This litigator is also a competitive Ironman triathlete // Secret Life

“I like knowing how far I can push my body,” says Julia Wilkes. “I often crave my next workout and the natural endorphin high”

By Matthew Halliday

On Tuesday December 3rd, 2019


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.”

Julia Wilkes
Adair Goldblatt Bieber LLP

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.

Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth, make up by Michelle Calleja