Cathy comes across as laid back character, full of fun, and many laughs have been shared as her coach, and amongst those she runs with. But behind her laid-back facade there lies a fierce determination to push herself to her limits, both physically and mentally. This spirit was most evident in her application to training for her first miler last year – the brutal Great Southern Endurance Run. If she was told when she first contemplated doing a miler, and knowing it would be as tough as GSER, that she’d finish second she would have laughed if off as a dream. But more than a year of singleminded focus in her training, with everything leading to that one race, that’s exactly what she did.
LENGTH OF TIME TRAINING WITH MILE 27?
If my memory serves me correctly I started training with Mile 27 just before my first 100km race in 2014. Social media pointed me towards Andy and Mile 27 – his philosophies, approach to training and advice impressed me.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTERESTED IN THE SPORT?
I always loved the bush and often romanticised the ability to run for endless hours, however I did not know anyone who did this and for some reason I didn’t think it was possible. Fast forward to New Year’s Day 2012, I went for a run and during this hot and slow 5kms I thought, “2012 I will run a marathon, 2013 6 foot track and 2014 UTA100km”. After I completed my first road marathon that same year I joined a local athletics club to help with some speed work and met my good friend Natalie who had done all the things I had dreamed about. She took me under her wing and the rest is history!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE RACE?
It’s very difficult to pick a favourite, as each trail race is as individual as we are people. UTA (Ultra Trail Australia) has always been special as it is a real family affair. We all stay in the Blue Mountains; my family crew for me, cheer like no other and catch me on the finish line. My heart always leaves this event full of love and happiness.
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM A RACE SO FAR?
After a good year of racing I signed up for Bogong to Hotham. It is renowned for its tough mid-race cut off; I knew it would be a real challenge as speed isn’t my friend, however I wanted something to chew me up and spit me out at the end! The first 9kms of this race is an unrelenting uphill climb. I was pretty much toast after that and part-way up the second climb every muscle in my legs took their turn cramping until eventually they cramped in unison and I fell to the ground. With legs in the air and in full cramp mode, I quickly realised I was also in an ants nest and desperately began swatting away the invading army of ants. The problem was each time I tried to get up my legs would cramp again and I was essentially stuck on the ground keeping the ants company. Eventually another runner came by, who later described me as ‘break dancing’ on the ground; he managed to get me up but after that point it quickly became clear I was not going to make the cut-off as each time I tried to run I would cramp again. So goal achieved, I was chewed up and spat out, just a little earlier than anticipated!
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ULTRAMARATHON ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
Without a doubt GSER! I chose this as my first ‘miler’ and with over 12 months of focus and training for this goal, I can honestly say I loved everything it threw at me.
WHAT IS ON YOUR RACING BUCKETLIST?
There are so many races out there that have my interest, however UTMB is the only one on my bucket list!
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM ULTRAMARATHONS? WHAT HAVE THEY TAUGHT YOU ABOUT LIFE AND YOURSELF?
The experience of being on the trails for many hours is cathartic. Your mind becomes so present and focused in the moment; it becomes a gift being able to escape the busyness of life whilst enjoying all nature has to offer. Finishing GSER really highlighted to me the power of the mind; anything is possible if you meet the right people, have the right support, are consistent with training and pick a goal that speaks to you. Thankfully this power also goes beyond trail running and filters to other areas of your life.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF TRAINING?
Long trail runs on the weekend feel like therapy as I come away feeling centred and ready to take on the week. I also love a good rest day!
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE BENEFITED FROM TRAINING WITH MILE 27?
It was relatively easy training for my first road marathon; the internet has a wealth of information to help the novice runner. Beyond that I did not know how to train for the longer distance trail events. Mile 27 provided me with quality training (it turns out you don’t need to do 80km long runs to prepare for a 100km event), expert advice (I have sooo many questions), but to also become a part of the Mile 27 family.
WHAT IS THE ONE TIP YOU WOULD GIVE A FELLOW ATHLETE TO HELP THEM ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE OF RUNNING AN ULTRA MORE?
My friend Natalie taught me to respect the trail. I didn’t really understand what that meant until one year I was a bit cocky and thought I could take charge on the Six Foot Track. What resulted was my hardest and least enjoyable race ever as I cooked myself in the first 15kms. Respecting the trail and all she has to offer changes your mentality to training and racing.
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT RACE?
Six Foot Track! My running club NSWIB (NSW Institute of Beer) takes this race to a whole new level of fun, whether you have the race of your life or crawl across the finish line you have a mate to pick you up and laugh at you!!