Gates of Hell Ultra Triathlon

Diabetic retinopathy – sounds boring doesn’t it? But when not intervened early this can lead to permanent visual loss. There are two types:

1. non proliferative, which requires basic blood sugar control and

2. proliferative, which requires green laser, intravitreal injections and surgeries to stabilize vision – none of which bring back lost vision.

Hence the need for something drastic to make people notice the need to keep their blood sugar under very strict control from the start! After all, why would you spend 100,000 on a disease you can prevent?

Which brings us to this huge scale event.

Day ONE:

5 AM

The pool at Ponni Delta was pitch dark. The only sounds to be heard were the water sloshing and the occasional sound of crickets. The moon was the solitary source of of light in an otherwise shrouded night sky.

I undressed, got into my swim trunks, got my refreshments ready inside the changing room to feed myself in-between what I assumed would be a 10 or 12 hour swim.

15km seemed like a daunting task. I had never swam more than 10km recently and that’s just what I love – a new challenge. The last time I swam 15km was at CTC Swimathon and that had taken 8 hours 35 minutes two years ago. (Read old post in my blog) I set off across the length of the beautiful thirty meter long pool with my Amazfit smartwatch logging my activity.

By 630am I was pleased to see I had already covered 3.5km. I had brought along cake and some fruits – I fuelled a bit, and continued. By 730am, 5km had gone by and I was happy that things were going well, when the nausea set in. Instead of panicking, I lowered my heart rate, slowed down and let my body take care of itself.

Soon the nausea had vanished and I decided to take a bathroom break at 8am. 7km in 3 hours – this was going better than I had expected. Back in the water, I focused on making my strokes smooth, breathing out inside the water steadily and taking short breaths of air before going in again. Bhuvanesh came by at 9am and stayed for an hour, taking photos to post on the fitness group on WhatsApp.

By 10am, 12 km had gone by.

My movements were becoming choppy at this point since my body wasn’t used to swimming such mileage. I forced myself to relax and concentrate on smooth strokes and breathing, eventually managing to get back my rhythm. I proceeded to count the number of strokes per length of the pool and it stayed at 28 to 32.

Toward the last km I started swimming more of breast stroke and less of freestyle to preserve energy for the next phase. At noon, I managed to complete 15km and collapsed by the side of the pool.

I ate the rest of the food, hydrated well and took a nap. Aravind and Bhuvanesh were supposed to report at 1pm to start the cycling phase to Dindigul, which was 109km away.

I got the banner from the car and met Hari Raman who had graciously offered permission to use the pool for the day.

After taking a few photos with him, we put up the banner for display. I went back in and took another nap.

Swathi soon called when she arrived with the photographer for publishing the article on Times of India. The photographer took a few pictures of me swimming, cycling and running inside Ponni Delta by which time Bhuvanesh also joined.

Aravind was running late and we managed to start the ride only at 230pm.

Phase 1a: cycling to Hotel Chenduran Park, Dindigul
Aravind – already an accomplished 1000km BRM rider, took turns with me switching up lead position to help Bhuvanesh keep up with the slightly heavier hybrid bike compared to our road bikes. We were doing pretty well at 23 to 25kmph. The elevation was steadily climbing but the energetic car support from Ramesh was more than enough to sustain us.

This is a rough elevation profile of our ride to Dindigul, from Trichy.

I kept pushing the boys to take no more than two minute breaks and it paid off when we reached Dindigul at 730pm. Finding the hotel was a different ball game and that took an extra half – hour, with Aravind and me overshooting the destination and making u turns to get back to the finishing spot on Google maps. Bhuvanesh found the hotel first and we decided to call it a day.

The hotel had a restaurant with nil maintenance and delayed room service but the room was neat and the food was good. Ramesh and I settled in early cos it was gonna be a very long day the next day. The boys went out (God knows where) and came back at 1130pm.

That marked the end of day 1- which actually became the easiest day among the five.

100 km ultra run (last day of #100daysofrunning challenge)

#100daysofrunning – I yawned, thinking I was mad taking up the challenge, because of the Dhanushkodi bicycle ride which clashed with the same (previous article). But as you all know, I decided to go with it anyway.

After 60 days of running were over, and the 600km cycling brevet was completed successfully, I entered all – out into running, climbing rapidly from 0 to 90th day from the 700th rank to the 200th in the country, in terms of cumulative mileage. When I expected my joints to disagree, I actually felt lighter and healthier than before. I was eating healthy and not skimping because I was giving it my all. The 90th day arrived and I wondered if I should keep a challenge for myself on the last day. I gave it some thought and decided to go with a slow 100k run over a timespan of 16 hours.


THE START POINT for the sake of convenience was to be my home.

Noone else was free to run with me on said day, and hence I chose a safe route- the same I had used for the 75km run previously described in this blog- the only difference being I would run an extra 65 km to Melur along the same Madurai highway road instead of turning back to Trichy. Melur is 25 km before Madurai en route from Trichy to Madurai.

2/8/’18 (DD/MM/YY)

AS THE DAY DREW NEAR, excuses cropped up, fears crept in, and laziness seeped into my mind. Pushing aside all negative thoughts, I starting calling volunteers to help me because I needed protection while running alone through the night. The plan was to start at 9pm on the 4th of August and finish by 2pm on on the 5th(Sunday). I had asked help from six volunteers but only two were confirmed – Jeeva and Abdul Basith. They were to drive motorbikes and assist with protection, nourishment and hydration.


