May 04, 2019 at 23:18

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I remember the first time one of my friend Joe from the University of Delaware cycling team said that he did a 106 mile bike ride in 5-6 hours. I was taken back as I did not know it was possible and second I just got to know someone who has done 100+ miles in a single ride. That was just insane to me. From that time, it became my dream to do a 100 miler in one ride.

Finally, that dream came true on Saturday, May 4, 2019. I did 101.8 miles and together we rode 470 miles in a day.

It all started when one day Victoria from MIT tri club emailed if anyone was interested in doing 6 gaps. She also attached a route for the same. I didn't know what was 6 gaps so it was worthwhile checking it out. As I opened the page, I was delighted. It said the total loop was 131 miles. I closed the page and replied to that email saying yes. Later when I came home and saw the route again, I was a little scared not because of the miles but I did not read how much elevation gain it would be over the loop. 13000ft 😱

6 gaps meant, climbing 6 mountains. Now I understood why she wanted to do this before going back. It is soo challenging. The max I had done in a ride was 64 miles and after that, I got Achilles tendinitis in both my ankles so I had to rest for 2 months. This ride was 131 miles and we would be gaining a lot of elevation. What was I thinking? But I did not say no to it as this was my chance to fulfill one of my dreams and to challenge myself.

Friday before the ride day
We met at MIT around 5:45 pm. That day I woke up at 4 am to go to the office early and leave early. I had to pick some stuff from Amazon center also so decided to bike to the office that day. I ordered an extra tube and cycling shoes.
After collecting package around 4 pm, I had to oil my chain but dropped the plan as I would be late. It was raining and the roads were wet, so my butt and the bag was all wet which I had to take to Vermont. Yes, you read right, the ride was in beautiful Vermont.

After reaching home, when I tried the shoes, it didn’t fit well. It was big. After some mental calculations, I decided to not take them and bike in regular shoes which I do all the time.
Packed some cliff bars, cliff shots, cycling clothes, and normal clothes. Here I am ready to go. I also put the newly arrived mini bike bag on the bike. It looked good and seemed pretty useful. The roads were not that wet by now but still, I covered the seat with a polybag so that my butt doesn’t get wet again.

Reached on time and met Victoria and Julie. Sergio should be there as well but he was stuck in traffic. He came around 6 pm. We fixed the stand on the back of the car and put our bikes on it. Our bags were in the trunk with Sergio's bike. Ready to go. Sergio was Harvard guy whose bike Victoria borrowed for Pre Boston marathon ride when her bike was getting shipped from Arizona Nationals.

General talks in the car. I was seated in the front with Sergio while Victoria and Julie were at the back. We didn’t get any traffic. As the eve was making its way into the night and we heading towards our destination, the weather was changing. It was too foggy and the visibility was just a couple of meters. We took a stop at Walmart to get fresh and grab something because I didn’t had anything for the dinner and breakfast which was really essential. Ended up taking milk, oats, bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Walmart had no fruits section. Pretty weird.

We reached Airbnb around 9:30 pm. It was a nice place but had no kitchen. I really wanted to sleep because we had to leave the house by 6:30 am the next morning. I went to the host's kitchen upstairs and mixed four oatmeal packet with milk. That was filling enough. Meanwhile, Julie and Victoria were prepping for the morning. After that, they went to sleep and I was still having oats. After some time I finished, prepped a little for the next morning then went to sleep around 10:30 pm. Had to wake up at 5:30 am so only 7 hours of sleep.

Eating oats with three bikes in the room

Saturday - The Ride day
Next morning woke up at 5:30 am but was waiting for someone to wake up so was just lying. Around 5:45 am got out of bed and did final prep for going meanwhile having bread, peanut butter and jelly in breakfast with milk. It was soo dry. Without milk, I could not eat it. After finishing it, I went to get ready. In the washroom, it just struck me that we gonna ride for 9-12 hours. It didn’t happen before.

We started around 6:40 am from Airbnb. Nice ride with a little steep curve in the beginning. I was wearing training running shoe for one of the biggest climbs we gonna do today. The first gap was Rochester. As we moved slowly up the hill, it was not bad. It was just a slight incline then a straight road. But now I could see a steep hill coming. I am not a good climber. Have improved a lot in the past year but I still struggle. I was alone in no time but not that far from the pack. I could constantly see them.

Slowly-slowly on the lowest gear, I moved up. Speed was around 4-7 miles per hour that time. Reached the first gap Rochester after a continuous struggle up the hill. I would say it was not easy for me. As soon as I reached the top, they started to stand up and ready to leave as they reached before. We had to go a long long way so it makes sense. It was just 10 miles right now. After clicking a photo, we had to decent. I love descends. I mean I just love it. I was super duper fast on the descend that's why caught them in no time.

After the descend, we had to go to Brandon gap but there was a sign of road closure 8 miles ahead. We kept going but after 8 miles, it was completely blocked and closed. We were thinking to go back and do gaps in reverse but I and Victoria decided to go check the condition of the road. It was a pretty small road close. We came back and then biked all together to cross the closed road asap as crossing closed roads mean breaking state law.

