Thank you for all the support and questions. I’ve taken some time as I didn’t want to inflate things in the context of the post Kona hype, but instead provide a sober reflection on the performance of Daniela Ryf.
There has been no shortage of compliments and praise. All thoroughly deserved. It was the best female performance the Hawaii Ironman has seen in its 38 year history.
For our own coaching group it was a performance that marks a 10 year-culmination in our training systems since moving away from short course to focus on Ironman racing in 2006. In that time we have many, many terrific performances – whose influence all contributed to Daniela’s record breaking win last week.
Bella Bayliss, Belinda Granger, Bek Preson, Bek Keat, Erika Csomor, Teresa Macel, Lucie Zelenkova and of course the great Chrissie Wellington all multiple Ironman winners and terrific champions who helped us towards the stage of perfecting the ‘no weakness race’.
All of these athletes were very, very strong in at least one or two disciplines, with Chrissie being ‘phenomenal’ in two.
What we saw with the next of wave of champions was a slight evolution in terms of racing approach – Jodie Swallow, Mary Beth Ellis, and Caroline Steffen ‘no weakness’ athletes who lifted the performance levels with all round swim, bike and run strengths. I mention all these great athletes as their refinement of training and the experience of preparation all contributed to Daniela’s performance last Saturday.
The women’s side of the sport has now seen the first athlete who is ‘phenomenal’ in the Chrissie sense across all three disciplines. The bar has been set for the next generation of champions.
To address the endless questions of ‘Can she go faster?’ I’m not sure that she needs to. However in only her third season of Ironman and at 29, history would suggest there is scope to keep improving. It’s been a journey of learning and discovery and we thank all athletes who have helped progress to new levels.
I wrote back in August that Jan Frodeno and Daniela represented a new era in the sport. There’s nothing from last week’s performance that should make anyone think any different.
Jan had a shocking race. A real stinker. Never looked comfortable all day.
He still won by almost 4 minutes, which is a sign of a champion, but also very ominous for his current long course opponents. We congratulate him on another outstanding season and what he is doing for the sport.
Unfortunately for years now the men’s race is just not near the women’s performances.
Of course I will get flack for saying so, but performances have stagnated over the years and the standard does not match their ITU counterparts. The Germans dominated (5 of the top 7) not because they are super fast, but because the quality was of a Domestic German Championship.
Instead of falling over ourselves from a 2:39 run performance of the third place finisher – the men should be viewing this as the norm, not the ‘wow’ moment of the race. Especially as we starting to get the packs on the bike. It’s instructive that not one Top 10 man in 10 years has ever contacted me saying ‘I want the win’ no matter the dominance of our women, the success of our men in ITU days, or the fact that most of our Ironman male winners started as age group athletes who have gone on to compete against the so called pros.
Their preparations, their techniques and their training should all be up for a rethink. 2:36 is not only possible for a Top 10 athlete, but should be considered ‘on par’. Those who don’t believe so are in for a reality check when the current short course boys Gomez, Brownlees, Mola, Murray decide to go long.
Until that reality dawns, we’ll keep seeing the top women outrunning them.
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