Tuesday, September 11, 2007


While Matt Haugen, 50 of St. Paul, doesn’t race much anymore, somehow each year he’s able to find the time, energy and motivation to train for Pike’s Peak Marathon. Actually, I should say, “The Double,” which is a half marathon up Pike’s Peak on Saturday, followed by the full marathon (up and down) on Sunday. Each year his results seem to get better and better. This year was no different as he finished 10th in the marathon and 3rd in the double.

Coach Matt’s hectic coaching schedule involves both community athletes (runners and triathletes) through his
Performance Power (a.k.a. P2) training group, as well as cross country and track athletes at Macalester College.

I was fortunate enough to train with Matt and his P2 group for two years. I can honestly say I’ve never come across a coach with a more positive attitude or one that truly loves to watch his athletes compete, than Matt. This same traits shine through in much of his articles, which can be found in the
Midwest Events newsletter. (Photo courtesy of Matt Haugen.)

First off, congrats on your Pike's Peak performance. For those not familiar with the race(s), can you give us a brief description?
Pikes Peak is a 2-day race: you can run a 1/2-marathon UP the Colorado Springs mountain on Saturday, starting at 6,300 feet, and ending at 14,100 feet, or you can run the Sunday marathon (up and down the Saturday trail). The course is paved the first mile, dirt switchbacks the next 4 miles, a smooth and straight path the next 2 miles, very rocky and winding the next 3 miles, and finishes with 3 miles of long zig-zags on loose pebbles and very rocky trails above tree line. The temperatures can range from 30 to 60 at the top, and from 60 to 90 at the bottom. Each year, about 200 runners choose to run both days, which is called "The Double."

What were your goals heading into the race and were you happy with your results?
I have been both fortunate and motivated to run one or both of the Pikes Peak races every year since 2000. After finishing "the double" in 2005 and 2006, I was determined to earn my best finish in 2007. My goal was to finish on the podium (top 3) in the double, and to run 7 hours and 45 minutes (or faster) for the 2-day race. I attained my goal by finishing 3rd (my previous best was 5th place), and ended-up with a 2-day total time of 7 hours and 51 minutes (my PB) on a very hot weekend, and I surprised myself by finishing 10th overall in the marathon.

How does a flatlander from Minnesota train for a mountain race that's at altitude?
I was fortunate to live in Colorado as the National Triathlon Team Coach from 1997-2000, during which time I learned about altitude training and racing from the Olympic Training Center Sports Scientists, as well as the local Pikes Peak runners. The key for a 'flatlander' is to arrive the afternoon before the race, to pace yourself wisely, and to have attained training goals that boost your leg strength, stamina, and your lactate threshold.

My key Pikes workouts are innovative sessions that include LOTS of staircase climbs and descents, UPhill treadmill workouts that last as long as 2 hours (as the average grade of Pikes is 11%), up and downhill runs, trail runs at Afton and up the ski hills at Hyland Park in Bloomington, as well as come cycling. For the double, I also complete demanding sessions as many as 5 days in a row, to boost my ability to recover between multiple days of hard vertical running. Each year, I up the ante a bit by adding more volume, and by taxing my muscles and mind with more quality sessions. My 'record' this year was 21 stairs climbing workouts in one month, which took me several weeks to recover from.

Have you ever given any thought to trying ultra marathons – maybe making a US national team?
I did finish the Ed Fitz 100K in 1992. What an ordeal; I was in 4th place at 42 miles, but was forced to walk the last 20 miles in order to prevent a DNF. I believe I am stronger now, but due to my passion for coaching, and my emphasis on Pikes Peak as my focus race, I do not feel the passion to pursue other goals – yet.

Other than Pike's you don't do much racing any more. Is that because you don't enjoy it as much, because you're too busy coaching, or some other reason?
As a runner and triathlete who used to commit the majority of my energy to training and racing, I realistically admit that I cannot race as often now, because I prefer to give that energy to the Macalester and Performance Power (P2) athletes that I coach. I am happy to say that I did attain my ultimate triathlon goals (8:41 Ironman), and I know that I gave my marathon days my very best effort (2:23). And my athletic history has always been one that highlights my love for chasing new challenges, in a variety of sports, so that I can learn more about myself, as well as continue to be driven to chase new goals and finish lines. I have enjoyed a wide range of race distances in a number of sports: running (road, track, and trail), biking, nordic skiing, duathlon, snowshoeing, triathlon, and canoeing. The end result has been a keen insight regarding training plans and adaptations. I started racing in 8th grade track and have continued to train and race for 36 years.

