Interview With Subramani Venkatesh: India’s First Kona Qualifier and Hero Of Ironman

Subramani Venkatesh has been the talk of town after his fantastic performance at Ironman Lake Placid on 24th July 2016. He completed the full Ironman distance race in a super-fast time of 9h:51m, swimming the 3.8K in 1h:10m, biking the 180K in 5h:23m and running the 42.2K full marathon in a blistering 3h:9m. In the process, he finished 2nd in his age group (35-39) and qualified for the Mecca Of Triathlon, the Ironman World Championships, held every year in Kona, Hawaii.

He also shattered numerous Indian records, becoming the 1st Indian to podium at a full Ironman, 1st India Kona Qualifier, fastest Indian time at a full Ironman (beating his own 9h:59m at Ironman Mont Tremblant a few months ago), and 1st Indian to qualify for the iconic Boston Marathon in an Ironman!

Subramani Venkatesh graciously accepted my request to interview him. A few days back, another Indian triathlete Arunabh Shah interviewed him with a focus on his race day, so in this interview, I decided to focus on his training and background, something which I am sure a lot of triathletes are curious about. Here goes:

Atul Godbole: Do you have any background in sports or athletics as a child or teenager? If yes, do you think that is essential to achieve a goal as Kona Qualification or do you believe that anybody without a background can get there given enough time and training. If no, when did you get into running/cycling/triathlons.

Subramani Venkatesh(Subbu): I have been actively involved in sports playing cricket, soccer or any street games in neighborhood, but nothing very organized, it was all for fun. I do not say it is 100% required to qualify for Kona, however being in active in sports will help and motivate you to be competitive. Yes, with proper training you can change a non-athlete to a competitive athlete.

Atul: I know you have mentioned that you train for about 15 hours a week. How do you manage this training load from the time management point of view. Any tips you can provide?

Subbu: Yes average training hours are 15 hours, generally my weekday workouts don’t go longer than 2hrs, so I can easily split the time between morning and evening. Weekends are where I do all my long workouts.

Managing training loads is easy as long as your follow structured training. Most of my training workouts during the week require no more that 16 to 24 recovery time, long workouts on weekends requires more recovery, so training workouts are scheduled accordingly.

Atul: I firmly believe that if you do enough little things right, then eventually BIG things will happen. Do you find this to be true?

Subbu: I believe in keeping short and simple goals. These short term goals are easy to achieve, they motivate, and feed energy to achieve big goals. Having complicated goals have tendency to discourage people and totally quit.

Atul: Diet and nutrition plays a big part in fitness improvements. Do you believe or follow a diet such as Ketogenic, Atkins, etc? What is your general diet like?

Subbu: Nutrition is big, complicated and important subject. Competitive athletes in general do not follow any diet you mentioned above, so am I. Dieting may cause nutrition imbalance and cannot perform well. I believe in eating clean, real food. On a average day my diet looks like this:

Breakfast: Oat meal with Banana, Berries, Peanut Butter and Almond milk

Lunch: Big Spinach Cobb Salad, with Toast of bread or Salmon Sandwich

Dinner: Salmon or Chicken, Potato or Rice and Some Veggies.

Snacks: Nuts and Fruits. Yogurt depending on training.

I like real dark chocolate, so take 2 small slices of 70% or 80% cocoa dark chocolate  to stop the craving.

Atul: For Indian conditions, I believe that a bike trainer can be an invaluable tool to have. Do you use it? Do you find it is useful?

Subbu: Yes I have indoor trainer, I have been using it since I started cycling, to me trainer is mandatory, and winter is tough here, so I have to do all my base training on trainer for 5 months at least. Trainer is very valuable tool if it is used right and makes a big difference. Again nothing beats riding out.

In India, you can take advantage of tropical weather by riding out throughout the year, but having busy schedule trainer is good option to do a quality workout.

Atul: I see a lot of runners and triathletes wanting fast (nay instant) improvements and getting injured in the process. Any thoughts on that? How important is patience when it comes to endurance sports?

Subbu: Speed and fitness is a slow process, following the right structured training will see your fitness changing exponentially. Patience is key for any workouts, controlling your emotions is as important as training itself.

Atul: I always tell athletes I coach that patience, consistency, the right training protocol, right tactics/strategy, etc are much more important than having the right genes. Thoughts on that?

Subbu: Genes do play some role, but yes consistent training and discipline plays big role in fitness

Atul: Sometimes I have a hard time getting some novice athletes to record/measure their workouts. You have mentioned elsewhere being a data junkie. Why do you think ongoing systematic measurement of your training is so helpful?

Subbu: There is lot to talk about it from the coaching perspective. But in simple term numbers are like associating to your pain and body stress, bigger the number, higher the stress. Knowing numbers helps you plan your next workout intensity; history of these numbers helps you understand how your fitness is changing. Without these numbers it is difficult to gauge your body stress or fitness changes.

Thanks to Subbu for these insightful answers. Best of luck to you for Kona from all the Indian tri community, all eyes will be glued to their screens on 8th October


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