Thursday, March 26, 2009

Up and down

Up to Sikkim!  Whirlwind flights and buses landed me in Gangtok, launching point for another mountain biking event in this tiny Indian state tucked up against Nepal, Tibet/China, and Bhutan.  Late, of course, due to little information on schedules and transportation in any event literature.  But in time for dinner and meeting up with many people from last fall's MTB Himachal, putting my bike together, and preparing for the next day's start.

After the usual speeches and bagpipe band, we wound through curving mountain streets until spitting rain and the realization that we were ahead of the guide vehicles (and off route) drove us under whatever eaves were nearby.  An hour, much confusion, and two false starts later, we arrived at the starting point for the first timed stage.  This is the second year of the race, and things were still not worked out properly.  Start times were 4 minutes apart to ensure good timekeeping and rider spacing.  But with two at a time, 50 riders, and 10-minute gaps between categories, that meant the last people were waiting for 2 hours!  Cold and bored...  Things were better next tim, but some folks still got in after dark.

The second day was nicer, and a little smoother, but I managed to get not one but two flats on the downhill race stage, the only kind of terrain I have any chance of getting a decent time on!  Sheesh.  That's as many flats as I've had in all my cycling days!  Then a long uphill race stage, followed by another big uphill grind to camp.  Are we having fun yet?  I elected to ride in the Army truck once done with the racing.  Yup, wussed out.

By this time, however, my lower ribs, strained by so much coughing recovering from bronchitis, had worsened from the exertion of mountain biking (OK, and skiing, but it didn't bother them much at the time!). I didn't want to quit, but sneezes were excruciating and it was starting to affect day-to-day activities, like lying down to sleep.  No more riding for me.  Boo.  I lent my bike to someone with a really crappy cycle for the rest of the ride and gathered emails from some of the various Indian, Canadian, etc riders that are the real reason I come here...

But to distract from that: as I was riding in the support vehicle the next day, taking a rest/decision day, a friend that I had finally met on this ride had a bad crash.  Arriving on the scene before the ambulance, which never actually came, I and several other people ascertained that nothing was life-threatening, but definitely messy.  Knees, elbows, side, and particularly face were pretty well scraped, and half of one front tooth gone!  The army doctor eventually arrived to treat him there, and a visit to the local hospital finished cleaning him up.

With Harsh out of commission and headed back to Delhi, I decided to follow to discourage myself from foolishly opting back in.  After the drive back to Gangtok, we were able to take a chopper back to the Bagdogra airport for only Rs 2000, about $40!  Nice views, though the high Himalayan mountains so close to Everest were clouded in.

Back in Delhi, I've gone to a recommended doctor who frowned, ruled out cracked ribs with an x-ray, and basically said I'd pulled all my lower rib muscles.  Rest until they get better - nothing that uses them.  Huh.  That's pretty much everything I do, and definitely out of line with my scheduled activities!  But I have to be completely better by the time I'm scheduled to work again in early May, so hopefully that motivation will keep me in line.  Ah - travel, reading, and sitting around eating too much, my favorite.  I'm still going up north to Uttarkashi to meet with some mountaineering institute folks about future work/collaboration - I'll just be careful... *grin*

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