“The Runner Box” Colorado Runner of the Month: Patrick Rizzo

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Four times an Olympic trials qualifier! Colorado Springs runner Patrick Rizzo is our December “The Runner Box” Colorado Runner of the Month.

Pat, congrats on the 2:17 at CIM!  In your post-race social media you sounded really excited about helping so many other guys to get under the 2:19 Olympic trials marathon qualifying standard. How’d that all come about, did your group just form on its own, or did you volunteer pace setting beforehand? Were you verbally talking some of the guys through it during the race?

Thanks! The race was planned to be a “get back on my feet” race after a catastrophic 2015-16 racing. I knew I was really fit and my coach, Gary Staines, had reassured me as much. Still the plan was just to go out and run conservatively to get the standard out of the way and have a positive marathon finish again.

I had talked to some of the guys that I knew (Matt Hensley and Brandon Johnson) beforehand were shooting for the standard and let them know I’d take the lion’s share of the work and drive the cart home if they came with me. About 2 miles in, I remember there was a group of 5 of us, then the main group of about 15 more behind. I reminded the guys I was with that there was no difference that day between a 2:15:01 and a 2:18:59 EXCEPT that the 2:15 would have a better chance of blowing up if anything went wrong. They agreed and we merged groups. I think there were about 3-4 times in the first half that I had to remind those guys to keep controlled. Anyone who I’ve ever paced in a race knows I talk…A LOT. My goal is to get them distracted long enough that by the time they look up, it’s already 20 miles in and they feel like it just started. We had a few guys that faltered after 20, but I’m happy to say we got a bunch of guys qualified.

And so it is your fourth Olympic trials marathon. You’re only 34 though! How young were you when you first qualified?

Haha. I love how young you make 34 sound. Some mornings I feel more like a 2 year old car with 200,000 miles on it. The age isn’t telling the entire story. I guess all cylinders are still firing, I’ll still be rolling down the street until the tow truck needs to come get me.

I had just turned 23 when I qualified for my first trials at Chicago in 2006. The standard then was 2:20 for the “A” and 2:22 for the “B.” I was on 2:17 pace through 24 miles and drove the struggle bus into a brick wall from there. I ran a 2:20:12 with my last mile in a 7:23. That’s the hard way to do it, but some great lessons came from it. I call races like that “positive failure.” I didn’t miss the mark completely, but definitely wasn’t fully successful.

You talked about really seeing what you could in January in Houston then. Are you running the half or the full there? What else do you expect to do between now and the 2020 trials?

Yeah, I’ll run the full in Houston. My plan right now is to recover fully from CIM. Race or hard run, it was still 26 miles in racing shoes and the body doesn’t love that at 34 any more than it did at 23. From there, I’ll race Houston right at the “A” standard of 2:15. I’m not certain what I’ll do over the next 3 years really, but it’s going to have two main goals: 1) help some young guys get good performances, 2) have fun in the process. Really I don’t need to prove anything to anyone at this point in my career. I’ve gotten my personal accolades, but now it’s the legacy I get to leave behind. If any of the young guys (or old) need help pacing a qualifier, a PR, or really anything, I’ll say yes as long as it doesn’t interfere with my family life.

All of this comes after you retired from road marathons and briefly took up trail and even ultra racing. What brought you back to the marathon?

It’s not a secret that I was pretty disappointed after last year’s marathon trials. It didn’t go well and it was an inexcusably catastrophic execution from an administrative perspective. I needed time away after that. I decided last year to just have some fun and see if I still love getting out to run and to race. I ran some lower-key races and did a few trail races and Silver Rush 50 in Leadville. Ultimately it was a conversation with my college coach, Al Carius, that brought me back to wanting to be competitive again. Al asked, “Do you still love to go out and run? Do you still love to work hard? Then you should do it as long as you have the opportunity!” He was right.

On top of that was the fact that my wife and I had our first child this year. This makes it for something greater than myself in an otherwise selfish pursuit. I want my son to see that working hard and setting goals yields results. He’ll be 3 at the next trials, so hopefully he’s old enough to get those lessons and I’m young enough to keep pushing.

Also, I’ll be back on the trails (and maybe ultras) again next year.

34 years old, you’re a dad and with a full-time job now. How does it feel different than before? And are you putting in the same training volume that you did a decade ago?

Life is a journey and you don’t want to be standing still. It’s different every race, every workout, every year. My goals may have changed, but my passion to achieve them is still 100% there. Priorities have changed, but I’ve shifted the parts of my life I can control to fit them all in without sacrificing the big stuff. Work and family are my immobile pieces and the rest moves around them.

My son has actually been so easy with Emily’s (my wife) and my lifestyle. He slept 4-5 hour stints from day 1. I took the overnight feedings and let Emily sleep through the night. Still I was getting 8-9 hours a night, so I certainly recognize how fortunate we were to get a good sleeper on the first try.

The training is quite a bit different than it was when I was just starting out. For one, I only double (two runs a day) three times a week as opposed to 6. Secondly, my focus is more on the quality days and I keep the easy days dynamic. If I plan to go 70 minutes on an easy day and I am just beaten up from the previous workout, I’m not afraid to cut short. Obviously I don’t do that frequently, but it’s not terrible to keep yourself from digging a hole. There’s no award given to the best practice runner, only the best racer.

When I was peaking back in 2011-13, I hit as high as 155 miles a week for a month straight. At this point in my career, that would bring me far more negative than positive benefit. That’s all a part of what got me to this point. But now I average closer to 100 miles a week and focus on hitting the workouts.

What’s your favorite thing in the Runner Box? 

That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with the SOS Hydrate. That’s what I used in CIM for my 10k and 32k bottles (orange Tailwind at all others) and I just ran out. *Pro tip* SOS mixes great with hot tea in the winter after a run.

Thanks a lot for the interview. I just want to give a well-deserved shout out to Tyler McCandless for both a HUGE personal best and a runner-up finish at CIM. This has been a long time coming for him so I’m proud to see the hard work finally come to fruition for Tyler.

Thanks Pat!  Follow Pat’s racing on twitter @RunPRizzo.

“Leave the research to us, and we’ll leave the training to you,” says Runner Box. The Runner Box is a subscription-based service that delivers a “box” of runner-friendly goodies to you every other month, items like gels, bars, and other accessories hand-picked to add to your running. Many items are new to the market, and new items are expected with each box. A great service for yourself, the boxes also make great gifts and are often themed around holidays.

Previous “The Runner Box” Colorado Runners of the Month:

November 17 – Chris Mocko
October 17 – Ashley Brasovan
September 17 – Bryan Williams
July 17 – Anna Mae Flynn
May 17 – Timothy Olson
April 17 – Noah Droddy
February 17 – Courtney Dauwalter
January 17 – Becky Wade
December 16 – Zach Miller
November 16 – Sage Canaday
October 16 – Sarah Pizzo
September 16 – Clare Gallagher
July 16 – Addie Bracy
May 16 – Tabor Scholl
April 16 – Amanda Basham
February 16 – Alia Gray
November 15 – Ali Williams
October 15 – Neely Gracey
September 15 – Timmy Parr
August 15 – Andy Wacker
July 15 – Lanie Szuch
June 15 – Joe Gray
May 15 – Brittni Hutton
April 15 – Andy Rinne
March 15 – Justin Ricks
February 15 – Laura Thweatt

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