually, we had ten laps left to ride. At the beginning of the second lap, I believed that continuing with longer breaks between laps was better than finishing the ride quickly and having nothing to do. I decided to split the ten laps into non-stop rides of 4-3-3, taking longer breaks in the middle to allow Krishna to catch up.

Riding alone in the morning lap

As per my plan, I completed the second lap, and without wasting any time, began the third lap, only pausing to swap my bottle. Throughout all the laps, I had been carrying a single bottle, which I mixed with Unived Drink Mix and occasionally supplemented with Recovery Mix in a separate container. Inadvertently, my bottles got swapped during the third lap, resulting in the flavors mixing together. Despite having consumed the carbohydrate-rich mixture every five minutes from the water bottle, my body was utterly depleted due to 24 hours of non-stop cycling. Unfortunately, the water tasted so repugnant due to the mix-up that I couldn’t drink it. After riding for 2-3 kilometers on the climb, I could feel my body completely lacking in energy.

Overcoming Obstacles: Dealing with Energy Depletion and Flavor Mishaps

Despite this, I forced myself to drink the water, which caused me to feel nauseous due to the vile taste. I continued my arduous journey at an excruciatingly slow pace, thinking that even if I progressed slowly, I would eventually reach the top and be done with it. I finished that lap without stopping on the climb, though it took around 20 minutes more than the other laps. Once I arrived at the top, I refreshed my mouth by consuming some Coke and ingesting some sugar. Rather than taking a break on the next lap, I decided to rest during the third lap. After waking up from a 40-minute nap, I had some dal rice, and I felt significantly better.

The other laps were more comfortable and uneventful. During the third and fourth last laps, Shailendra joined me while climbing to pace me up, which was a tremendous help. I aimed to make a complete effort on both the descent and climb during the final lap. As it was around 9 PM and pitch black, I requested Hemanth to follow me in the car to increase the throw of the lights and enable me to cycle faster.

The Final Push: Descending Aggressively and Climbing Strongly

By this point, we had a clear idea of the rough stretches and turns, even without the light. I descended very aggressively, took a U-turn at the bottom, and started climbing, just as it started pouring heavily. I dropped my phone in the car and continued to climb hard, reminding myself that every pedal stroke and every meter I completed would not have to be repeated. This was the last time I would have to climb. Despite the front light dying with over half a lap remaining, I didn’t need it at this point, having spent the last 35 hours on these roads. At no point during the climb did I ease off, finishing strong.

After completing the ride, I headed back to my room, took a shower, and returned to wait for Krishna to finish. The cold and fog had intensified by the time Krishna arrived. After being congratulated by the team, we retired for a well-deserved sleep.