Serious Sisu: Kate Gazzard
Kate Gazzard has climbed three of the seven summits, placed first in the Perth Marathon, and worked as a high altitude medic in Nepal. She is currently the team Doctor for the ACT Brumbies Rugby Union Team and only weeks away from competing in the Ironman World Championship at Kona. For those who are new to Ironman, it involves a 3.86 km swim, a 180 km cycle and a 42.2 km run - in one go! It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. In order to compete, you need to qualify, which Kate did by finishing in the top three at the Mexico Ironman earlier this year. Kate isn't just going to Hawaii for a finish, which is gruelling enough, she has her eyes on the podium and is currently training up to 22 hours a week to work towards that goal. Serious Sisu!
Who is Kate Gazzard?
My name is Kate Gazzard, and I am the Team Doctor for the ACT Brumbies Rugby Union Team. I am also a physiotherapist and an athlete, and am currently five weeks away from competing at the Ironman World Championships - the Hawaiian Ironman at Kona.
What inspired you to qualify for the Ironman World Championships?
I watched the coverage of the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships in 1997 where there was an epic battle for 3rd and 4th place in the women's race between Wendy Ingraham and Sian Welch. Both women collapsed within metres of the finish line as their bodies caved with the brutality of the event. Their spirits, however, were not beaten, and both women crawled to the finish line on hands and knees. I was in tears. The footage was completely mind blowing At that moment I knew I HAD to get there. The picture of the women crawling across the line is still the screen saver on my phone. It motivates me to keep my eyes on the prize.
What does a typical week of training look like for you? How does it change before a big event?
Haha. There is no such thing as a 'typical' week when you're working as a Doctor for a professional sporting team. Most mornings I'm up at 3.30 am to 4 am to train for a few hours before work. Then it is off to work, treating patients, meetings, attending rugby training and towards the back end of the week we travel for the games. When we travel for away games I am normally juggling time zones, flights and training in hotel gyms. In South Africa, I am not allowed out of the hotel... Six hours on a hotel gym bike is a good lesson in resilience!
What percentage of your success, do you think, has been attributed to hard work and what percentage to natural talent?
In Ironman I would have to say 90 percent is a result of hard work and 10 percent comes down to talent. My parents were both OK athletes. They played rugby, hockey and took part in cross country running. My Mum also swam when she was younger. When I was at School I did a bit of everything. I was never a superstar, just OK at most things I tried... but I tried everything. Sport was my life! It was after I finished school that I found triathlon and found my passion. I love triathlon because it is more about who is prepared to put in the hard work. Natural talent will only get you so far in these events. It comes down to how much you want it and how much you are prepared to do to get it. It very much rewards dedication and commitment.
What’s the best part of Ironman? And what’s the worst?
Best parts: the finish line, the start line, my training buddies, the travel, the friendships you develop with people all over the world... and of course discovering that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are! You are so much stronger than you think!
Worst parts: Time away from family and friends. It's a selfish sport, no denying that. Over twenty hours of training per week, plus work and study doesn't leave a lot of time for friends and family. I try to squeeze my big miles in when my fiance, Tim, is away with work. I then make the recovery weeks count where we can cross train together by mountain biking, going to the gym, body surfing.
What’s one aspect of the whole process of Ironman that’s surprised you most?
THE EXPENSE!!! Triathlon doesn't come cheap! On the positive side, one of the best things I never anticipated is that most of my best friends in the world are from this sport, and we are all from different walks of life. Sport is such a great equaliser.
How do you deal with self-doubt?
I have little phrases I stick on my bike and mantras that I repeat to myself through the tough times. I meditate daily and practice yoga when I can. I remind myself to be present, to tune into my body and to enjoy this moment, as this is the only moment we have. I also focus on remembering why I do it and what I love about it. It is all about keeping a positive mindset.
What do you tell yourself when everything hurts, and you want to give up?
My favourite phrase is from the Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh: 'Breathing in I am calm, Breathing out, I smile...' It always makes me smile.
As a Doctor, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your experiences about your body?
Listen to your body! I'm a science geek. I love to learn about the body, physiology and how we change from day to day with training. My coach is an even bigger science geek. We have lots of 'objective' checks to ensure I'm managing the heavy load of training, work, study, and life. The best thing I've learnt is the 20-minute rule. Some days you just don't feel like training, so I give myself 20 minutes. If after 20 minutes I still feel bad, I can call it a day. I have never had to stop at the 20-minute mark - not once. Sure, there are times when I don't hit the training milestones we've planned - that's life. That's the body. But, once I'm into it, I set my mind on the positives, tune into the present and how good it feels to move and just tick it over....
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned from sport?
'Whether you think you can or think you can't - you're right.' Henry Ford. In other words, you've got to believe in yourself and what you're doing. You can have the talent, the gear, the coach, the support... but it doesn't matter one bit if you don't have the self belief.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Be present. Be grateful. And 'turn up' - mind, body and soul. Apply that to everything - be it family, work, training, life. Just turn up!
What is something that you know now that you wish someone had told you when you started your adventures in Ironman?
Cut the bottom of your wetsuit off! I got stuck in my wetsuit on camera and the cameraman had a field day watching me wrestle on the ground. It was very embarrassing!!
What is something you wish you could tell yourself as a teenager?
Hold on. You'll find your place.
What makes you wake up each morning?
Coffee. I am a morning person so this is my peak time! By 6 pm I turn into a pumpkin.
What's on the agenda for the future?
I am engaged and we are planning our wedding in Hawaii. Travel, travel and more travel. It puts the fire in my belly! I'd love to get on that podium at Kona (Hawaiian Ironman) and I'd love to run the Ultra-Trail de Mont Blanc - a trail run through France, Italy and Switzerland around the base of Mont Blanc, which I climbed in 2007. I would also love to do another season in Nepal. I worked in a rescue post in the mountains a few years ago, treating local village people and climbers. I think I was 'given' more enrichment from that experience than I ever gave in medical prowess! I am about to start doing some work with the Australian Women's Cricket Team so I am very excited to work with and be inspired by our incredible female athletes and to support them on their journey and promote women's sport. These girls recently beat England in the Ashes... but who would know if you don't follow them directly!
Finally, who do you think has serious sisu?
Ellyse Perry. Uber serious sisu. Ellyse is not only an incredibly hard working and dedicated athlete representing her country in two sports at the same time... yes, that's right - she plays for our national cricket and soccer teams, but she is also quite possibly one of the nicest, most humble, funny, caring, generous and playful human beings on the planet. Love that girl.
Kate will be competing at Kona on October 10 - we will keep you updated with her journey, or you can follow on her Instagram. Kate is also supported by Hoka One One Australia, Allez Sport and CycleZone - the best running and cycling stores on the Sunny Coast, Mooloolaba, QLD.