Let me be ME

Smitha Kajale

A civil engineer by profession, winner of several cycling races, 3rd rank holder at Kolhapur triathlon 2019, 2nd rank holder at Nagpur Triathlon 2020, National qualifier at Nashik association championship 2020, a struggler in all the races due to her menopause stage, yet a winner at many, married at 18 and first child at 19 years of age, here is 45 years old Smitha Kajale from Thane.

Air force background and marriage at 18

I was born in Kolkata, and my father was in the Indian Air Force. My father had his last posting at Nashik, and he took a retirement there and joined HAL. I got into Chemical Engineering when my parents decided to get me married as they did not want to let go a suitable and desirable match. 

I got married at 18 and had my first child at 19. 

I continued with my education and completed my bachelor’s in civil engineering.

My second child was born when I was 26 years old. I never walked leave aside, exercising. Being young and occupied with children and work, I never felt the need for any physical workout. 

After my second child, I started with short walks. Even walking a kilometer was a colossal task. My husband and I decided to start with regular morning brisk walks. It was refreshing to walk and talk amidst all the duties and busy schedules.

The casual fitness journey

Going fast forward, when my elder son turned 19, he started going to a nearby gym, and I followed his footsteps. I got into a habit of regular workout and weight training. 

My younger son winning a Gold at time-trial, Guwahati

When my younger son turned 17, he started outdoor cycling and gradually cycling became his passion. His passion did not remain confined to casual cycling, but he started participating in the races. He did MTB Nashik, thane cycling championship, and in December 2017, he won the gold medal at the national time trial.

He then suggested me to start riding. He was sure that I would enjoy riding. 

I was getting bored with the gym. I get bored by the mundane routine; hence I bought a basic cycle and started cycling in December 2018.

In February 2019, I won the First Prize at Navi Mumbai maha cyclothon and a 10k cash prize

In March 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Pedal cyclothon

In April 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Borivili Cycling association Time Trial

I started loving my finishes and the joy of winning.

It is said that a child gives birth to a mother, and truly my children gave birth to a new me.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

-Anonymous

How Triathlon?

Someone in the cycling group suggested about Triathlon. Triathlon was attractive, and the excitement to do three sports was gripping, but the issue was- I had never run until now!

I then thought and considered the upcoming episodes when my elder was already working in the U.S., and the younger one would leave soon, I would be free from their day to day responsibility.

Our life revolves around our children in motherhood, and they become our first and topmost priority. I was no different. The empty nest syndrome was daunting, and I needed to distract myself.

I decided to take the plunge and try out this new breed of excitement in my life-Triathlon.

3rd Position at Kolhapur Tri

Under the guidance of Viv Menon for triathlon plans and Nimesh for swimming, I participated in the Kolhapur triathlon (Olympic distance) and stood 3rd.

My first experience of open water swim at Kolhapur, and I was kicked, smashed, punched all over due to the massive number of participants.

After Kolhapur, I thought enough of Triathlon, let me now go back to cycling.

Meanwhile, someone mentioned about Tigerman Tri, Nagpur in Feb 2020. My previous doubts vanished, and I registered for the event.

“Sometimes we have one chance, to ride that wave, one opportunity to jump on, take a deep breath and feel the rush of adrenaline. . . don’t miss your chance.”

― Heidi Reagan

A week before the Tigerman event, I came across the Nashik Tri association championship. The championship was attractive, and with a discussion with my coach Viv, I registered for the event.

In February, I knew that Nashik would be cold, and I didn’t have the wetsuit for the race. Hence I started going for early morning swims and bathing in cold water to acclimatize my body.

The race mentioned that the swim would be in the pool, and I took a sigh of relief.

When I collected my bib, I was informed that the swim would take place in a dam(water reservoir). I couldn’t sleep for the entire night.

The race morning was horrifying than the revelation of the previous eve.

To my amazement, there were no ropes, buoys, or any emergency evacuation.

4th position in Nashik district triathlon

Upon questioning, the officials made it clear that the race was a time trial for the national qualifier and is a self-supported race.

I took a while to register this fact. My throat went dry. In already cold weather, I stood there, shivering in a swimsuit.

I prayed and chanted what I could remember and asked my husband to wait for me until I completed my swim and jumped in the water.

2nd position in Tigerman Triathlon

I finished 1500 meters of swim course in 35 mins. After completing the bike course, which was an undulating path and run that happened in scoring heat, I stood 4th

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

–Dale Carnegie

A week after I participated in Tigerman Triathlon, Nagpur and stood  2nd.

Menopause and training

For the event in November, I started training in June 2019. At the same time, I had to travel to Pennysylvania to my elder son. There the issue of menopause started. I was continuously bleeding heavily for week-10 days and changing menstrual cups every hour. Without a country-specific prescription, I could not take any medications in the U.S. hence. I continued in the same state until I returned to India.

I felt weak and lacked stamina. I consulted my physician as the race was nearing, and I had to get into vigorous training.

My blood test reports were not at all satisfying. My hemoglobin was at 8. My physician strictly advised me not to attempt any race, which was just two months away.

“Do not attempt doesn’t fit in my psyche” hence I asked for a solution. He advised for an Intravenous blood transfusion. I readily agreed and went to his clinic after work and got the I.V.

Races during my menopause phase

It is common to get a fever after the I.V., and I got it too.

My husband was concerned for me; he was always intrigued by this training idea and kept asking me,” Kyun Kar Rahi ho?”(why are you doing?)

I recovered the hemoglobin level, but my bleeding didn’t stop.

Thankfully just ten days before the race day, God showed mercy on me, and I wasn’t bleeding any more.

I could say one thing,”der aae durust aae”

Nashik and Tigerman, two consecutive races

On the eve of the Kolahour tri, I went for the bike route recce with my husband, exhausted in just 2-3 kms. I was anxious about the race the next day.

I believe that the mind conspires what you start thinking, I had made up my mind to finish the race, and I did.

From my menopause episode I can only conclude that,

“Leaders bleed, period.”

― Silvia Young, My FemTruth: Scandalous Survival Stories

The family bond

My boys are my pillars of strength. There has been no race when my husband has not been there to cheer, support, and encourage me. My two boys were my initial coach, guides, and mentor. I followed their footsteps in my workout/fitness journey as well as cycling.

What’s next?

I enrolled for Ironman 70.3 in Boulder, USA, but due to COVID, all the races got canceled. I will attempt the race whenever the racing season opens.

I aim to continue on my fitness journey and emerge as a more vital human being mentally and physically.

“A woman’s health is her capital.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Ami Paneri

An IT professional, progressive runner, determined triathlete,self-motivator, nothing weighs her down-both figuratively and literally, a total novice in the athletic world, cycling lover, mother of two- Ami Paneri from Mumbai.

Motherhood and the aftermath

I was the eldest of the three siblings, always an obedient and studious girl. I loved playing with electronic items more than dolls, thanks to my dad. He worked in ISRO, and gadgets were a significant part of family discussions. I was an outdoor child. Playing in the wild, running on trails, and burning the skin under the sun were my favorite things.

I learned cycling on hired Tobo bikes and got my first personal cycle in grade 6. It was a prized possession.

