Katie Thomas Morales is a pro triathlete based in Cross Junction, VA with her husband Chris. She grew up swimming competitively and raced her first Ironman in 2009. Katie took her elite license after finishing 3rd in her AG and 8th amateur overall at Kona in 2013. She now competes professionally and works full time as the Director of Finance for the West Region for Valley Health System in Winchester, VA.
Tell us about your 2016 experience with Ironman Wisconsin?
Katie: After 2015, I switched coaches to Jesse Moore and we viewed 2016 as a building year. The Ironman Wisconsin course has always appealed to me because of its difficulty and I loved the concept of a women’s only field, so I made Wisconsin my A race that year. I came in with no expectations and was shocked to take the lead on the bike around mile 80 from Amanda Stevens. While Liz Lyles and Leslie Miller ran away from me, it was a breakthrough day and I finished happy and exhausted in 3rd place.
What are your favorite aspects of this race?
Katie: I look for races that will most likely be non-wetsuit for the pros and hard bike courses. Wisconsin fits both of those criterion and has a super unique transition in a parking garage lined with spectators.
What was your overall impression of the course?
Katie: I absolutely loved this race in 2016 and was thrilled that Ironman kept it on the schedule as women’s only pro race in 2018. The swim is a fair swim and only one loop, the bike rewards patience and keeps you entertained, and the run is well a run. I was bonking horribly last time during the run so hopefully, I remember a bit more this time around. The crowd support at Ironman Wisconsin is also unmatched compared to any of the other North American Ironman races I’ve done, so it makes for a super fun day.
What was your least favorite aspect of the race?
Katie: The run? No, in all seriousness, I didn’t have any major dislikes the last time I did this race. I recall thinking running around the football stadium was a bit odd and quiet, but it also allowed you a few quick moments to gather your thoughts and regroup.
What are some things that make this race more challenging than other IM races?
Katie: In comparison to some of the other North American Ironmans, in particular, this is a much more difficult course. Unlike some of the other races, there isn’t an easy leg at Wisconsin. The swim does not have a current, the bike course is hilly and somewhat technical and the run is also rolling.
Do you have any recommendations for first timers on this course?
Katie: For first time competitors (exciting!), the best piece of advice I ever received before an Ironman was to view it as a long catered day. It’s a long day out there for everyone - make sure to enjoy the day, stayed fueled and smile along the way. And if you see me on the run, high fives are a great energy boost!
When athletes get into a dark place in this race, what do you recommend doing?
Katie: Race day is no different than a long training day. We all get into dark places - run through a mental checklist on your pacing, hydration and fueling - and then think of something that will make you smile. For me personally, I always think of my family and friends, and if I have support on the course, the next time I’ll get to see them.
Are there any coffee shops or restaurant you would recommend going to in Madison?
Katie: We didn’t try too many places last time, but Marigold Cafe is a definite must. The cafe had great gluten-free options, so I can only imagine how good the food actually is.
Best of luck to those racing!