Britain’s Katrina Matthews is rapidly moving from an emerging pretender to world-class contender as the Army physiotherapist from Bristol added Outlaw X success to her growing résumé.
The 29-year-old, who only started the sport in 2015, saw off the challenge of recent Helvellyn Tri victor Nikki Bartlett and a clutch of the best British non-drafting specialists to win on a chilly return to UK racing at Nottinghamshire’s Thoresby Hall.
In an uncertain year, the race was always unlikely to run without a hitch and the inclement conditions led to the swim being shortened from 1.9km to 750m. But it didn’t deter Matthews, who backed-up her victory at Ironman 70.3 Tallinn at the start of September, to take the tape in 4:03:15 – a 1:20:42 half-marathon proving decisive after the 56-mile bike leg saw her arrive in T2 with only Bartlett for company.
“I’m really chuffed with that,” Matthews said, who also won the UK 100-mile time-trial championship in July. “It’s hard racing friends. It makes for the best atmosphere, but the other girls worked so hard. The strength of this field enabled us to actually race each other. You don’t normally see that until you get to regional championships.”
The athletes set off at 8sec intervals due to social distancing regulations, and it was 2012 Olympian Lucy Hall who led out of the water in a 9:53 – a time as brisk as both the men’s podium finishers and the conditions.
After a long run to transition, Matthews, Bartlett and eventual third-place finisher Fenella Langridge, led the pursuit on the bike, before unbeknown to the chasers, Hall took a wrong turn that put her out of contention. Matthews and Bartlett then continued to apply the pressure over the rolling terrain to reached T2 together, from where Matthews stamped her authority.
“I took the lead in transition and found my legs,” she added. “It’s a really tough course, up and down all the way. I think I maybe took 1min out of Nikki on the first lap of the run. When I realised Lucy had gone off course and I was leading, I knew that if nothing went wrong with my nutrition, I’d win. I was really confident in my run.”
The Outlaw X victory was sweetened by her share of a $15,000 prize purse, paid for by the Professional Triathletes Organisation as it continues to support its members on triathlon’s return to racing around the globe.
It has been a stellar rise for Matthews. Having finished fifth overall in the ITU world age-group championship in 2017, she stepped up to middle distance and won the all-age-group Ironman 70.3 Calgary on debut. Last year, she won the European middle distance title in Romania and finished 16th at the Ironman 70.3 worlds in Nice before a sub-9hr Ironman on debut in Western Australia.
Now on the BMC-Vifit Pro Triathlon Team roster, she hopes to improve on the fourth place in Busselton in Ironman Portugal in November, before the year-end finale in the inaugural PTO world championship race in Daytona, Florida where a $1,000,000 prize fund is on the line.
“I’m in a build phase for Portugal, if it goes ahead,” she said. “Then I’m really hoping that the PTO race in Daytona goes ahead and I’ll get a slot. That could be incredible.”
And what does she put her successful emergence in triathlon down to? “I think it’s just dedication and consistency. I don’t try and do anything crazy, I don’t go over the top, and this winter I’ve been able to train consistently the whole time. It’s my first 12 months of being able to wake up and live the athlete lifestyle, and that’s just showing.”