If someone would have told me at the start of 2021, that halfway down this year, you will complete a cycling based event and earn your first cycling medal, I would have laughed it off!
But things happen for a reason and here I am penning this down after receiving my Finishers Medal for completing the BCA आपलं Manori Duathlon Monsoon Challenge!
This journey was full of Ups and Downs, getting motivation from unexpected places, sources and people and also navigating through some uncomfortable situations and thoughts, I kept pushing myself towards the end goal by constantly thinking about the feeling which I would experience after putting in the hard yards and completing this!
So I did receive many questions from friends (who were obviously fed up🤣 by my insta stories mentioning BCA Duathlon), that what actually is this event?
So Duathlon is a 10 day event which commenced from 29th July to 7th August whereby the participants had to complete 200kms of cycling plus 40kms of walking/jogging/running to warm up for the final day i.e. 8th August when the event was held!
Now on 8th, the participants were segregated into 3 groups based on their cycle category i.e. Roadie, MTB/Hybrid!
On this day the participants had to complete a total of 2kms running followed by 15-20kms of cycling and concluding with another 2kms of running along the Pagoda-Manori-Uttan route!
I lost the opening day i.e. 29th July of the challenge as I was in Lonavala and so had to commence my preparation from 30th July and once I had taken this up, it felt as if I had made a big blunder!
The entire magnitude of the distance in kms had shaken me up a bit and I was under a constant doubt whether I would be able to finish the warm up as I could only cycle for 15-20kms in one ride at the initial stage!
That’s when Ashwin Baliga, a member of the group of admins of BCA, handed me the first source of motivation when he told me that I had been cycling 20 kms for long now and its time I progressed to touch 30kms in one ride and that all this is a mind game and once you start cycling for longer distances, there is no going back!
So I started touching the 25-30kms mark gradually and wiped off much off the 200kms distance!
What remained was the 40kms walking/running where running was sort of a nightmare for me!
To counter my fear of running, I leaned to my friend Ashish who provided me with the second dose of motivation and eagerly accepted to teach me the basics of running!
So we had planned to run at the exact running route of the Duathlon i.e. the Pagoda route as I wanted to be familiar with my surroundings and plan out the small checkpoints and how to pace my run segment by segment!
That was probably the most tiring but fun learning experience as I completed the 2.5km recce run in around 20 minutes and finally I was a bit less afraid of running on the final challenge day!
Now I undertook my first long walk on the very same day when I walked a total of 10.24 kms from my home to SGNP and hence I skipped cycling for the day!
I was happy that I could complete the entire walk in approx 1 hour 55 minutes but, some events followed which demotivated me to a certain extent!
To clear my mind out of this clutter, I had to talk to a few of my friends who helped me by genuinely appreciating me for my determination and telling me that all this was a mind game and if I had made up my mind to do this, then nothing was impossible and also told me that I know my body better than anyone else!
These small pep talks at times can surely have a great effect and again put you on course to achieve your goals!
Finally on 7th August, the last day of the challenge before the main event, I completed my quota of 200kms cycling + 40kms walking/running and this was the quickest I had ever completed 200kms in a month as I completed it in 8 days time (the previous being 200kms in May in 16 rides)
But the anxiety of the main event on the next day constantly kept playing in my mind and I was nervous whether I would be able to complete the event and what if I couldn’t? How the other participants would react to this?
That’s when came my final source of motivation from the Tokyo Olympics as Neeraj Chopra had won India’s first Medal in track/field events, that too a Gold!
The sight of Neeraj holding his medal proudly was the thing which I needed as I imagined myself with my BCA Duathlon Finisher medal on the next day!
(This was a bit filmy but sometimes, such an event fires you up even more!)
So I mentally prepared myself and had a good enough sleep to give it my all the very next day!
I reached the Gorai Ferry gate around 6:15 a.m. and caught the ferry which the other BCA members had boarded!
The climate was pleasant and we could see the first rays of the sun peeking from behind the scattered clouds as our ferry trudged along the Manori Creek seamlessly!
The Pagoda, which was at a distance gradually started getting bigger as we reached the other side of the Creek and alighted to cycle our way to the start point!
The route for reaching the Pagoda is a pretty scenic one with green grass and mangroves on either side of you while the narrow road bisects both these stretches of green for quite some distance!
