Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thonnur Swimathon 2016

How did the idea of Thonnur Swimathon come to my mind
I got the 1st feeling of the an ideal Triathlon when i participated in the Olympic category for a Triathlon in Chennai hosted by Chennai Trekkers Club in Year 2015. After completing the event, i had more confidence in participating in a Triathlon and could even think for more. One of the runners introduced me to Thonnur Triathlon. Once i shifted to Bangalore, i was always on the lookout for the registrations to Thonnur Tri. 
Thonnur Swimathon 2016

This was the 1st time ever - Enduro sports had organized a Swimathon prior to the main core Tri Thonnur. I began my Swimming preparations a month ago. Thanks to Rahul - who helped me on the preparations. With the access to a 30m Meter pool - it was a daunting task even to complete a kilometer in the pool. If i had to cover 2.5 kms in the pool, i would have to swim more than 2 hours and do more than 30 laps per session. I initially started swimming for 1 hour and increased my pace. Before the event, i gave 2 trials for a full 2 hour session. Weather was a hindrance almost every day - gloomy, dull and with the onset of monsoons. I did miss a few days on the practice but tried to keep up the pace and momentum. 
2.5 km route

I drove to Mysore a day in advance to avoid any chaos and confusion on the Karnataka bandh. The team had organized a stay at Hotel Siddharth, Mysore (25% discount) for Swimmers. I had the whole day in Mysore but couldn't do anything due to the bandh. The Hotel is famous for the "Filter Coffee" so i sat for a couple sessions. Had dinner early so that i could get good rest for the next days challenge. I guess i could not - the anxiety for the swim and not to miss the bus for the venue.

Thonnur Swimathon (July 31st, 2016) 
Woke up at 3 am and got ready, the transport was arranged for all participants to go to the venue. Thonnur Lake is approx. 38 kms from Mysore - a 1 hour drive. I did not want to take the risk driving alone assuming i would get lost mid way. Most of the participants were sleeping while i was awake awaiting the destination. After a small climb, i could sense we were here. Yes, it was early morning and Lake Thonnur looked beautiful. It had a beautiful landscape. A cloudy and windy. Enduro Team was busy getting all the arrangements done, the buoys were in place etc. Announcement was done soon for Swimmers to get ready and briefing to be done. 
It was the 5k swimmers who take the charge followed by 2.5 k swimmers and 1k. There were nine buoys marked with flags - so for me to do the 2.5kms - i had to do 2 loops followed by a small loop of 500metres. There were colored flags at every buoy so that swimmers do not get lost or confused. At every loop - the Swimmer had to call out for their bib for their completion of the loop. The organizers had done a fantastic job on this - well planned. 
Once the signal was given for the 5k swimmers, i could sense my heartbeat - pounding like never before. Now, it was our turn to jump into the water. I wanted to start late as there were quite a few who wanted to rush / compete the race. My focus was to complete the 2.5km in a good time and get the experience of an open water swim. 
1st loop swim - After the signal, i jumped into the water, there i was all alone testing my endurance, speed, agility, focus and destination. My 1st 200 meters was a clueless swim - drank a lot of water, fear of getting drowned, fear of getting cramps in my left leg, water penetrating in my Speedo goggles. I took hold at one of the buoys - relaxed for a while and tried to focus. I was all alone to decide whether to call for help of swim further. At a far distance - i could see the green flag - long way to go. I was in the water again in Freestyle mode to swim further. I was better this time as i gained momentum and covered a few meters. Once my head was up to see if i am in the right direction - i came to know that i had swam away from rest of the pack. I had to swim back again next to the buoys - i realized that for every 3/4 strokes - i had to look up and see if i am in the right direction. Once reaching the green flag - i had covered 300mts of swim and had to hit back to the bay for 1 loop completion. I was on a easy mode swimming back - more confident with a variation of Freestyle and breaststroke. On completing of the 1st loop - I did bump into a few swimmers and got a solid kick on my face - making my goggles lopsided. Waited for a while, put my goggles on and off i was on to complete my 1st loop. Called out for my bib number and decided to take a small break. i saw a few 1st timers do the same. Chatted for a while and was back again in the lake. 

2nd loop swim - The 2nd loop swim was a difficult one. Since the Sun was out in the morning, it was warmer and a bit windy. Every stroke seemed difficult - waves had gathered and the momentum was very slow. It was a herculean task now to swim. I changed my focus on breaststroke to go on with an easy pace and to avoid loss of energy. I had various thoughts in my mind but i was focused to complete the 2nd loop in a easy pace. Timing was not an issue and i knew once completing the 2nd loop, the balance 500 meters will be a smooth swim. I guess i took a longer swim this time as i was exhausted. Once reaching the bay, i took a small break , drank water and off again for the last lap.
3rd loop swim - this was the last loop and i knew i was close to my destination. Now, i only had to cover half the swim of 500metres. I began at an easy pace and was very happy that i was towards completing my finish line. As i reached my destination towards the bay, i felt happy of all the hard work i had done. This was a moment to cherish.

