Ryan Cooper – Athlete of the Month

What is your age, occupation, background, hobbies, and other sports?

I am 42 years old and live in Clifton Park with my wife Kelly where we have 2 boys and a dog. I work in the renewable energy sector as the VP of Business Development for a service company where we mainly focus on repairing commercial wind turbines. As far as my background goes, I grew up in a small farm town in WNY called Findley Lake which is about 90 minutes southwest of Buffalo near PA. (GO BILLS!) During high school I enjoyed playing on the football, cross country, basketball, and golf teams. Also growing up I was lucky to live near a small ski resort where I learned to ski at the age of 4. During my younger days my hobbies included wakeboarding on Findley Lake, riding snowmobile in the winter, racing motocross bikes with my friends and being forced to clean the barn/throw hay bales as my parents have horses that I want nothing to do with! Today I still play golf, ski/snowboard and spend a fair amount of free time coaching my kid’s basketball and football teams. Oh, and I love to watch the Buffalo Bills and Albany Patroons Basketball.

Fun fact: I grew up playing basketball against the Eagles HC Nick Sirianni and let him dunk off my back during halftime warmups of the County All-Star Game.

When and why did you start running?

It was probably in 1997 when our football team was, well not great. My 5’11” 130 pound body didn’t offer anything except speed where my main sport was basketball and our team was really good. Because of this I dropped football from the list and decided that if I ran cross country I wouldn’t get hurt and I would be in great shape for the conditioning piece of basketball. To this day I wish I would have taken cross country more serious and not viewed it as a bridge to basketball because with minimal effort I usually placed in the top 10 at each meet and even finished in 8th place at the McQuaid meet. Despite offers to run post high school, I didn’t remotely entertain any, I retired for the next 20 years. I became fat, really fat and in terrible shape during this span. One day I woke up feeling terrible and decided that at 247 pounds with a cabinet of Rx pills this wasn’t living my best life. I then started to walk, jog, then run. The weight disappeared and so did all the Rx’s, funny how that works. I ran my first race in 20+ years, 2021 Electric City 5 Miler, and I was hooked as I have always been competitive. I forgot how much fun the atmosphere was at these events!

What’s your favorite race to date, and why?

I love the Helderberg to Hudson Half. This race has it all – lots of racers on a great route where the Normanskill River towards the end is an amazing and motivating view. There are portions with people cheering and sections of nothing. I feel this race has it all.

What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan, or do you work with a coach and if so, who?

My approach to training has evolved over the years. When I got back into running, I just would go out and run whatever I felt was good. This led to underperformance and injury. After about 9 months of this I decided there has to be a better way and I found Mat Nark with his amazing and supportive team at NRS. Today I do what Mat programs for me, usually to the mile.

What is your weekly mileage in peak racing/marathon training season? What is your approach to the off season

When it is time to put in the work, I usually am in the high 30’s to low 40’s for peak season. My approach is to let Mat know what I want to run, and he will build the schedule. I do like to run my recovery runs very slow and in the offseason Mat usually has me at about 20-26 miles a week with no workouts. I am ok with this as I feel like if I get out of the routine it will be hard to jump back in. I need routine.

During our cold winter days, do you brave poor weather conditions or stick indoors on the treadmill?

If it is a group run, I will run outside no matter the conditions. The cold really isn’t a problem as I have gear but if I am solo and it is raining, dark, or slushy I will be inside. I have a decent setup at my house and run a lot of my recovery runs on the treadmill as I have a discipline problem with pacing.

List your PRs: Race, time, year:

1M – 6:03 / 2023 Clifton Park Freedom Mile (After FC4, this was a bad idea)
5K – 20:10 | 6:30 pace / 2023 Silks and Satin
10M – 1:10:47 | 7:05 pace / 2023 Miles on the Mohawk
13.1M – 1:32:32 | 7:04 pace / 2023 Helderberg to Hudson

What is your favorite distance?

I like the half marathon as you can make small mistakes and still recover.

Your favorite shoe for training and racing

Anyone that knows me well can tell you I have a big shoe problem, so big that I felt like I needed to buy Nike stock. My current selection is below (all are Nike):
Treadmill – Zoomfly 5
Long run without workout – Invincible 3 or Infinity 4
Recovery – Invincible 3 or Infinity 4
Rain/Snow – Infinity 4 Gore-Tex
Workout – Tempo Next% - I might own more than 1 pair of these.
Race – Alphafly 2 or Vaporfly 3

Ever run in a costume?

Who hasn’t? I ran the Trick or Trot 5k in 2022 with my son. We were both dressed as Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and ran the whole race with helmets on. JA17 is my go to.

What are your favorite pre-race and post-race meals?

Pre-race I typically eat a cinnamon raisin bagel with veggie cream cheese. Post-race I turn into a rabid animal eating like a teenager after school because school lunches are “cringe.” Disclaimer: I am the last person to take advice from as I have always struggled with this piece. Before cross country meets, I would eat 2 or 3 donuts, and this was either a boom or bust situation.

What challenges / races / adventures are you planning for the coming year?

I will run all the local races as I always have. Burning a weekend to go remote is tough as I travel for work and the kids are younger. Team Bark, a semi-sanctioned subgroup of NRS, has been talking about maybe running Chicago or Indy so we will see if I can get yard time to do that.

What is the greatest piece of advice you've ever received in the sport?

Older advice: “Hey, Cooper stop screwing around” – My HS XC Coach Adren Downey

Current Advice: I would say run your workout pace ranges and run your recoveries SLOW. Also, Mat always says don’t go out too fast during races which is great advice that I follow in all races but the 5k. There is something about the shorter distance races I have struggled with for 25 years. Any advice is welcome as I am still programmed to get out ahead of the pack, so you don’t get stuck and have to work your way up.

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