Since then, the cycle was my mode of transport to school and then to college as well.

I completed my MSc, M.Phil, and secured a gold medal in computer science.

In 2007, I got married and shifted to Mumbai from Gandhinagar. I started working as an ERP professional.

In 2008 I had my first child. After six months of maternity leave due to several reasons, I could not join back to work. I was loaded with heaps of responsibilities of a young child, mother in law, and self. 

I faced the most challenging time between 2009-11; the postpartum phase.

I was irritable all the time and was piling on weight. My health was deteriorating. I had lost interest in everything. There were regular tiffs and arguments at home.

I was missing myself.

In 2011 I had my second child. I weighed a whopping 90 plus kgs now.

I gradually started with regular gym and weight training. I loved that one hour in the morning, all to myself.

Motherhood is joyous, but it can also be overwhelming. Everyone congratulates you on having a baby, but no one warns about the aftermath, mainly postpartum depression.

says Ami

Gaining back the confidence 

It’s told that I speak “heavy” words, but now I was proving it correct. I was so heavy that I became self-conscious all the time. I would avoid going to public places, meeting people, and would avoid the gym at the “crowded” time. I would avoid arms workout at the gym as the bulge embarrassed me.

In 2011, my husband participated in the SCMM Dream Run, and I went along. The electrifying environment zapped me. 

I wanted to be there- running.

I wanted that zeal and energy- and I had none.

The best thing that happened during this time was, I got back to work. It was a welcoming change. I was happy to move out and sort my routine.

In 2013, I participated in SCMM half marathon and somehow managed to drag myself and reach the finish line in 3.37 hours.

I realized what it takes to run and finish.

I had no idea about training, so I started running independently. I managed between kids, work, and home.

In 2015 I participated in the SCMM half marathon and finished in an abysmal timing of 3.58 hours.

I didn’t progress but digressed. I was missing out on something, but couldn’t figure out what.

In 2016, I joined Pinkathon. I was incredibly body-conscious and would run before the sunshine to hide from the eyes watching an overweight female trying to run.

Pinkathon helped me realize that many like me are struggling with body shaming and the social stigma attached to it. I had lots of co-sisters sailing in the same boat. I gradually gained confidence and started running in a group.

“You’re so much more than the numbers on your plus size lingerie”

In 2016, a friend organized Wada Duathlon and asked me to participate. I was thrilled. I got my cycle, and long lost love was back in full form. Cycling is my childhood love, and once I am on my bike, I am the happiest person around.

I gradually started coming back to my happy and confident form.

In 2017 I participated In Wada Duathlon yet again and stood first.

In the same year, I did my first 80 km ride to Kharghar with the Malad cycling club.

Ah! I was flying.

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), author of Sherlock Holmes

The Ladakh Marathon: in quest of a timing certificate

In 2018 My husband registered for the Ladakh marathon and I wanted to participate as well. After booking the flight tickets with an overdose of excitement, the reality came crashing on me.

I didn’t fit the eligibility criterion. I did not have a required timing certificate.

Viv came to my rescue. What would I ever do without his meticulous training plans?When I shared my desire to participate in the marathon, he gladly welcomed my thought and encouraged me to train hard.

Myself and Sopan at the Ladkah Marathon

I participated in several 10 K runs.

I was chasing races and timing. I was desperate.

And finally, from 1.40hrs, I managed 1.18hrs for a 10K run.

Whatta delight! I had the timing certificate, and I was going for the Ladakh marathon.

I finished the marathon and it was a great confidence booster for me.

Trying the Tri

Our training group, MMA(Mad Menon Academy), is always buzzing with interesting discussion. This time the term Triathlon caught my attention.

Further, it was revealed that Triathlon is a combination of three sports, swimming, cycling, and running one after the other.

As I mentioned, heavy is my second name, so I took this “heavy” decision to participate in the Kolhapur triathlon 2018.

The primary issue was – I didn’t know how to swim. Swimming for me was splashing in the water and nothing more.

My husband ,Sopan became my teammate. I would take him to a 25 meters pool and ask him to stand at a distance of 15 meters, enough for me to push myself from one end, float, and then hold me to start the same process all over again until I finish the entire lap.

I would also refrain from putting my head down in the water.

Shankar Thapa came as a guiding light. I gradually improved my swimming from 15-100-500-700 to finally 1000 meters.

With all the training and hard work, I was still not losing weight.

As William Blake said, The true method of knowledge is an experiment. So, I did what all it could take to shed the extra kilos. The catch here was that I was following google knowledge, and in this process, I compromised on my immunity.

I had worked hard, but I was not in good shape, health-wise.

Still, with firm thought and the belief to reach the finish line I, along with my husband, headed to Kolhapur to participate in the first Triathlon.

We both panicked in the open water swim, and it was a DNF.

Kolhapur Tri

In February 2019, I participated in my home turf, Gandhinagar Triathlon. It was a pool swim with a uniform depth across the pool. As I jumped in the pool, I panicked yet again. The lifeguards prompted me to pull me out, but I requested them to give me a few minutes to regain my composure. 

I was angry with myself. I took a deep breath, asked my mind to shut up, and firmly told myself, “Ami, this can’t happen again-just; go for it,” and I swam through the entire distance.

I finished the Olympic Distance in 4.21 hours

I had to complete the unfinished battle. In November 2019, I participated in the Kolhapur triathlon, this time for the Olympic distance.

I finished in 4.29 hours.

I shall continue to work hard under my coach’s guidance and will try to improve in the upcoming races.

Curves and the social stigma

I have faced enough questions about my weight. I have hidden under large clothing, covered my arms, and ran alone not to expose myself to the world.

I hid for a very long time.

“If losing weight was easy, we would all be skinny.”

Steven Magee

Participating in the running and triathlon events, with the support and encouragement from the family, fellow runners, and coach, I accepted myself as me. I can now run in broad daylight, wear cycling shorts, and swim in a bikini.

I have overcome all body shame, and here I stand beholding my confidence firm in my gait, and yes, I still use “heavy” words!

You are beautiful because of the light you carry inside you. You are beautiful because you say you are, and you hold yourself that way.

Mary Lambert

Dabang Maa: Sunita Dhote

Sunita Dhote

Mother of two boys, a Fauji kid, Asia book of records holder, represented India in Canada for somersault competition, a college professor by profession, thrice failed attempts for Ironman to a successful finisher, a woman who stood for her passion in a family where the only job of a bahu(bride) was to do household chores. Rendevous with 48 years old, Sunita Dhote from Nagpur.

Fauji childhood

My father was in the Indian Airforce, and I’ve been born and bought up all over India. I call myself as Bharat ki Beti.
My childhood was disciplined and strict. My father used to wake us up (myself and my younger brother) at 5 am, and we were then supposed to take four rounds of the park in the vicinity. Any mischievous act or cheating would result in additional drills.
We learned cycling on hired bikes for a rent of 10 paise per hour. Mistakes would result in thappads (tight slaps).
I was annoyed at that time, but now I understand the significance of discipline that my father instilled in us.
I was into sports right from the very beginning. I got selected for state high jump when Papa was posted in Guwahati. I wasn’t allowed to participate in nationals with the fear that high jump would make me taller, and I won’t get a desirable match.
By the time I reached my tenth grade, sports were just a memory, and the entire focus shifted towards studies.
I did my B.com, M.com, MBA, and Ph.D
I was an obedient daughter.

