Running The Dream with Matt Fitzgerald
Our guest today is Matt Fitzgerald. Matt is an accomplished runner and author. He has written over 25 books - dealing with almost every aspect of running. Some of his most notable titles include:
- How bad do you want it
- Iron War
- 80/20 Running
- Life is a Marathon
Today we dive into his latest book - Running the Dream - one summer living, training, and racing with a team of world class runners half my age.
We get to hear some of his insights from training with the HOKA NAZ Elite team. There are so many nuggets that even us mid-pack/back-of-the-pack athletes can take away. From stories about:
- Teamwork and camaraderie
- Coaching and training regiments
- Injury prevention and treatment
- Environment and altitude training
- And more
Plus - we get to hear about the fun times coach Bertrand had with Matt in Atlanta during the olympic trials (which included plates a fried chicken before a marathon).
During this discussion, we talk about:
- 2:30 - How the idea for the book came about
- 7:31 - How the running elite took him in, and treated him like one of the crew
- 16:07 - Why Matt left his ego at home before heading to Arizona, and the transition period for Ben to be able to coach Matt
- 22:18 - The misconception that elite athletes have a different genetic makeup
- 25:02 - The "Pie Chart" of improvement, and the different factors that contributed to Matt's improvement
- 27:44 - Injury, and how that played a role with Matt's training
- 37:02 - Matt's recent bout with illness, and how he was able to overcome it
- 42:21 - Matt and Bertrand's time in Atlanta - and how Matt did so well even after eating plates of fried chicken
Links Mentioned During this Show
Podcast TranscriptionThe following transcript is provided for your convenience. It was created through a program, and may not be entirely accurate to our conversation.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:00:00]
To me, that's crazy. You know, like, because even, you know, even if you're a beginner, even if you're not all that serious about performance, we all want to improve. And if you do, you should look to the pros. Like they actually know what they're doing.
Kevin Chang: [00:00:27]
Hello and welcome to the RaceMob podcast. This is episode number five. I'm Kevin entrepreneur technology and fitness nerd, and the founder of RaceMob. I'm joined by master motivator, founder of two legit fitness co-chair of the Taji 100. RRC a certified coach USA track and field certified official. The incomparable Bertrand Newson.
Our guest today is Matt Fitzgerald. Matt is an accomplished runner and author. He's written over 25 books dealing with almost every aspect of running. Some of the most notable ones include how bad do you want it? Iron war, 80, 20 running and life is a marathon. Today. We dive into his latest book titled running the dream one summer living training and racing with a team of world class runners, half my age.
We get to hear some of the insights about training with the best of the best. And there are some nuggets that even as back of the path, athletes can take away. Plus we get to hear some of the fun times coach Bertrand had with Matt in Atlanta. During the Olympic trials, you can find all of the show notes online at dot com slash podcast.
Now let's get into the interview. Welcome to the show. Matt,
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:01:45]
I'm delighted to be with you.
Bertrand Newson: [00:01:47]
Welcome Matt. Yes.
Kevin Chang: [00:01:49]
So even though some of us kind of mid pack back of the pack, athletes might look at it title and has some trepidation opening it up. I think that there's so much cool. Useful. Really relatable information in there and you deliver it in such an entertaining, fun way.
It's just such a joy to read end to end. So wanted to dive in with you. Okay. A little bit more about this book. A little bit more about that. You're running your background, everything else. I know you coach B have a little bit of history together as well. And so, so excited to have you on the show.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:02:23]
Well, I can't shut up about the books, so.
Kevin Chang: [00:02:30]
Awesome. So, I mean, let's start at the beginning. How did the idea come about? How did you go about even getting this opportunity?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:02:37]
Yeah. Yeah. In a sense it's a, it's, it's a rip off sort of thing has been done before. You know, there's a very famous book called paper lion written by a guy named George Plimpton.
Back in, it came out in like 60, 64, I think, but he convinced the Detroit lions football team. And I think 1962 to let him participate. And he was just a writer. I was a really good writer, but also a sports, not, not much of an athlete, but he talked the, uh, the Detroit lions into allowing him to participate in one of their summer training camps as, as, as he called it, their last string quarterback.
And. And so he wrote about it from the perspective of a fan who's suddenly in the locker room. And it's one thing, if a professional athlete writes or an autobiography about there , but you can only relate to those people so much. You know what I mean? Cause they've just been on that trajectory, you know, they're, they're born gifted and then they're just on that path, their whole lives and.
And, but George pumpkin was, he was more of an, every man, like you could see yourself in him. So it was just, it was a fun read and it became actually a movie that did quite well. He got the star himself. This is like my fantasy. And he ended up doing it in other sports too. But I, you know, I read paperless.
I just thought I would love to do that in running. I mean, there's a reason he came up with that idea, like everyone fantasizes about going pro. Like if you're either a, an athlete or just a sports nut, You would love to trade places or be in the place of some star athlete. And so I was just, um, that, that sort of concept was out there.
And I just decided why not me? I'm just going to try to do this. So,
Kevin Chang: [00:04:24]
so you emailed Ben Rosario, you contacted him. And, and what was that conversation like when he, when he invited you up for camp?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:04:32]
Yeah, it's funny because pro football, the NFL was. Much smaller and it back in the early sixties, but even then it took George Plimpton who was well known at the time.
I think, you know, he wrote for sports illustrated. He had written, he edited a highfalutin literary magazine. Like he was a well known guy. It took him two years to find a pro football team willing to let him do this. Um, and then more than close to 50 years later, 45 years later, it takes me one email to do it in running.
that certainly helped that I'm, I'm known in the sport too. And in point of fact, I did know Ben Rosario a little bit, like I had never met him, but he knew who I was and I knew he knew who I was at least I'm. So there are other professional teams in the U S. But, uh, any the elite, the team that Ben Rosario coaches in Flagstaff, Arizona, um, they were my first choice just because they have a reputation for being very open and transparent with the broader running community.
