You are an Ironman!

Has your heart pounded so hard in your chest, as if it throbbed to burst out of your straitjacketed ribcage and challenge you to a jump competition, in which you are sure to fail if you could not hop 185 times per minute? Has your stomach felt like a bottomless pit in which if your loved ones let out a faint hello it would greet them with an endless echo. A pit so deep in which calories disappear into nothingness while the one who is feeding the ravenous entity, feels it to be a personification of a cosmic entity, a black hole, yes a BLACK HOLE. Have you soiled endless towels that when squeezed and wrung would fill enough glasses with clear sweat that could be easily used to pull a nasty prank? Have you irritated your loved ones with your sudden need for extreme hygiene, a far cry from the filthy, smoking, don't care a damn about cleanliness youngster that you were once? Does the ticking of the clock induce obsessive compulsive behavior in you so much so that you meticulously plan each second to the tee with the deftness of a headmaster in a military household. By now discipline is your religion and "netflix and chill" is blasphemy. In this case my husband became BABA Kandhari. "Can we hang out aimlessly ?", this sentence brings forth the acrimonious tone in your speech. When you have realized you spent a few hours aimlessly, do you start your self loathing and guilt inducing introspecting soliloquy in front of the mirror? Does it make your loved ones worry for your sanity as if you have some moon struck imbalance and need a reality check? If all of the above points ring a bell, then with certainty I can say that your loved one might be training for a triathlon and not just any other triathlon but an Ironman.


I am the better half of the Ironman in question, or in other words an Ironmate. An Ironmate is not left far behind when it comes to undergoing the rigors of an Ironman training. The physical training might be undertaken by the Ironman aspirant but the better half goes through a mechanical disciplined life devoid of any diversions or distractions that could be an impediment in training. Our lives revolved around cooking, running, biking, swimming, eating and sleeping. I had well developed traps in those days as a result of making chapatis. The same routine would be repeated over and over again for a year.


Shray had planned to do an Ironman in 2014 after he completed his Pittsburgh Marathon. Thereafter he gradually planned his route to a full Ironman by taking open water swimming lessons, buying a triathlon bike and running long runs with a running group. For a non triathlete, or rather a triathlete layman, it will be surprising to see how much time and money a triathlete spends on his skills and tools. The triathlon bike is expensive, and when you get to know that the bike you just bought is elementary of the greatest order, you will be surprised to see the amount of precision and all the fields of fundamental science applied to the bikes higher in the price range. It will put a modest Toyota Camry to shame. Those bikes are tested in wind tunnels, are made of carbon fiber, are fitted with carbon fiber wheels and every god damned feature that could induce drag and reduce the speed by a few seconds  is removed. In retrospective I now believe that it probably weighs less than the morning ablution of an Ironman.  After the Half-Ironman in 2015, Shray started his full Ironman journey wholeheartedly. He looked for swim coach in Pittsburgh and he did find one but he barely got 5 classes with him. But as providence had different plans for him, he moved to Philadelphia owing to his consulting position and finally found the best swimming coach who believes beauty lies in symmetry. He called Shray ugly since his flip turns were asymmetrical and therefore not beautiful.


 Open Water Swimming class.

Shray moved to Detroit in May 2016 and he was engulfed in a bitter sweet dilemma while leaving King Of Prussia. He absolutely loved the town and the proximity it offered to all the facilities he availed for training.He lived in a building in a plaza that had a Panera bread whose coffee was a quintessential daily dose of laxative and caffeine for him. The swimming pool where he swam with a masters group whose camaraderie he was really fond of, was a mile or two away from him. The Grocery store that provided him with the latest organic fads was at most 5 minutes of driving distance away from his apartment. He had built a small close knit world revolving around triathlon for himself. The cherry on the cake was an Indian lady who provided him with heaps of roti and oily Indian food at his beck and all. All he had to do was dial her number and ask for food and voila! it was there. It was a magical world, a food genie Indian 'auntie', coffee fountain at doorstep, and magical ever so effervescent friends with good sense of humor and some of them were even demi god like, otherwise who could even dream of swimming 100 kms  in a week(John Kenny, Shray's coach). I kid you not triathletes are interesting creatures. I am taking the human factor out of them because to me their dedication, sincerity and grit is not human, it seems a little god like, stuff that Greek heroes were extolled for. Finding a proper swimming team in Detroit was hard. Thank God for John Kenny and the amount Shray's muscles retained, he joined the YMCA in downtown and repeated his Guru's drills every weekend. He also joined the Detroit Body garage, an enterprising and community based gym opened by the indomitable Terra Castro who herself had been a professional triathlete par excellence and recently moved back to her hometown after retiring professionally.




