202 – not out! – Indira Kadambi

202 – not out! – Indira Kadambi

202 – not out! .. 202!..What’s that?!.. Just a number? Hmm.. na.. .then, what? ..Well… let me begin..

Suzanne, 32 year old fit and smart young and tall well built lady, who happened to be my instructor at the basic mountaineering course came over to Chennai to do a bicycle ride from Chennai to Pondicherry along with a guy called Veeresh, whom she had met in Himachal during mountain biking. I was dumb struck..wow!.. Cycling all the way to pondy?.. Oh man!..I never heard about that. She had guts!!.. I was fortunate to host her in chennai. I got to meet Veeresh too.. Till I met them I never knew, that Bikes cost go up to 2 lakhs!!. Mad I thought!. Both of them took off to Pondy in their awesome road bikes. Next day, Veeresh came back alone from Pondy by bus and dropped his bike at my place. First thing he told…Oh god..”Yeendree..Indra, Avalu ondhu raakshasi!!”..(kannada: Indra, that women is a devil)!!..I thought they had some problem in between n fought or something like that. Then he said..ayyo..nothing like that..no fights..She is a super rider. She just zipped off to Pondy just like that!!.. What amazing stamina!, cool:)

Later, He told that he will keep his bike with me for few days and I could try it for a Mahabalipuram ride that was coming up in the following week end. Me to Mahabs!!.. No way. Last I rode my cycle was in my college days 5 to 6 kms and it was 24 yrs back!. I thought I would just try for fun. I convinced my husband to ride along telling him that there would be a support van coming along just in case if we are not able to ride. My son joined the ride looking forward to the breakfast at GRT,Mahabs. So, there we were!. Three of us were exploring cycling to Mahabs. I thought I could do only 10 to 15 kms maximum..But I did 45 kms in my first ride1..We took our own sweet time to reach..I took 3 ½ hours. After that, I got a hang for it. Cycle was still with me. I went for two night rides (35 kms), early morning rides ( 30 – 35 kms) with Chennai bikers and Tamilnadu cycling club. I cycled regularly as part of my training to do my advance mountaineering course.

After I got back from mountaineering course, I wanted to buy a Cycle. Vibhaker helped me to choose one from Suresh’s shop. Suresh really wanted me to buy Cannondale or Bianchi. I told him that cycling for me is just to exercise boss. I would do 30 kms maximum per day and it is good enough.. That’s it. I don’t plan to do long distance at all. Also, I cannot afford those two high end cycles right now. I settled for Shwinn Sporterra, red and white Hybrid model. Later, I bought accessories for it – Front light, backlight, Pouch, tool kit, wireless cyclometer, Air Pump, cycling shorts, number lock, well.. Apart from cycle, accessories came up to ten thousand bucks. I was very happy with my Shwinn. I bought one more Shwinn MTB for my husband and son. Sitting on new bike and riding along East coast road was such a fun. Cycling, meeting new friends, talking, having breakfast at Arusuvai was total relaxation on week ends. I did 2 to 3 sixty kms ride and one 70 km on ECR. I was planning to do Mahabs and back. That means around 90 kms. Finally Murthy announced a ride in TNCC mail..

12th September

Hi, There are two options for the Chennai Pondicherry Chennai Ride 200 / 300 Kms
1. Start – Madhyakailash- GST road – Thindivanam (116 Km) – Pondicherry – ECR – Madhyakailash – Distance ( 300 Kms ) – Start Time : 4.00 am Ride Time : 12 hours.

2. Start ECR Toll Uthandi – ECR Toll Pondicherry – ECR Toll Uthandi
Distance (200 Kms ) Start Time : 4.00 am Ride Time :8 hours max


Well, I didn’t even bother to have a second look at this as I knew this was not my cup of Tea. But then one more letter came.

14th September,

Those who want to do shorter distance can start along at the same time with the group and loop back from either Scenic View point ( 60 Kms) or Mahabalipuram ( 85 Kms) . Please update your details in the spread sheet accordingly.


Wow..This sounds good.. From 70 kms , now I could jump to 85 kms. I registered for it. On 16th September, I met Venkat online on facebook.

Venkat – Hey, joining us for pondy?

Indira – no way.. Doing Mahabs first. Try to get 100 and then think of pondy.