830pm: Sending the last patient away, I sighed. Wondering whether I would have the strength to do this, I had a light dinner of mainly protein and a handful of rice, double checked the mobile devices, smart watches, portable charger, supplements, energy gels, water, money and a waist pouch.

Jeeva and Abdul arrived at sharp 845pm and we started the journey at 9pm.

The initial 20 km was a breeze and the pace varied from 5:30 to 6:30. Abdul proceeded ahead 50 to 100 meters in front, illuminating the way, while Jeeva followed 50 meters behind. This ensured I would be well illuminated and safe from being hit by traffic from behind. I was horrified in-between when I felt a small catch in my right buttock and hamstring but this wore off with some electrolytes and a mild change of running form. We had crossed the Boothakudi toll plaza by 11:15PM.

I was able to complete the first 40 km in just 5 hours (one hour before designated time).

Soon it was midnight and before we knew it, we had dogs barking and howling all around us. I stopped in my tracks at one place and pretended to pick up a stone, and they retreated.


2AM (40km complete): We stopped at a Kovilpatty(10km from Viralimalai) bus stop, wiped off the dust and lay down on the cement seat for 20 minutes and were back on the road. Tea followed for another 15 minutes where an accident had happened nearby. We passed the glass shards carefully and noticed the Toyota Innova on one side, it’s taillights flashing after a truck had rammed the parked car from behind.

We had two more areas of dog – trouble but were able to walk through them.



60 km covered: In another 20 km at Thuvarangurichi, we made the next stop at the 60km mark, slept for another 25 minutes, had tea for 15 minutes, offered fizzling glucose – electrolyte tablets in water to the volunteers and we were on the way by 5:55am. We crossed a petrol bunk at 620AM and I changed my clothes there after using the washroom. Gone was the Blue Mont Run t shirt, which was now replaced by a Spandex top resembling Thor’s.

Feeling significantly fresher and lighter, I proceeded at 5:30 to 6 pace making maximum use of the time before the sun came up hard. I donned my cap and shades. We stopped for breakfast at hotel Aryas (Kottampatty) around 24km from Melur. Before we knew it, we had finished 80km at 9am!

We made a live video for Facebook to let our friends know about the last day of the challenge and the distance covered. This would be the first time of my life that I would cross the 80km mark!


After another 8 km, my pace slowed from 6:30 to 7 and below. The sun’s rays were blazing now. With just 10km to go, every muscle was telling me to stop and my feet refused to move though my mental stamina was still fresh.

At the 94th km, I put on the 100 days of running t- shirt over the sleeveless top, to finish the run in style. I was still 100 minutes earlier of schedule and hence resorted to alternate walking and jogging for the next four km. Jeeva was very helpful in buying me bananas (Mondham palam) which were larger than the normal ones and these pushed me further over the next two km.


WE CROSSED THE HOTEL at the 99th km, and since we had not yet completed 100, I went on ahead for a half km and returned, sprinting the last 100 meters to complete the 100km run at 1230pm. Jeeva and Abdul were there at the finish point to give me the medal and we took some photos before I sent them home, profusely thanking them for all their help over 14.5 hours.

My cousin, Shruthi and her friend came by car to pick me up from Melur and we had lunch at Kumar Mess in Madurai, following which we left to Trichy with great memories. A 100 kilometers! From an average guy like me! Who would have thought it? Praise the Lord!

10 AM 6/8/’18: BACK TO WORK!


P.s: an account of my Strava activity, enclosed (only moving time recorded)

Dhanushkodi 600 BRM

All of us are bitten by bugs. Some of us by the food – bug, others by work, but for me I was bitten by something else altogether. Running, cycling and swimming keep my mind fresh and completes my sedentary day.

The Dhanushkodi 600 km BRM (BREVET DE RANDONNEURS MONDIAUX) was another try at pushing my body to the limit. Approved by the Audax cycling club from France, the route took us through 600 km of sunshine, wind, rain and thunderstorm. Quite the story.


Track & Trail, Ramsun was open at 3 pm, when Anand and myself reached the venue. We got our BRM cards, ticked off the final checklist and met co – riders from different Indian states,accounting to a total of 70+. I took some time to delete unnecessary apps from my phone to save battery and space. Joy took care of my drop bag which I was to use at the 350th km mark. I secured my helmet and strapped it in, switching on my Xiaomi smartwatch to track my progress.

Anand announced the route and in another five minutes, we were off.

Anand and I took the lead helping participants find their way out of Trichy, into the highway. Once we were there, they sprinted off. I kept a steady speed of 20 to 25 kmph to make things easy for Anand, but the winds were heavy up till Tanjore – something which we hadn’t predicted on happening this soon. We reached Tanjore by 645pm, checked in at the first water point, then proceeded to Pudukottai, little knowing we were heading toward far greater challenges ahead.


The headwinds up to Tanjore translated to tailwinds for around 10km. When all seemed to be going well, the winds picked up. Volunteers worriedly informed us about the thunderstorm at Pudukottai. The ride turned into a 18kmph crawl, which became worse when a fellow rider suffered a puncture. A few locals including an old couple helped us with the puncture. We spent 40 minutes with him following which we called Joy to help because of the tube slipping out. Anand and I then left struggling to maintain a decent speed against intense winds.

