Meet the member – Raj Kielka
Well Raj, how’s the form? How’s everything going for you?
Yeah, 2020 and 2021 so far has been tough for all of us, so I try to be mentally sane heading out and keeping the momentum. Form is not race ready, but fitness base is laid with help from pulse indoor zoom sessions, motivational long run suggestions from Damo and not thankful challenges from Bea.
All these keep me moving with no lack of motivation. I am not a person who enjoys a solo training, so I bother a lot of pulsers by texting if I can join them for training. Happy to see we swim/bike/run together in pods soon.
Last two weeks has been mentally tough for me considering covid situation in India but heading out helps a lot. Believe me, it helps😊.
Tell us about how you got interested in Triathlon and how you came to join Pulse?
My story is no different than all of you. I never heard of Triathlon until year 2018 what is this or if this is a sport. How I got to know, it is an interesting story.
I was into sports till high school at my village in India and I always enjoyed different local sports like Kabaddi, Kho-kho, volleyball and global sport Cricket very popular in India. Being on time on the ground and sweat out some hrs was always good, but as soon as I entered college life, then a career became priority and sports went out of my life. The objective changed to settle down with a good job. I finished my graduation and joined IT sector, but I never liked a metro lifestyle in big cities Bangalore, Delhi or Mumbai.
It all started with a change I was looking for in my life since 2016. I worked on a project in Mumbai and it was too much work. Work stress and not a happy lifestyle turned me into a chain smoker and an alcoholic. This was killing me day by day, so in 2017 I decided that I have to move out of big cities this year, otherwise I will not be able to live my 30s, 40s. I tried moving to Germany first, but did not work out. I was so desperate that as soon as Ireland gave that opportunity, I grabbed with both hands without thinking how different lifestyle will be.
I came Dublin in June 2017, but it was hard to quit all bad habits caught me 4 years even there was a change of place/lifestyle. So, I started going Irish pubs at Temple Bar and hit dance floor after boozing or Canary Wharf in London during work travel.
Now here is the start where things moved slowly into a right direction. My colleague Nishant (Pulser) convinced me to get a MTB for commute to work and I told myself pedaling 4km should not be a big deal. All excited for my first ever bike from Cycle Superstore and next day is first commute day to work, I tell you honestly that I got off the bike for the hill from Cheeverstown Luas stop first roundabout to second roundabout. Actually, there is no hill🤣🤣.
Then again after few weeks Nishant convinced me to hit MTB trails at Ticknock without knowing what this is. A chain smoker can do best what he is best at – carry some cigarettes in bike saddle bag. I used to have a break on the midway of a hill (Stackstown Golf Club road or hills at Ticknock) and smoke a stick. This continued for 3-4 trips to Ticknock in 2017.
Eventually Nishant also convinced me to run Dublin Half Marathon 2018. I told myself I will walk it if I can’t run.
Then there was a moment in my life in April 2018 which changed me completely. My first ever Parkrun (Tymon) 5k, I almost collapsed after first 300-400m, then held my knees. It was crying and very disappointing to see what I have done to my body that I can’t run/walk now. That was the day I quit smoking and determined to give it a good go at Dublin Half Marathon.
The same year Nishant witnessed live IM Dun Laoghaire 70.3 and next day he explained me about Ironman race. He kept me telling for 3 weeks that we should experience this race once in our life. I did not bother about Ironman what it is. After 3 weeks, I went through Ironman Dun Laoghaire video and found it worth. I went to Nishant’s desk straightway and we both signed up IM DL 70.3 with no experience in swim, bike or run. This is how I got interested into triathlon.
Then we started exploring about triathlon clubs in south Dublin and got to know about Pulse. But Pulse swimming requirement was that a new member should be able to swim at least 2 lengths of the pool. So I started going to Tallaght Leisure Centre for swim to learn it myself.
Day 1, I could not swim..Day 2, I could not swim..Day 3, I could not swim …it continued the same pattern for 3 weeks, but I never gave up. After 4 weeks of struggle/disappointment for my swim learning every day, I was able to swim 1 length of pool and next day I joined Pulse.
Tell us about your first race?
My first triathlon race in preparation to IM DL 70.3 was Lough Cutra 70.3 ‘The Gauntlet’ in 2019 with Nishant. I was training IM DL route on bike and few runners at work helped me to improve my running, so I was confident for bike and run. Only swim was a big challenge.
Pulse swimming classes really boosted my confidence for 2km swim endurance. Four open water swims at Killiney gave me a confidence to finish swim leg in the lake. Few tips from and talk with our legendary Mike Gonda made my first race nervousness less because I was nervous for swimming in the lake. I did not interact much with any of pulse members by this time.
