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ATHLETE HIGHLIGHT: Patrick Rizzo

Patrick Rizzo, a marathoner training in Colorado Springs, CO with a 2:13 marathon PR, has an active presence in the running community and large ambitions for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. He prides himself on his ability to stick to his guns, when it comes to training hard, racing hard, and also when it comes to sticking to his opinions on social media.

He loves long workouts, in fact 20km workout days are his wheel house. How does he recover and keep a positive mindset while training, working, and preparing for the trials? We spoke with him about his favorite workout and secrets to staying healthy and happy. When it comes to injury prevention, Patrick finds that a “boring” schedule is most effective, and most fulfilling.

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What is your favorite motivational quote?

“If you’re in a position to help someone, and don’t, you ought not be in that position.” My college coach, Al Carius. I’ve been a bit outspoken about recent trials of the running world and it’s because I care, not because I’m a jerk. I want to see things change so that the next generation isn’t fighting the same battles we’ve been fighting for the last 40 years with our governing bodies. That goes everywhere from the top on down. We have such bright minds and creative people in this sport, yet we run it so poorly and suppress those people’s opinions to maintain a broken status quo. I’m frankly sick of it and in a position to influence others. It has become my responsibility to ignite the change I wish was already here.

What has been one of your most challenging and rewarding workouts since you began marathon training?

One of the most difficult is definitely a 20km specific endurance workout from Brad Hudson. He’ll have me run 3k at race pace, 1k at 15 seconds slower than pace, then get back on the race pace for 3k and repeat. It’s excruciating but I feel like a world killer when I can pull that one off.

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Patrick Rizzo in the 2013 London Marathon: he placed 13th overall and was the first American.

How do you get motivated to stay strong when a longer workout starts to hurt?

I tend to thrive on long workouts. I have more trouble starting on pace for them than I do crushing the end. I tend to remind myself of some of the pain I used to put myself in when I was still a wrestler and it reminds me how little running can do to break me. I also try to put myself into the race and think about how I’m going to want to react when I get that same feeling at 22 miles or 24 miles into a marathon. Mental simulation is a great tool!

How do you prepare for a big workout? (sleep, nutrition, mentality, etc.)

I am 32 and have a wife and dog. I’m generally a creature of habit. I don’t have late nights and erratic schedules like I did when I was 22 and single with no “real” responsibilities. Most people would even call my daily schedule boring or mundane. It is and darn it I like it!

With that said, I try to approach every race and every workout like it’s my own Olympic games. I put my mindset into it just as I would in the biggest venue of my life. I focus as much on sleep or fueling as I would for the big dance. People have accused me of not being serious enough before big races; some have even claimed I don’t take running seriously enough. I would vehemently argue that I am absolutely serious when the gun goes off.

I just have run that race thousands of times in my head and in workouts or races leading up to the “real” day. I’m not (as) nervous on race day because in my mind it’s just something I KNOW deep down how to do and do right. Even if the race goes terribly, I know that I come home and my wife still loves me; my dog still loves me; my mother still loves me. I love running but it will never ruin who I am to those people close to me. That approach takes most of the pressure off.

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Tell us a little about your recovery routine after a hard workout:

First step is always copious amounts of chocolate milk as soon after as I can get to it. In the summer, I’ll drink about a full quart of chocolate milk after a hard run. I then try to get off my feet for a while and roll out any notable tight spots so they don’t turn into anything longer-term or problematic.

Most days, I work, so I’m on my feet for most of the day. Helping other people with their running helps me keep my mind off of my own running between workouts (I often run twice a day). It also helps ground any ego I may otherwise have by keeping ME answering to the more casual jogger looking to run 30 minutes 4 time a week. Sometimes I even meet people who teach ME a thing about running and something I may want to implement into my own schedule.

One good thing about working in a running store is that I get to access an R8 roller several times a day, usually for 5-10 minutes each time. It flushes out a lot of my waste by-product from my legs before my second run.

The final part of my recovery is to eat a good, high protein dinner and get to bed at about 10. I wake up at 6:15 with my wife, Emily, who is a teacher.

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What are your most important pieces of advice for injury prevention?

Don’t overthink things. I have ignored more injuries than most people have experienced. Most people treat pain as an injury and I absolutely don’t agree with that. I have taken 6 days off of running over past 18 years that weren’t pre-planned. I took 4 days off when I got hit by a car and ran with 28 stitches in my head as soon as I could walk again. Then 8 weeks later I ran my first Boston Marathon (not well). I also took 2 days off, at different times, when I slipped on ice running.

I’m not trying to pretend I’m the toughest guy out there, but most pain isn’t an injury. If you get massages, use the R8 for massages, you’ll find your weak spots and be able to address them before they become problems. Some of them bring me to a foam roller to solve and some work out well with the R8 and rest. I don’t do any stretching as I think that often takes muscles, tendons, and ligaments out of their desired balance. Maybe I’m just a horrible example and a freak of nature with my lack of debilitating injuries, but I’ve got a plan and I’m sticking to it!

Photos via: PavementRunner, Patrick Rizzo, Mzungoffire, Competitor.