In his youth, Parker Rios had little interest in running. It’s a fact many find surprising for a person who has competed in more than 100 ultramarathon races and is stretching his physical and mental capabilities in a series of hyper-competitive events. Parker, 46, began running as a student at UW-Madison. At the time, a roommate convinced him to take part in a 10k run to support a charity. The experience was intertwined with one of Parker’s greatest ambitions – competition. The rest, as they say, is history. Parker, a Brookfield resident and a member of Elite since 2004, is married to Kendra Wolff. They have two children: Lacey, 6, and Gillian, 5. Parker says he balances his time with family amid his workout regimens.
Parker uses the club about five times each week for a portion of his rigorous workout regimen. He primarily uses Elite’s ellipticals, treadmills, resistance weight machines and free weights. Parker finds time to train in the club while his children are in Elite’s playroom or in Petite Elite, Elite’s pre-school. Parker sometimes utilizes the “Drop & Shop” program that gives club members an opportunity to drop off their children in the club’s play area and leave the club to run errands or literally run. He says Elite offers all of the amenities to assist in his training.
In the past two decades, Parker has competed in a variety of ultramarathon races – many with the Badgerland Striders, Wisconsin’s largest and oldest running club with more than 1,400 members. Parker has been actively involved with ultramarathon running since 1990. Ultramarathon races are runs longer than a 26.2 mile marathon. The most common distances are 50K, 50 mile, 100K, 100 mile and 135 mile races can last anywhere from 4 hours to 60 hours.
“I enjoy a lot of things about it,” Parker says. “Unlike a traditional race, such as the Boston Marathon, where there are anywhere from 10,000 to 70,000 people, ultramarathon races are held in more secluded and scenic areas.”
Ultramarathoners endure a variety of conditions through natural areas. Parker says running on softer surfaces has been less strenuous on his legs, knees and back than if he were running strictly on pavement. “Every step is very different, and it has resulted in less stress on my body overall,” Parker explains.
Parker emphatically states his love of ultramarathon running has never been stronger. In fact, he has been taking his competitive prowess to new heights by participating in a series of invitation only events.
Parker is in the midst of training for the self-proclaimed “Fire and Ice” ultramarathon races, a feat never accomplished before within a 12 month period by any person. The “Fire” taking place in Death Valley, California and the “Ice” taking place in Alaska. He had to undergo a rigorous application process and learned in February he was selected. Parker’s decision to take part in “Fire and Ice” came on the heels of a successful first-place finish in the Arrowhead 135, an annual 135 mile race held in International Falls, Minnesota, in February, 2013. The Arrowhead 135 is held during the coldest time of year in a city notorious for frigid conditions. Parker pulled a sled with 40 pounds of survival gear before reaching the finish line nearly 44 hours later.
The Badwater 135 Mile Ultramarathon, a 100-person competition starts in Death Valley and ends at one of the tallest portions of Mt. Whitney. Average temperatures reach about 120 degrees Fahrenheit when the competition takes place in mid-July. Parker is training for the heat by spending an exorbitant amount of time in Elite’s dry sauna. Once the “Fire” wraps in July, Parker will gear up for the frigid “Ice,” the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350 mile running race in Alaska, which will be held
in February 2014.
In the midst of his training activities, Parker also is fundraising to assist in the cost of the “Fire and Ice” competitions and to lend support to a cause near and dear to his heart. Corporate sponsors will help defray Parker’s out-of-pocket costs for the upcoming competition.
Individual donations will support a new recreational therapy program at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee. Parker’s father, Robert, benefited from the center’s services in 2010 and 2011 before his passing. “He really received excellent care,” Parker says. “The people over there are great.”
Information on how to donate to Parker Rios’ endeavors:
- Corporate Sponsorship for “Fire and Ice” expenses. Contact Parker via “Fire and Ice Runner” Facebook page.
- Individual Donations to create a new recreational therapy program at VA Medical Center. Send check, payable to Zablocki VAMC with “Fire and Ice” on memo line, to: Zablocki VAMC – Voluntary Services (135) 5000 W. National Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53295
This member spotlight is from our Elite Sports Clubs seasonal magazine, in which we include an Activity Guide for upcoming programs and events, plus articles on popular health, fitness, and tennis topics written by our own trainers, tennis pros, and staff. Check out a digital copy of the West Side Summer 2013 Elite Magazine, the East Side Summer 2013 Elite Magazine, or pick up your own copy at any of our five Milwaukee-area Elite Sports Clubs locations.
What’s the farthest distance you have ever run? Is an ultramarathon a goal of yours? How do you train for your own running races? Share with us in the comments!