My Weekly Blog #5

If strength was born from heartbreak, then mountains I can move.

The title to this blog is brought to you by a Rise Against lyric. But it holds true. For a long time now, I have lived in the shadow of the summer of 2014. The summer when I was banging out a lot of miles, running fast and training well. The summer when I *was* in the best shape of my life.
My girlfriend complained to me last year; "When you were trying to woo me, you would stay awake till 11 pm, but now you go to sleep at 9". Actually, yes. When I saw her and was very smitten by her, and I realised she sleeps a bit late, I adjusted my sleep schedule just enough for her to feel as if I am staying awake like her. 11 pm isn't that late anyways, I used to come back home from work at 11:30, sometimes 12, so I was used to that and on the weekends, there was the whole day to talk. I digress and for that I apologise.

So, in 2014 I was pretty much so fit that I ran a 1:20 half marathon a few weeks after my debut Half Ironman. And then I ran a 2:56 marathon a couple of months later. And then the story I tell each week happened, i'm sure y'all (the ones who actually read my blog) can recite it from memory now, so I won't waste precious time recalling all the bad memories again.

But the impact that downfall had on my self-confidence and my personality was catastrophic. I had become used to a certain level of performance, and 1 down season is fine, by 1 after the another just made me think, "Did I really hit my peak at 24?". I started doing things I wouldn't do in a normal frame of mind: Pacing people, training with people weaker than me and getting intimidated by times which just a few years back would feel easy to me. 

I mean no offence whatsoever, pacing is noble task and I enjoyed training with *some* of the people I trained from 2015 to 2017, but all things considered, that's not who I am. I know some people are group animals and they enjoy being that way, I am not like that. Especially when I am motivated for a goal. And during that dark phase from 2015 to 2017, there were many goals but none of them was challenging enough for me to shed the load and go for it with a single-minded approach.

There's one conversation I can't forget, which was post my Ultraman in an Adidas store. Why I was in that store that day beggars belief for the Arunaabh of today, but I was there and someone who has had some success relative to Indian standards(which means absolute shit everywhere else in the world) said to me " You can't ever run faster than 1:20 marathon, your calf muscles are too big, I challenge you to do that". I couldn't respond, in my mental state of loserdom, even though I wanted to kick him with my huge calf muscles, I just smiled back.

I kept losing faith in my abilities because no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't able to do what I could do before. I was stuck behind the shadow of my old self and I was surrounded by people who celebrated me for my past and not my potential. I got a lot of feedback from last week's blog about why I shouldn't undermine my Ultraman achievement. But what people don't understand is I'm not undermining anything. That Ultraman is a great achievement, but it is not the way I wanted it to be. It is not the most perfect version of how I could do that particular event. 
I did improve by over 1 hour in my Ironman timing last year, but again, it was lacking something. That intensity, that vigour, that manic high you get from long durations of high intensity: A 4 hour marathon is not me. And you can't run very fast in an Ironman if you are not good on a bike, which I am not for a variety of reasons. 

And believe me, I tried to get back to the level I was at years back. The time was ticking and I was trying to get "back".  Lausanne Marathon of 2017 was something I wanted to conquer and failed again because in my desire to get back. I was forgetting that the past was long gone. And then as 2017 ended and 2018 started, life decided that it has had enough of my sulking. 

You see, the biggest gift you can get in life is the gift of failure. It's hard to see that when you are suffering, but hindsight is always 20/20. When you keep having success, which in my case were small glimmers of hope(Ultraman, AISTS, moving to Switzerland, getting an Internship), you begin to get complacent. And in my case, those small victories would deter me, as I was trying to self-correct, it would get knocked back. But at the end of 2018, until very recently, life decided to fail me at everything.

Things were bad in 2017, they became catastrophic in 2018. I lost my desire to live and almost gave in to dark thoughts in February 2018. And then as soon as some glimmer of hope started to appear, things tumbled even southwards in my personal life(which I won't talk about). But that phase made me realise, things really need to change. No more half measures. It was time to make a full overhaul of life.
I was toying with moronic diet at that time and despite training a lot, I wasn't able to lose weight. And I knew this too well, that if I didn't lose weight I wouldn't become faster. And if I didn't become faster, I wouldn't regain my mental confidence. I had lost faith in a higher power and lost touch with a part of me, which according to me, just gives me something to believe in. I rediscovered that.

I threw away the cloak of pity, the cloak of ignorance and dawned upon me this new approach: in terms of diet, in terms of training, in terms of thinking. I developed a whole new outlook on life.
It's very hard to get your mind to believe things are for real because once things begin to go bad, it becomes sensitive and apprehensive about everything.