Venkat – common, u have A grade in mountaineering. I am confident. u can do.
Indira – I think I can but I can’t ride along with murthy and vibha who just zoom off, If I do at my pace, I think I can. But I don’t want to pull down the whole group. So, next time. Also, Murthy has mentioned in his letter “The ride is a long distance endurance ride, it would be better if you have done over 100kms in a day previously, so that the group stays together.”
Venkat – No. U can. I will pick u at 3.30am on 18th. We will do it
Indira – hmm.. yes.. no ..yes.. no…well..OK !! .. See ya

On 17th evening, I took my bike to near by cycle shop and got it checked and fixed wireless cyclometer to it. Bought few energy bars; Filled water in camel bag; Kept some enerzal; During this whole process of preparation, my mind kept telling – go till Mahabs with them Indira and come back. Don’t break your head too much.. That night, I could not sleep at all.
I had to get up at 3am on 18th. I made a pair of cheese sandwiches and packed it. I had a glass of milk and banana. I was out near the gate with my cycle at 3.30 sharp..No sign of Venkat even till 3.40. Oh good. I can go back to sleep I thought. He wasn’t picking up his phone too. By, 3.45, Venkat turned up and we removed the front wheel and pushed our bikes in his car and zoomed off to ECR toll in 15 minutes. Vibha and Murthy were waiting there at toll. I guess they were surprised to see me!.. When I saw Murthy’s face, First thing I noticed was his e mail words started dancing in front of my eyes like Taare zameem par “The ride is a long distance endurance ride, it would be better if you have done over 100kms in a day previously, so that the group stays together.”

Ha ha:)..i couldn’t help laughing at myself.

At 4.20am, four of us started. It was pretty dark. Head lights were on. Back lights were flashing. Till 6am, my legs were just on the pedals. Nothing to look around. Good in one way. You don’t know where you are. Just keep cycling or else, mind keeps thinking – ayyo, we are still at MGM? Still at crocodile bank?.. Traffic was quite less. On and off, we could see some buses, trucks, cars and bikes passing by. Good. my eyes started seeing things at the sunrise. We had just passed Mahabs. That was 26 kms then. Around 6.30 am, we stopped for Tea break – 15 minutes and started our journey. Weather was simply superb. I wished it would be like that through out the day. Even at 7.30, there was no sign of sun coming out .He was happily behind the clouds. Good for him. Good for us.. It looked like it had rained previous night. It was cool. Head winds were there which made it bit difficult.

Journey was excellent. Riding along the lovely sea coast, along side backwaters, the smell of wet mud, the green and golden brown lush paddy fields, people walking and cycling, the sound of the bells around the cattle’s neck, grey temple to the back drop of these paddy fields, Bright yellow temple and black goats standing one behind the other in the back drop of back waters; sound of the divine vedic chants coming out of temple; fishing boats n nets, Birds chirping; Magical view of the sea from the bridge at Mudaliar kuppam, the colorful statues of Village deities surrounded by beautiful long coconut trees; kids waving their hands; lovely birds sitting on electrical poles; hot tea steaming off road side shops; sound of the wind blowing all along; Journey was indeed beautiful, colorful and good feast to the ears too.

We broke for lunch at Hotel Mid way, We had traveled 75 kms by then.. I had good Masala Dosa and ginger tea. Others had pongal and idli vada. It was a wise choice. They need not remove gloves nor wash their hands. Just have it in spoon. Hmm. Things to learn. I stretched for some time and filled up my camel bag and bottle of electrol. We got ready to hit pondy toll which was 25 kms away. All along the way, I kept seeing those fast moving white and green AC buses which read ECR. My mind was filled with happiness” yes!!!!!! ..This is the bus I am going to take on my way back from pondy toll..yayyyy Vibha and Murthy were always ahead of venkat and me. Poor venkat was caught up with me. Well. That was the risk he took..haha:)

Finally we reached Pondy toll at 9.40 am..yayyy!!! That was my first 100 ! !!..Vibhas reading showed 100.5 kms and Venkat’s readings showed 102 kms !!.. What ever, it was above 100 !!..ha ha..I.called my husband and then my brother and shared this happy news. We all had good coconut water. Then, My eyes started looking for those white and green AC buses!..But voices around me said – you are coming back Indira with us cycling to Chennai!..we will not allow you to board the bus. Buses won’t stop here. They wont allow cycles… ayyyoooooooo.. NO. I screamed.. gg rrrr….Buses do stop. Buses do take cycles on their top. I aimed at 100. I have done it.. So, let’s see next time :).. Vibha, murthy and venkat again – Common Indira, you will never get this opportunity like this. Who can do 200 in first shot itself without doing 100…common..U can do it . Weather is cool. Jus do it!…

Ok I said..But, on one condition!!. Murthy and Vibha are going to be behind me. They agreed. But after 2 kms, as usual they were some where They just zoomed….Hmm.. Well Venkat and myself had good enjoyable ride too though a bit slow. No issues. In long distance, Endurance is important. It was my first attempt too. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking of Murthy’s e mail “The ride is a long distance endurance ride, it would be better if you have done over 100 kms in a day previously, so that the group stays together.”

