The Red Bulletin June 2019


Daniela Ryf

In 2018, Ryf won

her fourth Ironman

World Championship

in Hawaii in a row –

and set a new course

record in the process

triathlete, and now she was in the World

Championship. Ryf demonstrated her

superiority on the bike to the full – eightand-a-half

hours in, she was way out in

front, about to take the title – but 5km

from the finish, the fire inside went out.

Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae had made up

the 10 minutes between them. She closed

in on Ryf, overtook and set a pace that the

Swiss athlete couldn’t keep up with.

“After the race, I might well have been

proud to have given it my best,” Ryf says.

“But when I crossed the finish line, I was

already thinking about the next year. After

all, I now knew how close I’d come to

victory.” Since then, she has woken every

morning with the same thought, playing

and replaying the moment Carfrae closed

in, then passed her at an irresistible pace.

Ryf promptly started the following season

with a string of wins. “The fact I couldn’t

keep pace with Mirinda still motivates me




in every training session,” she says, even

though younger athletes are now more of

a threat than Carfrae. “If I imagine Mirinda

drawing up beside me, I immediately

pedal harder or run 1kph faster.” Ryf has

transformed a defeat into the perfect

mental stimulation to give purpose to her

exertions, and it’s been the basis for dozens

of subsequent victories. A pretty good deal.

Bad luck mobilises

your energy reserves

October 13, 2018, Ironman Hawaii

As she prepared for the start of the year’s

most important race, the defending

champion felt unbeatable. Ryf was in

fantastic form and had done all of her

homework. But with just two minutes

to go before the swim began, a jellyfish

stung the underside of both her upper

arms. The pain shot through her entire

body, right to the tips of her fingers. The

previous year, a competitor was forced to

retire from the race for the same reason

and was rushed straight to hospital. Ryf

didn’t let anything show and set off into

the maelstrom with the others.

But the pain soon grew worse and she

began falling metre upon metre further

behind. Then her arms went numb and

she began to doubt whether she would

be able to complete the 3.86km swim.

Ryf had already given up hope of a finish

near the top of the leaderboard, but she

was determined to carry on out of respect

for the race itself. She now thought of

finishing the race in 14, maybe 15 hours,

way down in last place. But when she

climbed onto her bike, Ryf realised she

was only 10 minutes off the pace. Maybe

this wasn’t over after all.

“In the water, I went through all the

emotions you can imagine,” she says.

“But once I was on the bike, I could think

clearly again.” Ryf decided to ascribe

new meaning to the jellyfish sting: “I

imagined how an extra dash of anger and

additional energy had entered my body

with the pain, and that I’d only be able to

get both out of my body the harder and

more relentlessly I pedalled.” She rode

faster than she’d ever ridden in her life.

Ryf picked off her rivals one by one,

and by the time she started the run, she’d

notched up the fastest-ever bike ride by

a female athlete at Kona. She finished the

race in 8:26:18, which made her not only

world champion but the holder of a new

course record. In doing so, Ryf proved that

our inner transformer can turn negative

energy into something productive. Pain

can give you extra power.


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