On the morning of a triathlon, Julia Wilkes wakes with the same nervous energy that she feels at the beginning of a day in court. “I know that something will go wrong,” says the 34-year-old partner and civil litigator at Adair Goldblatt Bieber LLP. “I’ll have to handle whatever surprise the day brings.”
In court, the curveballs are intellectual: the judge might pose an unexpected question or a witness could make a contradictory statement. But during a race, the challenges are physical: a flat tire, a sudden rainfall or a kick in the head. That last one actually happened. In August 2018, Wilkes travelled to Mont-Tremblant to compete in her first Ironman, a punishing version of the triathlon that includes a 3.8-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre bike ride and a 42.2-kilometre run. “Moments into the swim, someone kicked my goggles right off my face. I had to swim the whole thing blind.”
Before she was a triathlete, Wilkes was a long-distance runner. As a law student at the University of Toronto, a decade ago, she found that early-morning runs offered a calming respite from her workload. In 2015, she bought a road bike, and the triathlon became her sport of choice. To train, she goes on long runs near her home in Leslieville, and she works out with fellow triathletes through a professional coaching service.
That hard work has paid off. In October, Wilkes competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, the sport’s premier event. That, for the record, is a big deal: she had to place in the top two percent of her age category at a qualifying race in Kentucky. Despite this achievement, she has no plans to slow down. “I like knowing how far I can push my body,” she says. “I often crave my next workout and the natural endorphin high.”
This story is from our Winter 2019 Issue.