Super Sonic: Ketaki

Ketaki

The second rank in her age category at Ironman Goa 70.3, first Indian female finisher at the Goa Ironman 70.3, first rank in Tigerman (Olympic Distance) Triathlon 2020, second in age category in SCMM 2017, 2nd in AG at Navi Mumbai HM 2017, a fauji kid, a lady with an apt phrase “catch me if you can”; a PR and Communications professional, mother of two, here is 43-year old, Ketaki Agtey-Sathe from Mumbai.

Fighter pilot and Kodava genes – a lethal combination 

We are blessed to be born to this fabulous couple who raised my sister and I to be independent, fierce and sensitive human beings. Growing up, we were an outdoorsy, adventurous and fun-loving family. I have travelled a fair bit and lived in places like Iraq, Wellington and Gorakhpur, among others.

I was into athletics during my school days and have grown up rough and tough.

The love for the outdoors runs in the family. Whilst in Iraq, we made a road trip from Baghdad to London and back with a four-person tent on the carrier of the car et al…! 

We were raised in an environment agnostic to gender, religion, caste creed etc. Equality, partnership and respect for another human being was of prime importance. One of the main mantras to live by  was, “work is worship” and “always have the courage of conviction.”

I did most of my schooling and college in the garden city, Bangalore and started my career in Public Relations there, as well .

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

Jane Howard

Catch me if you can

I got married in 2000 and shifted to the US for a while, and that’s where my running journey began, including the love for outdoor running. We then moved back to Mumbai, and by now, I was running 5-8 km thrice a week. In 2003, as part of regular annual medicals, I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. This autoimmune disease continues to be part of my daily existence, which I manage with medication. I do believe my active lifestyle has helped with managing a lot of the known side effects. In 2004 I had my first child and within six weeks of my delivery, I got back to exercise and short runs .I was pleasantly surprised to see my body respond to physical activity by readjusting and shedding the pregnancy weight. I have always been lean and in the general average percentile of weight for my height and frame, so weight loss was not my target, but I aimed to build my stamina and work on the lost strength. 

In 2009, my second child was born, and now it was a challenging task to manage work, children, schedules and other chores. There were days when I used to start my workout  at 9.30 pm after putting my kids to sleep and wrapping up tasks.

The constant time management and juggling was getting tougher, hence I invested in a  semi-commercial ( full size, the type that are used in gyms – pulled out the stops on this one) treadmill at home, and thereby tried to eliminate excuses for missed runs.

The pounding on the treadmill became a lullaby to my kids.

Despite having adequate resources, I was missing a certain sense of rhythm as I seemed to be tailoring my fitness activities around everyone else’s schedules rather than prioritise them as a part of the whole.

And thus began my journey of outdoor running 2.0 with renewed vigour and the purpose of prioritising my fitness goals.

Along the way, I joined striders in 2013. Joining this very dynamic and well organised group was a fantastic decision! I came across like-minded people and in the process have made friends for life. Our conversations went beyond our professions and social status. I learned a lot about the nitty-gritties of running. I explored, read and became aware of the nuances of running, injury, recovery, types of shoes and much more. 

It opened a window to the world of endurance sport and ignited a passion that had obviously been dormant thus far.

“I’ve learned through the years that it’s not where you live, it’s the people who surround you that make you feel at home.”

J.B. McGee

Gradually I started racing half marathons. I set myself a personal goal of doing a comfortable Sub-2 HM before taking the plunge into Full Marathons. 

Among the races I did over the years, some included the HM(Half Marathon) in Satara, HM in Amsterdam, several local and domestic runs including HTHM (Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon)and Powai runs.

I also stood second in my age category in SCMM 2017. Receiving a podium medal at one of the most iconic marathons in the country was an exhilarating feeling! The fun cherry on the cake was a cash prize 🙂

The journey for the Fulls began with the first one being one of the BIG 5: Chicago Marathon. And then the personal goal of doing a sub 4 FM happened in the beautiful city of Riga, Latvia. My gift to myself for my 40th Birthday. 

(sub 4 means; completing a full marathon 42.2 km under 4 hours)

Most recently, at the Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon 2020, I stood fourth in the women’s open category, and I felt pride as the podium finishers were competitive athletes, all in their 20s. Felt chuffed at being somewhere near, in their league.

Running is my happy space, and I can run in most weather conditions. Whenever I am unable to stick to the regular schedule, I complete  my runs at any time of day even if it’s slap bang in the middle of a hot and humid afternoon. Come heat, rain, shine or snow; I endeavour to always complete that scheduled run! I would like to say that I am always cautious and do take adequate measures when running at odd hours, be it additional hydration, running on shady routes, keeping someone in the know of my whereabouts etc. 

“Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days. I run, pound it out on the pavement, channel that energy into my legs, and when I’m done with my run, I’m done with it.”

Rob Haneisen

Transitions and Tri

I was advised to cut back (and ideally stop for a short period) on my running when I suffered shin splints and a stress fracture back in 2014. And so, in order to keep up with the cardio fitness, I went ahead and bought myself a hybrid bike.  And thus began my tryst with cycling albeit the focus continued to be running.

2017 saw me going through various transitions across different aspects of my life. It is also the year I serendipitously stumbled into Triathlons. As they say- there is a time and place for everything, and it couldn’t have been better timing for me to step into this amazing endurance sport! 

The very nature of my training changed. There was cycling and swimming now, in addition to running. This also meant fewer outdoor running days and more workouts throughout the week. The tempo and rhythm of the beast ensured high adrenaline levels to say the least! 

