The whirring of wheels and clunking of gears were the ambience sounds on Sunday morning, as people battled the cold and made it to the starting line of the third Chandigarh Cyclothon.
Warm in my bed at 7.30am, I couldn't let my eyes open, and my hands turned off the alarm heedlessly. A friend's yelling on the telephone got me out of the quilt, and there I was, in a white T-shirt, moving to the mega event.
I huffed and puffed to the Sukhna lake, the venue of the 10-km amateur race, as friends used all their tricks to hasten my footsteps: "We're clueless about the starting line. Hurry up, the flag off is over," they kept saying on telephone.
I refused to believe that we were late. I craved to ride a bicycle, like I did at the second race in September 2011. I found out where the bicycles were on hire, and mortgaged the group's identity cards to get us the bikes.
As the beauty of pink Miss India weaved a spell over me, I forgot to check its nitty-gritty. As the signal came to saddle up, a middle-aged participant told me my beauty-queen handlebar was twisted. Well, it had looked fine until then.
The cyclists zoomed past me, and I was busy fixing the unfaithful partner. With only a few girls in the race, the shutterbugs had the entire focus on our group, in which I struggled with a distorted piece of metal, depriving me of a striking pose.
A boy of 4 and two men in their 60s cycled past, and a thought occurred that my friends would be swayed by the rush and leave me all alone. On the way, most people cheered us up but some greeted the pack with scorn. Those were the families who had taken out their cars for a Sunday outing and found that the road now belonged to cyclists. As the police signalled them to hold, we enjoyed prolonging their agony.
Unless you fall off, cycling is a body-friendly sport. Like any endurance routine, it can produce a catalogue of niggling aches and pains. I was spared the misfortune of flesh wounds but my muscles failed to take the strain, and with each second, it got worse.
The photographs of victory signs and smiles made up for the disappointment of getting an out-of-shape handlebar. Breakfast at the lake, under the shimmering sun, and a two-hour sleep to make up for my early rising were the icing on the cake.