Brought Back From The Dead – More Musings on My 6th TFN – Indian Terrain Tour of Nilgiris 2016

Femina Miss India Moment?
After this year’s Tour of Niligris, at the presentation ceremony, when they called me on stage to take the medal for finishing first in my category, I completely chocked up, teared up and couldn’t utter a word. I quickly thanked TFN for making me the cyclist that I am today and ran down the stage to avoid a complete break down. I agree that I am not as good with my spoken word as I’m with my written one, but it was something new for me to get emotional before a big gathering like that. I kept thinking why that happened as I don’t take my performances that seriously once they are done. I was thousand times happier for my Spectrum Racing teammate and skipper, Arvind Bhateja’s win in his category than I was for mine.

Give A Little And Get Back Many Folds!My focus as a rider-blogger has always been to give the flavor of the tour to the riders who couldn’t make it. I try to do it as well as I can and get to sleep only about 3-4 hours on most days as I’m a very slow writer. With last year’s experience with indigestion, I stayed away from meat(except on day 1 and day 7) and desserts and mostly relied on dal and curd rice through this tour. Although a bit of indigestion due to lack of sleep still troubled me, I was able to manage it better this time. With limited sleep it is not always possible to recover and ride well the next day and the day after.  

That is why, I like to take my focus away from my own performance and try and help others do well if I can. May be that’s also why I gravitated towards coaching this year. While trying to help others with my experience of riding TFN 6 times, I’m also helping myself by clearing my own mind and reminding myself of what is the right thing to do in any given situation. Not that I end up doing the right thing myself all the times, but it does help. So, in a way, I end up taking as much or more than what I had to offer.

Brought Back From The Dead!When I look back, just four weeks before the tour started, I had to sit out of the biggest race of the season, BBCH Nandi race, as I was quite sick. I was hardly able to breath properly with constant cold and cough. While the earlier part of the year went really well with a good ITT for me in April and an excellent road race result for the team in May where I did my part, it was all downhill from there with injuries and health issues. 

Late June, I had a small crash on the commute that took me out of training action for a couple of months with a freak knee injury. After recovering from that it was some viral or the other until in late October and early November, my doctor, Anindita Bhateja of Sita Bhateja Specialty Hospitals, suspected that my asthma might have made a comeback due to the pollution on my commute, after 8 years of staying away. I immediately took the medication she prescribed and started using a mask for my commute. The recovery was almost immediate.

In a couple of days after seeing my doctor, I was able to breath again normally. With 3 weeks available for training for TFN, I was determined to do all I could, to be able to complete my 6th Tour of Nilgiris. I have decided to take it, just as I would have told my trainees in a similar situation, just one day at a time. First two weeks of very little intensity and hanging on to the wheels on the weekend group rides saw me feeling a little better. It was only in the third week that I introduced some intervals to the legs and the results weren’t totally discouraging. In the week of TFN itself, I only rode the day before TFN to give a chance to the legs to wake up. 

Although it was not to the levels what I set myself as a goal at the start of the year, I was as well prepared as I could have been under the given circumstances. So, I didn’t have any big ambitions. I just wanted to stay healthy through the tour so that I could complete riding every day, complete and publish the blog before the start of the ride next day. I have decided to ride well within myself for most part of the tour and put in my best effort in the competitive segments every day and see how it goes. 

Fortunately, I was able to put in a decent effort on the first day’s competitive segment and that set the tone for the rest of the days. I was able to complete most stages faster than all but one person over 35, the 46 year old Aussie from Belgium, Jamie Anderson, who chose to compete in Elite category. He was faster than everyone but the 3 time TFN champion, Nils Eigil Bradtberg. 

By the end of the tour, I finished 6th overall with the top 5 being very strong athletes that I would have struggled to compete against even in my best shape. From being in doubt about participation to be able to do reasonably well in a strong field, felt good. In the absence of any other explanation, I guess that satisfaction was what made me a bit emotional on the stage.

I have to thank my doctor, Anindita, and TFN for bringing me back from the dead and helping me get stronger time and again. I know the field is getting stronger and stronger each year and forget top 10 overall, I might not be able to stay near the top of even my age category for long. I don’t actually mind finishing even in the bottom half of the field as long as I am able to give a honest account of myself at any given point of time. I would love to see a time when the field becomes that strong.

Many Inspirational Riders:
When we see riders like Shravani Sen, who rides with a fairly serious condition called Lupus (SLE – it’s an auto immune disease) and Sagar, who has a degenerative eye condition that doesn’t let him see beyond a few meters in front of him and was riding to raise funds for research in that area, it inspires us to get past any of the petty issues we might have. Both of them have completed their second TFN this year. 

Mani sir with Kartik and Francis after the successful completion of the tour with the same smile!

Riders like Manivasagam Rangaswamy and Dr. Avanthi Biniwale keep chugging away at the miles with their focused determination and endurance. We used to see them constantly ahead of the most fast trains, riding at their own pace while enjoying the surroundings. Their calm consistency was admirable. There were many such riders on the tour who were inspirational in their own way.

The 71 year old Russell Bell is full of energy and gives 100% at whatever he does and is extremely positive. Richard Mueller knows that he had a considerable weight disadvantage when it comes to climbs but gave the best fight he could give to Arvind and kept the blue jersey with him till the last day. Arvind Bhateja himself kept his calm and took the fight to the end to put in a massive performance in the last stage and took the leaders jersey in his category. These are the guys who show what real passion for the sport and what healthy competition means. It is an honor riding along with them and being able to call them friends.

Fierce and healthy rivalry of Richard and Arvind! Fight your guts out and share a beer later!

Thank you!
Every TFN teaches me valuable lessons and gives me many great friends. Every TFN brings me back from the dead by inspiring me to get out and ride despite my laziness and this wasn’t any different! Thanks to every volunteer who worked hard to make it a great tour. Thanks to every rider who accepted the challenge with a smile and pushed their limits through the tour to discover more about themselves. Thanks to TFN for being a such an awesome and fun event! Looking forward to the 10th edition of the tour next year!    

Also Read:
TFN 2016 Day 1: Bangalore to Mysore
TFN 2016 Day 2: Mysore to Kalpetta
TFN 2016 Day 3: Kalpetta to Ooty! Kalahatty!
TFN 2016 Day 4: Rest Day
TFN 2016 Day 5: Ooty Thaishola
TFN 2016 Day 6: Ooty To Palakad
TFN 2016 Day 7: Palakkad to Valparai
TFN 2016 Day 8: A Beautiful End

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