Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Interview Tuesday: Meet Kentucky and Masters Runner Rick Torres

2015 Run The Bluegrass !/2 Marathon
This week I talk to fellow Kentuckian and masters runner Rick Torres who is competitive not just in his age group but is often up there with the younger runners at local races.  Rick is another runner who has been at it for a long time so be encouraged and inspired that age is not something to stop you running or competing.

Tell us a little about yourself not necessarily related to running: age, where born, education, area you live in, etc…..
I grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa and I'm 56 years old. I was born in Mexico City.  I've been married to Leslie Torres for the past 14 years. She has been extremely supportive and inspires me to do my best.  We have a son Ryan, who is a Captain in the US Army who is currently stationed at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  I proudly served in the Air Force from 1981-1989 and in the Army from 1989-2006.  I graduated from Sullivan University in 2003 with a B.S. Business degree and a Masters Degree in Business from McKendree University in 2015.  I live in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

What is your profession?
I retired from the US Army as a Master Sergeant in December 2006. It's hard to believe I've been retired 12 years from active duty. I'm currently working as a Department of the Army civilian, as a Contracting Officer for the Mission Installation Contracting Command at Fort Knox.

How did you start running and what prompted you to do so? 
I started running in the 5th grade in preparation for the Presidential Fitness Test. My favorite event was the 600 yard dash, and I did well enough in the other events to earn the badge. But at the end of the school year at the city championships I ran the 600 yard dash.  I remember going out with the leaders then being passed half way into the race by 3/4 of the field. I was devastated that I didn't earn a top 3 finish. But I was determined not to give up and trained like crazy to get better over the next three years. I  joined the local running club called the Cornbelt Running Club. They still put on a series of races and fun runs for the Quad City running community. I loved that they sponsored races throughout the year from 1 mile to 10 mile races.  They also put on a  race the last weekend in July called the Bix 7 Miler which now draws some of the best runners in world.

How long have you been running?
I've been running since 1974. But in 2007, I had to take about 20 months off due to knee problems. I gained about 30 pounds and felt terrible. I remember watching the New York City Marathon in 2009 on television and telling myself that I needed to get back into shape. It took me a few years to get back into racing shape, but it's been worth it. I knew I had to get back into a running lifestyle. I talked to my boss about changing my work hours and he didn't have any issues with it. I got serious about training again and started winning races here in E'town and then around the state. 

Did you participate in any other sports over the years?
I did a variety of sports growing up in Iowa. Living in Dan Gable country in the 70's wresting was mandatory in junior high school. I wasn't very good but I had fun. I also participated in Little League baseball (all-star my final year), played flag football and basketball as a pre-teen. I also tried pole vaulting in my friend Pat Rose's backyard.

Did you run in grade school, High School or College? If so where?
2016 Quad City 1/2 Marathon - Moline, IL
I ran the 880 yard run in junior high school and in high school I competed in everything from the quarter mile to the 2 mile.  I also ran cross country, which back then in Iowa was 1.5 miles  (freshman) and 2 miles at the varsity level. I earned five varsity letters (3 xc and 2 in track) while at Bettendorf High School. I qualified for the 1981 Drake Relays my senior year in the 3200m.  When I wasn't participating for my high school, I was running road races around Iowa and Illinois. I loved the roads and even managed a 33:20 10K.

So we get an idea of where you have been with running can you share your PR’s for: 5K, 10K marathon and any other distance you may have run
PR's                                                                Over Age 50 PR's 
3 Mile- 15:30 (1983)                                    16:50 (2017)
10K -  31:54  (1995)                                    36:38 (2016)
Half Marathon - 1:12:55 (1995)                1:20:46  (2015)
Marathon - 2:52:10 (1987)                        2:56:08  (2016)

You not only run road races you also run on the track – how do you compare the two?
I think you really need to be in top shape when you race on the track. The track is unforgiving and will point out any weaknesses in your fitness.  Also, running track you need to stay focused on your competition.  Running road races you can get away with a few things like using the course to your advantage. If you know you have certain strengths you can maximize those out on the course.  Road races can also have great scenery to let you take your mind off the pain and sometimes there are crazy fans to keep you motivated. 

What do like about track racing?  
I like the fact that you can compare your effort with any other person for a specific distance and know how you stack up.  The track is accurate so you know exactly what fitness level you are at on that day.

You have done quite well at marathons, any thought of trying an Ultra? 
I'm actually a better half-marathoner than a marathoner.  My current marathon time from 2016 should be faster when based off my half marathon time.  So that tells me I need to work on my endurance. I've never run a decent marathon- I fell apart (leg cramps) when I ran my 2:52, walking the last mile after being on 2:38 pace.

