Photo: Rachel Ceretto/ Red Bull

In 2017, Ironman triathlete and Red Bull athlete, Daniela Ryf, made it three in a row by taking her third consecutive Ironman world title at the Ironman World Championship in Kona (in true multi-distance athlete style, she had already bagged the title of 70.3 world champion.) In our Q&A, the Swiss Olympian and ‘Angry Bird’ chats to me via email about her triathlon training, becoming accustomed to pain, and what her favourite swim-bike-run sessions look like.

Photo: Jesper Gronnemark/ Red Bull

You continued your back-to-back Ironman World Championship wins last year. How did 2017’s race compare to previous years?
I can’t compare it. Every race is different and needs another strategy. 2017’s race was a real challenge. The whole day was a fight. I didn’t feel very good in the morning. It was mentally one of the biggest challenges so far. On the bike there were moments where I didn’t know what is going on.  Lucy Charles and Lauren Brandon challenged me a lot. They both had a very good swim and showed an amazing run performance. Therefore I improvised and had to change my plan.

Now that it’s the off season, how has your training changed?
I have had a break where I didn’t train at all. I had time for family, friends and myself. Now I started training again. Of course, intensity and distance are scaled back.

In winter do you run outside or use the treadmill? I saw you were cross-country skiing as well?
Both. On one hand, it depends on the weather and on the other hand on the training intensity.

Yes, cross-country skiing is a very good alternative. You have to use almost every single muscle when you cross-country ski!

Photo: Graeme Murray / Red Bull

When you’re on the turbo trainer for a long bike session do have any tricks for avoiding boredom?
Yes, I always listen to music – different playlists, charts, electro, depending on the session – and I’m often lost in my thoughts. Depending on the intensity of the session, I sometimes read emails.

How do you ensure you recover properly and don’t burn out during race season?
During race season, my days consist of training, eating and sleeping. Massage really helps me to recover. [Last season] I used to go to have a professional massage every one or two weeks. What also helps me a lot is to put essential oil on my legs. It helps the blood circulation. I choose from a variety of different oils depending on what my body needs at that moment.

You’ve talked about pain in your training and crossing out of your comfort zone. Have you trained yourself to become accustomed to pain?

If you push yourself in your training sessions, you automatically become accustomed to pain. With every session you do, you raise the level of pain [you can handle].

Can you share one of your favourite winter bike/turbo sessions?
I like doing intervals, as the time just goes by quicker and you can really push yourself.  I would normally do a warm-up of around 20 minutes and then do 15 x 3 minutes where I push hard, and then go very easy for 1 minute. After a while, I just get into it, forget everything and just listen to the music and pedal.

Photo: Jesper Gronnemark/ Red Bull

What about your favourite winter running sessions?
I run a lot on the treadmill during winter. Some of my favourite sessions are gradient-set workouts where you pick one speed (not too fast) and then do different intervals, mixing between inclines and flats. The uphills are tough, especially after a while when you can’t recover anymore on the flat. But it really helps to gain fitness and it goes by really quickly.

What do you enjoy doing as part of your swim training?
I love efficiency 😉 So for me, even if others find it boring, I like the standard swim sets of 10 x 400m where I just take my paddles and pullbuoy and just take short rest between the 400m. If you have a good day you can get the 4km done really quickly, so I’m out of it after 50-minutes and can go chill on the couch!

Will you be attending a winter training camp abroad this year?
Yes. I will spend this month (February) in a training camp in Gran Canaria in the sun 😉

When you’re racing and training do you have any mental strategies that you focus on?
I think in small steps. I know where my crew is placed during a race so I focus on who I will meet next, and where.

Photo: Jesper Gronnemark/ Red Bull

Do you do any strength training or conditioning as part of your training?
No. I haven’t done any strength training or conditioning so far.

What does a typical week of training look like at the moment?
Luckily, my training always varies. I normally train 2 to 3 times a day. The hours can be from 3 hours up to 6-hours a day. Each day is different; sometimes I swim, bike and run. Some days I do 3 runs.

What kind of distance do you typically cover on the bike and on the run each week?
I actually don’t count the kilometres at all. On the run I could guess it would be around 80-100k. On the bike, I really can’t tell. In the end it’s the quality which matters.

What do you eat on the morning of an Ironman and how do you fuel your race?
I have white bread with jam and butter, chicken breast, Red Bull, coffee and a banana. During the race I take a lot of energy through isotonic liquids and energy gels.

Photo: Jesper Gronnemark/ Red Bull

What are your favourite items of kit for racing and training?
My bike 😉 and my music device for when I’m training.

You race both 70.3 and Ironman… do you have a favourite distance?
No, I like the speed on the 70.3-distances and the never-ending challenge with my head and my body on full-distance Ironman.

Have you set any goals for 2018, and are there any races you’re particularly looking forward to?
My first goal in 2018 is to stay healthy. Of course, Kona will be my Highlight in 2018. We are working on the race schedule at the moment.

Who are you sponsored by at the moment?
I’m sponsored by Red Bull, Felt Bikes, Mercedes Benz, 2XU, Bahrain Endurance, DT Swiss and erdgas.

Photo: Graeme Murray

To follow Daniela’s triathlon training and racing in 2018, check out her social media via www.instagram.com/danielaryf and www.twitter.com/danielaryf or visit her website at www.danielaryf.ch.

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