Staying the Course With World Ironman Triathlon Champion Mirinda Carfrae

Image credit: Jianca Lazarus

The Ironman Triathlon, one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world, consists of a 3.86 km swim, a 180.25 km bike ride, and then a full marathon (42.2 km run). Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae is one of the foremost women competing in Ironman today.

Parvati Magazine: What has been your most meaningful experience to date as an athlete?

Mirinda Carfrae: The day I realized I wanted to become a professional triathlete was the most incredible turning point of my life. I was invited to do some training with a couple of triathletes at my local gym. I had just started university, was working part time at the local hardware store to pay my rent and playing basketball, but none of it challenged or excited me. That day I felt on top of the world – it was a surreal feeling, a knowing that I had found something that really spoke to me. I had never even done one race, didn’t really know how to swim properly and didn’t even own a bike. It was just this overwhelming gut feeling that I absolutely must take the first steps into this new sport – it’s opened up a whole life I never imagined.

PMAG: Ironman training is famously gruelling, demanding a lot of time and energy every day. What gets you out of bed when you’re in the middle of a tough training block and the fatigue is setting in?

MC: As an Ironman athlete you kind of live in a general state of fatigue for most of the year. I’m not sure there is one thing that actually gets me out of bed in the morning, it’s more that there is no other option. I have chosen to try and be the absolute best that I can be in this sport and I know what it takes to get there. Staying in bed and missing sessions would go completely against what I have put my heart into becoming. There is tremendous satisfaction in achieving any goal you set out to achieve. Throughout any training block I always have small achievable performance goals that I make sure I take a moment to celebrate. I guess those are the day to day reminders of what you are chasing and a constant reminder of why you put yourself through all the hard work.

PMAG: It wasn’t all that long ago that people tried to stop women from running marathons, let alone undertaking something like an Ironman triathlon. What do you think about the current state of endurance racing for women?

MC: That’s a great question – it’s hard for me to comprehend a time when women were forbidden to run marathons. I grew up in an equal opportunity household – anything the boys could do I could do too. Once I started triathlon it was already well established and really has been for the most part an equal opportunity sport – giving equal prize money regardless of the number of men/women on the start line. For sure it could be better. There still are a handful of races that either don’t have women’s fields or have less prize money for the women. The other huge disparity is the difference in sponsorship money available to women vs men. At the top of the sport it seems to be narrowing, but as you move down through the ranks there is just less opportunity available to female athletes.

PMAG: You are famously married to a fellow Ironman champion, Timothy O’Donnell; and you have a great working relationship with your coach, Siri Lindley, with whom you have a lot of world class teammates. Do you have any advice for people looking to build a network of support and encouragement for their fitness goals?

MC: I’ve been incredibly blessed to have such an amazing team from my husband to coach, to managers and friends; it’s come together over many years. People move into and out of our lives constantly. I feel like the ones that stick are the ones who are on a similar wavelength to you. Have a good picture in your mind of what you want to achieve and look for someone who has similar goals, someone who is driven and just wants to be their best self, then you will start to build your network and it will continue to grow as you move closer to your personal goals.

PranadaMirinda “Rinny” Carfrae is a three-time Ironman World Champion, and has five other Ironman World Championship podium finishes to her name. She has also won the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Rinny is an ambassador for World Bicycle Relief, which provides students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural Africa with locally assembled bicycles. When not traveling the world in pursuit of triathlon’s greatest challenges, Rinny and her husband, Ironman Champion Timothy O’Donnell, make their home in the endurance sports haven of Boulder, Colorado.

Image credit: Jianca Lazarus