CHENNAI: In 2017, he was the first Indian to finish the Race Across America, a 5,000-km race to be completed in 12 days (288 hours). Meet Bengaluru-born Srinivas Gokulnath who achieved this feat in 11 days and 18 hours, and stood 7th among 44 participants.
An aviation medicine specialist, Srinivas developed a passion for ultra cycling 10 years ago. “Ultra cycling covers distances of more than 200 km. You need to be in the saddle for a longer time,” says Srinivas. He first tasted success in 2014 when he completed a Leh to Kanyakumari 4,000-km ride in 15 days and 17 hours, which got him registered in the Limca Book of Records. Srinivas was recently in the city for a workshop at Ciclo Cafe. He talks about challenges and shares tips for budding ultra cyclists.
How do you prepare for an ultra race?
When you are on the road, it all burns down to your desire to get to the finish line. My biggest challenge was my mind. The mind is not happy to be in discomfort and always tries to put you in your comfort zone. It is a fight you will go through. You need to ask what this means to you. Nutrition and hydration are also vital.
What is the level of training required?
The more time you spend on the saddle, the stronger you get. Riding your bike consistently is sufficient training in itself. Every day, come what may, take your bike out and pedal. And every weekend you need to ride longer. The more you train, the more you start listening to your body. Do yoga, stretches, and meditation. There is no particular exercise that is applicable to everyone.
What are the principles of hydration and nutrition that you follow?
You need to clinically plan both these aspects, as they will determine your duration on the saddle. It differs for each person. You need to find your formula by trial and error. The fundamental principle is that an average cyclist uses 500 kcals and 800 ml of fluids every hour, which has to be replenished at least at 400 kcals and 750 ml of electrolytes. If a rider averages 8,000 kcals and 15 litres of fluid in a day, then he is doing well. In ultra cycling, it’s all about eating and drinking like a monster.
How do you cycle on terrains that keep changing, and especially when you’re sleep deprived?
These races do not halt at any cost, so you have to plan your sleep breaks properly. I was sleeping three hours every day from 1pm-4pm. It is better to rest in the afternoon because the heat can easily exhaust the rider.
Any special tips for plus-size men and women who want to get fit through cycling?
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Again, I’d say that once you start cycling, you will get to know more about yourself, and being receptive to your own body’s signals is all the guidance you need. There are no theoretical guidelines as such.