Continuing our series profiling each one of our age group team members racing in this year's Ironman World Championships, we are thrilled to chat with Juliana Nievergelt. Team SFQ'er Juli earned her Hawaii Ironman qualification by winning the 55-59 age group at Ironman Cozumel last fall.
Juli, You have the longest history with the Hawaii Ironman of anyone on our team, having raced in the 90s as a professional. Can you tell us about your history with ironman and what brought you back to it in recent years?
I came to my first Ironman in 1983. I was 23 years old and totally ignorant and wide eyed. I had started training in March with no background in anything but being a college gymnast and equestrian. I qualified in my first race in Idaho in June and then headed to Kona in October. It was amazing to race shoulder to shoulder with the athletes I watched on ABC Sports just one year before. I actually exited the water with Julie Moss and was biking well. The Puntous Twins won that year and Dave Scott won the men’s race. I finished 22nd that year. Dave Scott would later become my coach. The memories with that original group of friends that supported and raced with me are some of the best in my life.
Can you share with us some of the key Kona lessons you have taken away from your previous experiences on the island?
I probably learn something every time I race here. The first year I fiddled with my bike right before the race and ended up not being able to shift to my big chain ring. Not good when you have a gigantic tail wind. Don’t fiddle with your equipment!
The other big one is to make sure I stay in MY routine and not get sucked in to everyone else’s workouts. Stick to your own schedule!
Relax and take in as much as you can without exhausting yourself. Save the extreme fun for after the race;)
Respect the Island and the locals because we all want to come back!
You and your daughter Hailey are one of a couple of mother-daughter pairs on TeamSFQ, which we think is so cool!! You recently moved down to South Carolina where Hailey lives and she tells us that you are training partners. Can you tell us about this relationship?
Kona and triathlon has always been a family endeavor. My dad raced in triathlons, my sister and I accumulated 8 top ten finishes in Kona 3 and my mom is the Queen Sherpa. My little brother was a professional mountain biker and XTerra athlete. So I guess it’s only natural for me to train with Hailey. I rode many miles and ran lots of track workouts with my dad. I still go for a leisurely spin on the bike with my dad. He is 80 now and if I want to go a bit faster he rides his new E bike. I love helping Hailey and spending that time with her even if we get cranky with each other now and then. Racing Cozumel last year was an experience I hope she feels passionate about forever. It was awesome!
Who will be joining you as support crew in Kona? Do you have pals from your old racing days coming back to the island as well?
Relationships that I have developed over the years through triathlon are lasting and important to me. I still keep in touch with the original crew that I came to Kona with in 1983. They are life long friendships that I cherish.
Our family provided home-stays for athletes competing in The Boston Triathlon (ITU) in the early 2000’s. We hosted 3xIronman Champion Craig Alexander and each year he came back he would bring first his wife Neri, baby Lucy, baby Austin and then we would meet Lani in Kona in 2014. I helped convince Craig to give Kona a try and his first year was my first year back as an age group athlete at 46. They have become life long friends as well. Another athlete I met when she stayed with us is Evelyn Williamson a 3x Olympic team member for the New Zealand Triathlon Team. She can’t make it to Kona but her boyfriend Tomo, Neri, Craig and a couple we have known for years from Massachusetts will be here to support me. Of course my husband Philip is here and he is the ultimate support system for both Hailey and I. I wish Hailey was here but I think her life is taking off with a promotion at work and a wedding coming in May. Everything happens for a reason and I know she will be here when the timing is right. I can’t wait for her to get to experience this one of a kind adventure!