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Ironman Times Ten

Laura Knoblach, took the Ironman and multiplied it by ten to become the Iron woman in a man’s world, writes Capt Seshadri.

The Ironman is one of the toughest endurance races in the world. While many such competitions are held across the globe, the Ironman World Championship, often acknowledged as the culmination of all of these, is held in the picturesque island of Hawaii, more associated with sand and surfing than endurance events. The course comprises a Waikiki Roughwater swim of 3.86 km, the Around Oahu bicycle race of 185.07 km and the Honolulu Marathon.

Since 1997, athletes with disabilities were allowed to compete in a separate category; however, the cut off times for them were no different from the so called, able bodied competitors. John Maclean of Australia, became the first physically challenged athlete to successfully complete the event.

The Deca Ironman

The Ironman, however, is not the final test of endurance. Introducing the ‘Deca Ironman’! This unbelievably tough and taxing event is meant for a very niche few of master athletes, with extraordinary physical fitness and mental stamina to even consider competing. Here, participants complete the length of ten back to back Ironmans. Obviously, it takes weeks, with each leg being ten times longer than the normal. That constitutes 38.4 km of swimming, 1,792 km of biking and 419.2 km of running.

Here then, is the story of a woman, who rewrote the history books of the Deca. Laura Knoblach, all of 22 years, had already gained lots of experience in marathons and even double and triple Ironmans. But these distance runs and tests of endurance still left her dissatisfied at being unable to realise her potential and her dreams. Urged on by a friend, and realising a ‘beast’ within herself, Laura signed up for that ultimate test of endurance, the Deca Ironman.

Knoblach’s Challenge

Swimming was the first event. It was not just the distance but the ennui of swimming 750 laps of a 50 metre pool. While the specified time was 25 hours, Laura completed it in 19. At the end of it, she didn’t even have the energy to dress or change, almost passing out in the shower. A few hours of rest and it was time to start the biking leg. This was another set of loops, 200 of them over an 8.8km course. It was a nightmarish ordeal of 270 km a day. Often, while cycling at night, Laura would see ghosts… of trees appearing like people out of the darkness.

Now, Laura the endurance athlete, had always been better at biking, so she attempted to finish her forte as quickly as possible before the ten marathons. That was to be another hallucinating effort, having to run 330 laps over a short 1.25 km loops. Boredom and tiredness at its worst! For the first two days, Laura just walked. From Day 3, she began to run. Finally, after 320 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds, a thoroughly exhausted by deliriously happy Laura, crossed the finish line of the Ironman Ten, making history as the youngest to complete this ultimate test of human endurance. And in the process, breaking the US women’s record by over 13 hours.

During the entire stretch, she hardly had six hours of sleep a day. Food and drink were almost a continuous process along the journey. But this unstoppable Iron Lady just couldn’t halt herself. Laura Knoblach spent the next six days biking along the far side of the Rhine, simply to satisfy her curiosity as a tourist!

If there is one thing she proved, it is this: there are no limits to your endurance. When the body says no, let the mind take over.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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From Dawn to Dusk

Neville J Bilimoria, athlete extraordinaire and founder of Dawn2Dusk marathon, who recently received “PRIDE OF INDIA” Award from ECL Narasimham, the Governor of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh, speaks to Radhika Meganathan.

“It was an honour to receive the Pride of India award along with 21 other sports personalities including Arjuna Awardees, during the inauguration of Indian Institute of Sports Medicine,” Neville says, who has completed 57 marathons in 7 years with the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018. His brain child Dawn2Dusk is very popular in Chennai and offers an exciting opportunity for amateur and experienced athletes to train, compete and win.

A national champion in rowing and the only Indian athlete attempting the Chennai-Vijayawada-Chennai race for the 4th time, Neville cites rowing as the foundation for his passion for endurance sports. He cycles every morning from Madhya Kailash area up to ECR toll booth. His running ground is the Adyar boat area, as it offers him the peace and quiet he needs. He mixes up his training with yoga every day as he feels that stretches are most important.  He trains himself.

“If you are disciplined and have clear goals you can be your own trainer. The beauty of training in endurance sports like cycling or running is that you don’t really need to financially invest in it continuously,” he opines. “If your focus is complete, you will automatically take the pains to keep you updated in what’s needed for you to keep your body in optimum condition. This way, you become the inspiration for everyone around you, including strangers.”

Neville does not eat any special diet but has only one rule that he follows diligently when it comes to food – not to overeat during the days he does not train. “It’s easy to overeat during endurance training, and you don’t want that because it interferes with your performance. That’s why it’s important to hydrate well before any training,” he says. “I make sure I drink up to 3-4 litres of water every day. If your body is well hydrated, it will have no space to overeat!”

