From Breast Cancer Survival to the World Stage, How This Triathlete Mom Commits to the Work
Interview with Catherine Rose
Catherine Rose is a world-competitive age group triathlete, a mom, a registered massage therapist who has worked with ballerinas and Olympians alike, and a breast cancer survivor. We spoke with her about competing on the world stage for Team Canada, how she fits it all in, and how triathlon supported her cancer recovery.
Parvati Magazine: Catherine, you recently returned from the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, where you represented Canada. What was that experience like?
Catherine Rose: It was amazing to be part of the 300-strong [Team Canada]. In my age category, 50 to 54, eighty-seven women in total were there from around the world. Eleven were from Canada. It’s a sprint-distance race: a 750m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run. And of the top five finishers in my age group, two were past Olympic medalists. So it was great to be in a group like that.
Parvati Magazine: What first drew you to pursue triathlon?
Catherine Rose: I did marathons and half marathons, before I discovered that I’m a much better swimmer and cyclist than I am a runner. Women in my age group are doing 5km [runs] in under 20 minutes. I can’t really compete with that. But in the swimming and the cycling, I’m competitive with the fastest. I don’t do the long distance races [such as Olympic, long course, half iron or Ironman], because running does me no favours. I focus on the sprint distance also because it’s not as demanding on my schedule. With a sprint you can manage working full time and raising a child. You don’t have to do three-hour bike rides and two-hour runs.
Parvati Magazine: That said, even a “sprint” race is still an endurance event. How do you stay focused?
Catherine Rose: I just love it. There’s no problem with being focused. You’ve got adrenaline going and you’re totally into it. I actually really enjoy the swim. It’s quite enjoyable to see the views and everything. And then you hammer it out on the bike to get past as many people as possible. And then you’ve got your running shoes on and you just go out and count the kilometers. And then you’re done.
For triathlon, you visualize your race, all the time. You go through every step in your head. You want to make sure you know the course as well as you possibly can. Imagine yourself putting a wetsuit on. Imagine yourself at the start line. That’s just part of the training to get yourself ready.
Parvati Magazine: What is your daily fitness routine like to train for races like these?
Catherine Rose: Mondays I do cycling and running. Tuesday is swimming and running. Wednesday is cycling and running. Thursday is swimming and running, and then Friday, sometimes I can take it off. Or maybe Saturday will be off. Then Sunday is running and cycling. My preference is to do bricks [combined workouts] in the mornings. My job is really physical; I’m a massage therapist. If I don’t get it all done in the morning, I might not have the energy and the willpower to do it in the evening. I’m with the University of Toronto Triathlon Club and our track practice is in the evening. It takes me lots of visualizations all day to get myself there, because by then I’m tired!
Parvati Magazine: In what ways did your athletic background help you in overcoming breast cancer?
Catherine Rose: It gave me a lot of focus, and I didn’t worry. I kept exercising as much as I could throughout the whole process of chemo and radiation. That was really, really important for just getting over the experience. It was a great way to recover quickly.
Parvati Magazine: Are there aspects of your training or racing that have been changed by this experience?
Catherine Rose: I think I just have been more committed because of the breast cancer. When you have cancer, the feeling is that your body is completely out of control. It’s not behaving the way you want it to behave. Doing triathlon allows me to be fully in charge of my body.
Parvati Magazine: What do you suggest for those who want to start out in triathlon in a low-stakes way?
Catherine Rose: There’s an event called the Try-a-Tri, half of a sprint distance. That’s a good way to get your feet wet and see if you like it. You can just borrow someone else’s bike and just go for a short swim, short bike ride and short run. If you want to skip that step, join your local triathlon club and follow the schedule they give you. You end up meeting a fantastic network of people. So you make new friends and a healthy lifestyle!
Catherine Rose is a triathlete, mom and cancer survivor, who has a busy practice as a registered massage therapist in Toronto.