Let me be ME

Posts tagged ‘#EnduranceSports’

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

Crash queen : Chandani Desai

Chandani Desai

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?

Forever bleeding knees

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.

Mumbai express

I come from a family where outdoor explorations like treks, hikes, and long walks were regular affairs.

Pregnancy

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.

Satara half-marathon

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.

The Tri-bug

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!

Mis(s)-adventures

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. 

Crash during Lockdown

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. 

Back to saddle after the accident

Two months post-surgery, I am back on the saddle again.

There will be challenges and setbacks in some way or the other; the choice is yours to sit back or get going?

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 queens

says, Chandani

Trailthon: Why and How?

Out there, there ain’t no black and white. There’s only fast and slow. Nothing matters, not color, not money, not even hate. For those ten seconds you are completely free- Race

First Trialthon,Kolhapur,Nov’2018

Why a Triathlon?
Because I can. Isn’t it?
It started over coffee when I met Mehul one fine evening in May 2018. He suggested that I should enroll in Kolhapur triathlon. I looked at him aghast wondering- REALLY !!!
He discussed the race casually. Of course, he will be casual as he is avid is all the sports and also an Ironman.
But what about me? Good at none.
I thought to give it a shot. I surfed the website and realized that sprint distance registration was over. Hence, I enrolled for Olympic distance and again asked Mehul, “do you think I can?” and his reply was as usual, “oh yes! It’s not tough.”

Preparation; aka “maar jaega tu”(you’ll be dead)

I had to streamline my work out and get into further strict discipline, so I needed a coach, and unanimously I landed to Viv. His weekly training plans left me breathless, exhausted, muscle sore but extremely satisfied.
I followed sensible eating, adhered to the training routine,my gym instructor Sagar framed my sessions as per my training plan; I tweaked and adjusted the plan with my travel and kids schedule. Trust me it’s sturdy and tough to burn the ass on the cycle trainer and also teach geography for the test.
It was equally tough to deny all weekend late nights, skipping social dinners or even casual chit chat. I had to time my training along with home, kids, work, travel and all of them equally demanding. The wine and single malt connoisseur in me also took a back seat.
Uffff!!! Sipping nimbu-paani on Friday eve because I had to train from 4 am on a Saturday, who would ever make such a sacrifice other than a crazy head.

Here I faced two vital challenges,

First, to keep myself motivated every single day
Second, to follow a hard training schedule along with other significant responsibilities

Tackling the first one, to keep myself motivated every single day
Setting a goal with a motive to raise the bar higher and higher kept me motivated. I also believed that I am doing this for myself and not for anyone else. Training left my mind numb, and I focussed my entire energy in one direction. It was my meditation.
Also, getting into a circle of energy of like-minded people and seeing their achievements, struggles, hard work was motivating too.

Home trainer to manage kids studies as well

Managing the second one, Time- management
I started getting up early before waking up boys for school. At times I trained after I dropped them to school and was at the work desk by 10 am. I also managed cycle training while I was checking their homework or revising for the exams. During my travel, I never missed the gym and running.

Toughest-part ; aka Phatt jaegi

Me with Sheetal and Nimesh

November 2018, I was all set for my first triathlon and excited, anxious, nervous, running cold, parched throat, dizzy, etc.
On the day of the practice swim in the open lake, it took me several minutes to plunge or not. Finally, I managed but swam along the support rope for a very short distance. Tried several times but could not achieve the full length.
I suffer from Acrophobia(fear of heights) and during this process realized that I also suffer from Thalassophobia(fear of water, dark, uncertainty).
I studied a lot about it, talked to therapists, read several self-help books, and nothing helped, just nothing.
I had a DNF (did not finish) in Kolhapur triathlon. I could not swim even 100 meters on the race day.
I had to take this phobia in my stride, and I always believe that nothing is more powerful than the human mind.
Sheetal came to me as a guiding angel and introduced me to Nimesh, swimming coach who took groups for sea swims. I had an anchor now.

Open Water Swim group

I distinctly remember when I went for the first time for the open water swim — the night before I was crying, praying, meditating endlessly.
I got up at 4 am, took a deep breath and drove to Uran which is a two hours drive from my place. The sea was low that day, and I swam only until where my feet touched the ground. Nimesh was very cooperative here and encouraged me to swim further but I couldn’t.
The second attempt was better than the first one. The third attempt was very confident where I jumped into the middle of the sea from the boat and swam till the shore. That day the sea was very high with waves pushing me here and there, but I managed the swim.

I was now somewhat sure of swimming in the sea for my next race.

Second attempt, Abu Dhabi Triathlon March 2019

Last minute decision to get the wetsuit

Just a few days before the race Deep asked me to check with my coach about the wet suit and Viv gave a thumbs up. Now the issue was on how and where to get the wetsuit? Here Parul came as a savior; she not only helped in selecting but also guided on handling and renting. It gave me lots of confidence in the open water swim.Check the link herehttps://www.buttersport.com/

Challenges during the race

Trail Swim in wetsuit

I landed in Abu Dhabi feeling drained. Next day I had my trial swim. I took a while to jump in the water, but then I finally tried the sprint distance of 750 meters and was now happy and confident to swim through the whole length the next day.
I was back to the hotel with a terrible throat ache, and by evening I was down with a fever. I rinsed and gargled with betadine. Salt, disprin and a combination of all too. Could not eat anything or even sip water. I was terrified about the race now.

Bib collection day
Biking in swimming goggles

Got up much before time moreover who slept that night, popped two paracetamol and off I went to the venue. I was trembling by now.
Running nose, fever, body ache, and cold wind, nothing was in my favor.
At the holding area for the swim, we were starting in waves of four, and I had no waiting time at all, no time to ponder, regret, mull but to jump and I did.
I had a very poor swim, but I was determined to finish the full distance and not give up.
Once out the sea, I ran to T1 to get the bike and realized that I had not kept my glasses (I use high power glasses for the swim and run), I had no other choice but to wear my swimming goggles and bike.

I chanted my mantra which I also tell my boys, “Kadam bade hain toh rukenge nahin”

Finished the bike lap and hushed for the run. By now it was hot, and I dragged myself for the first 2kms. It was the last lap, and I was not ready to give up come what may. So I held my chin up and jogged –run-jogged and finally sprinted in the last km cheering to myself the way I do for Sid for his runs. I remember cheering loudly,“Sid, ho Gaya beta. Almost done, darling. Just 500 meters left, we will not give up. Run darling run. Mamma is right here with you.”


Once I touched the finish line, I sat down and cried my heart out(har baat pe hi rona aa jata hai), definitely for I finished but also that I did not give up.

I never will.

Popped two paracetamol pills, packed my bike(thanks to mastermindhttp://www.mastermindbikes.in/welcome.html and team here) and flew back home with a determination that next race will be better than this.

Trialthon doesn’t build character, it reveals it

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