Double or Nothing, with Hans Ryham

Mar. 1, 2018

2017 XTERRA Texas Regional Champ Hans Ryham is literally doubling down this year and going after the XTERRA Double Award. The “Double” is the award given annually to pro and amateur men and women with the fastest combined XTERRA World Championship and Ironman World Championship time.

Ryham became inspired after placing 13th in the 35-39 age group at the XTERRA World Championship last year with a time of 3:15:15.

“I've had an interest in doing the Double for a while, and having seen that the top Double amateurs finished the race at XTERRA Worlds just minutes before me, I made up my mind and said 2018 is the year to do it.”

In 2017, Philipp Widmann claimed the amateur Double title with an XTERRA time of 3:11:13.

Ryham admitted that this decision was made in the halcyon days following the XTERRA World Championship, but since November, he has been backing up this lofty goal with plenty of honest training.

“In early November, I took a few weeks off because of illness and fatigue but then rolled right into a 20 hour a week training program,” said Ryham. “The intensity has been very low so far and is only beginning to increase now.”

Understandably, Ryham’s excitement about going for the Double is mitigated by his trepidation about the inherent risks of failure. Last year, Ryham qualified for XTERRA Worlds by becoming XTERRA Regional Champ, which is based on a points system. This year, Ryham is going to try to qualify for XTERRA Worlds by placing first or second at XTERRA Oak Mountain. If he has a bad race that day, all of his training will be for nothing.

Similarly, in order to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Ryham needs to earn a qualifying spot at the Ironman Texas, which is also the Ironman North American Championship race. Luckily, Ironman Texas offers the most qualifying slots of any Ironman in North America, but Ryham’s 40-44 age group is one of the most competitive.

“The house of cards falls apart in May if things don't go according to plan at both Ironman Texas and XTERRA Oak Mountain,” said Ryham.

Ryham designed his training program by working backwards from an anticipated finishing time. On a piece of graph paper from work – Ryham is a petroleum engineer – he defined time zero as the date of last year’s XTERRA Worlds and has marked off the weeks leading to XTERRA Oak Mountain where he hopes to qualify for XTERRA Worlds. He stacks run, bike, and swim workouts and in blue ink shows how his weekly training volume will increase from November until March. Then, from March until May, green ink indicates how he will increase his speed and intensity.

Like a true XTERRA Warrior, Ryham, who will turn 40 next month, is balancing this 20-hour a week training plan with a full-time job and a full-time family. One way he gets in his training hours is by ditching his car.

“I’m a staunch advocate of cycle commuting,” said Ryham, who favors human powered vehicles, like his bike, which benefit the environment as well as his training goals. “That’s my life two to three times a day, and usually my favorite part too.”

In a typical week, Ryham usually logs between 60 to 100 miles a week on two wheels just getting around town.

Races on Ryham’s current schedule include Ironman Texas, XTERRA Oak Mountain, and XTERRA Cameron Park. Obviously, he is aware that he needs to be fine at both Ironman Texas and XTERRA Oak Mountain before he can even attempt the Double.

“It’s really an all-or-nothing proposition. Do I think about this everyday? Yes, I do. The amount of mental math I'm doing while training should earn me another degree or something. It certainly keeps me sane during long hours on the roads and trails.”

In the meantime, he’s enjoying his training – especially when his daughter is riding shotgun on his bike commute. For this year, anyway, that’s how they roll.

Photos Courtesy of Hans Ryham and Samuel Beard, Jr.