Marriage and the grind

I got married in a business family, and no sooner I entered my in-law’s place, all maids at home were given permanent off from their duties.
I was a full-time maid now. Right from washing the clothes, utensils, cooking, and every little chore was my responsibility.
I have no regret; instead, I am grateful to my mother-in-law for teaching me patience.

She cribbed and I listened.

This habit taught me how not to react unnecessarily and carry on with your task. She made me physiologically strong- a much-needed trait of an athlete.
It was during my honeymoon to Nepal that I had a glimpse of the golden pagodas. I wanted to run to the top and shared the desire with my husband. He gladly agreed, and within no time, I saw myself running on the trail towards the pagoda. The hidden sports person was still alive. When I reached the top, a stranger shared a message; my husband was waiting for me.

He didn’t climb.

At this point, I resolve that come what may, my children will not be the ones waiting down but the ones who would climb the fastest.

I finished my Ph.D. in 2011 and settled for a job. I understood that it was essential to be financially independent.

Having been traveled all across India with my father, I was a keen traveler but never got an opportunity post-marriage.

During one of the exchange programs, I got an opportunity to travel to Seattle and stay at the Microsoft research center. I loved the experience of being on my own and interact with people across the globe. I was impressed by their discipline, eating habits, and zing for life.
I came back with a determination – I have to take charge of my life. I will not fall into this rut.

The beginning

The group study exchange program to Seattle was a game-changer. Another episode that triggered my thought process was when I was an entrepreneurship faculty, and I talked to the students about passion. I read many autobiographies in this process, and each story had primary learning- follow your passion.

Rotary group exchange program

It filled me with energy and determination.

After my first son was born, I started to learn swimming. I wasn’t allowed to swim in childhood owing to a reason that if I turn dark, then I won’t get a suitable match!

I used to go to the pool nearby, considering all the eyes watching me or even following. I used to hide my swimming costume in a towel, dry my hair, and dress up “appropriately” for this adventure.

“learning and achieving smaller things make you happy.”

chirps Sunita

In 2012, I stood first in 100 meters butterfly championship.

I now wanted to learn more. So, I went ahead and learned about diving.
I was allowed to carry on with whatever I wish to with the condition that children should not be neglected and the house well attended. So, I used to take my children along to the pool. In this process, they also learned swimming (win-win situation).

When life gives you restrictions, don’t flutter in a cage; instead, look for that one little opportunity to fly out.

believes Sunita

Within five to six years, I was a diving champion.

Even now, I was struggling at somersault. I pleaded a child in the pool to teach me. I was 41 years at this point. That child made me do 100 meters of front and roll and said confidently, “you are ready.” I could now do front and reverse somersaults.

I represented India in 2014 in Canada for somersault championships. I was an enthralling moment when my name heard my name, Sunita Dhote, India.

I was beginning to enjoy my life my filled with confidence and joy.

To add to my newly discovered joy, I did solo cycling from Nagpur to Pondicherry of a total distance of 1412 km in 6 days and registered my name in the Asia book of records.

Multiple failures and finally a successful Ironman finish

In 2017 a friend introduced the word Triathlon. With an assumption that it’s just swimming, cycle, and run, I enrolled for Pune triathlon, sprint distance. To my dismay, after the swim and the bike, I couldn’t manage to run.

Being a total novice, I participated in the race empty stomach.
I was unaware of the word nutrition.

The same year I enrolled for the Hyderabad triathlon, and it was a DNF. I attempted thrice and failed.

Three failed attempts at Hyderabad Tri

I kept trying.

Life is all about trying.

says Sunita

The “chipko andollan” movement is imbibed in me; hence I don’t leave until done.

In 2018, finally, I could finish the race in 9hrs 15 mins.

A friend told me about systematic training, planning, and nutrition. I then took proper coaching and participated in the Dubai ironman.

Ten days before the race, I had two bad falls, and my training came to a standstill. But I am a stubborn soul, and I was determined to fly to Dubai for the race.

I swam for the first time in a wetsuit, and the clear water gave a feeling of “patal lok” I clocked my PB in the swim. Cycling was comfortable, and during the run, I followed a strategy to run pole to pole.
Dubai IM finish was blissfully satisfying.

I became the first woman from the Vidarbha region to have completed the Ironman race.

When I came back and showed the medal to my family, my husband had a blank expression, and he could only ask me,” iske liye itni mehnat?(so much of effort just for this medal?)”

Sunita at the finish line

It is difficult to explain your desires and passion, so it’s better to keep the hustle on and move forward.

The training was a tricky part. I used to put a cycle in my car, wear the cycling gear, and cover it with a salwar suit (formal dress).
Once the college used to get over, I drove to the highway, parked my car, and did a three-hour cycle, and returned home.
There were several episodes where I had to manage the timing and surroundings efficiently.

You have to decide what you have to do, then be on it, come what may”

says determined Sunita

Life is about how you face it.

When I did my solo cycling, my elder son was in grade 10. I had a lot of “Gyan” for everyone around that I was an irresponsible mother who has left her son behind in the crucial year.
During a press conference for the Asia book of records, a media person had serious doubt on my grit and daring to do a solo ride. I wanted to reply,”are you scared of a woman being on her own or are you feeling insecure”(pun intended)

Sunita, with her sons


I didn’t allow life to churn me, but I did the other way round.


I sponsor the races on my own. I ensured that I bought up boys with discipline and integrity.
Work colleagues who once questioned my caliber now have the utmost respect for me.
My son does 200 crunches, and we are quite competitive about it(in all humor). He also cooks a fantastic meal.


My nickname is Sona(means gold), and one property of gold is that it glitters the most when it is rubbed hard and rough.

grins Sunita

It is my time to glow, and I’ll ensure that I shine the brightest.

that’s sunita’s promise to herself
Dr.Ashwini

A busy gynaecologist ,performed Mumbai’s first gynaecological robot-assisted surgery, a podium finisher at Kolhapur triathlon, Turkey Ironman 70.3 finisher, someone who juggles between delivering babies at the clinic and her training, mother of two, here is 47-year-old Dr. Ashwini from Mumbai.

Family of doctors

I come from a Maharashtrian family where education was the utmost priority. My mother is a gynecologist herself, and I have seen her managing work and home with precision. 

I was always a sincere, “accha-baccha,” and was awarded the best student medal in grade 10. 

My single focus was to be a gynecologist even when my mother warned me about the hard work followed by long working hours.

But I was determined about my career goal. My elder brother went to KEM to be a gynecologist, and I followed his footsteps.

I was a table tennis player in my childhood, but never an athlete. In the later stage, I loved going to the gym and was always fitness conscious.

I went to KEM and enjoyed my tenure in learning medicine. I married my classmate, and I am blissfully married for 23 years now.

Dr.Ashwini during her pregnancy

I started with my private practice immediately after my post-graduation, and I had no time for anything else. My kids were born in 2003 and 2006. I had multiple duties to address now.

