A few days ago Catriona Morrison stepped up to the very top of the podium in St. Croix, and defeated a stellar field that included two 70.3 World Champions. Can she repeat that act later this year in Clearwater?
Slowtwitch: St. Croix was a very exciting race for the spectators. Was it as exciting for you?
Catriona: St. Croix is a great race for athletes and spectators alike. For me it got exciting when I could see that I was catching Miranda and I was beginning to think that I had a chance to win the event. This year I think that it was even more exciting for the spectators as both races came down to the run leg with the winners being determined during the second lap of the run.
ST: You have learned from your previous St. Croix experience. What exactly did you do different?
Catriona: I raced in St Croix in 2007. I took 2 days off work and flew to the island arriving on the Friday, racing on Sunday, departing on Monday and returning to work on the Tuesday (much to the disbelief of my colleagues who needed internet evidence to show that I had been half way across the world over the weekend!). So the first time around I was pretty much just hoping that I would finish and I was surprised and relieved to end up in 2nd place! This time I had been in Arizona for three weeks and in St Croix for a week prior to the race so I was way more relaxed, acclimatized and knew the course a lot better. I think these factors all added up to helping me have a great race.
ST: Is your fitness and your training altogether different now?
Catriona: Not altogether different. I am back to being a full-time athlete so have more time for rest and recovery (good in advancing years). I also train now with a Garmin and a Powertap which are super training partners and allow me to really monitor my training and racing. I’ve had consistent training over the past 4 months, which has been a great way start to the season and I hope to continue to build on that.
ST: How long have you been working with Gordon Crawford?
Catriona: I actually now work with Philip Skiba at Physfarm and have been with him since December 2008. My apologies, I have now updated my webpage.
ST: We actually knew that, because Phil had been bragging about you in the Slowtwitch forum. But let’s talk about New Orleans. You narrowly missed a win there.
Catriona: I had no expectations in New Orleans. It was my first outing of the year and to be honest, I wanted to come away with a solid race and a position that reflected my training and fitness thus far this season. I played the cautious card – I had flown in from the UK a couple of days previously so the change in environmental conditions was harsh: near freezing, wind and rain to high heat and humidity. I made sure that I biked to my own wattage limits, and walked through nearly every aid station on the run to make sure that I was fully fueled and hydrated. I think that this ensured that I maintained a steady pace on the run all the way to the line. Did the strategy cost me a win? Perhaps, perhaps not? I was satisfied with my performance and I was in good physical shape after the event- no aches or pains. I felt that there was more in the tank, which gave me a lot of confidence for St Croix.
ST: Are you the threat to be considered this year in Clearwater?
Catriona: Do you think that I am? I’ll race my own race and this process will ultimately determine where I finish. I’ll go into the event knowing that I have run down two world 70.3 champions and finished ahead of many of the established pro women in the field. Not many people can say that they’ve overtaken an athlete of Miranda’s status on the run. I’ll know what I’ve done and what I’m capable of and hopefully good things will happen
ST: What about longer races?
Catriona: I’ve qualified for Kona and I intend to race there. It is a daunting prospect and I intend to approach the race with great humility. I will participate in Challenge Roth in July so that I have an idea of at least what it takes to do an ironman distance event. It’s tempting to just turn up in Kona, but as a rule I like to be prepared, and for me this means completing a long distance event prior to Kona.
ST: What is more daunting Kona or Clearwater?
Catriona: Kona. Kona. Kona! Clearwater is a known factor. I've been there twice and I know what to expect. Kona is unknown on so many different levels: mental, physical, emotional and environmental. But daunting is good. You only know where your boundaries are if you are prepared to push them.
ST: You have experienced Clearwater before, but not after having done an Ironman a few weeks earlier, and a very hot one to boot. Thoughts?
Catriona: I've no idea what to expect physically after completing a race as harsh as Kona. This year Clearwater falls 5 weeks after Kona, which leaves me more time than in previous years to recover. I am doing an Ironman in July, so following that, I will have an idea of how my body reacts. Other athletes have performed well in Clearwater post Kona, so the precedent has been set and I know that it is possible.
ST: How did you get involved in triathlons in the first place?
Catriona: In 2000 whilst recovering from running induced knee surgery I watched the Sydney Olympic Games triathlon. I thought to myself that I should give the sport a try – I had swum as a kid, I had bought a bike for post surgery rehab and I needed a challenge to get me back into training. The rest as they say is history! As a swimmer I competed at club and occasionally district level. I then moved to running and competed for Scotland in road, track and cross-country races. A triathlon seemed like a logical way of regaining my love for exercise and I embraced my new sport!
ST: So you embraced the sport of triathlon in 2000. When did you realize that it was going to be a pro career?