The lightning and thunder were dramatic and soon we experienced rain. Tired and irritated, we expected to slow down but instead the winds changed and the rain helped us move forward faster by lubricating our chains and reducing road friction.

(Picture from Google)

We overtook several riders and managed to arrive at the first CP, albeit late by two hours.


FUELED by the fact that we were among the top 15 at the first CP, we gulped down a roti and loads of grape juice, courtesy of Pradeepa, before we left in ten minutes. We had a fairly decent lead because everyone else was taking at least 30 minutes to rest.

The winds were still on our side and in spite of rain we were flying along at 26kmph. We stopped for ten minutes break every hour and pushed ourselves hard till Karaikudi(50km from Pudukottai). We took a diversion as advised to avoid bad roads but still ended up facing 30 km of mud and stone. Milind, who was now with us had two punctures but was very skilled in changing tubes in ten minutes each. To make matters worse the rain was relentless and we we’re shivering whenever we slowed down.


WE HEAVED a big sigh when we reached Thiruvadanai , following which the rains reduced and we pressed on at full speed making use of good roads to get to Thondi. We then checked in at the second CP, then sped along East Coast Road till Ramanathapuram. Joy and Venkat sir were riding in a car all night helping us and other riders to replenish our tired bodies.

The ride to Rameshwaram was tiring under the heat. Long gone was the cold of the night, with the sun smashing against our faces.

Pamban bridge greeted us with open arms and we took a picture of it’s majestic view. Rameshwaram soon followed.

Anand and Milind decided to take a break and I pushed on ahead.


Somehow managing to keep my speed at 18kmph, I surely but slowly approached Dhanushkodi, which was 20km from Rameshwaram. The road curved and twisted into a beautiful pathway going through forests and beach sand on each side, alternatively.

(Above pic taken from car during previous trip to Dhanushkodi)

The last 9km was mind boggling and it took all of my will power to keep pedalling through the wind and the sun. Milind caught up and we reached Dhanushkodi at 1115am. Not wanting to quit the running challenge, I did a short 2km walk at Dhanushkodi, which served as a cool – down.

Joy and Venkat sir treated us to food and drink at the third CP. Anand and Milind started back early and I followed them after ten minutes. We soon reached the hall at Rameshwaram where we were supposed to change. A fresh bath, food and drinks brought us back to 90% efficacy. Anand had some time to nap while I waited in queue to bathe. We started off in 45 minutes on our return journey, having oiled and cleaned our bikes.


WE MADE good headway with tailwinds on our side, but Milind had to drop out due to calf pain. We stopped to sleep at a bus – stop for 20 minutes after which we got moving again. It was the first time in my life that I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the cool hard stone.

We stopped for tea near Ramanathapuram and reached the 4th CP Thondi by 6pm with the last rays of the sun, setting just before we made it.

Thondi to Thiruvadanai was uneventful except for extremely dark roads due to lack of lighting and the clouds hiding the moon. We were chased by dogs but managed to pedal away easily. Then came the rain, which was now our worst enemy.


THIS WAS different from the first storm, with each raindrop pelting against our faces due to heavy winds. Worried about qualifying, I motivated Anand to keep riding at a slow pace. I used both my headlights to counter the bad roads till Devakottai but we still ended up being battered by then. The lightning lit up the whole road once in a while and the scene was straight out of Hollywood.

To our surprise, up ahead was the leading pack – Galin and co , fixing a puncture. We joined them at a hotel outside Devakottai and had dinner, all soaked from the rain.

We crossed them and headed to Karaikudi, gaining a good 30 minute lead.


KARAIKUDI SOON arrived and we took a 5 minute breather before heading to Pudukottai. The journey was supposed to take 2.5 hours but seemed a whole lot more.

Before we knew it, sleep hit us head – on. No amount of Red Bull or energy gels helped. I fought it off and pedalled harder but found it returned with a vengeance. Soon after, I thought I saw what appeared to be a few lead riders’ taillights conglomerating into a dancing figurine before spiralling into a cloud of smoke.

(Pics of hallucinations taken from closest similarities on Google)

This was my first time of experiencing visual hallucinations. I blinked, shook my head and continued to ride when I noticed shrouded figures of humans and animals standing by the roadside which disappeared on drawing near.

Figuring this had gone on long enough, I decided on a break.

Soon, I called out to Anand and my heart skipped a beat when he didn’t respond though I could see his headlight right behind me, swaying in the darkness. I tapped him and he woke up with a start. Two packs of riders went past us taking the lead once more, including Galin sir. We decided to rest at a petrol pump outside Pudukottai and another time at a toll booth. 45 more km to Trichy!


It was when we crossed Keeranur and had just 30 km left when my rear tyre went for a toss. Anand helped me with the change of tubes and we managed to resume cycling in 40 minutes. We crossed the Trichy toll booth and pedalled 5km before stopping for tea. Energised, we pedalled harder at speeds above 26kmph till we reached our end point at Annai apartments opposite Track and Trail. Pradeepa and Vijesh were there to welcome us with our medals and finishing pictures. Anand and I had arrived at 10th and 11th place out of 70- not bad at all.

An egg and a muffin recharged me, following which I waved goodbye to my friends, disassembled my cycle and placed it in my Abarth.

A good three hours of sleep followed, after which I decided to return to work. After all, a hobby should never interfere with a bread – winner!

Overall the ride touched me in many ways. It made me more humble, more spiritual and gave me an idea of what my body is truly capable of.

