Athletics

Chronicles of a triathelete

Book cover  

Anu Vaidyanathan has been a source of great inspiration to thousands of aspiring triathletes since she completed her first Ironman in 2006.

She was the first Indian (man or woman, based out of India) to complete an Ironman distance triathlon. An Ironman is a strenuous triathlon where the athlete has to complete a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and a 42.2km run consecutively within a stipulated time (roughly about 13 hours). And these numbers fade away in comparison when Anu went on to become the first Asian (man or woman) to complete the Ultra Ironman in Canada in 2009. An ultra Ironman involves a 10km swim, 420km bike ride and 84.4km run over 3 consecutive days.

It is a monumental achievement.

She chronicles her journey in her book Anywhere but Home. The Coimbatore Runners and Coimbatore Cycling brought Anu to Coimbatore on her first visit to the city to interact with the local fitness enthusiasts. A packed hall full of eager athletes listened to the triathelete as she spoke about how it all began and the present lull in her athletic life owing to her young son.

“I quit my PhD in the U.S. and returned to India to my middle-class life and considered myself a failure at that point as I did not make it in the U.S.! I did not have an active social life and that resulted in me going to bed early and hence waking up very early in the mornings,” said Anu.

She put the early morning hours to good use and set the Ironman as her goal.

“My inspirations were the strong-willed madisaar maamis in my family and the permissive men that just let them be. The uncles in monkey caps at the Bangalore half marathon and the auto drivers of Bangalore were a source of inspiration as well. I saw life from a different perspective when I stepped out at 4 a.m. for my training rides in Bangalore,” she recounted.

Anu has graduated out of Purdue University in the U.S. with a Masters degree in Computer Engineering and went on to complete her PhD in Electrical Engineering in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has been a visiting faculty in IIT Ropar and IIM Ahmedabad and is now an entrepreneur based out of Bangalore. During her second attempt at a PhD in New Zealand she simultaneously trained for the Ultra Ironman.

“I used to train for 27 to 30 hours a week for the ultra Ironman while working on my PhD. It was like holding two full-time jobs!,” said Anu. “In the beginning, I was running away from things in life that did not make me happy only to find out later that I was running towards happiness, joy and contentment. That is how it should be for any athlete; it is not about the achievements and medals but about finding joy in what we train for and accomplish”.

She did not intimidate the crowd with numbers and statistics involving her achievements. Instead, she narrated her early years in endurance sports and the journey forward until she became a mother two years ago.

She is busy promoting her book for the moment but dropped a hint that she would focus on training from September.

During the interactive session with the audience, the two key words that she kept repeating were ‘commitment’ and ‘consistency ‘. She made the Ironman sound less daunting than many of us imagined it to be.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 2:47:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/athletics/Chronicles-of-a-triathelete/article14483420.ece

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