RAAM Trans Siberian Extreme

Ghost-Riding – the mind sport of UltraCycling

Lot of people ask me how are you are able to cycle 5000 km in Race Across America and 9100 km in Trans-Siberian Extreme (TSE). To me Ultra-cycling is a Mind Sport. You can only prepare physically to an extend and then you depend on your mind and spirit to ride those thousands of kilometres in a given specific time limit.

It is impossible for riding 5000 km or 9000 km in training and not required also. The maximum distance during my training for trans-Siberian extreme (TSE) was around 300 km in a day. The best way to train physically is to build up slowly your weekly mileage and do quality training. Then you depend on your mind to do the job in the race when the physical limits are crossed. There is no other way to do it.

To ride massive distances like 5000 km in RAAM or 9000 km in TSE, all you need is an empty mind. If you make too many calculations or thinking, it is not possible to sign up for races like RAAM or TSE and not even train. Generally the more educated we get, the more calculations we make based on the knowledge we receive from the outer world. Most of the time these calculations lead to negative decisions, because it is very difficult to put a value to the power of mind and motivation in such situations.

Signing up for Trans-Siberian for me is a classic example of setting a goal so tough which will push my mind, body and spirit to its limits and beyond. I knew that 90 per cent there is a chance of DNF in this race, looking at the history of the race. With RAAM success it was easy for me to keep harping about it and about success at Ironman races. But I still went ahead and literally jumped into a monster of a race called Trans-Siberian Extreme. Alien country, alien terrain, alien weather and a very different food system. All factors were against me. Race was way too hard as expected but I kept on believing in my goal.

I had told myself before the race that I have already done 5000 km in RAAM, so let’s ride up to first 5000 km in TSE, which is up to the 10th stage and then I will figure out how to ride the last 4000 km in next 5 stages. The biggest difficulty of TSE is that you ride first 5000 km in 10 different stages and the last 4000 is squeezed into only 5 stages. So in the end stages become longer and difficult.

Words can be biggest motivators. The biggest motivation came from the facebook and whatsapp messages which I used to get for my posted videos on social media. After every stage I used to read them and read them again to keep myself motivated. Powerful messages can ignite your mind and help you bike those extra few hundred kilometres which you have never done in the training.
In the night, I used to listen to the music. Songs were generally from sports movies like Chak De India, Dangal, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and many other such movies. Another big favourite was the music from the movie Baahubali. Music helped me to keep awake and kept the pedals moving at a faster cadence. Then many times I used to think about my son and family, because I had promised them of a successful finish. Some of my friends told me that it will be impossible for me to land in Nagpur (my home town), if I don’t get this race done successfully.

I don’t think about the kilometres already done in the race. If you think about them, you will think about the soreness, rest and recovery, which is very minimal in races like TSE or RAAM. I call it Ghost riding, where you don’t think of the kilometres done, how many left, how much pain or soreness you have in different parts of the body. I think there is no other way to ride in TSE if you want to get it done successfully. Riding on that long straight highway in between Moscow to Vladivostok, through hills, hundreds of kilometres of forest and extreme weather conditions can kill you mentally, if you let these factors overtake your motivation.
The race situation, the geographical expanse and natural beauty of Russia will make you do these monstrous distances in every stage of TSE or RAAM. Apart from that you have these fellow ghost riders in the race and most of the time I used to draw motivation from them. I used to think if they are doing it and are riding ahead of me, then I can also do it. I may be slower than others but still I had good many hours to finish every stage comfortably and take rest. TSE is one of its kind on the planet and it happens only once in a year on the planet.

So if you want to be successful at Ultra-cycling – don’t think, just ride – be a Ghostrider..!
Dream big…Very big…Push yourself beyond…Take risks..!
Don’t keep doing same things every year..! And Be your own Hero…!

Trans Siberian Extreme

How I conquered King’s Stage of Trans Siberian Extreme?

The King’s stage of Trans Siberian Extreme is truly a King’s stage. It is the thirteenth stage of Trans Siberian Extreme, comes after you have already raced some 6,300 km and already 19 days in the race since we started on 24th July from Moscow. The total distance of the stage is 1360 kms. The stage starts in a city called Chita. Chita is geographically above the country of Mongolia. The route of King’s stage then progresses above Mongolia and then it curves around the Chinese border.You are riding parallel and going in a curve along the Chinese border towards Svobodny were the stage ends. If you compare it with the RAAM distance you are actually doing 36% of Race Across America in just one stage of Trans Siberian Extreme. Apart from that there is around 12,000 meters of climbing (elevation gain) in King’s stage which means it’s all hills and mountains all the time, typical of Russian topography. The total time given to complete the stage is 65 hours.

