Every now and then, says Daniela Bleymehl, she is asked if she has a bad conscience. As a mother of two who is also a triathlon professional. But Bleymehl never wanted to have to choose between family and top-class sport, is firmly convinced that both are possible. And above all that it is the right path for them personally. "I don't think I could be 'just' a mother or 'just' a professional – currently as an athlete," says the 34-year-old. “I also have the feeling that it is good for the children the way it is. And I think that when you are a mom, you should also pursue your own dreams and goals.”
And that's exactly what she's doing in Hawaii right now - with her family for support. In 2020 and 2021 the Ironman had to be canceled here due to the pandemic. Now more than 5,000 triathletes between the ages of 20 and 85 have taken over the island again to determine the world champions among professionals and age group athletes over two days of racing. And simply to realize their dream of starting in Hawaii.
She hardly thought it possible that Bley flour would dive into the waves of the Pacific in the women's professional competition on October 6 at 6:25 p.m. German time. "It feels very good to be back here," she says, "still a bit surreal." Her youngest offspring, daughter Alicia, was only born in the summer of 2021.
It was clear that the Darmstadt native wanted to continue on her way as a triathlon professional. But how long she would need to be so fit again that she could secure one of the coveted Hawaii starting places was hardly foreseeable. And then this: In April, she qualified for the World Championships in Kailua-Kona for the third time by winning Ironman South Africa. In 2019, when Anne Haug triumphed, she finished ninth.
"Winning a long-distance race eight months after the birth of my daughter was a liberating blow," says Bleymehl. Because even if the plan was to return to sport: the longer the break - starting with the pandemic - lasted, the greater the uncertainty as to how well it could succeed. "After two and a half years without a race, I didn't even know if it would still work," she says.
She has now approached Hawaii as a family trip: Bleymehl flew abroad with her little daughter and sister a few days ago in order to recover from jet lag in time and to get used to the climate. “It took me a relatively long time to really settle in here and feel good. Traveling with a baby is something else," she said on Saturday. "I also had the feeling that I was going to get sick, but got the curve." Now she feels in great shape.
She rode half of the 180-kilometer bike course, swam in the sea and ran towards the sunset in the Energy Lab, a section after about 25 kilometers of the competition course.
And: Since Saturday afternoon her husband, who is back as a doctor after his parental leave, has also arrived. However, one is missing. "Unfortunately, my older son isn't coming this time, but he was there in 2016 and 2019," she says. “Unfortunately, the date does not fall during the autumn holidays this year, so he would have to catch up at school. I let him decide for himself. ”It is very difficult for her, she says, to be separated from him for more than two weeks. She used to take him everywhere, but now he's eleven years old. "He's getting bigger and doesn't always want to keep up. Every mother probably has to go through that,” she says.
It is no longer uncommon for women to return to top-level sport after pregnancy. But just how difficult it was even for tennis superstar Serena Williams - on the part of sponsors and reservations from outside - shows that Bleymehl is going down a path that is not easy. Especially back then, in the early days after the birth of her son, she was met with a lot of skepticism - because of the compatibility of sport and family, but also because of her sport. "The question often came up: 'And what are you still doing?' I struggled with that for a few years," she says. Should and can she really see her sport as her job? Bleymeal: "I doubted."
During her pregnancy she had broken off her training as a physiotherapist and shortly afterwards was given the chance to make a profit. Nevertheless, in addition to her job as a mother and being a professional athlete, she tried to complete a distance learning course, but quickly realized that this was one project too many. Times change. She has now completed training in the field of mental training, triathlon is no longer questioned as a professional sport, and there are more and more women who combine family and top-class sport. The questions about pangs of conscience still come. But they don't unsettle her.
The decision to have a second child was a conscious one, made during the pandemic. "The year 2020 with the cancellations and restrictions caused by Corona took a lot of strength from me," says the 34-year-old. After Hawaii 2019, she invested a lot, put everything on one card for the first time and was 100 percent focused. "I don't think I would have mentally made it through another year with this uncertainty and lack of prospects. Plus homeschooling. You just didn't know when you could compete again, where and how."
Getting your body back into that of a top athlete after giving birth took patience and careful training. After all, it should be a successful, but above all healthy comeback. What helped her, in addition to a lot of athletic training and physiotherapy, were the notes from 2011. At that time she had documented her rebuilding. "That made it easier for me to find my way back to fitness than it was back then," says Bleymehl. She began intensive training a good six months after giving birth, even if the maximum number of hours per week was 18 to 20, lower than before. "At some point you hit your time limit," she says. “Then it goes to the substance. Actually, I only really started to train fully again when the little one was one year old.” Her results in competitions this year are all the more astonishing.
The fact that this was possible has a lot to do with will, passion and everyday management. On the one hand from Bleymehl itself, on the other hand from her environment. She and her husband organize everyday life with the help of their parents, parents-in-law and the entire family. “My husband and I are very lucky – otherwise it wouldn't have worked at all. The little one can always have her rhythm and there is always someone at home,” she says. That was the basic requirement for her to get back into triathlon life. Even training camps are feasible because everyone pulls together. At the beginning of the year her husband, then her sister and once her grandmothers were there to support her. "Now that my daughter is weaned and is becoming more independent every day, I'm only realizing how much organization was involved before," says Bleymehl.
Now, when she hits the Ironman Hawaii course on October 6th, all of this will give her strength and motivation. Especially when it gets tough on the more than eight hours to the finish, when the mission mutates into a tour de force. What helps you persevere? "The thought of my children motivates me," says Daniela Bleymehl. "On the day of a competition, I also want to give something back to my family and show that all the effort is worth it."