Road connecting hills were never flat. It was a little windy and always up and down. Reached Brandon gap summit again struggling but this time I was with them all the time. I was soo happy that we were done with 2 gaps. Right now we had done 25 miles. This time I wanted to eat a cliff bar and gel shot. So they went ahead and I was still eating but you know strong descends. I finished, sip water then got ready. My speedy descend started. And after sometime, I could see them. And then with the pack again.

Four bikers at Brandon gap

Next gap was Middlebury. It was like 5-7 miles or maybe more distance from the end of Brandon to start of Middlebury. This one was steeper than previous two gaps. In no time, I was out of the pack and alone by myself. This time the gap between me and them kept on increasing. 50 meters for sure. And then more. Sergio had good legs or his gear was just big enough that he could pedal fast on hills. I don't know what was it. That was surprising to me. One good thing in the first three gaps was when we went uphill, the fog used to surround us pretty quickly and you can't see much further. So it was better as I can't see how big the climb really is. After a while, some group of Middlebury school passed me on climbs. If you pass someone on climb means you are good. I didn’t know they had school just before the peak. Now this time I could feel some pain near my ribs on the right side. This is when I decided I will be doing only 4 gaps which were still a lot.

The legs were burning, thighs were in pain and deep struggle and every inch of my body was just working towards going on top.

Slowly I reached the top where my group and the group which surpassed me were talking. I just went, stopped, put my bike on the road and sat. This climb was tiring. Cliff bar and jell shot again. They were getting cold as it was foggy and windy so they started early. After finishing and drinking water, started with the amazing descend. I knew this would be faster because it was a steeper climb. Clocked 45.9 miles/hr(73.44 km.hr) top speed which is insane. I loved it. Then caught them. We stopped for water filling and snacks break. After that, we had to split in a while because Julie and I were only doing 4 gaps. Till this time we had completed 75 miles. After some 5 miles, we split our ways. Me Julie and Victoria Sergio.

Middlebury gap with bikes and fog

Now we were heading towards the Roxbury gap. After reaching to the lowest point, I saw a board saying steep terrain, snow tires required but I thought now this must be an easy one as we were not doing the Lincoln and Appalachian gap. After a while, I got why they said steep. It was turning into the hardest of all we have done. It was steep with long terrains with just climbing. No flats so basically your legs are continuously working for miles. Julie and I were together but after some time it was too much for me. I could barely move. I was at a speed of 2.7miles/hr. My thighs were just completely done and tired by now. No energy left in quads. Stressful struggle but just one thought in mind.

This is the last gap and you are not walking your bike Pranjal.

Very slowly reached the top with talking two photos in the middle.

Steep curves at Roxbury gap

It was very hard for me. I guess the biking shoes help in pulling too on hills which I had zero support of. Julie and I together descended. It was a wet muddy road so no speedy descend. Lot of brakes. Braking is soo hard on descends. It hurts the palm and the wrist muscles. 80% of the descend was muddy but then enjoyed the last 20%. Then it was pretty much flat with some ups the whole 18ish miles to Airbnb. Now I could look Vermont at a decent 17-18m/hr speed. Grassland on the side and mountains on both sides. It was beautiful.

As the time was coming to reach Airbnb, I was getting more and more happier. Just thinking of please no tire flats today. My chain also got off in the middle but it was fine. We reached the road where we would turn for our house but then I was at 99 miles and Julie at 98 so we had to roll a little more for the Century. We decided to go to Shaw’s which we passed while coming. While going there my 100 got completed. I screamed inside as I was soo happy. A 100-mile dream came true. Purchased some bananas, microwave food, and Powerade. While riding back, Julie's century got completed so I screamed. Literally screamed. This time loud. Very loud.

Strava map for 4 gaps

Funny that going to the house was also a hill but it was the end. Reached somehow slowly putting together ourselves. Parked inside then had banana and gapes. It took us 7 hours 50 minutes to complete the ride. Took shower and chilled on couch and little outside. Went to lay down for half n hour at 6:30 pm. Woke up at 7 pm and Victoria and Sergio were there. Asked them about the brutal hills and it was brutal indeed. Hats off to them for completing those two more hills.

After they took showers, we talked about VO2 max and our bike data. For dinner, we head towards a Thai place to eat. Eat enough and came back. Thought I would write so started writing whatever you read till now. The complete journey was full of happiness, pain, struggle, stress, brutalness, and love. The hardest ride I have ever done in my life. 8330 ft of climb over 100 miles is amazing. Love it.

Going to dinner at Thai place

At the Airbnb, there was a wall hanging which had life rules written on it.
Life rules were:

I asked myself which rule I accidently follow for the ride.
... Taking my chances to biking with running shoes
... risking it all on the descends for the speed
... follow my dream to come do this ride
... falling in love with descends and vermont
... letting go the scareness on climbs
... finding happiness while riding
... and living for today in saying yes to 100+ mile ride

Summing up:
You can achieve whatever you desire. Your body can do a lot more than what you imagine. Keep challenging yourself and always follow your dreams.

Peace

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