Montana native but Alaska dweller Matt Shryock will make a third go at The Rut 50k this weekend. In this interview, learn about Matt’s history with The Rut 50k course, what he does outside of running, and where his mountain-running strengths and weaknesses lie relative to what The Rut course will offer up.
Be sure to check out our in-depth preview to see who else is racing.
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Matt Shryock Pre-2015 The Rut 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks here of iRunFar, and I’m here in Big Sky, Montana two days before The Rut 50k. It’s Friday morning. I’m with men’s contender, Matt Shryock. Hi.
Matt Shryock: Hi. How’s it going?
iRunFar: Good. I’m just meeting you for the first time right now. I’m pretty excited.
Shryock: Yeah, me, too. I’m honored to be here.
iRunFar: How are you?
Shryock: I’m doing well. I feel really good. I’m excited to be back in Montana.
iRunFar: This is two days before your third run of The Rut. This is a race that involves a lot of suffering, and yet you’re back for your third time. You’ve run all of the editions. What makes you come back?
Shryock: I think I really like the suffering aspect. I did it the first year kind of naïve. I remember I was in a road racing singlet and Saucony Kinvaras. I had really no idea what to expect. I just loved it out there. It went really well. I think being naïve was awesome. I like to suffer. I like that it’s a day and you just settle in, one step in front of the other.
iRunFar: Your first time at this race, you probably learned a lot, but you did end up in second place. You came back last year after all of the international Skyrunning athletes descended upon Big Sky, and you pulled out an 11th place. You just squeaked out of the top 10. I’m guessing you want to be back inside that this year?
Shryock: Yeah, I think last year, top-five was ‘A goal’ and top 10 was ‘B Goal,’ and ‘C Goal’ was finish. Eleventh—I was happy with it. I didn’t have a perfect race. I think I came in… three weeks before I was pretty skinny and I was feeling great and then exploded. I could feel every heartbeat. I was having a hard time walking up stairs. A doctor just told me, “Take three weeks off. Eat. Gain some weight.” So I was coming in not perfect. I think I cramped a bit during the race. I think it was just time off the joints and got a little shock to the muscles. But the last two hours of the race felt great and kind of salvaged it. I was happy with the race, but, yeah, I’d definitely love to be top 10. I’d love to be top five. Who knows? Just have a good race, I guess.
iRunFar: This is my first time meeting you, and this may be the first time the iRunFar community is meeting you as well. I’d love to learn a little bit about you. You’re a Montana native.
Shryock: Montana native. I grew up in Whitefish, Montana. I lived in Missoula for nine years. I recently just moved to Alaska, so I’m trying to be an Alaskan and a Montanan.
iRunFar: It seems like both states are kind of claiming you. They all want you.
Shryock: I thought I needed to go earn my stripes in Alaska, but I still want to preserve Montanan, so I’m kind of juggling it. I think they’re happy to have me in both which is great. I feel welcomed and supported by both states, and I think they’re compatible states. Yeah, I really like that. I’m a nurse (RN) and love that. It’s a great job for training.
iRunFar: Is it?
Shryock: Yeah, three 12’s (12-hour days) or flexible schedule so you have plenty of time to get out.
iRunFar: Work some big days and then have some big days to train?
Shryock: Big days and you can get out and run just a little, and then you have a full four days to really get out there.
iRunFar: We’ll ask you that in a couple years as you’ve gone through some really nasty long shifts.
iRunFar: Mountain running seems to be one of your focuses of late. You said you were new to the mountain running scene when you did The Rut in 2013, but you just had a really stellar run at the Mount Marathon Race a couple months ago. We watched you run, I believe it was fifth place there.
Shryock: Sixth, which is fine. I was… the field was amazing this year as well. I’d been training and doing the mountain series up there. They have a really cool Grand Prix series up there of these very unique mountain runs. They’re a lot like vertical k’s kind of every other weekend throughout the summer all gearing up to Mount Marathon. Those are great practice. Mount Marathon is its own beast of a race. The support there is probably like a European race. There are thousands of people. You know. It’s just a really gnarly descent and gnarly climb. Yeah, I was really happy to be connected for most of it and then popped off the back a little bit. I was really happy with the race. It felt like a little bit of a breakout. Even the sixth I was super happy about.
iRunFar: Sixth in that field.
