Meet the first entrepreneur couple from India to complete the world’s toughest triathlon

30th Jul 2017
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As Kaushik and Vineeta Mukherjee worked hand-in-hand towards their one common goal of completing the world’s most treacherous triathlon, the IRONMAN race, they gave couples everywhere some serious relationship goals! 

Entrepreneurs have said that running a startup feels like riding a bicycle on a hilly range as you race down a valley at the speed of light, only to buoy up again and enjoy the view from the top. In life, the only thing more exhilarating than that is actually getting to experience both, the simulation of it as a startup founder, as well as the real thing – and to have your co-founder, who also happens to be your life-partner, live this experience with you!

As the Mumbai-based entrepreneur couple, Kaushik and Vineeta Mukherjee worked hand-in-hand towards their one common goal of completing the world’s most treacherous triathlon, the IRONMAN race, they gave couples everywhere some serious relationship goals! Here’s how they did it.

Vineeta and Kaushik Mukherjee after finishing the IRONMAN race.

Leading dual lives

Kaushik and Vineeta Mukherjee run the startup FAB BAG, a beauty subscription company, with a team of 35, featuring over a 100 partner beauty brands and clients across the country. The company declared a profit in the last financial year and currently clocks $2 million in annual revenue.

But the two have been leading dual lives. Vineeta has been an endurance runner for almost a decade, with three back-to-back Comrades Ultramarathon (89km) finishes and over 20 full marathons to her credit. While Kaushik doesn’t particularly enjoy running, he used to be swimming captain at university. When the two first heard of triathlons, both their strong suits fit into the idea like two pieces in a puzzle. “It seemed like a fun thing we could do together. We started with a few short distance triathlons and once we started enjoying the swim-cycle-run routine, we toyed with the idea of training for a full-distance IRONMAN race,widely considered as the toughest single-day endurance event in the world,” he recounts.

The idea of a 3.8 km swim+180 km cycle+42.2 km run seemed as exciting as it was extreme, so, about 18 months ago, the duo started training for the event and signed up for the race sometime last year.

While one must complete the entire race in less than 17 hours, each leg has its own cut-offs too. There are more than 30 full IRONMAN races held across the world and other smaller distance events as well. The registration fee for the full distance is around $500 and marginally varies with the location and how close to the race you book it.

A test of mind, body and soul

To train for the race, one must hone all four skills – swimming, cycling, running and strength. So, every week involved 8 to 12 hours of training across these categories – more specifically, approximately 5-6 km of swimming (including swims off the Mumbai coastline), 120 km of cycling (mostly on the Mumbai-Nashik highway) and 30-40 km of running, along with an hour in the gym.

They purchased a training schedule from a popular international triathlon/fitness website called www.trainingpeaks.com. “It was tough during the weekdays - with our business to run and a two-year-old brat at home, we used to barely keep up. Vineeta used to train in the mornings from about 5:30AM to 7:30AM while I used to train in the evenings between 8:00PM to 10:00PM," says Kaushik.

IRONMAN Austria is hosted in the small city of Klagenfurt in Southern Austria which houses the beautiful Wörthersee lake, where the swim takes place. “The logistics around the event is crazy because we travel with our bikes (they're dismantled and put in boxes) helmets, cycling shoes, running shoes, wetsuits for the swim, etc.” On the days leading up to the event, they set up their bikes, tested them, swam in the lake with their wetsuits, completed all registration formalities, andmost importantly, got the right amount of rest and nutrition.

The key was to not get distracted by other athletes, the intimidating lake or the steep climbs on the bike route. “Our only goal was to break up the long race into smaller manageable chunks and take each leg of the race as it came. Vineeta finished the race in 16 hrs and 01 minute while I came in 28 minuteslater,” says Kaushik

A proud moment for Vineeta and Kaushik Mukherjee.

We now pronounce you, Ironman and woman

“The start was surreal. There was U2 blaring from the speakers with, “Where the streets have no name…” and 3,000 athletes in wetsuits testing out the water conditions,” says Kaushik. The first leg of the race was the 3.8 km swim. While Kaushik finished it in about 93 minutes, 10 minutes earlier than his predicted time, Vineeta struggled a bit since there wasn’t a path marked in the lake, and swimming without veering off course too much was challenging. She ended up swimming 600m extra, but nonetheless made the 2hrs 20 minutes cut off for the 3.8 km swim.

After the swim came the 180 km bike ride through the picturesque hills of Klagenfurt in South Austria. As thousands of locals cheered along the route, playing music and offering refreshments, the duo cycled the 180 km course with a gradual elevation of about 1,700 metres. One of the hills was so steep that Vineeta had to get off the bike and drag it for around 500m. The chain also came undone thrice during the ride, due to frequent gear changes. She completed eventually the ride in 7 hours and 40 minutes. In fact, the two also caught up with each other during the run and ran a kilometre together catching up on how the race had gone for each of them so far.

The finishing line finally came into view at a little past 11 pm, flanked by hordes of cheering supporters. “A red carpet led to the finish line and the experience was surreal as I heard the magic words: "Vineeta, you are an Ironman,” she recounts.

A few minutes later, Kaushik ran down the finisher's chute with the Indian flag, and it finally sunk in that the moment they'd dreamt of had actually arrived.

“The hilly bike course had a few really fast descents and it was exhilarating to zip down the path in our cycles – sometimes at a speed of 63 kmph! The finish was grand and made every minute of the effort – both during the race and the months leading up to it – worth it. Lastly, doing it as a couple was special, since both of us had different strengths and it was interesting to share tips and work together towards a common dream,” says” Kaushik.

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