Let me be ME

Archive for the ‘Mindgame’ Category

A Podium Mother- Smithaa Kajale

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

Robotic surgery specialist ,a gynaec delivering babies and a tough IM finisher: Dr.Ashwini

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!

DHUNTE REH JAOGE-A WINNER WHO IS FAR FROM SOCIAL MEDIA FANFARE: DR.UMA VINOD

“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.

Finish with finesse

Blurr…breathless…giddy…wobbly legs…


At 4kms mark, I struggled to even take a single step ahead.
Absolutely, clueless on why and what was happening, I saw the aid station and sipped water, had a spoon full of jaggery and just stood at one place. Then I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, focused myself and started to walk slowly and then gradually into slow running.
This was my state in IDBI Mumbai Half marathon race on 25th August 2019.
I was very well aware that I wasn’t training the way I should. Sleep is an important factor when you are in tough training. The body recovers and recuperates the most during sleep. But I have very tender sleep and with exams going on for boys I end up sleeping late and getting up early.
This race was important because I have taken up an initiative to raise volunteers awareness and club them with the NGOs in need across Delhi and Mumbai through A-Race-A-Month hence I had to finish the race.
As I started walking after my panic attack, I also paid lots of attention to what my mind was thinking. I am a firm believer in Mind-Over-Matter and Mind-Over_body.
My mind was wandering in all possible direction and especially towards the negative side which was draining my energy
While walking I took deep breaths and tried very hard to focus on the finish line. I also chant a mantra,”kadam bade hain toh rukege nahin”.
It always does wonders and did this time too as from walking I started running, slowly but steadily. This time I set my Garmin on only HR zone and not on pace or distance.
I kept crossing one after the other milestone and when it was 18kms mark I just pumped myself, took a very deep breath, smiled as wide as possible as cheered for myself the way I do to Sid, “run darling, mamma is right here, just run”
I also said to myself, “Disha, you’ve done it, finish it off with style now”
and I did finish.

The Finish Line !!!!@IDBI Mumbai Marathon


On my recent work trip, I finished another race in extreme weather conditions.
I was in Prague for a work trip and wanted to participate in some run during that period of stay. I searched and I got one from RunCzech.
On the day of the race, the weather was acting lousy. It was very cold, with the chilled breeze and slight drizzle making it all the more unbearable
We Mumbaikars know only three types of weather, Hot, Hot+Humid and Very Hot and somehow I can’t bear cold weather.
On the race day, my fingertips were numb and I was wrapped in three layers if not less. I came back to the hotel early from the field, took a quick shower, had a coffee shot and took the metro to the venue.
The Europeans were in shorts and vest and I was in full pants and running tee also wearing a windcheater.
But the atmosphere was electrifying and as I heard the gunshot something triggered in me and I started with the crowd with loud cheering and clapping.
I ran with all my heart and smile in the twilight.
In my last mile, I sprinted and I always do this as somehow I imagine my loved ones standing at the finish line with open arms.

Finish Line yet again!! @RunCzech


I always end up with wet eyes at the finish line. It is not just a finish line for me but a victory over self, firmness of mind and determination to do better next time.


That’s why I run and train,
It helps me to tame my mind.
It allows me to channelize my energy and thought process.
It nurtures my soul
This finish line was special and so is every finish.


Kudos to each one who defy their shortcomings, be it of any type and reach that line with finesse and wear that medal as a batch of honor.


You know, You are fantastic !!

You are trying your best each day.

Tag Cloud