From the age of 17, Danielle Ryzer has been intrigued with our favorite sport – OCR. She waited to turn 18 to sign up for her first Tough Mudder and has continued to push herself harder on course ever since. She has a super positive can-do attitude and is inspired by every person that decides to get out on the course, not just the elite athletes. It’s not often you hear of someone that has completed 2 Ultra Beast Spartan races in a month until I heard about Danielle. I wanted to feature her in my Bad Ass Women of OCR series, as she is the type of woman that takes challenges head on, and doesn’t let her fears in life or on course define who she is.
Please tell us a bit about your athletic background.
Well, I started out doing gymnastics, and then became a competitive ringette player for 10 years. I also played hockey, swam, cycled, and ran cross-country and track (800 and 1500m).
What was your very first Obstacle course race? Tell us about it.
My very first obstacle race was Tough Mudder Toronto. When I was 17 I saw an ad on Facebook for TM and I was immediately intrigued. So as soon as I turned 18 I signed up. The morning of the race when I was driving into the venue and saw people actually doing obstacles I was pretty in awe. I had so much fun that race and I have been involved in obstacle course racing ever since.
I have been told that you completed not one but two Spartan Ultra beasts in one month? WOW!! tell us about that experience?
It was incredible! I would likely do it again, and the only reason I wouldn’t be if I wanted to focus everything on one race. I did the Hawaii Ultra Beast at the beginning of August, which was very challenging, but then after running Stoneham for my first time, it was a whole different ballgame. I trained for the events with some longer runs, long bike rides, strength workouts in the park, and my summer job was in the parks department, so I was outside working for 40 hours a week which made a huge difference in my races.
Is there any endurance event/race/run/OCR you won't do?
In all honesty, I can't think of anything that I won't try at least once. I'm pretty open to new challenges. If anything I would be hesitant to try a race in the extreme cold as I love being warm, but it would be an interesting challenge.
How do you find the time to train for such long endurance events such as the ultra-beast?
I try to incorporate training into my day such as by taking my bike to work or to run errands. I also love to work out early in the morning. On the weekends I often go on hikes or bike rides, which definitely help with time on my feet, which is key for long endurance events.
What so far has been your favorite OCR event that you have participated in and why?
My favorite OCR event would have to be World's Toughest Mudder. It's such an amazing event, from the start line speech, to the sunset in the desert, running under the stars and through the sunrise as they play ‘Here Comes the Sun.' You eat the most ridiculous food during the 24 hours, and not to mention the priceless looks on people's faces when you tell them you peed in your wetsuit for 24 hours.
What has been the least favorite OCR event you have participated in and why?
I don't really have any races that I did not enjoy, but if I could talk about one race experience it was at Dead End Race last summer. I was super excited to race as they have the best obstacles and it is one of my favorite events, however the day before the event my hands tore open from training on monkey bars and I had to drop out midway through cause I couldn't grip anything. So that was pretty upsetting.
In your training, is there still something you struggle with? If so what is it and how do you overcome it?
Yes, absolutely. I struggle with fully committing myself to my training. I don't know if it's because I'm scared I will not be good enough, or if I just get intimidated, or stressed about everyday life, but sometimes it's very difficult to motivate myself. Recently though, I have been focusing a lot on balance in my life and self-awareness, so I'm learning to be able to recognize when I need a break or a rest day. I find that when I'm happy with what I'm doing and feeling, getting motivated is so much easier. Basically, it's about being true to yourself and your needs and also listening to your inner voice.
Who in the OCR community inspires you and why?
I'm inspired by every single person who races, whether it is elites or open. Anyone who is challenging themselves to step outside of their comfort zone and become a better version of themselves is an inspiration to me. I love seeing people do something they thought they never could, and setting bigger goals and conquering them.
What is one of your go-to training tools for Spartan / OCR races?
One of my go-to training tools is the workout park near my house. Even if I don't have a lot of time to work out, I'll go there and smash out sets of pull-ups, push-ups and monkey bars. I find that helps my upper body immensely and I almost always succeed on upper body obstacles in races.
What is the weirdest food that you eat while on course?
Oh man, there are way too many. During World's Toughest Mudder my first year, all I ate for 24 hours were pop tarts and turkey sticks. My stomach was messed up. During my Hawaii ultra-beast, I had brought some jam tortillas for the drop bin, but they all melted so that was pretty funny. I also eat olives during races for cramping, and a lot of people think that is very weird.
Is there an obstacle that scares you that you can't / won't do?
Yes! Electroshock in Tough Mudder. I did it one year and the pictures say it all. I also used to be terrified of the cliff at World's Toughest Mudder, so I did not do it at all in 2015, but last year I did it on my last lap and it's been one of my favorite obstacles ever since.
What are your next training / race goals?
I want to podium in a Spartan Race. I plan on training for that for 2018. I want to increase my mileage, incorporate creative new workouts, and work on my nutrition. I start nutrition school next month so I am looking forward to applying what I learn to assist with my training.
In your own eyes, what makes you a “Badass” in the OCR community?
I think it is my willingness and openness to always try and conquer new things, and I never let a tough race intimidate me. I don't care how high or steep the mountains are, I know that I can conquer anything I set my mind to as long as I believe in myself.
Is there anything else you want to share with us?
I say that if there is a race or a goal you are hesitant about, go for it. And don't be afraid to fail. Most people do things that are “difficult” but they know they will succeed and it does not truly scare them. When you do something that truly terrifies you, for example when I jumped off the 35-foot cliff in Vegas at World's Toughest Mudder, you really grow from it and it changes you. And it makes you believe in yourself a little more. You can also draw upon those times you were scared and did it anyway when you are faced with an obstacle in life or a nerve-wracking situation such as a job of review or a presentation. And you draw so much confidence from those experiences.
If someone wants to reach out to you on social media, where can they find you?
Facebook: Danielle Ryzer