Katie Zaferes is a 2-time Olympian and 2-time Olympic medalist and the 2019 World Champion in World Triathlon. She’s also a Mom and an all around fantastic human.
Katie talks with me openly about how she’s intentionally worked on the mental side of the sport and what it’s like for her to return to competition at the highest level after giving birth and while fulfilling her dream of becoming a Mom.
Listen in to be inspired and to transfer the lessons Katie has learned to your own work and life.
About the Guest:
Katie Zaferes is a 2x Olympic Medalist, 2x Olympian (2016, 2020) and 2019 World Champion in World Triathlon. More importantly she is mom to Kimble and wife to Tommy Zaferes. Katie took time out of the sport in 2022 to welcome their son Kimble in July 2022 and is now returning to competition at the highest level. When the family of three is not on the road they reside in Cary, North Carolina. Katie loves spending time at home and getting to see family and friends. She’s passionate about the mental side of training, competition and life in general.
The best way to reach Katie is on Instagram – Kzaferes6 or Facebook – Katie Zaferes Triathlete.
About the Host:
Amy L. Riley is an internationally renowned speaker, author and consultant. She has over 2 decades of experience developing leaders at all levels. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Deloitte and Barclays.
As a trusted leadership coach and consultant, Amy has worked with hundreds of leaders one-on-one, and thousands more as part of a group, to fully step into their leadership, create amazing teams and achieve extraordinary results.
Amy’s most popular keynote speeches are:
- The Courage of a Leader: The Power of a Leadership Legacy
- The Courage of a Leader: Create a Competitive Advantage with Sustainable, Results-Producing Cross-System Collaboration
- The Courage of a Leader: Accelerate Trust with Your Team, Customers and Community
- The Courage of a Leader: How to Build a Happy and Successful Hybrid Team
Her new book is a #1 international best-seller and is entitled, The Courage of a Leader: How to Inspire, Engage and Get Extraordinary Results.
Link mentioned in the podcast
Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is the Way: https://theobstacleistheway.com/
The Inspire Your Team assessment (the courage assessment): https://courageofaleader.com/inspireyourteam/
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Teaser for next episode
My next guest on The Courage of a Leader podcast is Nicole Greer. Listen in for Vibrant Cultures: The Strength of EACH individual and the LIT Formula.
Katie's Zaferes is a two time Olympian and two time Olympic medalist and the 2019 world champion in World Triathlon. She's also a mom and an all around fantastic human. Katie talks with me openly in this episode about how she's intentionally worked on the mental side of the sport, and what it's like for her to return to competition at the highest level after giving birth, and balancing these two important roles, being a mom and being a professional athlete, keep listening to be inspired and to transfer the lessons that Katie has learned to your own work and life.Amy Riley:
Welcome to the Courage of a Leader podcast. This is where you hear real life stories of top leaders achieving extraordinary results. And you get practical advice and techniques you can immediately apply for your own success. This is where you will get inspired, and take bold, courageous action. I am so glad you can join us. I'm your host, Amy Riley. Now, are you ready to step into the full power of your leadership and achieve the results you care about most? Let's ignite the courage of a leader.Amy Riley:
Katie, thank you for being here. Katie is a two time Olympian and a two time Olympic medal winner. I'm excited to talk to you today about the courage that it takes to perform and compete at the highest level of competition.Katie Zaferes:
Thanks. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to talk about what I've learned over the years.Amy Riley:
You're so open and generous on social media with all aspects of your journey as an athlete, and now also as a mom. And it's inspiring to hear all sides of the story. Right? The highs, the lows, the mental side of it, the joys, the struggles. I know that you told me that you very intentionally decided to tune into the mental side of the sport after your experience at the Rio Olympics. Will you tell us about that decision?Katie Zaferes:
For sure. Yes, for me, the mental side of things started becoming more prominently a weakness, I suppose is right around Rio. And I think the reason for that was when I first started triathlon in 2013. Rios was in 2016. Yeah, I was just starting a new sport. So I was very, just very focused on just trying to learn the sport, not necessarily getting to the mental aspect of things, but learning the fundamentals of swimming, biking, and running and transitions and traveling and all these new things that during that time, I didn't, I wasn't feeling overwhelmed. And I wasn't feeling the mental burdens of performing at an elite level, because I was so all consumed and just learning. And I think there's a lot of a benefit in that. I think that's why kids don't necessarily when they're playing sports need to think about the mental side of things, because they're just having fun. They're learning