I remember the day the news broke out on our office intranet, inviting 'interested' (Read: MAD!!) people to take part in a 170km race happening in Norway. Excited, I immediately ran out of my office and asked my colleague to read the news, whom I knew would be just as mental as me to take part in such a challenge. I have always enjoyed working out and keeping fit for about 10 years now but have never challenged myself physically in any kind of active sports. Marathons and the like to me seemed to be the realm of elite athletes and professional sports persons. This would be the first time any of us would be taking part in a challenge of this magnitude. None of us had any idea what was in store, heck we didn't even have cycles when we signed up!! All I knew was that this sounded like an impossible challenge, and that we were gonna have fun conquering it! I took on the role of writing up a 17 week training program, involving speed training, intervals and easy recovery days etc.
With a plan in place, we had started training in earnest and had put in almost 4 months of hard training, with myself clocking 1,990 km on the sandy tracks of Dubai. With even early morning rides at 4:30am and training in scorching 40 degrees heat. All of this seemed good enough till we reached Bergen and Ole our Norwegian colleague took us on our first ever hill to give us a preview of what would be in store for us during the race. After months of training on a flat terrain, The climb up proved to be quite challenging for all of us and gave us an opportunity to finally use the gears. (Ah! So that's what they're there for!!)For me personally this wasn't much of a struggle. But the downhill descent was something I personally hadn't quite prepared for and proved to be quite scary and nerve wracking, Before going downhill we were briefed on the need to peddle even while going downhill so as to allow for blood flow in the legs etc. But as soon as I pushed on downhill all that info just flew out the window. I was flying now and My legs were frozen probably paralyses with fear and couldn't move. I couldn't understand how anyone could even peddle at the speed that bike was flying. Zooming downwards at break neck speed, I knew that one small mistake could be fatal. I was now having second thoughts about the race. My first thought was to hold on for dear life, not let go and just Survive! I was now questioning why I made the 'stupid' decision of entering this race. And this wasn't even Race Day!! By some grace I made it down in one piece, grateful to have survived, That's when our Norwegian friend says that the Bergen- Voss race course would have more steeper descents with 90 degree turns. Great! I meet a few riders the next day and take some pointers on going downhill, I now realize that my technique of holding the handlebar wrt to going downhill was wrong earlier on. This new bit of info comes as a god send and gives a sense of hope and confidence in tackling the hills. Come race day we had only one goal and that was to complete the race safely and reach the finish line as a team. Going to bed that night, the weather seemed to be changing for the worse with clouds rolling in and rains being predicted for Race day. Great! One more thing to worry about.
Despite the gloomy and rainy start. The race got off to a good start and all of us managed to navigate the course safely taking on the big hills of Gullbotn (272m) and Kvamskogen which was a steady climb for almost 15 km at a height of 464 metres which proved quite challenging. Once these two hills were completed we were quietly confident about completing the rest of the race.
Following the second hill , the real beauty of the West coast of Norway was on display as we were cycling along the picturesque Hardanger Fjord. A Memory to last forever.
But there was no more time to waste admiring the Fjords, as we were now focused on reaching the finish line. After about 100km into the race, it was more of a mental challenge and about pushing yourself to complete the race and having the will to go on. With only 20 more km to go we thought we were done with all the hills, But alas there lay the final obstacle. From the base of the hill we could see a long, winding road stretching for almost 5 km to the top. This was the Skjervet Hill rising at a steady 270m. Although on paper this doesn't sound like a big hill, In our minds this was severely intimidating as we could see just how long we needed to ride to reach the top. And in the end it turned out to be the most daunting and gruelling experiences of the ride. This challenge was all about stepping out of our comfort zones, Taking chances to test ourselves, and also to push boundaries while having fun together. Half way during the race I thought to myself, "Im never doing this race again", Looking back now, I wouldn't mind doing it again. I think we have all achieved what we had set out to do , and in our minds we feel conditioned to take on bigger challenges no matter the risks. I already have a few challenges lined up in my mind and am looking forward to taking them on. Watch the Race video below