Vikram Dogra embodies the true spirit of an officer and a gentleman and Capt Seshadri looks at this next rung of achievement in becoming an ironman.
Father, aged 96, a former Northern India boxing champion of the 1930s, who still walks for fitness every single evening. Wife, who has successfully completed several half marathons over the past two years. Two fit and sporty sons who are now keen to become Ironmen. An inspiration that spans three generations, and in the process, creating the only Major General in any army in the world to successfully complete an Ironman, that too well inside the qualifying timings.
Vikram Dogra. An officer and a gentleman of the Indian Army, who embodies the joy of physical fitness, through the sporting activities of cycling, swimming and running. In his words: “The Ironman triathlon is the most gruelling one-day event in the world. It is a test of physical endurance and mental strength. In order to accomplish this, a person needs to be committed, focused, passionate and disciplined. It is a realization of the heights of what we can achieve when we push ourselves beyond our physical limits. The training and preparation include both mental and physical conditioning, though the former precedes the latter. Training needs include aerobic performance, body and core strengthening, flexibility and nutrition. You must remain focused and committed; so, finally anything is actually possible.”
Austria, a country more famous for its contribution to art and culture, was the venue for the Ironman event. Maj Gen Vikram, a virtual greenhorn, found himself both overawed and intimidated even before the start, right from the registration desk. Says he: “It was a cauldron of people of different ages and nationalities. There were experienced athletes who had participated in numerous Ironman events before.” On the morning of race day, the entire city of Klagenfurt seemed to have come alive. All of seventeen hours, the official time limit for completion, was filled with cheering supporters, egging on every single participant, irrespective of where he came from, with a carnival-like atmosphere, music and more.
The finish line was even more electrifying, with loud music, cheerleaders and people lining the streets, giving that final impetus to the finishers. Recalls Maj Gen Vikram: “The feeling was ecstatic when my wife and some friends who were waiting for me, shouted out my name. My wife handed me the national flag and I ran the last 200 metres proudly holding it aloft. My feelings were mixed, but the outstanding emotion was the pride at showing off my country, combined with satisfaction, relief, and humility. Adding to all this was the voice of the MC proclaiming: Vikram, you are an Ironman.”
Congratulatory messages poured in from family and friends. For him, it was a dream come true; a culmination of untiring effort and ceaseless toil, inexpressible in vocal terms. Talking about the rigorous preparation, Maj Gen Vikram elucidates: “Training and preparation include both mental and physical conditioning, though mental conditioning precedes the physical preparation. Thereafter, you need to be physically trained to complete the event within 17 hours. This took me the better part of two years. Initially, I focused on core strengthening and overall conditioning, building aerobic capacity and flexibility. It was only around four months earlier that I commenced specific Ironman training. I found that the three disciplines need both individual and sequential training to strengthen the different set of muscles needed for each. Diet, forming a very important part of training, had to cater for a daily intake of over 5,000 calories, comprising the right mix of proteins, carbs, and vitamins.”
As a soldier and a General, the demands of work could not be ignored, obviously with Ironman training eating in. On being asked about time management, Maj Gen Dogra responded: “Training for the Ironman had to be undertaken by me in the evening after I returned from work. I would typically run from 7 to 10 at night 2 to 3 times a week. Weekdays were utilised for swimming while weekends were reserved for cycling since that needed almost 6 to 7 hours to complete.” Secrecy was key here too, with none except family and close friends knowing of his training and participation. Which meant that there was no official time off to train, leaving him only after office hours at night, and on weekends.
Maj Gen Vikram Dogra sums up his extraordinary achievement thus: “I am indeed lucky to have a family that supported my eccentric training routine without once questioning my sanity. It goes to the credit of my wife, Supriya, that she tolerated my waking up at 1 am and going off to cycle on the expressway and returning at 8 am, or taking off after office to run 20 kms and coming home by 10 pm. I had stopped all socializing but she never once protested.”
Much to sacrifice indeed. Far beyond one’s call for duty to the country.