GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – As the new year begins, everyone is thinking about new goals they want to set for 2018.
Local triathlete Benjamin Hayley has set some extreme goals for 2018 as he plans to complete three extreme triathlons in just three months.
This year Hayley is set to compete in the Celtman Xtreme Triathlon in Scotland in June, the Canada Man/Woman Xtreme Triathlon in Quebec in July, and the Swedman Xtreme Triathlon in Sweden in August.
The first XTri
In July of 2017 Hayley competed in the Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon (XTri) – his first extreme triathlon – which claims to be one of the most challenging extreme triathlons on earth.
Hayley and other competitors completed a 2.6-mile swim, a 112-mile bike course and 27-mile run, ending on top of Mount Alyeska.
“The thing that makes an extreme event different from an Ironman event is the conditions you’re actually racing in,” Hayley told the Advertiser.
“The swim was in Resurrection Bay way up north in Alaska, so the water was freezing, as you can imagine.”
The lowest temperature the water reached during the swim was around nine degrees and “that was probably one of the hardest parts of the race for me – mentally you just have to try to push through it,” he said.
How he got involved
Hayley received a call out of the blue from a friend asking if he wanted to compete in the extreme triathlon.
With little time to decide, as applications go in quickly and only a small number of applicants are accepted, Hayley said yes.
Because the race is in extreme conditions and competitors can go hours without seeing help or volunteers, they are required to bring a support team. Hayley’s team consisted of his girlfriend and his mother.
Taking part in races like these can be financially straining. The cost of plane tickets, traveling with a bike, car rentals, accommodations and food – as well as all the gear needed to compete in such an extreme race – means Hayley has to be prepared both physically and financially to take on such challenges.
When Hayley took on the Alaskaman XTri, he was injured at the time and suffering from IT band syndrome, which prevented him from being able to fully engage in his training.
It wasn’t until 12 weeks before the race that he was able to immerse himself in the training he needed.
Hayley was no newbie to the sports and triathlon world. He has been an athlete all his life and had been competing in triathlons for five years prior to competing in the Alaskaman XTri.
“It’s extreme so you have to train for those conditions going in,” said Hayley.
In preparation, Hayley said he was out in the lakes in early June. Anyone who has experienced a hot June day in Newfoundland knows even though it may be tempting, the water of the lakes and ponds are still much too cold to swim in at that time of year, with temperature being around 12 or 13 degrees.
“I would just go out with my swim jammers on, no wet suit, just my skin. I would swim a couple of laps –I would literally come out and be shaking, I would be that cold,” Hayley said.
His training got intense. He would get up 5a.m on a Saturday morning and ride his bike for eight hours.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I would do a really long ride on one weekend, like 150 km, and then the next weekend I would do a shorter ride like 100 km or 90 km, but then I would get off my bike and run for 10 or 15.”
Pushing to the finish
The Alaskaman race took Hayley 16 hours and 23 minutes to complete. It was a full day of non-stop pushing his body to the limit.
But there was not one point during that race that he felt like giving up, Hayley said.
This first big race was dedicated to his grandfather, who has passed away.
“I was really close to my grandfather,” said Hayley. “I told him before he died ‘you know pop, I’m going to do an Ironman for you someday,’ so that was always kind of my drive to do the big race.
“Bad training days that I’d have – I’d think about him and I would push myself through it. There was a couple of rough times in that race just because it does so much to your body. He was kind of my why, why am I doing this.”
Finishing the Alaskaman race was “like the most amazing experience I’ve ever been through in my life. It was incredible,” said Hayley.
“I love trying to figure out what the human body can do, what can I put my body through, how far can I actually push my body.
“Doing these extreme events is such a cool story to share with people and you kind of inspire people.”
Gearing up for 2018
The sport of extreme triathlons is becoming so popular, there are waitlists to compete in the events, said Hayley.
He set out with a goal to eventually compete in all the World XTris. At that time there were seven, but more are popping up all over the world every year.
After the Alaskaman triathlon Hayley applied for all seven events available. He got into the Swedeman and applied for the Canada Man/Woman because there was no waitlist.
After paying his registration fees for these events, he received an e-mail saying he was accepted to compete in the Celtman.
“I was like oh my God, this is one of the big ones.”
Without hesitation Hayley accepted the offer and added it to his list of events for the summer of 2018.
With just weeks in between three extreme triathlon events – and keeping in mind that it took him six full weeks to recover from the Alaskaman race last year – Hayley is setting his sights high for 2018.
“I’m the type of person – I don’t say I’m going to do something and not do it. I will do those races unless I’m injured,” he said.
“I’m just so fired up from that whole challenge and event that I did, I just want to go back to that moment of just crushing it.”
Despite his drive, Hayley doesn’t consider himself an elite athlete.
“I’m just an average person who … found something I’m passionate about,” he said.
“If I can inspire someone to just go out and be more active or find something that suits them that they really enjoy doing, for me it’s all worth it.”
Hayley will be starting his training regime in January. He has spent the off-season focusing on some muscle imbalances and doing a lot of strength and conditioning work.
“I love triathlon, I love fitness – it’s my passion,” he said.