We spend our lives wasting too much time trying to make it unnecessarily easy. Life will get hard, I spent so much of life trying to get to some ideal point, ideal place, leaving my old job, but when I came to Switzerland what came in handy was my experience to deal with people from my previous job. I never saw my old job in a positive light, until I realised there are things much worse than it.
We chase stuff, instead of being in the moment, at least that’s what I did for most of my life. And then one day you realise that life is great either way. It’s your perspective towards it why it is bad. Yes, times can be tough and things can be bad, but they are just life lessons.
I wasted so much time being sad about things I couldn’t control, being choked up over things that couldn’t be, being annoyed and hurt by what people did to me, instead of actually seeing what was unfolding in front of me.
I would much rather be the person I am now than the person I was 2 years ago And maybe 2 years later, I will be an even better person, but for the last 1.5 years I tried to cling on to a life just because I thought that was it.
Life is so much more, it’s about this growth, it’s about letting go and letting grow. And when this happened(atleast that's my belief), my life decided to take a turn for the better. I have started doing things, I couldn't do even in that Summer of 2014 and I still have to knock my brain a little to tell it "This is for real, believe in yourself.

I finally shed that shadow from Summer of 2014, and I finally moved to the Summer of 2018. Life is about moving forwards and becoming better. Memories in the end, are memories, they shape your past but the future, yet unwritten, is in your hands.

I would like to wind this up with a disclaimer: Someone asked me yesterday, yet again, why have I lost weight.

To answer your moronic condescending question: I lost weight because I WANTED TO. And do you know why that is? BECAUSE IT IS MY BODY AND MY LIFE. If you are a nutrition expert, I would love to have a nuanced discussion with you on the virtues of my diet. If you are better in sport than me and want to add something to this discussion you're more than welcome. And if you're someone who is curious how I did what I did, I am happy to talk. But if you want to sit on your judgemental fat butt and comment on why I have lost weight or give me some flak about it, I have a Mirza Ghalib quote for you:

Why having a crap job/ crap boss might be the best thing for you. (And why you should continue to work until either you're No. 1 in your sport or you win the lottery.)

If you read my last blog, you might have read this: "but when I came to Switzerland what came in handy was my experience to deal with people from my previous job. I never saw my old job in a positive light."

I really hated my 1st job, like most people. The bosses I had were bad, the colleagues(most of them) were worse. The whole environment was more toxic than Chernobyl and I used to count the hours in a week as a means of getting by. But, I stuck it out there for 4 years. And I could've easily left it before, I could've made a switch in jobs or infact in my career, but I didn't.

You see, what I was doing,  unbeknownst to me, was building my people skills. And by that I don't mean going for after-work drinks with people I hated. You see, when you know someone is lying to your face, or acting oversmart, out of line and you know that legally, you can't stick their head in the paper shredder, you develop patience. Some don't, and they quit their job. And some others end up in Jail. And some others become immune to it. But what I did, was to learn how to smile.

I used to be a very aggressive person before I started running, I got into fistfights and even though I am 167 cms, I liked to bully people. A lot of my angst came from (surprise surprise) being in place where I didn't belong. And not that the McArthur Grants Foundation is going to come a give me a cheque tomorrow, but I'm not exactly an idiot. But I'm a very good actor and I can fake a smile worthy of the losing actor at the Oscars, while silently cursing the other person.

The fact that my body language with that person is very hostile in other situations is different. I can't fake it that much, just enough to smile and let the moment pass. I can't say this answer in my job interviews but what I really learnt in my 1st job was how to deal with assholes.

However, once in a while I used to let my guard down, like once my old boss(who was quite a sizeable fellow), asked me how good was the mobile company: Karbonn.I responded "It is very good, and multipurpose. If the phone stops working, you can sit on it and it will become a Diamond(when heavy pressure is applied to a loose structure of Carbon atoms, they morph into the atomic structure of a Diamond)".And then I realised I had said this out loud. Luckily, my boss was just confused, like most of you who are not familiar with Chemistry.

But having a bad boss and bad colleagues, gave me so much more in life(other than the deep desire to ignore every social obligation). You see, a job is a job. It will have its good parts and it will have its bad parts. That's why it is a "job" and not a "hobby".

You can whine about it, which is fine. But in reality, doing that thing(not forever, but long enough for you to see the positive side)which sucks, daily, gives you mental strength that you can use everywhere. If you feel like quitting on your second day, or at the end of the 1st year of your job: Don't. 

