Mayank Vaid became the first Indian to complete the Enduroman — a triathlon from England to France. He is the 44th person in the world and the first Asian to complete this triathlon, which spans more than 289 miles in solo capacity.
However, what does it mean exactly? The ‘Enduroman – Arch to Arc’ triathlon involves running, swimming and cycling. While the previous record for this triathlon was 52 hours and 30 minutes, held by Julien Deneyer of Belgium, Vaid completed it in 50 hours and 24 minutes. The triathlon starts with a 140 km run from London’s Marble Arch to Dover on the Kent coast, cross-Channel swim (shortest distance 33.8 km) to the French coast, and finishes with a 289.7 km bike ride from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
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No doubt, it is considered to be one of the toughest endurance competitions in the world. Speaking to indianexpress.com, Vaid said, “The swim and bike sections were really hard, especially going without sleep for over 50 hours. The most challenging part is when a swimmer starts to see the French coast and that’s when the mind plays games. I was advised by one of my swimming buddies, ‘When you see the coast don’t raise your head again to look for it. It’s a mirage. Keep swimming’.”
The clock begins ticking when the athlete sets off from Marble Arch in London and doesn’t stop until they reach the Arc de Triomphe in Paris many hours later. Only 43 athletes before Vaid have successfully completed the challenge and, of those, five have completed it without a wetsuit.
In order to qualify for an Enduroman, solo athletes such as Vaid must provide evidence that they are used to swimming, running and biking long distances. Specifically, in the year of their Enduroman attempt, they must complete a six-hour swim in water no warmer than 60°F. Though the race’s website warns that “in no way” should this be considered an appropriate indicator of someone’s ability to swim across the Channel.
It is an 87-mile route from Marble Arch in London to Dover which takes challengers through the busy streets of central London and out through the suburbs into Kent. There are a few hills to climb, too. Port town Folkestone in Kent provides the first glimpse of the sea but there still remains one last climb and some miles to go before reaching Dover. The run finishes at the beachfront by the harbour.
The English Channel is one of the toughest long-distance swims in the world because of the water temperature and tides. Arch 2 Arc challengers can choose to wear a wetsuit for this leg. The shortest distance between the English and French coasts is 21 miles but the effects of the tides mean that swim tracks will be longer than this.
It is 181 miles from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and is the final victory push to Paris. From Calais, the route follows the rolling coast road, giving challengers the chance to ride alongside the Channel, before turning inland. There are times when the route descends down into villages and climbs back out again, before finally flattening just outside of Paris. From then, it’s a case of traffic, lights and cobblestones until the finish at the Arc de Triomphe.
While a solo athlete like Vaid could complete each section of the challenge, resting as necessary at Dover and Calais up to the maximum time allowable under the rules, relay team members run, swim and cycle for one hour at a time after which the changeover order is agreed before the start of each section of the challenge.
However, in a Tag relay which is a flexible format, team members can choose to do any or all of the three disciplines.
For comparison, Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run (the distance of a marathon) which rounds up 140.6 miles which is less than half an Enduroman.
Since Enduroman is an extreme endurance challenge, diet and fitness make all the difference, along with sleep.
While most elite endurance athletes can eat anything, they don’t eat equal amounts of everything. Instead, they skew their diet heavily toward high-quality foods and eat low-quality foods in moderation. High-quality foods tend to be more nutrient dense or richer in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and less energy dense or lower in calories than low-quality foods.
Basing their diet on high-quality foods enables elite endurance athletes to get more overall nutrition from fewer calories, and this in turn allows them to maximise their fitness while maintaining an optimal racing weight.
Carbohydrates account for 60 to 80 per cent of total calories in the diet of a typical elite endurance athlete, which acts as the primary fuel for intense exercise. Carbs are known to enable athletes to absorb their workouts with less physiological stress and to extract more benefits from their training.
Sleep, too, plays an important part in helping the athletes bounce back after arduous training sessions.