HARWICH – When Ryan Richer was first faced with the idea of taking up running, he wasn't enthused. Fast-forward a few years and the Harwich resident has segued from those less-than-enjoyable early days to becoming a highly competitive triathlete.
Richer, who was among the first graduates of Monomoy Regional High School in 2015, said it was his mother, Sue, who got him started on his running journey.
“My mom had originally tried to get me running and I did not like it at first,” Richer said. “It took me a couple years to get into it, but by eighth grade I started to enjoy it and got into it more and more.”
In school Richer competed in track and field, favoring the mile run, and was a top cross-country runner in high school. Then he started biking and something clicked.
“I started riding a road bike, first my dad's old road bike, just to get around before I had my license,” Richer said. “I realized it was pretty fun. As I got more into cycling, a friend of mine recommended doing the Hyannis Triathlon, so I gave it a shot without much training and had a good time.”
That race happened in 2013 and Richer was hooked, becoming increasingly competitive in sprint events as time went on.
“I've always been competitive, especially with the running,” he said. “Triathlon became more competitive around 2015. I found out that I had qualified for the national championships, so I started taking it a lot more seriously.”
That would be the USA Triathlon National Championships in Milwaukee, Wis., featuring
Olympic, Super Sprint, and Richer's preferred choice, Sprint.
“It was the first big race I had done and it was pretty amazing seeing 5,000 athletes all in one place,” Richer said with a smile at remembering the event. “And swimming in Lake Michigan. It wasn't my best race but I came in 70th in the 18-19 age group.”
Indeed, Richer completed the swim in open water with a time of 19:03.64, the bike race with a time of 38:14.07, and the run in 19:35.41 for a total race completion time of 1:20:27.12.
On June 16 Richer took part in the Hyannis Sprint Tri in which a mishap by the leader boosted Richer from second place to the winner's spot.
“I came across the line second,” Richer said. “The person who finished ahead of me made a mistake coming into the transition area coming off of his bike before starting the run, and received two penalties, which added four minutes to his time.”
Richer was thrilled to win, but would have been just as happy with second place since he felt he'd competed well regardless, completing the open-water swim in 5:28, the cycling event in 27:11, and the run in 22:08 for a total time of 56:53 with transitions.
“[Winning] did feel a little strange because he just got confused going into the transition area,” Richer said. “Anyone can get a penalty because rules are rules, but I felt bad for him.”
Richer said the training aspect of being a competitive triathlete can be intense depending on the type of race an athlete is taking part in.
“For the serious athletes, it depends on the distances that you're doing,” Richer explained. “For me, I just do the short course. That's usually three or four days a week of swimming on the open water, five days of cycling, and four days of running. Sometimes the sport can come across as a little bit elitist because people think you need a fancy expensive bike, fancy clothes and fancy shoes, but you can really get started with goggles, a bike, and running shoes.”
Richer said that while his dad, Pete, who coaches girls varsity basketball at MRHS, has come to all of his races, he said his mom, Sue, had to overcome some nervousness about the swim events first.
“My dad has been to all of my races, and drove me out to Wisconsin for Nationals, and my mom has been super supportive, but until this past year has been too nervous with the swim. It scares her,” he said. “But she's started coming to my races now. They're both really supportive.”
So, too, is sister Meghan, who played Div. 1 field hockey at Fairfield University. Richer said she's planning on running her first half marathon this fall, and yes, he's considering joining her. But he's also training for the Falmouth Triathlon happening on July 15, and has his sights set on another trip to the National Championships in August, this time taking place in Cleveland, Ohio.
What keeps Richer competing, and focused on improving with each race is the overall triathlon community.
“I think the community is really cool,” he said. “There are a lot of people with a like-minded competitive spirit. Everyone is really welcoming.”