Quest for the horizon.
|Have you got Swag?|
Shray and his friend Shariq had planned in 2014 to complete the Iron Man by 2016. The entire year from 2014 November to June 2015 was spent in race preparation. He bought a triathlon bike in November and since then life has revolved around powertrains, carbon fibre bikes, race prep, running pace, open water swimming, running gear, cycling shorts and swimsuit. I could not fathom how a person could swim 1.2 miles/1.92 kms, run a half marathon 13.1 mile/20.96 kms and cycle 56 miles/89.9 kms, all one after the other. Swim coaches were hard to find, but that problem was solved via social media, cycling needed perseverance and running to train in temperate winters has always been atrocious.
|Rural Indiana, near the event site|
We booked a dingy hotel in Muncie Indiana where the race took place. Muncie is a quaint little town surrounded by unending corn farms that sometimes seem to kiss the sky in the horizon. Most of the hotels were booked hence we had to settle for that one which was not at all appealing. I was not at all surprised to see a friendly smiling sardar jee greeting us while his boss seemed to come from the land beyond the Dandakarniya forests, he was Mr Reddy. We were not at all appalled by familiar Indian faces in rural Indiana, because statistically Indians should be everywhere; given our large population, our indomitable spirit and determination, in the future we might as well find a Mr Ghantashala selling Biryani on the moon. The day of the race dawned upon us pretty early. We had gone to the race site the day before to collect bibs, packets and take an overall look at the race course. Many people were trying to get acclimatized with the water of the creek where the swim course was set up by the organizers. It was midsummer in June and the weather was balmy and perfect for fun outing on the beach by the creek. I would rather drink and be merry like the star crossed lovers in midsummer night’s dream than cycle 56miles only to push the limits of my endurance. My personal achievement of a half marathon seems so minuscule and child like after watching people as old as 73 attempting Ironman and completing it in respectable time. We woke up at 4 am in the morning, and after collecting all the indispensable things for the race- tri bikes, bibs, bodysuit, packets, balms, we set out for the race site. I was supposed to be the moral support for those two boys and so I was. I did my job perfectly well, chronicling their maiden journey to ironmanhood. I carried a camera, my phone , a bottle of water and some spare cash. I broadcasted parts of their race on snapchat, took candid pictures of the boys and updated social media, besides praying for their well being. As we inched closer to the start of the race, I felt what a great physical and mental feat these two people I know, would accomplish. The first part of the race was the swim, and as the bugle was blown, hordes of swimmers in their age group waded through the shallow beach and embraced the choppy waters like happy ducks
Everyone was in bodysuit so it was very hard for me to identify my wards from afar as I positioned myself to take some exciting pictures. The sun shone brightly and it was not cloudy at all which was very great for me but for the swimmers it was a little difficult to navigate in the turbulent waters. After the swim, everyone hurriedly went to the section where volunteers stripped them of their suits and the athletes ran to take their bikes for the cycling course. Cycling 56 miles would be approximately cycling to Jagiroad from Guwahati. I spent my time taking pictures, and eating delicious grilled chicken and enjoying the sweet midsummer day; the weather was perfect, it was hot but not muggy, I was not sweating like a pig.
|The swim course.|
The trees were green and friends and families of the participants thronged the venue, hence it bore the look of a fair. I really missed my near and dear ones that day and wished if they were with me. But I nevertheless took full advantage of the solitude and imbibed the joy from the atmosphere. After the athletes had splashed in the waters to complete the 2 km swim course ,the creek returned back to being calm. It reminded me so much of our beloved Deepor beel and numerous beels we have back home in Assam. I wondered if we organise a triathlon back home in one of those water bodies, would it be an incentive for people to preserve our fragile environment and not destroy which is what we have been doing.
|Family thronging the venue.|
I was very excited to listen to the the rustle of the bike wheels. Since I am a cycling enthusiast, I wanted to ride a similar bike and feel the wind in my hair. But at those speeds of 60 km/hr I was sure it wouldn’t be as romantic as had I envisioned it to be.
However it also reminded me of Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar’s cycling race, I had watched as a toddler with my paternal aunts. The professional athletes had carbon fibre wheels that cost as much as 1900 dollars and I must comment that those wheels looked really gorgeous and emanated a very exciting sound.
As the cycling leg of the race inched closer to the termination point, I grew a bit impatient, since each time I took a picture of an athlete, thinking him to be Shray , it turned out to be someone else. Most people wore Rudy project helmets hence looked like they were all uniformly dressed mannequins manufactured in a plant in China and rolling out of the assembly line on their bikes. I finally found Shray on his bike and he was hurriedly cycling his way to the end of the bike leg. He put his bike back on the racks and quickly set out for the run leg of the race. I could not fathom how could a human body endure so much pounding and pain for 6 hours and still function flawlessly. He told me later that the half marathon felt as if he was running on wobbly jelly legs. However, the spirit of the local people and the volunteers was incredible. The smiles on those faces, ringing bells and colorful stations decorated creatively would of course alleviate any one of the pain of the race. I am a hopeful person , had it been me doing the race, my sole driver while completing each milestone one step at a time would have been hope.
Finally, Shray completed the half marathon and before him Shariq came running like a wild coyote. Shariq is a born runner,although he was lagging behind Shray in the first two legs of the race, he beat almost everyone who was ahead of him in the half marathon. The best part while standing at the finish line is looking at the expressions of contentment, joy, accomplishment on different faces that come running through the aisle to the finish line. I was praying that no untoward incident should take place, and it did not. A year of training, and cycling in the “pain cave” as I called Shray’s living room, finally bore fruit. Many a times I tried to be the mythological Menaka who seduces Vishwamitra to break his penance but in vain. My lure was slightly different , it was just an invite for ice cream or to go visit some place since we have been working non stop for more than 2 years without any holiday. But as it happened in Mythology my lures fell on deaf ears but now I do not mind since this Vishwamitra completed the half iron man in 5 hour 30 minutes and now is again undergoing his penance to complete the full in the coming year.