Always Aiming Sky High With Ryan Kent

By Jeff Barton

As one of the most successful OCR and hybrid racers of all time, expectations are always high when this guy hits the starting line. But none are as high as the expectations he puts on himself. It’s a proven formula for success. It’s the Ryan Kent Way.

Ryan, let’s take a look back at the end of the 2022 season. A lot of the best in the hybrid elite scene used West Palm as their qualifier race and it turned into an absolute battle. Where were you training wise? What were your goals for that weekend?

Yes. So going into West Palm last year, I was super excited to finally race Rylan Schadegg, who had just beaten my DEKA mile record and was just coming off winning the Spartan North American Championships in Kelowna. So there’s a lot of hype about the matchup between Rylan and myself and I was coming in super fit, ready to rock and roll. I have a lot of respect for Rylan, but I was ready to kind of put him in his place a little bit. And dude, he came out and freakin’ put it to me! And in the process of doing that, we both broke the previous world record time and set new PR’s for ourselves. And that’s what happens when you have four or five guys who are racing at that level, the times are just going to continue to drop. I’m really grateful for somebody like Rylan to come in and really push the limits because it’s forced me to step up my game in many areas. And honestly,  I’m looking forward to many more battles with with Rylan, Rich and all those guys.

Six people set their PR’s in West Palm, proving again fast racers make for fast races.

That’s the great thing about competition, you know, like, just to give you an example, I won the DEKA NorCal race early in 2023 and I went low 29 for my time, which was about 40 seconds off my PR. And I know a lot of that had to do with the fact that I wasn’t being pushed. So when you don’t have guys breathing down your neck, and you’re not chasing anyone, it’s really hard to get the most out of yourself. But when you have ten to twelve guys in a field that are all capable of going 30 minutes or faster, I think it’s only inevitable that you’re going to see just insane fast times.

Then again, you’re not always going to be able to go to the well and pull out those bigger performances on the regular. But every couple of months it’s nice to not have to stress that the race is gonna come down to the RAM burpees in the last zone. But at the end of the day, I just I love competition, and I love seeing what I’m capable of. And the best way to get to get that is just through great competition.

And great competition made it’s way to the 2022 World Championships. Like West Palm, people were looking at you and Rylan as the prerace favorites. What was your approach for this race?

You know what it did? I made a mistake and I shouldn’t have done this. I’m a veteran in this sport now and I should know better but I really thought that race was going to come down to me versus Rylan and I made a plan on how I would race him. I built up in my mind the way our race would go: I expected Rylan to be ahead of me going into the assault bikes and that’s where I’d reel him in. He’d probably pull away a little bit after that but I would again reel him in on the RAM burpees and pass him in the final zone. And the plan worked to perfection. But there was one problem. There was another guy in that race who had a fantastic performance, and I didn’t account for Rich Ryan being there. I thought he would be in the picture no doubt, but I thought that Rylan and I would be 30 seconds, maybe 45 seconds ahead and Rich would be in that chase pack. But he just put together the perfect race and he executed to perfection. When he came by me on the run after Zone 4, it kind of threw a wrench in my plans. I was already running a race to beat Rylan and now I was kind of forced to adapt on the fly. And I didn’t have a plan for Rich in that race. He was able to pull away from me, and I tried to reel him in at the end. But he had enough on me and that’s my fault. I shouldn’t have taken him or anyone else lightly. And, you know, I got beat because of it.

You’re in that weird space in that your reputation has you as a prerace favorite any time you toe that start line, and while other racers may be anonymous to you, everyone else is aware of Ryan Kent and you’re the guy everyone wants to beat. Does that ever enter your headspace?

I think early in my career that that did affect me some. I had races during my Spartan career where I came in as an underdog and performed really, really well. But it seemed like every time I was all of a sudden a favorite or a podium contender, I kind of fell short a little bit. But I think just through experience, being in those big moments so many times at this point that I just know what I have to do. It’s it’s business man, you just got to take care of business.  I try not to get too high or too low. I think about all the workouts I’ve done leading up to a race and that really kind of calms me down and gives me confidence that I can just go out there and perform no matter what the expectation is. Because honestly, nobody’s putting bigger expectations on on me than than myself.  If I can overcome myself, I really shouldn’t have any problem overcoming the public’s expectations for me.

One thing I’ve admired about you watching you race is how you truly live life in the moment. I’ve seen you at the World championships, winking and smiling at your baby while you’re working your ass off on the ski erg. I’ve seen you late in the race, pushing those miserable tanks in zone 9, and you’re not just aware of another racer there but you’re giving them encouragement. Your race focus is razor sharp for sure, but your awareness of everything around you is remarkable.

I appreciate that. At the end of the day, what we’re doing is not that serious. It’s obviously very, very important for a lot of us, we put a heck of a lot of time training for these events and doing the best we can to get ready for them. But at the end of the day  it’s not that big of a deal of how a race plays out.  I think you have to have fun with it.

And I know what you’re referring to at the World Championships, when I yelled at Rich Ryan when we were pushing the tanks during the DEKA MILE race. We live pretty close and we get together and train on occasion. I’ve seen all the work that he’s put in. Fortunately, I was having a great race at the time and he was in second place. And I just thought myself, ‘Holy crap, dude, we’re freaking doing this, man!  A couple of buddies. We’re freaking killing it right now!”

You want to see your friends to do well, too, you just don’t want good things for yourself. So any anytime I’m in a position where I can look over and smile or cheer on a fellow competitor or friend, I try to take the opportunity to do so.

So this now brings us to the final event of the season, the 2023 DEKA World Championships. What’s going to be the goal for Dallas in December? What qualifies as a success?

I think what I need this season to really make it successful is to come back and avenge my second place finish from 2022. And just like last year, I want to get the triple crown and win all three of the elite competitions at the 2023 DEKA Worlds. I already have two of them, and this year we I can hopefully cross one more off the list.

Fire DEKA Zone

I think my favorite zone is seven, the 25 Cal assault bike. I have an assault bike in my house, I use it almost daily. And my whole race strategy is pretty much predicated off that one zone. I manage my effort all the way up until that point just so I can sell out on that one zone and then hopefully have the fitness to hold on and suffer through the last three three runs in three zones. Zone 7 has treated me well in my career and the goal is to get even faster on and make it even more of a weapon. I’m gonna double down on that one this season.

Nemesis DEKA Zone

It would probably be the reverse lunges, Zone 1. They’re just kind of annoying. They’re not hard, it doesn’t take a ton of effort. But there’s something about the movement. If it was walking lunges,  it would feel different. But there’s something about just kind of throwing that RAM over on your shoulder and being stationary and doing those lunges where it just feels kind of weird and awkward.

DEKA Pro Tip

Assess your strengths and look at your weaknesses. If you’re a good rower, if you’re good at the ski erg, if you’re good at RAM burpees, you want to work around your strengths. Manage your efforts in the other Zones so you can capitalize on your strong Zones. Get a good idea of what stations you really excel at and then build a race plan around that.