a new sport. They're not overthinking yet. And, and that was the phase I was in from 2013 2015. I didn't know what I was doing. But at the same time, I was climbing the rankings and becoming consistent podium contender or being on the podium that at the results of all the highest level races. However, when it came to Rio, I realized while really it was a big, a big event. It may have been the Olympics and I was really focused. I mean, I've done really well. I considered myself a strong triathlete, even at that time, but there was this hill that everyone was talking about that was super steep, but it was short, but it was pretty high gradient. And I got to it and I was like, well, going up the hill, no problem, but then going down the hill. I cried. Like it was the fastest then it was it had a big turn in it. And I'd be interested to know if now if I went back to it if I feel the same way. I've kind of did better with my bike skills and everything. But anyways, I became tunnel visioned on this downhill that in my opinion, was a weakness of mine or that was the thought behind it. And I was just so focused and so afraid of it, that that became my sole focus going into the race. And then I finished And I was fine. I stayed up, right, I made it through the hill. But I realized I just kind of forgot about all my strengths and had focused singularly on this weakness of mine. And that took away from the rest of the race. And not only that, but I was, it was my first Olympics. And rather than being excited about the experience, I was trying to focus, okay, this is a race this is, this is a big race, I need to just focus on this race after I'm done, then I'll take in the rest of the Olympics and do the Olympic experience. But instead, I finished the race and I was disappointed with my race. And we were the second the last day of the Olympics. So the Olympics was over. We lived every everyone was gone. And I came away from that race thinking, a, I need to start taking more ownership and in triathlon and my journey and this in general, I'm not just I'm three years in I'm also I don't know how old I was at that point. But I'm old enough to realize where my strengths and weaknesses lie. And I really wanted to create a team around me to support me to be my best version of my track of a triathlete going forward, and how to deal with those pressures. And, I mean, I guess a big part of it was also leaving Rio, everyone on the outside looks at the Olympic experience as this amazing experience. And I think often they don't see the side of the Olympics that is really hard for for the athletes mentally, mentally and physically. And so my goal, if I ever had another opportunity, was that I was going to not only have a good race, and put my self in the best scenario to do what I know how to do in the sport, but also come away with really positive experiences and feel like I took in the whole Olympic experience, no matter what that result on paper was. So that was, that was pretty much when I really decided I wanted to focus on the mental side of things and make sure I had been talking to a sports psychologist going into Rio, but it was really reactive, where it'd be like, Okay, I'm freaking out. Now I want to talk to someone. Okay. And so after Rio, I decided, hey, I want to find make sure I'm with the right fit. Because a sports psychologist is obviously someone you want to have a good relationship with, and mesh well and have someone who's really going to be able to help you with your weaknesses and build on your strengths. And then the other part of that was having it be more regular. So not necessarily feeling like I needed to talk to him my sports psychologist, but I wanted to it would build up the toolbox that would make me resilient in the races mentally, and be able to be more even where I don't necessarily have that reaction, like react to tivity. Like, I need to talk to someone right now. I mean, granted, in my career, there's been there's been times where I've had that and been like, Oh, can you? Are you available for a call? Yeah, knows, most of the times I would go into conversations, and you know, I don't really need to talk to you, but I'm gonna start the conversation. And an hour later, I'm like, Okay, that was that was that was helpful. Yeah,Amy Riley:
yeah, making that regular investment in this aspect of your sports and competing. Thank you for sharing that journey to that decision, Katie. I mean, it makes sense. And I mean, this happens in many aspects of our lives. We're learning the fundamentals, we're learning the skills, we're learning how to do that. And you didn't choose an easy one. There's like four sports built into one swim, bike run and transitions. And of course, that hill becomes the sole focus. Everybody's talking about it. I mean, I can't imagine the courage that it takes to aggressively compete on that downhill and have a term in the mix of those competitors. And I really admire the choice that I'm going to work on this side of my athleticism, this side of being a human who's competing in this way. Take ownership of strengths and weaknesses. And make sure that experiences are positive. Taking in the race, I mean, taking it you travel all around the world, to compete and be present for that and make that regular investment in that side of your training. Yes, I think the mental the mental side plays in a lot. There is another series of events that really took some mental courage on your part. Katie, and I'm referring to 2019, you had a major bike crash in the Tokyo test event. Will you tell us what what happened there?Katie Zaferes:
Yes. So 2019 was, up until this point that we're going to talk about was the best season I ever had. I was consistently winning races and everything was coming together, I was at my strongest physically, mentally, emotionally having just a really, really positive season. And now they're going into the Tokyo testament, I was feeling good, was in a good place training wise. And during, I don't know, the first couple laps of the bike, I ended up crashing into a barrier, in which I broke my nose, my gums split from my teeth. So I ended up having 20 stitches in my mouth and then had impact to my shoulder and my leg. And that was disappointing in itself, because I ended up being and I did not finish it was the first time to qualify for for the Olympics, it would have been nice to qualify for the Olympics, a year out, which actually ended up being two years out because and I'm in it. I'm like in the ambulance trying to learn how many Americans qualified to no matter how many spots would be available, knowing that I wasn't going to qualify that day. And on top of that, because of having a great season, before that, I'd set myself up pretty well to go into the world track on Championship Series grand final as the favorite to be world champion and being World Champion is some is an accolade that I put on par with an Olympic medal, it shows a little bit different because with a medal you're performing on that day. Yep. And have to have a good performance with being world champion. It's consistency at the top across the whole seediness. And so taking into account I think it's five races plus the grand final at a time, right after I crashed, I was thinking well shoot, like not only did I ruin my chance of qualifying for the Olympics right now, but also, did I just ruin my chances of being world champion at the end of the year. And so going into Lavon, which was where Lausanne Switzerland was where the grand final was, I mean, right after Tokyo. We went to Tanana Lavon in France, it's right across the lake from where the grand final was. And I was like, not swimming with my arms because of my shoulder and I had to get my stitches out of my mouth during that during those couple of times. So it willAmy Riley:
tell us how much how much time between those two races Katie some weeksKatie Zaferes:
if if that it was it was either two weeks or less. And my coach is actually just reflecting on looking back about before that race he's like yeah, you weren't even swimming really? I mean, you're swimming with no arms. So it was worthAmy Riley:
going on your in your mouth. I mean, you had so many stitches. Yeah,Katie Zaferes:
they I had to go to Lausanne earlier to have them cut out but in like besides then having the wires you could actually even before I left Tokyo they're like you can eat whatever you want it's just gonna like it's just up to you and your tolerance I guess then what was Tommy and I slowly I really wanted fluffy pancakes are kind of the Japanese specialty. And so I went to get on but it was not the best not the best choice there was all this stuck and stuck in the wires basically. Wow. But yeah, so not the most when people think of setups for going into races. It wasn't it wasn't the best. But with was on I talked to my sports psychologist beforehand Karen Cogan and she's she goes well maybe a goal is to just get around the course safely. I'm thinking well that's not a goal I typically have going into pretty hardcore intense races to get around safely but it was a good goal. Because Because the thing about when you crash is that in the race before is that at least for me, it affects me mentally where I started second guessing my skills on the bike or where I thought I was because I mean especially those your crash going straight because it was just something I never expected to happen but so it was really needing to get the mental side of things back up and the physical but I was really lucky and that a the face heals very quickly. I know that some other series as well, but the impact was more bruising and it wasn't anything that was going to keep me from being able to do what I needed to do physically. So it was more like the mental side. And the other part I feel like you that kind of was very different from Rio was lasagna was a hilly technical course as well. But my way of thinking instead of being stuck on what I wasn't good at, I said, Okay, well, if I need to be more conservative on the turns, I'm strong enough on the streets and up hills to catch up. And I really made sure that going into the race, I was prepared, because I always get confidence in preparation. So we went to Lausanne a couple days before the race road, the course went back to my coach said, Okay, we need to find a steeper hill, because it's not steep enough. And so then, going into the race, it was a mantra that I relied on now multiple years, is just I know how to do this. And that was kind of how I felt and I ended up I think I needed to be 12th or higher 14th or higher to be world champion in the race. But I ended up winning the race, which winning the race and becoming world champion, and that