Shray would bike on his trainer at the garage a few days along with a friend, Derrick whom he met at the garage. Running was continued, because not many fancy tools are required except for the God given legs and a pair of running shoes. We were thankful that Detroit downtown boasts of a beautiful riverfront that provides a suitable place for joggers and walkers alike to exercise. The entire stretch of the river walk from the Renaissance center to Belle Isle, an island on the Detroit river was around 6 miles and if you decided to run a loop of the island, you would have covered another 6 miles and if you decided to come back to the Renaissance center it would be another 6 miles, thereby one would have covered 18 miles just by running the entire length of the continuous river walk. Sometimes we would run the length of the Dequindre cut and come back to Rivard's plaza on the river walk to drink water. In summer I biked behind Shray with bottles of water and nutrition as he ran along the length of the river walk. Since I am well acquainted with the routes of Downtown I arranged a continuous route for him to run almost every weekend. Summer is the time for picnickers and revelers on river walk and in Belle Isle.


Gut wrenching intervals on the bike, 110 , 120 and 130 percent of FTP for 3 min each and then again backwards. I had to dig real deep for these intervals, I was questioning my sanity , why am I putting my self through this workout , this is unnecessary. So many negative thoughts but then you have to push them aside .I Was so close to throwing up on the second set, but then you listen to this lone voice at the back of your head and decide not to quit and push through and take it second by second and watch the clock run out . At the end of the workout I am glad I did not quit . Followed the bike with a swim workout, nothing crazy - 20 x 100m @ 2 min . Could still feel the fatigue from the massive pull set on Sunday- 2000m with paddles.FML. And then dinner prepared by @jahnavimahanta. ❤ Super nervous for #Ironmancd2016. The clock is ticking! #Trainerroad #ironmantraining #swimbikerun #paincave #Vo2maxintervals #desitriathlete #triathlontraining #ironmanprep #digdeep #triathlete
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 Renting a bike for me to ride and chase Shray became very difficult besides we needed to be alert in order to not hit any happy picnicker on Belle Isle. One fine day while trying to avoid hitting other people I rode so close to the side walk while Shray was trying to fetch a bottle from the bike, that I lost my balance and fell on the edge of the sidewalk scraping my shin and my palms.




 I was furious at myself and at Shray because he was so immersed in running that he did not know what had to be done at the spur of the moment. The only reflex he had was to move away quickly. Luckily, he fell on grass while I crash landed on concrete. I threatened him that I would not cook for him and I was done making rotis . He better find a cook for himself. I was angry that I sunburnt my body and now got a scarred shin. However, the anger was short lived and we laughed back home again.


IT IS A SHAME FOR A MAN TO GROW OLD WITHOUT SEEING THE BEAUTY AND STRENGTH OF WHICH HIS BODY IS CAPABLE. It's been a while since I got a long run in( because of a fracture) . Today's 10 miles which isn't super long by any standards and wasn't easy for me was the first step in getting ready for #ironmanlouisville . It's sort of unfortunate that 4 weeks from an Ironman race I'm in the worst shape I've been in the entire year . But still gotta keep my eyes on the prize and keep training and going to give it my all. And a huge shoutout @jahnavimahanta , she cycled while I ran and carried water for me . <3 #instafit #desitriathlete #ironmantraining #longrun #swimbikerun #runner #triathlontraining #trilife #triathlete #fitfam #fitlife #keepthosefeetmoving #ironmanprep #bike #motivation #consitency #onedayatatime
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The training for Coeur D' Alene was going on in full swing. Shray biked 6 hours on the weekends on the trainer. It was monotonous and he did not get the actual feeling of riding a bike on the road which was supposed to be the turf where he would be riding in Coeur D' Alene. Therefore one weekend, around 4 weeks before the Ironman event he decided to ride his bike on Hines Drive, a trail in Dearborn closed to traffic on weekends. He went with his friend Derrick and had decided to ride a good 60 miles on his bike and perfect his aero position. However as luck would have it, Shray was distracted for a fraction of a second by a group of cyclists near by while his front wheel was sucked too close to Derrick's bike by a phenomena called Draft, that resulted his front wheel hitting the rear wheel of Derrick's bike because of which he flung out into the air after the impact and landed on his right arm. The impact had rendered him unconscious for a second or two and he woke up with a dizziness in his head and nausea. He later told me that he had no recollection of the moment when he flung off the bike.The first reaction of every sane person would be to make sure he is alright but Shray later told me that he made sure after he regained consciousness that his bike was was unscathed. He drove back home with Derrick with a swollen hand and bruised legs. I was afraid that it could be a fracture and without much further ado I immediately took him to the emergency after dropping Derrick. After the initial mandatory X-ray, a young south Asian looking Doctor presumably one of our kind from the subcontinent, came in and declared the painfully obvious in the most lackadaisical way one could ever say to a starry eyed Ironman aspirant," Hey dude! You broke your arm".


