Though she’s new to the sport, the transition has been seamless, to say the least.
For Sault Ste. Marie’s Taylor Corelli, previous experience swimming at a high level along with a running background has meant some early success competing in triathlon.
A first-place finish at an event in Muskoka means a chance to represent Canada on the world stage in later this year in Utah, and it’s also the first of two world championship events for the 31-year-old.
“It was like an out-of-body experience,” Corelli said of her initial win. “I crossed the line and there’s a tracking app and my mom had come with me and many of my friends and my coach were tracking me on the app. I finished and I could tell that my mom was nearby because my watch was going off with all of the alerts from Bluetooth and people were saying congratulations.”
Corelli said she replied in happiness because completing the event was a goal heading in, but then got word from her mother that she had indeed won the event.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Corelli said. “In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be winning. I just thought ‘I’m not ready to not be an athlete. I need to have a purpose of training, so I’m going to do these things that were fun.’ To be in the position that I won, I was just in shock.”
After winning the event in Muskoka, Corelli admitted she “felt like I had a little bit of imposter syndrome.”
“Then I went to the Toronto Tri Fest and raced against a bigger pool [of competitors],” Corelli said.
The Toronto Triathlon Festival, held in late July, also served as the National Canadian Triathlon Championship and helped determine the Canadian competitors for the 2023 Worlds.
“It drew a bit of a crowd, and it was really my first test competing against people from all over Canada,” Corelli said, adding that weather threw a bit of a wrench into the event as well.
“There was a thunderstorm, so they actually had to modify the race the morning of it,” Corelli said. “They ended up cutting the bike [portion] in half., so it was a bit of an awkward distance.”
Corelli would finish third in the event with the top three finishers earning spots at the World Championships in Spain in 2023.
She added that the Toronto event was a confidence boost for someone who is relatively new to the triathlon scene.
“To place in the top three and within two minutes of the top two girls, I thought ‘Hey, maybe I should stop doubting myself. Maybe I have something here,’” Corelli said with a laugh. “Now I’m starting to understand, but I also don’t want to lose that gritty, doing it for fun mentality. I find if you get too focused on places or times, things start to get more difficult.”
Corelli added that maintaining a fun aspect of competing has helped her perform better in events.
Corelli works with a pair of local coaches in Sherri Smith, who is her triathlon coach, and Tyler Belanger, who is her strength coach.
She trains regularly and her training includes three runs per week, three bikes per week, and three swims per week in addition to three strength training sessions per week.
“What that ends up looking like is two workouts per day most days and one day off a week,” Corelli said. “I try to stick to having one full rest day.”
Corelli says she has a workout first thing in the morning before work and another after.
“Saturday and Sunday are my long runs,” Corelli added. “Sundays are usually my long bike or brick workouts.”
Brick workouts are when athletes bike and then immediately go into a run, which allows practicing going into the transition from one to the other.
Corelli said she spends roughly three hours of training per day.
Asked about working with Smith, Corelli said she “became an instant role model.”
“She is just an incredible coach, but also an incredible person,” Corelli said. “She’s the kind of coach that makes you want to be better.”
A competitive swimmer growing up who competed in university while studying at Laurentian in Sudbury, Corelli said she got into triathlons afterward while working with Smith.
“I knew her from running the triathlon back on St. Joe’s when I was a teenager, so I kind of dabbled in it a little bit then, but then we didn’t have any races here and I was focused on swimming,” Corelli said. “I came back, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and Sherri was starting up the cross-country running team at the College.”
Corelli got involved with the team and the rest, as they say, is history.
With events essentially shut down for an extended stretch during the COVID-19 pandemic, Corelli said training was a way to bring some normalcy to the time and also was a big help when events returned.
“I do well with routine and when the pandemic happened, it was very unpredictable and I knew my training schedule was something I could control,” Corelli said. “It gave me a sense of normal.”
Corelli said it did make the pandemic seem long because she was essentially training for something that she didn’t know when it was going to happen.
That led to Corelli doing out to St. Joseph Island and doing a triathlon.
The training during the pandemic also prepared Corelli for competing in ironman competitions.
“Being forced to train for two years kind of isolated and just pushing through was really good mental training for racing,” Corelli said. “While it was hard at the time because it was isolating and taking a lot of time, I find it’s paying off because now when I’m in the middle of a race and it’s getting really difficult, I have the mental strength to push through.”