It's fair to say that 2019 has been a whirlwind year for pro triathlete Katrina Matthews.
Kat was an Age Group winner at Challenge Gran Canaria, 3rd on her pro debut at IM 70.3 Staffordshire, and winner of the ETU Middle Distance Championships in her first GB elite start.
Kat enjoyed another huge life event when she got married to her partner Mark (and her guests also enjoyed some Precision Hydration at the wedding). Just a few weeks later, Kat was making her IRONMAN debut at IM Western Australia and performed brilliantly to finish 4th.
We spoke to Kat about a breathless year and to find out how she'll be approaching training in the coming months...
Hi Kat, I think there’s only one place to start really - THAT IRONMAN debut time of 8:53:58 and a 4th place finish. Were you surprised that the performance came so soon after your wedding celebrations?
Firstly, the PH went down a treat at our wedding as there were lots of thirsty guests!
As for the race, we had set the date for our wedding long before I chose to race, but the IM was an end-of-season fun challenge for me and so it didn’t cross my mind over the wedding weekend - I partied properly!
Come the Monday I was back at it and into a hard race-build block though.
I looked at times a lot in the weeks leading up to the race and effectively had a best case, average, and worst case time in mind for the swim, bike and run legs.
As it turned out I had best case times in all three and I exceeded my own expectations.
As you said in your post-race tweet, your race time was just a minute down on the Army Men’s record and [as confirmed by stats guru Thorsten Radde] it was the 25th-fastest IM time ever by a British lady. So, what did you learn from your debut?
Planning pays off!
I think IRONMAN can throw a lot of unexpected obstacles at you, so the more you can physically and mentally prepare for them the better.
I did a little research into the strengths of each pro female in the race and I had my own hydration and nutrition plan in place. I knew every turn on the bike leg and I knew exactly what I was eating and drinking and when, as well as how many grams of carbs and sodium I would take.
So, I think what I learned is not to become complacent with this level of planning in future.
The other thing to bear in mind is patience. I knew my own capacity and this was tested on the run where I let a couple of the ladies run past me early on and it paid off when I saw them later.
When you get a chance to sit back and reflect, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your first season racing as a pro?
I’m not sure I have learned much specifically from “turning pro”. I have the same coach and my training volume has only slowly increased.
I guess I have learned that you don’t need to do what everyone else does. Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to stick to it.
Racing professionally has a lot of other factors (e.g. sponsorship, social media, tactical race planning, qualification focuses) that you don’t necessarily see when you’re racing at the amateur level.
You have to remain focused on “Your Why” and believe in yourself as an athlete in order to keep developing to be the best you can be.
With that focus on 'being the best you can be' in mind, how is your training structured to ensure you keep developing?
I make sure I have a purpose to all of the training I do. Most people won’t believe this but my biggest training week in 2019 was 18 hours.
When a session is meant to be hard, make sure you go hard and, probably more importantly, make the easy ones easy! You should see your training session paired with your recovery; they go hand-in-hand.
Which aspects of your training will you really be focusing on in training during the off season?
I have a few lasting niggles I want to get ironed out in the gym, something I haven’t been good at this year, and as a qualified physio I should know better!
I do hope to make some gains on the bike early in the year and the BMC-ViFit team sponsors have given me plenty of ‘toys’ to play with to keep it exciting!
One significant difference about training full-time is that I can focus on the quality of my sessions, particularly with regards to my preparation, mobility, nutrition, and hydration, while I can put an emphasis on recovery with a focus on sleep and reducing general daily stress.
I rely on my Polar watch to track my heart rate and sleep every day – this allows me to match stats with how I feel and if required, adapt my training.
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8:53:58 Ironman Debut. 📸 @witsupcom Happy with that🥂. Went exactly to plan. I wrote down pre race the splits I wanted: 55,3,4:50,2,3:10 I hit: 55,3,4:43,2,3:11 Slightly faster on the bike, not down to watts but down to conditions and staying aero AF, slightly slower run - popped to the loo at halfway. So pleased and content with the race😄. OUTSTANDING depth in the ladies pro field with 6 of us sub 9. 🙌🏼Top 3 @teresajadam @spiampiano @gurutzefrades - amazing. Inspiring racing!! Gotta get working on my marathon run now! Special shout out to my fellow 🇬🇧brits - I haven’t ever had a more fun and relaxed race week! @kimmoreasons just amazing 🙌🏼, @rastle50 and @sophie.bubb Pro debut 🎉 🥂fizz all round! @alistair.brownlee 🤩🤜🏼domination! BUT NOW! Honeymoon 🎉THANKS for being the ABSOLUTE best supporter on the course today @markmatt29 sorry for making you wait a month to celebrate! LOVE. #ironmandebut #heartratenerd #allthecarbs - 🙏🏼 @britisharmysport @talentedathleteuk @tri_coach_damo @precisionhydration @timpodlogar andddd to EVERYONE who offered support in any way 🙏🏼🤩
Excellent, you mentioned the BMC-ViFit Pro Team there and you must be excited to meet up with your teammates ahead of the 2020 season. How are your plans for the current off season with the rest of your team shaping up?
Now this is one of the biggest perks about being a pro!
I'm doing my first BMC camp in Lanzarote in January, which I’m a little nervous about. Luckily the team is so supportive, which makes it a little less daunting.
I then have a short camp in Girona before Challenge Salou and finally another trip planned in Lanzarote in April with Mark.
I also balance my time away with ensuring I plan time for my clinical work as a Physiotherapist here in the UK, so a lot of my time from January to March will be static and very much routine in the UK.
Sounds like a nice, varied way to spend the winter! How much training do you anticipate putting in during the coming months?
I went back into a proper schedule from January to February and my plan is to do 15 to 25 hours of training each week, but we shall see how my form comes back. You can see an example of my 2019 training plan below, although there will certainly be some changes in 2020:
|Monday||Swim and Gym|
|Wednesday||Run (drills) and Gym|
|Friday||Swim and Gym|
|Saturday||Long bike ride|
Thanks Kat, it's always good to see what the pro's are doing in training! For you, what are the best and worst parts about off season training?
Being able to socialise a bit more freely without the constraints of training and racing so much. I think I do get a good balance through the year and don’t often cut things out, but it's nice to be completely “guilt free", even if you do regret it sometimes.
I'm a strong believer of happiness being a primary motivator and can only make you better. I will never be as lean as Jan Frodeno, so why try too hard!
I think most people would say the weather is the worst part but it isn’t so bad. For me, I love racing so I guess it’s the ‘lull’ that comes after a full race season.
And finally, looking ahead to the 2020 season, have you set out your goals for the year yet?
Yes, goals are a requirement for me to maintain motivation.
However, because of the way qualification for Kona and the 70.3 Worlds works it’s hard to set a season of fixed goals.
I will race Challenge Salou first and hopefully qualify for Samorin. After that I will race an IRONMAN, so if I qualify for Kona then great, but if not I’m actually really excited to race the ITU long distance championships.
I love racing for GB so that’s a fantastic alternative.