Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Finishing where it began

So my decision has been made, after going backwards and forwards with the same questions, have I seen it through? Am I enjoying this journey still?  Is there more in me?  I finally came to the decision that my career as a professional triathlete has come to an end.

A tough choice to make, but now it’s been made I know it’s the right one. 

I have been at a cross roads with triathlon over the past few years and have often wondered if I was on the right path.  It’s no secret that I have always struggled with the swim, both mentally and physically but I have never wanted to have any regrets and wanted to see how far I could push myself and how far I could go as a professional athlete in the Olympic ITU distance of triathlon.

And that question has been answered, I have achieved far more than I ever thought possible from when I transferred to the sport as just a na├»ve amateur fell runner back in 2009!  A top 20 in the World Series rankings, 7th in Kitzbuhl World Series, a World Cup win, multiple European Cup podiums and a British Super Series title within triathlon.  Not to mention my hidden strength I found in duathlon, winning the Worlds, Europeans and National titles along the way.  

Maybe there was more in me and I have even toyed with the idea of stepping up to the longer half distance ironman, but ultimately my desire, fight and hunger for triathlon has gone.  I now want to try other things, encounter new experiences where my days are not dictated by just swim, bike, run.

And so I find myself on a new path.  A path that I am so excited about and where the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  About a month after making my decision an incredible job came up working for Barrie Wells, an entrepreneur and sports philanthropist who set up his own children’s charity - The Wells Sports Foundation.  Barrie has also been my amazing sponsor from day 1, fully funding me on the 2009 ‘Trigold’ programme and has been a great friend and support ever since, even driving me to my wedding!

So ironically, 5 years ago I sat in Dalton Square, Lancaster with Barrie and his business partner Philippa Rothwell discussing my PBs and what I could bring to triathlon, then 5 years later I’m sat in the exact same room, this time dressed in a suit, discussing what I could bring to the role of development co-ordinator for the Foundation and in particular the initiative Box4Kids -which I highly recommend you look at www.wellssportsfoundation.org/Box-4-Kids !

Then there is the other part of me … my competitive drive has not completely gone … I feel completely satisfied in that I don’t want to do triathlon, but my passion for running, competing and pushing myself is still lurking around.   So to keep myself a little bit sane from I thought I would just keep some run training going, I have set no goals other than to be healthy and happy, no pressure on myself.  I therefore did not for one second expect to earn my first ever GB vest on the cross country!! And so will be of to Edinburgh in January as part of a strong GB team to compete in the Great Edinburgh Cross.

All that is left for me to say is a thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey, you know who you are and I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart for your belief, faith and patience with me.  Triathlon is an incredible sport, full of so many wonderful people and I am so grateful for the experiences I have had, the people I have met, the places I have seen but mostly for the person I have become. 

I hope you will continue to follow me as I plan to share more experiences about my new life as a working lady, the incredible charity I am developing, and a little bit of competition thrown in here and there!

Katie xx

Monday, 14 July 2014

Fight or Flight

So its been a while since I blogged, mainly because things have gone a bit pear shaped since yokohama WTS and all I have wanted to do is this;
So where to start?
Well my goal for the last 18months had been to make the commonwelath games and I have been named as a reserve for the England team. It was always a tough ask when up against two former Olympians; Vicky Holland and Lucy hall, and world number 2 from 2013 Jodie Stimpson, I wish each every success, well deserved as I know how hard they all work and are all great girls who I hope steal the show in Glasgow!

So what happened to me?
Im healthy, Im injury free, I have been training great..., I had a 13th in Cape town, however my swim wasn't good enough in the last two selection races for a number of reasons.
I basically freaked out at Yokohama ad London. I know that Im not a lead out swimmer, but Id also never been last out of the water and over 2minutes behind.
On the plus side I didn't have any women attacking me around the buoys, but instead had the canoe for company! Sadly, disappointingly and frustratingly that was game over for me as you cant claw yourself back into the race from that postion at this level,
I went into both these races with far too much pressure on myself to perform, I focussed on the outcome goal and not my process which in the world of coaching and sports pshyc is a big no no and that has been the hardest part to put in perspective as I basically underperformed!