So I thought I would be more likely to get a yes out of Ben. You know, I had a plan B and a plan C, but I definitely went to him first for a reason. And also I just thought that it would be a good fit that. If, if he does say yes and I actually showed up there, like he would follow the team would follow through, you know what I mean?
I wouldn't just be the red headed stepchild. It's like, Oh no, you actually came. Uh, I was just being polite.
Bertrand Newson: [00:06:06]
Uh, maybe a choice B in choice C your backup plans, just for point of reference.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:06:12]
So, yeah, I had a little bit of a connection with, uh, the zap endurance team in North Carolina. I'd actually, they're really cool.
They're they're like very rustic they're like, there's like through like just hidden out in the woods and it's like very bare bones living and I spent some time out there. It's it's just beautiful. It's nice. Just like that's a, that's an all in environment. If there ever was one. But, you know, it's farther away.
It's not at high altitude, it's sort of at moderate altitude. And so, I mean, I think Pete Ray, the coach of that team, I'm sure I would've gotten a yes. Cause he's similar. He would have gotten it and he's like, you would have seen what was in it for me and also what was in it for him and his team. Um, and then there's, there's there's, there was a Bay area team as well that I don't think exists anymore, actually, but it did at the time.
And they're, you know, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump from me. Yup. Good.
Bertrand Newson: [00:07:07]
Thank you for sharing
Kevin Chang: [00:07:08]
that. Yeah. Well, before we get too far into this, I think we should a cheers a little bit since this is a little bit of a happy hour, so yeah. Thank you so much for coming on
Bertrand Newson: [00:07:20]
eight Oh five. There
Kevin Chang: [00:07:21]
Okay. Now I think part of the book that I love the most is the way that you so definitely. Can relay somebody's story within a paragraph. And I think you immediately get up there. You immediately form a camaraderieship with, with all of these people. And pretty soon out out of the Gates, you're, you're running some better times than, than maybe you had expected when you get up there.
So, I mean, talk to me, or talk to us a little bit about first, your housemate, the people that welcome you up there. Give us a little backstory on Ben Rosario and how he. Well, you can put it in your own words, but how he moved to Flagstaff and created that entire team as well. I'd love to some of those nuggets of, of some of those backstories for our listeners too, to hear about.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:08:13]
Yeah. So, uh, you know, this whole thing was, I created it as like a fantasy for really a fantasy experience from, I mean, it wouldn't be for everyone, right? Like I go out there and my mid forties to run 80 miles a day. That's, you know, that's not everyone's idea of a good time, but for me, like it. It was a diet and gone to heaven sort of scenario.
But the reality of it was actually better. Like things that happen there. Yeah. We're just exceeded my expectations then even before I got there, for example, my, I envisioned like if I got a yes from Ben Rosario that I would go like, No, I wasn't gonna leave my wife behind for an entire summer. And we have, we have, we have no children, but we do have a little pooch.
So that's how you apply that. All of us are none of us. So the idea was to like rent, like an extended stay type, a hotel room. And I mean, what else are you going to do? Right. But then, uh, one of the members of the team, Matt yanno reached out to me almost immediately, like just days after I got the yes from Ben, he said, Hey, I have a spare bedroom.
Like, I guess he used in the habit. He has a nice spacious home. And he is sort of a flop house for runners, mostly elite runners. And so, you know, Flagstaff is a Mecca for Rutgers elites. So every now and then someone would want to come to staff stint about the two trading. They would just rent out a bedroom.
From Matt and he had an available one for that period. So he just, I had never met Matt Jano before. I know who he was a top American runner and he just said, you can stay with us. I'm like, what about our dog? He's like, I got a dog. Sounds great. So, so that was awesome because it was a huge score because it made me immediately much more integrated, uh, with the team.
So, and then I got to really just cause the whole idea was to immerse myself in their lifestyle. And like being under the roof with one of the guys on the team, like it was an escapable, you know, I, I saw when he napped every afternoon, it's like, okay, I guess that's what you do and what he ate and just how much he put into finding ways to improve himself as a runner.
Like it was 24 seven, like he had a little bit of a life, but mine was pretty monastic. So it was great in that regard. Uh, you know, he was just one member of like a 12 member team. So it took me more time to get to know the other members. And, you know, some of them would, were sort of reached out to me and others were a little more reticent and I had to like gently.
Get through the crusty exterior in a couple of cases to find the burst inside. But that was part of the fun part of the reason I wanted to spend as much time there to allow that process to unfold organically and not have to force it because I really did want to make a connection with each and every member of the team.
If I could
Bertrand Newson: [00:11:01]
just another example on how wonderful the running community can be on all different levels, the elite level and the blue collar team members, just getting into the game. So good stuff, man.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:11:12]
Yeah, it's so cool. And running is thought of as an individual sport, a solitary sport. And I mean, it is inherently to a certain degree, but that is a team Northern Arizona.
Elite is a team and it was, I was powerfully impressed by the degree to which they functioned as a team. And they were with each other every day and they also support each other and help each other out. And I got to benefit from that as well. I remember for example, like the very first proper, I was really eased into the training there because I had never trained at that kind of altitude before, but my first real workout.
I was done in a place called Buffalo park there in Flagstaff. And I got to do initially, well, I mean, even all the way through, I couldn't do the fast stuff with the pros, but I could do like warmups and stuff with them. So I was warming
Kevin Chang: [00:12:06]
when we say fat stuff, we're talking about what like six 30 minute miles, and now we're like, yeah, yeah, it was in the books.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:12:15]
Well the, the men and the team, it was pretty simple. The member generally a minute per mile, faster than I was four. Whatever was being prescribed. So my marathon pace ended up being like in the very low sixes per mile, they were close to five flats, the men, and then the women were a little closer to me, but still significantly faster.
