Q&A with Simple Hydration Ultra Team Runner Ryan Smith

Posted March 8th, 2014 by Brian Hock

Name: Ryan Smith
Age: 34
Height: 5’10″
Location: Boulder, Colorado

Q. Where did you grow up and how did you get into running?

A. I was born in Scotland, went to high school in England and back to Scotland for University so I have run all over the UK in both road and off-road races. The UK has many different niches of running in the same way that the US does, but one discipline that is truly unique to the UK is Fell Racing. I haven’t done a whole lot of fell races but I love everything about it – the people, the attitudes, the courses, the competition and the history. If you haven’t read “Feet in the Clouds” by Richard Askwith then I highly recommend it for an insight into the sport. A big goal of mine is to run the Bob Graham Round someday which is kind of a rite of passage for an ultra-distance fell runner!

Q. Did you run in high school and college?

A. Yes, in fact I’d consider myself a life-long runner. I don’t really recall any period in my life when I wasn’t actively running. I did cross country in high school and University but it’s a very different experience compared to the US, at least it was when I was growing up. I don’t really ever recall ‘training’ as such in high school. I’d just run once a week then turn up to a race at the weekend and run as hard as I could. The fact that we had the opportunity to do cross country was probably more a result of being lucky that one of the teachers happened to be a runner himself, otherwise I doubt it would have even been on offer. At University I was involved in the Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds club which is one of the oldest cross country clubs in the UK, reflected in the name (the “Hare and Hounds” game is where cross country running originated from). I was the Men’s Captain during the 1999-2000 season which was probably a better indicator of my drinking skills than my running prowess. It was a very social club!

Q. What are your personal bests at various distances?

A. I haven’t really raced many different road races, other than the Marathon, since I started to take it more seriously and would mostly consider myself a trail runner. I had a fairly busy 2013 and I think PR’ed in most distances during the year. Here is the rundown:

- Mountain Masochist 50M – 7:19:47, 2nd
- Loch Ness Marathon – 2:37:37, 5th
- Imogene Pass Trail Run – 2:32:23, 4th
- Speedgoat 50K – 5:53:51, 10th
- San Juan Solstice 50M – 9:33:42, 7th
- Dirty Thirty 50K – 4:50:11, 5th
- LA Marathon – 2:35:04, 21st
- Ralston Creek Half Marathon – 1:15:25, 2nd

Q. What do you do for a living and how to you manage to balance it with your running?

A. I am a Software Engineer working in the financial industry. I spent the first 10 years of my career working in London and New York. During that time I would oscillate between a pretty good work/run balance during the quiet times of the year and a terrible to non-existent balance towards the end of that period where I was working 80+ hour/weeks. In 2011, my wife and I quit our jobs and spent the next year traveling and running around the world. We had a pretty good balance going then! We ended up in Boulder, Colorado specifically for the work/life balance. Now, I can get over 3000ft of vertical mountain running in and be sitting at my desk before 8am.

Q. How did you get into trail and ultra running and how long have you been doing it?

A. I’ve always run cross-country so running off-road is the norm for me. I also spent a lot of time climbing and mountaineering around the UK and Europe so being in the mountains is something that I’ve always sought out. I did my first Ultra in 2008 – a 50K in Washington State – and my first 50M the following year. Both of which I did with my wife who I think I can blame for getting me into Ultras! I’ve never looked back since!

Q. You helped start the Rocky Mountain Runners last summer and it has taken off. Why did you help start this group?

A. In both New York and the UK in general, there is a really active club running scene. Whether it’s racing to represent your club or just having other people who share your passion, people are really proud to be part of a group. New York City is probably the most active running community anywhere in the world, with over 100 different running clubs, races pretty much every weekend and inter club leagues and championships. When I moved to NYC from London, I knew nobody and through my running club, The Reservoir Dogs, I met boat loads of awesome people, including my wife!

When we moved to Boulder, the first thing I did was search for running clubs. I was pretty astounded at the total lack of offerings for one of the most active communities in the US. Outside of paid training groups, or clique social circles there was really very little on offer. Rocky Mountain Runners is my attempt to re-create my experiences with previous clubs that I have been part of. Ultimately I want people to be excited and proud to be part of something and I think the tide is changing in Boulder with groups like RMR and the Boulder Track Club gaining more and more momentum.

Q. What person in running inspires you?

A. Anyone who is passionate about running and getting out there and doing cool stuff — particularly people who are still going strong into their 60’s, 70’s and beyond. I admire longevity.

Q. What was/is your favorite race and why?

A. There are just too many to choose from. I can always find something positive from a race, whether it’s the course, the people, the suffering, or the experience. Races like the San Juan Solstice 50M, Mountain Masochist 50M, The Escarpment Trail Run or any Fell race in the UK exemplify the perfect event for me. Unpretentious yet competitive, fun and adventurous, a rich history and a passionate community, that’s what I look for!

Q. What race or adventure would you like to do one day?

A. I’d love to spend more time fell racing in the UK or racing around Europe or just doing my own thing in awesome places around the world. Mostly, I love looking at maps and finding lines and circuits in stunning locations. That’s better than any race!

Q. What is a typical week of training in your life right now?

A. My training right now is mostly structured around the Rocky Mountain Runners weekly workouts. They are mostly social but usually involve a good amount of climbing and distance. We also do a weekly track workout to keep the legs moving. I’ve never been a high mileage guy due to my susceptibility to injuries and would usually consider a 40 mile week the norm. I recently switched to a standup desk at work which has helped me enormously and now I’m doing between 50 and 70 miles a week with a lot of double workouts. If you haven’t tried a stand up desk, do it!

Q. At what distance do you take water/hydration with you on a run?

A. As long as it’s not hot, I don’t typically take anything with me for less than about 3 hours but, when I do, I don’t like to carry too much unnecessary weight. At 13oz, the Simple Hydration bottle is just the right amount.

Q. What was your reaction to the Simple Hydration Bottle after using it?

A. I was pretty surprised, actually, as I did not think it would be comfortable for me. After using it a couple of times, however, I found that I didn’t really notice it at all. It is especially useful for steep uphills when I like to have my hands free to push against my knees on hard or fast ascents.

Q. How do you use the bottle in your training/races?

A. I used the bottle in Mountain Masochist 50M last year for the first time and I was really impressed. I had to check sometimes to make sure the bottle was still there as I couldn’t really feel it! I also like running with it in my hands as I think it’s more comfortable to hold than any hand held I’ve used before. I am looking forward to using it in more races this year.

Q. What races do you have planned for 2014 and do you have a focus race?

A. I am currently signed up for Zane Grey 50M, Thunder Rock 100M, San Juan Solstice 50M and Trans Alps 8 day stage race but I’ll probably add a few more. They are all focus races for me but the big unknown is the 100 miler. It will be my first!

Q. Anything else you would like to add?

A. Just remember to keep it simple. The most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing. That way you’ll still be doing this into your 70’s!

Note that you can follow Ryan’s running on his blog.