Katerina is a seasoned triathlete who juggles training, family and co-running her business Racecheck. She has competed in the ITU World Championships where she represented her native Greece and today is training for Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma California. Katerina tells Queen of the Mile about some of the highs and lows of her triathlon story and what keeps her going the extra mile.
Fourteen years ago, when I was still living in Greece, triathlons were not popular over there at all and along with a lot of other people, I had no clue what they were. I had a friend who did an Ironman and it seemed like something I would enjoy. I was not a competitive swimmer and I certainly didn’t ride bikes but I had always been a runner. I managed to team up with an incredible coach and Greek triathlon champion, Vassilis Krommidas, and trained with him and his then small group of athletes. I started to compete in triathlons, including the Olympic distance national games in which I came third. However, this all came to pause after moving to the UK to do a post graduate degree as I had no bike and no one to train with and so my triathlon activity stopped. I also suffered the added blow of injuring my knee during the Venice Marathon in 2004 and had to give up running too. After my degree I started working for an investment bank doing equity sales and for the next 10 years I played tennis and did other sports that didn’t require me to be running for continuous periods of time.
A new chapter
In 2010 my little brother who was inspired by me (apparently!) did the Ironman distance race, Challenge Roth, in Germany and I went as his support crew. Seeing him cross that finish line after 10h45min was one of the most magical moments my brother and I have shared. We were both in tears and he made me so so proud. That moment brought the magic of endurance sports back to me. In January 2013, after getting a TT bike, I started training again with my coach of 14 years.
During my break from triathlon I also became a mother and gave birth to my daughter Artemis and then three years later, my son Stefanos. My husband and I came to the decision that it was best for me to stop working as the hours were brutal and I was not seeing my children enough. This prompted my career to take a different course.
My brother and I decided to create a website catering to triathletes needs called Racecheck. We wanted a site where athletes could look for races, read reviews and find the best race for them.
In 2013 I competed in the Ironman 70.3 UK in a relay team. I was the swimmer and our team came 3rd! It was a real buzz, and I wish I could have done the whole thing! My next race was a sprint triathlon in Thorpe and then the main race of the year was the ITU World Triathlon finals in London Hyde Park where I represented Greece in the Olympic distance. Training for Sprint or Olympic distance triathlons does require time and commitment but my heart lies with endurance sports so it was only natural that I would transition to the next distance which is the half Ironman.
I picked Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma California as my first half Ironman distance race. There is a great review of the race on our website and a friend of mine has also done it and said the best things about it! The race sold out in five minutes which is saying something. I also thought..California? Cycling through the vineyards? How bad can it be? So my husband, (who happens to be a wine-lover), and my two kids are all going to Sonoma in July. I also decided to race for my friend Sarah who at the age of 42 died of a brain tumour leaving behind three young children. I have started a collection to raise money for brain cancer research here.
I train about 11 hours per week, I have three swim sessions, sometimes going to a nearby lake to practice open water swimming, a strength session, three run sessions and two bike sessions. Ideally I would be doing more than 13 hours per week but I’ve made the decision that balancing my life is much more important than dropping 5-10 minutes off my race time. I would like to compete my first half Ironman in sub six hours but I try not to stress about the time. I think going to the race relaxed and without pressure can actually result in a better performance.
This Sunday I am competing in the Cambridge triathlon, Olympic distance as a warm up for Vineman. In August I am doing the Pru100m bike race from London to Surrey and in October I’m representing Greece in the ETU middle distance European championships in Challenge Paguera, Majorca!
Advice for other triathletes
I would say to new triathletes to not be scared. Start small and be patient. The way to prevent injuries is to be conservative and follow a professional training program. Results will come if you’re patient….they don’t happen overnight and if they do it might mean you have pushed your body a bit too far too fast. The important thing is staying healthy so you can enter other events. Start by doing a small local race where the mass swim start wont be too daunting, people are not as competitive and you can have your friends and family supporting you. One triathlon and you will be hooked.
My favourite discipline would have to be running but running after the bike does not feel normal. Your legs have been using different muscles and you need to train for the transition bike to run. Those sessions are called brick sessions and must be part of your training program no matter how good a runner you may be. My ultimate race tip would be to go to the race wearing a smile! It is supposed to be fun and there is no point in putting your body through such pain if you wont enjoy it at the same time.
Juggling a home, two young children and a website is no easy task. It requires a lot of organization, dedication and sacrifice. But in life you have to make choices and the joy I get from endurance sports I get from nothing else. Having a family means you have to consider their needs and be there for them as a mum and wife. Keeping a good balance between the family and your training makes the difference between being a happy or an unhappy athlete.
Check out Katerina’s website www.racecheck.com and sponsor her Vineman challenge here.