Interview with Matt Wontz (part 2)
What was the biggest or most embarrassing noob mistake you have made?
"What mistakes haven’t I made really? It wasn’t even a noob mistake, well I guess it was. I should have learned this along time ago. It happened to me at the Carl Hart Fall Duathlon, I was having a great race. I had a great first run, first onto the bike, I was coming off the bike in second with a very manageable gap to Brian Wolf, this guy is a fantastic cyclist, a complete monster. I figured if I could get off the bike within 45 seconds I could run him down on the last run. So I came screaming in off the bike, it was kind of rainy that day, transition area is grass, I hope off my bike, and immediately hit the ground. The bike goes one way and I go the other. It was just a matter of not doing the basics; I didn’t slow down into transition. I just thought I would save some time and come screaming into transition, hop off the bike and be gone. Slow and steady in that situation always wins the races. In this case I lost a considerable amount of time picking various belongings and myself up off the ground."
What is your strength as a multi-sport athlete?
"Out of the three disciplines I would say the run would be my strength. I came to the sport with a run background. I think come race day I’m a very mentally tough athlete. When I get to the line, it’s all business. I enjoy myself out there but its business to me and I’m willing to sacrifice and suffer for the result. I think mental strength will carry you a lot farther than physical strength will when it comes to long course racing. In terms of short course racing, an average local sprint, the top guys are finishing in an hour, pretty much anyone can suffer for an hour. Now being out there for four plus and the day isn’t going well and you want the day to be done, you have to turn everything off and just keep the legs moving when you are in that dark place. I definitely consider that one of my strengths is suffering on race day. This can be attributed to suffering through the training and being comfortable while being uncomfortable."
Where do you go when you need inspiration?
"I go home. I go to my parents’ house in lovely Middletown, New York. It inspires me for a number of reasons; number one I owe my parents everything. There are, admittedly two of the most unathletic people you will ever meet so I’m not sure where I got any small amount of athletic talent I may have. What they lack in athletic ability they make up for in support. They have yet to miss any of my big races in my athletic career from High School soccer and cross-country to Timberman last season. They have flown over seas to watch me race, they fly to Florida every January when I race down there. Regardless of the weather or what they have going on they are always there. I take that and I think of how much they have sacrificed in raising me and allowing me to be apart of the sport and experience what I have experienced, I feel I owe them everything. To see what they have done and still do for my siblings, and me I look at the sport as an opportunity to make them proud which is why I hate loosing because I feel like I’m letting them down. I look at the sport, as letting me be a little more than average. On top of being around my family, Middletown is where my love for sports started. I’m back on the streets where I ran with the cross-country team, where I road my first bike. So to get back on those same road, run the old training routes, and run the old cross country routes at my high school is awesome and now to do it twice as fast as I did . . . I’m not a terrible athlete and I’m ok at this. It’s cool to be back on my home turf and its great terrain to train on, its super hilly and tough but very inspiring because it’s where it all started. It’s home to some of the greatest people I know."
What would today’s Matt Wontz tell noob Matt Wontz?
"Enjoy every moment of training and racing. Actually, number one would be, don’t be afraid to take risks. When that leap of faith moment presents itself, take it. Just shut your eyes and jump. Those opportunities are so few and far between you never know if you are going to get another one."
As I did my research for coaching I came across an interesting number about you. You completed Syracuse 70.3 in 4:20. That is extremely impressive. Why haven’t you turned pro full time and chase a dream?
"I’ll be honest, 4:37, back to that leap of faith moment . . . I don’t know, and there is no good answer. Your not the first person to ask me that. I think because I doubt my abilities. I finished that race and was over the moon with the result, I had myself pegged for 4:45 for the day, which isn’t bad, I would have been stoked with 4:45. I came out of the swim a little slower than anticipated, but quickly told myself that didn’t matter, I rode the bike a lot better than I anticipated and had a very strong run but when it came down to it there were still 60 some odd people that finished ahead of me overall. There were still 7 people ahead of me in my age group. The guy that won my age group finished in 4:14. Am I really at the level to make the jump? I would love to see what I’m capable of not working a full time job. I just think it is my confidence in myself that’s holding me back. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a professional athlete? I would love to."
What Professional Triathletes do you admire/respect or enjoy watching race?
"Absolutely, I admire all of them for what they do, for the pain and suffering they chose to inflict on themselves on a daily basis. I really admire the family men of the sport, the Andy Potts, Craig Alexanders and Chris McCormacks of the sport. The three of those guys are good examples because they are all very different personalities on and off the racecourse. But they really prove you can have that balance in life and be a highly functioning athlete. They all have wives and children and they are all talented and very successful professional triathletes, no one is going to doubt that. There is no argument to what is most important in their lives and that is family. That is why they do what they do and do it so well because of their family and the inspiration they provide. That is great motivation that there is a wife and kids counting on you to do well. Just showing you that there is that balance, that you can do well and have a life outside of triathlon and still be a pretty damn good triathlete. I just enjoy watching the pros race because you can learn so much for them. They are obviously masters of the craft and it’s inspiring. You watch a race like Kona and you want to go out and train. You watch these guys chase ITU points around the world because it’s their passion and what they love. Some age group athletes lose that a little bit. I’m not sure why because, we are doing it purely for the enjoyment of it, we are not making a living off of it, we should just have fun with it. Sometimes we take it more seriously than those guys that are paying their bills with it. It’s just funny to me, a little odd. But Andy Potts is definitely my favorite pro athlete if I had to pick one. Just because who he is, he seems really accessible and human."
We have had several conversations about how its about time the triathlon culture here on Long Island get shaken up. Could you elaborate on that?
"This is definitely a hotbed for triathlon; I call it the Boulder of the East. There is a lot of great places to train, a lot of great people to train with, great races, there are a lot of great clubs but, everyone is doing things the same way. We have seen the change at the professional level with the team aspect of triathlon and have proven it to be very, very beneficial for athletes and their success. I’m thinking the Long Island scene good benefit from something like that. The races are fine, for what they are. I don’t think we need to saturate the season too much more with races but if we worry about the quality not the quantity. There doesn’t need to be a bike or run shop stepping up, it can be anybody to put out the calling, it’s time for people to get together and serous athletes that want to excel to get together and work together. Pro athletes do it and train together all the time and come race day, yeah they are friends but its all business. We do the same thing, age group athletes are wiling to give a lot to the sport and the people that support them, maybe even to a fault. I think it’s time for these teams and clubs to show a little more gratitude to their athletes, to make it a more personal experience, not just everyone wearing the same colors on the racecourse. There should be more focus on knowing where everyone is and having that camaraderie and building that one way or another through out the course of the training season so you have that bond when it comes to race day. I pass you going the other way on the run course and I know we were in the trenches together, I think it means a whole lot more on the race course when you have shared the entire season with people. It makes that race a lot more meaningful to people. I just think someone needs to think outside the box to give Long Island triathlon a face-lift. Maybe ruffle some feathers, not maliciously but very few people like to be taken out of their comfort zone and fear change. I think it’s overdue."