From Triathlete to Ace Runner

Ken Rideout actually boxed before he became a triathlete, but these days he is mostly hunting the Marathon Majors and he is quite good at it. Rideout is actually a man of many talents and a wonderful family man, so here now is our chat with him.

Slowtwitch: Thanks for your time Ken.

Ken Rideout: Thank you! What an honor it is to chat with the bible of triathlon!

ST: I think the last time I saw you was a few years back in Kona.

Ken: Yes. I believe it was 2016. That was the last Ironman race I completed. Not my finest moment. I walked / shuffled the majority of the marathon and finished in 11:02, just before the sun went down. Live and learn. Unfortunately, I got pneumonia 3 weeks prior to the race, but I showed up and gave my best effort. A far cry from my best in Kona, which was 9:39 in 2013.

ST: But not much triathlon for you these days.

Ken: No. I have 4 young kids and to be competitive in triathlon requires a huge time commitment, at least for me. I’ve found running to be easier to fit into my schedule, so have focused on it exclusively for the past ~4-5 years.

ST: What actually got you started in triathlon in the first place?

Ken: I was living in NYC, working in finance and just trying to stay fit. I played football and hockey in college and when I moved to NYC from Boston, where I’m originally from, I started boxing for the New York Athletic Club. As part of my training I was running a few days per week and I started to get some IT band issues, so I decided to try cycling in Central Park, so I bought a road bike on a whim. I quickly became obsessed with riding and racing and I entered the Central Park Duathlon in 2007. I got smashed! I finished 21st overall. However, I learned a ton and started training with focus and purpose. I went back the following year and got 2nd overall. That duathlon experience lead to some small sprint triathlons and from that point on I was hooked.

ST: What do you miss about triathlon, and do you at some point see you coming back? After all much in our lives comes in waves.

Ken: I miss the competition and the comradery amongst triathletes. I would never say never, but my children Tensae 12, Jack 11, Luke 9, and Cameron 7 are so busy with all their sports and activities I just don’t have the time I would need to be competitive.

ST: Which sports do your kids play?

Ken: My 2 youngest sons Cam and Luke play basketball and baseball. My oldest son Jack plays lacrosse and basketball. My daughter Tensae plays lacrosse and has just recently joined a swim team. Jack and Cam also love running and keep threatening to come train with me!

ST: At what age did you start boxing and how did that all begin?

Ken: I started boxing when I was ~15 years old. I grew up in a tough inner-city neighborhood of Somerville, which is just outside of Boston. It was the kind of place where fist fights at school were a regular occurrence and I didn’t like to lose! So, I walked into the Somerville Boxing Club (scared to death) by myself and asked if someone would teach me how to box. It was the kind of old school gym that didn’t even charge dues, as far as I could tell. It was also home to some legit pro fighters, like heavyweight champion of the world, John “Quiet Man” Ruiz! It was a very intimidating place. However, I just kept reminding myself that every great fighter in history had to make this initial “ring walk” and declare himself willing to fight. Fear was what motivated me to walk into the gym. I hated feeling fearful and I refused to let it control my decision making, so I confronted fear by doing what I thought, at the time, was the most intimidating thing in the world, fighting. While that fear never went away, boxing gave me tools to deal with and process those feelings.

ST: Where you any good?

Ken: Unfortunately, I was not very good, but I was always ready and willing!

ST: I always actually thought that bar fights are less common in the USA because you never know if the other dude might be packing heat.

Ken: I don’t think it would be a good idea to carry a gun if you’re going to drink at a bar. Having worked as a prison guard for several years, I would much rather catch a beating than shoot someone and have the shooting be deemed unjustified and be sent to prison! For this reason, I don’t own a gun.

ST: Did you do any other sports during that time?

Ken: I played football and hockey in high school and in college at Framingham State University, which is a small Division III school outside of Boston.

ST: Back to triathlon. What would you consider your triathlon highlight or fondest memory?

Ken: Racing in Kona definitely provided some of my fondest triathlon memories. The week before the race was my favorite week of the year. I loved swimming in the ocean in the mornings leading up to race day, even though my swimming was / is shit. My triathlon highlight was probably winning my age group in 2015 at Ironman Wisconsin in 9:36 and finishing 7th overall.

ST: I believe you are mostly running these days?

Ken: Yes, all focus is on running. And, a little weight training 3-4 times per week. I love running, but I’m not trying to look like a skinny runner!

ST: You certainly do not have that skinny runner physique, but has that meant that folks have looked at you incredulous either in the start pen or the finish?

Ken: When I was competing in triathlon I didn’t do any weight training, but since relocating from LA to Nashville last year, as I mentioned, I’ve incorporated weight training 3-4 times per week into my training plan. I currently weigh 157-165 lbs. I graduated high school at 155 lbs.

