Pune cyclist on a 2024 km endurance trip through northeastern Thailand
When, a Pune-based software engineer, set out to Thailand to participate in 2020, an endurance cycling event which entails pedalling 2,024km across northeastern Thailand , bordering Cambodia and Laos, he was ready for the extreme physical challenges and exhaustion. But nothing really prepared him for the “challenge” he would face from ferocious dogs which hounded him for most part of his journey.
“Initially, I pedaled as fast as I could. But about 10-15 dogs would chase us for a mile or so, especially at night, since we used reflective clothing and sported high-powered lights. It was not the best strategy. Some riders, who tried to accelerate, crashed and were bitten by dogs and had to abandon the ride, ”says Khot.
So, he slowed down. “I used to shout at the dogs which stopped them from barking. I would walk some distance and then cycle. In India, I would whistle at the dogs, but it did not work on Thailand ’s dogs,” he says. Khot came to know about ISAN 2020 when he went to France last year to participate in Paris–Brest–Paris Randonneur, which involves cycling non-stop for 90 hours over 1,230 km.
He started the ISAN 2020 ride on February 2 this year at 7am and completed it at 7.15pm, Thailand time, on February 8 in 156 hours 25 minutes, of the allotted 202 hours.
In total, 181 runners from 30 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong Singapore Indonesia , Italy, the Philippines, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and others, participated, ”he says. Khot was among the 12 runners in India and the only one in Pune.
It was very hot and humid in Thailand and he had a lot of uphill cycling in the hilly region across northeastern Thailand , the Isan region. “To prepare for high-altitude riding, I used to ride to Dive Ghat, Fort and Katraj every weekend. I also cycled to Bengaluru , Ooty, Wayanad and to Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad,” he said.
Khot had to participate in a series of briefs (timing, long distance road cycling) comprising 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, 600 km and 1,000 km to qualify.
The food was a big problem for Khot, a vegetarian. “Although there were food and rest points after every 300 km, mostly beef, chicken and sticky rice were available. But local stores 7 ELEVEN every 40-50 km would have cold drinks, vegetarian noodles, coffee and tea. He wore poha and upma ready to eat, ”he says.
The sores in the saddle, the pain in the shoulder, the back pain and the lack of sleep stuck him throughout his trip. For the entire duration of 156 hours of my trip, I barely slept for an hour and an hour and a half a day while the clock is running continuously, he says.
But the real rigors of the trip were different. After walking about 200 km, I wanted to stop doing it because I couldn't do it as fast as my fellow cyclists, but I will persevere, he says.
The first 200-300 km is a flat terrain without much vegetation. Once they crossed 400 km, they were near the border of Laos, which is green with rubber and sugar plantations. After crossing 600 km, they reached the Mekong River. Then they rode around 800 km. Along the way, they crossed temples, forests and a river. Daytime temperatures ranged between 40 and 42 degrees Celsius, but the nights were pleasant, Khot said.
Once it crossed 1,300 km, it was mainly uphill and downhill. The most difficult part was between 1400 km and 1600 km. “We had to climb 2-3 km and descend another 2-3 km. After 1,600 km, everything went downhill. It was difficult to do this stretch, especially at night, and I had to slow down considerably, ”he says. Finally, he managed to complete the trip well before the stipulated time of 202 hours.
Khot has already set his sights on bigger goals. He intends to participate in the full Ironman in Australia in May. Next year, he wants to participate in the 1,500km London-Edinburgh-London cycling event and the 6,000km Trans Am bike race across America.