Riding to the deepest point in the world/Trenching - By Sampath V

After a couple of years break, my riding restarted with Gokul’s and Chitti’s Everesting. Back then, I never expected to do something similar but the occurence of events had a different plan. Krishna, one of the athlete whom Gokul coaches is an ultra endurance cyclist who plans to do a very tough event in 2022 and wanted smaller milestones to achieve it. The trenching is one such milestone. He was checking with us if any of us wanted to join him and I immediately agreed more from the point of view of, if Gokul can do it I shall also do it. Thats how it started. 

In general, safety is always my priority and for the same reason, I decided to not get back into racing because of the risks that are involved. Similarly, I don't want this huge ride to leave any injuries on me and if I am attempting, I want to plan and execute if perfectly. So the training involved doing regular hill reps and even the weekend long ride was replaced with hill repeats. During these training rides, the idea was to figure out the nutrition of what works to our bodies and keep fine tuning it leading up to the event. In general, nutrition is one of biggest weakness for me. We also were riding hard in the training rides to simulate the fatigueness that will kick in post the several hours of riding. Once we get tired, we just survive and push till the end. Leading up to the main event, we managed to do couple of half everesting, and multiple hill repeats and climbing rides to ensure our climbing technique is good.

As we had the luxury of having inputs from Gokul who has done the everesting before, we could get lot of valuable info and suggestions. Both me and Krishna felt doing something like BNR Hills like Gokul is far more tougher as it involves lot more reps and more distance due to its short and not so steep gradient. So, Krishna explored and found Horsley Hills which felt perfect theoritically. Its a 8 kms. climb and each lap gives 490m of elevation gain. So, mentally we had much lesser reps to do and we can hold the rythm for much longer. The gradient also felt prerfect with 6% average. But we were not sure about the road condition, so decided to do a recce with half everesting ride and finalize. The route was perfect without much bad stretches and speed breakers. It also has variations to keep the mind engaged and free from boredom. The first four kms. feel like a city climb with plenty of views and the last four kms. feel like a forest climb. And every kilometer, we had points which we could use like mindblocks. So the climb was perfect.

The success of the attempt will primarily depend on the support crew considering the ride will be so long. Any small mistake will affect other things which can increase the chances of failure. Krishna managed to get a seven person team for the support who had to take off from work on weekdays. We had to do the ride on the weekday because the weekend traffic is terrible on the climb.

We started from Hyderabad on Tuesday morning, reached Horsley Hills which is around 550 kms. away by afternoon, had dinner and slept off early. We didn't target a specific time to start as we don't want to wake up with an alarm. We woke up around 6, had breakfast and started the ride at 10 AM. Unlike the training rides, the plan is to hold back ourselves to keep our effort to Zone 2 in the inital reps. The first three to four cimbs felt effortless for me and in fact I was commenting that I feel I was cheating as its supposed to be a tough and challenging event but everything was going so smoothly. I guess that made the clouds to show their power and heavy rain started pouring for 2 hours followed by continuous drizzle for 2 more hours. We took our raining gear and continued riding nevertheless. The rains reduced the visibility quite early into the evening and the temparature dropped. We were wearing jacket while descending and removing it while climbing.

The main challenge was in the night. The local over there warned us that deers and wild boars tend to get closer to the road because of the rain. We witnessed multiple deers on the second half of the climb, few calm and silent staring at us like a statue, few running away very fast. We were pretty clear that safety is the first priority and started doing the descents cautiously. We were riding side by side throughout the night while both climbing and descending. This resulted in increasing the time taken for riding both uphill and downhill. We actually selected this specific date because of the full moon day hoping there will be a bit of light in the night but we couldnt even see the moon because of the cloud cover.

Riding slowly and cautiously resulted in completing fewer laps by the sunrise time and increased the pushed the expected time of completion further. Initially, we expected to finish the ride by second day evening before sunset. But on the second day morning, it was clear that we will be riding the second night as well which irritated me. After taking a shower and changing into fresh jersey and shorts, we had breakfast and I decided to ride without breaks after the laps and finish it off fast. That would mean Krishna would still continue riding after I finish mine and he was not very happy about it. After breakfast, we had 10 laps to go. At the start of the second lap, I too thought that continuing riding with longer breaks between laps is better than finishing the ride fast and having nothing to do. So, decided to split the 10 laps in non-stop of 4-3-3 with taking much longer breaks in the middle for Krishna to catch up. 

As planned, I finished the second lap as well and went for the third immediately with just a bottle switch. I was carrying only one bottle in all the laps mixing it with Unived Drink Mix and occasionally using Recovery mix in a different bottle in few laps. Accidentally, the bottles got swapped and the flavours got mixed in the third lap. Because of the riding for the last 24 hours, there was no energy in the body and I kept going because of the carbs top up every 5 mins. from the bottle with water. But the taste was so bad because of the mix up and I couldnt drink the water. I could instantly feel that the body is out of energy after 2-3 kms. into the climb and forced myself to drink the water but the taste was so bad that I felt vomitting. I continued riding at a very tiring and slow pace thinking even if I ride very slow, I would at some point of time reach the top and get over with it. I have ridden that particular lap as well without stopping on the climb and finished it with around 20 mins. more time than the other laps. Once I reached the top, I gulped some coke to refresh the mouth and get some sugar in. Decided to take the big break at this third lap instead of the next one. I took a nap for around 40 mins., had some dal rice after waking up and felt much better.

All the other laps were again comfortable and smooth. Shailendra joined me in 3rd last and 4th last laps while climbing to pace me up which really helped. For the last lap, I wanted to do an all out effort on both descent and climb. It was around 9 PM and totally dark. I requested Hemanth to follow me in the car so that I have longer light throw and can ride faster. By this point, even without light we knew exactly where the bad stretches are and where the turns are. I descended very aggressively, took a U-Turn at the bottom and started climbing when it started pouring heavily. I dropped my phone in the car and continued climbing hard keeping in mind that every pedal stroke and every metre that I am finishing, I dont have to repeat it and this is climbing for one last time. The front light died with more than half lap to go but I dont need any light at this point of time after spending the last 35 hours on these roads. I didnt ease off a bit at any point of time during the full climb and did a strong finish.

After finishing the ride, I went to room, took a shower and came back to wait for Krishna’s finish. The cold and fog both kept increasing by the time Krishna finished. We were congratulated by the team after which we retired to bed for a well-deserved sleep.