So what next?
Well this is sport. Sport can be cruel, and part of being an athlete is being able to deal with the downs it can bring. I honestly didn't deal very well with it for a good 4 weeks, I had no motivation to go training and spent far too long feeling sorry for myself and feeling like a failure which nobody really prepares you for.
Realising this was getting me nowhere at all, it was time to give myself a shake and get a grip! Its not the end of the world, its only triathlon.
I realised that Im not ready to pack up my bags, even though this is probably the craziest rollercoaster I have been on I want to experience some more of the ups and I know there is more in me that I havent been able to show.

So how do I start enjoying triathlon again?
I decided to do some lower key races, no pressure on myself and just give myself a chance to be competitive again.
This involved a French Grand prix race for my French team in Valence, which was brilliant to help Team Issy claim an overall lead in the grand prix!

Next up was a solid swim block with my new swim coach, followed by two more back to back races this weekend.
First up was the Jenson Button triathlon, so much fun, amzing atmosphere, lots of money raised for a great cause in Cancer research, a different heats and finals format and even a kiss from Jenson button ;)

My swim was pleasing, Ok so I didnt lead out the swim, but neither did I expect to but I was able to limit the damage a bit better on the swim leaders of young gun Sophie Coldwell and Natalie Milne. A none draft bike which I really enjoyed and was able to take the fastest bike split, finising in 2nd place on the run behind speedy Emma Pallant.
As I was in the area I thought why not race again?
So the next day I raced at Eton Dorney in the women's only shock absorber triathlon. It was brilliant to see so many first timers taking part in triathlon this weekend and it really reminded me why I do this sport. It teaches you how to set challenging goals, how to push yourself, to compete with like minded people and to be part of a great community that really does encourage health, fun and competition at all levels of ability. I want to say a massive thankyou to the organisers, and competitors and especially everyone who took part at these races this weekend, you helped to inspire me and encourage me to get back on the horse again!

Back to the race. I went through some good race processes and xited the swim much calmer and in control. There were several girls contributing to the pace on the bike but I had to play a bit of tactics myself which was strange for me as Im used to having to smash the bike playing catch up. After a pedestrian paced cycle I was pleased to see that my run is progressing well again and was happy enough to round off a weekend of seconds to Emma, who has done a brilliant job at transitioning to triathlon and is showing amazing form.
So overall, faith is not lost, onto the next one..