I had excellent live-in help, and I knew my babies were cared for well. And hence I could focus on my work. I could manage breastfeeding by expressing milk to be given to my babies in my absence.

Work-home-work: juggling

My mother and mother-in-law both are working women, and I am very proud to mention how beautifully they have managed their work-life balance. 

Although I had generous support that enabled me to focus on my career, but due to long work hours, I could not attend to my kids as much as I would have wanted to.

When my daughter was ten months old, my full-time help left. My clinic was from 7-9 pm, and I was returning home at 10 pm.

I had to take a tough call here. I had self-talk and concluded that my children would grow only once; my work will go on.

I decided to manage my work timings according to their schedule and shifted my evening clinic hours to morning.

“There are choices to make at each point in life, but choose what makes you proud.”

says, Dr.Ashwini

The Tri-game

In 2011 two of my close friends did a half marathon, and the distance attracted me.

Very next day, I was out in the neighboring park to try out running. Not even 500m and I panted, as I had run at full speed. An unknown lady who must have been 60 years of age was watching, and she approached me and asked if I aimed to run. She then offered to teach me and showed me how to run slowly and steadily without getting breathless. And I was then able to run 2 km efficiently.

SCMM 2014

I joined a running group called Run India Run. I did my first half marathon at SCMM(Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon) under the able guidance of our excellent and inspiring Coach, Mr. Samson Sequeira.

I was in love with the outdoors now. We were blessed to train at Juhu beach, which is serene and beautiful in the early mornings. The morning training at the beach with constant encouragement and support from the rest of the group started on a positive and lively note.

In 2014 just a month before the SCMM, I incurred a stress fracture.

I was extremely disheartened but I still went to the expo and collected the bib.

I was restless the entire night before the race day, and seeing my state, my husband told me to go and run on the condition that I do not return further injured.

I jumped out of the bed as if I was waiting for some push; I went ahead and finished the run.

“Deep desires find their way.”

believes, Dr.Ashwini

I then enrolled for 42kms. I developed hyperactive airways due to smog exposure in the winter months and had to take inhalers to be able to train. In two out of three full marathons that I attempted, I had bronchospasm despite the inhalers. I still completed the distance, though I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do so, being a doctor myself. I realised that this was becoming counterproductive.

By this time, a couple of my friends had done the Half Ironman, and the idea of doing three different sports back to back intrigued me. I decided to try my hand at it.

However, I had never trained in swimming. And I had hardly cycled in childhood, and never after that. After the SCMM, I purchased a hybrid bike and enrolled for swimming lessons and enrolled for my first Duathlon at Vasai, where I stood fourth.

I started learning to swim and cycle for races at the age of 45. After the Duathlon I attended a Tri camp to understand what a triathlon was all about. Most of the people there were experienced and talking about cadence, BRM, and what not! It was like Greek and Latin to me. I felt entirely out of place.

I joined swimming lessons keeping the Goa tri in mind, to be held in February 2018.

Swimming and cycling were a substantial uphill task for me. I had to slog in the pool and put in lots of effort. In November, I tried to swim in a 50m pool and came out completely exhausted. Till Nov end, I was unable to swim 1500m in the pool. And here I was eyeing the Goa tri, where there was a sea swim! (quite ambitious).

I was determined to overcome this incompetency and gave it my best.

And one beautiful November morning, some magic happened, and I could swim the pool’s distance. I was amazed at this miracle.(well, thinking about it later – it was my ardent effort of not giving up)

Cycling was another challenge. I was terrified to ride on the road. I was scared of the traffic, potholes, being run over and falling. It took me three years to finally think of cycling as fun! Before this, it was nothing but stress for me. But with consistent practice, I grew in strength.

After completing the Goa tri, I registered for the Kolhapur triathlon in Nov 2018. I stood first in my age category and managed to shave off a good 30 mins from my Goa timing.

For both Goa and Kolhapur triathlons, I trained under Dr. Kaustubh Radkar, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

It was now time to take a plunge in the Ironman race. I registered for Turkey 70.3, and under the strict guidance of Viv Menon, I started my disciplined and structured training. Ashutosh Barve helped in a big way to improve my freestyle swimming.

The race in Turkey was a remarkable experience. The water was cold, and I struggled with headwinds during the bike course. But by God’s grace, I completed all the three courses of swim, bike, and run successfully. All credit goes to Viv and Ashutosh for making me worthy of this medal.

It was a delight to see my family cheering for me at the finish line. I was genuinely grateful to complete the race, but I couldn’t cherish the moment the way I had imagined it. 

My partner in crime, my best friend, with whom I had trained for all the races, had two punctures on the bike course and couldn’t complete it. She was genuinely happy for me, though, and I hugged her with teary eyes.

Next race, I look forward to crossing the finish line together with her.

Managing the clinic, training hours, and children were challenging, but then it had to happen, so it did.

I remember episodes when I have rushed to the clinic for emergency delivery calls and came back home to finish the remaining cycle training.

Learnings at 45

There is a learning in every race. I have grown from a person who didn’t know swimming, was scared of cycling to a successful finisher in Turkey Ironman 70.3.

I recall a childhood episode where I was in the pool with my cousin, splashing about at the shallow end. He jokingly dared me to jump into the pool’s deep end (15 feet) from the first-floor diving board. Without hesitation, I went ahead and jumped. He was shocked and scared, as I didn’t even know swimming. “Giving-up” and “turning away” from challenges doesn’t come to me easily, I keep fighting until I attain my goal. This one incident pulled out the fear of open-water away from me.

Last year, I thought I would try to do the same thing. Now I knew swimming, and there was nothing to fear! But believe it or not, I walked to the edge of the first-floor board and couldn’t muster the courage to jump! I turned back on two occasions.

As children, we are far more fearless and daring than adults who are gripped in uncertainty and anxiety. Childhood experiences can translate into valuable life lessons. Skills like swimming and cycling when learned as a child remains for life.

Dr.Ashwini

I have also come across people who have labeled my race participation as a mid-life crisis. It is difficult to explain the finishing line’s joy even when I haven’t won the race.

“The more you explain, the more they will ask. Put your heart into your dreams; the questions will wither.”

be firm,stay firm and belive in yourself

Mother, gynecologist, working women, athlete- what’s the Gyan for women audience?

Mother– As a mother, you’ll always have unending responsibilities. You have to be the strongest pillar of the family. It is vital to find some me- time, however. Take care of yourself first to be a caregiver to others.

Gynecologist– Women need to do weight-bearing exercises, including strength training for better bone density. Strolls won’t help to make bones stronger.

Medal hanger designed by Ashwini herself. She says, if you want it then earn it

Please get back to the routine soon after childbirth. The best time to lose weight is during lactation when you can actually eat 500 calories extra and still lose weight if you exercise a bit. So start working out, and you’ll be back in shape quickly.

Working womanIt is imperative for a woman to be financially independent, whether she needs to contribute to the household or not. A woman must have an income of her own. Children of working women are usually well adjusting, confident, and independent.

Athlete– Discipline commitment and hard work, my training has made me A better human being with lots of patience. 

I can prioritize my work and other obligations. I have started oil painting again and joined music classes too.

My approach towards personal and professional life is more organized and structured.