Special thanks to my parents and wife who always give me space for my endeavors, for continuously keeping track of me via a GPS app instead of sleeping for two whole nights, for Vijesh and Prashant sir for awesome organising of the event, to Joy and Venkat sir for simply superb volunteering in the face of adverse events, to all the riders who faced the worst and overcame all odds – really proud of you! Till next time, it’s goodbye from me. God bless!

Fitness – what it truly means

I gasped for breath as I tried to make a new PR (personal record) but managed to keep my pace up for only 800 meters, ending up with 200 meters to cover at my usual speed. The result was 2.5 km covered in 13 minutes and a few odd seconds. Good, but certainly not my best. Was I fit? Could I be fitter? Maybe. But does fitness always translate to better speeds? Not really.

Most people get carried away when they hear the word ‘fit’. Imagination carries them to the Greek – God – like – image of a guy or dame with sculpted six pack abs and a toned body.

What does fitness truly mean?

To me, there are three levels of fitness:

1. Being able to carry out your professional duties without exhaustion

2. Having good health (with normal levels on all hormone – related and routine blood investigations) and immunity

3. Having both the above, and managing to spend time on moderate exercise without feeling exhausted.

So, if you have diabetes, but if you’re managing to keep your sugar and cholesterol levels within normal limits via diet and exercise – then yes, you are keeping yourself fit.

Which brings us to the next question: does looking fat make one unfit, or does looking thin, mean being in excellent health? The answer to both these questions is a resounding NO.

Going back to my 3 categories of fitness, you can find that a person who looks fat can actually manage to pass in all three categories, with both slim and chubby people having almost equal chances of imbalance in blood or hormone tests. To me, a so – called obese person who runs marathons, is a tee-totaller and leads an active lifestyle is far healthier and fit than a thin person with an addiction to alcohol and suffering from diabetes or a victim of starvation diets.

So do even thin people need to workout? My answer to that, based on the above paragraph would be a big YES.


The above info would have also made you realize that a fit person need not necessarily look like a sculpted model. Embrace your curves, and be active, giving high priority to diet and exercise. Laughing at a chubby person working out hard in the gym is also not a good idea when you are lazing it out!

At the same time, having the right to look chubby does not mean you shouldn’t do anything about high cholesterol. Always strive toward eating healthy and performing exercise for optimum health.

Women, and exercise

On one side, I have seen women who binge – eat just as much as men, and on the other, I have also seen them starving. Neither habit will bring about good results. Some feel they just need to walk, whereas others know that they have to engage in multi-sport discipline to shed their layers of fat. This varies with their goal of what being ‘fit’ actually means for them.

But regardless of what your goal is, ladies, let’s set a few things right:

1. Lifting weights will not make you bulky as long as your carb intake is low.

2. Running is not contra – indicated at any age. Studies have actually shown running to be good for your joints. That being said – one cannot set off to run right away – consult your doctor first, and make use of a fitness trainer or physiotherapist to slowly help you transition from walking to jogging, and then finally to running.

3. There is still a popular fad among women that eating food rich in fats will make one gain weight. Not entirely true. Eating food with good fats (rich in HDL) will NOT make you fat, as long as your diet is low carb and you workout enough to burn those extra calories.

4. As we already discussed, being slim does not necessarily mean being healthy. Irrespective of your figure, you need to workout on a regular basis.

5. There is an alarming increase in incidence of thyroid disorders and PCOD in women. Please recognize the need to being fit and to use multi-sport activity, along with a low carb + high protein diet and therapy by an endocrinologist, to remain fit or to bring back your fitness levels. In such disorders, walking and dieting alone may not be enough.

6. Above all, shed your inhibitions and get moving!

Trichy – to – Rane Engine Valves (& back) Self – Supported 75km Ultra Run

Following my previous stints at Javadhu and Chennai for the ultra and triathlon & swimathon respectively, it was time to move up the ladder and start preparing for a half triathlon (3km swim, 90km cycling and 21km run). 

I don’t know about others, but increasing my running distance always helps me to perform better in longer ‘tri’s. I usually equate 1km of swimming to 8km of running and 1km of running to 3km of cycling. Going by this formula, I came up with the idea to prepare for both the Javadhu Hills 75km ultra as well as the Half Triathlon coming up in the next two months – that is to run 75km and see if I could finish within 11 hours (which was the cut – off at Javadhu).

It was February and we still had time to prepare for both events. I contacted Srikanth(who accompanied me to Javadhu last year)  and Mr. Venkat (a senior finance professional from the IT industry, in his fifties who is a veteran runner) and we set the date for our 75km self – supported ultra run at 25th March 2017.

The three of us had run from Trichy to Tanjore Big Temple (60km) previously, and I was pretty sure crossing that distance wasn’t a problem. It was the remaining 15km that posed the issue. We each took up tasks of getting water, electrolytes, energy gels and bars. I arranged for volunteers (Mani and Deepak) to help, up till 7am following which Mr. Venkat and his brother – in – law arranged for a car to keep our refreshments in.

Two cyclists volunteered to join and one (Shree) wanted to ride ahead to finish 130km, while the other (Yoga Raj) planned to ride by our side.

The preparations were soon over and the big day came. Gopesh came to send us off at 2AM. Our departure from my home was marked with the sound of dogs barking at the six of us as we proceeded to break the stillness of the night with our activity.