“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.”

Gautam Buddha

During that year, in 2017 I registered for the Kolhapur Triathlon, which was going to be my 1st Tri!

Just two months before the race I’d graduated to cleats, and as part of the customary falls, I fractured my rib when the handlebar hit my chest.

Thankfully I recovered before the race and went ahead to participate.

My first ever Triathlon was exciting and nerve-wracking, all at the same time. Being my first time in the open waters in India and being mortally terrified of the ecosystem in the cobalt blue- emerald waters of Rajaram talav of Kolhapur, I was one of the last ones to finish the swim and that too doing the backstroke! 

I did, however, make up for the lost time on the bike and run leg and successfully finished my 1st Triathlon. Always a special one!

The swim has and continues to be the weakest link, and I continue to endeavour to work on it.

I started 2018 with the customary SCMM- Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (this year it became TMM- Tata Mumbai Marathon) and moved on to do the Goa Tri in February. As a learning from my Kolhapur Tri, I’d decided to enrol for a swim camp in Goa in preparation towards my upcoming Goa Olympic Tri. I attended a swimming camp organised by Coach Kaustubh Radkar. The learnings were invaluable. Albeit my swim time still left a lot to be desired, I completed the swim leg of the Goa Tri with ease and comfort. 

The mountains beckoned in September 2018. Ladakh Marathon; a race that’d been on my wishlist for a few years now, finally happened! The most breathtaking and beautiful race. Never have I been so tuned into my breath and HR(HeartRate) as I was during this race. I did come in 2nd in the Women’s Open category.

I also did the Tour of Nilgiris(TFN) in December 2018. Although Nilgiris and the southern states are familiar ground, traversing these roads on a cycle was a rediscovery! TFN was a phenomenal experience! I came out as a more confident rider with better bike handling skills. This particular year at TFN (2018) saw the maximum number of women participants, both from India and abroad. It was wonderful to meet and interact with some high performing endurance athletes. Needless to say, some lovely friendships were forged. 

As the Tri journey continued, I felt it necessary to attack and build on all three disciplines(swim, bike and run) individually as well to perform better from an overall perspective.  

Before the Ironman Goa 70.3, I did the Goa swimathon in 2019. With some expert advice and guidance by star swimmer Nisha Madgavkar, the nervousness of Open water swimming reduced tremendously. Little tips on calming one’s self down, treading the water etc. did the trick! Open water panic is quite common, and it’s been reported that even the most seasoned triathletes have panic attacks sometimes. Guidance, technique and practise helps in managing & overcoming the fear.

I would definitely recommend attending water Open swim camps as a “to-do” to anyone signing up for an Ironman race. It would help to make you comfortable and confident about the swim.

Through my Podium finish at the IM 70.3, Goa, I got a direct qualification to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, to be held in Taupo NZ in Nov 2020. But alas, COVID had different plans for us all!

I am scheduled to participate in the same in DEC 2022 and can’t wait!

Children-Work-Home-Training-Repeat

I try not to compromise on the essential parts of my life: my home life, my work life and my athlete life.

It’s quite the juggling act, but that’s what makes it fun!

My energy boosters

My family knows that weekends are Mum’s heavy-duty training days; be it a long ride or long run or both! I get post-it notes on the bike or dining table wishing me a “good ride”. The cherry on life’s cake! It’s such an uplifting feeling reading those surprise post-it notes just before heading out in wee hours of a weekend morning!

A fun anecdote that any mum will relate to … the art of jugglery and masterful planning. Because we want our cake and want to eat it too! Non-negotiable 10K TT (Time Trials)meets Non-negotiable early morning drop off for child# 2’s overnight school trip! 

And so, permissions were sought, and I ran my 10K TT in the school ground post drop off. Cut to, child#1 casually walking up to class and musing at the “crazy person running circles in the school ground” until she realises, much to her horror who it was! She quickly skedaddled from the scene lest she had to admit she knew said, crazy person! The travails of having a triathlete mother!

No compromise on any essential parts of my life

“I don’t do average, I do awesome.”

My children are always incredibly excited about my races. My daughter always insists I enjoy the race while my son wishes for me to “come first”.

My daughter is in her school swim team, and my son is a natural athlete. I do feel truly blessed in the knowledge that my family understands and wholeheartedly supports my passion for endurance sports.

COVID has brought a lot of things to a standstill, but I took this period as a challenge and worked on my strength training and bike performance. The rewarding part is to see results. 

Endurance training is my balancing factor, and it is an essential component of my daily routine.

Those who endure, conquer.

My Motto

Stomp the ground to create that thunder

All forms of Endurance Sport need discipline, hard work, integrity and tenacity. To perform and excel, one needs to put heart & soul into it. And above all, you need to enjoy the process! That’s my motto.

I do believe that this ubiquitous year that shook the world in not so pleasant a manner has not been a waste. It has taught us to love each day, be kind to everyone around, be mindful of little things and keep looking ahead.

“You’re a fighter. Look at everything you’ve overcome. Don’t give up now.”

Olivia Benson

Age or body type should not have anything to do with the confidence you hold. Cross each bridge, each hurdle and each achievement with grace and dignity. Give it’s due but move on. 

Each one of us faces challenges and personal hardships; there will be days when that pillow seems like the best companion ever. But only when one faces those demons head on with courage and conviction, can one overcome the odds.

“Wake up with determination. Go to bed with satisfaction.”

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