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Record Breaking Iron(wo)man

In conversation with Vinolee Ramalingam, the Chennai based Triathlete who has never let any obstacle deter her.

Ironman is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of non-compete to endurance sports, how did you choose to take it up?
ironmanI started out again to get my body and mind into shape. I didn’t have any endurance sports in mind, as I was focused only on swimming. In my city Chennai, there was a triathlon event around that time and My friends and well-wishers pushed me to take up that. That’s how it happened and rest was history, as I was completely into training and participating in it.

Finishing two Ironman’s and setting a new record, how did that happen?
Participating in an Ironman was not for any record, rather it was only for my own self. I needed to see where I am, and how to fit I am. Being a short distance national athlete (100m,200m) and national swimmer, my mind was and is into sports from my childhood. All my dream and my father and brother’s dream was to represent India at an international arena. When I did that, it was kind of exhilarating and I was addicted to it. That’s what is pushing me.

You have now set your sights on the World Championship, how would you be preparing for it?
World championships are always a dream of a triathlete. For it, I got to train harder and smarter. Need twice or thrice the dedication level which I have now to go to that level. I have got my training plans altered to that, have identified my lagging areas, and am now working more on it. Also, we have analyzed the effort which I did for the two Ironmans. With that as a reference, I am looking forward to an improved training.

What advice would you give to a newbie who wants to try an Ironman event?
An Ironman aspirant should have an open strong mind to even choose this event. He /she should have a structured training plan which will help them in concentrating on each of the legs individually. He/she should be very strong in their basics. They may be a good swimmer, but without knowledge of the bike, they will have trouble. A sound mind to accept whatever may come as output, be ready to push through. My motto is “No way out, Push Through”

How has your family viewed this change?
My family have been supporting me from day 1 when I told I am planning to pursue this. They were happy and they started encouraging me on day to day basis. My kid, Vinesh, is so accommodating, he used to sleep in the car when I go for a ride, as my husband drives the car. Without family, I am nothing.

Who is your inspiration or role model?
My dad, Ramalingam, is my inspiration. He was a national medal winner during 1970s in Heptathlon. He decided things on his own and took up sports as his career, stayed as a coach until he retired. He was also the District Sports Officer. He encourages and coaches me and my kid for our events. He is coaching my kid for upcoming kids triathlon.

Do you work with a coach? If yes, what are the benefits? If no, then how do you plan your training?
Yes, I work with my coach, Xavier Coppock of Team TRI Coaching. He has trained many athletes and has made their dream of qualifying for World Championships come true. Working with a coach is always beneficial as they will know the right amount of training for each leg. And they will be on top of your training and will change it accordingly to your positives and negatives. We just got to blindly follow them

Do you follow a special nutrition plan before and during your race? Can you share a few tips about that?
I didn’t follow any specific nutrition plan, but I did mind what I ate. I had included more amount of proteins, enough carbs and minimal fat. I completely avoided all bakery items, aerated drinks. These kept me in shape. And of course loads of water.
The week leading to the race one should be drinking as much water and take more electrolytes to keep them in shape. If we don’t keep ourselves equipped with this, we will end up feeling exhausted during the race.

Plan earlier for the race. Keep adequate gels, salt capsules and electrolyte. Though the organizers will have enough supplementary drinks, it’s always better to carry our own. That way we will be confident during the race and need not fear if the next aid station carries water or not.

They say mental strength is the most important factor for an endurance event. Do you agree and how have you trained yourself to tackle the challenge the race throws at you?
Along with your physical strength, we need to have tremendous mental strength. We will have a lot of delusions and tons of questions, and you will be asked to quit and go to sleep. During the race, I used to talk to myself about my kid, my family and how they will feel happy when I reach the finish line. How they will be happily and patiently waiting on the finish line for me etc. If we have something to concentrate on and think on, then that’s a boon.

How have you changed as a person since you took up the training for the Ironman?
As a person, I started looking at things positively and started being an influencer indirectly and directly for many women, who think life is just to take care of kids and family and not have any kind of aspirations. Life is short, you are your best friend and your body is the only thing which comes with you till the end. My mind is now fresh, am happy because I do what my mind wants me to do. Indirectly I have changed my kid’s life, as he is happily taken sports as part of his day to day life, and is ready to stay fit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Managing a Flying Career with Triathlon Training

Triathlete Akshay Samel speaks to Protima Tiwary about his love for triathlons and his passion for flying and finding time for both.

From learning the most from bad races to running marathons as a hobby while learning to balance a hectic professional life as a pilot, Akshay Samel’s life is full of moments that inspire all those who know him. We caught up with him in between his flying schedule for a quick chat. Excerpts from the interview:

What made you take up running?

