ArunJohn alias Ironman70.3 alias Half-Ironman, a dream come true. Oh baby I feel like flying, flying up above in the air. The journey towards this was not so easy and I could reach there only by perseverance. It all started around 3 years back when I had just learnt swimming and I could not even cross 25m in water at a stretch. I used to be really afraid of depth then and used to take 3 breaks to complete a lap i.e, 50m at the velachery aquatic complex. I used to see mails from CTC conducting triathlons and one of my friends used to talk about someone who had completed half-iron triathlon and used to practise at the same Velachery pool. I had then (2 years back) registered for sprint level triathlon and completed it but my swimming was so shabby and I managed to complete it somehow by taking rest on ropes every now and then. I used to wonder how these people swim such a long distance(1.9km) but I was not giving up so easily and there was something from inside of me telling I will be able to do it one day. The next level was Olympic (1.5 year back) and this time CTC were conducting it in Anna swimming pool which had varying depth from 4-12 feet and the ropes were not so strong. I had not got better in swimming by then though I had taken membership at velachery pool and I could not stand in the middle as the ropes were not so robust and I was not so confident about breathing techniques and I had to quit. I went straight to Velachery pool and started practicing, corrected my mistakes on my own, learnt to feel comfortable in water and slowly started to get rid of my fears. Then I started to be a regular at the pool and started observing people and learnt breaststroke just by observing people. This helped me a lot in my floating techniques and feel more comfortable in water and this in turn had a positive effect on freestyle as well as then I became more confident and I started to breath sub-consciously in water just like changing gears after learning to ride a two-wheeler well. Then I increased my maximum distance gradually from 50m to 100m to 200m to 500m to 1km to 1.5 km to 2km. I had crossed a non-stop 2km twice so far without even stopping for hydration and now I am so confident that I can do a non-stop 1km everytime I get into water even without stopping for hydration. After such rigorous practice I was waiting for that big day , the next event when half-iron will be one of the categories. Finally it was announced , the 13th of july 2014. I had 3 months to get prepared physically and mentally. I know mental preparation was the most important of all. I had asked 2 of friends to watch over my swimming on the day since it was in open waters at ottiambakkam quarry, even took one of them to the pool a month before and checked the pool, prepared all the backups and made sure there was no hiccups, then registered for the event and started practicing, of course only swimming. Even before one week of the event , the excitement started piling up and I was visualizing my finishing style and status after completing. The day before the event, I had got good sleep throughout that week, I had Balaji to fetch cycle from Balaji cycles, I had my friend Bharathi, my swim guard staying at my home, hydrated myself well, loaded carbs and was all set and slept well.
It was the big day the next morning. We woke up at 3.30 and got ready and carried the cycle to the event spot in my bike, had a little struggle to find the spot but we made it well in time, stretched well and I got into waters as Bharathi took a good position to watch and said “bayapadaama eranguda, nee adichiruva enakku nambikka irukku”. Immediately after the getting in, after 2 strokes got back to the rock and signalled “all is well” to my friend. The water was warmer than outside since it was in the quarry. Then the race started in batches of 10. I was H12 and I started to swim as they signaled for the 2nd batch and now there was no fear just smiles, even as I was swimming towards the rocks on the other side, seeing people swim and seeing the surfers on the other side rowing their boards. The happiness of finding myself swimming in the open waters confidently was the only thing I could feel then. The next 1.9km was a cake walk and it was my personal best as I completed it in 1hr and 12 mins. Then I got out of the pool and changed to cycling/running costume, had 2 sandwiches and gave a send off to Bharathi as he was supposed to come back only around my finishing time and then started towards Kalpakkam, I took a wrong turn for about 1.5kms up and same distance down at the T-junction of OMR and ECR seeing Mamallapuram board pointing on the opposite direction, then saw the Chennai board and realized I had to travel in the opposite direction. As I returned to the T-junction I could see people already coming back and I still had about 10km to the turning point. Reached the turning point at 10.45 and got hydrated, ate some fruits and returned, I knew the return will be easier due to winds in the favorable direction and it was as expected and further one of the volunteers paced me in his bike and gave company from the T-junction till the running spot. We reached there at 1:25pm. My running time started at 1:28. It was here I learnt running, (in fact walking fast I should say) was my strength. I overtook many of those who reached before me in cycling and even my running was the second best of all in my category. I did it in 3 hrs and 2 mins. I listened to my body well, hydrated and ate well during the course and I completed it gracefully and thanked God at the finish and then gave an interview to Peter, “It felt great. I learnt swimming only 2 years back. Cycling took the longest time since I never practised” and then got the medal from him. Got my T-shirt and posed for fotos and then drove the bike back with Bharathi carrying the cycle and we also had to pay fine at the entry into 200feet road. Got ready and went to NLAG for 6pm service which I reached at 6:20, then only I felt sleepy and left to home at around 7:20 and then took some rest before watching the FIFA finals. But still I could watch only the first half before I dozed off for the day.
This was the title for my FB profile picture that day
“Arun John alias Ironman70.3 alias Half-Ironman. Now its official. Dedicating this feat to God first and then all my friends and well-wishers. Some names deserve a special mention, Bharathi Dasan, my swimming guard, without whom I would not have got into open waters in first place, Srinivasan, for taking my running to next level with Vibram shoes, Bala Vishwanath, for fetching cycle, Gokul Raju for all his motivation and tips, Gurumoorthi anna for being my inspiration, Tamil Selvan for giving me confidence to register and all CTC volunteers without whom this would not have been possible. — at ottiambakkam.”