Yes it’s Extreme standing true to it’s name.

It was a cold morning in Chita when I woke up after resting from rising 660 kms in Stage 12 from Ulan Ude to Chita. I had a good sleep. I was looking forward to meet Mr and Mrs Nayak from Nagpur who were flying all the way to Nagpur to support me and cheer me during these last three stages of Trans Siberian Extreme. They directly came to the starting point of stage 13th from the Chita airport. I met them just before the start and gave a very tight hug to Jeetendra Nayak Sir and started crying like a baby. Jeetendra Sir has crewed me in RAAM and he exactly knew how to handle me and crew me. He is an inspiring personality himself and I admire him for his success in business as well as social projects. At the start of the stage there was a nice program organized by the local cycling club. There were lot of cheerleaders and dancers. The music really pepped me up. Nayak family had brought in lot of Indian food and it was given to Chetan, who was crewing me in the race. It was really cold at the start. Lot of local cyclist were riding along with us for quiet some time. The start was good. Myself and Patricio were riding along each other. There was a massive hill section in the beginning. i ate almost 10 parathas brought from India during first couple of hours. I was so hungry for the Indian food. All that eating made a major difference in next three hours. I felt good in my legs and good in my mind. For nearly first 250 km I was just behind Patricio, keeping around a average speed of 26 kmph through the hills and i was really happy about it. For some reason Patricio did not wanted to ride along with me so I was hanging on just behind him. At the food stop Patricio took a stop. I was feeling good so I continued with the same rhythm.

As the stage progressed I felt even more better. I was maintaining same average speed. I knew If I go riding throughout the night, I will be able to cover around 550 to 600 kms in first 24 hours. I kept on pushing throughout the night and next day early morning. I took a 15 minute break at food stop in the night to change my clothes. It was very cold and very foggy from 5 AM to 7 AM, typical morning in Siberia. Heavy fog makes it very humid, so you kind of sweat even though it is cold. We reached the next food stop during the breakfast time. I was not yet feeling sleepy so I kept on continuing my progress waiting for the temperature to go up so that I feel more warm and get better speed. Around 9 AM in the morning I felt sleepy and took a 1 hour sleep break after almost cycling for 24 hours. I started again and it was one of the most hilly sections of stage with many climbs of grade ranging from 5% to 12%. This kept on continuing for more than next 400 km. It was hot in the daytime and climbs were relentless. This was the time when the most powerful words of the race – Don’t Surrender were spoken to me by Dimitry. Dimitry is a doctor and works in the medical team of the race. He was following me closely and was taking lot of pictures. In the late evening, I got the news that Patricio has quit the stage, I felt very bad and sad. I also felt if I could have slowed down or slept more he could have caught up with me and we could have together finished the race but I had no information. Jeetendra Sir also rejoined us along the way and kept me cheering and talking to me on the communication device.

I kept cycling throughout the night and had covered some 900 kms. It was around 1 AM in the night, Chetan was talking to me for sometime. My mind was tired and wanted to sleep. So instead of sleeping around 4 AM in the morning I decided to sleep little earlier. I took a sleep of around 1.5 hours and we re-started at 3 AM in the morning. It was not that cold. I had another 460 kms to cover, I felt good and mentally oriented. The major hills had gone and the section was relatively easy. So I picked up speed quickly covered a distance of another 200 km by noon, still i had another 260 km to go. Nayak family brought in more Indian food which was cooked freshly, they had purchased a electric cooker and were cooking in motels for us. As we came closer to Svobodny the geography changed and hills had gone but in the end there was another massive climbing section. We finished stage at somewhere around 10 PM local time. The Head of Jury Alexy was present at the end and he was so happy to see me finishing the stage. He said there are only few who have done this successfully and you are one of them. I just wanted to go to hotel, eat and go to sleep. When I went to the hotel, I was shocked to see my face in the mirror. It was horrible and scary, I can never forget that face. Nayak family had cooked Indian food for the entire crew. I had lots of it and went to sleep. With food and sleep, my face came back to normal in next 6 hours.

It took me 59 hours to finish the King’s stage – 1362 kms. Out of which 56 hours were spent on the saddle and rest three hours must have consumed in sleeping, changing clothes and pee breaks. King’s stage is truly memorable.

Below is the strava link of my King’s stage at Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme

Trans Siberian Extreme

Extremes of Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme

“Don’t Surrender” those two unforgettable words of Trans Siberian Extreme 2018

Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme (TSE). World’s Longest Stage Bike Race.