I feel like, for me, winning was just saying, Well, yeah, you're still here, you haven't changed. Because, as I was talking to Amy, tell you before the podcast started, and saying how your emotions can fluctuate so much with races and the confidence can fluctuate so much with races that you can, the the trick is, when you have a bad race, or you don't perform to whatever level you're capable of, or think you're capable of, that you don't let that deter you from the future or basically take away. And that's probably been my strength over. Remember both 2019. And I'm sure we'll talk about Tokyo 2021. Racing and in 2021, because those races were races where I had some of the the worst coming into or the like my leading was not optimal. And yet I was able to get what I needed to out of myself. Yes,Amy Riley:
that's, that's amazing, Katie, we can all have a strong mental game when the results are there. Right? I'm working on whatever we're working on in work and life, and the results are showing up and some things are coming to fruition, that can create some mental momentum. But you're talking about coming into a world championship race, two weeks after a major bike crash. So that was not great results, that you're coming off of the situation primed for doubting, bike skills, and you're able to come in and believe that mantra, I know how to do this. And I'm hearing you not only use the mantras, but doing the things that improve your mental game, you know that focusing on strengths, you have evidence, these are your strengths and races, focus on those, and also the prep, knowing the course practicing what you're going to do on the course doing that real preparation helps with the mental game. Anything you wish thatKatie Zaferes:
also been surrounded by supporting people who are nice in in those moments, they don't create more tension or stress than necessary. I always think my coach Joel Filliol, he's a huge reason that after Tokyo, between Tokyo and between the grand sinal, he never freaked out. He never put a lot of emphasis on being world champion or the outcome of the next race, it was only focused on how can we get you in the best condition to do well in that race. But we never talked about to a great extent like it might have been like a fleeting conversation of like, yes, we are aware, this is a bit of importance, there is something behind it. There is like substantial aspects to it. But that wasn't the most constructive path to go down. Because ultimately, the result is just going to come from the process. Right. And we know that and when you talk to a sports psychologist, anyone in the mental game, they'll the I would say one of the big the biggest parts is focusing on the process and not the outcome. And so for, for Joel to really just be pong and not create more tension or stress around the next race. I think really, that's one of my favorite reads. That's kind of that's that's it. coaching in general, because there's no like, super high or super low. And I really like that. It's that consistent and calm. Yes,Amy Riley:
yes. And what a support. What creates the right energy for you in that moment? That's a lesson to underscore for leaders or support folks anywhere, right? Yeah.Katie Zaferes:
Um, for sure. That also comes from family and friends as well. Like, my husband, my, my parents were in Lausanne, and they just want to make sure you're okay. Well, and that's, that's the most important part.Amy Riley:
It really is. Can you let me take a moment here and tell listeners more about your background. So Katie Zaferes is a two time Olympic medalist. We'll talk about that a two time Olympian, both in Rio and Tokyo, and 2019 world champion in World Triathlon. More importantly, she is a mom to Kimble and wife to Tommy Zaferes, Katie took time out of the sport in 2022, to welcome their son Kimble in July of that year, and is now returning to competition at the highest level. When the family of three is not on the road or in the air. They reside in Cary, North Carolina. Katie loves spending time at home and getting to see family and friends. She's passionate about the mental side of training, competition and life in general, which is what we are talking about today. Thank you, Katie for being here.Katie Zaferes:
Yeah, it's been great.Amy Riley:
Yeah. All right. Let's talk about the Tokyo Olympics. So finally happens in 2021. And I know you said Ben, and I heard you say this on an interview recently, too, that you were the happiest bronze medalist at the Olympics, you won the bronze in the individual event, you want silver in the mixed relay team event. I'm so glad that's an Olympic event. Now that into so for so fun and so competitive. Now, on paper, Katie if one was looking at your athletic history, you are rising through the rankings in the preceding years, like clockwork fifth and 20 15/4 and 20 16/3. In 2017, on up your first your world champion, and 2019 poised to win at all. In Tokyo in 2020, we all know that the pandemic happened. And you had some personally crushing circumstances with your dad passing unexpectedly. Can you tell us about that time leading up to the Olympics that eventually happened? And 2021 And what had you being the happiest bronze medalist there?Katie Zaferes:
