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?
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.
I come from a family where outdoor explorations like treks, hikes, and long walks were regular affairs.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Two months post-surgery, I am back on the saddle again.
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 queenssays, Chandani