Having started his triathlon journey in 2013, Nupur Shikhare has completed two half and three full Ironman events in his career so far. Scott Bikes have recently appointed the triathlete as their newest brand ambassador and he is now set to become the face of the brand in the Indian market. In this exclusive interview, Nupur Shikhare speaks about his triathlon journey, experiences so far, preparations for the Ironman 70.3, importance of mental strength and his future goals.
Q 1) What motivated you to pursue triathlon professionally since you began the sport in 2013?
I have always been into fitness, I am a fitness trainer by profession. I have been running since 2007. Nothing really big, just the Mumbai marathon every year. I was born and brought up in Pune where there is a lot of cycling. In Pune we always used our cycles to commute anywhere. Once I started running, I did a couple of half marathons and then did a full marathon. After doing a few full marathons, my friends and I decided to do something else just for the kick. Someone said let's do Ironman. Back then I didn't know much about triathlon but the name sounded pretty cool, so we signed up for a half Ironman.
Just the preparation was exciting and the fact that you get to practice 3 different disciplines was good enough for me to dig deeper into the sport. After doing a couple of half Ironmans, I signed up for my first full Ironman in 2016 which was the Ironman South Africa. I guess along the way I got somewhat addicted to the sport and I liked the fact that it gives you a goal for a good 6-8 months in a year. It puts you in a discipline of not just aimlessly working out but following a certain structure which you put to test towards the end of the training via a race.
Q 2) How was the experience of competing in two half and two full ironman events in your career so far?
The 1st one was just the excitement of doing something new and it might not be the best reason to start but it is the truth. I signed up for 70.3 Taiwan in 2013 and back then I had a mountain bike and not a road bike. I did not know much about the sport and I didn't know that I couldn't ride on a mountain bike. Getting a new mountain bike was exciting but it was also expensive. Planning the whole race and generating your own funds was quite challenging because I'm a freelancer. I rented a bike for the Taiwan marathon which was the first time I used a road bike.
Once you ride a road bike you get hooked to it and there is no looking back. The whole build up to the race and then the actual race itself was a whole different feeling which got me to sign for the 2nd half Ironman in Malaysia. I was more prepared for that one but I still didn't have a road bike. I took one of my friend's bikes which was a tri bike and did that race. 2016 was when I did my first full Ironman and 3 months before that was when I got my own road bike. In 2017 was the marathon in Copenhagen which was more about getting my timing better and put more structured training into place. That worked out and it was my best race timing wise. Last month I did the one in Italy and that's been the journey so far. I'm looking forward to doing at least one race a year.
Q 3) How are you preparing yourself for the Ironman 70.3 in Goa next month?
I haven't done Goa before because the last time it happened in 2019 I was focusing a bit more on my running that year. I have traveled to Goa in between and I'm a little aware of the course, especially the bike course. From what I've heard from friends who have done it in the past it is quite challenging. Cycling is my favorite discipline but as far as preparations are concerned I'm trying to put in as many climbs as I can. What I like to do is get my bike and a support car to do a khandala ride because that is the exact distance. Not the same climb but it is pretty similar, so I'm focusing on spending more time on the bike. Weather in Goa will be humid but since I live in Mumbai I'm kind of familiar with the weather. I'm just hoping that my calculations fall in place on the big day.
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Q 4) What are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced in your career so far? How did you overcome them?
My biggest two challenges were in the first two races when I didn’t have a bike. Fitness wise I have been very active since childhood as I played national level tennis, so discipline is something I am used to. As a triathlete the expenses we incur to train and participate I would say our biggest challenges since I’m a freelancer in this sport. Triathlon is an expensive sport and athletes tend to get carried away and spend a lot of money. One thought that always comes to mind is what my tennis coach used to say that equipment is the equipment more important than sport or it is the passion of the sport you want to pursue, so I think that has stuck forever.
Q 5) How important is mental strength in coping up with the demands of a sport like triathlon?
Not only in triathlons but in your day to day life mental strength is very important. I in fact feel discipline in life helps a lot as it tells you what really matters in your life. All the mental challenges I feel I tend to channelize into my training. Yes, it is demanding but on the other hand you get the satisfaction of doing something you like. At the end when I feel down I tend to remember the hard I have put into this and get an immense satisfaction when I cross the finish line.
Q 6) What are your future goals and how are you working towards achieving them?
I’m 37 now, I started this very late in life and obviously I like to maintain a balance. Clearly I have to do other jobs as well, I cannot leave everything and do triathlons. What I hope to do is that I keep doing what I’m doing for the next twenty years as I probably start getting podiums in the 50 or 60 category but I want to keep getting better as that's the main goal.