This is based on a request from a reader.
CTC iron triathlon for 2014 was announced at the start of the month of November to be held on 20,21 December. As soon as I saw the poster I dropped a mail to Peter to ask him if it was possible to conduct the full and half iron on saturday just like any international event, just to make sure we had a rest day before starting the next work week. I was pleased to see him accept the suggestion and announced the triathlon date on 20th December. My swimming preparations were in full swing. Even before registering I tried a full 4km swim and noted my timing it was 2:20, same as international cut-off for swim of 3.9km and then registered and regularly practiced and noted my timing was going lesser and lesser and it was 2:10 one week before the event. I was pretty much sure of meeting the international cut-off time for swim during the event.
December 19th was our family day function from our office at Grand Chola. I was playing guitar for seven-song medley sung by our colleagues along with Karthick on Keyboard. We were there at the hotel even from the morning for the rehearsals. And meantime, Peter had arranged for road bikes for all full-iron triathletes from Pro-bikers and I had to collect it on the same day(day before the event) and I had to wait there for about 2 hours while they checked the roadie for me and was getting it ready, around 6 , I reached my home with the cycle, had Balaji waiting at my house for picking me up for the function as it would be late if I had to get back to office to get my pulsar, then managed to reach on time for our performance, played well and loaded carbs during the dinner and reached home by 9:30 and Bharathi also reached around the same time. I had packed all my things for the event a day before and so straight away hit the bed and had a good sleep. “When I woke up, I realized that I had left my swimsuit and cycling shorts at my hometown and had not picked up my cycle from the shop and I felt sad and later consoled myself that it’s ok and I could become ironman the next time” , having dreamt like this I woke up. It felt strange. I used to get dreams like missing the exams even now once in a while, so I thought it is okay and did not tell Bharathi about it and got ready, said my prayers “Lord, please help me to complete this ironman and come back to church next morning for the carols, if Your will.. ”
We reached ottiambakkam with Bharathi carrying the cycle in my bike, around 5:45. Then we changed to our swimsuits and got into the pool to get used to water after a warmup and then after few do’s and dont’s from Peter and Rahul, we plunged into the water for our swim leg. For full iron we had to do 13 loops of 150m to and fro. I was at my comfortable pace doing breaststroke ,at 12th loop while returning back I felt a slight pull in my calf muscles of the left leg, as I had my feet stretched open throughout the 1.5hrs of swim thus far. I reached the ropes stood there and relaxed my calf muscles by making a waving fin like action with my feet. I completed my swim leg with my personal best and well within international cut-off (2:20) in 2hrs. I felt very happy and great having completed the swim leg so easily and well within my target. It was 8:36 when I got out of water and heard from Bharathi that swim started around 6:35.
Then I got into my cycling suit and my next target was to complete this leg in 9hrs including all the breaks so that I could complete within international cut-off of 17hrs and also get some sleep in the night before catching the next day morning flight. In fact I had spoken to Mani and he had agreed to arrange a stay for me in his home and take me to the airport after waking me up at 4’o clock in the morning. I started cycling around 9’o clock after having sandwiches and some fruits. I started well and was going good, 1 or 2km just before reaching Thiruporur, back wheel got punctured and I did not notice till 100m or so from the aid station and luckily there was a cycle mechanic from Pro-bikers and I re-freshed myself while he set the cycle right, then I started again at 10:10 and when I reached the U-turn point it was 11:20 at Thirukalunkundram, initially I had planned to take lunch after completing first 90km, but the return from U-turn point was tough due to heavy head-winds and it took a toll on us and when I reached Thiruporur again it was 12:45 and I was drained and decided to take lunch there. It took a while to get back to senses and eat and around 1:15 started again towards infosys, Sholinganallur , reached there by 2:20, then got back to Thiruporur by 3:30, reached Thirukalunkundram by 4:40 and I knew we can reach Ottiambakkam by 7:30 at the max, now I was realistic since I had to take into account the headwinds. Reached Thiruporur by 6 just before the lights faded and thank God I was already in the city before it was dark, Now I was took some break at every 10km and also traffic started to grow and finally managed to reach Ottiambakkam signal by 7:10 and from there it was totally dark till the Agni college and during this short journey, back wheel got punctured again and it was luckily again only 200m or so to the college.
