Q&A: Reality Star Ryan Sutter's Epic Challenge

Oct 8, 2010
Outside Magazine

Ryan running at Ironman Lake Placid
Ryan Sutter is best known as the guy who married Trista Rehn after courting The Bachelorette on the first season of ABC’s hit reality show.  But the Avon, Colorado-based firefighter isn’t just another handsome face seeking love and fame on TV; he’s an endurance junkie with multiple Ironmans under his belt and a raison d’ĂȘtre greater than himself.

The 36-year old is involved with First Descents, a non-profit organization that provides adventure therapy to kids with cancer. This year Sutter decided to kick his training and fund-raising efforts up a notch by embarking on a quest dubbed the 10.10.10 Challenge: 10 races to get 10,000 people to donate $10 to First Descents.  So far, the father of two has raced Ironman Lake Placid and the Leadville 100 MTB, among others, and has two more races to go: this weekend’s 24 Hours of Moab and November’s New York Marathon.

Outside caught up with Sutter in September to see how he was holding up.

Are you going to make it to the end?
This all came about early in the year and it seemed possible. But once I was a few months in—the month of July was brutal—I just started thinking this is much more than I thought it was going to be. I anticipated the Firecracker 50 [mountain bike race] not being that big of a deal, just a primer for Leadville. But I did that race and thought maybe this was a bad idea to do this 10.10.10 thing because after that, I had races every weekend and I was just shot.

Which race was the hardest so far?
Ironman was the most exhausting, but the Leadville 100 was the most painful. It just hurts really bad. You’re on your bike for so long and everything starts to hurt—muscles and bones. But in Ironman, you just get so tired. You’re not necessarily in pain, but you’re just pushing through exhaustion.

So what keeps you going?
I had to realize that I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing it for something else. I had a choice. I could not do these races and be fine, whereas the people I was doing the races for don’t have that choice—if they decided not to do what they needed to do, they wouldn’t live. I knew, despite how painful Leadville was and how tiring Ironman was, that I was going to be fine. It put a lot of perspective on my life.

Has the experience changed you?
I have a much greater appreciation for each day. For example, when I first started doing this, I was training all the time. Max would come up to me and want to color, but I would have to go for a bike ride. My kids would be looking at me from the top of the stairs like ‘Why are you leaving? You just got home from work.’ I started to realize what was really important to me—being a good dad and a good husband. Now I feel like I’ve found a comfortable balance between exercising and going after these challenges and giving my family the attention they deserve.

How do you keep your marriage going strong?
It takes sacrifice on both sides. You have to realize that you have that other side; even though you want to focus on the Ironman you’re training for, for example, which is like a second job, there are some days where you have something on the training schedule but it’s your anniversary. Or your wife is having a bad day. You can’t be totally selfish—you just have to be able to compromise. Missing one long bike ride isn’t going to kill me. Like anything else, you make a commitment. You’ll be tempted to break that commitment, but that’s part of making a commitment—if it were easy, everybody would be married once. There’s no short answer. It’s about having the support of your family and not abusing that support.

At the time this was posted, Sutter had raised $36,386.49 for First Descents. Learn more about First Descents and the 10.10.10 Challenge here. To see Sutter’s 2010 race schedule, go here.

--Erin Beresini

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