I've been asked several times when will I compete in an Ultra.  Will Rivera and my brother-in law Eric Bloomquist keep telling me I need to do one.  Maybe one of these years when I have more time to train.  I really want to get faster at the half marathon distance.  My goal is to break 1:21:00 in 2019.   
What is your most memorable race or races and share a little about at least one of them?
The 1978 Bix 7 Mile.  The year before as an 8th grader, I ran it in around 51 minutes. I came into the race feeling good about myself. I had just broken the freshman 2 mile record with a 10:28 in May. I went through a good train up and I knew I was fit. So at the start of the race, I thought -  just go out conservatively since everybody takes off like a rocket up that huge hill. I told myself run smart and don't quit when the going gets tough. Anyone who has run Bix will know what I mean. It was designed by John Hudetz who ran the Boston Marathon the year prior and he wanted to bring a flavor of that race back to the Quad Cities in 1975.  I made it to the turn around and thought wow this is going well. I kept passing runners as I reached mile 6 and figured only one more mile and I'm home. I dodged some arts and crafts tables and sprinted to the best of my ability as I neared the finish line. They didn't have chip timing back then. They would post the results on butcher paper on the Woolworths window. I was happy to learn that I had won the 15 and under age-group running a 40:35 and finishing in 39th place overall out of 551 runners. I got called up on a makeshift stage next to a U-Haul box truck to get my trophy. But not in my wildest dreams would I think that 39 years later, I would win a Bix 7 and the 50-54 age group trophy in 43:50.

1981 Drake Relays- High School 3200 meter. I finished 12th, but just being there and seeing so many great high school athletes competing was an honor.  I also got to see this young college freshman named Hershel Walker run the 100 meters for the University of Georgia. It was an incredible sight! Also seeing Steve Scott run a 3:58 mile was pretty cool. The 4 x1600 meter relay was also memorable, as Iowa State University ran a 16:09 to break the meet and stadium record.
2018 USATF Nat. Championships 1/2 Mara.

 2013 Boston Marathon. I dreamed of running Boston as a kid reading Runner's World back in the late 70's.  At 50 years old, I qualified with a 3:11 at Chicago in 2012. But during my train-up for Boston I suffered shin splints.  I was still happy to be going to Boston after all these years and just participating in the race. On April 18th, I woke up that morning kissed Leslie and caught the bus to Hopkinton taking in all the sights and sounds. It was a beautiful morning and as I toed the line and I realized that I was fulfilling a dream that a young kid from a small town in Iowa had made it to the most famous race in the world. I loved that the course was lined with people 3 and 4 deep cheering on the runners. I wanted to run faster, but I finished in 3:09 and felt like a champion.  I was elated to have that medal placed around my neck and went to look for Leslie. I tried to retrieve my gear that was on the school bus. But somehow got misplaced and the lady who finally found it apologized for taking so long to locate it. I told her not to worry. I met Leslie at the reunion area and we headed back to the Marriot Copley Hotel, which was only a block from the finish line. We were watching the local channel that was carrying the marathon live. Sitting at the computer posting some photos to Facebook, we heard a loud blast and saw smoke start to rise over the library. Next we heard the second explosion and watched a hundreds of people running down the streets. We were told to stay in our room, next we saw police officers on the roof tops of the hotel. We had planned on eating lunch at a restaurant where the second bomb had detonated. I often think if I hadn't been injured and run faster or if my bag had not been misplaced- would Leslie and I been down there during the second blast? It went from a day of celebration to a day of terror. I still think of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi and Officer Sean Collier who were killed by those terrorists. Boston remains a special place in my heart because of the spirit and strength of the city that came back even stronger in 2014.

2016 Quad Cities Half Marathon. This race starts in Moline, Illinois and crosses over into my hometown of Bettendorf and then into Davenport. It goes back over the Mississippi River and into Rock Island then back to Moline. The race is a first class event with a marathon and 5K option as well. The entire race staff goes out of their way to make you feel special and people on the course cheer you on to run your best. The weather was a little warm that day, but I wanted to go out and see what was in the tank after all this was my hometown. I felt good and decided to pick up the pace. I was hoping for a 1:23:30 time since I had missed some training due to a busy work month. I threw caution to the wind and went for it.  I didn't know that this would be the last time my dad would get to see me run. My dad was my biggest fan and he wasn't doing too well (he would pass two months later) but my brother brought him down to see me at the 5 mile marker next our local K&K Hardware store. I ran my fastest split of the race and I ended up running a 1:22:30 and took 14th place overall at the ripe old age of 54. I was incredibly blessed to still be competing on the streets that I did as a 5th grader. It made me feel young again and having dad there made it extra special.