As soon as I reached I gave my cycle to the mechanic there and I was feeling something strange, I was not so comfortable though I had all the energy to complete. First thing was not completing in my target time (actually I missed headwinds, traffic and puncture breaks in my equation) , second thing was the fact that I learnt the running track was not lit so well and I have always been afraid of stray dogs, third thing was cough and infected nostrils due to drinking some water from the pool during swim, and the last was the next day flight and how much sleep I could get for the next day’s keyboard performance for carols. Even before starting the run, I told Peter and volunteers that I am planning to quit as I am afraid of dogs and I had no torch lights. So they arranged a cycle marshal for me. It was Allwin and he came with me through the first loop and we finished it in 1:20 comfortably by walk/jog as he accompanied me in cycle and he gave a good company and I was like I could walk/jog any distance in that climate, with a cycle marshal like him, then had some sandwich and again started 2nd loop, this time venki came with me for marshal, went well till 19km , it was 10:20 when I started to vomit and sat for 2 minutes when two drunk localites came and started speaking some non-sense to us about running all day in their village, as if they were responsible and we were irresponsible, I also realized that it could take another 3.5 hrs and running in this climate could only make the condition of my nostrils and throat worser, it was time to decide and the rest is history as my FB status read on the other day
“Completed 3.9k swim 180k cycling n 19k run in 15:50hrs without injury/cramp n had good amt of energy,at 19km started vomiting n realised i had got my nostrils n throat infected as i drank some water from open waters during swim, then had 2 options.1. To continue to walk after few mins of rest n complete remaining 23km which could take 3.30 at max in my walking pace,, tat means i cud complete 40 mins b4 cutoff 2.30am, risking my body condition further. 2. To quit n pull 4 hrs sleep b4 morning 6.30 flight so that i can justify my flight tkt bukd n perform well in carol service at church. I told myself “you know you can complete the rest just by walk n walking the rest was a mere formality n hence it is better to choose 2nd option” and i announced i quit. I must apologize to all ctc volunteers esp. venky n alwin, bharathi mani balaji n gokul for not completing it despite ur efforts in helping me n also thank them for bringing me this close to ironman. For ironman title, better luck next time “
September 7, 2014, yet another unforgettable day, the day I became an ultra runner. My FB status that day
“After 6hrs and 50 minutes of continuous run/jog/walk and continuous worship (thanks to my new philips neckband), reached the finish line of 50km ultra tail marathon and now I am an #ultra_runner . I should admit my practice sessions were too less, but fitness and right mindset (game-plan ) saw me through the finish line. As rightly said “jeikkirakku odambula irukka balatha vida manasula irukka balam thaan mukkiyam “. Trail was awesome and scenic \m/ , thoroughly enjoyed it (until and after 42km, i.e, 11’o clk after which sun was at its peak) Thanks to all CTC volunteers, they are the real hero’s. It was a great day and this is one of the best of my achievements of all time. Will blog about this for sure, until I get time for that, this is kind of a mini-blog
— in Solavaram, Tamil Nadu, India. ”
The Ultra marathon was announced few months earlier and I had been thinking about giving a shot at ultra50k. But still was not sure whether I should run 21 or 50 as I was bit worried about transportation to solavaram and back. Just a month before the race the intensity of the thought was reaching its heights and one of my friends also suggested that I run 50, and finally I decided to give it a try and registered for 50K.
The day before the big day, I had been to office to reply to some mails and while going through FB, I found one of my running friends Abhishek was online and he just posted some of his photos from Hyderabad marathon. I had been looking for some friends to get to solavaram. I knew he would be running the ultra, and as soon as I pinged him, he asked me if I like to join him in his car. I just thanked God and went to collect the BIB from Westin from where we met and left to Solavaram along with 2 other fellow runners after having tea at Abhishek’s place.
We were stuck in traffic for some time and we managed to reach around 8. we had dinner and we 5 people alone found a place to sleep in the first floor while all others slept in the ground floor. Based on ‘Rapid’ Raja’s idea we 2 ate few multi grain bread slices and banana at 3, and then 4 to help us manage till 50km. and then we got ready around 4:45 and were all set for the big one. The race started around 5, and it was dark and the trail was also slippery and there were water logging due to the rains on the previous night and we had to be very careful and we had run with our torches. It was quite a slow start and I was just getting to my pace as we could see some light. At around 8km mark just after the 3rd hydration point, I felt I had over hydrated or had an overdose of citrus fruits, that i had to vomit and it took some 5 mins to come back to my senses again, but I knew I would be alright and kept continuing, then just after 5-10 mins I was all normal and then I handed my torch to the volunteers around 12km near the temple and kept continuing. Whenever I felt like walking, I walked and then kept jogging on very comfortable pace, and just kept ensuring myself even at a pace of 6km/hr(my walking pace) I could complete the last 20k or so within cutoff time i.e, 7.5hrs. Just after the first loop, I could find myself very close to some of the regular runners like Anil sir and Ravi sir, I even overtook Anil sir at around 26km mark ( though he eventually overtook me at 45km), and one of my friend venu at around same mark, then I saw Raja just ahead at 35km and then ran with him for around 500m but then he was too tired and I kept proceeding in my pace till 40km. During this time I met few of my friends who were running half marathon as well. After 40km, the sun was almost straight up and had to hydrate almost every kilometer and had to slow down. Then it was 50% walk and 50% jog till 42km. I just took out my phone and was pleased to see I had done it in 5hr20min. There were 2hr10min and only 8km left. By now I was very much certain even by walk I can finish within my target of 7hrs. It was 25% jog till next 2km, then after that it was only few steps of jogging after every water point and walk till 100m before the finish line. Jogged the last 100m with all smiles for perfect pose and completed the run just within my target time 6hrs50min. At the finish point was Murali giving an ice bucket bath for every finisher and seeing me very pleased with the ice bath, he offered me another one and I would not miss out on such opportunity and only after that I came back to my senses after my head having taken in all the heat for more than 3hrs.
Then came back in Abhishek’s car, and had planned to reach our home in Raja’s bike but only to find that Raja had put his bike key in Venu’s bag and they had already reached Tambaram, then we had to walk to the bus stand and from there got a share auto to Guindy and then I left to Kandhanchavadi in M119, got down at SRP and got a share auto to Kandhanchavadi so that I could get down just in front of my office, i would have never spent that extra 10 rupees on any other day, I was so hesitant to walk anymore that day. Took my bike and left to my house, took some rest after nice bath and then went to church, worshiped and thanked God and came back, had my favorite-after-marathon-meal, briyani with tandoori and dozed off for the day. :)
This song caught my attention few weeks back and it was in loop in my music player for quite sometime.
This is in F# major and notes are as follows:
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.”