At the finish line. 2.5 kms in 1:22 mnts.
Timings - When i got the Split timings a day later, i could not believe for a moment. I swam better than my regular practice sessions. During my practice in a 30m meter pool in SNN Raj Serenity, in a 1 hour slot - i used to cover 900 mts. Before the Swim, i gave a try to complete a 2km mark just to check on my timings - i covered the 2km mark in 2 hours. As per the timings - i swam the 2km in 1hr 4mnts. - huge difference with an open swim. Overall - i swam the 2.5kms in 1:22:02 seconds.

Thanks - Special thanks to Enduro team who made the event a grand success and memorable. Without your support Ajit Thandur, Prajwal Prasad and Abhilash - the Swimathon would not have been possible. Excellent support on the Buoys, registration, timings, transport and logistics. Hats off....Special thanks to Rahul for helping me during practice sessions in SNNR Raj Serenity. And lastly, Soma and Siya who i always look up for my adventures.

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Amazing Thailand

As it was our Daughter’s 1st birthday, we wanted to make it special and memorable. Being living in South India past 13 years, we wanted to explore the neighboring countries – being closer and affordable to travel. As we had traveled as a couple to various places like US and bike trip to Sri Lanka for 2 weeks on a shoestring budget, the travel to Thailand had to be planned. Thailand summers are similar to Coastal India with a high humidity level – April to May. But traveling during Summers is the best time – a clear view of Blue waters and a perfect time for Scuba diving. It is also affordable - food and accommodation is very good. Buying a flight ticket from Bangalore to Bangkok or Bangalore to Delhi will be almost same. So if you plan a trip to North India ex: Delhi – the traveling time to Delhi or Bangkok is the same. Getting Visa is very easy as Thailand is a Mecca for tourists or you can get Visa on arrival.
We chose our travel during summer, got the Visa’s, cash, hotel bookings etc. For my little daughter Siya, it was 1 week of stock Nan Pro and Cerelac. We were off from Chennai to Bangkok on an early morning Air Asia Flight. We had planned to cover Bangkok , Krabi and Koh Phi Phi islands.

Bangkok- Checked in at St James Hotel, Sukhumvit. I had one of my school friends living in Bangkok for many years – kudos to him to arrange a 1 day full trip to Bangkok. We visited the Central World Shopping Mall,  Asiatique Night Market, SIAM Square, and did the River cruise. If one really loves shopping – Bangkok is the best place (new designs at affordable price). There are a lot of flee markets in Bangkok. Grabbing a meal for the day is never a problem – restaurants and eating joints are at every corner street. My little daughter was in a bit shock seeing new faces and new city – totally perplexed what was going on, but later she got used to the travel. One of the most common mode of transport is the Skytrain (BTS) , Auto Rickshaw (TukTuk), Subway, Express boat and Bike Taxis – so getting around was never a problem. The river cruise is worth a visit – a must to see.

Bangkok -Ao Nang –Krabi 
We took a early morning flight from Bangkok to Krabi – a short 1 hour flight. The Krabi Airport looked fantastic – lush greenery with hundreds of Palm trees around. Now, we were happy as we left the Concrete Jungle amidst nature. We bargained for a taxi and headed straight for the Hotel in Ao Nang. It was hot and humid, we had carried a few bottles with us to prevent from De-hydration. 
 Ao-Nang is small town in Krabi Province. Ao-Nang is a base town from where you can head towards Koh Phi Phi island and to Phuket. There are many small Islands around and you can take a ferry or hire small boats.

Our Hotel Haleeva Sunshine is on the main road and not far from the beach. We took a short nap as the day was hot. In the evening, we ventured out for local sigh seeing and enquiries for the next day’s venture. The local food is worth to taste.

The next day, we did a 1 day trip to all the Main Islands around Ao Nang. We hired a small boat to take us around the main islands. As we left Ao – Nang beach – the water was getting clear with a touch of blue color. I really can’t express how beautiful the color of the water was – aquamarine blue. I wouldn’t have imagined in my life to see beautiful water than this. The West Railey beach look splendid – a perfect getaway. We also visited Chicken and Poda Island. I ventured out with Snorkeling here – jumping in the ocean was a big fear, but once you take the plunge – it’s an experience of a lifetime.  I spent a couple of hours snorkeling as the experience was exhilarating. Even Siya was anxious to jump into the water, I guess by now – she realized, we were on a holiday trip. It was time to head back to Ao-Nang as it was mid-day and getting hotter. It was a 2 hour boat ride to the Ao nang Beach. In the evening, we hired a Scooty to see the night life in Ao Nang. It is easy to hire a scooter – cheap and affordable. In the evening, the streets are full with local food and sweets.
Ao Nang beach - Rajiv & Siya
Ao-Nang – Ko Phi Phi Islands
Early morning, we took a ferry from Ao Nang beach to Ko Phi Phi Islands. It is a big boat which can ferry 200 passengers and carries goods and food packets to the main Islands. The ride was more than 3 hours but one take the advantage of seeing all the islands we cross by. The water is absolutely fantastic – clear as never seen before.