Catriona: To be honest, I think that career is too strong a word! Perhaps that's because in the UK we associate professional athletes with other high profile sports. Triathlon for me is a labor of love. At the end of the season if I've broken even I'm happy! I've been on and off as a full time athlete for about 6 years. This has been mostly related to finances. For a number of years I was backed by funding from the Scottish government. I have done the student/athlete combination and I've also been in full time employment and continued to race. I've managed to do what it takes to stay out there racing, as this is ultimately what I love to do. I'm blessed with a great hard working husband who pays most of the bills and puts up with all my training and racing. He is a good cook too, which is even more of a bonus!
ST: Along those lines, how are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Catriona: I have a lot of great product sponsors with most of my training and racing needs catered for. I ride bikes from Planet X, get swim gear from Aqua Sphere and blueseventy and running apparel from Saucony. I've got eyewear from Adidas and training toys from Powertap and soon Garmin and Fuelbelt. Powerbar supply me with yummy nutritional products, which can almost rival my home baking! West Lothian Leisure who run my local sports facilities, give me a free membership and that is fantastic. I get some performance bonus money from Powerbar and Blueseventy. Recently I've been supported by a charity - Winning Scotland Foundation, which has given me financial help and also the chance to inspire and motivate young people through sport. This has been a great opportunity and I hope that when I retire that I can continue to be involved in this area of sports development. I'm realistic - so few people get to do what they love for a living that I count myself very lucky to be on the road less traveled.
ST: Give us your thoughts on doping, and do you think enough is done to combat it?
Catriona: Unfortunately, I think that the truth of the matter is that some athletes will always try to outwit the system to gain unfair advantage over others. Doping in any capacity is wrong and I fully support WADA and partner sport governing bodies in their quest to make all sports clean and fair. I am an ambassador for UK sport and its anti doping programs and I believe that WADA is doing a good job at trying to maintain a level playing field.
ST: What does your training look like?
Catriona: I usually swim 5 times a week – 3 main sessions from 4-6k in length covering speed, threshold and endurance pace work. I also do two technique sessions.
I run 5 times a week again mixing speed (although that is relative), threshold and endurance paces and include one medium length run (40-70mins) and one long run (at present up to 2hrs). I’ll make sure to run off the bike at least once per week.
It is pretty much similar on the bike with three main sessions (VO2, threshold and endurance) mixing with at least one long ride a week.
Total hours in a bigger week probably add to about 27. In addition I do core and stability circuits 2-3 times a week and get regular physio and massage therapy.
I also make sure to include the most important brick session of the week on a Friday: pizza (homemade); beer (a couple of sips and I’m tipsy) and chocolate (don’t expect me to share).
ST: Do you have an off-season, and if so, how do you spend it?
Catriona: I generally have a few weeks off in November. This year I fell just before Clearwater and hurt my ankle. My plan was to take a little more time off to help the healing process. This did not go fully to plan as I am still carrying the injury 5 months down the line! However, I had a great 5 weeks where my husband and I toured the West Coast of Scotland in our campervan and I was able to catch up with friends, do some fun things like taxes (!) and generally forget about exercise. I was also able to spend a lot of time developing and taking part in a pilot role model program with The Winning Scotland Foundation which took 9 Scottish athletes into primary and secondary schools to give motivational and inspirational presentations to students. It was a fun and exciting project to be involved in. Its aim was to promote sport, positive attitudes to life choices and inspire young people to attempt to reach and set themselves challenging goals in all aspects of life. We are currently evaluating the project and hope that it has met and surpassed its aims and we can roll it out in other areas of the country.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Catriona: I have one eye and one ear on many other sports. Once an athlete, always an athlete. I appreciate most endurance sports and follow athletics, cycling and swimming. I also enjoy watching sports that I am either far too chicken or uncoordinated to attempt – big wave surfing, gymnastics……..
ST: What about food?
Catriona: I like food and dislike not having food when I need it! I have a sweet tooth and do a lot of home baking: cakes, muffins, rice crispie cakes…the list is endless. One of the perks off all the exercise is that you get to eat way more than the average Joe! There are not many things that I dislike, most nasties I associate with my childhood. My mum’s chicken liver pate, mince and potatoes and stew are generally to be avoided at all costs.
ST: Anything we should know about your music taste?
Catriona: I’m not a hardened music fan. I like a mixture from Scottish folksy to bad dance music. I have some pretty dodgy stuff for winter trainer nights. I’m sure the neighbors wonder what’s happening in my garage on some days!!
ST: What was the last book you read?
Catriona: The Color of Water by James McBride.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Catriona: Hopefully still exercising and competing in the sport at some level. Continuing to work to inspire the next generation to accomplish their sporting dreams.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Catriona: I collect rocks and have an obsessive-compulsive streak that comes out when sweeping the floors – I like a clean floor! I am the queen of faff.
Find out more about Catriona Morrison at catmorrison.com