 Although it was not hard to believe that he broke his arm considering the fact that it was swollen but we still had some hope somewhere in our subconscious that it could be ligament tear or muscle tear that could at least make Coeur D'Alene a reality. I had tried to console myself by giving myself the benefit of the doubt and that since I was not trained in medicine, I could not be sure that it was a fracture but the callous declaration by the Doctor shattered any iota of hope we had in our minds. Coeur D'Alene was impossible now, how could one possibly swim, run or bike with a broken right arm. After he was discharged from the ER, it was impossible for him to walk without feeling tremors rising from his broken arm that sent painful sensations throughout his body.
 Hopeless, drained of all our energy and with a heavy cast on his right forearm  we came back home but we still had to make the Ironman dream a reality. Shray broke down in the ER, he broke down with the earnestness of a little child who was being denied his dream. A year of dedication, sincerity, all the time in which his pastime turned into his passion was all in vain, all went down the drain in a fraction of a second. His mother consoled him and so did my parents, and all his friends on Social media, however no amount of consoling or euphemism could make his Ironman a reality now. But we had forgotten one thing, we are Brown resourceful people. We were just taken aback by an unfortunate incident but brown people have infested the world by their resourcefulness, tenacity and resilience. We realized who we are and started doing some research to get our money back. There after we calculated how many days approximately it would take for Shray to recover and be cast free. The answer was exactly a month and half and he had to schedule an appointment with the Orthopaedic surgeon to make sure that he did not have further damage on his bone that could possibly require a surgical correction. We decided to ask Ironman franchise for our money back and took a risk in registering for Ironman Louisville in Kentucky. As much hard as it was for us to bear in our minds that Coeur D' Alene was impossible, but we were hopeful that Louisville was not. I feel the heavens had heard Shray's passionate plea for intervention and had sparked a self realization phase that made us research and calculate the time needed for Shray's hand to recover.

The splints are of ! But I'm still in a short arm cast . #ironmancda2016 is out of the question. Will have the registration refunded and maybe defer to Maryland or Louisville . But prior to that the orthopedic has asked for a CT scan as there might be a possibility for surgery. Hopefully not, fingers crossed! If it's a surgery, I guess I have to wait till next year to race . Also took the 8 min test somehow ,FTP is down by 10 watts and I got dizzy at the end of it , so much for not working out for 10 days after a fracture. And I obviously cannot swim or run ,so lots of indoor training on #trainerroad. It's disappointing that I fractured my arm 4 weeks before my first ironman but there is no point sulking now. I'm back at it . #Trainerroad #ftptest #triathleteproblems #ironmantraining #ironmanprep #dontstop #dontgiveup #stayatit #fracture #indoortrainer #paincave #hustle
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Ironman Louisville was supposed to be held on October 9th. Shray could not train at all until his hand recovered. He could not run or swim, however he somehow managed to bike indoors on his trainer. Meanwhile, I as the better half made sure even throughout our hectic schedule that he ate rich food and turmeric milk which we jokingly nicknamed "tiki chicki turmeric latte" with a shot of vanilla. Humor in everyday lives made those days and the pain bearable. I could not comprehend Shray's superhuman pain tolerance threshold because a mere sight of a syringe brings out the pug in me who is afraid to go to the vet. He endured the pain those days without shoving any pills down his gullet. He was however having a lot of "desi" food with ghee, full fat milk, chicken roti; he was basically eating NUTRITION in capital letters. He chowed down capsules of supplements such as calcium, fish oil and multivitamins, consumed freshly pressed orange juice 64 ounces of which adorned the door of our fridge and somehow subdued his cringe face to gulp beetroot kale juice.  I also brought a high calorie vegetable, plantain that is so ubiquitous in my native state's cuisine that it is prescribed by doctors to every patient suffering from malnutrition and diseases of the bowels. I made mashed plantain, salmon, lentils, rice and chicken one day, a very quintessential Assamese dinner while the other day we "bhangra-d" to our very humdrum Punjabi dinner, roti, chicken, "palak paneer". The turmeric latte was an essential evening drink after supper until the last visit to the orthopedic who assured Shray that he could race provided he preserved himself by hibernating in a proverbial ivory tower until it was time for him to race.



