Saturday Spotlight- Ryan Weisenbacher

Name: Ryan Weisenbacher
Age: 27
Marital Status: Single (whatsup runner ladies)
Children: none (again what is GOOD ladies)
Occupation: School Custodian for Eastern Suffolk BOCES
Hobbies: beyond running? A variety of music but much of it being considered “screamo” to non-listeners, Star Wars is a big part of my life, and I’ve been known to play video games now and then
Hometown: Bellport
Current: still Bellport since ‘97

Thank you Lou for asking me to be WOTW (in spite of not being on the hills lately)! Also thanks for making me the WOTW when I’m so new! I’ve only been racing for a little under a year and a half, and my first hills run was January of this year.

So I think I’ll start with my history with running. As a kid I was always decent at it, playing tee ball/football/lacrosse. I was always one of the top kids in the mile run in gym class but never felt “fast” because I wasn’t much of a sprinter (aka not a good running back). Also I had a way of running that you could describe as “graceful” I took much bigger strides than the other kids so I got further in fewer steps, which made me appear slow.
Fast forward to high school when I spent much of my upper class years on the bench with knee injuries. I didn’t play a single down my senior year and had ACL reconstruction surgery 10 years ago this month. Because I was young they did the more aggressive athletic-type of surgery with an intense 6 month recovery. I was told that by the following June I’d be fully clear to play contact sports…right after I graduated high school. I never really had prospects of playing college sports anyway, but still felt let down because 6 months would be the longest I’d gone without doing some sort of sport activity. It was a dark time, and a time where I learned that Depression can be a very real thing, and not just those silly puberty hormones.
I was prescribed hydrocodone immediately after the surgery and really should’ve been off it in a matter of two weeks; I wasn’t cut off til January (2 months!) and the damage was already done. I didn’t end up on hard drugs like many of these stories go but I did end up in a downward spiral that lasted into my early 20s. Steady decline of grades that eventually led to me being dismissed from Marist within my first year, exploring a variety of vices (sex/drugs/rock’n’roll/etc), and an increasingly negative outlook on life in general.
Somewhere in there I completely lost my drive to be active in any way. I woke up with adderall and fell asleep to lexapro, I ate off the McDonald’s dollar menu at 2-3am almost every day, I worked shitty dead-end jobs, and weathered toxic relationships that should’ve ended a long time before they did.
About 3 years ago now I experienced my last breakup. I took it pretty hard, and noticed my weight plummet with my appetite, which led me to re-examine my health. I had somehow gotten to be over 200lbs through years of being sedentary (and that knee didn’t like carrying all that around). I figured if I could lose weight by not eating, maybe I could lose a little more with cardio: so I fired up my mom’s treadmill…one mile, well over 9 minutes, completely out of breath and drenched in sweat. Got on a recumbent bike, did a little bit better on there. So I rode the bike 30 minutes a day til I plateaued, then gradually added in the dreadmill, then upped the distance and speed, watching Spongebob, That 70s Show, and Star Wars on tv all the while.
Fast forward again to February 2018. I finally had a great job for over 6 months (still working there now) and found myself in the best shape I had ever been in without being on some kind of sports team. I kept pumping up the speed on the treadmill for short bursts just to see how long I could hold on for and when I maxed out the machine at 12mph, I felt a scew pop somewhere and the whole machine fell apart under me. I had outgrown the mill. I had gotten into the habit of running more days than not, so I resolved to run outside til I could get the treadmill fixed. In February.
It was cold, sure, but it was also much more difficult to run in real life when there’s no pause button, no speed to dial in, no handlebars, no tv to distract. It was a new challenge! By the time the treadmill was fixed I didn’t want to go back to it ever again. By April I was running every day, getting antsy if I ever had to miss a run, and my friend and his mom convinced me to run the “I Did The Grid” 4 mile race on Memorial Day Weekend. Knowing how I had been improving I guessed I’d finish in 32, an 8min pace. I finished in about 29:30, much better than I expected from myself, and enough to hook me into racing 5ks almost every weekend that summer, improving all the while.

That summer was my first brush with the phrase “it’s just a hill, get over it!”

I noticed a presence of Selden Hills Warriors at many of the races I attended, particularly the Sayville Summer Series, and discovered that among their members was one of my high school teachers, Mike Minerva! He taught me how to type without looking at the keys, and to insert a picture into a Word document without screwing up the entire page 😂 And now he was telling me to join his running cult. I was definitely interested, but wasn’t so sure about getting up that early on a Sunday (mind you I was racing every Saturday so my legs were dead every Sunday), so I didn’t join right away.
I got to a new level of serious about running when I signed up for the Blue Point 10 mile race. Every single day from Halloween to January 19 I woke up and fell asleep thinking about this race, and spent a good chunk of the time in between thinking about it too. Added distance every week, eventually getting to the point of running 10 miles every single day, and I stopped taking rest days. To this day I haven’t taken a full calendar day without at least a 1 mile run since November 16, and you can fact check that on Strava. All that hard work (aka over training) led to a finish time of 1:06:40 which only validated my excessive mileage, so when Roger Belz pitched Selden Hills to me at the afterparty, I knew this time I was ready to do it. A week later I ran my first hills run, with Dara Sulyma Mayola leading me through, and the rest is history! In the weeks and months that followed I became a full-blown hillbilly, and at this point have run with most of the groups that go out on various days of the week and at different times.