Kate King

How did I get into the sport?

I got into Triathlons through my own decision to find a better version of myself, I wanted to be fitter, healthier and happier for my family after suffering two miscarriages in 2008 and then losing our first born son Brett in October of 2009, at just 17 days old. We found out through a scan at 23 weeks that he was really sick, he had a condition preventing him from swallowing and he also had a complex heart defect. With this diagnosis, my pregnancy was classed as high risk and due to him not being able to swallow, my amniotic fluid built up in excess. Over the course of his pregnancy I had 5 amniotic fluid drains to prevent going into early labour.  Brett was born at 37 weeks, but unbeknown to us at the time, he was unable to breathe due to membranes blocking his nose. We all watched on helplessly as the doctor’s and nurses worked tirelessly on him until he was able to take his first breath.   Unfortunately this was not the end of our nightmare.  We spent the next 17 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with him while he struggled to survive.  As parents we felt helpless, watching on in fear as he battled to stay with us, we questioned who we were and how unfair life was, we wondered what we did wrong, more so what did he do wrong to deserve this? He had 2 surgeries, one being on his second day and he had multiple specialist doctors assessing why he was so sick.  We were eventually informed that Brett had suffered severe brain damage and that his condition was more complex than first thought and he was clinically diagnosed with a condition known as CHARGE syndrome. We were beyond devastated and nothing could prepare us for what lay ahead. At 17 days old, I held my son in my arms as he took his last breath, it was in this moment I knew I would never be the same, I lost my son, I lost the person my husband was and I lost the person I once knew.  We walked out of that hospital together with empty arms, breasts full of milk and heavy, broken hearts. 

We eventually went on to have two more beautiful, healthy children and I was just so thankful that I could fall pregnant and experience pregnancy again. Even if it was filled with anxiety, it was a true gift and I never took it for granted, I honestly cherished every little moment, knowing that each day was one more day I had with them.  

After losing Brett I lost interest in many things I used to love and still to this day I don’t enjoy reading like I used to. My reactions to things were different and quite unpredictable, I didn’t know who this person was and I didn’t want to know. I wanted the person I spent 23 years getting to know and understand and knew how she worked.  I had fought against this new version of me for 8 years, there were a lot of things I didn’t like and I eventually just learned to live with. I reached a point in 2017 where I had shut myself off from the world and lived in my own little family bubble with the people I felt emotionally safe around.  I had become so reliant on my partner and my children for my emotional happiness that it wasn’t fair on them and it definitely wasn’t healthy for me.  I felt I had lost control of who I was, to be honest I had given up on me. At the end of 2017, something clicked, I realised I had to stop trying to be the person I once was, start accepting the person I had changed into and take control of my life by carving out a newer, healthier and happier version of me.   

I fought through the anxiety and contacted my local triathlon club.  I found out when their training and club events were and started attending some of their training sessions along with my own training when I could.  I made 2018 my year of getting out of my comfort zone and I figured participating in my first triathlon was a good head start, as it was something I had always wanted to do. So on the 21st of January 2018, I participated in my first club triathlon with a smile on my face the whole time, even after being lapped on my mountain bike and coming last, I knew at that point I had changed for the better.  I had achieved something for myself, I had pushed through the anxiety and fears of trying something new, meeting new people and wanting to make a change to become someone I respected and loved.  Even though it was nerve rackingly hard to work through that anxiety, I am so glad that I got out there and made it happen anyway.  It was on that day I realised that I had finally overcome many years of self-destructing hate and blame, I had finally found the new me.  

What benefits or positive effects you’ve noticed through your participation in the sport?

Triathlon has changed my life for the better, it helped change the way I viewed myself. I saw myself as a mother who had failed her son, who had lost control of her dreams and who she was, who blamed herself for everything that went wrong and struggled to remove the stigma of being a grieving mother.  After having participated in a few triathlons, I can now see a mother of 3 beautiful children who took control of her life, who made positive choices to be a stronger and healthier person so her family could be proud of who she was, where she had come from and where she was going. 