Like, I, I couldn't, by the end, when I was much fitter, I could keep up with the women on easy runs, but still, if it was like any type of uptempo workout, I, I mean, I could have. Done it like a suicide mission and like hung with them all. But I mean, that's not training, right. Is there any way I was at the, this place called Buffalo park and warming up with some of the guys, and this is only my third day, second or third day with just being with the team, actually training with the team.
And like they're leading me through the loop where I'm going to do the fast part of my workout by myself. And they're giving me all these tips, like they're volunteering, like, okay. Like. You got a bank some time at this part here, cause it's a negative false flat, and there's a big Hill that comes up later in the loop.
And if you're not ahead of pace, when you hit that Hill, you're going to be in trouble. And like here's where you can take a wrong turn. Uh, the rest of it's easy, but you want to be aware around this point, otherwise you'll end up in Wyoming or something. So it just started growing in a way where they were sort of taking me in and showing me the ropes, which was kind of fun because they're all so much younger than me.
So like I was. I was like the, uh, the gray haired uncle to look at, but they were the ones actually sort of taking me under their wing
Bertrand Newson: [00:13:57]
nicknames to give you a nickname at all.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:14:01]
I was fit it's because there was there wasn't another on the team and we were housemates. So it just became natural for them to that.
Growing up, I was fits to a lot of people. Frequently,
Kevin Chang: [00:14:14]
besides course details and course tips. Did they give you any other tips in those first couple of days that you, that improved your running or that stuck with you?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:14:25]
All kinds of stuff? I mean, it was, it was kind of an every day sort of thing, because you know, I've written books about running.
I coach runners as well, but I didn't show up there. I show up, showed up there with beginner's mind you to use the Zen term. Right. It's funny because. Pro pro runners don't really read my books like you have, but they don't really, they get their information from like scientists, like, you know, directly, or like the top coaches, the top experts.
They don't have to like go to the bookstore and buy a running book. That's not what they do. So I was, I was really just a guy. They didn't, they didn't always look at me as someone who knew anything. Okay. So that, that made it easy for them to share and volunteer and teach as well. And they had experienced running a very different way than I, so I needed to learn their tips and.
Yeah. I mean, I'm in my very first easy run with the team. You know, Matt Yano showed me like a, a stretch for him, tight hip flexors, which I also have every runner knows type of foot. Right? So like the strap assisted version of it, of a stretch I had done myself and I sh I described this in the book. I said, I turned to my wife, my wife, hockey.
She doesn't run, but she came along. So almost all the runs I did with the team and she would just walk, Queenie our dog while I did my thing. And I remember after being shown that stretch on the first day, turning to her and saying, see, I learned something already. She sort of had to be talked into this whole thing.
Kevin Chang: [00:15:55]
Well, she picked up and she moved to be for the entire summer. So kudos to her.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:16:00]
I won the, I won the spouse lottery. She lets me have fun.
Bertrand Newson: [00:16:07]
In those first few days with the elites teammates, you manage ego, you meaning you had a plan going in, you know, you wrote 80, 20 rule. So in being able to hold back a bit versus, you know what, let me go ahead and try to push a little bit, you know, how did you deal with that?
Trying to impress, gain a little extra credibility. I mean, talk to us
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:16:31]
about that. Yeah. I mean, I knew not to even pack my ego for this trip because I was so far out of my league that it would have been in a joke or to try it compete in any way, or I just wasn't, there was nothing, one thing I could do to impress these people.
Like I was just slow compared to them. It was just like, that's it. And that's all. So I, I. It would have been a different matter if I had been close to performance wise to anyone, but I just wasn't. So I didn't worry about that. And in terms of like considering myself knowledgeable, I just knew I wasn't in good hands.
And so I had no problem, especially with Ben, the coach who, you know, he's, you know, the brothers on the team wouldn't tell me what to do. They would just share advice, but, you know, But Ben was the one telling me what to do. And I didn't, I just trusted him implicitly. I saw the results he got from his runners.
I knew his reputation. I had read a book of his, that he wrote for high school running coaches, and he's just, he's wise beyond his years. So I just, I knew I was in good hands. And even if, even in moments, when I would have made a different decision for myself, I just. I just trusted him and went with it because I knew he wasn't gonna screw it up for me.
Kevin Chang: [00:17:51]
Right. I think that there's a little bit of this tugging pool where he keeps asking to pull back. He's asking you to, to not go all out. And I think that's something that a lot of us struggle with of going all out too early or too frequently. And as a, as an expert of, of somebody who asks others to pull back a little bit, I mean, how, how is that?
How, how was checking your ego at the door at, during those times? Were there ever times that you were kind of in disagreement with Ben and pushed him to say, no, I can do more. I can, I can do more. And how do those conversations go?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:18:27]
Yeah. Well, the thing is like Ben wa. Two things were going on. Like Ben wasn't used to coaching runners like me.
So he had to figure me out. I mean, when he, when any runner, when any coach, because on any new runner, they have to learn them as an individual athlete, but I was just like greatly different for Ben. So he would give me time the times that he thought based on what he did know about me were appropriate.
And then, so there was that, but there was also, I had never trained at high altitude before I had never done almost all my running on trails. The way I did their hard runs were on generally done on pavement, all the easy stuff, which is 80% as we know on trails, I had never done. So there was so much that was new for me, that I, and so I started to, Ben had to figure me out and I started to improve prove just at lightening speed.
So I became like this mystery moving target. So neither of us knew what the heck was going on. And so he would give me times for workouts and it's not that I was pushing too hard. I would just blow the times out of the water with the athletes. I coach I'm always telling them, there's like the letter of the workout and there's the spirit of the workout.
And I really try to get them to understand, like so many runners are just inclined. So like, look at the letter of it. It's like, okay, that's gospel. That's what I do. But there's always a spirit of a workout, and I know how to run to the spirit of a, of a workout, even if I didn't create it. So I was always doing that.
