Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae is amongst the most beloved sports superstars on the planet, let alone the most popular triathlete. And that’s all thanks to her fierce competitive drive, affable disposition, and never-say-die attitude. She’s a three-time Kona World Champion, and is widely regarded as the greatest female runner to ever have graced the roads of Kona. Her current run course record is a testament to that. She took some time away from the sport in 2017 to welcome her daughter Isabelle into the world, along with her husband, fellow pro triathlete Tim O’Donnell. With her sights set firmly on a Kona return in 2018, Rinny arrived on the big island of Hawaii with major ambitions. We sat down with Rinny a few days after her most recent Kona campaign to gain some insight into the mind of a legendary competitor with a new outlook on life...
“I actually expected to be a little quicker in the swim. But I was amongst girls that I would expect, with the exception of Daniela Ryf. I was very surprised to see her whiz by me at the start of the bike. Obviously, she’s usually a few minutes up the road.”
When a three-time world champion like Rinny notes how relatively slow her biggest rival was at the end of the swim leg of the biggest race in the world, that’s significant. By race’s end, Daniela Ryf would go on to clinch her fourth consecutive world title and break the overall course record.
“I was in unfamiliar territory. The majority of the times I’ve done this race, I’ve been completely alone. Even though I’m eight times into this Ironman adventure, I’m still learning.”
After the swim leg, Rinny rode her heart out during the bike portion and caught up to the main pack of around a dozen pro female riders. Having never truly raced amidst a large pack of riders at Kona before, Rinny was unable to get into her preferred rhythm. Despite that, as the reigning Kona run course record holder, Rinny knew she’d have the opportunity to chase down her competitors on foot.
“I’m proud with my effort, and fifth place at the World Championship is nothing to be laughed at. There are definitely some things I can work on and be better at.”
Despite being a three-time world champion, reigning Kona run course record holder, and arguably the most popular triathlete in the world, Rinny is a warrior. Her desire to constantly improve and push the limits of her own performance is a testament to the dynamic and inspirational force that she is.
“The disc brake bike felt amazing all day. I really was hoping for some wind. I feel like we would have shone even brighter if there had been some wind, especially crosswinds, because after riding that bike over the past eight weeks, I really noticed a big difference going from rim brake to disc brake just with the crosswinds. The bike was less twitchy, and I felt more comfortable and less nervous in the aerobars. I think that would have been a benefit had the wind blown on the weekend.”
Making its racing debut at the 2018 Kona World Championships, the IA Disc became the first disc brake-equipped bike to win triathlete’s biggest race (not to mention, it broke the bike course and overall course records). In its rim brake-equipped form, the IA also won the previous five Kona world titles. This means that the IA line has won a Kona World Championship every year, six in a row, since its debut.
“It was so cool to see Izzy at that finish line. That’s probably my favorite moment of the race [...] I look over as she’s running over and she’s throwing her hands up in the air so excited. That was just the cutest thing. It made my heart melt.”
An unabashedly fierce competitor through and through, Rinny had high hopes for returning to Kona after taking a year off from the sport to welcome her daughter, Isabelle, into the world. No matter her placing, Rinny was always going to receive the most precious prize when she reached the finish line.
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