Ventura County Star: Westlake Village man to run-ride across U.S.

Rick Hermelin Ventura County Star photo
Rick Hermelin. Photo by Carlos Chavez.

By Ted Cotti | Ventura County Star | | January 10, 2012

Rick Hermelin took his first run in 1976 on a 24-lap-per-mile track on the roof of a Torrance workout facility.

Now, at age 70, he plans to run and ride across the country in 100 days aboard a seatless bicycle called an ElliptiGO that’s propelled by a running motion.

"This is something that’s been on my mind for many years, even before I watched Dean Kanazes finish his run across America (50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days) on ‘Regis and Kelly’ on TV" in 2006, said Hermelin, who lives in Westlake and trains throughout the Conejo Valley. "The idea was really reignited after finishing my 100th half– marathon in San Diego last June (in two hours, 33 minutes) because I was looking for another goal."

In addition to his 100 half– marathons, Hermelin has finished 100 10Ks and 100 marathons – his last one in Death Valley in 2006.

Fighting tightness in his left Achilles tendon after the San Diego race, Hermelin – who was an engineer with Hughes Aircraft but now, retired, is a part– time massage therapist – said a client told him about the ElliptiGO.

"The first time I used it was July 1," Hermelin said. "For a while, I alternated it with my runs, but by the end of the month I was just doing the ElliptiGO. I get just as good a workout but without the pounding or stress on my joints."

Bryan Pate, a former Ironman triathlete, helped invent the elliptical bicycle after his own injuries kept him from running. Uncomfortable sitting on a bike and dissatisfied exercising indoors, Pate and his partner, Brent Teal – a mechanical engineer and ultramarathoner – modified the elliptical trainer found in most gyms by combining it with the functionality of a bike.

Most riders average about 15 mph, and stronger athletes can go twice that fast.

Hermelin said he will need to average 30 miles per day on his trek but knows he will have days he covers only eight or nine miles, such as when he climbs the 8,200–foot mountains. That means he will also have days when he puts in 40 to 45 miles.

"Originally, of course, the plan was to run across the country, which I calculated I could do in about 200 days," he said. "But by using the ElliptiGO, there’s a lot less chance of injury, and I can cover the miles a lot faster and do it in 100 days."

He will do mostly morning workouts to avoid afternoon heat and will travel from the East Coast to the west so he will not have the sun in his eyes.

He plans to start his trip March 23 at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., and finish at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego on July 1.

March 23 coincides with the date Hermelin enlisted in the Marines in 1959. He was an electronics engineer at Treasure Island and in Okinawa, Japan, through 1963.

To honor Marines who served with and after him, Hermelin will be making the trip to raise money – his goal is $10,000 – for the Semper Fi Fund, which helps injured troops and their families with immediate financial needs, specialized equipment and adaptive housing, transportation, education and job–training assistance.

"I wanted to keep it for Marines, and the Semper Fi charity just made sense to me," he said.

Pate, also a Marine veteran, and his ElliptiGO company, are bringing Hermelin to their headquarters in Solana Beach near San Diego to help him train and learn "all the ins and outs of the bike" so he can do his own repairs during his trip.

"I’m not really too concerned," Hermelin said. "So far, the ElliptiGO as been very reliable, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing I won’t be able to take care of. Right now, I’m just really focused on training."

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