An interview with Ironman Raghul Trekker, who recently completed the IronMan Challenge in Sri Lanka with Radhika Meganathan
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.
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.