Part 3 – Katee as an Athlete

In a three part series Coach Katee, gives us some insight, as well her thoughts and feelings on being Katee – The Business Woman, The Coach and Athlete.

Following on from last weeks blog, Katee as a Coach, we continue with the third and final installment to our conversation with Coach Katee about her as an Athlete.

(*If you missed Part 1 – Katee as a Business Woman, you can read it HERE.)

  • Your last major race was Ironman Dec 2015whats been going on since then?

If I were to summarise me as an athlete I would use the word complex.

Since Ironman I’ve been 100% focusing on health and wellness over performance. It’s challenged my mind and ego but not my body. My body is thanking me for it in a great way. Now I realise that it’s a LONG time to focus on health and still not be a 100% well. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that my health will be an ongoing evolution. There will be no one fix. So as I begin my journey back to performance I take a lot of comfort knowing that my health, hormones, nutrition and lifestyle habits are far superior than they have ever been before – I’m not in search of perfection. But this doesn’t mean that everything is hunky dory. I still have to take well considered action steps to keep my health at an optimum level while bringing performance based training back into my life. So over this time period I’ve been exercising, including swimming, biking, minimal running and lots of strength training. I’ve had a plethora of pathology tests and consulted with a plethora of experts. I have more pieces to my puzzle than ever before which gives me the confidence to go ahead with my goal to return to long course!

I attempted this return last year (2016), but hit a major obstacle in August with my mental health which disrupted life and training for about 2 months so I’ve been working on the re-build since then. Very gently. My driver is to ensure that I don’t take steps forward to then be shoved backwards.

 

  • Why so many issues with injury, burnout, hormone imbalance and gut health?

Oh boy. Just like there is no ‘one’ solution, there is also no one causation. The issues I’ve had since Ironman are not a product of 2015 and training for Ironman (because I trained smart), nor are they a product of my life since Ironman. From the start of 2015 to now I’ve been re-building what was broken long before 2015 and finally crumbled at the end of 2014. It was the perfect storm that started as a teenager. At age 13 I was put on the pill for acne – I wasn’t sexually active. I’ll write another blog on this topic to go into more depth, but I can pinpoint this as the first catalyst to ill health. The years that followed saw decline in my mood and health (food intolerances). So by age 15 (still with acne) I remained on the pill and the solution was anti-depressants. Side effects made life pretty hard but I stayed on them until I was about 20 years old. At which point I managed a 1 year break before needing to go back on them. Throughout uni I worked 2-3 jobs at a time and in my final year I somehow thought I could manage a full time job (managing a gym) and complete university. I got by – only just – with many breakdowns in the process. I was also training for Triathlons and other activities at this point. To cut a long story short, everything that I am now healing is a product of metabolic and hormonal chaos resulting from;

  • over doing it both physically and mentally.
  • binge drinking and partying in my early 20’s
  • being on the pill from age 13 – 23
  • being on anti-depressants from ager 15 – 23 (notice the correlation? I got off the pill and voila! – no need)
  • stepping up to long course training and doing very high volume and intensity not specific to my needs
  • use of high sugar and carbohydrate products to fuel endurance races and training
  • cramming too much in, rushing, lack of mindfulness
  • not respecting or nourishing my body
  • following standard recommendations for nutrient intake (the food pyramid)

 

  • So why keep pushing on? Shouldnt you give up and just join Crossfit?!

Haha Yep. That’s probably what I should do, but it certainly wouldn’t light my fire and keep my soul happy. Endurance sport is where my heart is and will stay. I’m a natural at lifting and respond well so I utilise this to my advantage for Triathlon performance (my hormones also love it), and this has changed me as an athlete dramatically in the past 3 years. I’m pretty excited to see how this translates into performance this year. Thanks to the team at Virtus  for creating an incredible environment to help cultivate this in me.

Note: I don’t actually do CrossFit – I do strength training specific to developing strength, power and functional movement as an athlete.

  • Whats YOUR why, Katee?

Oh another deep one! I can physiologically FEEL my why, it’s deep, it’s clear and it elicits raw emotion in me. But I will admit it’s hard to describe to others.