For sure. Um, so when once we learned after 2019, going into 2020, that the Olympics was going to be postponed. A lot of athletes, or at least myself, especially energy preservation, and physical management is a big thing between clods. And so you are basically counting on that the Olympics is going to happen at four year intervals. Okay. So when the Olympics was postponed for me, there was still some racing in 2020. However, I took the road or strategy to make sure that I wasn't firing on all cylinders during 2020. And therefore I didn't really perform. I wasn't performing poorly, but I also wasn't performing at the level that I was in 2019, which was very, basically the highest I've ever performed. Thinking that 2021 would be a very good time to really put all go all in Yeah, let's see. Yeah. And and get to the get to the top. And so I released I think I race one race. It's really fuzzy the beginning of that year now because in April, when we were in Spain, my dad passed away unexpectedly, I got a call from my family and it was to say it's devastating. It's really like the understatement my biggest understatement I can make my dad be it was like everything in my life and just the best dad. I could have possibly ever, ever dreamed up or wanted and just such a big aspect of my life and in all the ways in. So from Spain, I went home and went to the funeral went to be with my family. only was there, I guess for about a month or maybe maybe even less than a month. Again, sorry, the details are just are hard done. And during that time, there was no focus on triathlon. And honestly, I didn't care one lick about it. And someone asked me recently whether training was an outlet during that time, I said, no, like, I just didn't want to train. But I kind of knew, I mean, I still had perspective of it being the Olympic year, and then I hadn't qualified yet. So there was that. But I honestly, I don't know if other people feel this way when they lose someone. But I kind of felt like the world stopped. And like it was weird that it would keep going on without him in it and that I had to keep going on. And part of me just wanted to stay home with my family forever. I guess in a way, it was good. Because in the beginning of May, basically, exactly one, one month after my dad had passed away, there was the next Olympic qualification race in Yokohama, Japan, it was the next opportunity to qualify automatically. And so I went back to Spain for a few weeks, or I guess it was a couple of weeks before that race, and then went to a race in Yokohama knowing I basically had taken two weeks off, at least, after my dad had died. And so I knew I wasn't really in any any space to perform. But also, it was really good incentive to get back into things. And no, I had to keep moving on even even without him in my life. And so I fell to pieces the night before the race, talking to my mom on the phone. And then race had a not so great race, and, but was really proud of myself for doing it. And I knew I needed to do that without him in my life. So just to say, Yeah, race was bad. Yeah, yep. The next race was not very good. And but nobody automatically qualified. in Yokohama, Japan is confusing because the Olympics been in Japan as well. But so no one had qualified of the other American, so there was still one spot available. And it was going to come down to discretion, which means that there's a committee that decides which athlete they want to take. And it was basically between myself, and where I had a very good resume and has won multiple races been world champion, and then another athlete, Taylor Spivey, who has been so consistent, just not quite as high, consistently. Okay, but she'd had a lot better races recently than I had, especially in those two. So basically, we were just waiting to find out, it must have been like, mid June who was going to be selected. And I can remember, we had a talk with USAT. And it was kind of like, why should you be selected? And I had this conversation, it was me and my coach Joel. And I was speaking and I felt oddly so confident and calm, that they should pick me. Yeah, and I feel like there's there's many moments that I call God moments in my life where it's kinda like, where did that come from? And, and something that's hard just becomes easy for a moment. And that was kind of what happened in this conversation was I was talking to the USAT people. And I wasn't just like, making stuff up to sound good, or I was trying to sound confident, I really felt it I really felt like I was gonna be ready I really felt positive. And I was like, had all that conversation being like, Oh, well, I Well, I hope if they pick me it goes as well as what I just told them and and so I was a little bit after that we got word that I'd actually been selected and just to be selected was to feel that they had faith in me and that was to build upon the confidence that I had was something that I tried to really take in and and pull with the confidence of the people around me that I would be ready I would be good to go come to Tokyo startline and And so fast forward to Tokyo. And I was worried about my swim because that had been the two parts in the races leading into the Olympics where I'd kind of struggled Okay, and endless dark goes off we had an eye like slotted in right, I like third, like third body basically behind just layer mon and I'm thinking oh, that was the way too easy surely there's another pack to the left that's just gonna like