Like I wasn't just being defiant when I ran too fast. I wasn't really, the thing is like the training was by law. It just felt good. Like I wasn't going to the world. Well, I wasn't being stupid or showing off or any of that, but I was still running faster than Ben wanted me to. So we, it took us a while.
But as you know, as people who. Have read the book. We'll see, like we did come together. We did convert. He figured me out and I couldn't keep improving at that rate forever. Um, I got used to 13 weeks. There was long enough for me to sort of get used to all the stuff that had been completely novel. And then we were kind of dialed in from that point
Kevin Chang: [00:20:38]
Yeah, I think it's so cool. How quickly you improved so early on too, because as you put it in the book, it had been quite a while since your last marathon PR and you, I mean, obviously you've been running for, for years, for decades, and to see you consistently, you've been training a really high peak for, for a long time.
And to see you improve so quickly, just being placed into this new environment was, was so cool to see. Yeah.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:21:07]
And that will be too, because my whole shtick really, as a writer and a coach is copied the pros, but you know, like that's like a no brainer in almost every other sport. Like the example I always give is like bodybuilders, like amateur bodybuilders who want to be like mr.
Olympia. Well, they go to the websites or the magazines that they still exist. And they like, they look at mr. Olympia's workout or his chest workout or his triceps workout. And they like just, they do that. Or, you know, they look at mr. Olympia's like diet or his supplement regimen and they just do that.
Like it's like, of course you would do that. Like he's ripped he's twice for flies. I want to be used twice as strong as I am, but in running, we don't, we don't do that. There's like the pros and then there's the, the rest of us. And we don't even look to them. Most of us, it's just like, it's almost like.
Ships passing in the night. And to me that's crazy. Like, because even, you know, even if you're a beginner, even if you're not all that serious about performance, we all want to improve or virtually all of us want to improve. And if you do, you should look to the pros. Like they actually know what they're doing.
Bertrand Newson: [00:22:18]
And you pointed that out quite clearly. Um, in your book, racing weight, looking at my diet perspective and what are the pros? Eating's people always struggling with weight management, but you've helped the common. Blue collar runner athlete. Understand that by sharing some great examples of what some very accomplished runners are doing at a very, very high level.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:22:42]
Yeah. Yeah. So there's like, you know, there's, there's sort of a misunderstanding of genetics at work. Like some people to the degree that the average amateur runner has thought about this, they're like, Oh, they're just a different species. They're they're made from different materials. Like. So, um, there's this misconception that, uh, professional athletes and professional runners are just vastly, genetically different from us.
And therefore we know what works for them doesn't necessarily work for us or because like they have all day to run and we don't that what works for them. It doesn't work for us, but if you actually explore those ideas and think them through, or I should look at what the science says, it's not true. Like, we're basically, we're all human.
It's just a matter of scaling. If you go back to the diet piece, like eating like a pro runner does not mean eating 5,000 calories a day because you're not running as much as they do. It means emulating their habits. Not so don't get caught up in the numbers, like running like a pro training, like per runner does not mean running 120 miles per week.
It means running a lot relative to your limits, but so many amateur runners, they train way below what they could handle it because they just don't think they deserve to run more. Just like, well, I'm slow. So what's the point. Well, if you want to improve, go ahead. You know, and you have the time, go ahead.
Find what your limit is. And so I was sort of putting my money where my mouth has always been in going out there and Guinea pigging myself because yeah, I'm faster than the average amateur, but, but still, like, if you look like it's like a continuum of performance, basically I'm closer to the middle of the pack than I am to elite runners.
I really am like, so. So I, you know, I'm, I'm not elite, you know? And, and so, you know, I had an experience of doing what they do and it worked for me and, and for me, because I was already, you know, as a knowledgeable and experienced runner, like I was already doing a lot of stuff, but like everything I could think of, and even then just layering that last extra layer of pro style practices on top of what I was already doing.
Just now I was aging in reverse while I was there. You know, I just, I, I transformed while I was there. So I hope people see that and kind of take a lesson from it.
Bertrand Newson: [00:25:02]
Matt, do you attribute that more towards the high end training itself? Because again, you are very knowledgeable. You push hard granted utilizing the 80, 20 rule little caveat there, or was it location?
No. Do you feel the location with the high elevation, which do you think was more of a game changer that expert elite level coaching versus being in higher elevation, speak to that? If
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:25:29]
you can. Yeah. I envisioned this a pie chart, a multicolored pie chart that has a different color for every factor that contributed to my improvement.
And I think if you included everything that actually did. That I did benefit from doing there. It would be like 12, at least a dozen different colors. And I don't know what so many things like it was having, it was actually being with the team. So some of the intangibles, like just the comradery and excitement of like training with pro athletes and my favorite sport, it's like, Catching footballs from Tom Brady probably typed her.
Everyone else hates them, but that's what it was like for me. And also just Flagstaff is just so beautiful and just, I was just so happy to be there. Like, well, that's a slice of the pie right there. Just like, if you just, if you want to be there, like, and you're just really enjoying yourself, you you're just investing more of yourself in the training, getting more back from it.
Like, you know, all the. I was in with the team, physical therapist, like almost, almost daily at times, because I'm older, I've always been injury prone. I was always on the verge of falling apart. We know where I live sort of out in cow country. It's hard to find it's a real effort. It's a real pain in the butt to get good quality health care type of support for, for an athlete.
And a lot of times I just don't bother. It's just like, Oh man, I have to give up a day to get a good massage or to get a diagnosis or whatever. And there, it was like, whenever I wanted on it, wasn't going to cost me an arm and a leg. So there's that. And I suffered a pretty significant injury halfway through and just made it kind of miraculous recovery from it.
