running duathlon multi sport racing

Kathy is a duathlete who has competed at a world level. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.

Have you always been into sport?

When I was in high school I used to play every sport going; hockey, netball, tennis, rounders, gymnastics, tag rugby…if our school had a team, I was playing it! I grew up with three older brothers who were all very sporty, so I think I grew a competitive streak very early on.

I joined our local athletics club, Vale Royal, when I was 9 years old and competed for them until I moved away for university. I trained 5 days a week and competed on a regular basis, sometimes weekly, for them. The group of runners I was around at the club became a second family to me and we’re still good friends today.

What made you decide to enter the world of Duathlon?

A few years ago, my boyfriend bought me a road bike for my birthday because he wanted company on his rides. I was so petrified of wearing clip-on shoes that I did my first ride in converse! Slowly but surely I built my confidence and before I knew it, I was racing around the roads of Bristol and almost preferring it to running.

Again, because of the way I’ve grown up with brothers, I didn’t like the thought of my boyfriend being better at something than me, so I began really pushing myself on the bike and even commuting to work to try and get ahead of him. I then decided to combine my two favourite sports and entered my first duathlon. I ended up coming second in my age category which gave me a real confidence boost and I’ve never really looked back since.

I’ve also found that by having two disciplines to train in, I have more motivation. When I don’t feel like going for a run, I can cycle and vice versa.

What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

It has got to be the ITU Multisport World Duathlon Championships, simply for the fact that I got to compete for my country. I have always dreamt of competing internationally and doing it for something that’s bigger than just myself. I have some very fond memories of the race itself too, one being the crowd and atmosphere (it was epic!) and the second being my second transition from bike to run – so often I start to cramp up at this point but the adrenaline from running back into the stadium and hearing the crowds and music drowned out all of the pain, and I felt like I was on springs going into the final leg.

And your proudest achievement?

Winning a bronze medal in my age group at the World Championships. To make it onto the team seemed like a big achievement but then to get onto the podium with a Union Jack around my shoulders was very special.

Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever had a disaster but one of the races that sticks in my mind was when I was much younger, during the winter cross country season. I remember the field looking like one big mud bath and you could barely put your foot down without sliding half a metre.

I set off and was in the middle of a big crowd. On the first bend of the course, I remember feeling a sharp pain in the back of my leg, but carried on, oblivious to the blood pouring out. Needless to say, I didn’t run my best race and when I finished I went to see a paramedic.

It turns out the sharp pain at the beginning had been a runner behind me accidentally stepping onto my leg and ripping through my skin with their spikes (1.5cm). They told me that had they gone any deeper into my leg, it would have torn my Achilles tendon…I think that’s the closest I’ve ever come to a disaster!

How do you overcome setbacks?

Train harder. Whether it’s work, illness or injury, the only thing that I can do to overcome anything negative is to come back training harder and stronger. I also try to do whatever I can to help myself and prepare for the comeback.

For example, if I’m injured and can’t go for a run, I will do more yoga or more weights training to compensate for the lack of other training. I also love listening to music when I go running or I’m on the turbo, so I find that if I make a new playlist with songs that really get me pumped, this helps me to channel my energy in the right direction.

What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

To prepare myself for the transitions. I’ve run so many final stages with a full cramp in my calves due to my body not being able to cope with the change. I’ve now tried to increase the number of brick sessions I do to prevent this from happening.

What are your goals for 2020?

This year, I have invested in a coach and so have set myself quite a few goals. I want to use more races as training and rather than building up to a race and putting everything into it, just treat it as another training day. This will come with having to accept that I may not be able to compete at my highest standard, but I feel that in the long run (excuse the pun!) it will really help me to prepare for my biggest goal, which is to win gold in my age group at the World Championships. I’d also like to try and get a new half marathon PB!

Who do you take your inspiration from?

I have a few elite athletes that I love following, a firm favourite being Lucy Charles - that girl is an absolute machine and I’m always blown away by how good she is at every discipline. But I also get inspired by people around me. My cousin, for instance, is a mum to two boys, works full time and trained for an Ironman a couple of years ago.

Hearing about how she squeezed in her training every day, week in, week out, is extremely inspirational and it makes me think harder about how I portion my days up and how I can use my time more effectively. I think you can be inspired by lots of people but you have to be able to understand what it is about them that inspires you, and then take that and apply it to yourself and your own training.

What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

I love the ethos behind the brand and the fact that they’re trying to be more than just another fitness clothing range. They care about the environment and their impact on it, as well as looking after the people that work there - I think more companies should act in this way.

I love the reflective cycling socks because I commute to work a lot and anything that makes me stand out on the roads is a real bonus. I also love the long sleeved cycling jerseys - they’re a great fit and make me feel very pro when I’m riding out in them.