A love for water never dies.
A story by Team USA Triathlete Katie Guest
Story and Photos | Katie Guest
Some athletes describe something called the “flow state”. It is described in many ways but is essentially a mode in which a person’s muscle memory and body can do a physical activity while the mind goes into a deep state of relaxation. The athlete is at a point in which they do not have to think about what they are doing or instruct their body to conduct certain motions. It is a seamless flow of mind and body control.
For Katie Guest, the flow state is a place she has only ever achieved while in or on water. It started during her childhood when she was competitive swimming. To her, swimming was fun; she wasn’t particularly fast, but she enjoyed flowing through the water. Under the surface she was comfortable, she could think, and her body moved in exactly the way she wanted it to.
During her teen years she made the transition from swimming to rowing. A natural choice with her family lineage of Olympic and World-class rowers on her father’s side. Showing up to a boathouse at the age of 16 changed her life. A tall, long-limbed, previously not very athletic girl found herself practicing every chance she got. A fire had been lit inside her and all she wanted to do was row her 15 foot long, 1-foot-wide single scull across the top of the Credit river of Canada every day. American Universities began to take note of her performance, and her family name at races. Upon graduation of high school, she had signed a scholarship contract with the University of Miami, Florida under the Canadian rowing coach Andrew Carter. She continued to row under his guidance throughout her undergraduate schooling years. Every summer she came home and raced on the Canadian circuit in every boat possible. There was nothing as fulfilling or peaceful as rising early to push her body to the physical limit with her oars propelling the skinny beautiful boats at speeds beyond even that of a racing kayak.
After college, Katie moved back to Canada and continued to row with hopes to earn a position on the 2020 Olympic Team. The 2016 Olympic results for Canada were disappointing and cut the funding to the development program. The doors were closed, and Katie decided to hang up her oars and retire her rowing career.
Due to her driven nature, it wasn’t long before she was seeking out a goal to train towards. A friend from college encouraged her to try a triathlon. Much to her surprise she won the local sprint triathlon in Southern Oregon. Two seasons later she was the American National Champion and qualified for Team Canada. In 2019 she qualified for Team USA and earned her spot to compete for the United States at World Championships following her second place win at National Championships. What started as a physical outlet and an excuse to get back in the water, turned into a second wind in elite sport.
In 2020 Katie decided to take a long hard look at her training plans. World Championships were being delayed an extra year and while that meant more time for training it also increased the chances of training burn out or overtraining injury. Katie looked back to her roots in rowing and started reaching out and doing research about cross-training in kayaks. Then someone sent her a photo of a packraft with a bike on top and everything clicked. Katie reached out to Alpacka Raft, the makers of the best packrafts in the world, and told them her idea. A former rower- turned elite triathlete looking to use her passion for boating as a cross training method to get her into the top rankings at World Championships in 2021.
Katie now packrafts and bikerafts every week. Not only has she gained core and upper body strength, but she has also been able to explore new training grounds across the Pacific Northwest and keep her training fresh and exciting. Her goals in 2021 are to train on her bikes and raft as much as possible (more training, more fun!) finish in the top rankings at Triathlon World Championships, packraft from the base of Mt. Rainier on the Nisqually River, packraft the Wind River Range in Wyoming and bikeraft Vancouver Island in Canada.
Keep up with Katie and her triathlon, packrafting and bikerafting adventures on Instagram @guestlife.