Let me be ME

Fall, fail, repeat- Sree

Sree

A government official, single mother, persistent failure in all the races, never- ever give up attitude, a robust and daring mother, slow in races but fastest when comes to catching a local train here is 53-year old Sree from Mumbai.

A “rough” and high-on-life-girl

I was a super-naughty girl right from childhood. My parents attended to my complaints more than PTMs. Playing outdoors, bruised knees, bandaged limbs were a regular affair. 

In grade 8, while playing in the school, I fainted. I was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with meningitis. I was in a coma for two days. I had many visitors in the hospital, making me feel like a celebrity. It was amusing to know that the visitors were keener to see how a hyper girl can manage to stay in bed for such a long time. .The doctors extracted the water from my spine and shifted me out of the ICU. The doctors termed my recovery as a “miracle”. 

I came home after staying in the hospital for a month.

The doctors informed my parents about the side effects of steroids that I was supposed to take for a year. As expected, I piled on a tremendous amount of weight.

I gradually started going for walks and then enrolled myself into Taekwondo classes. In a batch of 100, I was the only girl. These classes gave me a lot of confidence and helped me grow in the teen period.

I have played all sports in my younger days ranging from kabaddi, basketball, shot-puts, trekking and you name it.

My friends called me a “rough girl.”

I completed my formal education, cleared the SSE exam and got a position in the government postal department.

I got married in 1994 and shifted to Kandivali.

When my daughter was 1.6 years old, I enrolled myself in a nearby gym. I also joined aerobics and kickboxing. I am an over-enthusiastic individual and excited about anything and everything.

It was a tedious task to carry on with all the activities along with house chores, taking care of my daughter and work, but I enjoyed everything.

SCMM

In 2003, a friend took me to the SCMM Dream run, and the electrifying environment made me participate again in 2004.

In 2005 I participated in the half marathon and finished in 3.40 hours. I was shamelessly happy. 

I continued participating in the SCMM half marathon until 2009.

When days turned dull and dark

I was happily enjoying all my activities, work and motherhood. Life had lots to offer, and I was brimming with excitement.

Things turned the other way round in 2009 when the word Cancer engulfed us. 

My husband was detected with stage 3 cancer. 

Hospital visits, long medical bills and innumerable prescriptions took over aerobics, dance and kickboxing classes.

His health was deteriorating faster than expected due to Diabetes. The doctors asked me to rush him to Cochin to see a specialist. During this process, I fractured my foot, and due to negligence, the recovery period lasted for almost three months.

The Oncologist in Cochin gave us six months, and I got my husband back to Mumbai.

I had to move around hospitals a lot as my husband wasn’t cooperating with the treatment.

Gradually his kidneys failed, and after three days of extensive treatment, he finally succumbed to his illness in December 2010.

All of a sudden, there was a long pause. All the running around and chaos was over. 

At times silence is also deafening.

I took a while to compose myself and look ahead in life. I had a daughter to raise, and I had no option but to say that- “get up Sree, get going”

I joined back to work in February 2011.

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.

my daughter was my sunbeam, says Sree

Sunny days are here again.

BNP Runners

I focussed on bringing my life back on track, both physically and mentally. All types of activities took a back seat until 2014 when I came across a training program for runners at Borivali National Park on facebook. The outdoor lover in me and the enthu cutlet syndrome didn’t miss any detail, and I joined the group. 

I was starting afresh now and was determined to take life my way.

I started running regularly. Running location was closer to my place hence it was easy to manage 4 am runs, come back home prepare tiffins, finish the household chores and rush to catch 8 am local to be in the office at 9.30 am.

I was gaining back my lost energy. I was happy.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Theodore Roosevelt

The Tris, falls, DNF and repeat.

Knowing my excitement level for anything and everything someone in the running group told me about Triathlons.

The only and the biggest worry was- I didn’t know how to cycle.

Clueless about the sport and just out of sheer excitement, I started to learn to cycle in October 2014.

I had innumerable falls, and butts were always sore. I wondered how others happily smile and pose for pics post-ride while I hold my bottom out of pain.

Google came to my rescue, and I discovered padded cycling shorts. Rides were not so painful after that.

I was not even aware of swimming goggles and would end the session with red and itchy eyes.

One of the kids in the pool suggested I wear swimming goggles, and I thank that kid till date.

Initial cycling days

Here’s a chronology of all the finished-yet-incomplete-races

Goa Triathlon, March 2016 

Before the race, I participated in Wada duathlon to check on my cycling capabilities. The race began with a run of 5 km after that I got on to my bike to ride 40 km. I barely managed to ride through that off-road track so much so that the villagers took pity on me and asked me to stop if I was unable to cope. I had to finish what I started and did reach the finish line in five and a half hours. 