Thursday, 23 January 2014


I hope everyone is settling back into routines, and still sticking to all those new years resolutions! I'm afraid blogging has been quiet from me as I have been making several changes to my programme, but I finally have an update on what’s been happening so switch the kettle on and have a peek!
This time last year I was jumping onto a plane heading into the unknown to work with Darren Smith and his squad over in sunnier climates of Australia. Prior to joining the group I really didn't know what to expect, how it would turn out or what level I was capable of racing at. My swim background is not the strongest and I have had a few messy years in the consistency department since switching sports which is why I went to work with Darren to try and improve these areas, and overall we did a pretty good job at this when you look at some of the results from last year. However I have made the decision that my time with the squad has come to an end and I have moved home to base myself back in the UK.
Some may think this is crazy decision after working with one of the most reputable coaches in the triathlon sphere of ITU, having world class training partners, training in amazing warm climates just to name a few. It has not been an easy choice at all, but behind closed doors life has not been a bed of roses and it has been an exceptionally tough year for me, more so than I often disclose. I thought I would share some insight into some of the reasons for this along with some of the most valuable things that have helped me to improve as a professional athlete and person in hope others may be able to also learn or take encouragement from.
So where to start? It turns out the hidden ingredient to all the success Darren has accomplished with his athletes is consistency. I’m afraid to report that there are no secret training regimes or instant fix, but just pure hard graft, simplicity and a commitment and dedication to your goals. This is what Darren works on a daily basis and instils into the group through learning how to manage your body well and listen to what it needs. There are no fancy high class facilities, or luxury accommodation in camps but just a willingness to learn and better yourself is all that is asked. Darren is probably one of the most articulate, technical and passionate coaches with exceptionally high standards both in and out of training that I have ever worked with. He works to get the absolute best out of everyone, often strict at times and has definitely caused me a few tears, but he has certainly helped me to raise my own bar and allowed me to realise what I need as an individual athlete.
I have learnt many lessons in things that may seem simple, but can so often be over looked like timekeeping, organisation, having a routine, how to train in a group but not get carried away with others and stay focused to your own task, actually recovering when your supposed too, injury prevention work, knowing when to push and when to rest, keeping life simple and stress free all add to that magic thing of consistency.
Life in camp involved being away for 9months of 2013, and in fairness it was tougher than I originally anticipated. Don't get me wrong I feel extremely fortunate to have travelled and seen some amazing places, training was just ridiculously easy in this type of environment as it was literally eat, sleep, train repeat! However the price was at being away from my husband.
Sam also has a pretty hectic job in the army and spent 6months of last year in Afghanistan, which left us with a mere 2months to see each other in total throughout the year, it was like first date all over again after the tour! Sadly his job doesn't have the flexibility to travel around with me, plus we need someone to pay the wages!
This may sound a little sad and think I may have mentioned this before but what Sam and those guys do for our country is incredible. He really is my inspiration, his job is tough – like really tough how many people have to go to the loo in a bag and sleep outside, or in fact not sleep at all for days on end in fear of being shot at? Well if I was ever having a tough day because I couldn't run or I was being told off for not swimming in quite the right way, or because my calf was a bit sore this soon put things in perspective.
I set myself high targets and high standards in what I want to achieve, but I have also come to realise that In order for me to be successful I need to have a little more balance which involves Sam and after harping on about consistency it hit me that this was not going to be a consistent environment for me as sadly I just couldn't see a pathway for us if I were to continue with the squad.
This along with several other various factors ultimately led to my decision to move back to the UK and base myself predominantly out of our home town of Chorley where I have a lot of great local support, working with some new faces and some old faces.
I have to thank Darren, Liz, Rick and all the support from the team including the guys and girls that I trained with last year, for such a great opportunity who all helped both in and out of training.
Looking ahead, my goals remain the same. I’m hoping to come out and hit some good early season form in the World Series as these will be my selection races for the England Commonwealth Games team, followed by progressing in the ITU World Series.
I also want to thank all of my sponsors and supporters throughout 2013 including Barrie Wells, For Goodness shakes, Cadence Sport, Mizuno, Mavic and Blue seventy I’m looking forward to what this year has in store for me already!
Here is to wishing a happy, healthy and successful 2014!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Whose idea was it to ride around London in a wet lycra?

…...Well that would be mine! This is what I was saying to myself halfway around the bike course at the weekend whilst trying my dam hardest to keep my bike upright. But in the same breath it was so exciting and inspiring to race in my first ever World series final on home soil with such amazing support.
For the past two years I have watched this race in the grandstands with envy and always thought how cool it would be to race a world series race on home soil. And that it was! The support was amazing, it was great to have so many people cheering us on so thankyou!
16 degrees water temperature in the serpentine and air temperature of 12 degrees on race day, combined with drizzly rain didn't make it the most ideal of conditions for us chicks in the elite women's race.
Being a northerner you would have thought this would be no bother to me, and I have never suffered too badly from the cold before but there is a first for everything!! Having chased the sun around the world for most of the year and being at my leanest race weight, I didn't prepare myself well enough for these conditions by simply not putting enough layers on!
I felt great going into the race and in good shape, but by lap 3 of the bike my legs had stopped working. Everyone was in the same boat, and I only really have myself to blame for getting so cold. I stupidly didn't take any toe covers for my bike shoes and think my feet are only just starting to come back to life now!! I also should have worn a top or some arm warmers under my trisuit to try and add an extra layer, but hey another lesson learnt! My right hand is still a lovely shade of blue from where I was gripping the bike so hard causing a nice big bruise.
To me this is strangely what makes triathlon exciting. Trying to get swimming, biking and running to all peak at the same time, coping with different tactical scenarios, weather conditions, different race courses, staying injury free and healthy just makes it one great big challenge and keeps me going back for more.
Overall my race wasn't all bad, I finished in 29th which considering my body had shut down and legs stopped working after the 2nd lap of the bike it could have been much worse. I was especially pleased with my swim, being only 20seconds down on the leaders after the first lap, so that was a relief to see some progress.
I managed to sneak inside the top 20 in the overall world series rankings, finishing in 19th place, which was a nice bonus. Sunday evening saw the famous end of season after party. The club Tiger Tiger in London had been hired out for us along with a free bar which meant that was a pretty dangerous combination! It was a good laugh and made a nice to change to get dolled up, us Brit girls scrubbed up well!
I'm back home in the Uk training for a few weeks as my season is not over yet, I have one more race to go, this being a World cup in Alicante. I will then be taking a well earned rest to get myself refreshed in preparation for next year, which I am already looking forward too!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Life out of a bag

