Bike Expedition Manali to Leh

Friday, June 22, 2018 - 10:25

“For the longest time, when people asked me, ‘What motivates you to do what you do?’, I didn’t really have an answer. Finally, I have realized that Diabetes has and will always be my greatest motivator!”

On December 2nd, 1996 my life unknowingly changed forever when I got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was only 9, a time when kids my age played doctor-doctor while I was actually injecting myself with insulin. I didn’t know anything about diabetes then. However, as years passed, I gained sufficient knowledge about this condition through seminars, readings, examples and experiences, learning even now about the ever changing nature of this condition.

I was an active child - attending camps, travelling, trekking, participating in sports and even excelling in most of them over time. Up until a few years back, I never considered Diabetes as an integral part of my world. It was there, present with me, but never paid any heed to it. For the longest time I took diabetes for granted, but in early 2015, after a series of severe hypoglycemic episodes, it was time to take control of things which mattered - my diabetes. In this endeavor, the pump helped me do so.

There were many things that I overlooked before I switched onto the pump, especially my diet. In spite engaging in physical activities on a regular basis, I remained overweight for a long time, which was a matter of concern. That’s when I switched onto the pump. It was a game changer. My TDD dropped from 85-90 units to 65 units, and over the months with a regulated and routine lifestyle, settled at 36units. I lost close to 22kgs and gained a wardrobe which is 90% oversize and confidence to take on newer challenges and goals that I had envisioned for myself. 

In April 2016, after losing substantial weight I decided to register for the dream ride, cycling from Manali to Khardung La, the then highest motorable road in the world. Being an avid cyclist, I was already cycling around Mumbai city for 30- 100km rides. While the shoreline sunrise was enticing and enigmatic to ride along, I guess, the mountains were my real calling. Despite all odds and the cons outweighing the pros, I decided to take up the challenge of cycling to overcome my own fears and define my strengths for myself.

I began training around 4 months prior to the ride. However, physical rigour had to be complemented with mental toughness as well.  I was certainly aware of how tough this ride would be, but I had a goal and I was determined to achieve it.  For the first 2 months, I focused purely on weight loss, primarily with functional workouts and a clean diet. 95kgs and 26% body fat was a herculean goal in itself and I successfully shed 9 kgs in the first month itself. The bigger challenge here was adjusting to the ever changing requirements of insulin fluctuations due to such drastic changes in body dynamics, which the pump was more than capable to help me adjust to, thanks to the variable basal patterns. The second half of my training included more of strength training and cycling longer distances with enough elevation gain. Normally I’d check 4-5 times, but during the ride, I used to check my sugars 7-8 times a day to be sure of the levels.

Before reaching the start point at Manali, I was in Chandigarh for 2 days where disaster was awaiting! First my patch came out so I had to rush back to my hotel to change it although on bolusing, my pump started showing a motor error. I tried multiple times to reset and self-test the pump and take a bolus as my sugars were now hovering around 400 but the damn thing would just show an error. I was in panic mode. How would I be able to do my ride? I couldn’t imagine completing this ride without the pump. Thankfully, Medtronic sent me a stand-by pump in time and I was able to control my sugars with pen shots until then.  

For the major part of my ride, I was constantly wavering towards higher sugars during the first half of the day, while I thought it would be the other way around. I feel the climate could have hampered my sensitivity. Also, constant stress and physical endurance could increase the sugar levels temporarily. But I let diabetes be in its place, and tried not to overthink about it as it wasn’t hampering my focus to complete my ride. I always had the pump which I could adjust as per my requirements.

My motto throughout the ride remained- ‘One turn at a time!’ Cycling through the ups and downs of the Himalayan range, sleeping under starry nights, stopping at a spot to just breathe in the air, to look at the vistas that the route had was a pure bliss and we reach Leh on 4th September.

But reaching Leh meant little to me as I wanted to go up till Khardung La! My preparation had always been for Manali to Khardung La.  We had decided to cycle upwards with no back-up vehicle, and stuck with that decision. After a day’s rest, I was ready for the ultimate challenge of riding 40kms up to Khardung La back. Quite honestly, I was VERY tensed! To put things in perspective, we were to gain 8000ft in 40kms, which is 200ft/ km average.

So on 6th September, 2016, after months of training and maintaining a disciplined regime, after fighting all odds and making it through the thickest of bushes, after grueling mentally, physically and emotionally for 10 hours, I (unofficially yet ) became the first Indian Diabetic to cycle to 18380 feet! I felt unstoppable and that feeling still gives me goosebumps!

So with the wind beneath my wings and gliding at 50km/hr, I rode back down, thumping my chest in triumph and shouting out into the valleys. I was having conversations with the peak and telling her how she has been the best challenge I have faced so far; how she may have broken down many a people but not me, not today, because I’m tougher!

Hi, I’m Harsh Pandya, an architect, artist, aspiring triathlete and an inspiring T1D

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the blog are personal views of the author. acting or omitting to act on the basis of the information contained in the blog shall be doing it purely at their own risk and discretion and are advised to seek professional advice.

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