–By Ottawa Sportspage, For Bytown Storm Triathlon Club
Olivia Haley hasn’t kept count of how many triathlons she’s done, but she’s been doing them since she was 6.
Haley is a member of the Bytown Storm Triathlon Club, which offers programs for athletes from 8 years old and up, supporting them through provincial, national and international levels.
On July 7, Haley placed second at a triathlon in Petawawa. The week before, she took part in the Stittsville Youth Triathlon, and later she offered a full account of her experience:
Haley starts every race day more or less the same: a bowl of cereal, a banana, a glass of milk and some light stretching. It’s her first race of the season, but at 11 years old, she’s already a veteran set in her routine.
The short drive to Stittsville is a chance for Haley to get mentally prepared, and to plan her course for what’s to come: three lengths in the pool, four laps on the bike, then onto the run.
Minutes before the race, two feelings are in a battle against one another: “I’m nervous and then excited, then nervous, then excited.” Haley goes through this back-and-forth of emotions every race. She’s used to it by now.
The athletes are on the start line in the Goulbourn Recreation Complex. The gun goes off and Haley hits the water. Swimming’s her favourite leg of the triathlon; with her head in the water, it’s a chance to stop thinking about the athletes around her and focus on what she’s doing.
With her pool laps taken care of, she quickly dashes out of the rec centre, where her bike – and the second endurance test – is waiting for her.
Haley’s ready for it. Bike is her strong suit.
Pushing forward on the bike amid the other racers, Haley’s mind is already on the final leg of the triathlon. The run is where fatigue usually sets in, and a moment of mental preparation is needed.
“I’ll tell myself before that part not to stop running and to just keep going.”
Switching from bike to foot in a moment’s notice isn’t easy on the legs, and Haley has to resist the urge to rest upon feeling that wobbling sensation.
If anything surprised Haley during the race, it was the heat of that scorching Canada Day weekend. It was the hottest temperatures she’d ever endured at a competition.
With the sight of the finish line comes feelings of elation.
“I’m panting really hard but I’m very happy, I have a big smile on my face. Going through my mind, I’m usually very proud of myself even if I didn’t come in the best place.”
Other members of the Bytown Storm were there at the line, cheering on her final steps. The next order of business is to grab some water and a snack, and to share congratulations with the Bytown crew.
Haley hopes to compete at the provincial level when she can be draft-legal cycling at 14. After that, she’ll start earning points toward a season total at each triathlon. Currently training five days a week, she has the work ethic she needs to get there.
“I want to keep doing triathlon my entire life. I want to keep the sport forever.”
Haley is part of Bytown’s Storm Troopers program, which takes athletes aged 8-11 through the fundamentals of swimming, cycling and running. Next year, she’ll move onto the Storm development program for ages 12-16. At age 16, she’ll be able to join the Storm Elites, a competitive program where athletes can work on their personal-best times and prepare for provincial and national competition.
The club also offers the Bytown Strong Triathlon Team, for adults of any age and experience.