So all the, all these different factors, my diet did change while I was there. I lost nine pounds copying Ganos. So it's a ton of different factors. I don't think any of them was even close to being half of the pie. I did run a lot. I did run smart because Ben is an incredibly good coach and that's, that's probably the biggest piece of the pie, but yeah, so many factors.
Kevin Chang: [00:27:44]
I want to dig in a little bit on the injury factor. And I know that you mentioned injuries basically in two sections of the book, one around the Achilles and you almost for a bit of time. Hiding the injury from the coach and whatnot, and, and realizing as a kind of mid pack back of the pack. But that's often things that we do.
We either hide injuries or high discomforts or hide little things from ourselves. Talk a little bit about that Achilles injury. Cause I know that later on you actually go and, and work towards correcting that Achilles injury as well. From your knowledge.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:28:21]
Yup. Yeah. My, uh, love to kill. These is one of like several problem areas as I call them in my body that I've collected over the years.
So, you know, I hadn't done really any speed work for, for many, many months before I showed up in flight. Well, that's not true for several weeks before I came to Flagstaff, Ben was already coaching me cause he wanted me to show up prepared. So I was doing his workouts here at home in California, before I.
Went there. But prior to that, I had avoided work. Um, I trained a lot, but I did not run fast except in races because of the Achilles, it would always just start to grumble on me. So I knew it was going to come up in Flagstaff and I have other problem areas too. Ben was warned. I had told him what happened.
I'm not being pessimistic. It's just, we need to be prepared. You need to be prepared then. Sure enough, almost right out of the gate. Cause I'm doing. Just more high speed training than I've been doing. And it started to grumbling. I wasn't going to be an idiot about it. Like, well, I didn't want Ben to put the brakes on me before I would have put the brakes on myself if he hadn't been coaching on me.
So that's why I was kinda just doing a little bit of hoping and a little bit of hiding all live eventually when one of the other runners on the team, Rochelle canoe ho I was running with her doing easy run with her and she said, Is there something wrong with your Achilleas? I'm like, yeah, she said, well, you're, you're not running symmetrically.
And so when, when that was kind of a wake up and well, we actually were running from Ben's house that day. And when we got back there, as soon as we got back there, I told him and he forced me to take the next day off. I was not happy about, but he was my coach.
Bertrand Newson: [00:30:09]
And you've probably had to have that same conversation with some of the athletes you've coached before
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:30:13]
I mean, yeah. As a coach yourself, you know, like it, it's much easier to give someone else smart advice than to give it to yourself and heat it. That's why, you know, like if you take the, the runners on the team, the real pros, some of them coach too, and all of them are very knowledgeable on it from an X's and O's perspective.
They're fully capable of coaching themselves. And yet they choose to work with a coach. Why to keep them for being idiots,
Bertrand Newson: [00:30:42]
you know? Cause you're right.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:30:44]
We're all prone to do it
Bertrand Newson: [00:30:46]
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:30:47]
Yes. For sure. Talk
Kevin Chang: [00:30:51]
to us about the other injury, the hip injury, because I know, I think when you first tweak your hip, you think that it's done at that moment in time.
You almost have this like existential, like, Oh my God. Panic moments in the book. And so. It ends up not being that, that panic moment. So I guess walk, help us visualize that, that point in time where you are in this book is this book and to get done. I don't know what thoughts are racing through your mind.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:31:18]
Yeah, it was the biggest athletic come down I've ever experienced because not only was it a devastating injury and it was not. Yeah. I've had a million overuse injuries, the kind of slow onset ones that know creep up on you. But this was more like jumping up to rebound a basketball and landing on the top of your foot and like getting a high ankle sprain.
And you're like, Oh dear. And you're just, well, it was my groin, but it was an acute injury, uh, not an overuse injury. And it happened in, in the single most Epic workout I did while I was there and probably the most Epic running workout I've ever done. It was so big and complex and structure that I actually created a crib sheet for it because I knew I couldn't remember all the elements of it.
So I wrote it all down and laminated it with a gotcha tape and put it into my shorts. So it was just this giant workout, but I was crushed and just, and I was very near the end. A lot of the big workouts and Flagstaff with any of the elite are done on this kind of proving ground known as a it's called Lake Mary road.
It's just this ribbon of asphalt in beautiful surroundings. It just goes on forever. It's just, it gets just a straight line and just, I never saw it. I handed the darn thing and I was running on that. It was so point to point. And, uh, and you could see forever in certain spots. And I was, I was barreling down toward the end of this Epic run and I was on the highest of highs cause I was in Flagstaff.
I was living a fantasy. I was around these young pros that I look up to. I was running way better than I ever could have imagined. I would be doing it at age 46 and then zap. It was like, I was shot with a staple gun in, in my groin. It was. It was just one of those moments where like time slows down and I knew it was bad.
Like I couldn't, I'm so close to finishing. My first instinct was I don't care how much it hurts. Like I got to finish this thing, but I just, I had no choice. It stopped me cold. And yeah, I thought I thought it was over and it was just, it was devastating because I had so much riding on it because I was planning to write a book about the darn thing.
I just thought if I can't, this is all leading up to the Chicago marathon in October at the end of 13 weeks. And like, if I couldn't run the marathon, I didn't, I didn't know how I was going to make this whole thing work. And so it was a very low moment. And,
Kevin Chang: [00:33:53]
and the funny thing is, I mean, we all think that some of these Leo layoffs or some of these layoffs from running or from training is going to really, really impact us.
It doesn't end up impacting you that much. And, and recently you've also had to go undergo another layoff from a virus, uh, a and a pretty serious attack on your system. And yet you've been able to bounce back from that. So walk us through, I guess, the. Both the fear of, Oh my God, I'm going to lose it. But then how you've been able to bounce back both
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:34:25]
And so with a groin injury, you know, I was just, I was in the hands of the team. I was treated like any, they all get injured, all the real pros, they would have their turn in the barrel and it was my turn. And, you know, I was with the team, physical therapist, two hours after the injury, something that never would have happened if I was on my own.