either be in front of us or collide with us. And so I bring it to my left and I was like, Oh no, like that. Like this is us know this. So then from then on out Like, Oh my gosh, like that was having that start to the race really set it up for me to be really successful throughout. And I just pulled so much throughout the race on different aspects of my career and different races of while I was actually wet and rainy and so like, being able to be good in the rain, being able to be read, like be ready on the run, and just all these different pieces that I felt like I I tried to bring in that I'd learned basically since Rio, and ultimately I ended up finishing third. And as I said, Yes, I was so happy, probably relief, because like to be selected your discretionarily like you really want to show that they made the right decision. And you really don't know that no matter how you're feeling until you cross the line. So part of it was really there was a rainbow, I saw mid mid bike ride. And I took that as a sign from my dad, even in the midst of the race. I asked some other competitors. I said, Oh, did you see the rainbow? They're like you saw a rainbow? Like during the ride? I was like, oh, yeah, well, but yeah, I just the reason I was happy with third, I guess is that was to be able to come back after my dad passing away, which I would definitely say was the hardest, maybe until this year, but was the hardest part, the hardest thing I've ever gone through and to just know that when I really didn't feel like myself for I mean, it wasn't that long of a time. But it felt like a long time, I really didn't feel like myself after he was gone. And, and so to be able to do that, and just feel so proud and happy. And I always I think with my dad, he never again to go back to surrounding yourself with amazing people. And I was lucky enough it part of those amazing people's family by blood. ButKatie Zaferes:
he never cared how I did. He just wanted to be a part of it. And I was very lucky because 2019 was an amazing year for me. And it was a year where my parents were there at a lot of the races. They were in Lausanne celebrating the World Championship with me. And until that year, I think I always took it as my parents being there was like, Okay, well, like you can be there. But I'm not going to see you till after the race. I didn't really take in them being a part of the races until 2019, where I realized like, okay, the best way to do race is to be happy, have a little bit of fun and see what you can do on the racecourse. And so I had a lot of special moments with my family because I allowed them for to a larger capacity, like I never, like shun them from the race. But yeah, it was, it was more aware of having them be a part of it. Yeah, and, and with my dad, there were so many times where he would be like, if he thought I was overly stressed or nervous. He'd tell me like, you don't have to do this, you can do something else do something that makes you happy. And I was like that I don't like my job like, less than 10% of the time. And I feel like that's a pretty good, a pretty good percentage. But it was just, you know, it, he shaped so much of my home and my mom but my dad shaped so much is me as a person and how I how I think I was able to get better in the sport and have a perspective of sports, being something that I tried to do to get Be the best version of myself and work hard. But ultimately, you're just enjoying life and to have fun. And my dad would always send me a message like swim hard by card run hard. But most of all have fun. And so that really is as simple asAmy Riley:
it is. Thank you for openly sharing all of that. And so glad you had those beautiful experiences with both your parents on Earth in 2019. Yeah. And just to underscore some of the things that you said, I think that's really amazing. One month after your dad passing, that's all unexpected, all the emotions that must be swirling in you and to allow the one about pride come up like and feel proud that you are moving forward when into that went into that race competed didn't go how you loved but you found and owned that positive emotion in the sea of that and letting the God moment in in that interview to get the discretionary spot and being open to those moments. Right. You saw a rainbow when no other competitor saw a rainbow during the Olympics, letting that click in during that interview with USA Triathlon, once it that you said different things, Katie, when that God moment came in, or was it that there was just like more belief rushing into your body?Katie Zaferes:
It was more the belief and the conviction of saying such as like, I could run down my resume of racing. And, yeah, butKatie Zaferes:
it's whether you're just like, sayingKatie Zaferes:
it. Yeah. And trying to convince the other people on the other side and yourself. That not Yeah, that is supposed to be or you're saying it and believing it and owning it. And that was the difference was, how I was relaying my feelings to them, and realizing how strong those feelings were, and how calm how much confidence I had in them. Especially because I would say leading into that conversation, I didn't necessarily always feel that confident. Or maybe it was, I guess, in a way, it surprised me when I talked to them and was so strong, in my opinion, that I would be that I would be good to go.Amy Riley:
