ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT: KATIE FIDLER
AP RACING ATHLETE REACHES NEW HEIGHTS!
We sat down with AP Racing Athlete Katie Fidler after she recently summited Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Southern Hemisphere, to talk about her adventures, a little bit of triathlon, and everything else in between.
Andy: Hi Katie- thanks for taking the time today! You recently summited Aconcagua, which is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere at roughly 23k ft, congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to climb Aconcagua?
Katie: Thanks! I have always loved being in the mountains, but ever since a trip to Everest base camp a few years ago, I have been motivated to push my potential - to climb higher and more challenging peaks. Aconcagua, being down in Argentina, doesn’t require the time or financial commitment that the big mountains of the Himalayas do, so it only made sense for my first big mountaineering expedition!
Andy: What is it like at 23k feet? Breathing? Views? Weather? Is it surreal?
Katie: It truly takes your breath away, in more ways than one! Simple tasks, like drinking water, getting in and out of your tent, and tying your boots can leave you gasping for air. During the summit push, I needed to stop and take 3 or 4 breaths between each and every step to control my breathing and keep my heart rate down, but then you look up and see the extreme beauty you’re surrounded by, and it somehow makes all the pain melt away. The weather on Aconcagua is notorious for being extremely cold and windy, which is exactly what we experienced. For four days we could barely leave our tents without risking being blown away. I guess similar to Ironman racing; patience is key in mountaineering!
Andy: How long did the climb take you?
Katie: I was on the mountain for a total of 14 days, but this included 2 days to hike into base camp, 2 days of acclimatization hikes – where you climb high and sleep low, 2 rest days, 1 bad weather day, 4 days of moving up the mountain to make higher camps, and 3 days to come down. Climbing at high altitude is a slow process, in which you need to properly acclimatize to the elevation. Go up a mountain too fast, and you risk getting altitude sickness, which can quickly lead to death if you don’t get down the mountain fast enough
Andy: Were there any points where you worried about not making it?
Katie: Ha, the very first day! On my way to South America, my flight made an unscheduled stop in Brazil. Since I missed my connection, I was then re-routed through Chile, all to get to Argentina. Not surprisingly, my luggage was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t fathom replacing all of the technical and cold weather gear I would need to tackle the mountain. Luckily, I was able to rent, buy, and borrow enough gear to at least survive the first week on the lower part of the mountain. After 8 days, the airlines located my luggage and we were able to get it sent to base camp on a mule! Altitude sickness and the weather are also wild cards that can quickly put a stop to an expedition. I did my best to focus on what I could control – my training leading up to the trip, and hydration and nutrition while on the mountain, and hoped for the best.
ANDY: Have you done any other major climbs? How do they compare?
KATIE: Last year I went down to Ecuador and climbed several glacier volcanoes, the highest being Cotopaxi at 19,347 ft. Glaciers are more technical mountaineering, since the ice is constantly shifting and opening up crevasses, or cracks in the ice that you can fall through. These mountains are climbed ‘Alpine Style’, rather than setting up progressively higher camps, ‘Expedition Style’, as we did on Aconcagua. In Ecuador, we would start climbing around midnight, in hopes of reaching the summit shortly after sunrise, so we could safely get off the mountains before the sun started to melt the ice and risk opening up any crevasses.
ANDY: We know you have climbed Pikes Peak at AP Racing camp, what is it like being almost 10k feet higher on Aconcagua?
KATIE: Ha, sadly I’m not sure there is a comparison and maybe even worse, there were no donuts at the top of Aconcagua! In both climbs though, I definitely needed to keep my pacing in check, hydrate well, and try to keep my heart rate down.
ANDY: For anyone that would want to do something like this but does not know where to start; do you have any advice?
KATIE: My first mountaineering experience was on Mount Rainer, in Washington. It’s a glacier peak, so even in the summer you are climbing on ice and snow. It’s a great place to safely learn how to use crampons, an ice ax, and to travel on a rope team. Essentially, you can spend a few days purposely falling into holes and learning to stop yourself from falling straight off the mountain!
ANDY: Some folks want to know a little bit about your triathlon racing/training- how long have you worked with the AP Racing team?
KATIE: I started racing triathlon 10 years ago while living in San Francisco. I joined the AP Racing team in 2017, after a 5-year ironman hiatus. I was living in a new city and had been looking for not only a new coach but a motivating support network. I found both when I attended the AP Tucson camp. I immediately knew it was the right fit for me, and led to my best triathlon season ever!
Andy: What do you think the major difference is between training with the AP crew and the entire AP racing experience vs other coaching/team options in the sport?
Katie: The team support has been above and beyond anything I expected. Being able to meet teammates at camps and then racing all over the country and seeing familiar faces has been amazing!
Andy: We are so proud and happy for you and can’t wait to hear about your next epic experience- What’s next in your world of adventures?
Katie: Awww thanks! I’m not sure what’s next just yet, although I think I’m already suffering from ‘post-climb-depression’, so I might need to get something on the calendar ASAP!
ANDY: What is your Ironman PR? If we did help, how did AP Racing help you achieve this PR? What was your previous best?
KATIE: My Ironman PR is 12:39, over an hour faster than my previous best IM, which I achieved my first year joining AP Racing.
I swam more than I ever have and ran less with AP, and it paid off on race day. I also found the structured bike workouts, rather than just endless hours in the saddle, to really pay off for me in improving my bike fitness. I was also fortunate enough to attend both Tucson and Colorado Springs camps that year which kept me motivated and helped me improve more in those two weeks than I would have in months training on my own.