These were the landmarks anticipated:

1. Manikandam (8km from home)

2. Boothakudi Toll Plaza (21km)

3. Viralimalai (30 km)

4. Rane Factory (36 km)

5. U turn at 37.5km

6. Return: Rane factory (39 km)

7. Return: Viralimalai (45 km)

8. Return: Toll Plaza (54 km)

9. Return: Manikandam (67 km)

10. Home, sweet home (75 km)

We kept a steady pace of 6’40″s covering 8km or more per hour, me in my Adidas ultra boost, Mr. Venkat in his Asics shoes and Srikanth doing the barefoot – party, with Mani following us flashing his bike’s headlight for us to see ahead and to offer us protection, till we reached the Toll Plaza at 420AM. 

Mr. Venkat had pain in his feet due to shoes being too tight and Srikanth had headache due to lack of sleep, following which both of them slowed down for a while. Deepak soon replaced Mani and came to illuminate the way while offering electrolytes, water and snacks every 3km. Mr. Venkat boldly decided to go barefoot and both of them caught up with me pretty fast by the time we crossed Viralimalai.

The car had arrived by the 36th km and at the 37 & a 1/2 km, we stopped for ice cold water from the thermocol box that Mr. Venkat had thoughtfully arranged to retain the cooling of the water and electrolytes. I glanced at my watch – it was 7 AM – not bad at all, considering we were running 75km that day and we had already finished half of it in 5 hours. I knew the return would not be this easy and tried not to think about it.

I slowed down pretty much immediately after this, and the other two took the lead. The sun, had by now really come up, wishing all of us a hot and dry morning and we were really feeling the heat. We asked for the car to stop at every 2km from then on and we sipped water, ate biscuits, drank cold Gatorade/Tata Glucon with ‘Rrun’ energy gel whenever we needed the kick. 

I caught up with the others and we had soon crossed Viralimalai again, by 830AM and reached the Boothakudi Toll Plaza, marking a total of 54.5km as complete. 

We collapsed on the sidewalk, sipped cold water, ate biscuits and drank electrolytes and were on the move again. Mr. Venkat developed shoulder and rib pain and had to slow down his pace after the 56th km. I attribute the wonderful pace that we kept from half the course up till this point to him and he decided to drop out by the 65th km. I wondered if I would be able to perform the same at his age.

We soon reached Manikandam and with just 8km to go, I was experiencing mixed emotions. My mind was in robot – mode, but my body wasn’t listening to it. A group of kiddies joined us at this point and turned my performance around for the next 3 km of running.

I was in half a mind to drop out at the 70th km, but it was Srikanth who motivated me saying ‘Javadhu’ would be tougher and we had to complete 75km today so we would know if our timing was adequate. 

“Just two more pit stops”, I said to myself as I continued to jog. I kept my mind totally focused on the run , inhaled steadily for three steps , then exhaled while taking the next two steps, managing to surge ahead. Mr Venkat again decided to join us for another 5km to top off his run at 70km.

The last pit stop was a short but welcome break after a steep bridge that really tested my endurance. In five seconds I was out of the car and bolting back on the highway, knowing home was just 1.5 km away. My spurt of energy soon died out though, and I started to walk, waiting for Srikanth to catch up. 

Both of us resumed our run soon and we sprinted the last 100 meters home, to complete 75km in 10 hours and 48 minutes, around ten minutes before the Javadhu – cut – off – time.

I knew I needed to do stretches but my mind was reeling as I continued to sip water from the car. My legs were buckling and I suddenly discovered I wasn’t able to walk. The others had sugarcane juice from a vendor while I retreated upstairs to get a warm bath.

We had seemingly done the impossible – ran a 75km run in the scenario of a hot summer and completed at a fair time. Srikanth and sir had been practising hard but my ankle had just recovered and it was totally by God’s grace that I managed to cover this big distance.

Special thanks to Shree, Yogaraj, Gopesh, Mani , Deepak and Mr. Narasimman (Mr. Venkat’s brother – in -law who drove the car and assisted in hydration). 

I will be seeing you on this blog after July 1st to tell you all about my first half iron triathlon!

15 km CTC Chennai Swimathon 4/3/’17

I felt my right foot miss a step, heard a pop from my bent – over ankle, and experienced a gush of pain that doubled me over. I cursed myself for successfully spraining my ankle just two weeks before Annur Marathon. Now I had no hope of long distance running in the next two months. There was mild swelling and tenderness over the ankle but I was able to bear my bodyweight while walking. Mine seemed to be a grade I ankle sprain.

To help you get a general idea of ankle sprains and how to grade them, here are two illustrative diagrams:

Then came the memory of my friend Ramu’s invite for the CTC’s Swimathon on March 4th. Being a doctor I knew there was a fair chance of swimming by then, if I give my ankle adequate rest, ice and physiotherapy before the said date. But things didn’t go as well as I had planned and the pain from the grade I sprain kept coming back at work whenever I got up and switched places . 

I don’t know what hit me, but as I was looking to register for the swim, I noticed there was a 15km swimming category along with the 5km and 10km categories in the competition and I signed up like a madman on a hunch even though my ankle hurt in certain awkward positions and extended range of motion during plantar flexion. The maximum distance I had covered in a single day during a swim was 7km and that was way back in 2010. This was definitely going to be interesting.

