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Denver, CO— Matt Chrabot’s journey to top of the triathlon food chain has not been easy. In his early years of the sport, Matt had to fight just to get a second glance. However, he used this rejection to fuel his drive, and in 2009 got his big break when he won USA Triathlon Elite Nationals. As a former ITU racer, Matt’s upcoming schedule has shifted away from draft legal and delved into IRONMAN 70.3 distances. We sat down with Matt to learn why he decided to up his miles, and how low his resting heart rate really is:
It says on your website you had to fight hard to get noticed in your early years of triathlon. What kept you motivated?
I knew that I was better than most of the triathletes out there. They were weak swimmers or too heavy to become a fast runner. That, or risk averse when it comes to creating opportunity in race situations.
I wasn’t the best swimmer on my college team or cyclist on the cycling team either. Nothing on my athletic resume would have qualified me as a USA Triathlon talent ID athlete either. I just had faith in myself and kept at it. Paying attention to all the small details along the way. Learning from my mistakes and trying not to repeat them again.
After all your years of hard work, what was it like winning USAT Elite Nationals in 2009?
Winning nationals was a dream come true. I was a point during my career where my choices were to win, or exit the sport.
I was looking for videos on how to do a fast transition when I was in college. I stumbled on some ITU videos and thought I could definitely do that. Since ITU is the Olympic path and supported from USA Triathlon as well as the USOC, I thought it was vital to my success and overall growth, and that’s the path I decided to embark on.
There’s a pretty big difference between ITU and IRONMAN. When did you decide you wanted to start racing 70.3 distances?
I always saw myself as a non-drafting triathlete. The 70.3 distance made sense to me because I wasn’t the fastest running in short course, but could hold a steady 5:30 or so mile effort for a long time.
It looks like your schedule this year doesn’t include ITU races. Why the transition?
Now that I’m married, 70.3 and full IRONMAN distances make the most sense. I realized that the cards weren’t stacked in my favor headed into the 2016 Olympic Qualification process versus how they were in 2012. If I stuck with it, I would have definitely become a contender once again. The US men never developed that the rate I thought they would two years ago.
Tell us how you ran down the field in 2011 Huatulco World Cup after a bike crash and losing your water bottle!
That was a crazy race! I briefly got into the breakaway and as we were heading up hill, I clipped the rider in front of me and went down. My bottle flew off my bike and started rolling down the hill, so I went after them. The worst part was that I froze my polar bottles and they never fully thawed during the bike. The race was incredibly hot, hilly, and hard. By the time I reached the run, I just thought, “Get a Top 8.” I literally jogged through the aide stations and guzzled down as much water as I could. Since I started out slowly, there was very little lactic acid in my legs and picking up speed became easier as the race went on. By the time I hit the final lap, I was on the podium and the guys up front really began to fade. I caught a fading Richard Murry in the last kilometer and blew by for the win. That is very rare in ITU racing. In IRONMAN racing, anything can happen to the leaders, so you can never lose faith in yourself, regardless how far down you are.
What was it like being an alternate to the 2012 US Olympic Triathlon Team?
It was actually pretty tough. I thought I had my own sport locked up. One bad performance in the spring qualifier cost me. Since I was usually the most consistent athlete as well as a strong swim-cyclist, it made sense to appoint me as the reserve.
What’s your favorite of the 3 disciplines?
I don’t have a favorite. If you want to win big, you have to be fairly good at all three. I do just about all my training outdoors, except the swim. I love riding on high mountain roads, running on single tracks or just along the beach, open water swims or even solid pool workouts. During the race, it’s all about being near the front of the race.
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to get into draft legal racing?
Take the little things seriously. Learn from your mistakes and don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced athletes. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest coach in the world or someone unknown or new. Learn from your mistakes and constantly be around better athletes.
We heard you love racing in hot weather and running on cold, wet, and windy days. Would you say you love the challenge of these “unideal” circumstances?
The weather tends to break the weaker minded athletes down who might beat me in ideal conditions. Whenever someone says to me, “I hope the weather is nice this weekend for your race,” I’ll reply by saying something like, “I don’t. I want it hot as possible or sideways rain.” That way you not only have to manage yourself and be mindful of your competitors’ moves, but also make wise judgement calls on how the climate may be affecting your performance and race efforts.
Is your resting heartrate actually 34?
Yeah it gets pretty low. I haven’t slept with a heart rate monitor in a while, but I’ve seen it as low as 32. Lately it’s been in the upper 30s. Does that mean I’m not as fit?!?
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