Chick Chat with Katy Duffield

How did you first get into triathlons?

 

My inspiration for getting into triathlons was my twin sister Michelle (Mim). I watched her participate in a local women’s only event about 10 years ago. I can remember watching all of the women out there giving it a go and thought ‘I can do that!’ Although Mim didn’t win, she had loads of fun out there and that was something I wanted to be a part of.

For me, I come from a running background, so I knew I had that leg covered. However it had been many years since I’d swum (going back to my school carnival days) and I didn’t own a bike. So I had to get the first two legs squared away.

I can remember going to my local pool for my first ‘swim session’ (a solo effort with the goal of – don’t drown!). I am pretty sure I jumped out of the pool after 500m being seriously chuffed with myself! I had swum 50m ten times! How good was I!? I had to stop at the end of each lap BUT I didn’t have to stop in the middle. I was quite the champion and felt totally prepared for my first race which involved a 200m swim. I now had the run AND the swim covered.

The last thing was the bike. I went to my local bike shop and splashed out on a bright red Diamondback road bike, costing what I thought was an exaubadent amount for a bike… about $800 (this makes me laugh now considering this price wouldn’t even cover one of my race wheels). Riding it was a piece of cake and it felt super light and fast compared to the mountain bikes I’d ridden as a kid. I opted for the toe-cage option as the idea of locking my feet in place was a little too much to take in on one bite. Baby steps!

So now with the run, swim AND bike covered I was ready to take on my first race! It was a ‘fun’ distance triathlon composing of a 200m swim/ 10km cycle/ 3km run, and it really was so much FUN! I got out of the swim and remember thinking how far 200m felt. I hit the bike leg and felt very confused as to how these people appeared to be effortlessly pedalling way faster than me. I just kept left and pushed my aluminium bike as fast as I could. Once I was off the bike I went about running down half the field that had gone past me on the bike. I crossed the finish line and felt like a champion ( let me clarify that I was far from actually being THE champion, but that didn’t matter). That day I became a triathlete. I still get to call myself a triathlete today, and this is something that I am incredibly proud of.

 

What advice would you give for women first starting out in triathlons?

 

  • JUST DO IT! Back yourself and give it a go. You wont regret it.
  • Enjoy each race – ultimately it is about fun. So smile ☺
  • Ask questions – get advice from others around you. Don’t be afraid to ask that ‘dumb questions’, as I can guarantee I would have asked it already.
  • Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Set your own goals and work towards them.
  • Ultimately money can not buy speed – that can only come from hard work.
  • Learn from your mistakes – each race write down three things you learnt.

 

We all experience tough days on the field – you are known for your hard work ethic and “dig deep” approach when racing - what helps you get through the tough times?

Firstly, thank you for the wonderful compliment! I honestly feel that if you are racing to your full potential, every day on the field should be tough. Although some may be tougher than others.

For me racing is an opportunity to test out all of the hard work that has been done in training. The endless hours of training all come to fruition on race day. This is not just physical, but mental as well. Come race day I am ready to put it all on the line. It doesn’t matter what course it is, who I’m up against, the conditions, or the distance. Once the gun fires I am all in until the finish line. I race to get the most out of myself. This has always been my approach. I am willing to push myself to my limit and stay there for as long as I have to in order to make it to the finish line knowing I’d given it everything I had.

Obviously when racing things don’t always go to plan though – the legs might not fire, mechanicals, flat tyres, cramping etc. It’s all a part of racing. Not matter what ‘pops up’ throughout a race I am always willing to take it on board and keep going with all that I’ve got left. This is how I am ‘wired’. Otherwise when I’ve crossed the line and I ask myself the question ‘Did I race to the best of my ability, given the training that I’ve done, and under the circumstances’, I may not have the right answer. And that is something I’m not willing to accept.

 

Being a Professional Triathlete must be a dream come true – after competing in the sport for 9 years, at what point did you realise you wanted to make this your full time career?

It’s certainly been a long journey to get to this point in my racing career. It has been nine years since starting out in the sport, and I honestly never had ANY intention of racing as a pro for about eight of them! The idea of racing professionally came about after I had a stand out race at the Asia Pacific Ironman Championships in Melbourne (2013) while racing in the 25-29 age-group. On this day I finished in 9hrs 3min (short swim), I won my age group, I was the first age-grouper overall and place 13th out of over 30 professional women. This result completely blew my mind. I went in there wanting a ticket to Kona, and came away with so much more. This race opened my eyes as to what could be possible and the seed was well and truly planted of actually becoming a professional athlete.

Although I qualified for my professional licence in March 2013 at Melbourne IM, it wasn’t until almost a year later that I accepted it and competed in my first pro race (Busselton 70.3) This was mainly due to ongoing injuries, but mentally I was scared to take that leap. However, I ended up having a great first race as a professional athlete, and I ended up sneaking onto the podium in 3rd place. From then on I knew that this was what I meant to do. Looking back now it has been one of the best decisions of my life. In my first year of racing as a professional I have achieved more that what I ever dreamt would be possible. Each race I am learning more about the sport, myself and my capabilities. Who knows where I will be in another years time!!

 

In your first year of being a professional triathlete – you qualified to race in the World 70.3 Championships in Austria as a Pro. Congratulations on this incredible achievement! What was it like competing against the best women in triathlon from around the world? Did you get a little star struck?

Again, thank you for the wonderful compliment. Qualifying for the World 70.3 Championships was a big achievement for me and one that I will always remember. It was such a wonderful experience being a part of the world-class event and talent that was on show that day in Austria. There were many times I found myself staring in awe of professional athletes that I had watched race over the years. For example, attending the professional athlete briefing. I don’t think I listened to a word that was said by the organisers. I was too busy putting names to faces in a room PACKED with world-class talent. The media were having a field day, and honestly so was I.

Throughout the race I can remember reading the names on the bibs of the women around me. Most of which I had read about or watched race on other occasions. It was very surreal. Like riding up behind Maureen Hufe thinking, I ‘know’ you!! And watching the likes of Daniella Ryf running back into town to take out the win by over 11minutes. At first I was thinking ‘wow, how GOOD is she!!’ followed by ‘oh crap, is she going to lap me!!??’ (I’m happy to report I managed to hold her off ;)

All in all it was one heck of an experience. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m so glad that I took it with both hands.

 

Now that the 2015/2016 season is upon as – where are we going to see you racing this season?

Where am I off to next? I am heading to Korea for the 70.3 in Gurye on the 1st October (this will be done by the time this article is published). From there I will be planning my first Challenge race in Phuket at the end of November. This will conclude my racing for 2015, and will wrap up a big year of racing which has included 11 half-distance triathlons.

I plan to commence 2016 with a few more half ironmans, including Philippines, Malaysia and Geelong before turning my focus onto Ironman racing again. It is going to be a big year, as I will be making the transition from part-time work (teaching) into becoming a full-time professional athlete. This will require a lot of hard work, but I simply can’t wait!