10 Aug Katherine the Great
September this year will see Australia host the World Championships for sprint and Olympic distance triathlon on the Gold Coast. For many triathletes, the supreme goal of racing for your country as an age grouper is sweetened by the fact they will be on their home turf. One of our Bindi crew – Katherine Ryan has qualified to race and is look forward to some fast and furious competition! We found out how this strong and determined triathlete faces the challenges of training, family and work whilst performing at such a high level (spoiler alert – she HATED water for a very long time!!)
Katherine, have you always been sporty?
Yes, I have always loved sports of any kind, especially running and would much prefer to be outside than being in a classroom!! I went to boarding school for the last 2 years of high school, where sport was on tap and I joined every sport team and entered into all individual events, as long as water was NOT involved!!
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Worcestershire the UK. I spent my childhood living on a farming property with plenty of outside time learning about animals, climbing trees, driving tractors and generally enjoying nature to the max!! Once I was in boarding school I lost myself in sport. I loved having people around me all the time and once I finished school I headed off to work, college and finally travel. That’s what eventually brought me to Australia for the first time. Second time round, I came out on a working visa with a job in hand and stayed here for a year, met my, now, husband and that was 24 years ago. I do have family here in Perth, so it was an easy decision to stay.
What do you do when you are not training for triathlon?
I am a Fitness Instructor at Beatty Park Leisure Centre. A wife and a mother of 4 children. Those 4 keep me on the road in the afternoons and evenings so you could say I’m also a taxi driver!!!!! It’s busy I can tell you!!!
How long have you been involved in triathlon?
I have been involved in triathlon now for 12 years. I did have a dabble when my girls were really small and wished I could swim anything other than breast stroke!! I would come out of the swim last and finish the race over half way through the wave!!
What sports did you do before triathlon?
In school, track running, tennis, hockey, cross country, netball, gymnastics and once I left school and got to Australia I enjoyed fun runs, started Dragon Boat Racing (and went with the WA Team to Macau), squash, touch footy, more hockey and finally triathlon.
What do you believe are your major achievements in triathlon?
Other than becoming an Age Group World Champion Duathlete and qualifying for Kona, my most major achievement in triathlon is overcoming my fear of putting my head under the water and being touched in the water by others. This fear comes from an incident I had at school when I was 9 years old. I lost my board whilst swimming catch up across the deep end of a 25m pool in a swimming lesson. It all became frantic with me pulling girls under, them pulling me under, the siren went off and the lifeguard jumped in. I remember nothing more until I was on the side of the pool. I never swam again and came to Australia, got dumped on Cottesloe Beach when I was 12 which was horrific!! So, when I finally came here, did my Cert IV in Health and Fitness, I learnt to swim freestyle at 27 years of age, as I was training to be an Aqua Instructor.
Do you still compete in other events other than triathlon?
Outside of triathlon I compete in the Rottnest Channel Swim. I first did this in a team the year before I took up triathlon. At that time I had NEVER put my head in the ocean to actually swim freestyle. 6 weeks prior to the event, I finally plucked up the courage to do so in 1m of water at Geographe Bay!! It was awful. But got through it. The event had 3m swells. We got there. Only just. My thoughts after: if I can swim in that, I can swim in triathlon!! Since then I have completed a couple more teams and 2 duos with my eldest daughter and with my eldest son.
You seem to achieve very consistent (and good!) results. How are you able to maintain that consistency season after season?
My dedication, motivation and passion for triathlon keeps me going back for more, with the added support from my family, friends and training buddies. It’s good stress relief and is a good form of medication for my ankylosing spondylitis. The 3 disciplines keep me mobile and relatively pain free. Being naturally competitive and successful in my races make me yearn for more and more!!!!
How do you manage training, working, being a mother of 4 ?
Routine, routine, routine. My week is like clockwork. Every week. Timing is done in the early mornings while the kids are either in bed or at swim training. Once everyone is off to school, I get myself to work and possibly another training session. Once I have done the usual round the house and prepped afternoon tea and dinner it’s time for the taxi run!!! Whilst they are at their training sessions I would sometimes have another client or fit in a gym session.
My biggest tip is to be organised and be able to manage your time effectively including kids, food prep, and housework.
You race all distances (sprint, standard, IM 70.3 & IM) – what do you love about the ITU standard distance format?
For me it’s a perfect balance. The sprint distance has to be very quick and I can sustain that for the short period of time. In the Standard Distance, I can maintain the fast pace for the duration, when others may peter out, I can push through and gain ground. It gives me enough to time to make up for my not so strong swim. Beyond the standard distance it is not as enjoyable. I have to start thinking about managing my injuries and consider what can blow up I push too hard. And not to mention the dreaded runners bowel which becomes an issue. We all have our hidden demons and that’s mine!!! The ITU format I love as I am part of a team, either Australia or in this case, the U.K. I love the team vibe and how everyone is there to support each other.
Did you take a break from training after racing the 70.3 Busselton in May before starting your build towards ITU Worlds in September?
I did take a break after Busselton in May as I was pretty exhausted and sore. I took a 5/6 week break before I started to build towards ITU Worlds. I kept things ticking over and intensity right down. Exercise was used as a stress reliever not as a stressor!!
You have raced a few World Championships now, are you familiar with your competition? Do you strategise?
Amongst the age groupers I don’t see as much consistency in appearances compared to the pros. Competitors change between the age groups often. I don’t track their qualifying races, so I’m not sure what type of courses are their strengths and weaknesses.
“I just race my own race. I have my heart rate to go by and pace settings.
If I stray from them too much it could end in disaster”
I have to trust in the fact that the months of training before, have optimised my heart rate figures for the day. I feel good toward the end of the race, I can push beyond my game plan, but the end is in sight, so I know I can sustain a push for that short period of time. If my swim was faster I could strategise a bit more but when I am in constant catch up mode, I simply have to pick them off, one by one.
Do you have a pre-race routine that helps to calm the nerves and focus you before a big race?
I tend to become very quiet!! I like calm. I get my race gear methodically organised and get clarification on things if need be. I tend to steer away from too much race talk and just go through things in my head. Once transition is sorted I stay away from the area and people. Too much race chit chat is nerve racking.
Do you have a go to pre-race dinner meal favourite & same with breakfast on the morning?
I most certainly do!!! My pre-race dinner is very plain and simple. A margherita pizza. That’s it!!! Breakfast is also very simple. For short races, crumpets and honey, cup of coffee and a banana and/or LCM bar before the race if I am a bit peckish!!! For longer races like IM 70.3, I would have porridge or a simple Bircher muesli.
What nutrition will you use for the ITU standard distance race?
I will use Bindi Hydration lemon flavor and Shotz Gels also lemon/lime flavour.
Do you have any ‘bucket list’ races that you have not done yet?
Yes!! Solo to Rottnest next year, Cape to Cape and the Avon Descent (that’s the bottom of the list)!!!!
Katherine – we think you are amazing and we will be following you closely as you head to the Gold Coast in September!