A chat with Julia Nikolopoulos
Written by: Herbert Krabel
Date: Thu Sep 06 2012
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Julia.
Julia: No problem, I have some spare time at the moment.
ST: Have you recovered from your Norseman adventure?
Julia: I recover very slowly after long-distance races but I already finished two OD races since the Norseman. Next to the normal symptoms of exhaustion I had to cope with an infection of the intestines that was also affecting me on race day, although I didn’t realize this then (fortunately!).
ST: What made you decide to sign up for the race in the first place?
Julia: After last year’s IM in Frankfurt with low temperatures, rain and wind I figured that racing in a colder climate suits me much better than a race in the heat like Hawaii. So I looked for a race that would take place in a cooler place and with a challenging bike course (which is the reason why I didn’t sign up for IM Sweden – although 180k on a flat course can be challenging as well). My strength is on the bike and I need to balance a relatively slow swim split. Plus the Norseman promised a lot: a bike course with about 3500 meters of elevation, admitting only 250 competitors, nice temperatures as well as something different and new after 5 years of IM-racing.
ST: When you were at the start and had a chance to kind of scout the field, how good did you feel about your chances?
Julia: I don’t check on competitors I admit. I prepare as best I can for my races. I cannot influence the competition, so I focus on myself and my race. Especially in long-distance racing there are so many things that can happen and you cannot influence. Why then bother about something that is beyond control like the competition?
ST: That is true. But do you recall when you moved into the lead?
Julia: In retrospective it must have been on the climb to Imingfjell (bike kilometer 145) that I overtook the last woman. But I didn’t know that I was in the lead because before the race I agreed with my husband that he wouldn’t tell me about my position. So at 28k of the run my husband asked me whether I would like to know my position. I answered: “well, is it interesting?” And it was only then that he told me.
ST: It was interesting indeed, but were you then aware that you were on course record pace?
Julia: I had no idea about that! Only after crossing the finish line somebody told me. I guess my friends following the live stream had much more information than me.
Julia: It is an amazing and satisfying feeling! After a really long day not knowing actually how long you are on the run (I tend to get lost in the race and not worry about the splits) you finally reach the summit – with all the ups and downs that are part of such an adventure. I had intestinal problems from the start and thus the swim was a disaster, and because of this I couldn’t eat properly on the run which slowed me down. I survived the run leg with Coke and the focus on finishing the race.
ST: Do you plan to return to Norseman?
Julia: I would love to though I am asking myself whether it could get any better. I am still making plans for the next season but it is tempting.
ST: Have you considered the Inferno Triathlon in Switzerland?
Julia: I heard that climbing and reaching their mountain summit would be even better. But the real challenge would be my lack of mountain bike skills. In addition I don’t even own a mountain bike.
ST: Last year you did Ironman Frankfurt in just over 10 hours, was that your best time for the distance?
Julia: Yes, it was.
ST: A bit later that year you started in Kona. Do you have any thoughts on that race?
Julia: I really like Kona and the pre-race and race atmosphere. But after two races there (in 2009 I was on the starting line as well) I realized that it isn’t my race. On the one hand I don’t like to race in hot weather that much and on the other hand I never managed to have a proper build up for a second Ironman in the season. I am happy to go there again this year and support my husband who will race there – and not to be involved in the active part myself.
ST: Will you tell him where he is in terms of his placing?
Julia: That is going to be the job of the day this year.
ST: Do you expect him to do well?
Julia: I am very certain that he will! He loves the race and this year, after his early qualifier in Nice, he had the chance for a solid build up.
Julia: As a girl I spent my spare time with horses and I only picked up running and swimming for fitness reasons during my exam preparations at university. I started with triathlon in 2005 and finished my first Ironman 2006 (only slightly faster than at Norseman). If you would have told me then that one day I would win a race like the Norseman I would have laughed at you.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Julia: I am a rather normal age group athlete. I work 40-50 hours and try to include 15-20 hours of training per week. I have the big advantage that my husband is also a successful triathlete so we hardly have any discussions about training times (though he likes to complain about me leaving early for swimming in the winter at 6:15 in the morning). I don’t follow a training plan or have a coach. And at the end of each season I promise myself to work on my swimming skills.
ST: I think you are not alone in the triathlon world with that promise.
Julia: Well, but unless I do something about it, it wont help me that I am in good company.
The Norseman Extreme Triathlon recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and had 2 events over a weekend with about 500 starters. Enjoy this inspiring video. 8.27.12
Henrik Oftedal won the 2012 Norseman Extreme Triathlon in a time of 10:23:42 and thus broke Bjorn Andersson's course record from 2005. Annett Finger smashed the women's course record in a fantastic time of 12:17:04. 8.05.12