It has nothing to do with times, placing or external validation. I train and pursue racing because it helps be discover who I am, it allows me to be that person, it provides a platform to challenge myself, go to places I’ve never been before (metaphorically and physically) and it puts a goal in front of me that helps add meaning and excitement for my future self. During the hard times, this helps immensely.

  • There have been many challenges for you, what has been the hardest to overcome?

I genuinely can’t answer this question. Maybe because I’m not there yet. Maybe ask me at the finish line of my next half ironman?

But if we rephrase to what has been the hardest to tackle… then I would say the frustration of “why me” and “comparison-itis”. At times, I can find it difficult to watch athletes, (and gen pop) getaway with habits (too much training, lack of recovery, poor nutrition, alcohol, stress etc etc) that I have to work very hard at managing to stay in one piece. I’m certainly grateful for how far I’ve come, but this progress doesn’t mean I can simply slip into old behaviours of working too much, eating refined sugar, eating gluten, training hard too often, miss taking supplements or making poor nutrition choices.

It happens less and less, but I just have to work on grounding myself and reminding myself that I am putting myself in a much better position for health and longevity in sport.

  • So how do you motivate yourself?

Numbers 🙂 The data is what makes sense to me. I know that training stress, with consistency and adaptation, equals results. So I focus on what I know needs to happen. Mix that with my emotive why and I have a recipe for motivation. voila!

  • What has this initial base phase of 2017 entailed for you? 

We are focusing on MAF training with an element of polarised training with short (20-30s) hard bursts of intensity. I’ve continued by 2-3 lifting sessions per week covering squats, deadlifts, chins and bench press along with functional movement patterns. The running has been minimal, as I’m still working on turning myself into a runner. My form and efficiency has improved out of sight, I now just need the cardiovascular fitness to run. I am fortunate enough to live with great trails in my backyard on the Mornington Peninsula so enjoy embracing trail walks to build my endurance. Much less taxing for me, as lots of running just doesn’t suit my body (YET!).

 

 

  • Do you have input from others into your program or are you flying solo?

I sure do. The last time I was officially coached was by Craig Percival for my base phase leading into Ironman Busselton 2015. From there I was self coached and bounced my programming ideas off some friends who were coaches at the time.

Since then I didn’t really needed a program from a coach but I have had plenty of support and input from my team of practitioners such as physio, Greg Dea, Strength coaches at Virtus Human Performance and of course Coach Sarah. At the start of this base phase, Coach Sarah and I began to work more closely together and she now oversee’s my program, I enjoy being able to hand over to someone so that my own programming isn’t a last thought.

 

  • Planning beyond your base phase, how does your annual training plan differ from the ‘standard?’

It will follow the principles outlined in my Ebook, Healing the Grumpy Athlete.  Whereby we will have a 3-4 week build phase with an adaptation period timed around my menstrual cycle. You can read more about that in the Ebook. This approach has been pivotal for me and I’ve worked this way for the past 3 years. I also will do very minimal threshold work and next to no tempo  (Zone 3) work. So this means majority of my time is spent in aerobic training zones or well above threshold and working on Vo2 Max. Which is coined the polarised approach. My body loves it. My mind loves it and it works brilliantly for me, and our athletes. I also won’t be aiming to do the traditional amount of running required for half iron distance. This ties into how my body responds hormonally to running but more so my history of niggles and injury. I still don’t have answers to the pain I experience. My mobility and function are spot on, and my biomechanics are also quite good, of course, not perfect. Structurally all my scans come up clear. A few weeks ago I went in for a surgical procedure to do some more investigating to the potential cause of general knee, hamstring and psoas pain that I’ve had long term. A blog for another time.

  • You recently conducted an Metabolic Efficiency Test (MET)- what was the result like and what did you learn? 

I learnt that long long long (ultra) endurance events should be my game! First off I want to explain what MET means.

