Matt Laye hails from the California’s Bay Area, where he trains with some of our sport’s top guys. This weekend, in his debut 100 miler, he bested a big field of men to win the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile. In the following interview, Matt talks about his background, what his future racing plans are, and what he thinks about the Bay Area as a hotbed of ultrarunning.
Matt Laye, 2014 Rocky Raccoon 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: This is Kim Wrinkle of iRunFar and this is Matthew Laye, the winner of the USATF 100-Mile Championships yesterday at the Rocky Raccoon 100. How are you feeling today, Matthew?
Matthew Laye: Not too bad, but pretty sore.
iRunFar: How was the course compared to others you’ve run?
Laye: This was one of the flatter races that I’ve done. I’ve done a few in Europe that were much more European style with probably a lot less success. It reminds me a bit of running in Missouri where I did grad school, so I think it really played to my strengths in terms of the lack of elevation.
iRunFar: How were all the tree roots on the course?
Laye: Those were definitely challenging. I think I took two diggers and the bottoms of my feet are quite sore, I think, from stepping on all those bad boys.
iRunFar: Did you have any face plants totally?
Laye: No, just went down a couple of times on my side—not so bad.
iRunFar: How were your shoes for the course?
Laye: They were great. I switched out between two pairs. I had the Scott Kinabalu for the first 60 which were perfect underfoot support and a lot of nice rock plate which was great for the roots. Then I switched to the Montrail Fluid Flex for the last 40 which gave lots of cushioning for the last bit which I thought was perfect.
iRunFar: Run us through the race. There were so many lead changes and top-10 changes and sort of a war of attrition out there. Was the humidity a large factor?
Laye: I actually didn’t feel it that much. I was getting a bit warm, and I just sort of adjusted my drinking pattern to sort of have a little less calories in my drinks but just took in a bit more than I had originally planned. As we went through the loops, my main goal was to try to run about 2:40 to start for the first couple loops. We came through a little quick which was a little worrying but I felt good, and so I just sort of went with it. I sort of felt like I was going to fall off loops three, four, and five, but actually I think the difference between my fastest and my slowest loop was only six minutes. So I was really happy with the ability to maintain that—really surprised.
iRunFar: Where did you take the lead for good? Ian [Sharman] had led for much of the race off and on and then suddenly it was [you].
Laye: We got into the aid station at 66 at Damnation and about to go out for the six-mile loop there and he grabbed a bunch of food, and I didn’t really need a whole lot. I just grabbed a little bit of soda. He was walking out of the aid station and I jogged up to him and had a chat with him briefly just to see how he was feeling and he asked me how I was feeling and it looked like he was going to continue walking for a little bit; so I just sort of started to jog off and I was running scared for the next 33 miles.
iRunFar: Both of you looked strong. You had the look of confidence on your face and Ian was more of a fatigued look on his face. It seemed to me you were more in control the last lap.
Laye: Kind of ironically, Ian told me I had to run my own race for the first 80 miles and to not even think about racing until you get towards the end. That was really what I was focused on. So even though I did pass him and I knew he was back there and that scared me, I was running my race the whole time. If he caught me, he caught me, and when we got to the point where I felt like I could really let go and start racing, that would be when that happened. But until then, I just had to keep focused on taking care of myself and sort of maintaining an even pace. I think I had that look of focus. I wasn’t smiling out there. I was definitely looking under my hat and at the ground in front of me and just focused on one step at a time.
iRunFar: 100-mile debut and 100 mile-win and USATF Championship—how did you approach your debut 100 miler? What did you do nutritionally? What did you do training-wise that led up to this race?
Laye: In the fall I was actually running a lot for my club, West Valley Track Club. We were in the cross-country season, so 5ks and 10ks and half marathons. Then after Club Nationals in December, I sort of bumped up and had a couple of big weekends, and I had a six-hour timed run on New Year’s Eve where I managed 48 miles pretty comfortably. I had some really hard downhill sessions with Ian. The nutrition—my background is in science and physiology, so I just took the knowledge that I had from that and just sort of planned every loop to have a bag for every loop to have the calories I needed so I didn’t have to rely on the aid stations, and I could get in and out fairly quickly.
iRunFar: Was it mostly liquid and gels or did you do some solid bites or anything like that?
Laye: I did solid the first two loops—I had bars that I took some bites on. After that, I moved to strictly liquid and gels.
iRunFar: Talk about your support system. I know San Francisco Running Company has dominated Texas races lately with Jorge Maravilla winning Bandera and you winning yesterday. You certainly have a great group you came with, not to mention Dylan Bowman winning Sean O’Brien. Talk about your group.
Laye: Yeah, it’s incredible. You definitely feel like you have something to live up to. Jorge, his 100-mile debut, he was also the USATF Champion at Tahoe. So now we have the guy I train with at West Valley who is the 50k trail champ; Jorge is the 100k trail champ; now with the 100-mile trail champ and Dylan winning the 50 miler, I think Marin has an incredible support system. I think a lot of it coalesces around what Brett Rivers has done with San Francisco Running Company, and that is definitely a draw. The community there beyond the elites is just incredible; it’s such a fun place to be. It’s like nowhere else I’ve trained and no other support system like that. It’s just awesome to be a part of it.
iRunFar: Brett Rivers needs to be a profiteer and go to Vegas because he predicted that you would have an incredible race yesterday and he was spot on.
iRunFar: How did you like the organization of the race? Did you think they did a good job in the aid stations, with the volunteers, course design, etceteras?
Laye: Yeah, the course was super well marked. It was easy to follow. I felt like even though there were 400 to 600 people out there and there and some of it was singletrack going both ways, it was never really too crowded. Aid stations—everyone was super helpful. Yeah, really, really fantastic event.
iRunFar: And Western States—what’s between now and then or is that going to be the main focus?
Laye: Between now and then I’m running Boston Marathon and Big Sur Marathon on the roads a la Ian Sharman. I’m getting all my training tips from him. Then a lot of time on Mt. Tam with the bros—Dylan, Jorge, and Brett. All of us are in Western. The store will be closed. It’s going to be fantastic and a real special time to train with those guys for that race.
iRunFar: I think you might have a fairly quality support crew for Western with all you guys running.
Laye: Yeah. I think so, yeah.
iRunFar: Well Matt, thank you very much and best wishes on your races coming up.
Laye: Thank you very much.