A Triathlete’s Musings During First Adventure Race

Just a little step outside of your comfort zone can take you to new places, not to mention on new adventures!

And this is exactly what Coach Katee did on the weekend… signed up last minute to her first ‘real’ Adventure Race.. read on to find out how it went down!

Words by Coach Katee:

Monday: I see Facebook post promoting a new adventure race series. The seed is planted.

Tuesday: I don’t stop thinking about it, check the calendar is free and then continue to think about it…. Oh and I had a dream that night that I nailed the paddle.

Wednesday: I message race organiser and ask if I can “wing” paddling 7km as I haven’t done any race paddling before. The answer is “if you can swim 1km, you can paddle 7km”. Okay…. more thinking…

Thursday: Off to the gym and I realise I better bloody decide to avoid DOMs from my usual deadlifts or squats. So the decision is made and I take my S&C session a little easier.

I enter later that afternoon then text message a few likely suckers that would be silly enough to get out of their comfort zone with me.

Sunday: Race Morning!!!

3deg. The numb toes and fingers begin very early.

I find race organiser, Jarod Kohlar and get fitted to my boat (hire was provided by the event – super helpful!). It’s at this moment my excitement wains and I think “what have I got myself in for?”.


                                                                               Out of comfort zone – moment #1

The closest thing I’ve done to an event like this was a recent womens only team intro to adventure racing, it was a ~2km paddle (in a two person kayak), 10km MTB (non technical course – mostly residential streets – included orienteering) and a ~2km run.

This event involved, 7km of paddling on Lysterfield lake, followed by a 20km MTB and a 7km trail run. For the data nerds, I went in with a whopping CTL of 20 points. I had surgery a few weeks back and I’ve just been building back up. Which means I didn’t have my usual gym strength to fall back on like I usually do when my cardio fitness is also absent. So I was truly biting off more than I could chew. I think the max hours of exercise I’ve done in the past 2 months is about 5 hours, so I’m not exaggerating when I say I was no fit or ready for this event.

Here is how it went down in my brain and body…

I  jump in my boat to paddle to the start line.

Brain says: “Okay Katee, these boats are VERY sensitive, the likelihood of falling in is very real.”

It didn’t feel like any Kayak I had been in before – this was the real deal.

Out of comfort zone – moment #2.

Sitting at the start line I bump into old Triathlon buddy and thank god I did.

Lisa: “Your paddle is upside down”

Me: “Whoops, good start.”

Out of comfort zone – moment #3.

The race gets off to a very casual start and 95% of the field are off very swiftly, meanwhile I focus on not falling in and going in a straight line. So far so good.

I reach the first turn around and the field is way ahead, but I still have company of a few other paddlers to keep me motivated. I feel fatigue in my shoulders set in rather early.

Brain says: “uh oh – you ain’t gonna make the distance woman. Better figure shit out STAT”

I think I was 1km in!

I was then greeted by another old Triathlon buddy who came to the rescue, she was the sweeper – helping us slow-coaches at the back. With some very welcomed tips from her, I changed up my technique and could feel the boat and water better. I got into a better rotational position.

I was surprised at how hard my cardiovascular system was working, but there was no backing off. My competitive nature would never let me do that, so I continue to push beyond my limits. (see data below for the evidence!)

It was a two lap course. Finishing off lap 1 – I was already stuffed.

Out of comfort zone – moment #4.

Lesson 1: Definitely carry a water bottle or camel back for paddle leg – I was parched!

I had packed it – no Idea why I didn’t take it with me. Triathlete brain perhaps?

On lap 2, I figured the faster I went, the sooner it would be over, so I continued to push hard despite the fatigue. I was thoroughly enjoying it despite this though, a stunning day, sun was out, and the lake was beautiful. I did make sure I took moments between crazy heart beats to enjoy this.

Brain says: “You know as a coach you are doing the opposite to what advise you would give”

Me: “Yes, thanks brain, I know that, now piss off”.

I paddled into shore and got ready to get out of the boat and onto my MTB.

Brain says: “Um, your legs don’t want to work”

I was SO surprised at the shaky / wobby legs feeling from paddling!

   7kms of figuring out how to ‘drive’ the Kayak!


Out of transition (a bunch of bikes lying on the ground), and onto the course, I needed to follow the orange ribbons in the tree’s. I knew a 20km MTB was going to be tough, so there was no need to get lost and ride further.

2km in, Brain days: “Well, this course ain’t so bad. You totally got this. let’s have a gel”

1 min later – “oh shit – tree root !”

