Athlete Focus: Sridhar Venkataraman
Sridhar came to me as a brand newbie to Triathlon under a year ago. His faultless work ethic saw him absorbing the training well and picking up new skills quickly.His 2nd place finish in his Age Group at his 70.3 debut in Putrajaya, is a great testament, not only the hard work that he has put in, but also to his youthful curiosity and willingness to explore new challenges both in training and racing.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey so far, obstacles overcome and breakthrough performances.
I was a nerd in school with very protective parents who were quite clear that academics was the preferred path – not that I was any good at that either – poor them! But have always been an outdoorsy kind of guy. Mountaineering, rock-climbing, high altitude trekking – I have some awesome mates who have been cheering me from the start. Some of them got into endurance sports and they encouraged me to do the same.
I have been an avid runner for the last four years. A couple of years ago, I had a disastrous start to my tri career when I panicked in my first sprint attempt during the swim and got myself hauled back by boat.
I joined some open water sessions and did my first Olympic Distance swim a few months later. I discovered that my swim technique was all awful and I worked on it with a specialist swim coach for over a year using the TI technique.
Since, I started working with Shem, I have realised what a difference a coach can make; especially if I want to get serious about the sport and more importantly if I want to enjoy my training. The Method basically achieves this goal by easing your body and mind gently yet firmly into the groove of training every day. The sessions are calibrated and tailor made for me with just the right bit of challenge. The workouts are never boring and they teach you to stay focused throughout instead of coasting along aimlessly. Congratulations Sridhar! And thank you for taking the time to share your journey with us.
Q: What role did your squad sessions play a part in your race prep?
The sessions are just awesome. The atmosphere is electrifying and the camaraderie is uplifting and fun. You need a group to push you and make the training fun. I travel one hour out and one hour back just to attend their sessions. It made a huge difference with Coach Shem giving the right nudges at the right times.
Q: How have you improved & what have you learnt about endurance racing and training under my coaching.
Shem is a no – nonsense and inspiring coach. Tells you when you are doing well and when you need to buck up and more importantly how to buck up. The core sessions were invaluable. The nutrition and race tips made all the difference. He also has the right touch to motivate and inspire me.
Q: How did you feel crossing the line of your 1st Half Ironman with such an impressive result?
Honestly, I just wanted to finish. Impressive result?If you say so, I will take it. But I have larger promises to keep and many miles to go before I sleep!
Q: Briefly talk us through the race.High/ low points during the race. Standout thoughts at certain points in the race.
I used to be intimidated by the swim. Not anymore. But the run which is my strongest point was what was scary considering the conditions. But I felt good throughout and never had any low points. It was just ‘flow’ all along for six hours plus.
- Waiting for swim start –
No butterflies, just impatience. I couldn’t wait for it to start!
- Mid way though the bike-
The push did not come and that was a bit disappointing for me.
- Starting out on the run –
Thanks to Shem I was used to listening to my body complaining and as advised by him, just kept going and it just fell together. I did not try any theatrics. Just kept going and kept getting hydrated both within and without.
- Finishing up on the run-
A great feeling knowing that I had finally done it!
Q: How did your training prepare you to stay strong mentally throughout the race?
If not for the training I would not have completed it for sure. A 70.3 is not to be taken lightly. A mentally and physically strong person without training might still complete it but may not have enjoyed it during and after.
Q: Let’s talk about your training. Can you briefly describe your weekly training schedule? How and why that’s working for you.
Two hours a day [one hour in the morning and one in the evening]. I used to do slightly more than my coach asked me to – not necessarily a wise thing. It works for me because I have great support from my family, and not much distractions from them either since both my kids are grown up and away, I have flexible work days as I am an entrepreneur and I set my own pace at work. I am very conscious and concerned about keeping work-life balance and staying disentangled from social encumbrances. Yeah… that’s the mix that has worked for me.
Q: Please share with us the 2 most important ‘take home’ messages that you have learnt about endurance training that everyone needs to hear.
Keep the dialog going between mind and body and be an honest moderator between the two. Let each have its say and get them to get into a working relationship. If you make the mistake of putting any one of them down, you are going to suffer!
Consistency is king.
Q: I always stress the importance of communication in the coach -athlete relationship; your thoughts on this please.
I could have done better here. The coach’s responses were timelier than mine. But still he knew my body better than me.
Q: Any life lessons have you learnt on this journey so far?
Comfort zones are traps. You will keep getting ensnared in them and you have to fight yourself out.
Q: What are the benefits of having a coach? What are the characteristics for a good coach to look out for?
The view from inside looking out is different from someone from the outside looking in – that’s the coach. In the Indian Hindu tradition the hierarchy is as follows: the coach(guru), parents and only then, God. The coach has been there before you and can help you get there quicker, faster and safer. A good coach is one who listens, empathises and knows what the pupil is looking for. And above all he is honest.
Q: Think you can go faster?
I don’t know, you should tell me. As of now I am doing my best, but I need to get stronger!!
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Shem Leong is our ironguides coach in Singapore. He has been hooked on triathlon ever since winning his age group in his first Olympic-distance race. Many top performances later, Shem still enjoys the challenges of training and racing at a high level, while balancing this with work and family. He is a firm believer in the benefits of an active lifestyle and loves being able to positively affect his athletes’ lives in this way. In the four years that Shem has worked as an ironguides coach so far, he has helped more than 60 athletes achieve their goals. They range from newbies hoping to complete their first sprint race, to 70.3 podium contenders, to seasoned Sub 10-hour Ironman athletes. Shem’s care for his athletes and his attention to detail set him apart. He completely understands the varied pull factors of life’s demands as well as the fiery motivations that drive everyday age groupers and is able to craft sustainable, effective training plans for their time-crunched schedules. An Honour’s Degree in Health Science has given Shem the knowledge to explain and expertly administer The Method. This, in turn, helps his athletes understand how each session contributes towards their ultimate goal; as a result, countless personal bests have been improved upon as his athletes continually get fitter and faster.