Community Portrait: He was stoked to cross finish line at alma mater

By: Michael Kirby
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Editor’s note: For the first time in history, the Western States Endurance Run is canceled. This feature was written before Wednesday’s announcement. The Western States 100 Endurance Run is one of the oldest and toughest runs in the world. Those who have done it and those who are training for it will tell you it’s the granddaddy of all 100 milers. Ultra athletes come from all over the world to tackle the 100-mile historic path from Squaw Valley to Auburn on foot. Thirty-two-year-old local resident Ryan Rivera intended to be one of the more than 400 hearty souls lined up at Squaw Valley to begin one of the longest days of his life. Attempting the WS100 for the first time, Rivera planned to reach the finish line in less than 30 hours at Placer High School, his alma mater (Class of 1994). Not so many years ago it was almost unthinkable to believe that a person could cover 100 miles of rough terrain through the hot and dusty canyons from Squaw Valley to Auburn in less than 24 hours on foot. Gordy Ainsleigh made it and the rest is history. Rivera grew up in Auburn, and was always involved in sports, playing basketball and football during his years at Placer High. When Rivera met his wife, Kim, she was a runner and he got involved in 5K and 10K fun runs with her. Next came marathons and triathlons. “I didn’t really enjoy the marathons or triathlons. I basically wanted to be out on the trails, that’s where I was having fun. I just didn’t click with the pavement,” said Rivera. “On a dare from my brother, Rick, I tried adventure racing and liked it. I was out on the trails, it became my true passion, and I did adventure racing for five years before I ran any ultras.” The trails Rivera’s referring to are similar to the running, hiking, equestrian and mountain biking trails in the American River canyons that Rivera grew up exploring. Adventure racing incorporates mountain biking, kayaking and running, and is done off-road and includes mapping and compass skills. This type of racing was a prelude to his current athletic passion. Three years ago Rivera was introduced to ultra marathons which are races longer than the traditional 26 mile events. He tackled the Way to Cool 50K race and finished well. “It was an easy transition from adventure racing to ultra running. They kind of go hand-in-hand, and from there it was on,” said Rivera. Qualifying and being drawn on his first try in the WS100 lottery produced mixed emotions for Rivera, “It was such an amazing feeling. It was excitement and oh, no, here we go,” he said. Rivera is very thankful to the local ultra-running community for all the support members give newcomers to the sport and those attempting the WS100 for the first time. “It’s just been amazing. All I’ve ever gotten from the local running community is positive encouragement,” said Rivera. He is also thankful to his number one fan, his wife Kim, who has been supportive from the very beginning, “My family has been wonderful. It’s not easy, especially with the baby. My wife Kim has just been great with lots of encouragement, but I also realize that I can’t let my training interfere with my family life,” he said. Looking toward to his first Western States event, Rivera is full of anticipation. “I know I’m going to face obstacles. There’s no question about it, but I don’t think you can have any doubt. Doubt will definitely ruin you,” said Rivera. His plan was just to finish the race and be standing at the Placer High School stadium sometime before 11 a.m. Sunday surrounded by friends and family. “I know my limits, what I can and cannot do. Time is not an issue for me for this event. My goal is to get to Auburn,” said Rivera. Rivera lives in Auburn with his wife, Kim, and his 18-month-old daughter, Lola.