I have made new friends, I now enjoy exercise as I have three different sports to choose from so I don’t get bored. I love researching and finding new equipment and gear to wear, plus it gets me out of the house where my old comfort zone used to be.  These days I enjoy leaving the house to train and participate in events, this has now become my new comfort zone. I also love that I have control over my training, I can suit my training and events to my level of fitness and/or interest at the time from enticer events all the way up to ironman levels if I wanted to. I can work training in around my family and I have even had my children participate in training with me. Becoming a better role model for my kids is truly something special and something I am proud of. I love watching my fitness level increase and learn what my body is capable of doing and how much I can push it.  I have also learned a lot about my road bike, how to ride and look after it and how to ride with bike cleats developing a newfound love for riding. As for running, even though I am not that fast I have really enjoyed finding new places to run and getting to know the area I live in.  I participated in my first 10km-running event this year, I also completed my first half marathon and I am now a regular at parkrun to keep my fitness up for triathlons. I have also done a 7km obstacle course with my Niece, a learn to surf lesson that I had always wanted to do and after my first triathlon I discovered my love for open water swimming, signing up for a 2km Australia Day ocean swim event afterwards. I have also recently just signed up to do the 3.6km solo Busselton Jetty swim in 2019 with the intention of seeing if I can swim the distance in hope of one day being able to participate in a half or full ironman. 

After completing my first couple of club triathlons I had built up some knowledge and confidence and I challenged myself further by signing up for my first sprint distance at the Sunsmart Women’s Triathlon in March. My husband and children came to support me, cheering me on from the sidelines. Having them there and having the opportunity to high five my kids into the run and also as I ran into the finisher’s chute was immeasurable.  Still to this day it has been one of the many moments this year that I will cherish for a long time. So that decision to participate in my first triathlon back in 2017 was the best decision I ever made, it truly changed my direction in life.

What you’d like someone who’s standing on the sidelines and nervous about giving tri a go to know?

Dive in and have a go, you will be surprised with what you can achieve! As a beginner to the sport we are all nervous about different things whether it be open water, swimming, riding with cleats, coming last, meeting new people or not being able to run far! No matter what is making you second-guess yourself, I can tell you now you are not alone, we have all been there, but don’t let it stop you. 

I would highly recommend getting in contact with your local triathlon club and finding out when and where their training and club triathlons take place and set a goal for your first club triathlon. Being part of a club can help with all those beginner nerves and it provides a relaxed setting to prepare for your first triathlon.  Club triathlons usually run enticer distances and are low-key more relaxed events, which are greatly suited to beginners to the sport! There is no rush, take your time to train and work up to it.  All you need is a helmet and bike, some running shoes and swimmers.  Transition between each discipline doesn’t have to be fast, you can get changed into shorts or shirt for the bike and run if you don’t have a tri-suit. You can also make triathlons as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be depending on your budget.  

I found I was too anxious and embarrassed to participate in the larger organised events at first, especially when I didn’t know much about the sport at the time and I didn’t have any friends who shared the same interests to participate with me. So I found joining a club and meeting like-minded people a better introduction to the sport. Triathlon is a really unique sport that caters to every one of all ages, fitness levels and abilities. If you aren’t confident in one of the disciplines, then you can partake in an aquathlon or Duathlon. If you are too nervous to do it alone, you can even be apart of a team and only do one leg of the triathlon while your friends do the rest! By doing it with friends or with a club it gives you a feel of what an event is like and it won’t be as daunting as it would be by doing a big event alone. I also started following a range of groups like Triathlon WA and Triathlon Australia and other triathletes on Instagram from other beginners, social triathletes all the way up to the Pro’s.  I also joined triathlon/running/cycling groups on Facebook, which provided another avenue of inclusiveness and understanding of each individual discipline along with triathlons in general. 

I don’t know what it is about triathlons but being able to participate in 3 different disciplines one after another just brings this sense of pride and achievement in yourself no matter what distance you are achieving. The triathlon community is a welcoming group of like-minded people who are always willing to provide support to those new to the sport. Just remember everyone that you see has been in your shoes at some point in their triathlon journey, so don’t let those nerves win, hop off the fence, dive in and give it a shot. You never know what you are truly capable of until you have a go and you just never know where this triathlon journey will take you! My motto these days is: Be nervous, but do it anyway!