Dara Pelkey-Field does not back down from a challenge.
Her determination and believe-that-you-can attitude has landed her a career that she loves and the title of top female triathlete in Nova Scotia.
Despite these notable accomplishments, both journeys gave Pelkey-Field, a Dalhousie Agriculture graduate, a run for her money.
Growing up in Fredericton, N.B., Pelkey-Field moved to Bible Hill to attend Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture (then known as the Nova Scotia Agricultural College). Despite advice from a high school guidance counsellor discouraging her from pursuing a science based program, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree majoring in animal science. She then went on to complete a Master’s of Science degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
“I had a guidance counsellor in high school try to give me a ‘pep talk’ that was directed at steering me away from the sciences as mathematics were never a strong point for me,” Pelkey-Field explains. “I loved biology and all of the science, so I decided to decline the suggestion and pursue science anyway.”
She now works as an instructor in the Department of Animal Science and Aquaculture at the Faculty of Agriculture in Bible Hill. Pelkey-Field is also the manager of the equine facility on campus. She currently instructs courses in general equine biology, equine genetics, reproduction and facility management, and is the lab instructor for an equine fitness and health course.
“I hope to grow the availability of the equine course offered at our campus,” Pelkey-Field said. “We are the only university east of Ontario to offer degree level equine science courses which adds to the uniqueness of our school.”
Pelkey-Field’s success in her career is matched by her personal success in athletics. Growing up, horses and show jumping were her main focus, with some volleyball and field hockey thrown into the mix. About seven years ago, Pelkey-Field began running competitively. Looking for more of a challenge, she took up biking and began competing in duathlon, a competition that combines running and biking. In 2015, Pelkey-Field and her husband, Mike, qualified and competed in the World Duathlon Championships held in Adelaide, Australia.
Pelkey-Field was still hungry for more but had a phobia of water, which held her back from competing in triathlons - until recently.
“Last year, Mike decided he wanted to attempt the Ironman 70.3, a long-distance triathlon race, and true to my form, I really didn’t want to be left out, so I signed up too.”
After countless hours in lakes and pools with the help of Mike and friends, Pelkey-Field’s fear of the water slowly evaporated.
She follows a rigorous training schedule to ensure she stays in tip-top shape for all sports, including show jumping. During the off season, Pelkey-Field trains with her horse, Ava, four to five days a week. During peak show season, her training is increased to six days a week and competitions nearly every weekend. In addition to her equestrian training, Pelkey-Field trains for triathlon.
Her hard work has paid off. In the past year she competed in 10 triathlon races, eight of which were Triathlon Nova Scotia point’s series races. Pelkey-Field finished the season as the top female triathlete in Nova Scotia, a feat she would have not imagined a year and a half ago.
“It’s surreal,” Dara says. “A year and a half ago I quite literally could not swim a single length of the pool!”
It’s the mental component that has made Pelkey-Field a successful triathlete.
“Believe that you can!” she said. “As soon as you eliminate any excuses you may have, you will open a door for yourself. There is no better feeling than crossing the finish line.”