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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.