Never think that you are too old to learn a new skill or start your journey on fitness. It all boils down to only one thing-

How badly do you want it, and how hard are you willing to work for it?

if you want, you will- Dr.Ashwini

I would say take the plunge, and soon you’ll be on the racing track!

Chandani Desai

Someone who has never been a sports enthusiast, where mere participation in any of the school sports event was a significant accomplishment, a thyroid patient, “slow performer” as she calls herself, mother of a nine-year-old, a textile designer by profession here is our Crash Queen- Chandani Desai

Why a crash queen?

Forever bleeding knees

Well, there has been no race where I’ve not fallen off my bike. My knees are forever bleeding, injured, bandaged, and bruised. 

After the race, I look nothing less than a wounded soldier who has just returned from the battlefield. 

Now, I’ve come to a consensus that crashing is a good omen for me.

Mumbai express

I come from a family where outdoor explorations like treks, hikes, and long walks were regular affairs.

Pregnancy

While my family post-marriage was the opposite, my husband would not prefer going out at all, gradually, I also got soaked into all married life responsibilities. I was never a high adrenaline person, but I was fit and agile. I was juggling multiple things in one go. There came a moment post-delivery when I could not get off the floor without support. It was demeaning. I didn’t like my state. But what do I do? How do I manage my time? By now, my son started his play-school in the afternoon shift (11 am-1 pm), so in between the drop and pick up I precisely had 45 minutes. I used this time to run at 12noon (rain, shine, or wind), go home shower, prepare his tiffin, and pick him up. Whenever I missed the run, I would climb the stairs.

Satara half-marathon

My building residents thought that I am crazy. Well! I was mad to get back into my fit form and not remain a slug.

I was synonymous with Mumbai express, on time, can’t get slow, will never stop.

I could now run around 10kms, but the city-run was boring. Someone mentioned about Satara run and within no time registered and finished my first half marathon.

This Mumbai express was not stopping at all now!

Crib or join the madness – what do I choose?

In 2013, Pratik (my husband) did his first Comrades. Due to several reasons, he broke his spine and was on complete bed rest. His first question to the doctor was – will I be able to run?

Running is his life, and he was slipping into depression due to his injury.

I was ok with a physically injured husband but not a mentally unstable one.

I had to take a call here to crib about his state or join him in his madness; I chose the latter, and that is how my events journey started.

We started sharing a lot of things in common. I could now relate to the jargon used in training. As I juggled between a kid, work, home, and much more, he understood my pain points and started supporting me even more.

I could now extract time from my Mumbai express schedule and devote sincere efforts towards the training.

The Tri-bug

In 2016 I got to know about Pune Triathlon. Running was getting boring, and the combination of three sports was attractive. I registered for the event and started training.

My schedule was something like this:

  • 5 am get up and go for training 
  • cook breakfast, lunch for the whole family(including extended family)
  • Get Rivaan ready for school
  • board the train to work(missing a local in Mumbai is like, missing your work)
  • leave on time from work
  • pick up Rivaan, drop him to classes
  • cook dinner 
  • train once everyone in the house is asleep.

I was running on a reserve battery. I used to be super tired, drained, but I found myself more energetic than I was earlier because first, I was enjoying the pain, and second it was a feel-good factor.

Pratik came forward to take care of Rivaan and encouraged me to train harder for my first triathlon, which later got him hooked as well.

I came to know about my naive state when during one cycle training session, I tried hard to catch up on my co-trainee, but my cycle wouldn’t move forward at all, no matter how hard I tried. He then offered his bike, and I realised the difference between an autorickshaw and a Ferrari.

Race day was also disastrous. I lost my way during the swim course and swam a half ironman distance(1.9kms) compared to the Olympic(1.5kms). I was screaming mid-way to guide me for the direction. Some kind soul heard me and shouted back to swim 45 degrees right.

I swam in my swimming costume and just wore a cycling tee over it for the bike course. The concept of wet suit or any other gear was unknown until then.

The bike course was not just tough but grueling. The bike course was all on the ghats, and I had trained only on plains. Anyhow, I patted myself that I completed the course without a fall. But this happiness was short-lived, and I crashed yet again.

The last running course was the toughest. I had cramps in my legs right from the start. Someone said, have salt at the station, someone said have gel, I did what I could, and dragged myself.

In the last 200 meters where I was still pushing myself, Pratik cheered me loudly, “go run, the medal is yours. You have only two minutes left”.

I composed myself, pushed as hard as I could, and crossed the finish line.

I sat there and cried my heart out.

Those were the tears of my hard work, discipline, my express routine, Pratik’s injury, my child who saw me training hard, my effort. 

I deserved this medal, yes, the medal was mine!

What led to 70.3?

In 2017 Pratik and I did the Pune International Triathlon together (his 1st and my 2nd triathlon), and the same year we shifted to Dubai.

Fast forward to 2018, while I was still adjusting to the new country, work, and Rivaan’s school, Pratik completed his first 70.3 and went to do his first full @ IM Hamburg. 

It is here where while cheering for him and seeing him cross the red carpet that I got goosebumps and a thought flashed in my mind to do Dubai 70.3 along with him.

This thought came into reality when in India, we went to meet the only Iron couple Kaushik and Vineeta casually over a weekend drink. Within a blink of sharing my thought about doing an Ironman race, they registered me for Dubai 70.3, and then there was no looking back!

Mis(s)-adventures

With the event approaching, I had lots to catch up and get into aggressive training. The training period was strenuous. Being a slow racer and also a thyroid patient, my recovery rate is more time-consuming. 

My legs would ache to give me sleepless nights. Rivaan used to sit on my legs to comfort me, but every single day I would get up with the same zeal and train much harder than the previous day. 

On my first-century training ride(100kms) after 18 odd km, I had a crash (what new?), but this time my cycle wouldn’t/t move no matter how hard I peddled. I kept going and finished the ride. 

I then called up Pratik to pick me up as I was almost immobile. I started worrying about my capability to finish the bike course in the race. When Pratik came to pick me up and had a look at the bike and me, he sensed my worry. 

With a smile on his face, he assured me that I was more than ready for the race. I was puzzled. He told me that the brakes jammed after the crash, and even then, I completed the ride. This effort talked a lot about my stamina and strength.

I was confident about biking now.

Now comes the swim struggle.

I was excellent at breaststroke, but it wasn’t easy in a wetsuit. I changed to freestyle just three weeks before the race. Also developed severe bronchitis.

On the race day, I entered the water with bruised knees and cuts so deep that the flesh was visible—Courtesy-all the falls during the training.

The water was choppy, but I managed to finish the swim course. My Garmin malfunctioned on the event day, and I was unwary of the time. I got on the bike, and as ever a fall had to happen. I got back on the bike and completed the bike course as well. Run was draining.

I panicked about the timing. 

Pratik passed on the message that I had time to finish. Even though I was relieved of listening to this, but I was exhausted.

I saw people older than me running to the finish line, and I silently muttered to myself- you will not give up Chandani, run, go, run to the finish line.

As soon as I saw the red carpet, I sprinted and finished well before time.

Firm your mind, and the universe will conspire to make it happen.

believes , Chandani

Setbacks? Or Sit-back?

