In his third run of The Rut 50k, Matt Shryock finished third in a breakout performance. In this interview, hear Matt break down how his race went, where he felt most comfortable on the course, what hurt the most about his race, and whether or not he’s finally satisfied with his run of The Rut.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
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Matt Shryock Post-2015 The Rut 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the finish line of the 2015 The Rut 50k. I’m here with men’s third-place finisher, Matt Shryock. Dude, you got third!
Matt Shryock: I know! I can’t believe it! I totally can’t believe it.
iRunFar: You freaked out at the finish. What was going through your head?
Shryock: I totally freaked out. Well, I just saw all my friends about 400 meters back, and I saw the finish, and the whole time I didn’t think I was going to hold it together. I didn’t think I was going to get third. Then I was like, I’m going to get third! A friend of mine told me once, “Always enjoy the finish line.” I was like, I’m going to enjoy this one. Then when I crossed, I was just yelling and just so happy. I think I was just overwhelmed with happiness.
iRunFar: There was some shouting and some high kicking.
Shryock: Maybe. I don’t know if I could have high-kicked without cramping, but…
iRunFar: Then there was some floundering around on the ground.
Shryock: My legs were cramping for the last two hours, so I’d just cramped, fell over, couldn’t believe it. [Mike] Foote was like, “Get up!” I was like, “Okay, I’ll get up!” Yeah, I was just so excited. I think it was just excitement.
iRunFar: Let’s rewind back to the dark this morning. The race started at 6 a.m. and you guys rolled off into a super-frigid morning.
Shryock: Yeah, it was oddly comfortable. It was mid-30’s, but it felt pretty good.
iRunFar: Talk about the first 11 miles or so where you’re running around some of the singletrack and cat tracks on the lower part of the resort.
Shryock: Rolling terrain. I was really kind of reiterating to myself, Don’t go out too quick. I really don’t want to be leading right now. Max King and a couple other guys took off. I was like, Good, stay behind them. Don’t get in that crew. I felt really comfortable, so I kept them in sight. Then slowly just reeled them back up right by Headwaters…
iRunFar: Climbing up the steeps to get up to the top of Headwaters?
Shryock: Yeah, right at the base of that, we all came together. There was one little descent, and I caught them on the descent and actually went into first. I was like, Oooh, too early for first. I don’t want this. I’m going to let them sneak back up. Then we started climbing, and then the two Euro guys—I don’t know their names—they took off. I’m not going to go with them, so I just kind of climbed at my own pace at that point and had a little gap. That was my gap, and I had to hold it.
iRunFar: There were some pretty bad-ass runners who you passed in that section—guys like Max King.
Shryock: Yeah, that came up.
iRunFar: Guys like Mario Mendoza.
Shryock: Yeah, exactly, and that went through my head. I was like, I just dropped those guys. Maybe I’m going too fast. But I felt good. I was like, Well, you did it. Now make it happen.
iRunFar: So we had some reports coming down on you from Headwaters Ridge, that first big technical descent, the most technical part of the course. Reports were that you were descending among the best of anybody including the Euros in front of you. Is that some Alaska rock… skiing?
Shryock: That’s totally Alaska rock. It is. That’s what I’ve been doing all summer. There aren’t really trails in Alaska—and Mount Marathon practice. You go up to Mount Marathon and, like I was telling you, you just huck yourself off the side of the mountain and try to stay on your feet. Like I said before, your ankles get strong, your quads get strong, and you just trust your feet, and you just go for it. Hopefully you stay up.
iRunFar: You had that little contour through the forest after you arrived at the bottom of Headwaters and before you make the big grunt up Lone Peak. Your position didn’t really shift at all in the race after that. You were stuck, stuck is not the right word, being in third…
Shryock: I’m happy to be stuck in third. I’ll be stuck there.
iRunFar: You said in our pre-race interview that you were having some issues with the climb up to Lone Peak last year. How was it this year?
