Matt Flaherty was busy racing this spring before stepping away from ultras over the summer so that he could refocus on training for the fall season, which includes this weekend’s Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k. In the following interview, Matt talks about his spring season, why he took the summer off from racing, what his peak training has looked like, and why time off due to an injury can lead to PRs.
Matt Flaherty Pre-2013 UROC 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here with Matt Flaherty before 2013 Ultra Race of Champions. Matt, how are you doing?
Matt Flaherty: I’m doing well, thanks. How are you?
iRF: Alright. Meghan talked to you out at Cayuga Trails 50. You were second out there, correct?
iRF: What’s been going on since then?
Flaherty: No ultras since then. Cayuga was my last ultra in my spring season. I did American River 50, Ice Age 50, and Cayuga Trails all a month apart and all 50 milers. They all went pretty well. I got a first, a fourth, and a second. Ice Age was really competitive. My teammate, David Riddle, crushed it there with the fastest time in about 15 years. I was still happy with the way that went. I was kind of still building back strength after an injury layoff last year. I was pretty happy with Cayuga Trails, too. I finished within about five minutes of Sage [Canaday]. I’m not sure if he had a particularly great race, but I didn’t feel like I necessarily did either. I kind of fell apart at the end. Spring was sort of about getting back to form and getting used to running ultras again. I decided to take a bit of a break this summer so I would be fresh enough to race an ultra season this fall. This is the first ultramarathon back in a series of four that I’m doing this fall. So it will be a bit of a test having not been out for a 50-mile-plus race in the last few months, but I got a 40-mile training run in about a month ago. I’m feeling fit and ready to go.
iRF: So what was the reason behind taking that conscious break from ultras?
Flaherty: I think I raced seven out of eight weekends in May and June—only two ultras, but I was racing half marathons and 10 miles. I actually set PRs in both of those distances. I was just racing too much. I didn’t get any training in essentially because of it. I was just recovering from one race and maybe getting a light workout in and then racing the next one. I was starting to feel a little run down. I felt like I really needed a break just to get some higher mileage in and work on some weaknesses that were starting to develop. I felt like I needed to work on my climbing a bit. I actually moved out of Chicago and down to Bloomington, Indiana, where I went to law school. There are no mountains but it’s hilly, so I could start working on my hill strength again and a little bit of technical ability on some singletrack and that sort of thing. Just a training break to kind of get ready for the fall season.
iRF: What does your kind of peak training look like in a given week?
Flaherty: You know, I’m still building up. I’d say ideally I’m in the 90 to 100-mile range per week right now. I’m still training kind of like a road guy or a cross or track guy. I do a lot of half hour to hour tempos and progression runs and that sort of thing. Basically, once every two weeks or so I’ll try to get some sort of ultra stimulus whether that’s a 30 to 40-mile trail run or back-to-back 20 milers. So in general, my training is not a whole lot different than it was even before I started running ultras. Yeah, a decent amount of mileage and try to keep some workouts going to keep that aerobic strength building.
iRF: Did you do some racing this summer?
Flaherty: I think just one race. I did a 10k back in my hometown of Springfield, Illinois. It’s kind of low key, but it’s a classic race that town. I managed to win that. That was really it. I’ve really just been training. I came out here in August for two weeks to train at altitude and kind of get a feel for what it was like to run at 12,000 feet because I’d never done that.
iRF: Really? So how did it go?
Flaherty: It went well. I don’t know. Maybe I had that first day… I hear it’s really easy that first day for some reason. So we climbed Mt. Audubon my first day out here which is a 13er, and I felt great. I was charged right up it. It was good. Maybe I adapt well. I’ve been sleeping in an altitude tent back home. I got here about 10 days before the race. I did what I could to acclimate.
iRF: So you’ve been mostly focusing on your ultra training, but you had PRs in shorter road distances which you used to train for specifically. What do you think you owe that to?
Flaherty: It’s hard to say. I had about 10 months where I did almost no training last year. You feel terrible coming off of that, but all that strength you built up over years and years is still there. You see it time and again with runners getting injured and then setting PRs afterwards because their bodies sort of had a chance to catch up. Not that I think I was overtraining or anything in the past, but my best guess is that it’s sort of accumulated strength that led to a jump in fitness and I managed to… I mean, they weren’t super short distances like a 5k where you have to train fast for it. It was 10 miles and half marathon which are really close to your anaerobic-threshold pace, and if you’re getting stronger those times are going to get faster.
iRF: Compared to some of the people at the front of this race, you’ve had some great results but you’re a little more out of the spotlight. You also don’t have any pressure from being part of the [Skyrunner Ultra S]eries. You get to run your own race this weekend. Do you think that’s an advantage for you?
Flaherty: Yeah, I think it’s nice to be a little under the radar. People are talking about who’s going to win and all that. Of course, I want to win, too. I don’t necessarily think my odds are as great as some of those guys, but you’ve got to believe you can win. You’ve got to believe you can compete at that level. I think I need to race a conservative race for me being at altitude. It’s my first race ever this high. It’s 100k which is also kind of long for me. I’ve only done one other 100k which was UROC two years ago. So, I think I’ve got to pay attention to my own energy level and my own skill set and really run my race the first third of the race. We’ll see what happens when we get to Copper [Mountain] hopefully feeling good. Then we’ll hit that 13 to 15 miles of bike path and hopefully use a little of that road speed. Then in my mind, the race starts after we get off the bike path—the last 24 or 25 miles. So hopefully I can be in a good position there and in contact with the leaders or the lead group and be ready to throw down.
iRF: Best of luck out there to you.
Flaherty: Thank you very much.
iRF: A quick bonus question inspired by Cameron Clayton. Do you think you resemble a young Teddy Roosevelt?
Flaherty: Ohhh, a young Teddy Roosevelt? I don’t know. I get a lot of comparisons with the ‘stache. I’m being Prefontaine for Halloween this year. So I don’t know… Teddy—I’d have to dig. I’d have to get some new glasses if that’s going to be my persona.
iRF: Alright, we’ll look forward to it.