New Delhi: Triathlete Anu Vaidyanathan, the first Indian to compete in the Ironman and the first Asian to complete Ultraman Canada triathlon, says as a woman, training in India poses its own unique challenges.
The 34-year-old says she used to not get up later than 4 am to train lest she fell prey to eveteasing and often had to dress up in a 'sack' to avoid attention after a workout.
"I would get up very early and be on the road. People would comment and I had to dress up in a sack, covering myself fully to become invisible," she says.
Triathlon is an arduous sport involving swimming, cycling and running and Anu became the first Asian to compete in the Ultraman Canada, a race comprising a 10 km swim, a 420 km bike ride and an 84.4 km run.
She backed this up with the Ironman Canada, three weeks later, becoming the only athlete to do so in the history of the race. Fondly known as Anu, the sportsperson has compiled anecdotes from her eventful life in the form of a memoir that was recently launched here.
Peppered with self-deprecatory humour, the book titled 'Anywhere But Home: Adventures in Endurance' (Harper Collins), talks about how Anu stumbled upon triathlon and the various challenges that she had to face as a woman to continue to stay in the sport.
On one occasion, the athlete-turned-writer describes how a national-level swim coach had thought her to be too old for swimming at the age of 23 and advised her to tie the knot and settle down.
"When I was 23 years old, a national-level swimming coach said I am too old for the sport and that I should leave it and marry a nice guy," she says.
She says she has faced extra challenges in training, such as the absence of a women's restroom in Bengaluru's Kanteerva Stadium. She also recounts being heckled by men while biking on roads and even chased by dogs during her early morning runs.
The Ultraman Canada (2009) in which she was placed sixth required her to swim for 10 km, followed by a 420 km bike ride and an 84.4 km run, over the course of three consecutive days.
This was followed by Ironman Canada four weeks later, which comprised a 3.8-km swim, an 180-km bike ride and a 42.2-km run. Anu, who is a Ph.D in electrical engineering from UC Canterbury in the US, currently teaches courses in computer architecture, innovation and business policy at the Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar, as well as the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Her 192-page book is essentially a repository of both funny and heart-breaking encounters of a woman who refused to give up. It is also a tale of motherhood and pushing the boundaries of what a body can do.
Among the many hurdles that came her way, she writes about the times when she was stuck in sports facilities that lacked basic support systems, even toilets, and of times when if she wanted to compete, it would have had to be on her own salary.
While participating in Ultraman, she says, she could not afford a high-end professional bike and therefore had to settle for a cheaper aluminium one.
"People were laughing at my aluminium bike and I was laughing back at them because I knew that my last bike was even worse!" she quips.
Married to a Punjabi, Anu who became a mother two years ago, is currently embracing motherhood, but says that she continues to take care of her diet to stay fit.
"Though I am not following a strict training routine now, but I make it a point to go for work-outs, eat healthy and avoid eating outside as much as I can," she says.
Anu has also founded PatNMarks, an intellectual property consulting firm that offers services like early stage conceptualisation, budgeting, drafting strategy and filing for intellectual property among others.