Shryock: Still a little woozy and still cramping again, but I had a lot more energy, so I could push through the cramping and climb decently. I actually was kind of holding back because I thought I could descend better than most, so I was, Hold back. Get to the top in one piece, and then really work the descent. So I really focused on just flying down the descent. I think I got a pretty good gap there. I’m not sure, but I think I did.
iRunFar: You may be an Alaskan mountain runner now, but you are a sea-level mountain runner. How did 11,000 feet feel today?
Shryock: Yes. Pretty thin. Really thin up there.
iRunFar: There might have been an elephant right here.
Shryock: Well, it’s just you’re like a goldfish trying to gulp air. I think that’s where the cramping comes from. I think my muscles were a little hypoxic. So I was experimenting. I actually started hyperventilating on purpose to see if I could get some oxygen there.
iRunFar: That’s the nurse in you.
Shryock: What could this be? It might have worked. I’m not sure. I don’t know. I ate a ton of food, so I don’t think it was a nutrition issue—a lot of gummy bears.
iRunFar: The descent off of Lone Peak is long. First, it’s super technical, and then you’re just rolling on backroads ever so slowly coming downhill. You’re probably seeing nobody at that point. You can’t see the guys in front of you. You can’t see the guys behind you. What’s going through your head?
Shryock: I was just trying to maximize how fast… any scree I saw, I’d try to ski it, and just really open up, jump when I can, fly when I can, and really just put in more time. The longer it went, the better I was. Good. I’m going to put more time in. I was loving it.
iRunFar: You said you were cramping the last two hours of the race. How did you stave it off enough to keep moving as strong as you were?
Shryock: I was cramping until the end, but energy-wise, I felt great. It was really just kind of throwing my legs with my hip flexors, just kind of throwing them. I couldn’t really feel them that well. My ankles were definitely flexed. Yeah, but I think fortunately I’d fueled well enough to have the energy to do that. I’d go through times where I’d loosen up and then seize up again. That was the biggest struggle of the day.
iRunFar: Last ascent—that is rude—800 feet or 1,000 feet, and you’d already gone up and down Lone Peak, and then they send you up another mountain when you can see the finish line.
Shryock: And hear the party happening. You can see a hotel that we’re looking at.
iRunFar: At that point, are you looking ahead toward first and second place, or are you looking behind to try and keep your spot?
Shryock: I was actually looking behind. I kept asking their splits back, and no one would give them to me. They were cheering for me, which I appreciate, but I really wanted a split because I kind of wanted… they were about six minutes ahead, and I knew I just didn’t have it. I wanted to hold onto that third place. Yeah, so I was looking behind me and just trying to open up my stride and run as fast as I could down that.
iRunFar: You made it all the way down Headwaters Ridge without falling. You made it all the way off the backside of Long Peak without falling. You took a little tumble in the last couple miles?
Shryock: Tumble on the smoothest trail out there. I clipped a toe.
iRunFar: It always happens like that.
Shryock: Yes, just clipped a toe and I was on the ground in just a half a second and just full body cramp. Then I kind of freaked out. I yelled at myself, Arrrrghghghghg, and shook it off and just kept running. Yeah, that happens, yes.
iRunFar: Rolled into the finish; finished third; finished about a half our faster than last year.
Shryock: Yeah, stoked.
iRunFar: You’re stoked. Given a breakout like that, what do you look toward now? What goes through your head?
Shryock: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been trying to make it. I kept thinking… this whole summer I’ve been thinking, I think I can do this. I think I can have a breakout. I’ve had good races this year, not on the big stage, but races where I think, “That was a good race.” I just needed that validation, and I think I might have gotten it. That’s what’s kind of going through my head right now. You can do this. I think I can do this. I’m really excited about that. Was it the U.S. qualifers for the ultra distance? People keep telling me that I made the team, but I don’t know.
iRunFar: Yeah, I’m sorry. I don’t know.
Shryock: Unconfirmed. So that might be the next step. Totally unconfirmed though.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you.
Shryock: Thanks. Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: The Mikes put on a good after party. Hopefully you’ll be able to indulge.
Shryock: Yep, that was my goal—get to the after party. That was my only goal this year.
iRunFar: Get to the after party in one piece.
Shryock: In one piece, yep.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you.
Shryock: Thank you.