That was the last of any “non technical riding” – I did not know what to expect from the MTB course as I’ve been (proper) MTB’ing once in my life – (last year on mammoth mountain in California). I’ve ridden my MTB (an old piece of junk from cash converters) while coaching athletes during run sessions around the Tan but that would be the extent of my off-road experience. Again, I do not exaggerate!

Out of comfort zone – moment #5


                                                                           Ready to wreak havoc on the trails


In summary,  I battled and winged my way through the course. I dropped gels, ate gels mixed with dirt and had gels dripping down my cleavage. I swear the secret ingredient in Vfuel gels got me through this event! I didn’t look at my watch, mainly because I was too busy focusing on the course, but also because I did not want to know how very little distance I had likely covered. Then my Garmin’s auto lap feature alarm went off.

It was in that moment I could have cried! ONLY 10km!!!! What?!!?!

I was in for a long day. Nothing I could do out in the middle of nowhere, so I kept plugging away at a 180bpm. (see data file below).

                                                                          Data file from MTB leg #maxHR


Physically my legs and body felt fine, my wrists and hands were in a world of hurt though. Some MTB training might have come in handy here.

Feeling like a rookie was a strange but valuable experience. After 13 years in Triathlon and a long time adventurer, it’s rare to learn something new. I reflected on what a beginner Triathlete would feel like out on the road for the first time, worrying about how to change gears, take a drink, signal, understand road etiquette and more. So as a coach I think it was a great reminder to acknowledge how daunting these skills can be, despite feeling very simple and automatic to myself.

When I finally came out of the track and could see transition I was one happy lady. Time to run – whooooooooo.

Brain says: “Why are you excited to run? You don’t even know if you can run, you haven’t done enough training.. blah blah blah blah” (she went on and on about this point).

Me: Oh yea – thanks Brain, but your negativity is not wanted here.

Into transition I get some cheers – they were probably excited that I simply made it back!

I headed off on the run which was described as “friendly” in the briefing. hmmmmmmmm

I felt Ah-mazzzzzing!

Then I reminded myself of my number piece of advise to Triathletes: take the first 1-2km super easy, no matter how good you feel.

Brain says: “You’ve gone against your own advise all day, why start listening to wise advise now?”

With a lack of run training and fitness behind me I didn’t want to look at my watch, so I ran to feel.

The first km went by super fast.

Brain says: “you’re freakin super woman. I take it back. you totally got this”

Mid way between 1km and 2km I started to struggle and the 2nd km went on and on and on. I also really needed to pee. I figured on a  trail run I could just stop for a nature stop. But no, too many healthy people were out for a Sunday stroll. Damn you healthy people.

Brain says: “maybe we could try that pee in shorts thing that everyone does”

Me: Hmmmmm, nope.

Once that long 2km lap alert went off I was pleasantly surprised to see my pace was well above expected and was no slower than lap 1. It was all in my head. (of course!).

From 2-4.5km it was undulating and I was in struggle town. Vfuel came to my rescue. Although I had lost most of it to leakage down my top.

Out of comfort zone – moment #6.

Brain: “Some run fitness would be nice right about now, time to slow down”

Me: “Even when we are run fit – it hurts – so lets get moving!”

I focused on my breath.

Expanded my diaphragm.

Checked in on my cadence.

Relaxed my shoulders.

Stood tall.

Brain: “Maybe the course will be shortened? Maybe it will be completely flat from here on here…”

Me: Stop bargaining woman! Bargaining only has a place when your shopping, not racing.

I exited the trail onto the bridge that runs over the lake towards transition. I had about 1.5 km to go.

I lapped up the sunshine, (and flat track), kicked up the pace and ran for it.

Brain: “I’m 100% ready for this to be over”

Me: Okay, I agree with you this time. LETS DO THIS.

I finished with good form, a PAIN free run – which is happening more often than not these days, and a great accomplishment for me.


  Run Leg – how about them hills?!


I came in under the 3 hour mark, very elated, but equally stuffed.

My wrists were so sore I couldn’t press stop and reset on my Garmin!

I’ve always had the goal and drive to do adventure racing. But so many things have “stopped” me. Mostly brain barriers.

I’m so glad I finally took the plunge and got WAY out of my comfort zone.



I come from a family of white water paddlers, and I grew up Sailing competitively. The mix of endurance and adventure really appeals to me. So you can guarantee i’ll be back.

My strength in Triathlon is my upper body strength and power, so I look forward to competing in events that have a swim and a paddle to put myself to the test.

Next up: MTB training and technique coaching!


Until next time I do something crazy,

Yours truly 

Coach Katee


What will YOU do this week to get out of your comfort zone?

We would love to hear about it when you do!

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