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40 Stories – Daniela Ryf – 2016

Super Heroes are only supposed to exist in the comics. But on occasion something takes over in the life of mere mortals and they become unstoppable. Daniela Ryf was one of those lucky humans who in 2016 raced like an invincible being from another planet masquerading as a human.

Daniela started slow, but then hit her stride as the year progressed towards Kona. She won the IRONMAN World Championship the previous year without much of a challenge from the other women. All she had to do in 2016 was to validate her slot by finishing another IRONMAN. Daniela chose IRONMAN Frankfurt. Unfortunately it must have been the one day of the year when life threw her a curve. The race was cold. Ryf became hypothermic and had to drop out. But then came the rest of the season.

Daniela Ryf raced Challenge Roth the third weekend in July. She set a new record with an incredible 8:22:04. A week later she was on the start line for IRONMAN Switzerland. All she had to do there was finish to validate her slot for Kona in October. But Daniela isn’t the kind of person who does the minimum. No, quite the opposite! She won the race in 8:51:50, which set a new course record. She was on a superhuman roll.

Then came Kona. Some were saying that the double she posted in July was crazy and would cost her the World Championship in October. But it was all part of the strategy that her coach, Brett Sutton, had put in place.

“Brett laid out the plan for those two races. Some people thought it was crazy, but I trust Brett.”

October 10, 2016 would show if it was a good strategy or if her critics would be the ones gloating. No one would deny that trouncing two course records in full distance triathlons in a one week stretch was a big demand.

Seemingly without a second of struggle, Daniela slowly upped her effort on the bike until all the good runners were so far back that they had no hope by the start of the marathon.

Daniela Ryf swam controlled. She waited until the approach to Hawi before she started to tighten the screws on the bike. By the turn at Hawi her real threat, Mirinda Carfrae, was over 8-minutes back. By the end of the bike her lead was massive. Mirinda Carfrae, the course record holder, pried herself off the bike 22:15 behind this dominant force.

Solid as always, Daniela never wavered on the run. Her time as she crossed under the tape was a new standard set without the help of a close competition to spur her on. Daniela Ryf broke Carfrae’s course record of 8:52:14 by a sizable margin. Her time was 8:46:46, making her the first woman to cross under the 8:50 barrier in Kona. Carfrae finished in second place almost 24-minutes later in a 9:10:30. Yes, Daniela was supreme this day.

“The race at the World Championships in Kona 2016 was my perfect race. Everything went by itself and I did not have to do anything. My body just worked – an amazing feeling.”
“There was this point when you do not feel anything. It is a kind of trance, where everything goes by itself and the body and mind harmonize, without having to think. You can also describe it as having fun in the disco on the dance floor, then you will not feel any tiredness or stinging feet from the high heels.”
“This point does not always come, that’s a state you can not force. In 2016 I came into this state when I was swimming and then simply “rocked” the whole race. I had no pain, it just went and I was able to accelerate and showed my best Ironman race so far.”

Here is a conversation she had with Bob Babbitt the day after her record-setting performance:

Her finish time makes this so deserving of a Top-40 Greatest Moment At IRONMAN. You see, the deeper IRONMAN history gets, the tougher it becomes to set new standards. Although it’s never been easy to break a course record at the IRONMAN, with time that task gets even tougher. Human physiology has its limits, especially in the heat and humidity of Hawaii.

Going faster butts up against a closed energy equation. You cannot take in an infinite amount of calories and fluid, but the need for both goes up more and more the faster you travel across that barren lava landscape. Daniela Ryf was able to squeak about five and a half minutes more out of her performance than anyone in history. It was in her words “My best race ever.” And when Daniela has that kind of day, it’s the best we have ever seen! But what is more important than a win or a record is how she races:

“Of course, it is always amazing setting records and win races. But what counts more is to show the best performance out of every situation. The number of wins never matter. It’s the challenges and experiences you get through racing which is worth so much and the memories you get of these races are priceless.”

To see what Daniela Ryf is up to these days click HERE.


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