Interview with La Sportiva's Justin Ricks, in the Middle of a Six-Month Cross Country Road Trip
Sure running is great, but travel really gets me going. Put the two together, along with family and a cute little dog, and you've got Justin Ricks' life. Since leaving his job last year, Ricks has been, as cliche as it is, living the dream. Now sponsored by La Sportiva and with a big win at the Moab Red Hot 55k earlier this year, he and his family are in the middle of a six-month road trip that's already taken them to the deep South, the mid Atlantic, and at the date of this writing, to Montana. Read on to see what Ricks, who still calls Pueblo home, has learned so far and about what adventures are ahead.
I think a lot of your road trip is built around running, right? You've run the Little Rock Marathon (2:34), the Virginia Beach Marathon (DNF), and then are doing a lot of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup races. Your whole family runs, how important is running to you guys? If not for those races, would you be going to different places? I mean, are there places you'd rather visit if you didn't have to consider race sites?
When we first started planning this road trip, we researched where we would like to go and then found some races along the way. The races, though, kept us motivated to stay the planned route instead of heading back towards Colorado, which we would have done on a few occasions. We are now planning our route so as to run the La Sportiva Mountain Cup races but are headed to some places that we are anxious to explore.
My wife and I have encouraged our children, Malachi and Kylah, to have an active lifestyle and feel as though we are leading by example. Running has become an important part of my life and my family is very supportive of me. My kids have grown to love the sport as well. They like to explore the areas we are visiting and usually run/hike behind me on the trail.
Have you seen Surfwise? It's a 2007 documentary about a surfing family (9 kids) that lived in a campervan, kinda like what you're doing with running, but on a bigger scale (more kids and longer term).
I havenít seen that one so I will have to check that out. Being that I am the oldest of seven, I can only imagine how that would go.
So you've been through the deep South, an area most Americans don't seek out and never visit, and then up the East Coast, and are now heading west. What's on the itinerary? Will you get clear up to Glacier, maybe to Alaska this summer? Or what about Canada?
We are currently spending some more time in one our favorite places to visit, Moab, UT. If you asked my kids their favorite stop on the trip so far their answer would be Moab. Next, we are heading north towards Montana for another La Sportiva cup race where we will definitely spend some time in Glacier. We will then spend some time exploring the Pacific Northwest. I will meet my brother in Northern California in the middle of June. While I am there, I will have the opportunity to pace at Western. After a stop in San Francisco for another La Sportiva event in July, weíre heading home via the Tetons and the final cup race in Utah. No Alaska or Canada this time around.
And speaking of Alaska, segue to "Into the Wild," have you thought about checking out the Salton Sea in southern California, the place where "rubber tramps" settle for the winter? That's a place I'd really love to visit, not for the scenery but for the culture.
We have never visited that area and probably wouldnít stay for long even if we did. In the past two months, we have found that we appreciate our time away from large groups of people. We also like to explore new areas and are usually ready to move on after a few nights.
So your kids are of course learning a lot on this trip. Whether you consciously teach them any lessons or not, they have to be learning just through the experience. But what have you learned about our country so far? Were these places that you'd never visited before what you expected?
Denise, my wife, is at the end of her Masterís degree in Education and has been teaching them during our trip. We center our lessons on the areas we are visiting and make a conscience effort to make every experience a learning one. That being said, I do not think that they are old enough to fully comprehend everything we have learned and experienced. I do think that, in the future, they will come to realize the importance of this trip.
I was never sure what to expect out of this trip because I couldnít begin to predict how it would go. Moving out of a 3500 sq ft home and into a 60 sq ft camper was a large lifestyle change for all of us. We can no longer retreat to opposite sides of the house and have grown closer as a family. We spend a lot of time together now. I have never visited most of the places we will be visiting on this trip. I have learned that I do not like big cities but I do like the quiet of a less traveled trail. I have been challenged more than I anticipated and know that these challenges have influenced the way in which I plan to live my life moving forward.
I have run down frontage roads in the south where trails didnít exist, hurdled over piles of plastic that had washed up on the beach and through city streets not conducive to runners. I have learned to appreciate the west and its open space. I have learned much about the separations between the wealthy and the poor. I have seen much poverty, especially in the south where large plantations would be situated next to homes that were too decrepit to live, yet people lived there. I saw the racial divides, especially in the south, and was surprised at the realities of discrimination. I have also learned that no matter where people come from, they can always find commonalities.
How hard is it going to be to assimilate back into society, the 9-to-5 world, or will you?
I worked hours much longer than 9-5 and I do not plan on ever doing that again. I am planning on going back to school in the fall to pursue a degree in Biology with an education minor so that I can continue to spend time with my family. I know that a teaching lifestyle will give me time off every summer to continue to explore with them.
Okay, bring it back to running, this is a running site. The La Sportiva Mountain Cup, you're in third right now. Six races left, it's unlikely that past winners Rob Krar, Jared Scott, or Ryan Woods will make a run at the title now, so that leaves you, Jordan McDougal, and Matt Byrne. Long courses would favor you over Byrne, but I don't know about McDougal. Any strategy on picking races, or just having fun with it?
I am running the La Sportiva Mountain Cup races that are in areas I would like to visit. I did pick some races because they are at altitude and I thought that would give me an advantage over the runners coming from sea level. I will only be racing Jordan one more time, in July. The series is based on a point system and I am hoping to race a few of the guys so as to try and pick up some bonus points. At the same time, I enjoy the preparation for a race much more than I enjoy the actual race. So, I am mostly having a good time with it.
Awesome stuff Justin and family, enjoy the adventure!