A fair bit has happened since I last wrote my blog, and an update is definitely overdue now.
Firstly I am very proud to announce I have become an auntie, the first baby of the family!! A huge congratulations to Stacy and Jimmy West on Lily Jane West, I cannot wait to meet her in a few weeks time!
Secondly I am now on the countdown run in until my husband returns from Afghanistan with just over a month to go. It’s been tough for us this year with what will be 9 months apart, but I’m so incredibly proud of him and what he does, he has a tough job but never ever complains about what he does, he really is a huge inspiration to me and can’t wait for our honeymoon which is now two years delayed due to our crazy lives!
Back to the triathlon related news!
I have done quite a bit of travelling and racing as of late and have to say I am now pretty efficient at travelling light with just my bike bag and a rucksack which for those who know me is a revelation as I wouldn’t go anywhere without my hairdryer!! So the latest stop to update on is Hamburg World Series.
This wasn't a great race for me in that the chaos of the swim caused me to miss the chase pack by 10 seconds which then in turn cost me the race. There was a canoe wrongly positioned at the first buoy and it caused a huge pile up of women literally fighting to get through. Someone even ended up with a broken rib!! Dealing with contact in the swim is something I have struggled with this year so needless to say this was not an ideal situation for me, but have since been working hard on how to handle this through a few lessons in the pool with some of my squad mates beating me up, thanks Mitch and Aileen!!!
The next race was a World cup in Tiszaujvaros. Another brutal swim, with only 100m to the first buoy which resulted in me getting a chipped tooth, nice one, I now need to get this fixed in time for my sister’s wedding in October!! The race had a lot of very speedy swim bikers, which resulted in the front pack staying away and so I had to be content with making up the chase pack and ran through for 9th at the end.
Before my next race in Stockholm we moved further up the mountain for four weeks to the higher altitude in the pretty place of Avoriaz. This was my first full block of altitude training at 1800m and so I was entering the unknown if it would work for me or not. We managed to get some great work done, and had a few nice meals out including my birthday!! However the timing of coming down was possibly a little out as it left me feeling quite flat in the next round of the World Series in Stockholm and pretty run down.
The race itself was incredibly tough with very cold water temperatures of 14 degrees, and one of the most technical bike courses on the circuit, with a hill and cobblestones to contend with on each lap. Despite not having amazing legs I was really pleased to come home in 12th place knowing there is much more to still to come and also putting the demons to rest from a spectacular crash I had last year on that course in the relay! It was a great weekend and fantastic to see so much British domination from not just the men but now also the women!
I am now back in Morzine preparing for my first World Series grand final in London which I am delighted to have made the team for and also very excited to be back on British soil after 9months away. It’s an early start of 8am on Saturday 14th September for the women but it will be a great race to watch if you can make it, the cheers will be much appreciated! Hope to see you there!

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Only Way is Up.... Literally

Kitzbuhel 2013, consisted of a 750m lake swim, a 12k bike but not just a normal 12k bike, it was all uphill as we had to climb up the Kitzbuhel horn which had gradients as high as 22% in parts, followed by a 2.5 run up and down hill.
To most I guess this sounds like their idea of hell, to me I couldn't wait!! Having a background in mountain and fell running, this was right up my street, even though its been a good few years since I did any form of fell running. However we have been out training in Morzine in the mountains for 4 weeks now and I felt the most prepared I have felt all season after finally having some good consistent work under my belt.