Shryock: Yeah, sixth in that field was great. I would have loved top three in a normal year. Sixth that year, I’m very happy with.
iRunFar: Talk about your personal experiences with mountain running. This course, for example, is pretty dynamic in that there are some hilly but runnable, pretty buffed out, mountain-bikey singletrack. Then you get to go up a really steep downhill mountain-bike trail. Then there’s this scree and talus and ridgeline stuff that you get to play with. Where will you excel this weekend? Where do you focus when you’re wanting to improve?
Shryock: I think before, prior to Alaska running, I was from Missoula where you have those buttery-smooth trails. I was maybe more of a road, butter-smooth trail runner. In the past, those were my strong points, and I went out fast last year for that same reason. I think I was in fourth for awhile and then exploded a little which happens. But now, after Alaska, technical descents I’ve gotten much better with, so I’m actually excited for the scree descents. I kind of just go for it now. I have strong quads and ankles for the descents. I think I’m going to go for it on those. Yeah, I’m thinking the climbs at elevation is my biggest worry because Alaska is sea level. That’s my… although I feel pretty good right now.
iRunFar: You get to 3,000-4,000 feet there, you’re doing pretty good.
Shryock: And 5,000 feet, that’s a big mountain, but nothing like Colorado or even here. That’s my biggest worry right now. Otherwise I’m feeling pretty good on ascents, technical descents, and kind of that rolling terrain.
iRunFar: So last year, take us back to last year, where did you suffer? Where did you start to really hurt?
Shryock: It started Tram Dock. I got to Tram Dock feeling great, and every muscle in both legs cramped. I was standing there getting aid, and I didn’t want to tell anyone. I didn’t want to say anything. I was just standing there, “Do you have any, uh, electrolytes?” politely as I’m just…
iRunFar: “All of them maybe?”
Shryock: “I need a lot of them.” I really cramped for the next two hours. I felt great. I wasn’t tired but really just pleading with my legs to move. I got to the 20-mile aid station and had a handful of gummy bears and everything clicked. I had an awesome last six miles where I was just cruising. That was the big struggle. I’m hoping I don’t deal with that this year. I don’t know if it was the elevation or the time off before the race or…
iRunFar: Tram Dock, for the viewers, is where you duck back down and you do the last long gnarly ridge up to Lone Peak.
Shryock: Right, and actually, I think they’ve cut out Tram Dock this year, but I’m not sure. Don’t quote me on that.
iRunFar: I guess we both have to study the course map.
Shryock: I tend not to study the course map until right before. I’m the procrastinator.
iRunFar: That must have been a tough thing to go climb the big ridge up to the top of the peak.
Shryock: Yes, and I definitely lost some spots which was mentally demoralizing as well. I then had a rough descent because I was cramping and couldn’t really let loose. I think I went from about fourth to 12th going up and down Lone Peak which is demoralizing.
iRunFar: Last question for you. Being Montana born and bred, this is Montanan tried-and-true race. Mike [Foote] and Mike [Wolfe] try to bring out a lot of true Montana flavor. For somebody who hasn’t been here, paint a picture of what makes this race unique, different, Montanan.
Shryock: I think the Montanan philosophy is kind of this ragtag bunch of people that like tough conditions, like adversity, are humble and just excited about racing, excited about getting out there. Definitely the after party is part of that Montana feel.
iRunFar: Is the mechanical bull coming back?
Shryock: I think so? I don’t know. Maybe that’s a liability.
iRunFar: It was kind of dangerous last year.
Shryock: It’s super dangerous. Who knows if that will be there? That’s definitely Montana flare. Just having fun out there, supporting each other, and race as hard as you can. Try to destroy each other out there on the race course and then be great friends afterwards.
iRunFar: And wear flannel as often as possible?
Shryock: Flannel—yeah, we love the flannel. Especially Mike Wolfe, he loves that flannel.
iRunFar: We’ll probably see a couple different plaids from him this weekend?
Shryock: Absolutely, and maybe some cut-off jean shorts. He loves them.
iRunFar: Great. The weekend is just starting.
Shryock: It is, yeah.
iRunFar: Thanks so much. Nice to meet you. Best of luck to you out on the mountain this weekend.
Shryock: Thank you. You, too. Thank you. Thank you.