Well. Murthy is a very nice person but doesn’t want to stop or take breaks anywhere. His favorite lines – let’s go let’s go!! He is experienced and encouraging too.Vibhaker is a total professional. He was a national champion for several years. This Feb, He is taking part in an International event. And I can’t thank Venkat enough for inspiring me and being with me through out the journey putting breaks on his legs !

Well.. My journey towards 200 began! My mind told.. Indira, take a break at Hotel Mid way, drink something and take a bus and go back to Chennai. Yes. . I am going to do that. Well.. After an hour, as planned we had a stop over at the Hotel, we refilled bottles and my mind was now in a fix.. Do it Indira.. NO..just hop on a bus indira.. Ayyo.. Finally, I thought I will do it but take one step at a time. I am going to aim at only 25 kms at a time. Yes. That’s it. But this break here made my fingers go a bit numb. My knee was hurting a bit but the pain in the butt was not just a pain in the butt but was really a pain in the butt! GG rrrrrrr.. Next stop was for Tea after 25 kms. But Mr.Venkat who had gone ahead forgot to see the Tea shop and just went ahead. So, three of us had to blindly go behind him without a break.

The stretch between 125 kms and 175 kms was killing. My cardio was perfect. But for that Butt!!! ..well. The smiles given by those village women were quite encouraging. But there were few boys who were also cycling. They were in their school uniforms. Looked like typical teenage boys. Full show offJ Sometimes they used to over take me and turn back and grin at me. Then, they kept teasing.. Hello.. Where are u going? Very nice cycle.. and so on. I asked them” hey!.. What are you guys studying? They replied. 9th.and other 10th.. I said” wow. Really!.. That’s nice. Even my son is in 9th now”. They were dumb stuck. They were speechless for sometime…They just said.. Super auntie. Byeee.and went off.:)..ha ha 🙂

Apart from nice things that I saw, I was sad to see so many little creatures dead on road side. A tiny little snake, a little bird, squirrels, Dogs.. All of them run over by speeding vehicles. Life goes on. Nothing can be done I guess. But, especially, when the dog is on the road, either dog dies or we die. They are so unpredictable creatures when they are on road but at home, they are the most trustworthy.

Everything was an experience to cherish. Only thing I disliked in the whole journey was the sight of that White and green AC bus…GGrrrrrrr.. It kept reminding me of the distance that I need to cycle to Chennai and my speed and time taken.. and my unfulfilled dream of getting into that bus!
Finally, it was lovely to reach Mahabalipuram bypass and we stopped for lunch in a road side small shop. It was 2.30 by then. We had hot rotis and dal. Then, we drank good butter milk. Three of them started their conversation…Hey indira, this is a record. No women as of we know here has done 200 km in one day. We are very happy and proud of you..!…. Wow!..really!..I was jumping with joy. I never knew it nor planned for it. Whether they just told that to encourage me or whether it was really true, that’s not the point. I was in cloud 9. I sent a message to my close friends telling about my feat.I was happy for my efforts. Each time I am learning new lessons. This time, I learnt that one can achieve anything but one has to put their mind into it. Lesson learnt from my advance mountaineering – Take one step at a time. Live in the present.
Then, I refilled my camel back with cold water and here we were in last leg of our 200 km journey – 25 kms more to go..yayy!!..I had got back the energy.. I was feeling good and excited to. Three of them just took off. As I was cycling, I realized, Cycle was not moving at all. I was sure I had lot of power. But then I thought probably my mind is thinking so and my body is weak. All of a sudden, The road seemed to be going upwards!. Something was wrong.. I just bent down to see that tire had got punctured..Ha aha haJ.. Thankfully, three of them were waiting for me little ahead.. Murthy said that I need to go by bus.. Ayyo..my plans of finishing 200! Gone! ??…No way. Mountaineers never give up so easily.

Each one of us had different bikes. Murthy had Road bike. Vibha had MTB, and Venkat had Hybrid. That’s good. My cycle is Hybrid too!!. I requested Venkat to give me the spare tube. Finally Murthy and Venkat fixed my cycle. Now, It felt right. Road was not upwards, It was straight. My body was not weak. It was energetic. So, now I was all set to do the remaining 18 kms at one go. It was a familiar route. I knew exactly when the ECR toll would come. Wow. My happiness knew no bounds. There..5, 4, 3, 2, 1.. I hit 200 + kms!!…But then what’s 202 ??!..That’s the average taken from Vibhas and Venkat’s cyclometer.! One reading showed 201 and other showed 203.!!

Yay…my 202 !!.. Thanks a lot Venkat, Vibha, and Murthy for giving me this wonderful experience…One second please…wait…. I see a mail here on FB.. Venkat says he is doing 300 and counting me for that!.. Hello venkat!!! …NOOOOOO… that’s it.. I enjoyed 202 ! and Iam not out!…but, for now not a km more!! Ha ha ha..

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