When we heard about this other Indian who completed Race across America 15’ under a US-registered team, we were delighted. Even though the glory did not come to India, we got in touch with the hero to share his side of the story with you. Born and brought up in India, Subramani Venkatesh from the local cycling team Riverside informed us about his experience at the grueling Race across America. Registered under the US team of 8 and completed 3,000 miles, coast-to-coast contest in just 5 days, 23 hours and 9 minutes. Read on to know about his findings and experience below.
Before Subbu got addicted to the adrenaline rush!
As a graduate in engineering from MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, he moved to Kolkata to earn a living. With the long hours of working came an uninvited guest – increased weight. With the spike in his weight, ‘Subbu’ as he is lovingly called moved back to his hometown Bangalore. Here he got another job and started running to get rid of the fat that reduced from 94 to 72 kgs over a period of three years.
When did things change?
Self-motivated Subbu soon got an opportunity to work in the States and that’s when his life took a 360-degree turn. He goes on to tell our own Abhishek Tarfe that, unlike anyone’s story RAAM here is not given much of importance. People casually just come and ask you how your race was and that’s about it.
Right after he moved to the US, he kept running until his knee started bothering him. Subbu who was already an adrenaline junkie decided to start cycling with groups. As one might be happy after this, Subbu had other plans. His interest in triathlons grew and eventually became a part of the madness. Besides, he also does a bit of individual time trial as he loves to go all guns blazing.
How it all started?
There are numerous cycling groups and the ones Subbu belongs to are 2 clubs; one is owned by a local bicycle store- Riverside Cycles, Newburyport, MA and other is local multi-sport team Port Racing. People used to conduct rides every week and others would join in. That’s when Pat Kelly (who is part of group rides at Riverside) decided to put up a team for Race across America as a team of 8. He requested Riverside to pick up a team. Riverside cycles Marketing and Sales authority Katherine (who is also a cyclist) contacted a lot of cyclists including Subbu who was first listed as a backup rider. As things got serious people started dropping out and Subbu came in the picture. Finally, the team got serious and Subbu’s focus was on his training where he was assisted by Phil Wong (cycling coach).
His training included 4 months of base training during the cold winters and would then ride in the open when the weather sobered down. Subbu would train 10 to 12 hours cycling and 6 to 8 hours cross training (Swim and Run) weekly which also included a lot of tempo workout and threshold.
What was the team targeting?
The target of the team was to go as hard as each rider could and maintain a minimum speed of 22 miles/hr. As the race approached, their crew chief Dave Eldridge and the team practiced together where they were taught rider exchange. Overall the team trained for about 200 miles and that’s when Subbu had a crash. With an injured shoulder, he had to put off training for a while.
What Subramani Venkatesh thinks about RAAM?
He says that the race is not that of an individual rider, but the entire team including crew, who works hard day and night to keep race going smooth (Crew plays a big role in supporting riders day and night, cooking food, carrying your baggage, laundry, driving you to hotels, massages, letting you rest/recover as much as possible after ride) . It not only tests the physical and mental endurance of the riders but also that of the crew members.
Without their corporation, the race is impossible to finish. He even states that, you are not racing one kind of weather, but you are fighting heat in the Mojave deserts, sand dunes, wind through Kansas plains, big Rocky Mountain climbs and cool weather in Colorado, finally the last section when body is fighting fatigue you are climbing Appalachian mountains through West Virginia, and so on that keep coming one after the other.
Besides, what he loved the most were the volunteers who work endless hours feeding and taking care of all your other needs without getting paid.
When asked about their team strategy?
The strategy was very simple. The crew and the riders were divided into a team of 2 of 4 riders in each team named as Team Shake and Team Bake, then would race between time stations which is approximately 200 to 250Miles depending on the day. Every rider would race for 15 minutes depending on the terrain and the weather. At the end of the day, their riders would exchange their teams at the fixed and planned time stations.
This strategy permitted every rider to rest for about 3 to 4 hours where Subbu and the other teammates would try to get some sleep and recover for their turn in the moving car or hotels.
What was their diet during the race?
Their diet was nothing specific. Their crew would cook oatmeal, sandwiches, pizza, burritos and many other items that fueled them for the journey. For hydration, they would rely on water, energy drinks like a scratch, coke, and salt tablets as electrolytes.
How was it fighting at the gruelling race?
“RAAM was certainly more difficult than what I expected, even after the long hours of training it was tough. I would certainly rate its difficulty higher than Iron distance (2.4miles swim, 112miles bike and 26.2miles run) triathlons that I finished. Those of you into long distance cycling should certainly give it a try someday.”
It brings out the naive side of you as you fight different feelings and emotions at the same time. Lack of sleep, physical stress further aggravates the reaction. You get to learn a lot in RAAM. It definitely taught me that when endurance sports like RAAM are successful it is because of good teamwork. There are many occasions during the race when you can step out of line because of fatigue, lack of sleep and frustration, but you certainly learn to control those emotions, in fact, you don’t think of those when you have a very good team or smiling crew members which are more encouraging.
“I love going hard and strong and that’s why I would love to do it again as a team of 4 or 8, but not anytime sooner.”
Besides, he also would love to be a part of an Indian team in the future.
Editor: Arthi Basak
Special Thanks to Subramani Venkatesh