And Ben was actually in Singapore with a runner. He coached who wasn't a member of the team at the time, but his wife who was assisting that day, I called him. And like he came back with so advice. I was instructed to take three days off, not even cross training, another decision, I would, I would have gone straight to cross training.
Like, no, just don't do anything with it. Don't even test it. And so it wasn't up to me. Like all I could do was it was focused on the, the emotional side I had to, but even there, I got help because again, I had professional help with the sports psychologist, but the team rallied around me to provide support.
So I just had a ton of support from all kinds of like, from the medical to the coaching, to the teammates, to the psychologist, everyone just rallying around me. And I think that was a big part of it. So, you know, I only missed three days. It turned out, but I couldn't just go right back in a full tray. I mean, it was a pretty, it was diagnosed as a, an acute hip abductor, tendon strain, but write it right away, even that like diagnosis within two hours.
And that was comforting three serious strain, but it's like, it's two weeks if we play this right. So I went from three days of rest to cross training, all kinds of rehab. You know, I was in with AIJ Greg at hypo to sport getting like zap with the cold laser and all other kinds of treatments and stuff.
And yeah, just, it didn't, it didn't happen overnight. And I was scared for a while. It wasn't like, because that on day four I did a test run that consisted of like, It was like five times, one minute at 10 minutes per mile with walks between or, you know, not, not much more than that. It's like, well, that ain't going to do, but, so it was this process where, I mean, the, the trajectory was, if you look back on it, steadily ascending and you know, within maybe like three and a half weeks, I was full gas again with the training, but it was crunch time.
Cause I, I only had at that point a few weeks for the Chicago marathon, but. It turned out to be enough.
Kevin Chang: [00:37:02]
And then I guess, talk to us a little bit about the recent illness. I know you guys were out in Atlanta, you've got to meet up with coach B, even with a couple of weeks off of training or not being able to train for a little bit.
It seems like the fitness has come back relatively quickly. You just posted an UPR recently as well, right?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:37:23]
By mile time. No, that was not nowhere close. Yeah. PR well, if you like possibly an age adjusted VR, but faster than I've run since high school for the one mile distance, which is crazy.
Kevin Chang: [00:37:38]
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:37:40]
The virus was a very different scenario because it asked staff it was more fear of losing fitness and.
It was more of the unknown. Like, I didn't know if I would, how far I would get back, whether I would get back, whether I would reaggregate the injury and have to go back to square one. So it was, it turned out to be like, it was, it was stressful, like that one, but on a physical level. Yeah. I actually, when you look at it, With 2020 hindsight.
No, I didn't lose that much fitness, but I was white knuckling it the whole time, like all the way through the Chicago marathon when that injury did, I did reaggregate it during the marathon. Uh, so that one was more like a
Kevin Chang: [00:38:25]
something's on the line. Something's right in writing on this
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:38:28]
stressful, emotionally intense.
But then when I got sick, um, this was in, you know, from a full month, really from early March to early April. And I lost a ton of fitness. I mean, that's fun, but they're initially, you're like, when something like that happens, you're like, well, this sucks. I wish this weren't happening, but then you either accept it or you don't.
And like, if you're like, come back. Then you have the sooner you accept it and start looking for the better. And so that's one of the things I came home from this, my fate pro runner experience as I call it, which is like, the real pros are really good at dealing with setbacks that they are like, we tend to think, Oh, they're talented and they work hard.
And that's how they got where they are. No, I'm like, honestly, it's like the most talented runners at age 15 seldom are the ones. Kicking butt at age 30 is as prose. It's like, it's the ones that are talented enough and have really good heads on their shoulders. That's where it takes a bit. The further along you get in the development, the more the stuff from the neck up comes into play.
Because these runners were just, they exercise good judgment. They knew when to hold back, they'd just made good decisions and they were really good at regulating their emotions. And I absorbed that because if they all had their different personalities, but there were some things they all had in common and that the level headedness, the judgment.
Was in everyone and it made me see like, Oh, you have to have that to get to this level of stay there. It's an absolute must. So I was inspired by that. So I remember thinking very consciously about it. It's like, what would Matt Yano do in my place? What would definitely brews do in my place? And, and that's how I played it.
I thought, okay, I'm sick. I don't know what I'm going to get better. I'm losing fitness. So like let's. Make the best of a very bad situation. So when I was sick, what could I do? Well, I could just manage the emotional side and be like, just try to stay positive. And like, if you actually make the effort and you have some tools, have a different emotional experience of those kinds of events.
One thing I was worried about was gaining weight. I was like, well, I'm used to like burning a billion calories a day and I can't, I couldn't even climb a flight of stairs at the worst of it. So. So I thought, okay, well, what can I do to sort of manage my diet? So at least, you know, I can't train, I can't even walk my dog, but maybe I can just do little things so that I'm not that much further behind when I'm, well, again, by having gained 15 pounds or whatever.
So I controlled what little I could and that helped too. I was just a little bit better set up when I was healthy enough to start running again. So, yeah, I just, I tried to like handle the whole thing, like a pro like a pro or, you know, as a, as a pro would in my position. And then it became once I could, I could start ramping up again.
It just became a fun challenge to see how fast I could get it back. Like, I, I, wasn't going to be like, like set myself up for disappointment by sort of hoping I hadn't lost that much. I see athletes do that all the time. It's like, I wish there was no way I was going to like compare myself to where I was, because I was really fit when I got sick.
I wasn't going to like go out and run two minutes per mile, slower, feeling a lot worse and be like, Oh, I've lost so much. Well, of course I've lost so much, like that's baked into this thing. So it just, it was just like, how, if I'm smart and I put up, put the hunger, my renewed hunger into this process, like.