I had always been an active child and enjoyed my childhood playing games in the neighbourhood. I was not the boy you’d find busy with videogames; weekends and summer vacations were spent in fields playing a sport. I am not a professional sportsman, in fact professionally I am a pilot. I only run as a hobby and took it up as a means of getting fit.

It was 2005 when I went to watch the Mumbai Marathon, and it is the spirit of this beautiful event that inspired me to take part in the 7km Dream Run in 2006 in the same marathon. It was during this run that I decided to try for a half marathon someday, once I got the time to train for it.

It took me 3 years to make the dream of a half marathon come true (there was a delay as I waited for my Indian Pilots Licence to arrive first) In 2010 I ran my first half marathon. It’s easy to get addicted to the high you feel after running with a community so supportive and enthusiastic about fitness. There was no looking back for me, I signed up for a full marathon soon after and that’s how it all started.

How do you manage to balance your flying schedule with your running schedule?

That truly is a difficult part. When you have a job with an erratic schedule, it does become difficult to plan ahead. Your sleep patterns are also affected by the flying times, and it requires a truckload of willpower to keep going. Thankfully, over the years I have aced self-motivation to stay on track. My biggest motivation to keep going is to challenge myself to see an improvement in each race.

I face a huge challenge when it comes to recovery. Flying means I am working at 7000ft, with dry air and less oxygen, and different pressure cycles. I use compression calves sleeves when flying, and most importantly I have learnt not to be too hard on myself. I don’t chase missed workouts.  I listen to my body and give it enough rest till I feel I am ready to bounce back.

What is your training schedule like?

I don’t really have a schedule unless there is a race that I need to train for. When I train, I believe in quality over quantity. I try to fit in 3 high-intensity workouts of each discipline, but it all depends on the availability of the bike/pool, another reason it gets difficult to follow a training schedule. I swim, I run and I do some high-intensity indoor bike rides to stay on track.

I have trained with a coach once, and I went from a 4hr marathon to 3:31 in 2 years and from a 1:45 half marathon to 1:33.

Was Ironman always the plan? 

Ironman 70.3 in 2013 (Taiwan) happened purely because of  “peer pressure” for lack of a better term, as a couple of us signed up for this race together. The next couple of years were the same as we signed up to enjoy the thrill of the race. There was no structured training plan. In 2016 5 of us decided to register for the Ironman Kalmar (2016) I was a little nervous about this one, especially about cycling for 180km, and thus concentrated on training on the bike.

Ironman happened because of the thrill and joy that our group shared; we enjoyed training together, sharing and executing workouts and encouraging each other to give it our best. We even shared our fears and low points. We all ended up inspiring each other, and that is the best part about the fitness family. It is such an inspirational squad!

What’s been your best race till date?

It has got to be the Ironman Copenhagen. I hadn’t trained for it the way I would have loved to, but I felt strong throughout and enjoyed it even through the pain. The time I took to complete it was 11:03!

What do you feel about bad races?

I think you learn more from your bad races than you do from the good ones. Good races show you that your training was good, but it is the bad races that show you how much more is needed in terms of training as well as your diet. 2 of my biggest learnings from bad races would be –

  1. Rest is important! Your body will tell you when it needs a pause, do not overdo it.
  2. Quality of training is always better than the quantity of training.

How do you keep yourself going during the long races?

I have learnt to motivate myself, and I realised I am quite strong headed that way. Over the years I have learnt to break my marathon into parts, like smaller goals that all help you reach the bigger goal (in this case, the finish line)

How do you maintain a pace?

For me, training a couple of times a week at a faster pace than my set goal pace helps build endurance. Consistent training will help in setting your goal pace and then maintaining it.

Also, you can’t randomly choose a pace, you need a coach to show you how to do it. Because running on an arbitrary pace that you thought was right will only have you undershoot or overshoot your capability.

What do you like most about triathlons?

Triathlon is all about moving ahead, doing better. Triathlon is a lifestyle, and there is no going back when you start planning and managing your time. There’s one thing that I follow, no matter what, something that Jack Reacher once said: Eat when you can and sleep when you can. Wise words to live by.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An Army kid who wishes to travel the world one wellness vacation at a time, Protima Tiwary is a freelance content writer by day and Dumbbells and Drama, a fitness blogger by night. High on love and life, she is mildly obsessed about travelling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

 

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Tri crash and burn!

Radhika Meganathan interviews IRONMAN Raghul Trekker, who recently completed the IronMan Challenge in Sri Lanka

A triathlon is an endurance competition that consists of three continuous disciplines. Its most popular form involves swimming, cycling, and running, to be completed in succession within a set time frame. We  talk to RAGHUL TREKKER who recently conquered the Colombo Ironman and is the force behind the scientific training for triathlon aspirants at his fitness studio, TRI CRASH ‘n’ BURN.