I had to come over challenging circumstances for all my races, but I was a tougher challenge. 

Crash during Lockdown

I was determined, and one after the other, things kept falling in place to train systematically.

Crashing is my second name, but I never gave up and carried on with bleeding knees in all the races even then. Just recently, Entirely, out of nowhere, I had a massive crash in a casual bike ride during the lockdown. I had to undergo facial surgery with multiple fractures. It was a tough time to manage in a foreign country and a child back home. He was petrified to see my injured face. 

Back to saddle after the accident

Two months post-surgery, I am back on the saddle again.

There will be challenges and setbacks in some way or the other; the choice is yours to sit back or get going?

To all the women

We, women, are crash queens in our ways.

Stereotypes crash us

Heaps of responsibilities crash us

Guilt crash us

But we have to rise and shine for we are the queens

says, Chandani

“When I first saw the racing arena, zooming cycles, training jargons, and high energy at the event, I was almost hypnotised. I never imagined that such a world existed. I made up my mind that I’ll be a part of all these high adrenaline events.”

Dr.Uma

Meet 47 years old Dr.Uma Vinod. Ahmedabad based Ophthalmologist and a  mother of two boys. First rank holder of Gandhinagar Triathlon 2018 and winner at several cycle racing events(you will not find her on any social media although)

As Dr.Uma says,

I got married immediately after my MBBS and completed my Post Graduation in Ophthalmology.

I was soon engrossed in all motherhood duties, work, and house chores—a typical story for most married women. 

The race euphoria 

In 2012, I participated in my first half marathon and finished in 3.45 hours. I was at cloud nine that I finished the race.

In 2014 I witnessed a cyclothon in Ahmedabad. I was aghast to see the zooming cycles, the cheering crowd, and pumped up, high energy athletes. I was stunned by the entire event. I never imagined the existence of such a world, as if it was a parallel universe.

In the same year, I registered for a super sprint event. The main reason to register for the event was – Milind Soman(blushes).

The race briefing was an eye-opener. I heard the terms like wet-suit, cadence, cut-off timing, and several other jargons that seemed like french. The trainers talked about cycle gear ratio and cleats while I came to participate in the race on my son’s bicycle!

For the event, I got my first BSA “thin” tire bike assuming it’ll make me go faster. Only thin tyres don’t make you win a race but training and effort do.

With all the learnings of the previous event, I got my first road bike and participated in a Duathlon in 2014. I stood first!

By now I was in deep love with cycling. 

I started participating in cycling races and winning too. I was utterly mesmerized by the sheer joy of zooming on the bike and winning as well.

I was a hypothyroid patient until the age of 40, but then I decided to lead a healthy life and gifted myself a significant weight loss.

Do it, because it makes you happy.

In 2015, I went to Manali-Leh biking, and as it is known that the route is not for the lesser mortals. I was surely not the one. It was a life-changing experience for me. It was my zen moment of putting all the elements of the body together and strengthen the mind. 

Winner at Gandinagar Tri 2018

I was gaining expertise in cycling, but my running was still lacking. I started with proper training in 2017. Guided practice, along with a proper diet, helps a lot in improving the training performance.

In 2018 I participated. in the Triathlon in Gandhinagar. Due to fewer women participants, the organizers kept an open category for women 18-55. I stood first in the race!

I then registered myself for the Berlin Marathon in 2019. I was hesitant to go on my own, but my elder son persuaded me to travel. Technology and I don’t have much of a friendship. To navigate the phone to find a way or even to use google translator is tough for me. 

But I did. Because it made me happy, very happy.

says, Dr.Uma

Women in endurance sports- lesser lady

Is it a new discussion? I face the same set of questions each time,

Dr.Uma in one of her training sessions
  • what fun do you get in killing yourself in training?
  • You are always either running or cycling, do you even spend time with your family?
  • Why are you going alone for your races, take your children along too?
  • How will your family manage without you?

I’ll miss cooking a great meal over the weekend, but I’ll never miss my training, this gives me a title of – lesser lady.

Dr.Uma in her training session

I mostly train alone and do not share that moment “ME” with anyone. It is my meditation. My alarm buzzes at 4 am and I go out for my run. Being dark at that hour, I can’t go far for the practice; hence I run in loops at a stretch in front of my building. I have informed my guard that if I don’t turn back within time or he hears my scream, then he should run to trace me. 

There will be questions, allegations, and stereotypes to face, but the choice is yours, either pay heed and remain in your cocoon or be a butterfly. What will you choose?

asks, Dr.Uma

Male dominance and raising boys

I have five males in my family: husband, father-in-law, father, and two boys (18 & 15).

I am a working female, and along with my training and work, the house responsibility doubles up. There were days when I could not prepare the meal, and my boys made their tiffin and went to school. In the growing years, my children understand cohesive existence. They also see that I have a liking towards sports gadgets than fancy clothes.

There was a point where I was fulfilling all my duties as a mother, wife, daughter, professional, but I wasn’t doing anything for myself.

It was a tough call to prioritise my liking over everything else. We live in a society where women are meant to be more focused on home, but

Elder son at IIT Kharagpur

I believe that when you don’t negotiate you’ll never be taken for granted.

Younger son after his first Tri

Today my elder one is studying in IIT Kharagpur and is in the college squash and running team. He is a swimmer as well.

He says, “mom, sports gave me recognition.”

He prefers a girlfriend who loves cycling!

My younger one has already completed a triathlon and is looking forward to more.

Mothers are the first and most significant influencers, see that you prove this to yourself first.

believes Dr.Uma

What lies ahead?

I aim to improve my race timings and keep winning as a mother as an athlete and emerge as a more robust version of myself.

This petite looking, a small structured girl is the right synonym of the Sutli Bomb(Jute twine bomb).

Nandita Pranajape Joshi

She is a powerhouse of endurance and strength.

Once a patient of sciatica, backache, irritable bowel syndrome , permanent asthma, several health issues, poor lifestyle-induced diseases to an Ironman Podium Finisher.

Here is the story of Dr. Nandita Paranjape Joshi, a 36 years old, mother of a five-year-old girl, Kolhapur based Gynaecologist and infertility specialist.

As Nandita shares her story,

National level lawn tennis player 

I had a beautiful childhood. There was a strict rule in my house that we siblings need to learn one art and one sport. I chose badminton but shifted to lawn tennis soon.

With the winner’s trophy for Lawn Tennis

I was pretty good at it (collars up) 

I represented Maharashtra thrice and played till nationals. 

Back then, participation in tournaments was a simple affair with non-branded clothing or shoes. I am from Sangli, Maharashtra, a small laid back town, and sports were all about strict training under my father’s supervision. Our relationship during the training was not like father and daughter but as a coach and a trainee, hence there was no mercy.

 Marriage, children and hectic work hours 

Children will always do the opposite of what their parents will tell them, and I was no exception. I did my medicine even when my parents asked me not to. Both my parents are doctors, and they knew the long working hours in the profession. 

I completed my MBBS from Aurangabad and DGO too.

I got married in 2010, and my daughter Nabha was born in 2015.

Nabha was eight months old when I joined back to work. 