Two weeks went by and I had managed to hit the gym twice a week, walk 10km once a week and had visited the swimming pool twice every week, with mild jogging for a kilometer or so, whenever pain was absent.

The pain slowly withdrew three days before the event and I tapered my activity to be fresh for the swim. Prayers were said, not just by me but my family members as well, because they couldn’t fathom how I could complete such a distance which I hadn’t done during my days as a state level swimmer in 1999 , now, without any practice and that too with a messed – up ankle.

March 3rd: The days flew by and the time had come. I finished my work at my hospital then visited Apollo for a visiting consult before leaving to Chennai by car, with my wife and mom. The venue was the same as the CTC ‘s triathlon (refer previous post) and we checked into Hotel Holiday Inn, which was nearest the venue on OMR road, after dropping my wife at her parents’. I wouldn’t recommend the dinner I had to anyone else preparing for a Swimathon, but I crammed myself because I knew the next day would easily burn off everything I ate in a period of three hours max. So, in went three butter naans, chicken gravy, spicy chicken salad and chicken dosed with pepper and salt, followed by curd rice and mousse. I was worried if I had enough space for my 330 am snack which would determine my actual performance during the swim.

March 4th: 3:30AM

I did manage to get up and swallow two banana oatmeal muffins before sleeping till 430AM, following which I brushed my teeth, washed my face, changed and I was on my way. Mom would join me later at 8AM and Sanju, at 2PM.

Owing to unavoidable circumstances, my friend Ramu who had intimated me about the Swimathon couldn’t make it. I arrived at Ottiyambakkam Open Water Swimming site at 5AM sharp , filled the disclaimer form, had my BIB number (158) written on my arm with permanent marker to help me remember it (we had to shout our number on completing each loop for the officials to keep track of our progress) then located the baggage counter where I undressed to my swim shorts, and donned my swim cap and goggles.

The warm – up session for 15 km, 10km and 5km races started at 550am and we went through the usual exercises to loosen our joints and increase our core body temperature to prepare us for the gruelling event, followed by a group photo.


I felt a strange calm envelop me and I told myself I just needed to focus on finishing 15km , within the 10.5 hours cut off time. Nothing else mattered, including placing. There were only 13 participants en toto for the 15km event out of which 5 people downgraded to 10km because they felt they could not complete it. Now, here I was, swimming in a 15km event which hadn’t even been introduced into the Olympics, which in itself is a privilege. All I had to do, was focus on finishing.


I got into the pond, which was surprisingly refreshing and not freezing. The time had come, and I said a quick prayer asking God to spare me from cramps, which is the worst enemy of all swimmers and to give me energy to complete 15km in one piece. For those who don’t know this small water – body, it’s in Ottiyambakkam, Chennai, around 3km from Navalur on the OMR highway via Agni College.

The pond/lake is 150 meters long and since we had to cover 15km, we needed to finish 100 laps (50 loops)

615AM to 8AM

It was soon 615AM, and the race started. I preserved my strategy of doing mainly the ‘breast – stroke’ to prevent my ankle from getting aggravated, with a few strokes of ‘freestyle/front-crawl’ thrown in to keep up the rhythm and to prevent overload of the muscles used during the breast – stroke. The crowd was huge but aside from a few kicks and punches from other participants, nothing went bad for me. I had soon completed 3.5 km by 8AM and made my first fuel – stop at the 3rd km mark. The volunteers were at the water’s edge with plates and gave us bananas, Electral and ‘kadalai mittai’.

815AM TO 1145 AM:

I was feeling pretty confident when I had crossed 5km and was going strong, when the inevitable happened. I was shouting out my number for the officials when someone from my side kicked my right (injured) ankle. There was a burst of pain – I closed my eyes and floated for a while before slowly proceeding with freestyle. In a minute my ankle felt better and things were back to normal – power of prayer!

I spotted mom at the 6th km, waved to her and proceeded with breaks every 1.5km. I had soon crossed 7.5 km (half the distance) by 1030AM. A much – needed toilet break followed at 1145 AM with mom helping me out of the pond.

A few shots of the event:

(Youngest participant in the 5km race)

(Lifeguard at the other end of the pond)

(Lifeguards from Bay of Life on surfboards watching with an eagle’s eye)

(Volunteers(and sometimes tired participants) hung on to tyres that were tied together through a rope to the other end of the quarry)

1145AM to 2PM:

Following this, I felt very refreshed and zoomed past many who had crossed my distance during the break. By the 10th km, I felt early signs of my body giving in to fatigue.

I continued to follow my fuelling strategy but for every 1.2 km (4 loops) instead of every 1.5km(5 loops). This kept my burning tummy at bay, with adequate refueling via mom’s banana oatmeal and Electral from the volunteers. Bananas had unfortunately run out by then and I had to make do with ‘kadalai mittai’. Both Thomas Habel and Vinolee (two of CTC’s best swimmers) and Mr. Anil Sharma had lapped me several times by then.

There was, by now, a mild stiffness in my left calf, which, as a long -time swimmer, I knew , could be a sign of cramps – to – come. I switched to doing more freestyle and used only half my usual power for kicks.

2PM to 250PM

“5 loops to go!” It was awesome to hear it from the officials but my body was in robot – mode, much like what happens when I spend prolonged time in cataract surgeries – the mind automatically takes control. The tightness in my left calf increased, despite my increased consumption of Electral, and by the 14th km I knew cramps were coming on.

