Hi there! Generation UCAN, a company that makes a unique “superstrach” fueling system recently interviewed me about a little bit of everything regarding triathlon. Please check it out at: http://generationucan.com/blog/2013-5-23-pro-triathlete-matt-sheeks-talks-ucan/. I will reprint the article, but this is also video which contains additional information not in the article.
Professional triathlete Matt Sheeks boasts a 9:09 Ironman PR to his name, a time he’s looking to improve on this season as he works to fine tune his nutrition and training strategies. Sheeks is on the Tri4Him Elite Team
and recently picked up a win at the USAT Long Couse Duathlon Nationals
in Enumclaw, WA.
After a successful running career at the University of Portland, he had immediate success in multisport by winning the ITU Age-Group Duathlon World Championships in 2009 and the USAT Elite Duathlon National Championships in 2010. We caught up with Sheeks to find out more about how he gets prepared to race.
How did you get interested in triathlons and what was the experience like the first time you raced?
I was a runner in high school. One of the gals on the cross country team knew that I had a bike racing background and invited me to do one with her. I believe that was junior year in high school. It seemed like a natural outlet. It was an “Aussie style” triathlon where you swim, bike, and run twice each. I went into shock during the swim, as many beginner triathletes do. I remember panting heavily and having to do sidestroke just to get through the swim. It was so slow! I still got 2nd in my age group with 2 good runs and 2 good bikes. I enjoyed the bike and run, but nearly died on the swim. I suppose not a lot has changed!
As you’re preparing for an Ironman race, what does a typical week of workouts look like for you?
Ironman pros can get even a little superstitious as race day approaches, and don’t deviate from their tried and true routine very much. Personally, I like to go in “with the engine running hot.” Early in the week, I will do one tempo bike session, usually consisting of 45 minutes to 1 hour of hard riding mixed into a 3 hour ride. Midweek there is often a travel day. That day, I try to run once I get off the plane for 30-40 minutes very easy. 2 days out, I survey the bike course. I might ride the whole course if it is a half-ironman, or 1/2 the course for a full ironman. The day before is a mini race rehearsal. That is usually a 70-80 minute ride with a few short efforts at race pace, a 25-40 minute run, and a 25-30 minute swim. The day before an Ironman often seems more grueling than race day, not because of the workouts, but because of all the details you have to take care of before racing such as prepping your bike and dropping it off, surveying the course and transitions, pre-race meetings, etc.
People often refer to nutrition as the 4th discipline of triathlon. How important of a role does your nutrition play? Can bad nutrition negate good training?
Nutrition is a pretty huge factor for anything Half-Ironman and up, as far as “in-race nutrition” is concerned. If you don’t get it right, you won’t be able to perform up to your abilities. I didn’t get it right at Ironman Canada last year – my blood sugar felt like it was all over the place! If you don’t take in enough calories, you bonk. If you take in too many calories, you draw blood away from the working muscles for digestion, and you feel about as bad as if you had bonked. If you aren’t trained to take in the calories, you bonk. In the past, it seems like I was always riding a super fine line of too few/too many calories, but now that I am working more on the fat burning system, there is a lot more leeway as I am not as reliant on sugar.
What has your experience with UCAN been like so far?
The first time I tried it, I noticed how quickly it exited my stomach and I had good energy levels. It’s nice because you just feel more normal during long sessions as opposed to experiencing big swings in energy levels as a consequence of blood sugar spikes, like you get with other products. Often times when you feel “good” after taking a gel or sports drink, what you are really noticing is the difference from how bad you felt before. With UCAN your blood sugar is more stable and so you just feel good all the time.
However, the biggest difference you notice is with constant use. UCAN helps you burn more fat as a fuel source during aerobic exercise. This has complimented my early season base training really well, and I’ve noticed a big drop in heart rate at any given intensity. I’m hoping that translates into big performance gains once I get into the heavy racing season. Much thanks to you guys for developing this product and for Tri4Him for exposing me to it. I am definitely a believer.