We booked our Airbnb stay near Lough Cutra Castle. We collected our race bib numbers a day before and all excited to race it next day. First time I met Dee Needham at bib collection and said hello as she was in Pulse jersey.
On race day, I had oats and breads in the morning. I packed energy bars and gels on bike. Bike and gears were racked and attended race briefing. We were asked to entered into lake and it was a one loop for 2 km. Water temperature was 13 degrees and felt nice, but they asked us to stay 15 mins in water before start. First time, I got to know it’s hard to float in the lake compare to sea. Then a long whistle started, and race began. I was determined I will not come out of swim at last, but I made a rookie mistake. Just one week before, I got a new swimming goggles and I tried them first at race. As soon as I started swim, my goggles became full of water and I was not able to see anything front at all. I stopped and tried to fit it to my eyes, but it did not work out. I became nervous as it was hard to float in the lake water and was not able fit googles. Then I looked behind, there was no one and I was last. Once thought came, my race is over. Then I decided I will count 40 strokes without looking front and then stop and see if I am swimming into right direction to buoys. This helped and I got my rhythm. I was very happy to reach first buoy, second and so on. I was very happy I did not come out of swim at last. This was a small victory towards finish the race.
When I reached the transition area, I looked for Nishant, but he was ahead to me. I started on bike, but many TT bikes were overtaking me. For me, the race was with myself to finish it. There was only hill on bike route which I managed quite well as this was nothing compare to Wicklow IM DL hills.
I managed my nutrition on bike well, so I ran confidently 21km but slow as it was mixed terrain like cross country run. I finished it in 7 hours and felt like a big achievement.
What’s your favourite race/distance to race?
I have no experience in full distance, but my body feels comfortable with endurance compare to sprint. So far, 70.3 distance is my favorite.
What’s your favourite Pulse memory so far?
Pulse Trip to Cork in 2020 when I got to know many Pulse members. I got to know their experience and triathlon journey. I am very new to club, so I did not get much opportunity to race with fellow Pulsers. I have seen support from Pulsers on IM DL 2019 and Dublin marathon 2019. It’s amazing when someone in pulse jersey cheers you up during a race.
What’s the best thing about being in a Triathlon club?
Like minded people. There is always some thing to learn from each other, does not matter how much new or experienced are into the club. We always have something to tell and share mistakes/learnings.
When you’re not swimming or pedalling or running, what keeps you busy?
Then I spend my time Netflixing or watching some documentaries on planet/animal.
Outside of Triathlon, what’s your favourite sporting memory or achievement? (Doesn’t have to be your own!)
India’s Cricket World Cup win in 2011. I was in my final year of graduation and we danced whole night to celebrate the win.
What’s the bucket list, once in a lifetime race you’d love to experience?
Nothing specific, but I would love to do-
- Donegal 555
- Wild Atlantic Way – the TransAtlanticWay
What’s the next Triathlon goal you’d like to tick off?
Ironman Cork and Ironman Barcelona in 2021
What’s your favourite book/movie/tv show? What do you like about them?
I am not a book reader. I watch a lot of movies, mainly Bollywood movies on social issues/history or tv series on nature/real story. ‘Chak De India’ movie is my favorite movie. This movie is about how a team unity can win you a competition than an individual best. ‘Free Solo’ is also one movie I can watch it any day. It’s on Professional rock climber Alex Honnold. My favorite TV series – Our Planet, Blue Planet, Rotten, Money Heist, Game of Thrones, Homeland.
What are the go-to tunes/podcasts for a training session?
I don’t listen any music/podcasts during a training session. I listen to podcasts when cooking food or just relaxing. I listen podcasts in Hindi language.
‘Maha Bharat with Dhruv Rathi’ – this is on how India works, stories on India’s political journey.
‘The Devdutt Pattanaik Show’ – The show takes audience on a voyage of Indian mythology and highlights characters (gods, goddesses), their stories, events and symbols.
Who inspires you, be it in sports or in regular life?
My mom inspires me a lot. She is an uneducated person, but she never says ‘no’ when someone comes to her for any help.
In sports, I am very much inspired by stories of our fellow Pulsers like Mike Gonda, Mike Burke, Joanna Buttler and all mothers still training hard despite busy in fulfilling daily responsibilities kids and work.
Finally, what one nugget of advice would you give to a new member starting out on their Triathlon journey?
Never give up on anything you wish to achieve in your life.
If you are having a lack of motivation, shout at John Goodall, Deb or Mike Burke for a ride on weekend, I guarantee that you will steal some motivation from them. Never shy to share your experience with your fellow club members, either they will appreciate you or suggest you to correct your mistakes.