You didn't even give the process a chance if you quit on Day 2. You just assumed stuff and you will continue to do that for the rest of your life, trying to chase an idealised version of a workplace which doesn't exist. We all are human beings, we all are different and we all will have our differences.
The reality of things is, the sooner you realise this and accept it and take it on your stride, the faster you will reach happiness!

And if you quit at the end of 1 year, you just become that person who learnt enough and used the resources of the company to settle in and then changed your mind. I wanted to leave my job at the end of 6 months, I stuck it out for 4 years, I gave it every chance and I gained a lot from it.

Which brings me to this funny little message from Richard McDowell:

Richard, like many other has a job. However, Richard is much faster than many other people these days(almost an epidemic) who have quit their job to become full-time athletes. I'm pretty sure a lot of them would never even run a 2:27 marathon(given how they approach stuff). But if you want to argue that Richard does just 1 sport, we have Subramani Venkatesh(Subbu), who is again fully employed and yet finished 8th last Saturday in Boston Dualthlon where Ben Kanute(Olympian Rio 2016 ) participated too, and Subbu ran a 36 min 10k on the back of a 24 mile/hour bike.
Subbu is a triathlete, trains for 3 sports, coaches and yet somehow he has never given any excuse on how his job hinders his training. Richard, is a family man and well, this photo summarises how well he has struck the balance between training, family and well, job(job thing doesn't show here, maybe I'll ask for a photo with him in a business suit):

Being a career athlete is all fine and dandy, but you see, even if you're a pro athlete and you're not at the top of your sport, there isn't too much money. And I know life isn't about money, and "YOLO" but you do need to feed yourself, you know. Last I checked, human beings can't go too long without money. And then it's fine if your parents are rich, but you see, I prefer being "self-made". There is a certain attraction to the hobo-lifestyle, living in the mountains and doing nothing but "eat, sleep and train" but after a while, trust me, you will begin to feel rather useless.

And even if you train, are you really the best in your sport? I knew someone who when I first met told me "I want to become an Ironman champion". I was a little sceptical as he was a.) 26 b.) Didn't know how to swim. c.) Didn't have a road bike d.) Wasn't a runner either e.) Had no real athletic experience at all f.) Didn't even know that much about triathlon, but like my job taught me, I smiled at him.

Few months later he quit his gainful job to become Ironman Champion and few months later I found out he was mountain biking and had given up the idea of triathlon. Speaks volumes about his desire, doesn't it?(Man, I am so judgemental).

Yes, Lionel Sanders went from an amateur to a pro, he went from a 10:14 Ironman to a 7:44, but he is Lionel Sanders. He stuck with his sport, he was pretty fucking good as a runner even before he did triathlon and believe me, 10:14 on a 1st Ironman is pretty darn good.

Subbu and Richard are brilliant athletes, but their times won't win them Olympic Gold medals. And even if it did, it wouldn't be like someone would start paying them for it.

Yuki Kawauchi, who won the Boston Marathon in 2018, worked as a full-time employee for YEARS and still ran Sub 2:10. He decided to quit his job after many years of running because since winning Boston(read: winning one of the most prestigious marathons of all time), he had a lot of sponsorship offers and in Japan you can't earn money from sponsorship till you are a Government employee.

Out of the 110 Men & Women who qualify for the Olympic Triathlon, 10-15 make enough money from sponsorship or have federations paying for them. Others have day jobs and train in the time which is left for them after the job.

Life is too short to spend time finding ways to make it unnecessarily easier. Work teaches you things you won't learn anywhere else, it teaches you to be humble, it teaches you to do things even if you don't like them so that you can build strength later on in life, it teaches you how to deal with unprecedented scenarios and people and above all, it gives you financial strength to follow your hobby and become pretty good at it. And if you do have the talent to be the best, you will become the best. But until you aren't the best, the 24 hours in a day are enough to do things you want if you prioritise them correctly. Getting off Facebook will help you save a lot of minutes which you can add to your morning run, as an example.

If you quit your job to just to qualify for Berlin Marathon or finish an Ironman in 10 hours, that's not only aiming low, that's just sad because human beings are capable of so much more. As some wise man once said "Work sets you free"; it's cryptic but really true.

Sports Roundup

The Tour De France will finally come to a close and I can have my life back.

3 weeks back, there were talks of Chris Froome and how he will win his 5th Tour De France or how the Dutchman, Tom Dumoulin will finally beat Froome. There were talks of Team Movistar’s 3 leaders and of Peter Sagan and the green jersey.