As we reached the first diversion, we took the left and entered the Pagoda Main Gate as we made our way towards the iconic Global Vipassana Pagoda entrance!
Many of the members had already reached and were busy warming up and exchanging pleasantries with their buddies!
I met up with my friend Viraj (Co-Founder of Mivi Bars, who were one of our sponsors) and explained to him how this event would unfold in the next 3 hours or so!
Once everyone had assembled, Chaitanya started taking the attendance of the first batch of Roadie (which included Kunal Chawdda, my newest buddy) and women riders and as the clock struck 6:50 a.m., the first batch commenced their Challenge as the others cheered them up!
Soon enough the second batch i.e. the first batch of MTB/Hybrid riders also started with their challenge around 7 a.m. as I started warming up!
Finally it was time!
We gave our roll calls and around 7:20 a.m. off went the whistle and I along with my friends Aman Patel and Bhavya Shah started jogging our way to the Pagoda Pond and back to start with our cycling round!
Volunteers were present all along the route clicking pics and guiding the runners as we completed our run and proceeded towards our cycles to start the second leg!
It was great to have Aman as my ride partner (Bhavya was way ahead of us) as we cycled at a decent pace to reach the Manori village from where we had to take a U-turn and proceed towards Pixcy Junction at Uttan Road meanwhile motivating fellow cyclists from the earlier batches who crossed us and were returning to the Pagoda!
The experience of cycling in that particular stretch of Manori can only be experienced as the route passes through small settlements with exquisite churches, narrow lanes, vast green paddy fields, some ponds and numerous sights which are pleasing to the eyes!
Check out the pics below for a better experience:
In between, I met my friend Sheldon as well as Max, who had accompanied me on the Friendship Day ride which was my first group ride!
As we reached the Manori U turn, Ashwin noted down our times and names and we started off for the final cycling stretch before completing the Challenge!
Enjoying the ride and sharing some jokes, Aman and I reached the Pixcy Junction where 2 other volunteers noted down our names as we finally sensed that the Challenge was almost over!
Increasing our average pace for the Uttan-Pagoda stretch, we could hear the cheers from the Pagoda side as the medal ceremony for the Roadie batch was already underway!
We parked our cycles and got jogging/walking again for the last part of challenge as honestly, there was no energy left for running😂
We saw fellow riders do the same as we quickly walked/jogged through the remaining route and as we reached the final 100 metres, we went full sprint mode and dashed across the finish line to complete the Challenge!
The satisfaction on realising that yes, I completed this challenge was amazing😍
It was nothing short of an achievement and we all looked forward to the medal ceremony ahead!
Chaitanya started calling out the names of the finishers one by one as Aman, Bhavya, Kunal and I stood along with the other riders and applauded every Finisher!
Soon enough my name was called and the sound of the applause and motivational cheers did make me feel happy as seen in the below pics😊
The category wise winners were as follows:
1. Rajesh Pai
2. Sushanto Sarkar
1. Sakhi Darvekar
2. Dr. Nisha Sequeira
3. Swapnali Berde
1. Aryaman Subramanian
2. Parag Saparia
3. Santosh Morajkar
Once the award ceremony was done, we clicked many selfies, solo pics with the ‘I AM A FINISHER’ board along with the magnificent backdrop of the Pagoda and even group pics with our new & old friends alike!
Finally the moment came as we all proceeded back to the jetty point to board the jetty and reach our homes but this day would surely be cherished by every single participant for different reasons!
I would like to thank the entire BCA Family for putting in all their efforts to make this event a success even in such difficult times!
Special thanks to Chaitanya, Ashwin and all the volunteers who were so cooperative and helpful during the rides and special thanks to Tushar Kadam and Ashish Jain for all the amazing clicks (some of which I have used in this blog as well)
A big thanks to our sponsors Mivi Bars, Rasoi Home Appliances, Wheels & Pedals, Viha Bath & Body Essentials and Gainergy for all the exciting hampers!
Also a special mention to the new friends I made during this ride, Kunal Chawdda (the most funny and energetic rider ever), Bhavya Shah (the person I knew already but met him for the first time🤣) and Aman Patel (my ride partner and motivator throughout the entire ride)
This event has given me immense confidence on my ability to take up a challenge and complete it within a given time frame so once again thanks to BCA, I promise to add more to my cycling medal tally soon!