Matt Rhodes – 39 (40 in triathlon years)
Tell us a little bit about you:
I went to grad school at UCSB in the early nineties. Santa Barbara was such a beautiful town, I stayed for eleven years.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hogkins Lymphoma. The cancer had spread outside of my lymph system into my chest and abdomen. One of the many tumors was pressing against my spinal cord, causing paralysis and preventing me from walking. I was treated at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, a beneficiary of this race. With the amazing help of Dr. Thomas Woliver his team of fantastic doctors and nurses (you know who you are, Barb, Tammy, Chris, Cathy, etc.), I was given aggressive chemo and radiation treatments and was deemed cancer-free in mid-2002.
After briefly moving to Colorado, I met my wife, Claire. We moved to the bay area and were married in 2005. Now living in Oakland, CA, I spend my time working (a software developer, I create 3D graphics and animation software), exercising (swimming, biking, and running, of course) with my wife and friends, and writing (my first novel – no promises on its readability).
My wife Claire, an avid (fast) runner who has completed several marathons, encouraged me to sign up for my first triathlon with her through Team In Training (TNT). Since then, we’ve become die-hard TNT supporters and frequent triathletes.
I’ve very fortunate to have an opportunity to exercise and compete in triathlons, especially when looking back eight years and seeing where my life was at the time. I’m very grateful to the great work done by the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.
When did you complete your first triathlon (and if you’ve completed more than one, how many)?
My first tri was an Olympic distance in Maui in June, 2006. Since then, I’ve done over a dozen triathlons of different sizes, from the sprint of the Santa Barbara Tri (2006) to the long course at Santa Barbara (2007) and the Half Ironman at Wildflower (2008/2009).
This year, Claire and I will both be competing in the Long Course. Yes, she’ll probably beat me.
What inspires you to train/compete?
As a cancer survivor, I’m aware that I’m fortunate to be out there with other athletes.
What is your favorite thing about the sport?
I love the multi-sport aspect of triathlons. I love that my training involves different sports, and that I’m not stuck doing the same thing over and over.
What’s your least favorite thing?
Having to force myself to get into the pool/ocean to practice swimming. I’d much rather bike or run.
What is the best advice you ever received regarding the sport of triathlon?
Make the race about your pace. You’ll have a lot more fun.
Share your top three (or one, or ten) training tips:
- Do interval workouts at a track about once a week. Your average pace will increase naturally. The same advice applies to cycling (although I don’t do as much cycling intervals as I should).
- Keep a short stride when running. If you need to go faster, just increase your turnover, don’t increase your stride.
- Make sure you try different types of endurance drinks, gels, and bars during training. Find what your body can handle well before race day.
How do you stay motivated?
Did I mention that I’m married to Claire? It’s really great to be married to your exercise partner.
How has training for or participating in triathlon(s) affected other areas of your life?
I’m more aware of food as fuel, so I think about eating differently. I’m aware of when my next workout is, so I make sure that I’m eating the right things at the right time before I put my running shoes on or get on the bike.
After the workout… well, let’s not talk about that.
Any words of encouragement for novice or aspiring triathletes?
Find a workout schedule that you *want* to do – if you try to force yourself into exercise, you won’t do it.
On race day, push yourself (it’s great finding what you’re capable of), but don’t worry about passing or being passed. In the end, you’ll only remember you crossing the finish line.
And don’t feel like you need to start with big, long races. My favorite race is the sprint distance – so fun!
Do you have a post-triathlon indulgence?
There is nothing better than a nice shower and a margarita (rocks, salt) after a race.