When it comes to making gains in athletic progress, one of the few things that experts can agree on is that consistency in your training leads to long-term success. "Keep Showing Up" became the trademark phrase of Des Linden's after she won the Boston Marathon in 2018. If it works for Des, can it work for a mere mortal? 100%!
Katelyn Pelak, a runner and triathlete who I started working with a couple years ago, is the embodiment of consistency. Katelyn knows that consistency isn't just a commitment to a training plan for a specific race. She sees the big picture across her training, career, and family and embraces these challenges as a lifestyle day after day, 12 months a year. Here is a little more about Katelyn, in her words. Adopt her attitude, mimic her behavior, and you will be unstoppable.
Katelyn, before we started working together, you did a couple Sprint and Olympic triathlons, then you moved up to a 70.3 (half iron). What intrigued you about the longer distance course?
[Katelyn] I really wanted a challenge. I was looking for something that would stretch my boundaries and my comfort zone. Building on what I had learned about triathlon in the shorter races, and applying that to a longer course, was a scary idea, but one that I grew more excited about, the more I thought about it.
Tell us about your first 70.3. Did it provide you with that challenge you were looking for?
[Katelyn] It definitely did. In my first half iron (Victoria, BC in 2017), I struggled big time on the run. Biking had historically been my weakest sport, so in the time leading up to the race I was really focused on the bike. I spent a lot of mental energy worrying about strategy on the bike and didn’t think much about the run. During the race, the bike went smoothly but I found myself sore, tired, and mentally exhausted on the run. I had to walk more than planned and it was a major mental challenge - I just wanted the race to be over! Luckily, I saw you at a few points during the run and you encouraged me to stick with a mix of run/walk intervals to give me something to focus on. In addition, I kept reminding myself that the hardest parts were over and I had accomplished a lot that day already - I completed a hilly bike course and swam 1.2 miles, and just had to finish one little part before I could celebrate at the finish line.
I had to dig really deep, but to get through it, I reminded myself how hard I had worked to get to that point and tried to focus on the positive aspects: my husband and my coach were there to support me, the sun was shining, and I was (almost) a half IM finisher. Those tactics helped get me across the line with a smile on my face.
Your superpower, no doubt, is consistency. You have a crazy busy schedule, with a demanding job, a husband, and an active social life. But yet, in the years that we’ve worked together, I could count on one hand the number of workouts that you’ve missed. What are some of your tactics for staying consistent with your training?
[Katelyn] I’ve decided that my training is a top-3 priority for me. After taking care of my family and dealing with work commitments, I prioritize training above everything else. This means that my social activities and other hobbies are scheduled around my training instead of the other way around. I also couldn’t do it without my incredibly supportive husband - I make sure to share my training plans for the week with him so that he has an idea of what I’d like to accomplish. Thanks to his support and flexibility, making time for training doesn’t feel like a burden on my family and that’s been a big mental relief for me to help me stay consistent.
What are the payoffs that you’ve noticed with consistency in your training?
[Katelyn] My biking and running have both gotten significantly stronger! I cut an hour and 26 minutes off of my half IM time between my race in June 2017 (Victoria) and my race in December 2018 (Indian Wells) thanks to improvements in my bike and running strength that I gained over many months of steady, consistent workouts. Also, staying diligent with my workouts enables me to have really accurate, reliable training data. I can use my consistency to notice any big changes or issues with my training, my physical health, or fatigue and optimize from there.
Your life is always packed with learnings and growth. For example, last year you led a product launch at work while also training for your first marathon. I’m curious - what lessons from your training do you apply to your work challenges?
[Katelyn] There are two themes that I’ve been able to take across my fitness and work challenges. First of all, the ability to prioritize is a critical skill. I’ve found that the self-control and long-term thinking needed to prioritize my workouts has also helped me prioritize major goals in my job and vice versa. The second theme is confidence. Setting and achieving goals as an endurance athlete gives me confidence and helps to reinforce confidence in my own abilities at work.
You’ve conquered that Half Ironman challenge that you set out for in 2017 and completely crushed your first marathon in 2019. What are some of the next big ambitions that you have for yourself as an athlete, in the next few years?
[Katelyn] I’d like to break 5:30 for my half IM time, and complete a non-road race endurance event - maybe a long trail race, a swim/run trail event, or summit one of the gorgeous mountains around Washington.
Thanks so much, Katelyn, for sharing your story. Getting a peek into your past, present, and future in triathlon is really helpful for other athletes who are contemplating a new challenge. You’ve got amazing tactical and mental strategies for excelling and you are an inspiration to stay the course when life surely offers plenty of distractions. We are looking forward to seeing you race this year, and summiting mountains in the future!