EXCLUSIVE : One on One with The 1st Indian to make it to Kona, Subramani Venkatesh

In a classroom, there are always a bunch of characters you can see. The "Show-offs" who do less and speak more. The "Nerds" who do have a lot of knowledge and score but lack the personality.
And then there are the "all rounders". Full of knowledge but at the same time, full of personality. 
If the Indian Ironman scene is considered as a classroom, we have a lot of characters of each type.
The "winners", the "beasts" and then there a few who don't really have a tag to them. 
They are the people who do the sport, not because they want to show off that they are an Ironman. They love the sport and they love the fact that they are representing their country.
These "all rounders", the golden hearts are two men : Deepak Raj and Subramani Venkatesh.

Subbu, as he is affectionately called got into this sport for the pure love of the sport. What started off as a weight loss startegy became a hobby, a hobby he became superb at. 

The man, who owns 4 bikes(one of each type : Road, TT, Mountain and Cyclo-cross) is the mix of Tesla and Terminator.
He has immense knowledge of the sport. Everything from Bike power, position, nutrition to rest and recovery, the man is a walking encyclopedia of Triathlon.

And his focus in training is like seeing Terminator in action. 

Subbu, on 24th July 2016 finished Ironman Lake Placid(which is one the hilliest and toughest courses on the Ironman Circuit) in a time of 9:51:49 and set the following records :
1.) Fastest ever time by Indian in an Ironman
2.) Only Indian to have done a Sub-10 hour Ironman(Twice)
3.) Only Indian to have claimed a podium in an Ironman Race(by finishing second in his Age Group)
4.) Qualifying for Boston Marathon(for which people train for years and choose the eaisest courses) by running a 3:09 after a 3.8k swim and 180.2k warmup.
5.) Winning his age group marathon. And yes, by winning I don't mean how our celebs win Ironman. He actually finished 1st in his age group on the run.
6.) Becoming the FIRST AND ONLY Indian to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii(that too by timing and not lottery)

Having known him for over an year now, I'm not sure I've met someone who has the brains of mad scientist, strength of a Lion and is still so humble and grounded.

I got to chat with 4*Ironman, RAAM Winner(yes, winner again) and here it is

First things first, congratulations on this incredible timing. You just made records tumble left and right. How does it feel that you have achieved the goal? 

Subbu: Thank you! 
I was psyched, emotional and excited when I first saw my results through a volunteer, it was dream come true to go on a Podium with strong competitors. 

What were the 3 highest point and 3 low points(I doubt there were any, but I remember you saying something about a cramp at mile 22) from this race? 

Subbu : I will go high and low through each discipline 
Swim : 
Low - I am a weak swimmer, fairly new hobby, so I stuck in a wave which was bit slow and heavy in traffic, couldn’t trust anyone to draft. 
High - Swim in this race felt pretty good, there was never a moment I felt it was hurting or boring, I felt strong throughout the swim leg, probably because of training and volume added my Coach (Craig Lewin, Endurance Open Water Swim) , we also did lot of Swim TT during training, which helped a lot for this race, I also want to say that I improved quite a bit since I started training with him. 
Low – While I race I do not count on speed or HR, I purely focus on Power meter, having done all my training with Power meter, first mile into race my Garmin 810 was not picking up my power values, which is my head unit, I was literally in panic mode for 5 miles, was dilly dallying for 5 miles figuring out how to make it work, finally came to know that two garmin devices do not pick power same time, so I shut down my 920 and let my head unit read again, finally it worked. I would guess I wasted sometime about solid 2minutes. 
So first loop I went into the race with strong power value maintaining about 80%, as I turned around into second loop strong wind gave me headache and sinus issue, It was really hard to focus and really tried my best to stay strong, as I hit 90th mile which was other rolling hilly section, wind gust blow me off course almost knocking me down, at this section I am supposed to hit hard but I stepped behind fighting little ego to let people pass me, or pulling off of me. I am glad I did hold back power. 
High – I managed to finished bike leg really strong without bonking unlike my first IMLP with a Personal best of 20Minutes on this hilly course, Again my Coach Phil Wong , PWFit prepared me very well for this race, asking me do lot Threshold Intervals when my form is low or high in fatigued, those workout paid off in this race. 