Like how fast can I climb back? And it became kind of a, kind of a game and very motivating. Well, I
Kevin Chang: [00:42:21]
mean, that makes so much sense that you're able to check your ego at the door, that you're able to just do what you can do today and not worry about what you could do two months ago before the illness came about.
And you're right. I think that that's something that a lot of poly pro athletes are really, really good at working within themselves. Whatever that day might be. I wanted to hear stories from your guys' time in Atlanta. Can you guys tell us some
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:42:49]
Kevin Chang: [00:42:50]
heard fried chicken's involved.
Bertrand Newson: [00:42:55]
Yes. Um, fantastic race weekend and early in our conversation, Matt was referring to some of his teammates in Arizona, the elites, some of them were racing in that race. Correct? Matt, on that Saturday?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:43:10]
Yeah. Gals as well.
Bertrand Newson: [00:43:14]
In fact, any going to the games in 2021 that place?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:43:20]
Yeah. Well, olivine, Tillamook, a one on the women's side.
Now she was not a member of the team when I was there, which is a great regret. Cause she just seems awesome. Like just one of the most positive. Infectiously positive personalities. I've seen in an elite runner, but I've actually, I haven't even met her yet. We're we followed each other on Twitter, the closest we've got, but I'm still I'm a fan anyway.
And so, and plus I know how much Ben Rosario has put into getting, uh, an athlete to the Olympics. And so it was great. I was so happy for him to see her. Pull off the victory and then devastated when not just a few weeks later, the Tokyo games were postponed, but yeah, it was, it was a thrill to witness made it all the more enjoyable that, uh, we were partners in active spectating there together.
Bertrand Newson: [00:44:21]
You talk about your experience in Arizona with the elites parallels my time in Atlanta. With my brother and two other friends, but hanging out with, in my world and elite, someone who I met and met you at an expo back in 20 boy, 28, 2019.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:44:43]
Yeah. It seems like,
Bertrand Newson: [00:44:48]
and I had a couple of your books and said, Hey.
This is Matt Fitzgerald. So we hit it off hosted a two of your book signings, one in San Francisco, one in the South Bay in California, and fast forward to February of this year, knowing that we were both going to be in Atlanta, both going to the Olympic trials to watch a spectators and both running the Atlanta marathon or March 1st, that weekend I'm hanging out with an elite.
You. So your experience in Arizona, there was some conversation. What happened to you weeks leading up to Atlanta? I don't think we talked about that on our time. This evening, you had an injury during a race during a ultra marathon, right? It's
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:45:36]
true. I was, uh, I was, I was on a bit of a roll over the, over the winter.
I'm just having fun, but that's sort of where I am in my running journey. Now I just, uh, goals will just come to me and I don't really care what the goal is. If it gets me excited to get out of bed and train the next day I go for it. And I'm not really, I don't think I'm cut out for ultra marathons, but I just decided I have done a couple.
I decided to try a hundred kilometer or 62 mile ultra marathon in Arizona, uh, on the black Canyon trail. And I trained hard for it. Um, I don't live in a good environment for training for one of those things. It's there, aren't a lot of trails where I live there. Aren't on Hills where I live and this race had, it was all on a trail, some pretty technical stuff and Hills galore, but I do what I could and I got prepared and I was very fit, but.
I suffered. I'm just, I'm just, I can't stay on my feet when I run on technical terrain, I just can't. Uh, and I have suffered some, a couple pretty bad falls. And I probably, I was kicking myself after I idea NAFTA 37, 38 miles. I'm just had it. I was just, I hurt everywhere I could have going. And I kicked myself a bit for not continuing after, you know, how it is, you sort of question your own grit and all that.
But part of it was that I was caring for my mom at the time who has Alzheimer's and it was, that was very emotionally draining and. It really, it was, it reminded me how important it is. I should've wrote a blog post about this afterbirth to have to have emotionally charged batteries. Whenever you take on a real big, a test like that.
Cause if your heart isn't all the way in it and you get to those crisis moments, you know, the gut check moments, you're not, you're going to come up empty. You're going to reach down to that sack. For a, for a good answer to the why questions you're going to come up empty. And that's what happened to me.
And I've, I've failed enough times that I get it. Like I can, I can, I don't lose it perspective, but you come out, you come out of an experience like that with a monkey on your back. And like, so I couldn't wait for an opportunity to. Get that monkey off my back. I just had, I knew I wasn't, I've proven my grit plenty of times.
I didn't really have to prove it, but yet I felt like I did. I just needed a win after taking an L and I only had two weeks after that race and I was, I was gimpy and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to even start. But, uh, I recovered well, and then maybe my emotional batteries were fully charged for, for the Atlanta marathon a couple of weeks later.
Bertrand Newson: [00:48:18]
So I walked into that weekend cause we were in contact leading up to. Atlanta. And I had read and then had heard, as we did, you spoke that you had had had a fall and you didn't finish that ultra marathon. And at the time you didn't sound like you had a bit of a chip on your shoulder, you were just more concerned about will be.
I have this, this opportunity. I want to get through Atlanta or you're a special guest for a running tour operator who had other runners that were looking, looking forward to you being present and hearing your stories and charisma being inspired by you. You like being, maybe I'll, I'll run with you. I'm like, Oh
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:48:52]
shit, this is great.
Bertrand Newson: [00:48:56]
This is great. But then do I really want to push, do I want to drag him down? There are going to be people following his journey and I'm going to be the one slowing him down. So as we finally made our way into Atlanta, we actually were at the airport, took the shuttle bus or the shuttle van to the host hotel.