Thank goodness, that moment arrived, and you fully let it in. So another courageous choice that you have made Katie is to decide when you're at the top of your sport to become a mom. And we know that that has some effects on the mom's body, and her athleticism. So tell us about that choice to decide to start a family? Well, the only goal I'veKatie Zaferes:
ever had in life is to have have kids have a family and for it to be. I don't want to say a successful family, but happy family, you know? Yeah, that was, that's the main goal I've ever had the kind of more of the performance achievements have been surprises and really pleasant surprises. But that's not that hasn't been a dream since I was a little girl, whereas having a family probably has been. And so the goal was always after Tokyo, that we would hope to start a family and obviously, there, you really don't know how that's going to go or what that timeline is. No, we alsoAmy Riley:
fully in charge of that. No,Katie Zaferes:
no. So we were very fortunate, basically right after the 2021 season, to get pregnant and Kimble arrived in July of 2022. I always expected once I had a family that that would be the end of my triathlon career just because I wasn't ever sure. I mean, being an athlete is really self focused in a lot of ways. And it takes a lot of physical emotional and mental energy. And I wanted to be sure that if we had a baby and a kid and that I was able to give, not maybe not my whole self, but most of myself, yeah, to her son, and but then I also realized this was before we even had Kimble that I was thinking these things that I love my job. I love what I do. I love the community. I think something I didn't say about Tokyo was how amazing the triathlon community was during the time when my dad passed away leading into the Olympics, and I don't just mean my like, teammates and my coach and USA Triathlon. But I mean other Federation's other other athletes, other athletes, coaches, officials at the races, World Triathlon stuff. Everyone was so supportive, and it really made me feel like a human and not just an athlete who needed to perform to be loved, I guess. Yeah, yeah. And so I want to I love that community that like the people who I'm surrounded with, and I didn't want to not do it before I tried to do it in a way that was good for us. And so during the time we were pregnant, I didn't actually train like an elite athlete, I just exercised and tried to stay moving it and do whatever I wanted, which I'm not someone who really is very intense about training when I have a break. I'm somebody who really enjoys that break and so good i i did a little bit but not a lot. And then coming back into the season. It was basically just Okay, let's see what I can do, where I can get to and it's been really rewarding and really amazing, and I have no regrets about bringing Kimble along for this ride and it's also been very hard and humbling and the things that I thought would be hard, were actually probably the easier things that were harder with things that I didn't actually think about until I was in the midst of it. And so, for example, you were talking about the physical part of it. And actually, for me that went really smoothly getting back in was the things. I was pretty conservative after he was born with building and I think that benefited me in the long run. And so the hardest part, or one of the harder parts was finding a new process, because I've done everything really similarly, for all the years leading into Tokyo with going to camps being with my coach more in person, training a lot with Tommy, my husband. And so when Kimble was born, we're home in North Carolina, which is a really great place to be, it's just trying to figure out our network here was swimming, biking and running, Tommy wasn't training, we didn't figure out consistent childcare really until, well, we're still working on that. But so Tommy wasn't training with me because when I would be training, he would be watching Kimble, also, he has an extra new job with USA Triathlon. So it's just like a lot of differences and trying to learn what's different, what should be acknowledged as different and what should be the same, because I think part of my mental side of things is coming back as a mom and I got a little bit too, consumed by how hard it was, and thinking how it was so much harder for me than other people. And I'm never in any of the situations I've been in. I've never made myself a little victim of the situation, whether it's crashing, or whether it's my dad passing away. I just worked through it. But I never saw it as something I needed to overcome, if that makes sense. It was just okay, what's the next thing and so with, with having Kimble as like, if I would have had him a year later, then I would have benefited from the pregnancy clause that's now a part of world traveler, your ranking gets frozen. Or, like the point like me having to race so much is so hard. And I think like, there's part where you want to advocate for women coming back from sport, and then there's a part where this situation is my situation. And my perspective can't be that this is so hard for me, it has to just be something to overcome. Not not a reason that you can't overcome it. I don't know if I articulated that. Well, but no, IAmy Riley:
