by Carrie Adams
“Call me a Tomboy – but I also have Manolo Blahniks that look damn good on my feet. It doesn’t make me any less of a chick.” – Katy McCabe
I’ve been profiling Death Racers for months and I generally start the conversation with some basic questions: Full name, age, hometown, and occupation, “I’m a Russian Cryptologic Linguist and a Signals Intelligence Subject Matter Expert/Analyst.” Katy McCabe told me when I asked her the occupation question. (long pause)
“I’m sorry, what?” I said, “You’re going to need to repeat that.” We both laughed, and thus began our Death Race Profile interview.
Katy McCabe or Katya as she’s known in the training circuit joined the Marine Corps when she was 21, learned Russian, and was taught how to be a Signals Intelligence Analyst. After leaving the military life, she found a job that translated her military training into a civilian profession. “I love it, it’s what I do – not who I am.” she says, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
McCabe is all bad ass these days but that wasn’t always the case. “I am not a natural athlete. I was 197 lbs before I joined the military. I was not afforded that luxury of being naturally athletic. I still don’t consider myself an athlete. I just work hard.” After leaving the military, McCabe was introduced to the gym and prepared herself for a figure competition in a mere 12 weeks… and won.
“I won overall and I realized that it was fun, but that it wasn’t for me.” Her love of the gum and working out introduced her to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2007 and she realized pretty quickly she had a natural talent for the sport. “There’s so much heart in BJJ… when you are rolling – you are in that moment.”
Katya ruptured her L6 vertebrae while competing in BJJ tournaments and after she was cleared to go back to the gym she began using CrossFit as a means of rehabilitation. She built out a barn for her home and the ground floor is where she keeps her training materials – logs, sand bags, rings, vacuum cleaners… She holds CrossFit workout sessions there, “I made my group carry all kinds of things out to my mailbox and back. The vacuum cleaner made perfect sense…It’s heavy and awkward!”
Concerning the Death Race, McCabe knew she had to participate, “I read about the Death Race 8 months ago. I knew as soon as I said to myself ‘You can’t do it’ that I had to do it.” She goes into the race wanting to do her best always pushing herself against the only competition that matters – herself. “I don’t consider myself competitive – I never feel the need to beat other people to win. I don’t want to win or the recognition. It’s because if I don’t think I can, then I have to prove that I can.”
McCabe says she is inspired by the athletes she’s met as an adult, “That’s the most and best characteristics of humans…. that need to push yourself and doing it. I don’t feel I was instilled with that as a kid and nothing motivates me more than reading people do things.” She knows that in her mind, success is something you give yourself and you can also take away. At one BJJ tournament in New Jersey, McCabe had adcanced to the finals and watched the semi-final match between the two girls who would ultimately be her competitor in the finals. “I was watching the fight” she says, “And this girl beat the other girl 14 – 0. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m okay with second place.’ Right then, I knew I had lost. I will always remember that and use it.”
She won’t beat herself in the Death Race and she’s even heading into the event with a friend and training partner – Laura Svette. They have been blogging about their race preparation as Team Glamazon at: http://teamglamazon.blogspot.com “There isn’t words. I just don’t know how to explain why. It’s for me. It’s not because I saw other do it and so I can do it. I’m just happy that it exists.”
McCabe wants to promote the image of strong women in sports and she is inspiring women and girls every step of the way. She’s built relationships with so many of the competitors of the Death Race as they all prepare to head into the Green Mountains this month. “I’m excited to feel the energy that’s there… It’s going to suck.” she laughs and quickly interjects, “But, if I didn’t have to work at it to achieve I wouldn’t be so interested in trying. It just has so much heart.” And so does Katy McCabe.