Life & Style

Gopika Nandan, the youngest female Super Randonneur in India

Gopika Nandan

Gopika Nandan   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

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She is all set to become the first female Ironman from Kerala

Gopika Nandan is no stranger to winning titles and medals. A brown belt in Karate, she has won medals at various CBSE sports meets and a few Kalathilakam too. A recent addition to her kitty of titles, and one that she holds dear, is that of the youngest female Super Randonneur in India.

Says Gopika, an alumna of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Attukal: “Although my family tried to discourage me, I didn’t want to give up on sports after graduating from school.” As she wanted to do something challenging, she decided to join Trivandrum Runners Club after reading an article on long distance running.

The Trivandrum Marathon in 2014 was the first marathon she participated in. “I finished the 10-K run in 1.15 hours. Currently my personal best timing during a 10-km run is 50 minutes,” says Gopika, who went on to participate in 15-km and half-marathon runs.

Hearing members of the Runners Club talk about Randonneuring triathlons and Ironman events, she decided to train for Randonneuring herself before registering for an Ironman event. And so she bought a Scott Contessa Speedster 45 and began joining the Trivandrum Bikers Club on their morning rides.

Fitness enthusiast

Gopika, who swims and is a regular gym goer, participated in her first brevet, a 200-km bicycle ride held in the city last year, organised by the Club, thus earning the title of Randonneuer. Wanting the title of Super Randonneuer, she quit her job and went on to complete the series of rides to become one.

The 22-year-old says she found a recent 600-km brevet from Kochi-Palakkad-Attingal and back to Kochi again a challenge. “There were a few technical glitches with my bicycle that cut into my buffer time to catch some shut eye and so I had to ride on wthout any rest,” says Gopika. Moreover, she also had to tackle flat tyres and a stomach upset.

She admits that she was tempted to call it quits after covering 400 km. “I have hazy memories of the ride and no idea how I completed it as I was exhausted and sleep-deprived.” It was pure grit and determination, she says, that got her through the finish line and within the stipulated time. “I just placed my focus on the finish line. I believe the mind plays as important a role as the body.”

Gopika Nandan

Gopika Nandan   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

According to Gopika, unlike Kochi, there are few women who are into long distance cycling in the city. “Not only is cycling a great way to lose weight and stay fit but it is also a great way to challenge ourselves physically and mentally.”

Navigating through traffic she says is tiresome for cyclists as they have to make their way through honking and speeding vehicles. “It’s a shame we don’t have dedicated cycling lanes like some cycle-friendly European countries.”

Before each brevet event, Gopika does research on the route to check for possible places to rest or stop to eat. The 400-km and 600-km rides had her riding late into the night. However, Gopika says she did not face any problems. “People did not seem to give it a second thought seeing me stop on a bicycle at a wayside tea stall late in the night.” She admits, however, as far as possible, she tried to stick with the rest of the riders when dusk began setting in and was always aware of her surroundings.

Unlike most sporting events, there is no hero’s welcome, no medals and at times, no sight of any riders at the finish line. “But the sense of jubilation at having completed a challenging course gives you a rush,” says Gopika, who adds that one receives a medal for completing a brevet straight from France later.

Having received the title of Super Randonneur, Gopika, who is preparing for the civil examination, has her eye trained on the Ironman title. “I will be heading for Denmark in August 2019 to participate. If I complete that, I would be the youngest female Ironman from Kerala.”

Randonneuring explained

Randonneuring is a long distance endurance sport where cyclists attempt brevets (bicycle rides) of 200 km or more.

The Audax Club Parisien (ACP) in France conducts the events called brevets. The Indian subsidiary of ACP, Audax India Randonneurs, conducts and oversees brevets in India in conjunction with regional cycling clubs under it.

To become a Super Randonneuer, one has to complete a set of rides of 200-, 300-, 400- and 600-km rides in one season (November-October).

While, it is not a race, the riders have to complete the ride within a time frame.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 10:17:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/gopika-nandan-the-youngest-female-super-randonneur-in-india/article25849080.ece

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