Do you train on trails , road and track – which do you prefer?
I prefer training on the trails. But I really have to be careful because I can just look at a tree root and twist my ankle.  That's why I don't do a lot of trail races.  My wife say's I have delicate thoroughbred ankles. lol

What does your training look like?
I try to stay around 40-50miles a week.  I find if I go over 55 miles I start feeling it in my knees.  Since I'm no spring chicken I need to really watch what I do and get plenty of rest and do a lot of foam rolling.  I'll do a long run of 15-20 miles on Sunday or if I have a big race I'll move it up to give me plenty of time to recover.  I'll do a little speed work if I have a track meet I'm training for.  I try to do negative splits when I train to help with endurance. 

Do you have a favorite workout you do?  
I like to head over to Bernheim Forrest and run Forrest Drive to Paul's Point.  I have a 4.4 mile loop and depending on what I'm training for I'll run 3 or 4 loops. It will humble the fittest athlete- trust me! 

How about a favorite route you like to run?
2016 Louisville Mini-Marathon
When I'm back in Iowa I love to run down by the Mississippi River.   They have a bike-running path that parallels the river.  My route takes me past old childhood friends homes then under the I-74 Bridge and down past where my dad used to work and through Devils Glen Park then back to my mom's house.

What is your favorite distance to run and race?

I would have to say the half marathon. It's a distance where (at my age) you need a good combination of speed and endurance. My body seems to recover the quickest at that distance even more so than a 5K. I love the fact that there are a great number of half marathons available these days.  I think it's a distance that allows you to test your cardio. 

What shoes do you run in and what do you like about them?
I train in Hoka's and I race in Newton's.  I like Hoka because of the cushioning they provide me. I have bad knees and when I started wearing them in 2011 my knees thanked me even though they looked like clown shoes.  Hoka's have come all long way in terms of style and appearance.  They are still light weight but now they come in different models so you don't look like Bozo. lol.

I like racing in Newton Distance Elite or MV2's,  I like that "rocker" feeling they give you.  It took me awhile to get used to the actuator lugs, my calves were really sore at first because I wasn't landing correctly.  I do like wearing Hoka Clifton 1's for a marathon.

Do you have any long-range plans?  
I just want to be able to stay healthy and remain competitive for my age. I'm shooting for a sub 1:21:00 half marathon in 2019 or a top 3 finish at USATF Masters Nationals. 

What do you like best about living and running in KY?
I like the weather here in Kentucky. We get all four seasons without the deep freeze we got in Iowa growing up as a kid. I like meeting new and interesting people through running. There is a great group of folks here in Kentucky- from Louisville to Bowling Green to Lexington! I've met some great folks like Scott McAnally, Robert Izzgarjan, Thomas Reed, Travis Martin, Chuck Blinn, Rachel Parrella, Matt Hoyes, Will Rivera and so many others. As a bonus, when I arrived at Fort Knox in 2001, I re-united with my old Bettendorf High School Graphic Arts teacher and former 2:12:06 marathoner, John Wellerding who lives in Louisville. I've lived several places while in the service from California, Korea, Japan, Oklahoma, and Washington D.C. but Kentuckians are extremely friendly.

Anywhere else you would like to visit to run?
I would like to complete all of the World Major Marathons.  I have Boston and Chicago marked off the list, but I still need New York, Berlin, London and Tokyo.
2016 Lovin' The Hills 15 Miler

Do you have any bucket list races?  
Peachtree, Falmouth, Bay to Breakers, Warf to Warf, a Masters track meet at Hayward Field in Eugene,  Oregon and the Big Sur Half Marathon.

What do you struggle with most with regards to running?
I struggle with speed work. I get injured if I go too hard.  My speed work is usually done by competing in 5K's. 

What do you see as a trend in running?
I think because of all the technology currently out on the market runners will train smarter and therefore run faster. This could also translate to runners increasing their longevity.

If you had one, well maybe two or three, things to say those that are running to encourage them what would it be?
Have fun and don't worry what everyone else is doing- just concern yourself with what is in your backpack. Running takes time and hard work to realize your goals.  If you don't succeed figure out what went wrong and go back to the drawing board.  Don't be afraid to fail. Everyone is at different stages of their life, so don't worry if you aren't running fast now- you can improve over time.

Do you have a website or other social media site you would like to share?
No website.  I'm on Facebook, Athlinks and Strava

Any closing comments?
I love just being able to toe the line on race day and know I've done everything I could to get there. 

Thanks for allowing me to share my story. I hope I can inspire others to stay in shape regardless of how old they might be and to stay motivated when times are tough.  I hope I can still run into my 80's.

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