Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary
Katy, 29, is from North Wales and is training to be a personal trainer and triathlete coach. When she dropped out of university two years ago, she felt lost. Then she discovered triathlon, has completed two Ironmans and has found a new direction in life!
When I was a child I tried almost every sport. I wasn’t particularly good at one or the other, but loved being outside and being adventurous. I did join my local swimming club, and won gold once in a gala (but only because my main competitor got disqualified).
As I grew up, my love of the outdoors became my career and I started working as an outdoor instructor. Then I reached a point where I wanted a new challenge and decided to give a career as a midwife a go. I felt I wanted to do something positive for women, help empower them.
But things didn’t go to plan and half way through my degree I had to to call it a day. The reality of mature student life was very difficult . No money to pay the bills, academia and spending hours in front of computer was taking its toll.
But leaving uni and not knowing what to do left me feeling depressed. I’d gone from full on busy to nothing overnight. It was my partner, Jonny, who had the solution. He entered me into a sprint triathlon the same week, with no time to formally train or over think it.
I’d already run a marathon (in 3.58) and he’d seen how much I’d enjoyed it. He also knew that nothing lifted my spirits more than running, cycling and swimming and told me that I was a better person after I’d been active.
Even though I’d never done it in a structured way, or followed a triathlon training plan I decided to give it a go. So a few days after he’d entered me, I took part in the Sandman Sprint triathlon.
I loved it. I had no idea what to do and had to ask my friend, when I got there where to go and what to do in transition! But I was hooked and then two weeks later on a freezing Autumn morning I completed my first Olympic distance race, the Snowman. This included a 400M swim (the swim had been shortened as conditions were bad), a 60K hilly bike ride and then a run up a mountain!
I still didn’t really know what I was going to do about work, but I felt a lot more positive with triathlon in my life. Then I started looking on the internet at what I could do next. I figured that I try hard at everything I do, and that whether I choose to run a 5K or a marathon, trying hard feels the same. Knowing I can put effort in and that I’ve done that before was enough. I knew that my effort level would be the same whatever distance I did.
Searching I had my imagination fuelled by Ironman Wales. I’d spent my holidays in Pembrokshire as a child and loved it there.
A friend in the gym mentioned legendary coach and author, Mark Kleanthous, also known as @ironmatemark. I decided to drop him a line, it was late at night so I sent him a one line email: ‘Can anyone do an Ironman?’.
By 8.15am the next morning Mark had replied with a very long email telling me yes, they could, and showing me how he could help. Unemployed and with no prospects of a job, I had to hold fire, it’s very expensive to take part in an Ironman. Mark had told me that I’d be fine taking part if I got started soon, but I had to think carefully before committing.
A week later I received an unexpected tax rebate which amounted to the exact same cost as the Ironman entry. It felt like a sign and I didn’t hesitate any more. Things fell into place, not long after that I got a job at the local gym. It wasn’t very well paid, but I was able to tap into the knowledge of other athletes and fit in my training. I had just enough money to take Mark on as my coach and Jonny was right behind me.
I realised that I couldn’t focus on every aspect of my life at once. And even though I wasn’t going forward in my career, I wasn’t going backwards. Now I had the opportunity to focus on my Ironman event. However, I had to work, so Mark planned a very realistic training plan.
I chose to train early in the morning, at around 5am or 6am. This is the only time in the day which on one can steal from you. There’s no emails or phone calls. I started off with 10 hours training a week, doing 30/40 minute sessions in the week and the longer 2-3 hours sessions on the weekend days. Mark was very careful to plan my training so that I didn’t push over the top, and get ill or injured – avoiding both of these was a priority.
Less than a year after my first triathlon, I completed Ironman Wales in 12.48 in 2016. I was amazed at how well it went, and very shocked to be first out of the water in my AG for the swim. I dropped seven places on the bike but gained on the run and finished fifth. In 2017, I felt more pressure and the day was horrendous with howling gales, and oil on the road from people who wanted to saboteur the race! I completed the event in 12.32 4th in my AG. I’ve now got my eyes set on getting faster, and who knows I may even qualify as an age group athlete.
But more important I’ve found something I love doing, and in doing it I’ve changed the course of my life. I’m not doing what I thought I should be doing, I’m doing what I want to do and am loving training as a triathlon coach. I hope to coach other women and empower them the way I’ve empowered myself and encourage others to say yes, and take the leap.