Anu Vaidyanathan on her strenuous journey as a champion triathlete
In the land of P.T. Usha, women are forever breaking barriers. Among them to come to the forefront is the first Indian woman triathlete, Anu Vaidyanathan, who became the first Asian to complete the Ultraman event in Canada. The competition includes 10 km swimming, 420 km bike ride and 84 km running segment. Bangalore-based Anu Vaidyanathan finished it all, not only did she finish it but was placed second, beating many other competitors on the way. She was in New Delhi recently to support women cyclists. She has been signed as a brand ambassador for Trek, a leading biking brand.
Hailing from a conservative background, Anu is a self-taught athlete who has derived strength from the rigours of everyday life. “I started cycling just to beat the stress, I cycled to college as travelling by a car was not feasible. It took 4-5 years to think about joining the sport and I took the hardest race I could find. My parents are from rural Tamil Nadu but they are very supportive and always encouraged me and now I have a very caring husband, who is there to motivate me. I wake up very early in the morning and practice 3-5 hours and before a big race I have to practice 28-30 hours a week. Let me tell you that swimming is the toughest of them all.”
It has not been a smooth sailing for her though. Recently, she injured her shoulder due to a bad fall in an accident. “I have fallen three times on my left shoulder but now it is getting better. I am preparing for my next big race which will be in Arizona, U.S. Practising swimming is a bit difficult because of my injured shoulder but I hope to be fit in time.” However, injury is part of the lifestyle Anu has chosen.
She discloses that neither she nor her husband owns a car and that she travels to her office on her cycle. Speaking about the sports culture in our country she says, “The infrastructure problem is very severe in India. I do a lot of motivational events and I am happy doing this and will keep on doing. Five-six years back people were not aware but now they have started coming in. It is a gradual process, which cannot be done overnight. In the endurance event, we now have more women participants and a good thing is that companies have started sponsoring it.”
A multi-tasker, Anu Vaidyanathan, apart from cycling, looks after her company Pat N Marks which specialises in intellectual property consultancy with offices in Austin, Bangalore and Chennai. She also has a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Canterbury, in a record-setting time of 26 months. She also teaches at IIM Ahmedabad.
She sounds quite upbeat about the future despite all the problems. “My husband and my family are quite supportive . I intend to compete till the age of 45 or so and set an example especially for my children. I do long distance cycling and one day I would like to participate in the Race Across U.S., which covers a distance of 4,000 miles.” About her diet, she says, “I do not take soft drinks and fast food. I cook my own food which is balanced and healthy. I take a diet which suits my physiology and it also includes lot of fresh fruits. My last meal before a race is bit of honey and bread. I don’t need lot of proteins.”