It is not often that you can encounter a world champion, and therefore it was a great pleasure to meet Katrine Amtkjaer, the reigning IronMan World Champion in her age group 35-39. Katrine hails from Denmark but lives in Shanghai, and is one of the friendliest and enthusiastic triathletes you’ll come across. In advance of the Shangri La Duathlon Challenge, we invited her to our race location and have a nice chat.
- Who is Katrine Amtkjaer?
I’m Katrine from Denmark living in China for almost 5 years. Triathlon is my passion and at the moment I’m very privileged being able to invest most of my time training and racing. My interest of triathlon started back in 2011 where I signed up for Challenge Copenhagen (full Ironman distance) without having a bike or being able to swim free style. Today my entire life revolves around training and racing and last season I was able to win the Ironman World Championship in my age group on both the half and the full distance. Along side my tri-life I study Chinese, travel the world (racing) and enjoy a colorful life with my husband, Mads, and my friends in Shanghai.
- How did you get into triathlon and Ironman?
By coincidence! Back in 2010 triathlon started to grow in Denmark and the first long distance race was launched. My boyfriend at the time had signed up for this race and since we were living in two different parts of the country I thought I should sign up as well – making it possible to spend some (training) time together. It was meant as a ‘to do’ on a bucket list. But it ended up as a lifestyle and since 2010 I have gotten more and more passionate about this sport and my level has increased. My husband on the other side hasn’t either biked or swam since that race.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses in the race?
My strength has always been my ability to train hard and consistently. This is an underrated talent in my point of view. I don’t have any particular physical talent for either swim, bike or run but with a very thorough training prior to a race I always feel confident that I can preform well. Also I have a very skilled coach (Gregers from CredoEndurance) and the race strategy I receive from him always makes me calm and confident. Until last year my run was my strongest discipline but last year I focused a lot on the bike leg and in the end I think I won most races due to a strong performance on the bike.
My weakness has always been my swim. It’s difficult to start swimming late since swimming is so technical and it takes thousands of thousands of repetitions to change your swim style. I’m still working on it but there’s still a long way to perfection. Being a weak swimmer however, shouldn’t prevent people from trying out triathlon. Luckily, it’s still a relatively small part of the race.
- Who or what inspires you?
It inspires me to feel that I’m improving – that there’s always new areas to work on. For me it’s a bigger motivation to finish a session I though was impossible than to race and win. I’m motivated by progression!
And then I must say that the Ironman-distance inspires me. I have now done 8 IM in total and before each of these races I have thought ‘is this really possible’. I find it inspiring to challenge myself on a distance that is close to my limit and which requires a lot of preparation and strategy to master. The satisfaction of building up to one of these events and finish well is a huge satisfaction.
- What have some of your most memorable race experiences been?
I have done a number of memorable races and it’s almost impossible to choose only one.
Of course the 2 World Championships in 2016 are very special to me due to the results and the fact that these races indicates that my training and investment of time, pain and determination payed off with two titles. That felt incredible!
IM South Africa – because of its beauty
IM Malaysia – because of its roughness (heat, humidity and lots of incline)
And IM Austria – for being closest to ‘the most perfect race’ I’ve done.
- As the first triathlete who, together with Buzz, was able to examine the course of the 1st Shangri La Duathlon Challenge, do you have any suggestions for other participants in the upcoming event? Especially regarding race equipment, training plan, training supplies and sports recovery.
The ShangriLa Duathlon is for me a ‘destination race’! It’s a race people should choose due to its beauty and because it’s so unique – challenging us with more than 3000 meters of altitude. This basically means that all athletes toeing the start line have an equal chance of winning. This time it’s more about being able to adjust to altitude and listen very carefully to the body’s signals. And besides from ‘just racing’ it’s a journey into a ‘Tibetan lifestyle’ with yak milk and duck tongues on the barbecue.
A big advantage would of course be to go to Shangri La prior to the race! Because hydration and sleep will be even more important than at any other race.
This race doesn’t require any particular race equipment – in this race it’s all about racing according to ability. Here it will be impossible to ‘overdo it’ to push beyond the limit because you will simply not make it through,
Unless you have the possibility to do high altitude training or training with mask I think you should go ahead with your normal training and simply align yourself with the fact that this race will be more about balancing effort and ability than pushing ‘all out’ on race day.
- As an experienced athlete, do you have any suggestions for the service of the organizing committee?
I think it’s very important that the organizers make sure that every participant know what to expect from a high altitude race. How the body will react and how to respond if you don’t feel well. In order to make sure everyone gets a great race experience everyone must take the altitude conditions seriously!
- What has Triathlon/Ironman brought to your life that you didn’t have before?
My whole life revolves around triathlon these years which means that the sport has changed my life completely. Triathlon has brought me many new friendships, a healthy lifestyle, adventures around the world, better understanding of who I am, a stronger mental approach to many things in my life (besides from racing) and the feeling of ‘living my dream’ which I believe is quite valuable.
- What do you enjoy doing away from triathlon?
I very much enjoy traveling – also when the purpose of traveling isn’t racing. Peaceful days by the beach or exploring big cities. And then it’s no secret I’m a huge food and red wine lover! Any chance I have to try new delicacies and enjoy a great glass of red wine I truly treasure.
- What does the future hold for Katrine?
Hopefully another great season with big races are coming up. I’m doing a lot of local China races in the first part of the season and then going to Germany and Iceland during the summer for a full and a half distance. Autumn will be spent in the States racing the World Championships in Chattanooga and Hawaii.
I think triathlon will be a part of my life for many more years to come but of course I’m also considering if there’s more than doing triathlon almost full time. What this implies I still don’t know.
Ran in Shangri La
Rode around Napa lake in Shangri La