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Podium Pro: Matt McElroy On His Breakthrough Performance in Leeds

Over the weekend McElroy became the first American since 2009 to finish on a World Triathlon Series podium.

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If his performace on Sunday, June 9 at ITU WTS Leeds is any indicitation, Matt McElroy is a name triathlon fans will want to know. While American women have been dominating the ITU circuit, it’s been the complete opposite story for the U.S. men over the last decade. But it looks like that could be changing, thanks to McElroy’s ability to hold his own against ITU’s very best across across swim, bike, and run. The 27-year-old chats about how the second-place finish has already changed things, how the dynamics of the race played out, and the mental approach he uses as he battles on the tough short-course circuit.

Triathlete: How were you feeling going into this race? What were your goals?
M: Heading into Leeds I was in a very positive mindset and it seemed liked workouts were clicking both physically and mentally. I spoke to [fellow American ITU athlete] Katie Zafares before the race about goal setting and she inspired me to start journaling over the last month. I had five goals that I wanted to execute. The first was getting out hard in the swim. The first buoy is where the race is won and lost.

Triathlete: What was the best part of the race for you?
M: The best part of the race was when I took the lead on the first hill about 800 meters into the run. I felt strong and knew right away that I was going to have a breakthrough performance.

Triathlete: Hardest part?
M: The hardest part of the race was the hill on the bike. After coming to a complete stop at the U-turn, the pack went single file and each lap was a one-minute hill repeat full gas.

Triathlete: How were the conditions?
M: The water temperature was a bit cold, but it was nothing I am not used to after growing up in Huntington Beach and getting brain freeze at 6 a.m. in the middle of December.

Triathlete: At what point did you realize you were going to podium?
M: With one lap to go, Sam Ward dropped back on the last hill and I knew I had enough energy to maintain the pace.

Triathlete: Describe that final sprint with Gomez.
M: It was surreal. Gomez is a legend of the sport and I look up to him as an athlete. I have watched enough races of Javi to know that he isn’t the fastest sprinter. When I was a runner in college I would finish tactical 10K races in 58 seconds, so I had the confidence that I could outkick him.

Triathlete: First thoughts when you hit the finish chute?
M: This is race is going to change my life.

Triathlete: First words your coach said to you?
M: My coach, Ian O’Brien, said: “I am so proud of you, I knew you could do it.”

Triathlete: Anything you wish you’d done better?
M: Yes, I could have done a better job of positioning myself up front on the bike. I used a lot of energy being at the very back. This probably would have put me in a better position going into T2. No complaints.

Triathlete: How sore are you post-race, on a scale of 1-10?
M: I am just as sore as any other Olympic distance race in the past. A solid 6 out of 10. To put that scale into perspective a 10 would be hurting to walk.

Triathlete: How have things been different so far after getting on the podium at a WTS race?
M: I have a bunch of interviews set up. I got a couple of hundred new Instagram followers, which is pretty sick. I flew business class for the first time to Kazakhstan. Tyler Butterfield followed me on Twitter.

Triathlete: Mantra or words that got you through the race?
M: Take what is yours. Whatever it takes.

Triathlete: Pre-race breakfast?
M: Oatmeal with raisins, bananas, almonds, Chia Seeds, Oranges, and jelly. I made a coffee with my aero press from these special beans that Ivan O’Gorman got from Vincent Luis. Apparently, the beans come from cat shit, but they were ALL TIME!

Triathlete: What (and when) will your first workout be post-race?
M: I did a treadmill workout after the race.

Triathlete: What does your training look like this week?
M: The start of this week is going to have a lot of volume. I normally average around 5,000 meters of swimming a day, 1 hour of running, and 1.5 to 2 hours of biking each day. It’s not until the day before the race until I swim an easy 3K and include some fast strides on the run.

Triathlete: What’s next on your racing calendar?
M: I have a race this weekend in Kazakhstan [the Nur-Sultan ITU Triathlon World Cup on Saturday, June 15].

Triathlete: How will this result change the way you approach racing the rest of this season?
M: I am going to keep riding this train of positivity and confidence. I will keep aiming to execute my goals on race day and trust the process.

Triathlete: Tell us who all of your sponsors are…
M: KTTAPE, ROKA, Ventum Bikes, Mode Nutrition, Pioneer Powermeter, New York Athletic Club, and USA Triathlon.

Triathlete: Words of advice for someone looking to slay their own racing “Goliath?”
M: “As humans, we’re reading books every day to try to figure out how to be someone else. What we don’t do is go inside, turn ourselves inside out, and read our own story. You have to look inside to find out what you really want.” – David Goggins

Goggins is someone who inspires me on a daily basis. At the end of the day, if you can master the mind you can crush souls in your next race. Stay hard!