Due to stressful work hours, an infant at home, and erratic work schedule, I developed a lot of lifestyle-related diseases. As the medical facility was easily accessible to me, I would do MRIs even for a minute symptom at the drop of a hat. I was in a persistent unhealthy phase. A childhood sports enthusiast was now under medicines and constant fatigue.

The push

All thanks to my brother, who pushed and pursed me to get back on track. With a lot of reluctance, I joined lawn tennis again, my lost love. But lost love doesn’t find existence in the present; hence I shifted to running.

I could not even finish 400 meters in 35 minutes or so. I was huffing and panting all the time. 

My brother made me do a 10K in some event, which I finished in 1.40 hours and slept off for two days. I cursed him with all my heart.

Being a doctor myself, I sensed my alarming physical state. I had to take charge and got into systematic training.

Races and training

A structured training plan helped me get back to my earlier fit and good form quickly. I took great care of my diet, as well. In 2016 I did my first Kolahpur half marathon. 

Things were going fine until I met with an accident. 

I traveled to Spain for a conference where I had a terrible fall. MRI showed ligament tear, and I was completely bedridden.

All my hard work came to a standstill. I had to start from scratch now.

At this point, a friend who was not allowed to travel on her own for the event registered me to the Belgaum Triathlon (sprint distance- 750 m swim,20 km cycle, 5 km Run).

I had no idea about triathlon, I followed the racecourse, and to my surprise stood 3rd! I was utterly clueless.

By now, I had started loving the entire endurance training and registered for Kolhapur Triathlon, Olympic distance(1.5 km Swim,40 km Cycle,10 km Run), and stood 2nd. 

Then came Goa Ironman, first-ever Ironman 70.3 (1.9 km Swim,90 km Cycle,21.1 km Run)event in India, and I enthusiastically registered for it.

I had never cycled 90 km ever before the race, and I seriously doubted my capability.

Podium finisher at Goa Ironman 70.3

Swimming is my strongest point as I have learned swimming in the river, but it was a tough course to tackle even then.

I was utterly exhausted in the last lap when I heard my husband and daughter cheering me, “why are you walking? Run! You are in the second position. Go run to the finish line”.

I was pumped up immediately and finished 2nd in my age category.

Training in a small town and Maharashtra flood hero

It is a challenging affair. I have to be very careful on the route, the hour of the day, and the company during my training. I was advised to dress up like a boy to avoid eve-teasing.

My training gear is either half or full-sleeves t-shirt and long tights.

There is always a lot of questions from the society and even peer group regarding my training. 

At one point, I started doubting myself on my competency to manage my family, especially my child, and focussing more on the training. 

I shared my concern with my husband, and he assured me of going by what I think is right.

As a woman, you have to prove your worth always, and it is pressurising. 

During the Kolhapur floods in 2019, I promptly took charge to rescue the trapped people and saved 50 lives. My name flashed in all newspapers, and since then, there are no questions raised on my training or races.

Personal growth

Endurance sports require strict discipline, hard work, and a tough mind. It sharpens your thought process and decision-making ability. 

After strenuous training and long work hours, I used to get irritated and vent out my anger on Nabha. With a systematic approach towards the training, I could manage my mood swings as well and developed self-awareness.

The field of Embryology and fertility requires precision, accuracy, empathy, attention to detail, emotional strength, and patience, and endurance training enabled me to acquire all these traits.

says, Nandita

I can tackle stereotyping with much grace and confidence. These things don’t bother me anymore.

Want to represent India at the Global Platform

Does hunger continue?

Of course! It will. It has just begun. I aim to work for better stamina and much better timing in all my races.

India lacks pro-athletes in international tournaments; I wish to represent India at the global platform.

Be fearless and independent. Nabha wants me to be the next Lucy Charles, and I’ll put all my efforts into being the best one from India.

Note to my daughter, nabha
Nandita and Nabha

Note to all the mothers.

Extract one hour for yourself for your mental and physical well-being. Each one of us is unique and fighting a battle of their own.Comparison is the worst enemy for growth. Do not compare yourself to anyone, it spills a beautiful relationship called friendship.

If you are happy, you’ll keep your family happy.

P.S: Nandita is also a great cook and a sculptor. She’s been making eco-friendly Ganpati idol for the last eight years at her home.

Small town to the city of dreams

Snail-paced cyclist to an Ironman finisher

Determination is the second name of Ritu Kudal, a Mumbai based 41-year-old mother of two beautiful girls. 

Bahu(bride)
To a babe !

Pallu (veil)clad Marwari to a girl in running shorts.

Ritu has quite a few finisher medals in her kitty like Dubai 70.3 (1.9kms swim, 90kms bike, 21.1 run) 2020; Kolhapur 70.3, 2019(Podium); Hyderabad 2018(Olympic Distance-1.5kms swim,40kms cycling, and 10kms run), Full marathon 2017, countless half marathons, 10km and 25kms pacer.

Let’s read Ritu’s story in her narration.

How and why?

I studied in Udaipur and was into sports right from childhood. Kho-Kho and running were my favorite sports; I have even played until the state level. I was selected for national and had to travel to Nepal for the race; my mother was in doubt. Firstly coming from a Marwahi community, there was a stigma for girls to participate in sports, and secondly, pursuing sports was not a serious discussion. Even I was unsure, so I left where I started and continued to study further.

Soon I was married, but I am glad that my parents respected my opinion to find an educated match for me. 

I came to Mumbai after marriage and continued to pursue my Charted Accountant course. My husband, Tarun being a CA himself, helped me in the completion of the course. 

I carried on with my duty as a dedicated housewife and managing children.

When my elder one was six-months-old, just to come out of boredom, I started to learn swimming. The oldest student was in the swimming class was 60 years old.

There is no age to learn anything new

First lesson
Ritu with her family

It was during the Ganpati celebration when I was sitting in the pandal, holding my second child in my lap when my elder daughter’s gymnastics instructor uttered under his breath that I look like a Ganpati. I went home and looked at myself in the mirror, and he was not wrong. What had I done to myself? With a chubby body and bulging belly, I surely looked like Ganpati.

Do not neglect yourself after childbirth. Your body needs a lot of attention.

Second lesson

I developed hypothyroidism as well.

I started walking and mild exercising until one-day, I met someone who had completed his half marathon. I was shocked by the distance he covered when I was struggling to walk even a 5K. When my younger one was six -months old, I ran my first 10K Pinkathon race in 2013 and finished in 1.02hrs.

It is always challenging to take the first step but dare to take it, and it’ll make all the difference. 

Third lesson

There was no looking back then. I did the Goa marathon, Kundalika river. Marathon, Stara Hill run and, after four years in 2017, ran my first full marathon with systematic planning and training.

The race moment

My first Triathlon was Hyderabad 2018, Olympic Distance. I chose to race here to test waters, and surprisingly, I stood 4th in my age category. Next was Kolhapur 2019 70.3, and the (OWS )open water swim came into existence. Ah! to face the fear of open water and then to swim through that distance was a tough task. I trained hard and was a podium finisher at the race.

Dubai 70.3 was announced by now, and after talking to Tarun, I registered. A race that I can never forget.

