Triathlete Carolyn Hayes is flat out. Since October 2018, she’s literally been racing around the world.
In her quest to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she has competed in Hong Kong, Korea, China, Japan, Morocco, Senegal, Thailand, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, the Netherlands and Japan.
And it’s paying off. She was selected for the European Triathlon Championships in Weert in June, coming sixth in a “breakthrough” performance.
She then went on to win silver in the World Cup in Kazakhstan in July.
“I’m doing all that I can to improve my International Triathlon Union ranking. In October 2018, I was ranked 428, I’m now 72,” says the 31-year-old, Co Limerick native.
“All I need to do is to keep doing what I’m doing and not change anything.”
All this success means she’s under greater scrutiny, which she fully supports.
“In the last eight months, I’ve been tested by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) seven times — twice at home. Sport Ireland calls at random times, which is fantastic.”
With her eyes on an Olympic prize, she recently decided to put her medical career on hold and train full-time.
She moved to Wicklow in July 2018, to train with Gavin Noble and Éanna McGrath, who run HupHup.
“Every day it’s just focussed on one goal”.
She always knew she wanted to be a doctor “and that was it”.
Her drive to succeed has served her well as a student, getting first-class honours in TCD, and an RCSI award for excellence in clinical teaching when she was training to be a junior doctor — “that was massive”.
One of five children from a sporting family, her twin sister Rachel took a very different career path, studying law in UL and TCD.
“We’d never be competitive — I just want to see her do well and she just wants to see me do well.”
And her recipe for success? “Sleep little; work hard.”
Carolyn Hayes is an ambassador for Vodafone Ireland.
What shape are you in?
I’m in race shape at the minute, so I feel healthy and strong. I’m lucky I’ve been able to stay injury and illness-free for the past few months.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I’ve always been healthy and that probably comes from my Mum, who made sure we could all cook and bake. She baked fresh scones and bread for us every day.
Because of that, I also bake my own bread. I make sure to get my five-a-day of fruit and veg.
With the training I do, I need to prioritise recovery. I am lucky to have the time to prepare my own food.
I don’t like butter, cream, or sauces — I’m a very plain eater.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
Butlers hot chocolate, Haribo Starmix, and Teddy’s ice-cream.
What would keep you awake at night?
Knowing I haven’t packed my bags for training in the morning. Also, if someone asks me a question about something and I don’t know the answer offhand, I couldn’t go to bed without finding out the answer.
This is a blessing — when studying — and a curse.
How do you relax?
I love to read and enjoy baking. Outside of training, meeting family and getting to play with my nieces or nephews is something I look forward to.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My Mum as she’s incredibly social, conversational and engaging. David Attenborough, Roger Federer, and Christian Bernard.
What’s your favourite smell?
Fresh bread straight out of the oven. And I love the smell of chlorine.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I wouldn’t say no to a few extra inches of vertical height. But generally nothing, I’m pretty content with my phenotype, freckles and all.
When is the last time you cried?
During a recent Sunday — I don’t know why I was upset, but I had a good blow out and felt amazing after it.
What traits do you least like in others?
Selfishness, lack of common courtesy towards others, and laziness.
What traits do you least like about yourself?
I am very self-critical and struggle to switch off and relax. I feel I always need to be doing something, whether it’s for me or others.
Do you pray?
What would cheer up your day?
A surprise visit from family or FaceTime with my new nephew Jake — he’s just discovered he has feet.