Finding and Maintaining your Comfortably Uncomfortable Limit: Miranda “Rinny” Carfrae on Triathalon, Treadmills and the Key to Racing

We caught up with Rinny Carfrae  (or at least we tried) at her recent Ironman event, “Run with Rinny” at NYC’s popular Mile High Run Club to talk about training, racing and life in general.  She is the 4x World Champion Triathlete with 3 Ironman World Championship Titles in Kona.  In 2013 she not only posted the third fastest marathon of the day (2:50:38), setting the bar for women’s running at Kona, but also breaking the women's course record completing the course in 8:52:14.  In addition, her career includes over 20 wins at the 70.3 (aka "Half") Ironman distance races, including the 2007 70.3 World Championships which led to her qualifying for Kona for the first time. We got the scoop on how she does it all.

On Triathlon…

How did you get into the sport of Triathlon? I was a basketball player for 11 years.  I took up triathlon when I was 18, the summer after I finished high school. I didn’t come from a swim, bike or run background. I took on the sport as a whole. Having said that the run certainly came naturally to me. I haven’t really worked on any technical training with running. It’s all been putting in the time and the years and years of work. Every year I’m trying to work on bits and pieces to be more efficient and faster.

 Do you have any favorite races? Kona, of course. Phuket, Thailand is a great end of season race (It changes between Ironman or Challenge); Oceanside is a great race in California; St. Croix 70.3 is one of my favorites. This race is incredible. It’s an old school race. It’s like a little Kona. It’s very windy. Typically I like hot races and any race with an ocean swim, hilly or flat run, I don’t care.


Can you recommend any races for beginners?

Local races and short races are great. They are hard, fun and you don’t have to spend your entire day at the race. That’s great for beginners.

For Women, there are tons of IronGirl races, which are such a fun experience. I did one in Vegas and Atlanta.  I’m all for racing with guys but there’s just a different energy when you race with all women. It’s more about celebrating life and there are just so many incredible stories about why these women are racing.

On Running

What % of your run training is indoors on the treadmill? 

I do two key runs a week. I do one run a week, inside on the treadmill and its one of my key runs. The treadmill is one of the main tools that has enabled me to run the way I can run. On the treadmill we work a lot on turnover, so cadence.  In Ironman on the run it’s all about efficiency and keeping that cadence, ticking over. For me the treadmill has been valuable in my development as an Ironman Athlete and enables me to be able to hold that pace through the ladder part of the marathon.

Is it instrumental for training? Definitely, the treadmill is a major tool in our repertoire.

On Swimming

The Swim is the most frustrating of the sport, especially if you didn’t grow up swimming because it’s so technical.   I grew up in Australia and when you are Australian, you just know how to swim in the ocean.

On Strength Training

I do two strength workouts a week but I wouldn’t exactly call it strength. It’s more functional movement We have a really good coach in Boulder, Erin Carson, she is phenomenal. She is one of the key reasons I have to improved over the last couple of years. I started working with her three years ago at Ralegh Sport. Raleigh Sport is where we swim too. Tons of triathletes train at Raleigh Sport now.

In a session with Erin I could do 25 exercises in 40 minutes.  Some of its warming up, getting your ankles warm, getting our hips, knees mobile beforelifting anything. We do Single Leg Reaches with Vipers or Kettle Bells, sometimes we do deadlifts but not very often. Our training is more about making sure that every single muscle is being utilized. Because our sport is so one directional, you have muscles that shut down.  With her it’s all about switching everything back on so when we get to race day and our muscle s and tissues are ready to work.

On Fueling and Nutrition.

If you train 30 hours a week, you can pretty much eat anything you want. Having said that we make sure we eat pretty clean, no GMO, organic fruits and veggies, clean meats as well but we have ice cream most days of the week, we drink wine most days of the week through the regular season. And honestly, through the regular season it’s all about keeping the weight on making sure you maintain a certain weight. As soon as I drop below a certain weight, I’m susceptible to getting sick and run down so for us it’s just trying to keep the weight on.

Depending on what race I’m doing or six weeks out from Kona, I cut out wine andice cream.  I only do that for one, I feel like mentally it just reiterates that its game time. It’s time to get serious. But secondly Kona is so hot that you want to be as lean as possible. I’m not talking a lot of weight, maybe I’ll drop a pound or two.

On Music…I listen to Pandora Radio! David Gray, Foo Fighters or David Guetta, Pink Radio. It depends on my mood. I like a bit of everything.

On Fashion… I like Rag & Bone and Anthropologie.

On heels… I love heels but not during the season there better be somewhere for me to sit down

What else would you do if you weren’t an athlete, as a career? In University I studied Kinesiology and Physiology so I might have been a Physiotherapist or PE Teacher,  but now that I have lived sports, I want nothing to do with that. Now I could see myself in marketing, working for one of my sponsors, coaching or running camps.

What’s your hobby when you’re not training or racing? Sitting on the couch….watching movies!

Final Advice for Triathletes:  Find your comfortably uncomfortable limit. You can lose a race in the swim but you certainly can’t win the race in the swim. You can swim as hard as you want but it’s not going to matter since it’s only an hour, it’s the first leg of the triathlon. But then you get on the bike and you have to make sure you are riding as fast as you can without going too fast so that it won’t impact your run. But also fueling well. Because over an 8 or 9 hour race if you aren’t fueling well, you can forget about the run, It’s a combination of pushing yourself as hard as you can and being right on that limit, I call it “The Comfortably Uncomfortable Limit” and not pushing over it but then making sure that the food you are taking in is being absorbed and utilized so that when you do get on to the run, you are able to focus on running.

Motto: “If it is to be, it’s up to me” That’s my motto.  You get out what you put in!


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