Meet Sujay Shalwadi : Fastest Indian over 70.3 Distance

On 21st May 2017, in a small 70.3 race in Leuven, Belgium another Indian, quite bereft from the eyes of Social media blazed through the course in 4:39:06 (Swim: 30.50, Bike: 2:32:36, Run: 1:29:59). His name is Sujay Shalwadi.

Sujay(in white) during the Leipzig Marathon

In doing so he set the record for the fastest Indian to cover the 70.3 (Half Iron) distance.

Talking to his coach, Subramani "Subbu" Venktatesh (the fastest Indian Ironman distance, interview here), I learnt that he performed this feat while on a Road bike.

Why this fact is incredible, is because athletes racing on a road bike tend to consume 18-30% more energy per hour than athletes on a Tri Bike. This causes the legs to be less efficient on the running leg.

As an athlete and a member of the community, I have always believed that bringing incredible achievements to the attention of people is my responsibility.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, a tête-à-tête with Sujay Shalwadi :

Arunaabh(A) : Congratulations for the Indian Record at Tri Leuven! Tell us more about yourself? 

Sujay (S): Thank you! I am 24 years old from Bangalore. I am currently studying a masters program             in computer science In Weimar, Germany since October 2016.

When did you get into triathlons? What got you into triathlons?

:  I started doing triathlons in 2015. My first race was at Thonnur 
with the sprint distance. I have done three olympic distance triathlons and two 70.3 triathlons so far. I first heard about IRONMAN triathlon in 2014 from a relative who stays in USA. His son had done a 70.3 race in 7 hours. I was curious to learn more about this race. I had just started running during that time. I browsed about IRONMAN triathlon and the first thought in my mind was to do it one day. From then on I started practising running more and progressed to triathlons in 1 year.  
Sujay's Fitness progression over the last year.
A:  Describe a typical training week for you? Which sport would you call your Achilles heel?

S:   I train for about 12 – 14 hours during an intensive week and during the recovery week, I train for 6 – 7 hours. I use the weekends for longer training sessions ranging from 3 – 4.5 hours. I am relatively new to cycling (less than 2 years) so my cycling is slightly below par my swimming and running (which will change soon! :) )

What changes did you incorporate in your training after you signed up with Subbu while building up for this race?

S: I have been training under Subbu since December 2016. My training is structured and sometimes rigorous since then (which is what I like of this sport!). I have improved my overall consistency. Subbu takes good efforts in setting up my weekly training plan and I am always ready to execute them. In Bangalore, I was training under a revered running coach (K.C. Kothandapani) and a motivated running group. That phase instilled discipline in me which has been beneficial when I have 2 more sports to accommodate while training now.

A:  Describe the race for us? What were the high and low points during the race? Take us through the range of emotions
S:  The race was in Leuven, Belgium. It is a local annual triathlon very well organised. The swim course was 2 loops of a beautiful lake outside the town. The bike course was 4 loops, it had many sharp corners and two sharp ascents. There were patches of cobble stones on the bike course which made it harder. The run course was 3 loops which went through a park and a subway, the stairs to climb into and out of the subway made it more exciting. Finally, the finish was at the town centre against the backdrop of the beautiful town library building.

During the race, I was happy to finish my swim faster than my 
target time and still feel fresh for the bike. The bike leg was slightly my low point as I was overtaken by few riders. However, I always had one thought on my mind that I will catch them on the run. I started the run and overtook few people that motivated me to stay consistent till the finish. However, during the second loop of the run I got a bad hamstring pull so I had to wait for 2 minutes to recover and start again. Fortunately it didn’t reoccur. That point of the race was my lowest and I had made up my mind not to give up no matter what even at this point. It is important to think positive during such harsh times. I continued to finish the race strong.
A:   Were you aware of the record before your attempt? 
I wasn’t aware of the record before my attempt. I attempted this race with the main goal to see my improvements from my previous race. I am happy to have raised the bar for now. We are sure to see some fast Indian triathletes soon.

A:   Can you talk about the major challenges/hurdles you have faced through your career?
S:    I haven’t faced any major challenge so far. Fortunately, I have supportive parents who like the fact that I am doing this sport. I have a good coach like Subbu to guide me. The town I stay in Germany has a strong triathlon team so I am happy to be a part of their swim training which has helped me improve my overall swimming. I only hope to pursue this sport as long as I can.  

A:  Some top moments in your career so far?
I have won the Thonnur triathlon (Olympic distance) last year which motivated me to continue the sport even when I move to Germany. I am happy to say that it has turned out this way. After training under Subbu, I am enjoying my training and when I finish an intense training week I feel good as it boosts my confidence for race day. I am a strong follower of train hard race easy!
Sujay, after winning Tri Thonnur Olympic Distance Triathlon

A:   And finally! Cliché Question : What’s next?

I have another 70.3 race in Germany on August 20th this year. I would focus on improving my performance from my last race. I have a vision of representing India in this sport at the highest platform in future. I am very keen to participate in the Asian games 2018 and I hope to make this possible. 


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