think that's a really great catch Katie to realize that the thoughts in your head were circling too often around. This is hard, right? I'm up against this, if only this and now we have these details. And now the point and dadadada da, Katie, I caught myself recently. It's a busy time of year for me. Right? Right. So I couldn't get into a it's busy. This is my busiest time, like, I don't have time for this and man and data data. And we can create a whole narrative around that. But catching that, right and knowing that, oh, I don't want to get any into anything that's sounding like a victim mentality. Right? That's not been your your way of operating. So I think that's really wise to catch that.Katie Zaferes:
Yeah. And my coach recommended a book to me. And now I feel like it's Ryan holidays, book obstacles, like obstacle, obstacle is the way and it's basically changing perspective than just lists. I think I had it on audiobooks. I was listening to it. And I was like, Oh, this is so good for me to listen to right now. Because I feel like sometimes when I'm mentally feeling a little off, I do this kind of crash course, in reading more books on the mindset or trying to re instill things that I'm, I'm lacking and just basically reminders, I like to read these books and be like, oh, yeah, okay, this is me, or this is how I want to think and it just allowed me to catch myself. And it's crazy, how fast you can switch your perspective from one that isn't benefiting you at all. Change it, and I'm sure it goes both ways. So I'm talking about the way that was really beneficial for me because I had spoken to you it was after session I had and I was walking back and I was feeling really overwhelmed when we were when we were planning this podcast to come on and you were saying about being courageous or I don't know if I'm gonna be a good, good person for this because I'm not feeling that way. right now and then basically a bit within a couple of days after that, I felt like I completely switched in my perspective of how to view these opportunities that I'm being given. And also I kept thinking, with coming back from Kimble, I kept thinking, oh, like, I need to try and replicate the way I was in the past. And the way I did things in the past, which really is hard to do when you have a baby in your life, and everything has kind of changed, or a lot has changed. People were telling me I was doing a good job. Like outsiders were telling me I was a good job, but I would just kind of brush it off. And I realized that I should really just start taking that in and saying, Thank you. Yeah, and kind of really feeling. What I didn't want to rely on what other people were saying. But I also didn't want to brush it off as much as I had been years,Amy Riley:
there's a wider pool of strengths, you're demonstrating that you can focus on.Katie Zaferes:
Exactly. And so I think between those things, because ultimately, like Kimble wise, I am so happy with how I am as a mom with him, whether it's being on the road or at home. I didn't feel much mom guilt in going after my goals and, and doing that and having. I mean, when we go away, we have support come with us, whether it's my mom, my cousin, my high school, cross country coach, my dieticians, my best friend from high school, like, we have this group of people who has have really been supporting us. And I've really enjoyed watching him with be a part of all of it from being at track lessons to exploring the countries and towns that we've been in. So that part I was actually pretty good with. But it was trying to figure out how it's going to be the athlete that I envisioned myself being I will be a worse athlete before I let that take away from Kimble, Claire, but I realized I can do both. You and I can do both. Well, yeah. And then figure it out. I loveAmy Riley:
that belief. Yeah. And there's things to figure out new processes, new ways of operating. And thank you for reminding us all of that possibility of shifting our mindset in a moment. And we might need to do it again and again, and generate it many times in life. But it is possible to shift that I sometimes say we're either spiraling up or we're spiraling down. Which way do we want to take it? Yeah, Drew Katie, you've been generous with your time I want to ask you about what are you looking to accomplish as an athlete as a mom in your life looking forward in 2024Katie Zaferes:
Just me continuing to do this continuing to balance being a mom and going after my goals as as an athlete and the as the main goal would be qualify for Paris 2024. But also just trying to be the best version of myself as mom as well, I'm an athlete would be the the most general, but also the most specific I can be. And theAmy Riley:
most Yeah, and the most important. We will be rooting for you from Chicago and watching your journey. And wishing all the best to Katie and thank you again for your time today.Katie Zaferes:
Thanks. Thanks, Amy.Amy Riley:
Thank you for listening to the Courage of a Leader podcast. If you'd like to further explore this episode's topic, please reach out to me through the courage of a leader website at www.courageofaleader.com. I'd love to hear from you. Please take the time to leave a review on iTunes. That helps us expand our reach and get more people fully stepping into their leadership potential. Until next time, be bold and be brave because you've got the courage of a leader