Matt first entered an Ironman as a dare but soon found he was hooked. He tells Sundried about lessons learnt and life as a triathlete.
Have you always been into sport?
I wanted to be a footballer like most other kids, and after some initial promise with my favourite team, West Ham United, it failed to materialise! Luckily, being raised in a London borough we had access to the (then) London Heathrow Youth Games which gave anyone interested an opportunity to try the majority of sport available. This is where my first taste of all things triathlon began – being a fixture in our borough’s all conquering aquathlon team.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
It was a dare. My friend Rich challenged me to complete the famous Ironman UK Bolton in 2015. We were both fitness addicts and regularly trained together but had no cycling background. I took up the challenge and paid the rather high entry fee before Rich admitted he was trying to call my bluff and didn’t sign up himself! The rest was history as I relished the challenge and loved the journey to race day. The atmosphere from both competitors and crowds was so positive and supportive and that is when I really took notice of this new community I’ve grown to love.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
My favourite race was not one that I performed particularly well in, but everything about it from training to race execution was right on plan for once. It was the Ironman 70.3 European Championships in Elsinore, Denmark, which was a beautiful location complete with the most spectator-friendly course I’ve seen – a must-do race. Being the 2nd Brit home was a great achievement for me as was my AG 52nd position, but the real joy was hitting my target numbers throughout the race – even after my Garmin crashed on the run and I had to pace by feel. It was also a great excuse to have a short city break afterwards in Copenhagen.
And your proudest achievement?
Qualifying for the GB Age Group team for the ETU European Duathlon Championships 2019 is by far my proudest achievement. I was on the verge of pulling out as I hadn’t been able to run for 4 weeks due to a double Achilles injury which meant I had to wear special boots in bed and hadn’t been able to walk for the first 2 weeks of that. I turned up on race day with better bike fitness than normal and simply hoping that my Achilles tendons wouldn’t fail. Luckily, although my run times were way off anything I’d normally post, I did enough to qualify comfortably – although during the race I did feel like I hadn’t.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Fortunately, I haven’t had any complete disasters although there have been a few hairy moments. From this season I had two in particular. The first was during the Etape Du Dales sportive where the front derailleur on my road bike sheared off, leaving me stuck in the big ring trying to take on 10,000 feet of climbing. Needless to say I had to call the support crew and pull out. The second was in the Thorpe Park Triathlon where my wetsuit was a little tight for the swim. Not a problem during it but the moment I exited the water I started feeling very light-headed and ended up falling onto the poor bloke next to me in transition who was trying to take his bike out. Luckily he was good humoured after we appeared like two seals at feeding time. Somehow I didn’t suffer a DQ (phew!) and managed to carry on.
How do you overcome setbacks?
With difficulty! It is of course important to have an understanding support network around you from both sporting and non-sporting perspectives for balance, but the reality is any competitive person struggles with setbacks – particularly if they get in the way of training. We are all obsessive characters which is a curse at times like these. The only thing that has kept me sane during this period is focusing and obsessing over something else – be it work or another hobby. The mind must be kept occupied to avoid anything overcoming you. You’ll heal in time and certain things have a knack of sorting themselves out.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Get a bike fit. This is the single most important thing for any race involving a bike.
What are your goals for 2019?
My target is to be in the top 5 Brits at the European Champs, and my stretch target is to medal. Everything from having a good winter of training to conditions on the day would need to be perfect but why not – belief is the absence of self-doubt.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
There are three key people who inspire me in life.
Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack – possibly the best triathlete to ever live, certainly the most versatile – and who continued to perform at an incredible level even after being shunned by his own Olympic association. Perhaps the best athlete never to compete at an Olympic games?
Virginia Woolf – in my opinion the greatest writer in history, with an inimitable stream-of-consciousness style and someone who was not afraid to share her truth or court controversy. Her influence on feminist movements is underplayed, and her influence on postmodernism certainly deserves more credit. I recommend reading ‘The Waves’ for a true challenge.
Nick Vujicic – you cannot fail to find perspective, inspiration and education from Nick, born with tetra-amelia syndrome (absence of all four limbs), yet preaches a life without limits ideology that is infectious and self-empowering. All after attempting suicide aged 10. Many lessons to learn from this gentleman.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
Sundried understands athletes. They understand our need for performance, our need to look our best and our need to promote ethical, humanitarian values whilst living our lives. As athletes we are privileged to be able to compete when others can’t, and this responsibility requires alignment to core values as we influence those around us. Sundried perfectly fills this remit.
As for my favourite piece of kit, it has to be the Albaron Men’s Muscle Fit T-Shirt. Stylish and the seamless design is essential for comfort.