Finally the day arrived, Ironman Louisville was knocking on our door. The anti climactic event now was, I fell sick with severe cold that I had perhaps contracted from one of my colleagues at work. I fell ill and Shray's fear of contracting the same illness made him cranky and terribly helpless. He felt he was chased by a bad omen that put impediments on his way every time he was about to reach his desired goal. To avoid contracting cold from me, he brought surgical masks which I wore while I rode with him in the car. I had read that if the phlegm was green it was contagious and I did not have green phlegm yet. I was not contagious but we were not ready to take a chance. 
I was in a trance, in a denial mode, because all I could think was how to breathe better without getting a sore throat. I carried a box of tissues with me everywhere, did not care if it made me look shabby, I did not care for my outward appearance because no matter how hard I tried to look good, the glow would never come on my face, I still looked shabby. The thought that Shray was finally going to race dawned upon me the day we woke up at twilight. He was completely in his own frame of mind where he had a singular goal of going to the first transition unscathed, preserved and in one piece, thereafter taking the plunge to swim, then transitioning to the bike and following the routine. I was very proud of him since he endured all the pain to again bounce back and race, to claim his rightful title of Ironman.

 We had picked up his packets the day earlier and went in the morning the next day to drop his bike off at the transition. He slipped into his wet suit and we followed him as if we were raring to say a bye to a friend at an airport. As the bugle sounded, there was a cacophony of splashes due to a throng of athletes kicking in water. Everyone was raring to go; although one would not be so raring to swim in the waters of the Ohio river which is dubious for its bad water quality. Shray's friend, Charles jokingly said that Shray would finally be swimming in the Ganges of America. Ganges in the lower riparian region is a putrid sludge of dirty water from tanneries, dead bodies from Haridwar, and a host of other polluting effluent. Ohio river was not as bad but it was no where close to the crystal clear glacier fed water of lake Coeur D' Alene.

Shray did fabulously in the swim leg. His friend Charles was earnestly watching his times on the app and inquired after Shray by tagging me to questions on social media. Mohita and I tried to get a good glimpse of Shray at the swimto bike transition point, but it was rather difficult to make out a single person from among a sea of athletes attired in similar looking wet suits and caps, a sea of black and orange caps. Allow me to add a pun here, Orange was the new cap.




Mohita, Akhil, Rimly, Bijal, Sagar and I went back to the hotel for siesta after a hearty brunch in downtown.


 We hoped to come back after Shray transitioned into the running leg. After all he would take a good 4 hours to run a whole marathon. I would have refused to budge after biking 112 miles, I would have ordered volunteers to carry me on a stretcher to the finish line. The greasy food had lulled us to such a deep sleep that finally we had to be woken up by a worried Mohita who was afraid that we would miss Shray crossing the finish line and would have to be at the receiving end of his infamous anger that frequently involved hurling things and generously laced with choicest Delhi cuss words such as BC, MC coupled with Fucks. If one got money for the number of times Shray cussed one would be running to the banks with his ill gotten wealth. We made it quite close to the predicted finish time. Unluckily for Shray he had some GI issue due to salt imbalance owing to excessive intake of fluids and hence excessive urination that made his groin painful and his run agonizing.

In the run course


Shray at the finish line.

 We waited patiently for him at the finish line. Everyone was longing to have a glimpse of him, and we waited with bated breaths. Everyone looked alike with similar tri-suits; Shray had worn a white trisuit with green and orange tiles on the torso so we jokingly called him a united nations flag, a suit representing any flag from every country in this world. I went live on Facebook streaming all the finishes, most of them beamed of accomplishments since it was their debut race while others beamed of maturity and success since this was another feather added to their hat of accomplishments. I saw Shray coming, but I had not seen what he brought with him, he went down on his knees and proposed to me. We became the cynosure of all the bystanders and onlookers. The feeling was cathartic, I could not hold back my tears, because firstly the joy of your better half achieving what he had desired for a long time and secondly he proposed to me with a ring. I knew we were getting married under the glaring eyes of our near and dear ones and would have a ring exchange traditional ceremony but I had never thought he would ask me out publicly like that. Although earlier I had come to know about his plan to propose to me at Coeur D' Alene, he had told me in a fit of rage when we had a fight, and since he could not race the Ironman at Coeur D' Alene, I had lost all hope that anything fancy of that kind would ever be in the cards. I did not know who was around me or where I was going, I covered my eyes in happiness and tears of joy. Shray was an Ironman and I was officially the Ironmate with well developed tapezius mucles.



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