Peppered with self-deprecatory humour, the book titled 'Anywhere But Home: Adventures in Endurance' (Harper Collins) talks about how Vaidyanathan stumbled upon triathlon and the various challenges that she had to face as a woman to continue to stay in the sport.
Triathlete Anu Vaidyanathan, the first Indian to compete in the Ironman and the first Asian to complete Ultraman Canada triathlon says as a woman training in India poses its own unique challenges.
The 34-year-old says she used to not get up later than 4 am to train lest she fell prey to eveteasing and often had to dress up in a ‘sack’ to avoid attention after a workout.
“I would get up very early and be on the road. People would comment and I had to dress up in a sack, covering my self fully to become invisible,” she says.
Triathlon is an arduous sport involving swimming, cycling and running and Vaidyanathan became the first Asian to compete in the Ultraman Canada, a race comprising a 10 kilometre swim, a 420 kilometre bike ride and an 84.4 kilometre run.
She backed this up with the Ironman Canada, three weeks later, becoming the only athlete to do so in the history of the race.
Fondly known as Anu, the sportsperson has compiled anecdotes from her eventful life in the form of a memoir that was recently launched here.
Peppered with self-deprecatory humour, the book titled ‘Anywhere But Home: Adventures in Endurance’ (Harper Collins) talks about how Vaidyanathan stumbled upon triathlon and the various challenges that she had to face as a woman to continue to stay in the sport.
On one such occasion, the athlete turned writer describes how a national level swim coach had thought her to be too old for swimming at the age of 23 and advised her to tie the knot and settle down.
“When I was 23 years old, a national level swimming coach said that I am too old for the sport and that I should leave it and marry a nice guy,” she says.
She says she has faced extra challenges in training, such as the absence of a women’s restroom in Bengaluru’s Kanteerva Stadium. One account she recounts being heckled by men while biking on roads and even chased by dogs during her early morning runs.
The Ultraman Canada (2009) in which she was placed sixth required her to swim for 10 km, followed by a 420 km bike ride and an 84.4 km run, over the course of three consecutive days.
This was followed by Ironman Canada four weeks later which comprised of a 3.8 km swim, a 180 km bike ride and a 42.2-km run.
Vaidyanathan, who is a PhD in electrical engineering from UC Canterbury in the US, currently teaches courses in computer architecture, innovation and business policy at the Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar as well as the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Her 192-page book is essentially a repository of both funny and heart-breaking encounters of a woman who refused to give up.
It is also a tale of motherhood and pushing the boundaries of what a body can do.
Among the many hurdles that came her way, she writes about the times when she was stuck in sports facilities that lacked basic support systems, even toilets and of times when if she wanted to compete, it would have had to be on her own salary.
While participating in the Ultraman, she says, she could not afford a high end professional bike and therefore had to settle for a cheaper aluminium one.
“People were laughing at my aluminium bike and I was laughing back at them because I knew that my last bike was even worse!” she quips.
Married to a Punjabi, Vaidyanathan who became a mother two years ago is currently embracing motherhood, but says that she continues to take care of her diet to stay fit.
“Though I am not following a strict training routine now, but I make it a point to go for work-outs, eat healthy and avoid eating outside as much as I can,” she says.
Vaidyanathan has also founded PatNMarks, an Intellectual Property consulting firm that offers services like early stage conceptualisation, budgeting, drafting strategy and filing for Intellectual Property among others.