Featured 26 Aug 2022 The toughest of all

The toughest of all

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SWATI SHARMA
Published Aug 26, 2022, 4:42 pm IST
Updated Aug 26, 2022, 4:42 pm IST
(Left to Right) Dr. Srikanth Pilli and Dr. Ashwin Ayingar take part in the Kazakhstan Ironman. (Photo By Arrangement)
 (Left to Right) Dr. Srikanth Pilli and Dr. Ashwin Ayingar take part in the Kazakhstan Ironman. (Photo By Arrangement)

Two medical professionals from Hyderabad took part in the Kazakhstan Ironman – a Triathlon which is a day-long endurance event comprising a full marathon or 42.2 km run, a 3.8 km swim, and a 180 km bike ride. Only four persons from Hyderabad have succeeded in doing this since 2015.

Each Ironman involves a battle between the body and the mind. We talked to the two men in their forties, and learned about the intense training and discipline needed to obtain the title of ‘Ironman.’

In training for two years

Dr. Srikanth Pilli, a 42-year-old doctor, completed the entire Ironman in August 2022. “I did not have a coach or adhere to any predetermined training plans to prepare for the event. I planned my workouts for the following day only when I got home after my busy schedule each day,” says Dr Srikanth.

Elaborating on the preparations, he says, “All I was aiming for was an 8-to-9-hour endurance to acquire confidence. I calculated that I should work 12 to 14 hours per week during my base training (which lasted for four months) and 20 hours per week during my peak training (8 weeks). Brick exercises formed the bulk of the training. Brick workouts are a back-to-back combination of different disciplines such as a swim/bike, bike/run or run/bike/run. And a few afternoon heat training sessions, were beneficial to me on race day.”

DIET

Dr. Pili says, “I’ve never been a fan of expensive diets, protein powders, or supplements. To be honest, during my training runs, curd rice served as my primary fuel. I would eat it in the early mornings. Fortunately, two hours prior to the run, I got a curd rice packet from an Indian restaurant in Kazakhstan. I rode with isotonic water and had Indian sports gels (energy drinks) with me. I drank them every 45 minutes. I carried two chocolate muffins because the triathlon’s longest part was the ride. At the aid stations, we ate oranges while running. Our ability to run more easily and lower our core body temperature was improved by icy cold showers and sponging.”

Inspiration

“Fitness objectives vary from person to person, and in my case, goals changed frequently. My goal five years ago was to run five kilometres continuously; two years ago, it was to run a marathon in under four hours; and last month, it was to complete an Ironman. Currently, a 100-kilometer endurance is on my mind.”

Challenges

“A mechanical problem with my bike on race day was my biggest obstacle. I discovered before nightfall that the brake cable had become tangled and the brake pads were not disengaging. I had to move slowly to avoid colliding with anything. I prayed to God the entire time I was riding.”

Run like there’s no tomorrow

“It was a Herculean effort. I started slowly, with simple runs, easy cycles, and easy swimming, gradually moving up to longer, harder workouts that are broader in scope. Simultaneously there was focus on good diet, hydration, rest, sleep, and recuperation,” says  Dr. Ashwin Ayingar, 42.

“The secret to building strength, speed and endurance was to gradually increase training intensity and duration every week. I alternated between easy workouts, hard workouts, and longer, moderately strenuous workouts,” he adds.

Dr. Ashwin, who began preparing for the Ironman a year ago, says his fitness objective is to one day be able to run continuously without being exhausted.

DIET

Eating a high-carb diet, primarily consisting of potatoes and rice, for three days before the event to build up a carbohydrate load, was his strategy. “On race day, I woke up at 3:30 a.m.  and had cornflakes and two cheese sandwiches. Between the swim and the bike ride, and between the cycle and the run, I ate a banana. I ingested a carbohydrate gel for ready energy every 40 minutes while riding. I had the carb gels, oranges, and biscuits that were provided at the aid stations while running. During the ride and run, I frequently sipped electrolyte-laced water to stay hydrated,” he reveals.

Challenges

“Balancing between work and family obligations was a hurdle. Also, at first, the pools were shut. Then, during the summer, the pools were overrun by children. Another issue was influenza viruses. Fitness is delayed by two to three months by a single viral fever or COVID episode. I had to make a lot of effort to avoid getting sick,” says Dr. Ashwin.

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