Hello! I’m Kat, a physiotherapist by profession and after three successive Middle Distance (Ironman 70.3) outright wins (Calgary, Vitruvian and Gran Canaria) have qualified to race as an elite triathlete! My first race as a professional is this weekend (9 June 2019) in the Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and I’ll follow this up with another Middle Distance in Finland this month and, once selection’s confirmed, race for Great Britain in the ETU European Championships, again Middle Distance.
I grew up surrounded by sport and thus developed an interest in the human body and health generally. I was advised to try a work experience week with a physiotherapist working in MSK rehabilitation and genuinely just fell in love straight away. I decided that week I would be applying to university to study Physiotherapy and directly alongside that I wanted to join the British Army as a Physiotherapist as I believed this was where the fittest and most determined patients were.
My main sports during my schooldays were hockey, swimming and running. Sports like hockey appealed to my need for fun much more as a kid that the monotony of lane swimming. There was so much comradery in a hockey team and as a team member you felt part of something bigger than just that training session or that match because you were working for the team and not just yourself.
After finishing university and escaping for a ski season I commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Physiotherapist with my first job as a life time dream at the Defence Military Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, in Surrey. Headley Court has a world reputation for military rehabilitation excellence and helping injured soldiers get back to fighting fitness, if humanly possible. This was an excellent job, gaining experience in the full range of disciplines, working alongside some brilliant people with motivated patients. Important to this story is that there was a swimming pool onsite, a few Wattbikes in the gym and superb tracks and trails from the centre’s front gate, into the Surrey Hills- perfect for exploring! I decided to start swimming again and at this point a big swim was 20mins in the morning before breakfast structured as a random assortment of 50-100m efforts.
That first year I entered a couple of local sprint triathlons and raced for the Army – all on my trusty 1994 third-hand road bike. Training was generally structured as do-what-I-feel-like on the day decisions but importantly it was enjoyable and inclusive. Turning up to local triathlons as a novice everyone was so friendly and welcoming, offering advice freely (useful or not it didn’t matter) and everyone encouraged everyone. This encouragement and support are what seems to hold the triathlon community together. When you are constantly pushing the physiological limits of your body and mind you need this encouragement.
It is not necessarily during a race when you are pushing at your hardest but often it is most needed when you are unable to train for the goals you have set yourself.
I have had a few injuries over the last few years which have taken me out of training from just one training session up to 3 months with anti-inflammatory medication and complete rest. The strife of these periods is the hardest aspect of the sport, both physiologically and mentally. You may not see or believe it but your body is working at its hardest to heal and yet your mind is going crazy (if you let it). I try not to look back on missed targets as anything other than decent preparation for the next goal. The ‘lows’ in any sport are needed to ensure the ‘highs’ are high!
In 4 years in triathlon I have transitioned from competing at local AG qualifiers to the top end of Age Group European and World Champs, I’ve become Army Champion (Sprint, Standard, Middle Distance) and gained a National Middle Distance Champion title in 2018 with a IM 70.3 overall win in Calgary (while deployed for British Army training to Canada for 4 months) in the mix as well. This Easter I competed at Challenge Gran Canaria, and as well as being the fastest amateur, I beat all the pros bar one (Emma Pallant) on time.
This secured an instant Elite/Professional licence with British Triathlon (only 1.8% down on the Pro winner’s time). Having achieved my 2019 season goal of ‘turning pro’ in my first race I have spent a few weeks re-aligning my next goals. I want to wear a GB Elite Vest and gain a professional podium this year. Some might say: “a bit ambitious” for my first pro season. We’ll see. With the support of the British Army, rehab company Meglio and my brilliant family it is possible.
An underlying drive to be the best I can be as an athlete is to learn as a Physiotherapist. The experience I have gained from working with other athletes and my personal experience allows me to have an expansive breath of understanding and empathy for any athlete. I have been advised over and over again that the key to being a good Physio is to be able to relate and listen to your patient and to inspire them. In the Army we call it leading from the front.
This is my background and I was lucky enough that the Meglio CEO Barry Keane contacted me after an article I had initially written for my local paper (as a thank you to my parents for their support) was published in the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy magazine ‘Frontline’. I described my 2018 triathlon journey from early season good fitness to a multitude of overload injuries where I then worked very hard on rehabilitation both in the gym and psychologically to enable my win at an IM 70.3 and the National Champs. Meglio is a company who genuinely believes in optimising product efficacy for both fitness and Physio. I am looking forward to our partnership as we facilitate each other to inspire others to be the best they can be.