Red Bull X-Alps

Lessons Learned: Mitch Riley (USA3)

Mitch Riley doesn’t do mistakes. There are only lessons to learn. Looking back at this year’s race, the American athlete tells us he’s learned a few!

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Are you happy with your performance?

The short answer is no. When I think about it, I think about what I would have liked to have done differently. I tend to be hard on myself for mistakes, and I made quite a few mistakes during the race. I realize that thinking this way is living in the past, and not super healthy, so I try to frame the mistakes as lessons to learn, and to a limited extent that works to help me feel positive about my performance, while not being happy with it.    

“I’ve already started training for 2019, and I want to kick some ass!”

What were the top lessons?

1. Relentless forward progress: a few times I hiked up to a launch in shitty weather and waited for a flying window that never came, when I should have just taken the long glide and hiked up the next mountain.

2. Hire a professional meteorological forecaster.

3. Only work with passionate supporters/team members.

4. Push Harder: I paced myself a little too well through the race. I think I could have taken less sleep and moved more and still survived. I was worried that I needed a certain amount of sleep every night to allow my body to repair, now I know that I'm tougher then I thought.

Physically, did it take a big toll?

Yes, it took a big toll physically.  During the whole race, and especially in the last 24 hours I was pushing through physical pain, from an assortment of overuse and abuse injuries. With so many world class athletes withdrawing due to fatigue related injuries, I am quite happy that I was able to continue pushing my body till the end.

“I’m tougher than I thought.”

What surprised you?

Surprised is the wrong word. I was really impressed with how friendly, accommodating, and sharing the other competitors were. I made friends during training and the race that will likely be friends for life.  Although the level of competition is very high, the camaraderie and shared mission is a major force in this race.

How did the experience compare to the kind of flying adventures you’re used to?

The Alps are very different to the desert mountains of the western US, where I learned to fly, and the Himalayas where I also have a lot of experience. In the Alps we tend to fly closer to the ground and regularly have clouds marking thermals.  Also in the Alps there is much more free flying history and experience, so local knowledge is very detailed. I feel like in the US we are still exploring the potential of most of our flying sites, and have a very small knowledge base to draw from.

“I made friends during the race that will likely be friends for life.”

What would you do differently?

Hike and fly comps have their own unique set of challenges, required tactics, and feedback loops. I need to do more hike and fly comps to get good at this.  And yes, I do want to get good at it. 

Would you like to do the race again?

Despite all the negatives listed above, it was incredible.  Also it would be a real shame to waste all this learning I have done. I’ve already started training for 2019, and I want to kick some ass!

Whom should we talk to next about lessons learned during Red Bull X-Alps 2017? Let us know on Facebook!

Photos by © zooom / Honza Zak and © zooom / Harald Tauderer