Cycling From Alibaug To Goa—A Fitness Trip Of New Friendships And Self-Healing
Forging new connections, discovering the cultural and scenic beauty of the Indian west coast and boosting self-esteem—two friends recall how a cycling trip became a lesson in inner wellness.
What happens when a group of athletes from all walks of life go on an endurance holiday? Bonds for life and the confidence to push oneself physically and mentally—says runner and marathon Coach Suresh Srinivasan and his friend and cycling mentor Ashish Kaul, the vision guardian at Destination Outdoors Learning Systems, Uttar Pradesh, a mountaineer with several alpine peaks under his belt and 2 times Ironman athlete. A Wholistic Wellness and Run for Resilience Coach, as he calls himself, Srinivasan teamed up with Ashish Kaul and a selected group of likeminded cyclists to travel across the west coast of India, from Alibaug to Goa, over a week-long trip in December 2021.
What started off as an endurance holiday soon became a self-care godsend. Traveling in itself is known to have a positive impact on mental health. When combined with a low impact but highly rewarding workout like cycling, this trip becomes the perfect way to reconnect with nature after nearly two years of the pandemic. As Suresh Srinivasan recollects, "learning through experiences brings richness and meaning in life. The trip was also about cultural immersion. As we were passing through coastal villages, the famous temple town of Ganapatipule brought huge amounts of awareness about what the pristine and scenic Konkan coast had in store for us".
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Congratulations on the safe completion of this journey! First things first, how did you two meet and how did the plan for this trip come to be?
Suresh Srinivasan: I met Ashish at a running event where I was the pacer. He has been mentoring me with my cycling journey and I have done a few endurance rides with him. This challenging coastal ride was conceptualised by Ashish, and I am very thankful to have been invited.
Ashish Kaul: When I first met Suresh, I ran in his bus ("bus" refers to a group of runners who run together at the same pace to finish the race in a certain time) to complete my run in a targeted timeline. Suresh became a running mentor to me as I helped him out with his cycling. We have done a few endurance holidays together where we have hiked, climbed mountains and also cycled right up to summits of mountains. Obviously, he was an ideal person to have onboard since he is not only fit but I would need some help in motivating others but I also needed someone who was trained in mobility exercises who could help in warming up each day!
(To Ashish Kaul) You have been called the "energiser" of the group. Tell us about your experience as the team leader.
Ashish Kaul: To be honest, the title of "Captain" of the expedition kind of embarrassed me initially but my work in corporate circles as a life skills coach came in handy. I have always been a motivator and somehow as they say, energy begets energy! It was a great learning experience for me as well and I had to calibrate to each individual with their personal capability levels and also connect with each member personally to be able to either guide them or encourage them to complete their daily mileage goals.
Cycling uphill for 40 kms at a stretch and that too in hot temperatures prevailing isn’t an easy job! To let people see the positive side to adversity and yet have fun was very fulfilling to say the least. I have done this during treks and numerous outdoor events to just build self-belief in people.
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(To Suresh Srinivasan) The past year has been a testament of resilience and introspection for you. How did this trip help you push your boundaries of self-growth?
Suresh Srinivasan: This journey was about the thrill of purely getting into the unknown and stepping into the outdoors. Exploring a new place and taking on the endurance cycling challenge was a blissful and beautiful learning experience filled with new experiences, which helped me to build new self-belief to take on a challenging endurance ride. It put to test months of preparation of training that I had put in as part of my regular regime. It has been a transformative and an uplifting experience in terms of stepping out of my zone to be able to embrace the sheer pleasure of being with a like-minded and positive bunch of cyclists.
I am so glad and grateful that I did this. This experience has resulted in new hopes, mental strength and a renewed sense of confidence. This ride was not just about physical ability, it was equally about the mental makeup to take on the challenging climbs while getting ourselves fully immersed in the culture and the unparalleled coastal beauty that we traversed through.
(To Ashish Kaul) On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the rapport of this eclectic group of athletes you went on this expedition with? What made you the dream team?
Ashish Kaul: I would certainly give it a 7 or 8 out of 10 as there is always a scope of improvement. The dream team was carefully selected bearing in mind saddle time, fitness, positive attitude, resilience and last but not the least—knowing how to have fun! We always make errors in assessing people, but on trips like this, the true nature of a person comes out. The phantoms are driven out and those white elephants can't be hidden.
(To Suresh Srinivasan) If not a week-long cycling expedition along the coast, what other simple activities can you suggest for our readers to reconnect with themselves and prioritise their mental health?
Suresh Srinivasan: One can always go to places within a few hours of driving distance and indulge in activities that are mentally engaging and stimulating yet relaxing—like hiking, nature walking, cycling, running and rock climbing. The idea is to spend time and be as close to nature. It is important to do restorative activities by going on nature retreats often, at least once in two to three months.
Finally, what has been your best takeaway from this trip—in terms of mind, body and soul?
Ashish Kaul: I would say making new friends for life besides learning to endure some of the toughest hauls that come in life!
Suresh Srinivasan: It has been a great experience of self-discovery. It was also an educational opportunity—you learn about yourself more and forge new connections. New adventures bring in a huge amount of learning, self-growth and gratitude. I feel fortunate to have received the opportunity to explore a new place and know about the culture, landscape and people. I found this trip quite healing as well—to be able to appreciate the abundance of nature and seeing our incredible countryside cycling was a sheer blessing.
Feature image credit: Sanjay Shende
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