We reached the Tonsai Bay – one of the main islands of Koh Phi Phi. As we reached Ko Phi Phi Don –the vibe changed completely. At the edge of the dock, we could see line of touts extending their package tours of the islands. And we had hundreds of tourists flocking the islands. Most of the people were in party mood. Most of the people were in shorts, flip flops, hat and goggles. The hotel staff accompanied us to the Hotel – Phi Phi Andaman Legacy Resort. It’s a 20 minute walk from the Deck to the hotel. What I really liked was – no motor vehicles allowed on the main island. En- route to the hotel – you will find loads of shops, travel agencies and Scuba diving centers.

The resort was beautiful as it was close to the beach. The facilities were the best one could have and value for money. In the evening – we took a stroll of the islands. It’s a Mecca for tourists – restaurants, bars, tattoo studios, Arts and Crafts etc. The beach looked spectacular in the evening. Soma loved the Sea-food buffet we had in the evening. 
I had booked a Refresher Program with the Padi Certified Scuba center – The Adventure Club. The package included 2 dives with Full diving equipment with maximum of 60 minutes per dive. It includes Lunch, Photographs taken during Diving etc
Scuba Diving – Phi Phi Islands

We assembled early morning at the center for a quick learning session before heading towards the boat. Equipments & Gear, food were quickly transported to the boat so that we could start early. We had a video presentation on board with the Safety features & use of the sign language. It took us a while to understand all this,, the excite started building and soon we had to wear the gear.

Now, since I have been Biking all my life – wearing a gear for a motorcycle ride would take 15 minutes, but getting on to a swimsuit , face mask, oxygen cylinders etc, min, 25 minutes – by the time we were full geared – it looked like a gear of 100 kgs..
1st Dive

I was lucky to have a Venezuelan scuba diver (the Spanish connection) really worked well. My 1st jump was a big splash but once I was in the deep ocean – it was calm and silent as never before. I soon looked back for my instructor – using the sign language – we were now in Deep in the Ocean. With a variety of Sea Fishes and Corals – it was a moment to cherish. It is out of the world experience. I was comfortable at the moment and was heading to more depth. I could feel the pressure in my hears and more silence. The Corals were like magic with hundreds of shapes and sizes. It is said that – Koh Phi Phi has one of the best diving places in the world – I truly believed it now. My instructor wanted to get the best benefit today – as it was a clear day, we soon swam further where there were more rocks. Wanted to see shoals of fish, sharks and tortoise. Marta soon spotted a baby shark near a Coral, I just simply looked at it. We tried spotting a Tortoise but failed to so. I was tired and gave a signal to Marta (instructor) to head upwards to the boat. We were soon out of the deep blue Ocean. Off was my mask and with exhilaration I said – Wow, this is absolutely fantastic. 
Deep Blue Ocean
We were 8 divers and had to wait for everybody to come out. Our boat was very nearby and we soon left for the next destination. We had lunch and relaxed a bit. Our 2nd dive was deeper touching to 50 meters and a new location. 
The new location was very close to Maya Bay. Maya Bay is a very famous beach and came to popularity during the shooting of the film "The Beach" starring now Oscar Award winner Leonardo Di Caprio. The movie describes the location and it's white sandy beaches. While i stood standing at Maya Bay, Nature was it its best. One could not have described anything better than this. We soon headed for the diving location .  It was Turquoise water with a different variety of fishes. I spotted the famous "Nemo" fish and had an experience of Big Tortoise swimming besides me. One of friends spotted a Shark but the time we reached, it swam away. 
Soma and Siya had a wonderful day at the resort swimming by the Pool side. 
Next day, we took a ferry back to Ao Nang and then to Bangkok.
While we looked at our pictures smiling over the experiences we had, these are memories unforgettable. Now, we can say - Siya has the wee bit on adventure just like Mom and Dad.
This was truly a well laid back adventure trip. Now, i have one of the activities - Scuba Diving off my Bucket list. I still look at cheap fares on Air Asia so that i can my next trip.
Soma, Siya & Rajiv - Ko Phi Phi Don beach

Longtail boats - Ko Phi Phi beach

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