Kate Hutchinson is no stranger to water or competitive sport having been a Commonwealth Games finalist in swimming in 2010, but, after retiring from swimming in 2012, Hutchinson thought her time competing in sport, especially representing her country, was behind her.
That was until she decided to take the plunge into the world of swim, bike, run and it was a triathlon debut to remember for Hutchinson, who claimed bronze in her age group at last year’s British Standard Distance Triathlon Championships in Leeds.
Hutchinson is a former international swimmer, representing England at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Great Britain at the World University Games in 2011, and now works as an English teacher at Roundhay School, overlooking the AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds course.
“When I was training at Loughborough, we did used to swim alongside quite a few triathletes as the triathlon group would train next to us and I always used to look at them and envy them a little bit that they had the diversity of the training,” Hutchinson said. “But because you’re so laser focused on what you’re doing at the time it never really crossed my mind to do triathlon.
“After retiring from swimming in 2012, I went to do my Masters in Edinburgh and then I spent two years in Australia. I completely stopped swimming. I don’t think I actually got in a pool apart from sunbathing, but in 2015 I wanted to get fit, so I started doing cross fit and that was something that really captured my attention.
“I moved back to Leeds in 2016 and in the fitness world you meet loads and loads of people who do triathlon and do all different sports and Leeds is such a hub for triathlon. I feel very lucky that I live in what I feel is the heart of triathlon in the UK. You hop on your bike and you’re in the Dales, you’ve got all this dramatic scenery and you go to the pool, and you see Jess Learmonth, you see Georgia Taylor-Brown, someone cycles past you and it’s a pro triathlete.
“It’s really inspiring and at that time I think I was feeling a bit fatigued with cross fit and feeling quite inspired by the Leeds athletes around me. It made me want to have a go at triathlon myself and, having a swimming background, being an okay runner and having the engine from swimming, it just kind of felt like a natural thing to move towards.”
The 30-34 age group athlete started with a GO TRI Aquathlon before taking on her first triathlon at last year’s AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds.
The Leeds weekend is a home event for the 31-year-old, having grown-up and now living in the city, including working just a stone’s throw away from the course where Hutchinson and over three thousand participants will participate this weekend.
Last year saw Hutchinson record the fastest swim time of all the athletes competing in the female age groups in the British Standard Distance Triathlon Championships, before crossing the line third in her age group to claim bronze.
“To be able to go there especially after what everybody had been through created an amazing atmosphere,” Hutchinson reflected. “It was a bit nerve racking, I’d never done it before, there was so much to think about. I was having nightmares for weeks before, imagining forgetting my bike, imagining not being able to get my shoes on.
“Being there, knowing there were elite athletes doing it, it was an amazing experience. With it being a two-hour race, that was significantly different than anything I have done before so there was so much to think about in terms of nutrition, how do you deal with going to the toilet, I had endless questions.
“Way back when I used to swim in Leeds, I used to swim with Jess Learmonth, so I messaged her, and Claire Cashmore was also really good. I find that people are so generous with knowledge in triathlon. I wasn’t expecting any replies and so many people contacted me to say ‘try this’ and it was really helpful.
“I was just blown away by the whole experience in Leeds. You’re running alongside people and they’re saying, ‘go on, girl’ and you’re cheering other people on as they go past, and it gives you so much incentive.
“A British Championships medal wasn’t something I was aiming for with it being my first one. I just wanted to finish it. I’m much more confident on the bike now because last year I hadn’t been cycling on a road bike for very long, so I just felt like I was tootling along on a Sunday cycle. It taught me a lot competing in that race.”
Her finishing position in Leeds last year also saw Hutchinson qualify to represent the Great Britain Age-Group Team at the World Standard Distance Triathlon Championships in Abu Dhabi in November.
“I would never have said that I would be competing internationally again, I thought that was done,” Hutchinson said. “I didn’t realise that feeling of loving competing would never go away. I’ve not done anything like that for a very long time, but it’s going to be such an amazing experience.
“The main thing for me is to enjoy it, but the opportunity to push myself and have a focus that is outside of work is something I also like. I’m a secondary school teacher so that can get intense at different times in the year, so triathlon provides a level of escapism that is just fantastic.”
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