All through the Tour, Team Sky were bullied, they were abused, fans tried to make the riders crash, they threw dirt at them and they even tried to hit them physically. The Tour was rather disappointing in that sense, the fans were unruly and one of them even made Vincenzo Nibali crash on Alp D'Huez just to take a picture. Let's leave pictures to the professionals, they look a lot better that way:

No one talked about 3 weeks back about this Welshman, this guy, Geraint Thomas, a former 2 time Olympic Gold medalist in Track cycling. The Robin to Chris Froome’s Batman in Team Sky. Froome has won 6 Grand tours, but his team has played a huge role in all his victories, biggest of which were played by this man. He has had the talent to win a Grand Tour on his own and lead his own team, but when you have a 6 time Grand Tour Winner in your team, those chances are few and far between. He had his chance last year at the Giro D’Italia but he crashed and had to abandon.

This year, on Stage 11 of the Tour De France, in the last kilometer of the stage, he launched an attack, inadvertently to drop Dumoulin off his wheel or with purpose to pull Macbeth's assassination of King Duncan on Froome, we would never know, but he succeeded.

He pulled on the Yellow jersey that day and then the very next day, on the Queen stage of the Tour, on the famed Alp d’Huez he became the 1st British rider to win on that mountain.

He reiterated to each of his naysayers who said he won’t ever win a 3 week Tour, that he was going to be present, for each attack. And he did that, he never got dropped, he never missed a chance to attack and when a piece of French asshole from the crowd tried to make him fall on Stage 16, he miraculously managed to stay upright.

Yesterday he rode hard on the TT stage, almost slipping at one corner but regained his composure, finishing 3rd on the stage yesterday and thereby winning his 1st ever Grand Tour, in the biggest event in cycling, Tour De France. This is for all the underdogs, this is for everyone who work away in silence, this is for everyone who are waiting for their day to come: It will. And when it does, it will be this beautiful:

Green Jersey: The 2nd most prestigious jersey in this competition went, for the 6th time, to the legend, the man, Peter Sagan.

He showed why he is a 3 time World Champion, when on tough mountain stages all his rivals missed time cut-offs, he not only survived he even finished 4th on Stage 14 on a Cat 2 climb.
And then when he crashed on Stage 17, and rode the next 3 days in immense pain, he refused to give up.

Polka Dot Jersey: It is supposed to go the best climber, which was Geraint Thomas but instead there is a points competition and it goes to the person who scored the most points in that competition.
And this year, it went to Julien Alanphilipe.

But Alanphhilipe was impressive, winning 2 stages and actually riding quite well, trying to stay at the front and gaining as many points as he could.

White Jersey: The jersey awarded to the best young rider went to a Frenchman with the most French name possible: Pierre LaTour.

He won it by over 5 minutes, with 2nd place going to the immensely talented Egan Bernal from Colombia, who at 21, not only finished the Tour De France, he played an impressive domestique to Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas.

Mark my words, he will be a future winner of this race. If you don't believe me, ask Chris Froome, he shares my opinion.
Special Shoutouts:
Michal Kwiatkowski: The 2014 World Champion is the most impressive Tour domestique since George Hincapie. This guy can climb, he can Time Trial, he can sprint and yet he chooses to be with Team Sky as a domestique, pulling the peloton at a high intensity so that no one can really launch an attack. And when his job is done, he coasts to the finish line, no wasting a single watt of energy.

Tom Dumoulnin: Yes, he whines a lot, but the World Time Trial champion finished an impressive 2nd in the Tour De France, winning the TT stage and beating Chris Froome(who finished 3rd overall). The fact that he finished 2nd in the Giro and yet he launched attack after attack on Team Sky, showed he has a bright future ahead of him and that he will be adding to his Giro win from 2017.

Lawson Craddock: He is the Lantern Rouge(Red Lantern) of this Tour De France. The last finisher.
But in my opinion, he is a real winner. Let me explain.

He crashed on the 1st stage and broke his scapula(shoulder bone). Now if you have biked, you know, that your shoulder is really important and any bump or jolt on the bike would hurt a broken bone, quite miserably. This Tour had Roubaix cobbles! And Mountains! And TT stages! All of which would result in a level of pain I can't even comprehend.

But Lawson isn't Neymar. He doesn't cry like a baby. He decided to not only ride, but pledged 100$ for every stage he finished to a charity and the money would go to rebuilding the velodrome in Houston, Texas which was destroyed by the recent floods and he encouraged others to donate too.

Guess what:

He raised $157,826(maybe more). And he finished the whole Tour De France: The Toughest human endurance event in the WORLD!

Take a bow Lawson! Take a cue from him you sissy candyass footballers.

Thank you for reading!


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