Matt Gabrielson, 28, is one of the charter members of Team USA Minnesota. On November 5th, he made his marathon debut at the NYC Marathon, where he finished 20th overall (4th American) in 2:19:53. While he was “not too pleased” with his results, he was able to take away some positives from the race – including the A-standard for the Olympic Marathon Trials.
About three weeks before the marathon, Matt was interviewed by mensracing.com. After his race, he did a great job updating his journal with his thoughts and feeling surrounding the event. By combining those pieces, with this interview, I think one gets a very good look Matt. It’s clear that he loves what he’s doing and that he’s truly grateful to be with Team USA Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Kryduba)
First off, congrats on your marathon debut. I know you weren't overjoyed with 2:19, but you seemed to have taken away some positives from your performance. What was your goal for the race? What did you learn that you'll apply in the future?
You are right in that I wasn’t too thrilled at first with the 2:19. This sounds horrible because a lot of people would love to be able to run that time. However, I know that I am faster than 2:19 and I will run faster than that in the next couple years.
A couple workouts on terrain similar to NYC gave me the confidence to be able to run at least 2:15-16 the first time out. Obviously this didn’t happen, but it’s okay because I came away from the whole experience with a more positive outlook on life. What I learned from this entire experience - from the whole training segment through the race and the week after - is that I am one tough customer and that the marathon is an entirely different beast compared to anything else. I just think it will take one or two more experiences with it to be able to dip under 2:12.
Alberto Salazar said that his marathon training was basically 10K training with a long run added in. Would you agree? How did your training change for your marathon debut?
I would maybe agree with that except we also threw in longer hill repeats, and a couple marathon simulation workouts. This basically included running marathon pace for 17-18 miles with surges thrown in there at 10k-half-marathon pace.
With Jason Lehmkuhle and Chris Lundstrom both running TCM, were you able to train with them more than you normally would?
Just on easy runs and a couple longer runs, but never for any specific workouts. I guess you could say the two young gentlemen were there with me in spirit. I did pick their brains more than you can imagine just so I would be prepared to deal with the little things like nutrition or getting down all the fluids.
Let me publicly say I really appreciate you (and your teammates) taking time to write journals for the NYRR. It's nice to know that you guys are "scared of the abyss" and that you're excited to be surrounded by guys like Tergat, Culpepper, Ritz, Meb and Gilmore.
Chris Lundstrom’s journals are captivating and Jason (Lehmkuhle) is hilarious. Meat Gilmore is simply the bomb.
In an October interview with Mensracing.com you said, at one point of your career, you didn't think you'd run a marathon in a million years. In your November journal entry you mentioned aspiring to be a "celebrity American marathoner" and being a future 2:12 marathoner. Was there something about the marathon that caused you to change your mind, the realization that you're built for marathons, or something else?
I have no idea what I meant by “celebrity American marathoner.” I just want to be recognized as a great runner. What I like about the marathon is the old school training and racing mentality one must possess to conquer it. I love the age of Beardsley, Hodge, Rodgers, Meyer, Bjorklund, et al. Going out and pounding out 140 mile weeks and just trying to hammer yourself into the ground then getting up the next day and doing it all over again is an awesome feeling.
Does the marathon need to become your main focus for you to run 2:12?
No, absolutely not. I feel like the marathon will make me faster at the mile, 5K, and 10K, and vice versa. I take pride in the fact that I have solid PRs at every distance. Now, it’s just a matter of having a PR stand out way more than any other. Like 13:21.5 for 5K or something.
What do you think of Fernando Cabada's 2:12 debut? Do you draw motivation from his performance (as well as other runners, like Pete Gilmore and Brian Sell)?
I wasn’t at all shocked by Fernando’s 2:12 debut because he crushed the 25k distance last May. Distance running in the U.S. has taken a huge jump since 2004, a huge jump. It’s because of these guys and everybody else just stepping up. I bet the 5K is crazy this summer because of Matt Tegenkamp’s success last summer
I am a pretty big Brian Sell fan - that dude is for real. Tim Broe is cool to look up to.
What's next? Do you go back to shorter races next year, focus on the Olympic Trials Marathon in November, etc.? Are a sub-4 mile and 13:20 5K still goals for next year?
Making the team at U.S. Cross February 10, a few spring road races, and then really focusing on the track. Running a fast 1500, 5K, and 10K are very high priorities. Especially running at least 28:10 for 10K. Also, placing in the top 7 at U.S. Outdoor.
What is the Team USA Minnesota planning process for the following season? Does coach Dennis Barker sit down with each athlete individually to map out the upcoming year? How much input do the athletes have?
We all do pretty much the same specific workouts just maybe at different points in time. I don’t really think anything is ever mapped out except for on a weekly basis which all depends on what point of the training segment you are in. Dennis is very receptive to opinions of athletes, but makes the final decision. Ol’ Sparky (Barker) is something else, isn’t he?
I know Dennis has talked about steady progress and building upon your training from year to year. But was there ever a time in your career where you said, "Screw it. Let's crank up the mileage and see what happens." If so, what were the results?
That punk talked about steady progress? Actually, this past summer after our Belgium trip (which ended an extremely disappointing season) I said to myself, “Self, let’s just throw it down and run NYC and whatever happens, happens.” As Carrie (Tollefson) says, “I gotta get it goin’.”
Maybe I'm biased, being from Minnesota, but I can't think of another group of runners that has spoken so highly about the support of their community, teammates, coaching staff, board of directors, sponsors, etc. than Team USA Minnesota. Any comments?
Everybody involved with our group plays an important role from sponsors, to board, to medical, to coaches, to ultimately the athletes. It’s successful because of everyone involved. I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am to have this opportunity.
If I weren’t here I’d be a fat, out of shape arm-chair quarterback living the dream in Belmond, IA.
You mentioned being confident about "something really special happening up here in Minnesota." Would you care to expand on that? Are you talking about yourself, your teammates, the team, in general, etc.?
I’m talking about myself and my teammates. Something extraordinary is going to happen in 2008. I’m not sure what it is, but I have a feeling whatever happens will send a shockwave through the running world.
What does it mean to be a "recovering letsrun.com junkie"? Does that mean that you don’t go there any more or that you spend too much time there? Do you post or just browse?
Let’s just say that I spend entirely too much time surfing the Internet. I can definitely be a little more productive. Let me also just say that letsrun.com could be included on a narcotics list because not only is it ridiculously addicting, letsrun.com reduces pain, alters mood and behavior, and usually induces sleep or stupor.
Running's not even my job, yet I find myself thinking about it all the time. I surf websites, email friends that run, blog, interview runners, etc. Do you think about running all the time or are you able to "turn it off?"
I think that I do a good job of turning it on and shutting it off at the right times. The running lifestyle is fleeting, and it’s only healthy to have other interests that simply make you happy. Running and the whole kit and caboodle is addicting, however, and I cannot pinpoint why.
What's your fondest running memory?
Winning the team title at the 1999 MVC Cross championships. That was an AWESOME feeling and justified a lot of decisions I made or did not make in the previous 4 years.
Who were your role models growing up?
I don’t know if I really had any role models. I tried to mimic my dad in a lot of ways. I really loved watching Michael Jordan growing up and I admired his success. I had great friends. I guess I just tried to be good.
Finally, if you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
Bob Dylan. That dude is the greatest singer/songwriter of all time. I’d ask him why he wrote some of his lyrics the way he did and hopefully have a more sound understanding of them.