While many know Neville as an avid marathoner and founder of Dawn2Dusk, few are aware that he is a senior partner and managing director at an organization that provides immigration services to Indians wanting to move or work abroad. We ask him how he manages to balance a challenging full-time career and a training routine that demands him to be consistent, and he answers: “Time management, pure and simple.”

That’s his first and foremost advice for young and mature beginners who want to take up endurance sports like running or cycling. “You must have good time management skills if you want to train in any passion, be it sports or any other discipline, otherwise life has a way of interfering in your plans and swallowing it all up!” he says. “Here’s a tip – pretend that each minute of your time is money, then you will be pushed to spending it wisely on the right stuff.”

Apart from local and national events, Neville participates in one international race every year, and has been supported by Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers, as the Endurance Ultra athlete for running and cycling. “In addition to organizing organizes the D2D Chennai Marathon, I also take part in the race, running 6 hours and cycling 6 hours. Dawn2Dusk donates its proceeds to a different charity every year and in 2018, the proceeds from the marathon will be donated to the children’s wing at the Adyar Cancer Institute,” he informs.

When asked about the injury risks an athlete faces, he said: “Truth is, any sport has its own risk, sometimes it’s external factors, sometimes your own body may betray you. But if you want to conquer a sport, you just have to do it, without worrying about the risks. Let’s not forget, you can get injured while training in the safety of your home! Just take the usual precautions while training and participating in any sport and live life to your fullest potential.”

While he encourages everyone to take up a sport as a secondary passion in their lives, Neville believes women are more focused and strong in their pursuits. “From what I have seen while mentoring and training young athletes, women certainly aim higher, work as hard and achieve more when it comes to targets,” he says. Who is your best supporter, we ask and Neville answers in a grateful manner. “My best supporter is and always has been my wife. Without her help, I wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to indulge in my passion for sports.”

Neville mentors young and aspiring athletes, and he can be contacted through his website http://nevilleendeavours.com and http://d2dchennaimarathon.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Radhika Meganathan is a published author who is an advocate for healthy living, she practices sugar-free intermittent fasting, all-terrain rambling and weight training.

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The wind of change

The first role model for black and female athletes, Capt Seshadri remembers the stunning achievements of the ‘Tornado’ Wilma Rudolph.

The date was November 12, 1994. The flag of the state of Tennessee flew at half mast as the citizens shed tears at the passing away of child number 20. From a family that had two more siblings. And all of them from a railway porter father who was twice wedded. This is the story of the ‘Tornado’ of the 1960s… the fastest woman on earth.

The Early Years

Wilma Rudolph, the first American woman to win three golds in a single Olympics, was born on June 23, 1940, into a family of indigents. From early childhood, she suffered from various illnesses like pneumonia and scarlet fever, and at the age of 4, contracted infantile paralysis. In the process of recovering from this debilitating disease caused by the polio virus, she was forced to wear a leg brace for the next four years. The following years were a constant trip to Nashville for treatment and massages for her leg, which was supported by an orthopaedic shoe. But this wonder kid, at age 12, broke away from the restrictions and began walking without artificial support.

Back at high school as a tenth grader, Wilma began playing basketball and her rare, natural talent was spotted by Ed Temple, the track and field coach of Tennessee. And so, fourteen year old Wilma signed up for his summer training camp; in a short time, she was winning as many as nine events in a single meet. Even while a high school student, she trained with the Tennessee State University women’s track team, the Tigerbelles, racing and winning amateur athletic events with amazing regularity.

The Olympics

Wilma’s Olympic debut came about in 1956 at Melbourne, where she competed in the 200 metres and collected bronze in the 4×400 metres relay. Some time later, while still a student, she ran the 200 metres at Abilene in the US Olympic track and field trials in a world record time that stood its ground for eight years! Her sprint to fame however, came four years later at the Stadio Olimpico at Rome, where she set the cinder track ablaze with three golds, in the 100 & 200 metres and the 4×100 metre relay, in the process becoming the first American woman to achieve a triple Olympic gold. But the 200 metres still proved her favourite where, although she won gold in the final in 24.0 seconds, she had already set a new Olympic record of 23.2 seconds in the opening heat!

The ‘Tornado’

Wilma Rudolph was one of the first role models for black and female athletes. Her Olympic success is quoted as having given a tremendous boost to women’s participation in track and field events in the United States. The effect of her successes went far beyond her collection of medals; she was instrumental in breaking the gender barrier in a male dominated area of track and field athletics. A sensational achievement in such an era, fighting physical disability, fiscal hardship and a social handicap, proving to the world that in a battle of disability vs determination, the winner is ever predictable.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

Read more