Dec 21, 2011

Failing Gracefully

No, this is not about how to design/build software which fails gracefully. This is a short commentary on my recent Did Not Finish (DNF) on the 300 Km Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) Brevet ride. 

For those not familiar with what a Brevet ride is: it is a self supported non competitive time bound bike ride. The 300 Km KGF Brevet ride would take us across 3 states and we had to cover 313 Km in 20 hours at an average speed of over 15 Kmph. I had previously done a 300 Km Brevet ride so was quite confident of completing this as well. 

But what a crazy ride it ended up to be. The ride started at 6.00 AM from MG Road metro station. It was great riding in the fog all the way up to Hoskote where we turned right towards Malur. This is where the state highways and village roads started. In addition to this had a consistent wind resistance for most of the ride. The weather was good and while there were bad stretches of roads, the tree cover on both sides of the road provided protection from the Sun. Rode through nice stretches but was always under the gun to keep moving - was averaging right around 15 Kmph including the breaks. Took only short breaks to eat and stretch. 

Reached Pernambut @ 3.00 PM but missed the SBI ATM which was the second control point. Went back in search of this and lost precious 30 minutes. Checked in to the control station just in the nick of time - had covered 143 Km in 9.5 hours. Reached Vaniambadi toll booth around 6.00 PM - had covered 182 Km in 12 hours. Took a rest break here and saw 7-8 riders pass by. While I was happy that I was not way behind the others till this point, I was worried about what lay ahead. I was averaging 15 Kmph at this point and the remaining 131 Km ride would be in cold, dark and include a tough 50 Km climbing ride from Krishnagiri to Hosur. This is where I decided to not ride in the dark but take a bus back to Bangalore from Krishnagiri instead. Reached Bargur around 8.00 PM and had dinner here. Thought I would try and get a bus right from here and waited for 30 minutes to get a bus but no luck. Again got into bike gear and rode to Krishnagiri and requested/argued with the conductors to take me & the bike to Bangalore. Thankfully had luck on the second try itself and after securing the bike on the top, deposited myself on an empty seat for a cold uncomfortable drive back to Bangalore. Reached at 00.30, got the bike down and rode home to reach around 1.20 to end a day of painful riding.

Fellow rider Parag later learnt about my DNF and enquired if I was okay. Informed him that I was okay but decided to quit as I did not want to ride in the night. My idea of a good bike ride is where you get to enjoy the ride and not just burn the Kms. Honestly I was in a pretty bad mood riding through the nice villages. Did not even exchange pleasantries with the village folks which I usually do on a ride. I guess no more Brevet rides for me... but hey! you never know :-). 

Couple of tech highlights of the ride:

Map My Ride: I developed an application using which a rider could mark one's location on a ride and anyone could track the progress of riders. I could not use the app very well as my iPhone did not seem to work very well but Devaraj marked his position throughout the ride - Thanks for checking out the app Devaraj. My thought now is that this app is better used by tourers and not in time bound events as time is of the essence in these rides and geolocation + marking location takes some time - I did end up wasting quite a bit of my time trying to locate myself and mark my location. You can check out the app here: Map My Ride. Suggestions for enhancements are welcome. 
Map My Ride - Mark Location Screen
Rider Progress - Devaraj & Shashi's Updates
Solar Charging Garmin: I had purchased a Solar Monkey solar charger on a recent trip to London but had never used it till now. I used this charger on this ride and am happy to report that my Garmin Forerunner 305, which usually runs out of battery in 13-14 hours, survived the entire ride - home to home - around 18 hours and still had some juice left in it. I think I can get it to work even more effectively if I am able to position the solar panel well. Check out the setup below. 
Solar Monkey & Solar Nut charging my Garmin Forerunner 305

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