Getting to Know – Matt McClintock, 9/16/17

Location: Blowing Rock, NC
Original Hometown: Athens, ME
Professional Career: Professional Runner for ZAP Fitness-Reebok
Favorite Running Shoe: Reebok OSR Grasse Rd
Favorite Race Distance: 10k and up
Favorite Personal Record (PR): 28:27 for 10k
Favorite Food: Pancakes
Favorite Book or Movie: Lilo & Stitch

Q: Can you give us a little background on your running history?

Started running in 5th grade, along with soccer, it was the first sport I was able to do in school. I turned out to be pretty good at the whole running thing so I gradually cut out other sports and continued to just focus on that until my senior year in high school when I was only running. I was successful enough in high school to earn a scholarship to Purdue where I went on to set school records from 3k to 10k and won two conference titles. Following college I pursued opportunities to continue running and was offered a contract by the Reebok sponsored club ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, NC

Q: What made you choose Purdue coming from Maine after graduating as HS valedictorian and finishing 15th at the Foot Locker National Championships in San Diego? What other colleges were you considering at the time?

As of December of my senior year of high school I was committed to Lock Haven University a division 2 school in Pennsylvannia. However, after qualifying for the Foot Locker National Championships I wanted to pursue a higher level of competition. One of the first coaches to contact me was Jake Stewart of Purdue, he took a job at Illinois before I arrived on campus. I was also in contact with Bob Braman of Florida State and Mark Carroll of Auburn. The ultimate deciding factor for me was being able to afford school and Purdue was able to make that a possibility for me.

Q: What are your top memories from your competitive career?

I have two that really stand out. The first was winning the Big Ten cross country title my senior year. I had been so close the last two years, 2nd and 3rd and it was really the only thing I had wanted my entire time at Purdue. We hadn’t had an individual champion in more than 70 years, and to be that person was just a dream.

Second, would by very recently at the Bix 7 race on July 29th of this year. It was the best race of my career and it felt really good to be in the best shape of my life for the last race of my season. It was my highest finish at a US championship event and a great way to end my first pro year.

Q: What challenges or obstacles have you had to overcome?

The biggest challenge for me was adjusting to the move from my family. I grew up in a very small rural town of about 1000 people in Maine so moving to a campus of 40,000 people was quite a culture shock. There was more than one occasion that I thought about giving up and going home, but I was lucky to have a lot of supportive people to get me through those times.

Q: Who has had the most influence on your athletic career?

I would say my second coach at Purdue, Jeff Kent. From the start we had a really great relationship. We had the same goals, the same ideas for how to reach those goals and the same drive to achieve our goals. He was always just a really steady figure when I was struggling and The first person to shake my hand when things went right. He was also the person to push me into joining a group like ZAP instead of staying in West Lafayette and training by myself. He knew I needed to be with other athletes to push me.

Q: Who is your running role model?

I don’t think I could name just one! I’m really inspired by the old school road racers, guys like Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Jon Sinclair, etc. Those guys were just so tough, it wasn’t like it is now where guys only race on the track twice a year and have all this fancy expensive gear and recovery tools. Those guys were fast because they were tough, they ran a lot and they raced. They lived an incredibly Spartan lifestyle and that is something going up in rural maine and going to an engineering school like Purdue that I can relate to and that I hope to capture in my career.

Q: What races are you preparing for and what are your goals for those races? How do you go about setting goals?

I’m racing 4 times during my fall season (August through January). I start with the Virginia Health 8k which is more of a “rust buster”. My goal there is to win, but I’ll be in a big training block. Second is the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving. It is routinely one if the most competitive races in the Fall and my goal there is to be top 5. Next is the Club Cross Country Champioships where I will try to qualify for the US senior team to the BUPA Great Edinburgh race. Finally, the major race of my season will be the Houston Half marathon. My goal there is to break 62:30 for the half, though if all goes according to plan I think I have a shot at getting near 62:00.

When I set goals, I like to break them up into two categories, outcome goals and process goals. Outcome goals are the results you hope to achieve (ex. place in the top 5) process goals are how you will achieve those goals (ex. be in bed by 10 pm every night). I also break my outcome goals down into A, B, and C teirs. A being a result that is very hard to achieve, but on a perfect day possible. B is your main goal, what you would be happy having achieved. While, finally, C is a goal that you could say “well it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a total failure”. For example, my tier goals for the Houston Half are…
A. Break ZAP club record (61:44)
B. Break 62:30
C. Break 63:00

Q: What is your favorite pre-race meal the day before or morning of a competition? Do you have a superstitious routine or warm up?

