Daniela Ryf, the women’s reigning world champion at both the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 distance, arrived in Roth this morning after a last-minute decision to start Sunday’s race, following a disappointing DNF at Ironman Frankfurt two weeks ago. Despite the limited time remaining to settle in and prepare for Sunday’s race, Ryf graciously granted us an interview where we learned more about what motivates this triathlon superstar.
Triathlete.com: First, tell me more about what happened in Frankfurt? I know you tweeted that you were very cold in the swim and needed to come back “fatter” next time!
Ryf: I put on a bit [gesturing to her leg]! I ate a lot the last two weeks [laughing]! Yeah, the water itself wasn’t so crazy, but I think the problem was I really underestimated the temperature difference, so the air was quite cold. I don’t know if it was just a day where it was hard for my body, but it was definitely hard conditions. In the swim I felt good until maybe 1500-1800 meters, and then it really just started to get me and I knew I had to go quick so I could get out. I’ve never experienced something like this, where you’re kind of starting to—not hallucinate, but everything is in slow motion. That’s how it felt. On the bike too, I pedaled in slow motion! And I tried; I really wanted to finish that race. That was the most important thing, also for the Kona qualification. And to have a DNF is never great. But you know, things happen and now I’m here. So now I see it as, maybe it was supposed to be like this. I’m happy it didn’t really affect my form or anything. I went back to St. Moritz and had another few days where we had good training sessions. I think it’s important to get races in, too. That’s one reason why I thought I could come here, because practice is one thing, but racing gives you confidence and also experience. It was definitely a mistake, for example, not to put on arm warmers on the bike. I think for me it’s still a learning process. It’s only the second year. And Kona is easy—you’re just hot!
Triathlete.com: You mentioned in the press conference that you are probably not in form to break Chrissie Wellington’s world record this weekend, but that it is a future dream of yours. Is she one of your inspirations in the sport, and do you feel like you’re on a similar track in a sense?
Ryf: I think I need to find my own track. I’m not trying to compare myself with Chrissie because she is a legend and what she did is very unique and also inspiring. She’s definitely a role model. How fast she was is incredible. I mean 8:18 is unbelievably fast! I think so far I was always focusing on titles, and now I pretty much have the titles, so I think, what’s important for me and why am I motivated? For me it’s always been to improve and get better. That’s why that time is not something I’m trying to hunt at every race, but it’s a time that fascinates me. Yeah, I’m excited to find out how fast I can go eventually, but this time I’m here to learn and to also see what’s possible.
Triathlete.com: I’m sure everyone wants to know what you plan to do about validating your Kona qualification.
Ryf: There are options. It will be a bit of a challenge, but it might be possible that I’m going to race Zurich [Ironman Switzerland] a week later. Also, I’m doing Roth because I feel like I want to race where I want to. I want to have the luxury to race what I like. And of course I want to be in Kona, but I also want to enjoy what I do. And I think Roth is the perfect race to do. The other thing is that race practice is good for me. So if I survive these two races—Roth and Zurich—that will make me stronger for Kona. If I’m not able to finish Zurich, then I might have to find other races than Kona!
Triathlete.com: You’ve been here in Roth less than 24 hours. What are your impressions so far?
Ryf: It’s very very warm—a warm welcome. I’m staying in a hotel in Nuremburg and I went running in the forest there this morning, and with the rain it was actually quite nice. You know, it just felt like freedom, like peace. And especially the people—even before I came I could tell that they’re really excited to invite people and they’re really excited to have me here. That’s a nice feeling. I think that’s the most important thing when you race, that you can enjoy it, too. I’m kind of excited to find out how it will be on Sunday, because that is the goal also—to enjoy it.