After traveling around Italy for eight days, with three kids, on our first ever trip abroad, I was ready for the easy part: running for 24 hours. This was our first trip to a foreign country and we were not prepared for the language barrier or the culture shock. I would need a completely separate blog to write of the crazy and sometimes stressful misadventures of our travels.
Team USA started to arrive in Torino, Italy on Wednesday and the team was completely assembled by Thursday afternoon. The Men’s team did a course preview tour on Thursday and gathered together again Friday morning for an easy 5K synchronize of our watches. By Sunday morning this group essentially of strangers had come together as a team. However on race morning, Team USA was scattered around the starting corral and eventually mingling into position with the Men’s team strangely lined up behind the soon to be champion Woman. After a seven second misstart the race got on the way.
Rich Riopel staying hydrated at the 2015 24-Hour World Championships
I immediately got right into my planned pace zone on my GPS Watch which was 9:07 per mile for a 4 hour marathon and good enough for SIX marathons in one day which was my B goal. It felt easy and neither my adductor nor my shin issues which had been sore the whole trip bothered me. The rest of the men on Team USA were behind me which I thought was strange since they had all discussed pacing more aggressively than me. As it turns out “at the end of the day” my GPS watch was 3 miles short and I didn’t bother with lap splits so I was pacing faster than I thought. Ignorance is bliss…
After the first marathon I picked it up as planned to 9:05 and kept strolling along. The warm temperatures were nice but the ice bandana was welcome to keep cool. Thank you to Coach Howard Nippert for having the foresight to stockpile ice in the iceless country. (I also need to thank Coach Rich Zeger for schlepping us back and forth in the van. He surely did the ultra of driving in Italy).
Rich Riopel checking the big board at the 2015 24-Hour World Championships
Still feeling good after the second marathon, I dropped down to 9 min miles as planned. By 10 hours in, I was getting sleepy and started eating the caffeinated energy gel, 2 hours earlier than planned but much later than any of my previous 24 hours. Things get a bit blurry and I am missing big pieces of the story; like the power going out in the stadium and the fire that blew big clouds of nasty smoke on the track. (There is probably so much I am missing in this report since I am a runner not a writer… see the bullets at the end for a bunch more fun and interesting tid-bits).
Rich Riopel in the zone at the 2015 24-Hour World Championships
There is a STRONG individual competition between the members of Team USA and honestly it is an F-ing awesome friendly competition that makes us all stronger! Katalin Nagy the Women’s World Champion was so strong! I used her as inspiration and drive, and honestly I was worried she was going to beat me again :-). But, if you’re going to get beat, at least it would be by one of the fiercest competitors out there. After not seeing Harvey Lewis all day, I’m guessing around hour 20 or so he said HI from over my shoulder. This pumped me up in 2 ways. First I realized that we still had a chance at a team medal and second the individual competition was heating up! Harvey later impressed and motivated me more when I could see in his face that he was giving everything he had! I loved seeing that determination!
I can’t forget to mention the amazing heart displayed by Isaiah Janzen! He came into the competition getting over an injury and undertrained, but pushed along and always cheered #RUNRICHRUN when I went by. All of my other teammates were also super supportive always with great cheers when I saw them on the course. I regret that I did not always give the same encouragement back during the race but I was reserving all of my energy for moving forward.
The medical staff was amazing. Dr. Greg and Dr. Lovy were miracle workers who brought me back from the dead 2 times. They also cut off my compression shorts so I could switch into dry ones to prevent a chaffing issue. That mile was still only 13:44.
I had two mantras “The will must be stronger than the skill” -Muhammad Ali and “Pain does not exist in this dojo!” – Karate Kid. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the people who have encouraged and supported me along the way. I had intended to ask my wife & crew Donna to feed me more names as I passed the aid station but I kept forgetting. I did end up meditating on many of my friends and family and how they have helped me.
Rich Riopel hi-fives with Team Canada at the 2015 24-Hour World Championships
I really wish we could have gotten “the view from the podium” but I am happy and proud of my personal results and being the top American. I made the top 10 all-time American performance list which I heard gets me an automatic spot on the team in 2017. I exceeded my goal of running 6 marathons in one day. I placed 8th in the WORLD and was the 1st AMERICAN completing 159.53 MILES in 24 hours. This is a 12.5 mile PR at a 9:01 per mile average pace. This was only my 4th 24 hour race going from 127,142,147 and now 159.5 miles. With only two other 100 mile races under my belt I think I still have a lot to learn and can make even more miles at the 24.
I couldn’t have done so well without my amazing wife, Donna, who not only crewed for me for 24 hours, but took care of our 3 kids as they played & slept in a tent on the track at the same time! That is an amazing feat and I owe her big time. Donna was able to give me the right motivation when I needed it and kept me running strong all the way to the end.
Why was I smiling the whole time? Really I could not be happier to compete on the world stage with an amazing team who pushed and pushed and came together at the end. As we all laid together on the high jump mat at the end of the race the team was united glowing in our amazing accomplishments!
How I got to 159.53 miles and other random thoughts:
- I ate more than 65 energy gels, I choked them down just like Coach Howard said to.
- I drank an electrolyte drink for most of the race until it was gross and I needed to drink just plain water.
- This is my first 24 hour race where I was not forced to take an extended walking break. I only walked the hill out of the stadium. I then a planned walk break every mile which was good for me.
- Little cans of coke are the most refreshing drink in the world.
- Cappuccino really gave me a boost at the end. I should have asked for more of it right away. I should try some bulletproof coffee during the race.
- I held off on using caffeine for 10 hours which is longer than any of my previous 24hr. Getting even better rest beforehand would allow me to hold off even longer which would be good.
- When I put my headphones on around 12 hours it gave me a huge boost. I must have frightened quite a few runners with my singing, screaming and grunting. At one point I screamed “I LOVE RUNNING!!!” as I sprinted down the back stretch, this brought quite a few smiles from the other runners!
- I should have put my arm sleeves and hat on in the cold of the night. I probably expended more energy than I realized keeping warm even though I felt comfortable.
- I drank 6 tart cherry drinks. One every 4 hours, and I really looked forward to this (need to remember to tell the crew (my wife) if I am going to run before drinking to unscrew the cap but leave it for me to open so I don’t spill it all over myself). Pretty sure these helped walking the hill out of the stadium while eating and drinking worked well, there were few times I ran the hill.
- 3 protein drinks, thanks to my teammate Harvey. I could really feel the need for protein and I probably should have eaten more fat as well. I should try chia seeds during the race like Aly Venti suggested since they are high in fat.
- The PB&J and the tortilla wraps were not soft moist white bread (they were dry again… like Desert Solstice ) GREAT recommendation from Maggie Guterl to have un-crustables.
- The dill pickles were NOT garlic dill, I need to always bring my own pickles and juice.
- I did not walk the hairpin turn as suggested but I did slow to a shuffle run. I felt like others would crash into me if I was walking.
How can I get even more miles:
- Come into the race with no injuries – I had a minor adductor tear and a shin splint in my right shin.
- Don’t peak too early, I peaked in training probably 4 weeks out and was in a bit of a lull.
- Find better food before the race no matter what, the language barriers made getting the best food hard before the race. I ended up eating mostly bad pizza and croissants for days before the race.
- Make sure to ask for your position from coaching staff so you know who to try to pass. Maybe that information would have given me the boost I needed to get past 7 and 6 who were only 50 and 300M ahead.
- Lose more weight. I need to get down to 143 lbs.