MET is a test that measures your use of O2 and production of CO2 to determine how many calories you burn at different intensity levels and how many of these calories are coming from fat and carbohydrates. The tests are done both at rest and during exercise using either a bike or a treadmill. The exercise test will start easy and gradually increase in intensity until you reach your VO2max (your max ability to use oxygen to produce energy)

What testing tells us;

  • Discover any metabolic dysfunctions
  • If your predicted MAF heart rate is suitable for you
  • Determine if you are a sugar or a fat burner
  • Allows you to fine tune your training to improve fat burning ability and endurance
  • Understanding how much fuel your body burns at different intensities will help you plan your event better and avoid “hitting the wall” too early

My results?

Cross Over Point: 173 bpm

Aet (Aerobic Threshold): 167 bpm

Current MAF  heart rate as per 180 formula: 143 bpm

What this means is that I have a higher aerobic threshold and I am also an efficient fat burner during exercise (and at rest). So in a racing scenario I do not need to rely on a high level of exogenous fuel (gels), limiting the risk of GI distress and energy fluctuations.

Completing this test has been pivotal, we would have been programming/ training based on MAF heart rate, which would have meant;

  1. I would barely run, 95% walk to stay under that heart rate
  2. I would not have got the fitness gains required as my heart rate would have been TOO low

 

  • Whats the hardest part about getting back into structured training (again)?

Ha! the again part. So many false starts in the past 2.5 years so my head gets clouded with the doubts and frustrations. But with each of my false starts I’ve learnt more about my body and I go into this build with a different mindset and level of confidence.

  • With your goal of having a come back in long course this year what will be your top 3 action steps to determine success?
  1. Continuing the improvements I’ve made to balance my hormones and limit PMDD symptoms – this will allow for greater consistency and recovery. (This involves, stress management, supplements, balanced training, having FUN, looking after my gut health and eating LCHF naturally).
  2. I’m trying not to pin too much on the surgery that had. But my hope is that this will help clear up a lot of inflammation floating around my body, contributing to fatigue, niggles and hormone imbalance. So a successful surgery recovery is a big factor for success this year.
  3. Being open to change my mindset, letting go of the fear of effort that developed from my experience with burn out and over training.

 

  • Do you have a long term plan for training/racing or are you focussing on one particular race?

I’ve got a few races ear marked for 2017, some trail running events will be in the mix, maybe some more adventure races. But mostly my mind is set on a Half Ironman for this year and after racing for so long I don’t need lead in races to motivate me or to practice, happy to perform in training and let my A race do the talking.

  • Whats your fav race and race distance? Best race? Worst race?

Ooooo tough. Considering I’ve spent most of my Triathlon journey competing in 70.3 i’ld say my heart lies there. But perhaps my talent lies in Olympic distance (historically). My body and strengths have changed a lot in the past 2.5 years so I think moving forward things might be a bit different and 70.3 could be my distance. If the body holds up on an injury front – then ultra distance will be in my future for sure.

Best race?

Well Ironman was memorable and special of course. But my best race that was executed to perfection and I obliterated my own expectations was Noosa Tri 2013. Fond memories.

Worst race?

I’ve had a few! But my only 70.3 DNF at Canberra in 2014 was the hardest to take. I was a physical and emotional mess. All the burnout factors rolled into this day and it was my catalyst for change. So in that regard, it still holds a positive memory.

Thanks Katee for allowing us to get to know you more, for your openness and willingness to share, giving us insight into who you are and the varied roles that you hold. We wish you luck in your come back to long course racing and look forward to hearing your progress.

And that wraps out our three part series with Coach Katee – The Business Woman, The Coach and Athlete.

Reach out and learn more about Katee here.

 

 

 

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] In training I’ve conducted FTP test (Functional Threshold Power) and from that I work out a suitable intensity to race at. For a half Ironman, recommended intensity depends on experience and running ability. My intensity factor (IF) was planned for a 82-85% (.82 – .85). Further to that, I completed an MET (Metabolic Efficiency Test) to determine my bodies ability to access fat for fuel at intensity, and how many grams of carbohydrates I burn at a given heart rate. This helped formulate my race nutrition and heart rate strategy. I discussed this in further detail in this blog. […]

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