Run : 
Low – My run started pretty well, but as soon as I came to aid station grabbed some coke, felt terrible my stomach did not accept it, had to threw up, after that moment I never had any coke in aid station, and at Mile 22nd I made a mistake grabbing too much water which caused over hydration and side stomach pain, this is mile I need to push according to pacing but I couldn’t, Hills in that section slowed me down as well, kind of helped to relieve the cramps. I am glad it was only for 200meters everything settled 
High: Mile 25th I felt very strong and friend said I am in real safe place in this race, did not know what it means until I saw results. All I know was I need to sprint to finish line to get under 3:10  

How does your family take up to your incredible training and racing lifestyle? I know for a fact their 
biggest concern(like most families including mine) must be "Oh you have become so thin!". 

My family accepts the fact that I am happy doing this training, but they have no idea how much volume I put in, how many hours I train every week, And yes they believe that lean/skinny people are not healthy :-P. 

Of all the athletes I have talked to, you have been the one the most technically proficient athlete. Be it measuring Bike power, bike positioning or just measuring stress from session to session, you calculate it all. Would you attribute the science behind the training as the "extra-mile" apart from Hardwork and Recovery? 

I truly believe in science behind sports, lot of things makes sense to me. Keeping record and paying attention to numbers is like addressing/defining your level pain to various numbers, there are lot of tools out there do good job doing it. These numbers not only help me define or discuss workouts with coach, but help me pay attention to fitness level. 

I remember the picture of Banana Pancakes that you sent me the day before the race and you said it was Race Nutrition. And as far as I know, you love to cook. How much of a difference does Solid food make over say, Gels or any other form of Nutrition? 

Subbu: Hahaha, that is funny, Nutrition is something everyone have to experiment during training, what works for me may not work for others, for example I cannot eat Gels on bike, my stomach do not accept it. 
There was a time in training when I discovered solid food like Honey Stinger waffle sticks to my stomach very well and prevents me from starving, so I choose it for every race I do now. Only difference is that I cook them now with Gluten free flour to keep it simple on raceday. 

Talking about training from IMMT(where Subbu cracked 10 hrs for the first time) to this race (where he better his previous time by close to 8 minutes on a much hillier course), what will be the 3 major changes that you'd say you made to your schedule? 

Subbu: Three Major changes that happen this year 
1. I discussed with my Cycling coach Phil Wong and said I want to go to Kona, so we focused on more on Triathlon than cycling only, he setup proper base for me in running. Where has last year I was training for RAAM, I spent less time running high intensity workouts 

2. I focused on Swim training or getting coached early in the season, added good volume and intensity during workouts, particularly my kicking intervals helped a lot. 

3. I changed my food habits, lost extra 6lbs in compare to IMMT 

Given Kona is now 2 months down the line, what kind of training would you go through? Would it be more of maintaining the current form, as I believe you're peaking right now? Or would you be adding some more base miles into training? 

Subbu:  Not sure yet, I will take some recovery time, and start my real training three weeks from now, I will peak sometime again in Mid Sept for this race. But definitely will do lot of swimming as it is my weakness and non-wetsuit 

You told me you are the 1st Triathlon student of your coach. He must be really proud of this achievement. What goals do you guys have for the future? 

Subbu: Phil Wong is very happy and Proud of me, I am really happy to work with him, it was big learning curve for both of us. I am very glad to work with him. 
I haven’t thought about long term yet, but he is preparing me for Climbing race, Mt Washington Road Race 4 weeks from now. 

What are the 3 changes/improvements that you would like to make to your training/equipment/nutrition(if any) 

Subbu : 1. Swim a lot, get better at it for KONA 

2. Not a lot of changes on my gear, but I am going to change my Crank from Mid-Compact to 
Standard for KONA and do different race tires probably 

3. Prepare for heat training for both bike and run, play with Nutrition for heat. 

I saw a Yoga video of you, where you just begin to lift yourself off the ground with pure strength. Do you believe Yoga is an essential part in a triathlete's life? 

Subbu:  You are funny again, Yoga definitely helps me keeping flexible, conditioning my body. I don’t do as much as I suppose to, but yes I recommend Yoga for Tri Athletes to stay flexible and address various muscles. 

Sebastian Kienle(2014 Ironman World Champion) says that he has hour long sessions thrice a week for mental conditioning where he visualises a race and imagines every scenario and how to go about it. How important and how frequently do you take care of this mental conditioning? 

Subbu: Everyone is different in handling stress, for me sometimes not to think about it is better. Again he is a pro and has more pressure than me. I try my best to relax and trust my training. 

I remember talking about Ultraman with you and I remember you saying you'll do it post achieving the Kona goal. So I take it that now the next goal will be to the fastest Indian in Ultraman? :P 
If not, what is next on your list? 

Subbu: I may do Ultraman, but not any time soon, it’s in the bucket list. But I want to get even better in all three disciplines and keep upto world standard fastest athletes. 


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