I’ve never noticed anybody looking down at me in a start corral, but I’m also not worried about anyone other than myself on race day.

ST: Talk about your training.

Ken: I typically run 80-100 miles per week. I post every single session I do on Strava. When I’m training for a marathon I typically start getting serious ~12 weeks out. My coach, Mario Fraioli, will map out the training 1 week at a time and I blindly follow his directions. We usually do a hard track workout on Tuesdays. That may consist of something like; 8-10 x 800 @ ~2:30 with 2 mins recovery jog between reps, or another workout may be 1 mile at ~5:00-5:10 pace, followed by 4-6 800s @ 2:30, followed by 1 mile at ~5:00 pace. On Saturdays we’ll do a hard long run. Something like; 10 miles at 6:15-6:30 pace followed by 3 x (1 mile @ 5:45, 1 mile @ 5:35, 1 mile @ 5:25) and 1 mile cool down. The rest of the week consists of a minimum of 10 miles per day at varying intensity based on feel. In the off season I run a minimum of 10 miles daily, and I’ve done this for the past several years.

ST: I know you are involved in a boxing podcast these days, but do you still box?

Ken: Yes, I’m very lucky to co-host The Fight With Teddy Atlas podcast. My partner is obviously Boxing Hall Of Fame legend, Teddy Atlas. It’s a dream job. I get to talk combat sports on a weekly basis with the voice of boxing for over 25 years on ESPN! We’ve had the privilege of interviewing so many legendary boxers, and most of the current champions in the UFC, as well as guys like Dana White and Jake Paul. Regarding boxing, I do like to hit the heavy bag in my home gym, but I’m definitely not interested in getting punched in the face for fun anymore! I also really enjoy training all my kids in the boxing gym.

ST: if you had to box either a triathlete or a runner, who would it be and why?

Ken: Haha… I assume you’re joking here. Have you ever heard of the triathletes, Nick & Nate Diaz, or Paul Felder?!? I would rather fight a lion than any of those guys! So, while I do know some very tough runners, I’d rather fight a runner than a triathlete, specifically to avoid the UFC fighters currently competing in triathlon. However, I would love to race any of those aforementioned fighters at any distance / any discipline in endurance sports. And, you can tell them I said that! {Fist Emoji}

ST: Talk about your day job.

Ken: I am the Head of Business Development for an inventory finance company called, Upside Financing.

ST: Have you ever had the urge to settle a business conflict with your fists?

Ken: Prior to launching Upside Financing I worked on trading desks in NYC and London for 20+ years! I wanted to punch someone in the face on a daily basis. Back when I first started in the late 90’s it was not uncommon for guys to get into physical altercations on a regular basis. I don’t miss that job!

ST: Let us talk about bucket list events. What do you still want to do?

Ken: I’m currently trying to win my age group at all the marathon majors. I’ve won NYC and Boston, and I got 2nd in London. In NYC I actually won the Masters Division (40+). It’s one of the proudest sporting moments of my life. Past NYC Masters winners include my friends, and running superstars, Meb Keflezighi and Abdi Abdirahman. I’m running Berlin on Sept 25th, and Chicago 2 weeks later. If I can win my age group at both, I’ll then run Tokyo in March ’23, and eventually clean up London. I’d also love to run some ultras. Perhaps start with a 50K, and eventually do a 100 miler.

ST: Do you have any specific Ultra race in mind, or do you mostly care about going longer?

Ken: Regarding future Ultras I don’t have anything specific in mind. However, I think the US Masters (40+) 50K record is 3:00. I’d like to have a crack at besting that record next year.

ST: Let us also talk about diet. Do you subscribe to any specific method?

Ken: I am very regimented in my daily routine. I typically run first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Just some coffee and water when I wake up. After my run I’ll have a recovery drink from Momentous and then around noon I’ll have a hearty salad with lots of vegetable and nuts. For dinner I try to eat a balanced meal, but I’m not super particular, or disciplined with my dinner choices.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Ken: Yes, while triathlon has given me so many great things in my life like discipline and accountability, it’s also introduced to some of my very closest friends in the world. First and foremost, my friend Rob Mohr who connected me with Teddy Atlas. Rob not only produces our podcast, but he also produces the Huberman Lab Podcast with one of our mutual friends, Stanford Neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman. In addition to being the Podfather, Rob is also an insane athlete. He won the Malibu Half Marathon last year and the Surf City Marathon earlier this year. He also went sub 9 hours at Ironman Cozumel in 2017!

Also, without the support of my wife, Shelby, none of my training and racing would be possible. Marrying Shelby was the greatest decision I’ve ever made in my life, and certainly the greatest gift I’ve ever given my children. She is the best Mom in the world.