I fuelled one last time, with three loops to go, and increased the power in my arms in as relaxed a state as possible, to compensate for my poor kicking. Saw Sanju and Aunty during the last two loops and waved.

The last loop would probably have seen my best timing, with a finishing touch of 150 meters of freestyle. I breathed out in the water to lower my heart rate, then proceeded to be helped up by a kind volunteer. The time was 250 PM and we had started swimming at 615 AM – a total of 8 hours and 35 minutes.

I sat down, dazed, sun – burnt, partially dehydated, but overjoyed to have clinched the title of ‘Finisher’ of one of the world’s longest distances swam in an official competition.

Peter, the hero of the day and the founder of Chennai trekking Club, came by to give me my medal after starting the 3km event. 

It was a memorable moment for me to meet my role – model, and to pose with the two ladies who have encouraged me to pursue my passions, with special mention to mom who oversaw my nutrition needs during the swim (since the bananas had run out by the 10th km, I would have definitely cramped up earlier if not for her banana oatmeal)

Post – event:

Mom answered worried calls from relatives, assuring them I was indeed safe and sound and had completed the event well within cut – off time. I gobled up ten banana ‘adais'(wheat and sugar thrown in with bananas and cooked), had ‘Tang’ then proceeded with total rest till dinner time. I ate up food to fill my still – ravenous gut during dinner, as expected and slept soundly that night.

The following morning saw us depart from Chennai at 10am and reach Trichy at 330 PM. 

It was an eventful journey – one that I will remember not for my performance but for God’s immense grace and mercy for helping me finish 15km of swimming without even practising a 1km swim in the previous month, due to my ankle.

This is Vinod, signing off, before I meet you on my next adventure.

Chennai Olympic – Category Triathlon

I peered into the last patient’s eye observing his retina, noticing nothing remarkable through the 90 D lens at the slit lamp microscope. Having found no refractive error, muscle imbalances or internal pathology in the eye, I assured him he was fine, referred him to a physician for his headache and asked him to review for regular follow – up. It had been an eventful day with surgeries and 60 plus cases in the out – patient department. Patients done for the day!

Looked up the marathon calendar again – the triathlon sounded promising, but I needed a bike didn’t I? Thanks to my wife who found the Track & Trail cycle store on one of our casual car drives, we got our Montra Trance Pro hybrid. Javadhu Hills 50k run was coming up (read previous story) and I integrated cycling with my regular workouts and runs.

After Javadhu, I totally dedicated my training toward cycling and running, because I knew the ex – state – level – swimmer in me would not need much prodding. Usual mileage during training per week was around 4km of swimming, 150 to 200km of cycling (sometimes 50km or 100km more) and 50km to 70km of running. Visits to the gym, was twice a week, which I reduced as the event drew near.

Having registered for the Olympic (51.5km) triathlon, the least distance of the three options available (the other two being a 112 km event and a 226km event)I felt fairly sure of being in the top ten due to my confidence in swimming, which would give me a decent lead over the rest of the youngsters who craved running and cycling.

The next step was forming an endurance club in Trichy. We were just three – Ramu, Mr. Chidambaram and myself, but we went through the training schedules and diet I had carefully planned and both of them, who had never been in any such events before, soon managed to finish olympic distance within four to five hours during practice times.

14/12/’16 & 15/12/’16

The first day in Chennai was spent at my cousin’s place. But during the second day, Chennai didn’t exactly greet me with open arms. Hotel Centre Point which I had booked via Oyo suddenly declared they had no rooms, and it was after two hours of haggling that we managed to find a nearby lodge with an A/C room. We had arrived in Chennai two days before the event, which we used to locate the local Track and Trail store on OMR, rent a Montra Celtic 2.2 road bike and also practise swimming in open waters at the ottiyambakkam lake.


It took some patience locating the lake, because of bad GPS following the ‘Vardha’ cyclone leaving Chennai defenceless and barren without trees, electricity and internet. 

And so, after wandering through narrow streets and being chased by dogs, I finally located the lake. Was happy to see Varadha Raja, one of the volunteers of CTC (Chennai Trekking Club) there. 

He encouraged me to take a dip and sure enough there I was relaxing in the cool waters of the pond. Didnt really feel like putting my head into the water yet, but I knew the moment would come when I raced.

My parents arrived one day before the event and we moved into Hotel Holiday Inn Express which was much more comfortable.

Dusk arrived and at 645PM, we went to Agni College of Technology which was 1.5km from the swim venue to collect the bib for next day’s race. The place was packed with people and we managed to get the bibs after submitting the disclaimer form. Sundhari Thevar, Vanathi and a few others were doing an awesome job at distributing the bibs and t-shirts in the most efficient manner possible.

Following this, I went to the lodge, collected my rented cycle and brought it to Holiday Inn. After some difficulty, I also managed to persuade the hotel to keep my rented road bike inside, instead of the parking lot to prevent it from being stolen.

D – day: 17/12/’16

I took out my bike from near the kitchen galley and set out, waving a thanks to the watchman who had agreed to keep the bike inside. A careful and slow ride at 5 AM through the pot-holed roads leading to Ottiyambakkam via Navallur and Agni College of Technology took me to the lake by 545 AM.