Speaking of coaching, it's safe to say you're staying busy by coaching local runners and triathletes, as well as the Macalester cross-country and track teams. That seems to be a great mix because just as the triathletes are finishing their season, the cross-country team is starting their season. Would you agree?
I am staying busy as a coach. I often tell Macalester recruits that I coach about 350 days a year, which makes me a better coach. I have recently embraced that I am a coach, and that my mission and passion in life is to be a coach. So I do go to practice almost every day of the year, which allows me to enjoy opportunity to coach college athletes, as well as community athletes (ages 18 to 65). I have come to perceive this as my life's passion.
My favorite answer is that "as much as I love to race, I would rather watch my team race."

What is your favorite/most rewarding part about coaching at the collegiate level? How about your P2 group?
As I enter my 17th year of collegiate coaching, I can promise that there is not a coaching experience that rivals that of being connected with young runners who are motivated, youthful, optimistic, happy, funny, and full of upside. I love coaching on the collegiate level, and I respect the opportunity. And I can say the same about my P2 Team: the runners and triathletes that I am fortunate to coach are driven, achievement oriented, positive, supportive, committed, hard working, appreciative, passionate, and enduring.

With P2, do you think the group training aspect really sets your coaching services apart from others?
I have narrowed my coaching efforts to what I do best: I go to daily practice, I coach, and I help guide athletes when I coach them "eye to eye." I model my coaching after the best method in the world: the NCAA, where the coach and athletes are together (almost) every day of the week, so that together, they can achieve team and personal goals.

Prior to coming back to Minnesota, you spent time coaching at the Olympic Training Center. What was that experience like?
I was the USA Triathlon National Teams Coach from 1997-2000. During that time, I traveled the world to coach at World Cup races, the Pan Am Games, the World Championships, and the Olympics. And I was fortunate to coach at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I coached 7 days a week, served as administrator for the National Teams Program, helped launch the coaching certification program, and traveled 180 days a year. Yes, my life was consumed, yet I left knowing that I had experienced the ultimate level of sport, which now allows me to more fully enjoy coaching on the collegiate and community levels in St. Paul.

And prior to that you had some success on the running/triathlon scene. What are some of your fondest memories?
I will forever be thankful for the chance to race on three top-10 NCAA Division III cross country teams in the ‘70s. I ran with teammates who loved to push themselves, and gave my heart to teams that were fully committed to being their very best. It was the era of the "1980's running boom" in the USA, which was exciting.

My fondest triathlon memories recall being one of the Minnesota pioneers of a new sport, as I started multi-sport racing in 1983. It was an era of trial and error, as there was no literature that provided guidance for triathlon training. I remember sharing training and racing days with people who were passionate about the new sport of "triathlon." And I want to say that in the early days of the sport, the focus was on novel and extending challenges, not on equipment and gadgets and nutritional supplements.

What are your PRs?
4:15 mile
9:08 2-mile
14:45 5K
30:38 10K
1:08 half marathon
2:23 marathon
3:55 half Ironman
8:41 Ironman

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I was fortunate to run with a number of the Minnesota legends that you have written about in the past year, and I get the chance to run with a lot of runners via my P2 Team and Macalester College coaching positions. Since coaching methods intrigue me, I would choose to run with Roy Griak (former U of M coach).

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you'd known when you first started running?
I often tell my athletes that racing is quite simple: the starting gun fires, YOU push your mind and muscles as hard as you can, and you earn the finish place that you deserve. Success in endurance sports is not about hoping, or wondering for a good result...it is about gaining confidence in key workouts, so that you know you are going to race well.


Maria Panlilio said...

I accidentally stumbled upon this article. Are you the same Coach Matt (Matther Haugen) who coached a high school swim team with the U.S. Olympics in CO Springs in 1999? If so, we dated briefly (but, oh my :-)); you created quite a lasting impression on me. How in the world are you? This is quite an impressive feature article.
(I couldn't remember your face anymore. You're quite handsome.)

Maria Panlilio said...

Ooops! I posted a comment too fast. Is this thing for public consumption? I didn't realize my name was going to be shown as well. I am blushing profusely! (Someone shoot me now, please!)