THE BUG

How did you get into fitness? I was born and brought up in Chennai, but studied marine engineering in Pune (Incidentally, the idea for the original Ironman Triathlon was suggested by US Navy Commander John Collins!). In my college, it was mandatory to run every morning except on Sundays. It was only for the first three semesters, but that set the pace for my attachment with fitness and exercise. I already was a swimmer and cyclist, so the stage was already set for me.

From the IT industry to triathlons…how did that happen? When I returned to Chennai from Pune after graduation, I joined Polaris. As you probably know, IT jobs are mostly sedentary. I started to actively look for exercising opportunities when I came across Chennai Trekkers Club. CTC introduced me to triathlons and that was it, it all clicked. They conduct triathlons twice a year in and around Chennai, and I trained and participated in all of them. I eventually learned about Ironman and other global races and started travelling and participating in them. Malaysia in 2014 and 2015, Australia and Netherlands in 2017, Columbo in Feb 2018 and I am going to China and South Africa shortly.

Was any triathlon a breeze? There are no easy triathlons! It all involves consistent training and dedication, but I get what you mean. I have to say so far Malaysia was the toughest, because of its hilly and unpredictable terrain. Colombo, relatively, was easier – I finished the 90 km cycling in 2 hrs 32 min, the swimming in 36 minutes 55 sec and the running in 1 hr 48 min 40 sec.

TRIATHLONS FULL TIME

So what triggered you to become a full time triathlete? In 2015, it came to a point where I clearly preferred to race and train than work inside an office. So I took the plunge to follow my passion. It was not an easy decision, but then I have never been the kind of person who will agonize or waver indefinitely. At some point, if you have a passion and vision, you have to make a choice. Once you make it, then you have to do everything necessary – from monetary investment to setting self-paced goals and networking hard – in order to meet your goals.

So how do you train? In general, when it comes to training for a triathlon, consistency is key. You don’t have to train every single day, but you do have to train consistently, say, three or four days a week, and you need to have your own customized schedule to follow. Emergencies happen, you can miss one or two workouts, but you need to be disciplined enough to get back on track in no time.

Do you have a trainer? Everyone needs a trainer! I met my trainer Lucie Zelenkova in Malaysia in 2015. She is a prolific triathlete based in South Africa and she has designed my workout schedule which I follow every day. Yes, it’s possible to have a long-distance coach! We have weekly skype sessions and she sends me workouts and diet charts and is there for me whenever I need her advice.

The question everyone wants an answer to – what do you eat? I eat normal Indian food. But where I differ is in my plating, I don’t fill it with a mountain of white rice! I make sure I eat a well-balanced meal of equal amounts of veggies, protein and carbs in the form of millets. In my opinion, you don’t need to be on any special diet to train for a triathlon. You just need to make healthy food choices and eat good food in the right quantity. Don’t eat junk food, don’t eat too much or too little, and you will do perfectly fine.

Global races are expensive, do you have sponsors? I still fondly remember the time when my past employer Polaris sponsored me to participate my first Ironman triathlon in Malaysia. This year, Running Lab is my sponsor for all my sporting equipment and attire needs. Otherwise, I have to sponsor myself for all other expenses, like travel and accommodation. But that’s how it is. You need to invest in yourself when you are competing in a global scale sport. The more you do, the more chances you have in networking and meeting potential sponsors, runners, trainers. And the experience and exposure is fantastic, so it’s all worth it.

Tri.Crash.Burn is Born

In 2015, 25 Dream Runners asked to train under me and I did it in the mornings and weekends while still working a full time job. I loved the experience and it inspired me to start Try Crash Burn, offering customized and scientific coaching for runners and triathletes. I concentrate only on training for triathlons.

So if I wanted to train for a triathlon can I join?  Yes, but you have to be ready to be trained. For example, I cannot teach you to swim or cycle. You already have to be a swimmer and a cyclist when you sign up for my training. If you are differently-abled, I’d be happy to train you if you have already found your guide runner.

What is the time line for training for a triathlon? If you already know cycling and swimming, then 6 months of intense training is the bare minimum. But one year is a more sustainable and comfortable pace, which you should take if you are not on some unreasonable deadline to participate in a triathlon. In Chennai, the running scene is vibrant, but not many are cyclists and about 98% are non-swimmers. So that’s an unequal balance, and it’s largely a standard status for an Indian triathlete aspirant. First step is to identify which discipline is your weakest and then start training in it.

What advice do you have to those aspiring to be triathletes? Don’t over train, and don’t under train. I don’t recommend any one to train on their own for a triathlon, as risk of injury is higher and you cannot self-correct any errors. If you are serious about being a triathlete, find a qualified trainer who is in sync with your fitness level and goals, and you will be able to achieve your targets in no time.

Raghul Trekker can be contacted at http://www.tricrashnburn.com. His FB page is https://www.facebook.com/tricrashnburn

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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