And then you share, you know, what be I'm feeling good, but chip on my shoulder and I'm going to settle that score on race day. I'm
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:49:20]
Bertrand Newson: [00:49:25]
Granted, I would have absolutely loved to run shoulder to shoulder with you through that city, but you had a score to settle and boy, did you, I mean, almost won the masters placement. I think he just came in second place by a couple of seconds. And what a strong, strong efforts at sub two 50.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:49:46]
Yeah, I, uh, was funny when you get into a race, like you kind of see where you are, you have a goal going in and then you see how it's shaping up and then you can maybe modify your goal.
And it's funny, you will run, you will turn yourself inside, out to achieve a goal. You only came up with halfway through the race. Depends on it. And that's, as you well know, That's a really hilly race course. We ran a different course the day before we're talking about how hilly theirs was, but I think ours had another 300 eaters.
Bertrand Newson: [00:50:24]
Our race course was tougher,
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:50:28]
but it actually worked to my advantage because I was coming off all this ultra marathon training. So like I was eating up the Hills, like I'm like the more to bring them the more the merrier. Yeah, but yeah, when I got like, well into it and I realized, okay, I have a chance to sneak under two, two hours and 47 minutes.
Wow. And I had to, I have photos of it, you know, as the race official race photographers has photos of me coming down the home stretch there. And I just look like I'm dying. Cause it's like, I'm running. Like my life depends on it. So I finish it two 46, 59, but it took absolutely everything I had as if it mattered, we still need to run a marathon together by the way
Bertrand Newson: [00:51:09]
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:51:10]
But that was fine. Like I ran hard and ran smart. I ran well.
Bertrand Newson: [00:51:15]
For our listeners. I mean, Kevin had alluded to, was there, you know, talk about the Atlanta experience with Matt and I heard there was some story about fried chicken. This dude ran sub two 47, two days before we're at a soul food restaurant in the heart of Atlanta.
And I had never seen a person eat as much.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:51:37]
Bertrand Newson: [00:51:39]
from as many different plates, I don't know where it went, but if I didn't eat that much to run some dates, shoot for my BQ effort, that's what I'm going to do. Fried chicken, um, little Danish bread, fantastic bread, collard greens, corn bread, just fence shrimp.
Great mill overall
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:52:02]
Bertrand Newson: [00:52:05]
Yeah. So fantastic. Mean talk about pre-race freeway smells on a weekend. Matt has wrote the book.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:52:12]
Yeah, it's possible. I ran him well, despite the fried chicken,
Bertrand Newson: [00:52:18]
I didn't see that in racing weight.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:52:26]
Anytime you recommend a restaurant I'm there from now on it's you? That was your pick. And it was really good. My
Bertrand Newson: [00:52:34]
brother and his friends still talk about that weekend, but they talk about that night and nice. You were again, as I like, he's basically, he's an accomplished runner, avid Reiner writer known domestically and internationally.
I shared some of your running accomplishments and they were just in awe that you were so down to earth, so welcoming, so humble. So funny. You know, we love, love you humor, man. And that more than everything. Yeah. Else is what I appreciate most is just that fellowship. We had it just put a nice warmth over the entire race weekend.
And uh, I mean, in light of all that's going on right now, man, I mean, who would've thought thrown a virus and social tensions, et cetera, et cetera, just the bond of friendship. And you were able to read. Read the room. As we had two runners who were very young and their running career running their very first half marathon and you made them feel like they belonged, you were engaging with them.
And it was just a good all the way around. So thank you very much for making that weekend. Very nimble for my friends and family
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:53:50]
Ronan. Yeah, it was a, yeah, I had, obviously I had no idea what was coming next either, but. It was, it was really nice to have a fresh experience that was that I guess, enriching and enjoyable to take into a really bad several months rest of the year or whatever turns out.
It was just a magical, magical weekend.
Bertrand Newson: [00:54:15]
I agree. I agree. I agree. So
Kevin Chang: [00:54:18]
we want to be respectful of your time. Where can audiences find you?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:54:22]
Yeah, I'm glad you're letting me go. Cause man, I'm hungry.
Kevin Chang: [00:54:28]
Spears making me hungry.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:54:31]
Three or four plates, a hot food waiting for,
Bertrand Newson: [00:54:33]
I don't doubt it. I don't doubt it.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:54:37]
But to answer your question. Uh, so I have my personal website is Matt fitzgerald.org. And then my training coaching website is 80 20 and durance.com and I'm on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram as
Kevin Chang: [00:54:52]
And we'll have it online on our show notes. Uh, when we post the show notes and
Bertrand Newson: [00:54:58]
Matt, are there any charities or special causes that are, you know, have a special, special place in your heart that you'd like our listeners to be mindful of and aware of?
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:55:07]
Yeah. So this is evolving. So, you know, my wife, uh, Is, she has bipolar disorder.
So causes related to mental illness are close to my heart. She's also African American. So like with what's going on now, that one just speaks to my heart in a very deep way as well. And, but I haven't kind of formulated exactly like, well, I'm contributing sort of in an intuitive way at this point, but, but I do.
Um, so the national. Association for mental illness. Nanny is what it's called my company between difference. We give a portion of our proceeds. If you buy one of my plans or you get a subscription to my website or wherever you are donate to, to nanny, which is pretty cool, but you can also, if anyone's inspired to make additional donations.
Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up.
Bertrand Newson: [00:56:01]
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well,
Kevin Chang: [00:56:04]
thank you so much, Matt, for being on the podcast with us really, really appreciate your time here today.
Matt Fitzgerald: [00:56:09]
That's awesome. I had fun talking to you guys. Hopefully we can do it again sometime.
Kevin Chang: [00:56:12]
Yeah, absolutely. Smoked
Bertrand Newson: [00:56:14]
corn bread, some fried chicken, okra,
Kevin Chang: [00:56:18]
Bertrand Newson: [00:56:19]
not Oprah okra.
Kevin Chang: [00:56:21]
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the RaceMob podcast. Check out all of the show notes or find a running buddy online at dot com. Please subscribe to us on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts and leave us a review until next time. Keep on moving.