Kat Matthews is, in her words, a “data geek.”
I’m glad the long-distance triathlon is causing a blizzard.
Stroke rate, power, running cadence, max VO2, beats per minute. Each point is marked on the training plan. All marginal gains were explored with great patience.
Not a lot of demand for “vibe”.
That’s because Ironman’s distance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike bridge and full marathon) leaves no room for them. It requires precise preparation and inflicts merciless pain. “Mood” or “energy” alone will hardly get you off the starting line.
But the mood for this Saturday’s Ironman World Championship is the debut of Matthews from England, a former Army physical therapist.
For the first time since the first Games in 1978, the World Championships have been held outside of Hawaii, the birthplace and spiritual home of the Games.
Corona forced change. So the world’s best compete in Utah instead of the South Pacific, and you’ll run down a dry runway under Utah’s sandstone piles before swimming in a warm water reservoir.
“It’s a bit different from Hawaii,” Matthews told BBC Sports.
“The courses are more decentralized and not concentrated in the city.
“I think some media thought it wasn’t right if it wasn’t Hawaii.
“But everyone I’ve talked to thinks it’s fantastic.
“The course itself is so different and there are so many different sections on the bike course. It will be a strong, technical style, not a straight-forward time trial style.
“Then the run is three miles uphill and three miles downhill.
“Sometimes in Hawaii if you’re good at swimming or running, you can win a race. I think this course will reward triathletes.”
Matthews, who started the triathlon in 2015 and turned pro in 2019, is relatively new to Iron Man, but has already made an impact.
She defeated defending Ironman world champion Anne Haug by more than four minutes in a half-distance event known as Ironman 70.3 earlier this year.
In September, she placed fourth at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships at the Utah Course, where the race was held on Saturday.
Matthews emerged as a strong competitor while German world No. 1 Laura Philippe and British rival Lucy Charles Barclay were absent.
“Honestly, I’m in good shape,” said Matthew.
“Nobody has the perfect buildup for a world championship. There is always a training load management that has to go on.
“But I have confidence that I have to show a good image after defeating the world champions I have built up until this World Championship.
“I’m really excited to see what I can do.”
Matthews’ specialty is finding the external limits of people’s abilities and extending them a little more.
Despite being a professional triathlete, she still serves and is supported by the army.
The 31-year-old’s previous role was as a physical therapist. She worked at Headley Court. In a large mansion nestled in Surrey’s manicured gardens, wounded British soldiers and women return from the front lines with life-changing injuries.
Matthews’ mission was to change their lives for the better and return their movement and independence to them.
The sports realm is less serious, but she can apply the same principles to herself.
“Physical terms, you have pain, health and psychology, and I use them all every day working with my coach to understand myself and my own pain management,” Matthews said.
“There are limits that only I know, and I have to adapt to that day.
“Physio is essentially about rehabilitating people. I’m trying to start with a more ideal situation and move beyond the function to the next level.”
Finding the balance between pain and gain will be tricky in the coming weeks.
On June 5, less than a month after the World Championships this weekend, Matthews joins the Sub7/Sub8 project.
the idea is similar Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt to succeed in a marathon in less than two hours in 2019, And the organizers hope that by tweaking the small details of the triathlon course design, the elite can break the big barriers in time.
Examples include a bridge that swims straight point-to-point in a man-made lake, a bike bridge around a high-speed elliptical race track with dams, and a run with a pacemaker team.
Matthews and Nicola Spirig of Switzerland want the course to cross Ironman Street in less than eight hours with ideal racing conditions.
The current Iron Man women’s record is 8 hours 18 minutes 13 seconds, set by Chris Wellington of England in 2011.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee of England will be one of two men’s triathletes trying to break 7 hours on the same day.
The technology behind the bid is powerful with aerodynamics tailored for each player.
But for Matthews there is something different about the challenge and triathlon in general. Sounding suspiciously like a vibe.
“It may not be sexy, but as someone who has only been pro for a few years, networking and support from fellow athletes is really important,” she explained.
“Some people don’t want to play that game, some don’t want to engage in camaraderie. That’s a good thing, but from my point of view it’s amazing that men help women and women help.” Men, pros and amateurs are on the same level of playing field.”
Matthews is one of 7 Brits in 29 strong women’s specialties and isn’t the only one with a military background.
Laura Siddall, 41, served one year as an Army officer, trained at Sandhurst, and worked as a member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
“The military is focused on sports and physical activity, which builds teamwork and leadership through it, but that training is also important,” she said.
“I think the problem-solving element has its appeal when we go a little deeper. In long-distance races like ours, we actually solve problems and make decisions about tactics as things unfold.
“It’s not a war situation. It’s not that extreme or serious, but we’re still managing the situation on the fly, and the logical thinking we’ve been trained in the military continues.”
Siddall is one of 14 players from the field in Utah who are not yet qualified for this year’s second world championships, which takes place back in Hawaii in October.
Eight players can advance to Kona through this weekend’s match.
“Once I get away, I’ll try to figure out who’s where, but I don’t think my tactics will change in the beginning,” she said.
“I will try to control my race and persevere. It’s cliché, but I will try to focus on my own race.”