Podium at Kolhapur 70.3

My coach Viv Menon and swim coach Ashutosh left no stone unturned to turn me into a beast by gruelling training plans. My day started very early, and after preparing the breakfast and packing my kid’s tiffin boxes, I used to head for my training. There were days when my body gave up, and my legs ached, but I had a massive target in front of me, and I didn’t pause.

Before the race day, I packed my bike, learned how to mend the puncture, made my mind to travel alone. Yes, it was my first international travel on my own. It was a great accomplishment to get the visa stamped, issue a new SIM card, and manage everything on my own. 

After the trial swim, I was down with a cough, cold and high fever. I panicked as my body was too weak to face a tough race ahead. 

On race day, my swim went well, but due to coughing I had gulped a lot of seawater, I started vomiting while cycling. My left side of the body was almost frozen, and I had severe pain. I was tensed not because of my state, but what if something happens to me? I have children back home.

My mind could not register a DNF (Did Not Finish), and I pushed myself hard to the finish line.

Dubai 70.3

The glimpse of the India flag at the finish line, the sense of victory and achievement took away all my pains, aches, fever, and anxiety.  It was a moment of pride and triumph.

You have to put effort on your own to achieve the impossible.

Fourth lesson

Gratitude

Mom, you can do it

I am very grateful to my parents, who ensured that I get a proper education. I can’t thank my coach Viv Menon, Ashutosh, enough, who pushed me hard and beyond my limits.

Most importantly, I could have never done any of my races without Tarun. Whenever I step out for a competition, I always ask Tarun to put his hand on my head. It fills me with immense confidence and trust. That cheer from my kids,” Mom, you can do it!” kept ringing in my ears all through my racecourse.

Is the hunger over?

No, the hunger to chase the impossible will never get over. Once I was back from Dubai 70.3, I enrolled for the Goa swimathon for 5K. My coach asked me, “are you ready to fail, Ritu?” I replied, “it’s not about failing or timing, but I want to test myself.” I am glad I took a plunge and finished the 5K swim.

Dare to dream and have the courage to chase your dreams. What seems impossible now will become a reality soon. 

Ritu’s mantra

Learnings from being a Badass mommy

Getting married or having kids is no reason to stop you from achieving your dreams. Never stop learning, never stop dreaming, and be happy for yourself and on your own.

Dream Believe Chase Achieve 

concludes Ritu

In this fast-paced world, we lose our cool if the wi-fi is slow. Children hit the panic button if the smartphone screen hangs. Our patience level has gone for a toss, and all of us are aiming quick results.

How to control heightened emotions?

How to manage anxiety?

How to keep uncertainty and fear at bay?

One most crucial practice is Mindfulness.

But, the question yet again that arises is, HOW?

Everyone is not equipped to practice Mindfulness with efficiency and tends to drift our thoughts. It takes several years and many more years of discipline to attain a peaceful state of mind.

Out of several options available, learning art, of any form, helps a lot in calming down an agitated mind.

In my recent workshop on Mandala art, one of the participants asked me that why I insisted on not using the easer? My reply was simple, “concentrate, be patient and make every stroke with absolute precision, and then there will be no scope of using an eraser.”

The goal of art therapy is to utilize the creative process to help people explore self-expression and, in doing so, find new ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills.

(Source-https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-art-therapy-2795755#:~:text=Art%20therapy%20is%20a%20technique,and%20work%20on%20social%20skills.)

My analogy and experience regarding the use of art for personal growth is,

When we draw patterns on paper, we are drawing patterns in our minds. The hand-eye coordination helps the brain to stabilize and avoid any diverting thought, thereby increasing concentration. 

Trick: Do not aim for perfection; draw. If you are seeking perfection, then you’ve already lost the joy of the process.

When we avoid the eraser, we are telling our minds not to haste but be very slow and complete the work with precision. It helps in building up patience.

Trick: Use lighter strokes if you are new to the art form so that when you go wrong, you can erase and draw again without leaving a mark. The same applies to life, as well. Be gentle in your process, and try not to leave marks that are difficult to erase.

When we fill the patterns either with designs or colors, we are not leaving any blank space. We are trying to make the pattern look beautiful, helping in limiting ourselves within the boundaries so that the final product doesn’t look messy.

Trick: Stroke in one direction so that the filled colors look uniform. In a way, we are telling our minds to fill the knowledge that is age-appropriate so that it manifests into something outstanding.

So, next time when you sit for an art session either on your own or with your children, then ensure you keep these little pointers in mind. Your experience will be way different and meaningful.

Participants in the workshop. (My father also joined!)

Epiphany#1

The other day a piece of news popped up in TimeHop (an app that shows nostalgic pics/videos). The story was about Sid’s climb to the ThotongLa Pass. It was back in 2018 when we completed the summit. Read a detailed blog here https://momthyname.blog/2018/06/13/annapurna-circuit-5th-19th-march-2018-hiking-with-sid-to-thorong-la-pass5417mts/ Sid was 12- years old and slightly shorter to me in height.

Sid in “My Powai” magazine

We were climbing towards the base of the summit after an acclimatization day. Sid is a natural climber and runner, and he was so thrilled to be climbing higher that he vanished out of my sight within no time. I was having trouble breathing; hence I was climbing slowly but steadily. When I could not spot him for a long time and the “motherhood-syndrome” activated. I was anxious. I kept asking each passer-by(although there were very few) about Sid, mentioning his looks and clothes he was wearing.
Finally, after a long walk, someone told me that he had seen a boy with a similar description upon a rock.

Sid on the way to ThorngLa Pass
Sid merrily balancing between the rocks

I had my stomach churning and suddenly I could feel the bile rising into my mouth. I was fuming in anger now. I speed up my walk and saw Sid balancing himself between two rocks. His palms tightly gripped on one side while feet on the other. He didn’t even bother to acknowledge my presence, nor was he aware that he has committed a “mistake.” As soon as I reached closer to him, he was excited to share his “discovery”. I reluctantly asked him about it. I was still fuming. He went ahead and showed two giant lizards on the rock and told me that he observed them climbing up the cliff.

Sid’s “DISCOVERY”

At that moment, I had no interest in his discovery or observation; I was obvious to make him realize that he has committed a “mistake.”
He could sense my rage but didn’t pay much heed. He said, “mom, I knew you are behind, and I wanted to run ahead. Above all, I know that this is a linear track, so where would I go? You could have worried lesser.”
I wouldn’t say I liked his comment at that moment. But, now, when I sit and think of it, he was correct, and I was getting hyper.


Last year a similar episode happened on our hike in Sahaydris too during monsoons.. He climbed up the slippery rain-drenched hills, and I lost my breath out of fear.

Epiphany #1: Don’t pass on your emotions to your children. They will learn and grow with the right exposure and experience.

Children are born explorers. They have their wild imagination. They are a gift of nature, and nature makes them learn the most critical life-lessons that no textbook ever can. They have a curious mind, which sadly gets tamed and influenced by us.

Sid wanted to be on his own; he knew where it was heading, he knew I was behind him and was confident that he would not wander anywhere, but I tried to instill fear in him out of my insecurity.


Let your children wander
for nature will teach them
Let them explore and feel
and you’ll see them turning into a gem

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