• Katherine's road to Noosa

For Katherine Rowe, the chance to tick ‘Compete in the Noosa Tri’ off her bucket list and help fund cancer research at the same time was too good to refuse.

We asked Katherine to share her Smiddy story:

“Ever since I was a kid in North Queensland, competing in the Noosa Tri has been on my bucket list.

I don’t know why; I’ve never been a triathlete, but there was always something alluring about it—the beach, the sheer amount of people committed to swimming 1.5 km, riding 40 km and running 10 km seemed amazing to me, and that desire to be part of it has always just stuck with me.

Fast forward what seems like a million years to the beginning of 2016 when a few things happened that put me on the path to Noosa. One of my best friends’ lost a parent to melanoma and, around that time, another one of my friends completed Oxfam’s Trailwalker event.

These two seemingly unrelated things came together in the weirdest way possible and I ended up signing up for Smiling for Smiddy Noosa Tri.

We have all felt helpless watching someone we love go through the kind of slow agony that comes from losing someone so close to them and we have also watched people do something seemingly impossible and been so inspired that we need to do something ourselves.

It was with that rush of blood, and easy access to a keyboard, that I suddenly found myself registering to join Team Smiddy at the 2016 Noosa Triathlon Multi Sport Festival.

I know it was going to be a mammoth event. And I do mean mammoth, because as far as I was aware there isn’t a ‘Couch to Olympic distance triathlon’ app which you can download from iTunes (but it’s a great idea).

I have never ‘tri-ed’ before and I wasn’t remotely fit.

I started training without really thinking about the fundraising component, more just the absolute fear I had of not being able to complete the tri.

Then a routine doctor’s appointment led to my own cancer scare.

My GP noticed a mole which I’d had forever that she was concerned about and within a week, I was having my own level 2 melanoma removed.

I then stopped training for about six weeks which gave me plenty of time to think about how bloody scary the whole thing was because I’m only 36 and I would have never thought that that mole—which I’d had checked and cleared on numerous occasions—would ever be a problem.

And I know that had my doctor not noticed it and convinced me to get it tested, I would have had a much bigger battle with my body then simply trying to make it do an Olympic distance triathlon.

That really caused me to change gears and I kicked my fundraising efforts up a notch. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about me ticking something off my bucket list.

It was about my friend, Mel, who had lost her dad. It was about Adam Smiddy and the legacy he left behind. And it was about cancer and how it hurts everyone; how it comes from nowhere, and while there isn’t a lot we can do, we are not totally helpless.

Call it what you will, the response to my epiphany was amazing. My friends, family and colleagues got behind me and I raised $1200 without much trouble at all.

My secret? I tapped into their love of reality TV and ran sweepstakes for both The Bachelor and Bachelorette, and my heart swelled with love for all the support I received.

I got back into training and a few weeks out I was feeling great, but then I cracked my ribs and developed a chest infection and it looked like my dreams of competing were all but gone.

I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to participate; while the doctor didn’t say I shouldn’t compete, she did say I may not be able to finish. I was devastated.

But I made my mind up; I was going to get better and I was going to do it. Not because I wanted to get an amazing time in the race but for all the people who had supported me and donated and for the Smiling of Smiddy team who were there for me every step of the way.

I didn’t care if I came last; I just wanted to finish.

So, having done no training for the final four weeks—not quite the tapered finish to my training schedule—I lined up on the start line at Noosa.

Standing in the sea of Smiddy blue, looking out at the ocean, I didn’t care that I hadn’t trained, I was just so happy to be there and be a part of something so special.

During the event everyone—competitors, spectators and officials—all had a words of encouragement for the Smiddy Team (or in my case as they passed me). Cries of ‘GO SMIDDY!’ rang out across the whole course and I was so proud to be a part of that.

At one point during the run, when I was finding it particularly hard and still had about six kilometres to go, I began to cross paths with the runners ahead of me on the loop when I heard ‘Go Kat! Go Smiddy! You can do it! You’re almost there!’. 

I looked up and one of my Smiddy Team mates who was on the back half of the up and back course, a few kilometres ahead of me, had crossed the fence and was running towards me and gave me a massive hug and whispered a ‘You’ve got this. You’re amazing’ in my ear then went back over to her side of the fence and continued with her race.

It was a really special moment and it gave me the lift I needed at that time.

Coming down the Finishers Shute was one of the most amazing experiences of my life; all the Smiddy supporters were in the trackside VIP tent and they were going nuts! I ran past and high-fived them all…then headed to the finish line.

One metre from the end, I spotted my best friend who had driven up with her husband and five-month-old baby to welcome me home and I dove on her across the fence and we cried together at what I had achieved with the help of so many people.

Crossing the line was so emotional for me.

In the finishers tunnel another Smiddy member who I had been running with the whole way was there; I’d pass him at some points, he’d pass me at others. I had never met him before and I still don’t know his name, but at that finish line together we hugged like family (and I cried on him too).

The rest of the day was a blur; back at the Smiddy VIP tent I was welcomed like a hero, as all the Smiddy Team were)…had a sausage from the sizzle, got a massage from Allsports and settled in to watch the rest of the race while the Smiddy volunteers ran around looking after everyone.

At the start of this—ok I’m going to say it—“journey” (I’m rolling my eyes at myself) I couldn’t have even imagined getting through the Noosa Tri.

Now I couldn’t imagine not doing it and I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

A little slice of the Team Smiddy magic. 

Katherine and her partner Simon celebrate post-race. 


The Mater Foundation is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission ABN 96723184640.