Long work hours keeping you away from being fit, outdoorsy? In conversation with Mehul Ved, commuter cyclist, avid marathoner and triathlete; here’s a story that will challenge your cubicle-comfort lifestyle.
Work for you is?
My work in the tech industry involves sitting at a desk, 80-100 hours a week. But, as a person I can’t sit in a place for too long. I had a gym subscription but couldn’t go to the gym because of my work schedule. This got me on to cycling to work. That’s when it all started.
My office was around 12 kms away, so I decided to pedal to work. It was tough in the beginning, especially the Peddar road climb; it has always intimidated me. Crossing it for the first time was a big high. But, all that peddling meant staying put on my seat for the rest of the day; my legs were on fire.
Then the office moved to Andheri in 2008. That increased my mileage to 50 kms of cycling every day. I often used to cycle to work in my formal clothes, but then we had no shower at work so I started carrying a change.
Satish Patki (@laughinstork on twitter, is an avid outdoor enthusiast into skiing, sailing, mountaineering, triathlons) introduced me to the concept of brevets of 200kms and 400kms rides in 2009. That’s what set the tone, it got me into long distance cycling. Since then, I’ve been more into long distance cycling and endurance driven sports.
Is that when running happened?
A few years later, I wanted to explore more forms of outdoor sports. In college, I tried a few short runs and I think around 2011 is when I started running. I signed up for my first full marathon in 2012, for SCMM 2013. I started training by myself, a couple of half marathon distances gave me an idea of how tough the full marathon will be.
Around that time, I signed up with a coach for my cycling training. So both cycling and running training went on simultaneously. In that group, I came across a fellow trainee who was into triathlons. He encouraged me to try out triathlons and that’s what made me sign up for the Hyderabad Triathlon in October 2013.
So all that was left was to begin swim training. Talk about that.
The most important part for swimming for triathlons is understanding the difference between open water and the pool. In a pool, you have the comfort of reaching the end of the pool and resting your feet at the shallow end for every lap you take. You don’t have that luxury in the open waters; in the ocean or at sea. Also, when you are in open waters you can’t see where you are going. There is no marked line that you can follow for laps like in a pool. Sighting is all about rising up after few strokes and seeing where you are going. That is something I am still working on while training right now, along with my form and technique for swimming.
When you started training, what was your routine. Or rather, how did you juggle between work, training and socialising?
It gets pretty difficult to manage all three at the same time. I usually workout about 12 hours a week. This includes 4 swims, 3 bike workouts and 3 runs including a long run/bike ride over the weekend, with Monday being a rest day. My typical day begins at 4.30am, I am out of my house by 6am, finish workouts by 9am and then I am off to work. Socializing needs to be fit in on weeks when I am not training or else when I can afford to take a rest day.
That’s a lot of outdoor training time. But there’s so much pollution in the city.
For me being outdoors is not just physical it is also mental. I just can’t be sitting indoors all the time. I have the need to be outdoors. If it’s the pollution that bothers you, we still have beaches, parks, gardens to go out and run. For swimming, we have access to pools. For weekends, you have Borivali National Park and Yeoor hills, you can clock your runs and go for cycle rides there too. These days, apart, from my 1-2 hours of training, I walk a lot for daily chores and also since I take the public transport or walk around when commuting mostly. I am outdoors at least 3-5 hours a day.
Also, here’s what I personally did. I had heard about people tracking 15 days ×15 km runs. I was already in good training form after getting back from my Malaysia half Ironman. 15×15 can get very monotonous as you have to get up early and go running every single day on the same route. So I tried to bring in a difference. I decided I would try something different, explore a run in different parts of the city, so that there is something new to look forward to. Thus, I decided to map out 15 different routes in different parts of the city, which was also a great idea for exploring the city.
Wow, that’s an awesome idea. How did that go?
Very exhausting; managing a 15k run, then clocking a full day’s work. But at the end of the day, it was a good way to explore the city. Some highlights from the 15 routes were:
- A beautiful route mapped in Vasai where I went with Amit Bhowmik (@amitvelo).
- Uttan, that one time I escaped the city, it was brilliant. All green, hardly any traffic.
- The route around Khargar hills was beautiful, you can just go up the hill and back, you cover 7kms up and down.
- Routes around Borivali National Park and Yeoor hills are lush green, free of traffic and frequented by loads of runners.
Talk about the highlight of your recent half Ironman in Hawaii
Hawaii is the birthplace of the Ironman triathlon. The route has a very tough climb with strong sidewinds during cycling. The weather was pretty hot and humid too. The biggest challenge was training for the run in the mid-day heat, I was expecting to start my run at 11 am during the race, a very hot time to run. So I trained in Bombay, running in the middle of the day, that paid off big time.
I attended a couple of open water swim camps, in Mysore organised by Deepak Raj (one of the fastest athletes in India for Ironman) and one by my current coach Dr. Kaustabh Radkar (one of the best swimmers in India and the only Ironman certified tri coach). My cycling coach Miten Thakkar too played a big role. As compared to Malaysia where I got cramps at the end of the swim itself, I felt pretty relaxed even at the end of the race in Hawaii.
What are few of the things one should keep in mind while considering participating in a triathlon?
Training, weather, route, nutrition, race strategy. Getting your race strategy in place and following it to the best possible extent is very important. I had a race strategy in place, a good idea of target splits in swim, bike and run and also consulted a dietician to ensure I get things right before and during the race. Also, I am a part of triathlon groups in India, where I get regular inputs, experiences and knowledge from fellow members.
How has 2015 been for you?
It has been good. I think I have done well. I did the 15X15, then completed a strong Hawaii half Ironman. in 2014, on the 15th of August I did the Mumbai 12 hour ultra. So the 100 km mark was the next step. Around my 30th birthday, I wanted to do something more, something special as it was my 30th birthday.
So between the 16th-17th of August, I ran for a campaign ‘Run For a Cause’ in association with Magic Bus India, I covered a route of 100 kms from Mumbai to Lonavala. We managed to raise funds of 1.5 lakhs for children’s education.
That’s a huge achievement; Kudos! What’s the next big challenge?
The full Ironman is next, and for that I want to work on improving my speed, form and strength. Ironman Kalmar, Sweden in 2017 is a possibility. Or maybe something closer to Monaco F1 GP, so I can also watch the race live during the same trip.
Now that’s an idea! Mixing a race with a holiday!
Going out for an Ironman is a pretty expensive proposition, since you are anyway there, you might as well make it into a vacation. After being through that intense training regime, you want to rest for the next 10-15 days after your race, so you might as well use that time to explore or just chill out.
Mehul started his fitness journey with walks. He is now training for a full Ironman. If you are thinking of getting back to fitness, take a cue from Mehul’s fitness journey. It is something that you too can do; all you need to know is the right way to train for it. Connect with him on twitter at @mehulved or mail him at email@example.com
Are you on the road to fitness already? That’s super! Share your journey in the comments section here or email team LBO at firstname.lastname@example.org