The participants of the Full Iron Triathlon were getting ready to start. I proceeded to the bicycle area, inverted my ride and placed it on the ground making sure the handlebars and seat were flat against the ground, with wheels facing the sky (race cycles don’t have stands). I made a mental note of the location of baggage counters too. Soon the photo session was complete and the full and 3/4 iron triathletes stripped to their swim wear and proceeded to the pond.

I looked on in admiration at the huge task of 112km(3/4th iron) and 226 km(full iron) that these guys and girls were willing to face. (Note – to – self: will be in their shoes very soon.) The event started at 6AM and soon the triathletes were doing loops in the pond.
By 730AM, it was time for the Olympic category(51.5km) race. I removed my T-shirt, shorts, shoes and socks, stuffed them in the transition bag, handed it at the baggage counter, donned my swim cap, goggles and ear – plugs and left to the pond, barefoot.

SWIM PHASE (1.5KM): Warm – up session started and all of us assembled in our swim – wear.

Mom arrived by car just before the start. I waved her a hi and got in the pond, wetting myself to let my body get used to the temperature. We were to do 5 loops (10 laps = 1500 metres, aka 1.5km). 

The start was made and soon we were off. The foreigner by my side swam like a fish. Trying to keep up with her and leave the slower ones behind, I forgot to locate an external pointer to see where I was going. This was a drastic mistake and my huge lead went to waste as I had to redirect myself back to the centre. By the time I arrived I was among the first ten, and had to fight my way forward.

At the end of each loop I shouted my number (104!) so that the volunteers could note it down and keep track of how many loops I had done. By the time I finished I had used up quite a lot of energy dodging kicks and punches, veering in and out of slower participants and swallowing pond water twice and praying I wouldn’t fall ill.

Decided to use a spurt of energy and surged ahead finishing within the first three – immediately realised this was a mistake after finishing, when I couldn’t stand up. 

Mom helped me out, while I caught my breath and headed to the baggage counter. There was a major 5 minute delay in finding my bag, but once I had it, I had changed to cycling attire in 3 minutes and I was off.

CYCLING PHASE (40KM): The bike ride was difficult on bad roads that extended to a distance of 5km, because I didn’t know how to change the tyre tube in case of a puncture (God forbid). Fortunately, nothing happened because I was slow on these parts and picked up speed on the highway. During the eight minute transition to cycle, and my slow driving, around ten people had gotten ahead of me. A smile appeared on my face when I reached Navallur – time to show everyone how a guy who trained on a hybrid and is relatively well versed with a road bike has an immense advantage over those who trained only with road bikes. I was soon hitting average speeds of 30kmph and overtaking auto-rickshaws and mopeds. At around 3km to the U turn, saw the first four participants returning. Everything was going fine until after a refreshment point at Thiruporur and a U – turn later, when we faced headwinds. 

Fortunately my training on my hybrid helped me to easily keep my average speed at 24 kmph till Navallur. The bad roads came up again, and I attacked them with a little more vigour because the end was near. The finish point came up 500 m from Agni College and I raced in. Looks like I had finished bike stretch in what appeared to be less than 1h 42 mins. 

I didn’t have to change into running gear because I already had everything I needed, and I was off.

RUN PHASE (10KM): The run was terribly exhausting in spite of all the practice due to the hot sun and the humidity of Chennai which drained us of all electrolytes and water. 

Four people did get ahead of me in the first 5km including my friend Anirudh Pandya, who works at Pro Health Foundation, Tanjore. Notice me behind them trying to catch up with two of them in the picture below. I soon overtook them.

It was in the next loop that I felt like I was running with 2kg dumbbells attached to my legs. The sun was just too hot. I did manage to overtake one more foreigner who was more dehydrated than I was. Giving her a thumbs up sign, I kept surging forward. Was almost chased by some mean dogs at the 7th kilometer, but I think they realised I was no fun because I looked exhausted. This was soon followed by a refreshment point, where I helped myself to electrolytes, water and a piece of banana with salt.
I did try to keep the pace till the 9th km. Ran and walked the last km finishing the 10k in 62 minutes with a total time of 3 hours 36 minutes including transitions. 

Mom was waiting excited at the finish line and said it looked like I was third. I knew there were two more batches who were performing out there and I knew there would be someone better than me in them. I had given it my all and was definitely in the top ten, out of 500 participants – all glory to God! 

Finisher – medal – photos followed and after hydrating myself with 3 litres of water and ‘Tang’ , we placed my bike in the car, located my transition bag and left with joyous memories.

Proud of my mates who trained with me – that’s Mr. Chidambaram who finished in 4 hours

 and Ramu Angappan who finished in five hours. 

Both of them bore with my strict schedules before the race, and finished well within cut off time.
Special thanks to my mom who made it to the venue and my wife who were key factors in encouraging me and uplifting me during my training. 

Both these guys were lucky enough to get a click with my role model – Peter! He is the founder of CTC and a pioneer in health& fitness and environmental betterment. Thanks for being an inspiration to the youth, Peter and congrats on conducting India’s first Full Iron Triathlon!

Kudos to the full iron finishers, who completed their race (3.9 km swim, 180km cycling and 42km running) by 10pm, with special mention to my friends Ahmed Hanifa, Vipul Kumar, Thomas Habel, Nandini Sharma, Vinolee Ramalingam, Akriti Verma and others who I may have forgotten. You guys are my inspiration!

Here are the results for my 51.5k category. Think I’m in 6th place:
Next target – full iron? Or maybe just 3/4th iron? Depends on how well I progress in my training!