Night before it tends to be some type of simple carbs. I’ve always done pasta so that’s just kind of what I stick with. (Cargo loading the NIGHT BEFORE is a myth so just find what works well for you and don’t over eat or you won’t feel good.) Morning of is usually a bagel and banana 3 or 4 hours before the race and then the last thing I drink is Generation Ucan, a slow-burning carbohydrate drink, more to simply not feel hungry and settle my stomach than to actually fuel during competition.

Warm up is always the same, 20-25 minute jog followed by dynamic stretching and motion drills and then strides. I start the warm up about an hour before the race starts and start strides 10-15 minutes from the start.

As far as superstition, probably my biggest one is that I never wear anything associated with my racing kit at any point during training. I even have a special pair of socks set aside that I only use for racing.

Q: How do you mentally prepare for a big race?

I just try to treat the big races like any other. Follow the same routine and not let the moment become bigger than what it is. At the end of the day this sport is really simple, whoever gets from point a to point b first wins. That fact always remains the same whether I’m racing toddlers or Olympic champions.

Q: What are one or two of your favorite workouts that you are looking forward to running this training segment?

I love long progression or fartlek workouts. A couple times a year we go to this long flat road called the Todd Railroad Grade Rd and we will do 10 Mile progression runs where we start at around 5:30 mile pace and work down into the 4:40’s. Another favorite workout of mine is the ZAP Classic or 7-1 fartlek. We start with a 7 minute hard piece (around 5:10 per mile) this is followed by a half-time float (3:30) around 45 seconds per mile slower than the on. Next is a 6 minute piece a little faster (5:00-:05) per mile and another half time rest. This continues all the way down (5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Usually we will do the 7, 6, and 5 minute piece on our flat lake loop and the 4, 3, 2, 1 pieces on a 3 mile climbing trail.

Q: How has the transition gone from college athlete to pro? What has been the biggest change?

The biggest adjustment is I now have no real distractions from running. No school work, no clubs, nothing. It’s my job now, not just something I do. It can be stressful knowing that you have to perform day in and day out to be able to provide for your family. Most of my income is made in prize money from road races so each race is important. What has made the transition easy for myself is that I have always treated sports this way. Even all the way back in high school I knew I wanted this to be my career and new what came with that and have been trying my best to live that lifestyle throughout college and into this new phase.

Q: What do you value most in a running group?

The biggest way that a training group helps me is to simply give me a group of friends to help take my mind OFF of running for a bit. If I’m training alone I am constantly trying to do every single miniscule thing correctly. If there is one thing that my time at ZAP has taught me it is that it is possible to be too perfect, that’s when you stop loving the sport.

Q: Morning or evening runners? Who is right?

I personally prefer to run in the mornings and then I have the rest of the day to myself. Also, I don’t like to run on a full stomach so I usually feel a lot better after just a small breakfast. That being said, I understand that most are under substantially larger time constraints when trying to schedule their runs so any time you can get in the miles is a good time!

Q: What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

Don’t take things so seriously, take a day off once in a while, eat some cake, go to that concert. One thing I have learned during my time at ZAP is that it is definitely possible to be too perfect. If you don’t have a good balance between life and work you’re not going to be happy or preform well in either. That goes for every job, not just athletics.

Q: What is one “extra” thing you do or stress to others in order to succeed in running? Is it a specific stretch, core work, plyos, etc?

Core work is incredibly important. We do it 4 days per week. One of the most important things to remember is that the core isn’t just the abs, but also glutes, back, hips and hipflexors. Make sure you are working all of it, and a little goes a long way. You don’t have to spend hours a week, but 20 minutes 3 days a week would help a lot of runners run faster and avoid injury.

Another thing is recovery. Our coach, Pete Rea, is huge on us listening to our bodies. If there is a day we don’t feel it, we rest and take it easy. Overtraining is something that can also really hinder a runners performance. A rest day once in a while is a great thing. Consider it a part of training rather than a lack of it!

Q: How do you recommend your fans to follow your career as a professional runner?

I’m on twitter as @Matt_McClintock and Instagram as @runmattrun11. I also have my blog website www.mcclintockrunning.wordpress.com where I will post blogs and keep my schedule and results up to date. There is also a link to my training log for anyone who wishes to checkout my training and a contact section where you can email me if you have any questions or comments or just want to say hi!