Rinny's New Adventure
Expectant mother Mirinda Carfrae has made some significant shifts to her life well ahead of announcing her pregnancy just over a month ago. The four-time World Champion is now focused on “making a perfect little human.” Carfrae is practical and honest in her approach to everything, easy to talk to about any topic, and we were glad to talk to her about her new adventure when she stopped by the Chicago offices late last week. "Rinny" sat down with us for a wide ranging discussion that included her favorite teams, the world’s best athletes, her new workout regimen, and her plans after the baby is born.
Welcome to SRAM’s Global Headquarters. What do you think?
It’s nice to come into an office that is so open and where everyone seems so approachable. Gone are the days when execs weren’t accessible. I think people are realizing that a good company is one that has an open door policy, and you guys don’t have doors.
What’s new with you?
Most obvious, if you’re looking at me, is the big bump on my belly. Tim (triathlete Tim O’Donnell) and I are starting a family. I’m due in August, so I’m a fair way along.
I’m doing more travel while I can, doing more speaking events. In the past I had to turn a lot of those opportunities down based on my training, so a trip to Chicago for a few events made sense. With some of the speaking events I’m doing I'm reaching more people, sharing more my story, hopefully that can resonate with others and help them with whatever they’re doing.
Wishing for a boy or girl?
I would like a girl. My husband wants a boy.
Is being pregnant a relief from the stress of training, or is it a new type of stress?
The decision (to have a baby) was scary. To step away from triathlon for a year and not know how sponsors were going to react, I was nervous at the start. But I absolutely felt like starting a family is the most important thing in my life at this point. Initially, I felt out of sorts not having a schedule to stick to, I always had daily goals and weekly goals and monthly goals, and now I don’t have that. It was an adjustment, but now that I’m five months in it has been a nice time to relax. The stress is off and my focus is trying to create a perfect little human. That’s my job right now and I’m trying to do the best that I can.
I guess I’d say I was nervous but now accepted the change, I think this will help me return to the sport next year with renewed vigor and excitement. You don’t really realize you are doing the same things every year, so this change was nice, and once I’m ready to get back into it will feel good.
How’s the reaction been?
It’s been really positive from all my sponsors and all my supporters, everybody is onboard and continuing to sponsor me. I think one of the reasons for that is because we didn’t blindside anybody, and we were open that we wanted to take a year off. As a female athlete if you want to have a baby you have to take some time out and do that. Sponsors have been supportive and excited for this journey. The response to my announcement was positive, the general public has been really positive and the show of support was massive.
How has your training shifted, what are you doing now?
I’m not calling it training, I’m just calling it exercising, because there is no resemblance to what I was doing. I enjoy working out and I feel better when I do something. I’m getting up, having a nice breakfast, watching my husband go off for his six-hour ride or whatever, and then heading out on my own. That’s when I go for a short run, or go for a swim at the gym, or working with my strength coach. I’m keeping myself busy, but it’s only an hour to maybe two hours a day. I do take a day off per week where I do nothing. Some days I might do only 40 minutes; it just depends on my energy. It’s interesting to transition from five hours a day to just one hour. My energy goes in waves. I’m in my second trimester. The first trimester was pretty rough for me, I felt pretty out of sorts. My energy has returned but I am 20 pounds (9 kg) heavier than I was in Kona, so running with 20 extra pounds is really tough.
It’s nice to step into the real world and see how normal people approach exercise. This reminds me not to put on extra weight after I retire from the sport because it makes running a lot more difficult. I have enjoyed getting up and doing what I feel as opposed to what I have to do. That has included taking a step back and socializing, hiking, and doing a random masters swim session.
How do you fill that void that was intense training?
Shifting my focus to just do the best I can, doing the best I can in making this baby and putting more energy into my husband. I’m still on the Kona journey with him
So you plan on returning to triathlon?
Yes. That’s 100 percent my plan, and the decision we made. We will be hiring full time help. We will be hiring an au pair. We’ll have to see how my body reacts when I return to training.
You have four World Championships, what’s left to prove?
