My happy place: Olly Shaw, off-road triathlete

Training, recovery, fun...Olly Shaw loves being in Whakarewarewa Forest.
Training, recovery, fun...Olly Shaw loves being in Whakarewarewa Forest.

My happy place is running and riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, near where I live. I can get there really quickly and just be in my own space. You don't have to worry about anything else, or anyone else. You just ride the tracks you want and have the freedom to do what you want.

When I was really young, about 5, my Dad used to take me into the forest. I'd have the training wheels on my tiny bike and he'd take me down the easy learner tracks. It could be a bit dodgy on the training wheels with all the roots and everything, which made it a bit more fun.

I've always been quite competitive. I started mountain biking when I got to high school, and racing a little bit, and then I heard about Xterra, and started racing that when I was 15. I'm 21 now.

I did other triathlons, but I always seemed to do better in Xterra, and just enjoyed the racing more. Xterra is an off-road triathlon, so you start with a swim, then do mountain biking, then a trail run. Every race is different.

The course always changes, the track's never the same, the terrain's never the same, the conditions change, so people's strengths and weaknesses change. There can be so many variations. It never gets old.

Every day I'm in Rotorua I'll be in the forest. I'll spend between 15 and 20 hours there in a normal week. I'll train, and I'll also go in there if I want a recovery day or just to have fun.

When I get into the forest and get started I feel relaxed. If you have any worries you just forget about them and get caught up in the moment of just riding. It's just so peaceful and quiet.

Most of the time I train by myself but sometimes I'll train with my cousin, Sam Shaw, who's a mountain biker, and Mark Leishman, a professional triathlete. It can be fun having someone there pushing you. They force you to go that little bit faster and take a little bit more risk.

After I've been in the forest I'll feel shattered, but happy about what I've done. I feel refreshed. Mentally I can just let go of everything and I'm ready to do whatever comes next in the day.

I've always made one promise to myself in life and that's to never get a proper day job in an office. That's not really my thing. I just like being in the outdoors. Hopefully I can keep doing what I'm doing as long as I can.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell

- Herald on Sunday

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