How one person could write a simple introduction for Cate is beyond our abilities. Cate is the epitome of a Zeenya woman. Strong, determined, with a journey as colourful as her wardrobe.
Daughter of nomadic parents, Cate spent her early childhood living in a VW campervan with her parents, older brother and sister. Together they travelled around Europe, even as far out to East Berlin, Poland and Russia (which were still mostly closed border Eastern Bloc countries). If you bump into her, either in person or online, ask her about Yugoslavia (we promise it’s worth it).
After coming home to NZ with the intention of starting school, Cate’s parents ended up taking the family over to Canada’s West Coast to live in Victoria instead. Eventually they came back home, so all the kids could attend high school here.
Cate is a lifelong learner, from her Zoology studies at Otago (including a partial PhD in the sex lives of NZ native freshwater fish), she shifted into a teaching role. From Dunedin she went up to Christchurch where she focused on learning and development for academic staff, helping them to improve their teaching practices.
Travel continued to be a big part of Cate’s life, with her taking regular ‘sabbaticals’ from her work at the university to enjoy adventures in Thailand, some lengthy stints in the mountains of Nepal, and even some work as a research scuba diver on an isolated island far in the north of the Great Barrier Reef. Then in 2001 it was time to make another ‘permanent’ move, this time to London where she worked at London University and the Open University. It was there that Cate flatted with and got to know her now husband, Mike.
In 2002, they both moved back to NZ and settled into life in Wellington and by settled, we mean really got stuck into Wellington. Kids (two girls), a house, and a business all came about in a few short years. Starting a consulting business was a huge challenge for Cate and Mike. Saying yes to things and then working out how to do them. This meant working crazy hours, juggling a toddler and a baby while writing proposals and project briefs. The good news is Cate LOVES what she does on a daily basis. The variation in her project work has her designing training programmes and resources for a really varied mix of clients. One day she’s writing learning materials for operating a concrete truck, the next it’s how to excite 14 year olds about physics. She’s nailed the working from home vibe, in her Zeenya’s and comfy slippers of course!
Cate is widely known for her resilience. Especially when it comes to mental health and running. 6 years ago, her own health and the mental health of those around her got shone bright with a flashlight. Cate was diagnosed with depression and began taking medication to better support herself. Knowing her GP would ask what else she was doing to look after herself, Cate finally acknowledged to herself that she needed regular exercise to help bring that balance.
Starting small isn’t really in her nature, so Cate signed up for the Oxfam Trailwalker Challenge of 50km in 2016. She rounded up 3 others to join her and the challenge was set! This is a woman who at the time of signing up could hardly manage the 3km walk to the beach from her home. Together Cate and her team began walking the streets of Wellington getting fitter and fitter as they went. Motivated by her teammates and the charity, the team crossed the line. The effort was not without its own share of drama, finishing with a teammate being supported the last 5km with a knee blow out and a headlamp down. They won the Most Stalwart Team award and felt incredibly proud of themselves for seeing it through and completing the event.
It was during the training for this event that Cate began to meet other runners in the Wellington events scene. Being encouraged to join parkrun, led to her involvement with a fundraising group Running on the Spectrum, which supports kids with autism get into running. All these opportunities lead to Cate helping manage the group, meeting heaps of incredible runners and being inspired to do the Tarawera 50km Ultra Marathon. Again, not letting the scale of the event put her off, Cate, who was yet to run the full 5km at a parkrun event, was in!
Off the back of just giving it a go, Cate crossed the finish line in 2017 at the Tarawera Ultra Marathon. Unfortunately, having not realised how quickly one should get changed post event, she ended up with hypothermia and spent her evening in hospital rather than the planned celebration of bubbles in a spa! But discovering her joy that these challenges gave her, Cate began to get a bit more serious about her training, knowing if she wanted to go further she’d have to make cut-off times that make these events possible. Joining Squadrun enabled Cate to tick off even more endurance events.
Since 2018 Cate has completed four marathons, two 50km ultras and the Taupō 74km event (along with plenty of other halfs and 10km events). She’s also proud of her DNFs (Did not finish) that have taught her so much about herself (one at the Ring of Fire and another at the Tarawera 102km).
When we asked Cate what’s been her biggest challenge since deciding to get into endurance running, she told us the first thing that comes to mind is chafing. For her it’s been a major problem and her hubby Mike helps her to tape her entire torso when she heads out for long runs (especially in the summer). Sport bras and hydration packs can be evil! All this so she can be part of the epic trail running community she loves and gets to spend more time out in nature.
Anyone who has taken on running knows it can take you to dark places at times. Cate is incredibly grateful to her supportive community and friends who join her for crazy night runs, walks and adventures. She simply loves the time out that running gives her, both mentally and physically. If you want to hear more about her journey with depression, and the importance of exercise and social connectedness, listen to ‘Redefine your impossible’ an interview she did as part of a podcast series ‘Mental Strength Conversations’.
She hopes that all these adventures makes her a good role model of resilience and courage to her two daughters. Both the good runs and the bad ones. Her ‘get on and do it’ attitude has led her to so many opportunities, which she could have talked herself out of and put things in the too hard basket. She’s always grateful for the amazing times, experiences and friendships she has as a result of just saying yes and getting on and doing it.
Needless to say that Cate has many goals lined up in the next wee while. 2020 has been a tough one for her, as it has for many. With her Mum battling a terminal cancer diagnosis and Covid-19 having its life-changing impact, it’s fair to say that running has had to take a back seat for a while. Her fitness has dropped, but Cate knows the journey that started all this began with a simple ‘I will’. And not to take a challenge lightly, she’s joined a team of 10 women around the world who will run the combined distance of 50,000km in Lazarus Lake’s Circumpolar Race Around the World virtual event.
Always about community, Cate is also crewing for Fiona Hayvice who, as part of a 15-strong team of some of NZ’s best ultrarunners, will be taking on the world at the Big Dog’s Backyard World Champs this October.
Cate’s biggest inspiration is her Mum, Louise. After Cate dragged her along to parkrun a few years ago, Louise has gotten herself fit and healthy - which has added so much strength to her current state of health. And as we all know, there’s nothing quite like a hug from your Mum, especially when she’s your crew at a DNF in the Tarawera Ultra.
“I know when I do finally cross that finish line myself, which might be some years from now, I will remember that hug.”
Her words of wisdom for you dear reader
“Don’t hold back from giving something a go, just because you think you might not be ‘good enough’. You’re ALWAYS good enough.”
And just for fun, her billboard message: Life is short: eat the cake and wear comfortable clothing!
Thank you Cate, for sharing your story so far with us and our Zeenya readers. We can’t wait to hear more about your 50,000km challenge and doing the things that light you up.