I think I’d like to win another world title in Kona. The difference now would be that I would be a world champ and mom. That would be just a really great addition to my world titles. I know I can race at the same level. If I can do that, and things go well on race day, it would be really cool to be a world champion and mom.
Can having a baby can actually raise your game?
I’ve witnessed others do this, they come back stronger, tougher, and leaner. Not sure if that’s going through having baby or if they decide to make the sessions count more because they are spending time away from their child. And race day has to count. We’ll have to see how my body reacts, I’ll probably be the only athlete that comes back and it slower (laughs).
You started competing in 1999. What has changed the most about the sport since then?
I think, through my journey, it changed a lot because I was chasing the Olympic dream. I was swept up in national federations, dealing with racing for your country, not for yourself, and racing for your team. I transitioned to long course races, and saw the emergence of the 70.3 series (since ‘06), which has exploded in the last 10 years. And then I moved to Ironman. I'm not sure what has changed but I felt like the sport was booming four years ago when the Lifetime series was doing well, and the short course races were doing well, and the grassroots events were doing well. We also had the 70.3 races, and then Ironman has been a constant though all of those years. I feel like over the last few years some of the iconic races like Wildflower, St Croix, and some of the smaller Olympic-distance races are going away. For me its an indication of the sport’s participation is declining a little bit. Olympic distance athletes are having difficulty finding their place. This has been disappointing in the last couple years. Fortunately for me what I enjoy most, 70.3’s and IM’s, are thriving. Kona is as popular as ever. Social media has taken off as well, so all of a sudden you’re in the public eye more than you were. It’s increased the visibility but also increased the athlete’s workload, you hear more from the good and bad.
If I look at my world I feel fortunate that things have fallen into place for me.
Talk about the evolution of technologies in the sport:
For me my racing began on a plain old road bike with mechanical groupset. Moving up to halves I went straight to TT bars on my road bike. From there I went onto a mechanical time trial bike. The change in better equipment improves your times. Then the move into swim skins was important. Way back then there were these really ugly helmets, terrible aero bars, but now thought is going into everything to make every part faster. Today there is so much testing, lots of testing. Every detail is being reassessed and tested, tested again, and as an athlete you are getting a better ride.
More recently I went from mechanical to electronic groupsets (SRAM RED eTap). The advantages are many, including ability to change gears anytime.
They’re constantly improving wheels. I’m excited to race the Zipp 454 NSW’s. These wheels will be particularly good in windy races like Kona, they better manage crosswinds, making that ride even smoother and faster is really important for me.
At SRAM we debate who the best all-around athletes are--football, rugby, basketball, hockey, runners, triathletes, etc. What are your thoughts?
I think basketball players because they’re big. They’re physically very strong, but they are so agile. They can maneuver a big strong body up and down a court. It’s hard to find athletes that can move so gracefully. I saw Lebron (James), he’s gigantic and amazing.
What other sports do you watch?
Basketball during playoffs. American football. Tennis from time to time. I love watching athletics (track & field) when it’s on. No baseball. I love Steph Curry now, I’m a bit of a Warriors fan. I generally cheer for the little guy. I’m a massive fan of the Bulls. We only had four channels when I was growing up, and the Bulls would constantly be on, so we watched them.
You’ve worked with a number of charities over the years, including the humanitarian effort World Bicycle Relief. What are you involved with currently?
Just World Bicycle Relief still, it's so important what they do. And generally anytime I can help I do. Whether it’s signing a jersey for an auction, or if someone is fighting cancer and a needs a few words of encouragement, I do what I can.
You’re a music fan, what are you choosing to listen to? What era do you prefer?
Whenever I hop into the car its 90’s on 9, I like the 90’s, I think people go back to that high school time for them. Honestly, I listen to the trending songs, poppy songs, catchy songs, always listening to whatever is new on the radio.
No pets, but I would love a Rhodesian ridgeback. I think my husband would let me get a French bulldog.
Coffee or tea?
Neither. Just water or chocolate milk.
A special thanks to Mirinda for making time to stop by SRAM on her recent travels through the Midwest. We wish her and Tim the best on their newest adventure.
Spend more time with Mirinda Carfrae on Twitter at @Mirindacarfrae and Instagram at Mirindacarfrae