Thursday 20 August 2015

Fruit Flies and their short life cycle

Fruit Flies and their short life cycle !! 

A couple of weeks ago. Aryan, my son, asked me, "Dad have you watched the cartoon movie 'Epic' ?".   I hadn't.  So he quickly pulled out his phone and showed me one scene which he had found  to be very funny. 

I watched the clip and was totally blown away with what appears to be dark humour but is actually quite profound. 

Two slugs in the forest ask the fruit fly a question, "Hey fruit fly, what's it like to have such a short life cycle?"

The fruit fly answers (in a very young child's voice) : "It's great mister . When I grow up, I'm gonna.......(as he says this, his voice becomes that of an adult , he keeps ageing at an astonishing rate.  One of his legs falls off and he uses it like a walking-stick to hold himself up, but he continues speaking) : ".......I wish i had done more with my life, sonny!  (he then keels over, falls down and dies ).  

All this takes place in 15 seconds. 

I was quite blown away when I saw this.   "I wish I had done more with my life , sonny !!"

This was a life lesson conveyed in less than 15 seconds.  

Made me think of my life span and what I doing with my limited time. 

So here is my goal: For many many many years I've been thinking of doing an ironman triathalon. 

When my brother in law, sanjay dalal did his first ironman two years ago, I was inspired. But didn't act. 

Last year I attended a talk by Dr. Kaustubh Radkar, the only Indian who has completed Ironman's on all the continents (13 of them and counting). Dr. Kaustubh is a successful young doctor in his 30s. Meeting Kaustubh,  had again inspired me but I had just kept thinking about it.  I never acted on the thought. 

Yes , I can run a little but I don't know how to swim freestyle and I cycle only like once a year.   So i knew that it would be a major task. 

I have to start not only from zero but from a place far worse.  As a kid, I taught myself to swim.  But I taught myself not only the wrong style (Breast stroke) but also the wrong technique.   It's very hard to do a triathalon while swimming the Breast stroke.  Anyway I don't even know that well.  I just know how to stay afloat.  I need to learn free-style. 
None of my endurance from running would transfer to either swimming or cycling. 

After I saw the fruit fly video. I realised that my time is also passing possibly as quickly as that of the fruit fly, it's just that I'm not mindful of it.   

So I've set a target. To do a half triathalon by August 2016 in England and then in 2017 to do an ironman in USA.  

Over the last two weeks I've started to act.  

I've since selected a swim coach and also requested Dr. Kaustubh to be my triathalon coach. 

I started with some spin cycling at my gym. I've also set up my bike on a trainer at home as advised by Dr. Kaustubh 

When I cycle at home or on the spin cycle at the gym, I realise that after 5 mins,  I slow down to a sedentary pace.    I think I start going at a speed much like the cycle man carrying bread for morning delivery or the dubba walla carrying lunch boxes. 

But at least those fellows are carrying a load of bread or tiffins attached to the sides of the cycle.   I feel like I'm carrying every piece of unhealthy food I've eaten for 49 years in the tires around my waistline.  49 years of carbo loading has had its effect.  

I cycle for about 30 mins before I'm drenched in sweat and clothed in fatigue. 

The Olympic triathalon has a cycling distance of 40km. The half triathalon has a cycle distance of 90k and the full has a distance of 180k. 

Right now I can manage about 16k and that too only in the safety of my home. 

I've also started my swim classes. 

The swim coach says that he will make me do drills once I lean to swim free-style. 

Until then he deputes a lifeguard to tutor me !!!   The coach won't deal with me at my present skill level. 

He won't deal with me !!! Me !!! He won't deal with me !!  I'm not good enough for his attention until I first learn the rudimentary stroke !!!!

I, amit sheth, 49 years of age, successful businessman, with 3 Masters Degrees , author of the bestseller, dare to run,  finisher of over two dozen marathons and ultra marathons, the brand ambassador and 4 time finisher of the 89km comrades ultra marathon , then find myself at one end of the pool surrounded by little kids,  who at their tallest can't measure up to my waist height.   

Once in the water,  by the time  I manage to reach 5 meters (as I struggle with my strokes and breathing)  these little kids reach the other end : 50 meters !!! 

At the end of every length I pause and think.  An Olympic distance is 1.5k of swimming. A half triathalon is 1.9k of swimming and a full triathalon is 3.8k of swimming.  And all that in open waters !! 

As of now I can't swim 5 meters in the comfort of a pool.    It gives me pause and my mind wonders if this is such a good idea. Seems like an impossible ask. 

When I finally reach the edge of the pool where the life guard is sitting. The kids have been there since ages, recovering and chatting around.  

Their developing vocal cords make me think of the little fruit fly's voice.  ( duh ! I know it was dubbed by a kid).  They speak with the same innocent voice of the baby fruit fly.  

But I on the other hand , actually feel like the old fruit fly whose legs have already started falling off ! 

As I catch my breath, I again wonder.  Is this an impossible ask ? Can I really learn to swim ? Will I ever learn the stroke ? Will I master the art of breathing ? Will I every learn the hand, leg and breath coordination ? 

Can an old monkey learn new tricks ? 

My mind wants to give up. The mind is always scared of the Unknown.  I feel safer on the road.  The familiar comrades training is where i know, more or less, what is coming at me. 

Should I give up in this, the very first week? 

The life guard asks everyone to take another lap.  The kids start to whine. They don't  want to do this.  

He threatens to call their moms who are sitting at the far end of the pool, busy staring at their smart phones 

"One more round",  he says.  The kids hesitate.  

I turn and take my first stroke. The kids allow me a 4 meter head start but then pass by the time I reach the 5th. 

The ripples of water, as they speed past me, hit me in my face.  I look up and their feet are dangerously close to my face.  I swallow water, lose my rhythm and stop.  I try and regain my breath and balance. 

I laugh at the ridiculousness of my position.  I think about the triathalon and the humongous task I face. 

But then, I think of the fruit fly and I wonder if my life is any different.  Time is fleeting for all !! 

And I know that it is now or never.  I need to do this now. I need to stay the course.  I never want to go down thinking I could have done so much more !

I take a deep breath and restart swimming, I decide to pursue the little champions who have surged ahead of me, I decide to pursue my triathalon dream !  


  1. "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep" - I'm reminded of these lines from Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening". Well, given the solid example you set for your son and many many runners in the country with something that comes naturally to you, just imagine the number of people you'll inspire doing something that flings you miles outside your comfort zone. All the best, Amit!

  2. All the best Amit! I share your dream of completing an olympic distance triathlon, but a inefficient swimming technique has always eluded me to even start off with training for a tri.
    Don't know when i would realise my dream.. But i'm sure you are on your way and with your determination and effort you would surely complete your 2016 and 2017 triathlon targets!!
    Good Luck and see you on the road..

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