Next was Goa Tri. I packed my bag, laced up my enthusiasm, build up all the courage and travelled to Goa. 

On the race day, I started the swim peacefully but panicked after 100 meters when I couldn’t spot any kayak. But within no time a kayak was near me, he asked me if I wanted to quit, and the reply was a definite no. I told him to be around and finished the 1500 meters.

Biking freaks me, but I mustered all the courage and got on to the bike.

After a few loops, a car zoom passed me, and I slipped on the loose gravel. My front tooth broke, my knee bruised and my face had scratches all over. I wasted 40 minutes contemplating whether to continue or not.

Then I thought about my sore bums, winter morning swimming sessions, 4 am runs, and with a deep breath, I got up, rubbed my bruises gently, got on to the bike and continued the bike course.

My bruised knee swelled up substantially by now, and I barely managed to finish the run course.

Again I was the last one to reach the finish line. 

I met my friend Sanjay, and with  swollen lips, I managed a small grin showing my broken front tooth.

Chennai Tri, July 2016

I could manage this race in time without any fall.

Pune Tri, November 2016

I went for this race with the confidence and glory of finishing the previous in time, totally oblivious of the bike route.

I was taken by surprise as the entire biking route was through the ghats. It was a pain-stricken ride, and I finished the race in 07 hours when Half Ironman participants were finishing their race!

After the DNF and abysmal performance in all the races, I was not disappointed it set me thinking where I went wrong.

Then I came to know that there are coaches who guide and train for triathlons. I pondered over to understand which was my weakest sport, and it took me no time to know that I wasn’t good at any.

Shankar Thapa,  my swim coach at present, came to my rescue. I Joined his classes to learn freestyle swim, as I was only doing breast stroke in all my earlier races. I enrolled in online training plans with Yoksa. I couldn’t do justice to my training plans because my workplace shifted and I spent a lot of time travelling.

Kolhapur Tri,November 2018,70.3

I was very well prepared for this race and was quite hopeful to finish in time. After a successful swim, I climbed on my bike. After a while, I had difficulty riding. I then realised that the bike tyres were fixed inside out and I didn’t even check while I was assembling my bike.

DNF(Did Not Finish) again.

Goa Tri, October 2019,70.3

Due to massive undercurrents, I drifted while swimming and the kayak informed me that I was going the wrong way. Although I finished the swim, I couldn’t make it within the cut-off time, so I aborted the race and went ahead to cheer my fellow mates.

DNF(Did Not Finish) again.

Kolhapur Tri,November 2019

First race when everything went fine, and I managed to touch the finish line in 05.30 hours!

Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.

J.K. Rowling

Test me, and I’ll always emerge as a winner.

The days were not easy. No, not at all.

Raising my daughter with the compassion of a mother and responsible shoulders of a father was not easy.

Being whacked on the bums during early morning runs, dealing with rowdy boys teasing my daughter or rushing from one local to another and then hushing back home from work, I have dealt with all.

Fear is a distant emotion for me. I do not fear the unknown for I have seen and experienced the worst phase in my life. I have also battled domestic violence to a more considerable extent.

Best friends; me and my daughter

I also have an accurate observation that I am genetically slow when it comes to races, but no one can beat me when I chase a local train.

My daughter is to get married soon, and I’ll be left all on my own. The thought of loneliness doesn’t bother me as I am ferociously independent. My daughter and I are best friends and best friends never part.

I use my ears wisely.

I had my share of accused and blame games, but I used my two ears wisely. 

The more you listen, the more you give yourself room for doubt.

After my husband’s demise, people were very sure that I would sell my flat and move in with my parents, but I stayed on my own.

I fill each moment with new possibilities

“She is a widow, yet she goes to the gym?.”

“She has started working as well!”

“How will she live her entire life without a partner?”

“Can she be a father to her daughter?”

And many more.

Ignorance is bliss, and it came handy to me.

I take each day as it comes.

I fill each moment with new possibilities, and I aim to live life kingsize.

When it comes to choice, choose yourself

When I can stand up for myself, learn to fall and cycle at the age of 46.

When I can face all my DNFs with triumph.

When I can listen and yet not get affected by whatever the society calls or expects from me, 

then anyone can muster the courage and live a life filled with gratitude and self-respect.

One day I’ll finish Ironman 70.3 within time and will grin ear to ear without a broken tooth.

“The woman you’re becoming will cost you people, relationships, spaces and material things. Choose her over everything.”

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