9100 kms from Moscow to Vladivostok. This crazy distance is to covered in 25 days in 15 stages. It takes you across 7 different time zones. The total elevation gain is 77,321 meters which amounts to climbing 9 times Mount Everest. This really makes it longest and toughest endurance challenge on the planet available. 

When I started the race in Moscow, I was 2.5 hrs behind India time after 25 days when I reached Vladivostok I was 4 hours ahead of India Time. The stage plan itself is crazy, in the initial 2 stages we biked around 320 kms and 350 kms. In trans siberian language these are short stages and are kind of warm up for the race and an opportunity to settle into the race. Settle into the rhythm of the race, get your food intake right, understand the support you are getting and understand other riders. 

Then comes the third stage which is 690 kms from Kazan to Perm. It has 4900 meters of elevation gain. This is where you start getting the real taste of TSE and terrain of Russia. The terrain of Russia is mostly these Siberian mid-highlands. You can never settle into a continuous steady rhythm on this terrain. The terrain is very typical. There is a grade of 1 to 2 % for 2 to 5 kms, which will end up in a steep hill of 5% grade to 12% grade of 1 kms to 2 kms. The same pattern keeps repeating for hundreds of kilometers. Same up and down and again up and down, which keeps killing you in the mind. 

Stage 4 and 5 are relatively short stages covering 331 and 314 kms with elevation gain of 3500 and 1500 meters respectively. 

Stage 6 and Stage 7 are crazy as one has to ride back to back 614 kms and 611 kms. I remember I finished the stage 6 around noon and the same day at 10 PM we were going to start stage 7 from Omsk to Novosibirsk. This really tests you as I had only some 8 hours of rest and again I was back on the road. The 8th stage is relatively easy with only 260 kms. The 9th Stage is 557 kms. 

The 10th Stage is 1054 kms with an elevation gain of 9500 kms is I think second most toughest stage of the race. It was all raining during this stage, sometimes it was drizzling and sometimes heavy. It rains cold in Siberia and I had to change my clothes 4 to 5 times during this stage because the cold rain water will still seep in in-spite of wearing best possible rain gear. When I reached Irkutsk it was all raining heavily in last 100 kms. It took me time but we made it in the end. There was almost a 24 hours break in the next stage. 

The 11th stage was short 440 kms but with lots of climbing of 4500 meters. We went across Ural mountains and magical Lake Baikal. This stage is magical and most beautiful of all the stages. The 12th stage was 660 kms from Ulan Ude to Chita another beautiful section of Russia. 

After riding 6,300 kms comes the King’s stage from Chita to Svobodny for 1360 kms with an elevation gain of 13,000 meters. This is truly the King’s stage and a dream of ultra-cyclist. It has everything the distance, elevation, forest and all the beauty. The beauty of Russia as a country is unparalleled.

After getting through the King’s stage, you have this feeling that you are almost there with two more stages to go. The 14th and 15th stages are still super long with 689 km and 760 km and elevation gain of 3000 meters and 6800 meters respectively. The last stages test your patience and focus to finish the race. Everyone is tired and you want to finish the job as soon as possible to go home but still one has to ride these long distances and be on the bike for another 60 hrs. It’s a sitting on the bike competition. 

The weather is also extreme in Trans Siberian Extreme. As soon as we hear the word Siberia we generally picture snow and freezing temperatures. It’s summer in Siberia when the race gets organized. In the initial 5 stages it was really hot in the day time and night temperature was also pretty comfortable. From the stage 6 on wards it started to become very cold in the night with night temperatures falling up to zero and 2 to 3 degree Celsius. apart from that it used to become very foggy in the night and early morning and result in poor visibility and reduced average speed. So the rider is subjected to all kinds of weather heat, light, cold and rain. You need to be ready for everything.  

The day is very long in the initial stages with sunrise at 3 AM in the morning and sunset at around 11 PM in the night. This exposed me to heat and sunlight for almost 20 hours in a day. As we kept riding towards East the day became shorter and the night became longer and also more humid. 

It is most amazing feeling when you see the Japanese Sea in Vladivostok after 25 days of riding. This bike race is not about cadence, heart rate and power meter. You need truck loads of guts and determination. You need a mind to sit on the bike for 30 hrs, 40 hrs and sometimes 60 hrs to get through every stage. It is a test of your physical and mental strength. Cycling 9100 km in 25 days is just a tool to demonstrate your endurance and power of the mind. You will need to have long big conversation with your own self on the bike to get through these distances.