So race day everything all went to plan, despite a bad swim. I cant actually call my last few races swims really, as from about 25m in it has been a matter of survival. In this particular race I had someone pulling on my legs all the way to the first buoy. Not just an occasional tap of the toes, but full on arm half way up my leg, pushing my legs down. I think I was just swimming with my arms only at one point, and was pretty vertical several times!
Obviously this didn't really help to coming out in a good position, but I stuck to my own plan and that was to pace the bike at my own pace and not get carried away with the pack being ahead at this stage. I felt really strong as the climb got going and got into a really good rhythm, which resulted in working my way through from 35th to 7th by the end of the climb. I had to settle for 7th overall as I just ran out of road on the run to pull back any more places. Having achieved my first top 10 in a World series race was really pleasing and a good breakthrough.
I rode on my F4 felt road bike which was great, with a compact 50/34 and 28 on the back. I have to thank Adrian Timmis my bike sponsor of Cadence Sport for sorting this out, along with Mavic Cosmic race wheels which were super light. Amusement point of the day was the journey back home from the mountain. I got a puncture descending back down the hill and had to flag down a car for a lift back to the hotel. If you ever wondered if you could fit 3 people, a bike and several cameras into a smart car, the answer is yes as one of the camera men sat in the boot with the door wide open, hanging out with my bike across his lap. Thankyou this would have been a long walk home and it did cause quite a few beeps and smiles as we drove through town!

I have to give a special mention to my fellow British team mate, training partner and roomie Jodie Stimpson who totally smashed the race. So pleased for her, she is one incredibly focused, hard working lady and what a well deserved win, very inspiring.
After a nice chilled day with my family after the race it is now back to business as next on the calendar is Hamburg WTS on 20th July which I am really looking forward to having heard great things about this race.
Highlights of the kitzbuhl race will be shown on BBC2 at 10.30AM on Saturday 13th July.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

So from starting my first season this year in the ITU world champs series races I would summarise each race with a pinch of everything as my title suggests. Auckland was clearly ugly as I got sick and couldn’t even start the race. San Diego was somewhat better in that I ticked a few boxes in the swim and bike department. Yokohama was moving in the right direction, and my most recent outing in Madrid being just ugly, full stop.
But nobody said it would be easy, and this is all part of the challenge and part of the reason we put ourselves through the daily grind, overcoming challenges, learning and moving forwards, which makes it so much sweeter when things do go right!
So although Madrid was a race I would rather forget I will give a small explanation as to why it went so ugly.
Having travelled pretty much around the world from January, which is no excuse at all as many others went extremely well still (which I have to also say, so proud to be British after Non, Jodie and Jonny stunning performances and also my team mate Annie Haug on 2nd!), I returned home to the UK and had to contend with moving to a new home in Hereford, alongside my husband leaving for a tour of Afghanistan.
Training went ok really, nothing special but nothing amazing. However I think the smaller stresses of outside my triathlon life took it out of me. I just felt really flat on race day, and had nothing to give. So that was that. I hate to DNF and gave myself a fair bit of grief over it afterwards, but ultimately I tried to think rationally in that I have the rest of the season to think about and digging myself in a big hole wouldn’t have helped much and would have took a fair bit of time to recover from.
So straight from Madrid I flew out to our European camp base in Morzine, France and met up with the rest of my squad. This place is truly beautiful, surrounded by mountains, a stream running outside our lodge its perfect and reminds me of when I used to come out to these type of places for the world mountain running championships.

I am in a good routine already and it’s exactly what I need now, a good solid block of training ahead of the next big races. These include the World Series in Kitzbuhl and world sprint championships in Hamburg and I can’t wait to get back in there and start putting what I have learnt this year together.
So although things have been perhaps a little rocky to start with it has certainly given me plenty opportunity to learn and grow as a professional triathlete and person that I plan to use in the rest of the series now. I have a fantastic support team around me who I cant thank enough for believing in me and helping me on my journey,
Bye for now