Nov. 15, 2005
A Brief Chat with . . .
Matt Gonzales, who placed second behind Dathan Ritzenhein at the USA Men's 10K in Mobile, Alabama, November 5, will join the U.S. team for the Chiba International Ekiden in Japan on November 23. While competing for the University of New Mexico, Gonzales finished second to Wisconsin's Simon Bairu at the 2004 NCAA Cross Country Championships. He placed sixth in the 5000 runners who competed at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials and ninth in the same event at the 2005 USA Championships. His personal bests are 13:35 for 5000 and 28:18 for 10,000. He was the 2004 Mountain West Conference champion in the 5000. Gonzales finished third in 10,000 at the 2003 NCAA Championships, and fourth in 2004. Gonzales, 24, resides in Albuquerque and is still coached by his college mentors, Matt Henry and Art Acevedo.
Runner's World Daily: Prior to the 10K in Mobile, what kind of year had you been having as a runner?
Matt Gonzales: After cross country [in the fall of 2004], I came back and started training pretty hard. Halfway through the outdoor season, I was training pretty well, but I was just having a hard time putting races together. I wasn't racing all that well. To be honest, I think I just got burnt out. That's why I didn't do too much, results-wise. After USAs, I just took my break. And then I just hit it hard again, starting to do some more high mileage stuff, something I think I was lacking in college. I was a pretty low mileage guy in college. Now I've got my confidence up a little bit and just went out there and wanted to have a good showing in Mobile, and I guess I did pretty well there.
RWD: At the NCAA Cross Country last fall, when you finished second, did you think you had a shot at beating Simon Bairu at any point during that race?
MG: Yeah, definitely. The top three in the latter part of the race were Bairu, myself, and Boit [Josphat Boit of Arkansas]. I went out in the middle of the race and started duking it out with Boit. Bairu just kind of sat back on us and let us do our thing, and then made a hard move. At 8K, I kind of tried to recharge a little bit and I let him get too far from me. In the next 1K, they were seven seconds ahead of me. With 800 left, I started kicking in and caught Boit but I just ran out of room with Bairu. He beat me by two seconds.
RWD: It can be tough to back off in the middle of a race and come back.
MG: Definitely. I was pretty confident in my kick that day, but I just let him get too far on me.
RWD: Was this Mobile 10K, on November 5, your first race in quite a while?
MG: Yeah, like six months. It was a good race. I wanted to run a little bit faster, but it was kind of muggy. It was muggy for everybody. My body in the first half of the race was letting me that know I hadn't raced in awhile, but it was still a pretty good showing.
RWD: Dathan Ritzenhein won by quite a bit. For you, was it sort of a battle for second?
MG: Yes. Brian Sell and I ran together most of the race. Dathan took it out fast. I think he went like 4:27, 4:27, 4:27 for the first 3 miles. Right now, I know I wasn't that fit to run that fast. I just let him go after the first mile right away. Brian and I ran together until the last mile, and I made a move.
RWD: To try and get back after having felt burnt out, as you said, did you do anything besides just take some rest? Did you change your diet or any other aspects of your routine at all?
MG: No, not really. I just needed a mental break, is all it was. That was the biggest thing. I was at it so much in college. In three years, probably the longest break was eight to ten days. I never took two or three weeks off. I finally got to do that this summer. It just totally recharged my body. I think that's all I was lacking, was just a good break.
RWD: When you went to Mobile, did you know that if you placed well, you'd have a chance to go to Japan?
MG: Actually, I didn't know until the night before. Jim Estes [USATF Long Distance Running Program Manager] let us all know the night before at a meeting. Once he let us know, that was a little bit more incentive. Once he mentioned it, I knew that if I placed in the top two or top three I would definitely go.
RWD: Have you ever done any road relay type things in the past?
MG: No, I haven't. even road racing is pretty new to me. Mobile was my first road 10k. I had never really raced on the roads before, it was all cross country races and on the track. It's kind of a new experience for me. We're sending a pretty decent team [to Japan]. I'm pretty confident about how we can place. It's a young team, but a very good team, I think. Most of us are under 25 years old.
RWD: Have you chosen to stay in Albuquerque and work with your college coaches, Coach Henry and Coach Acevedo?
MG: Definitely. I got invited to move up to Boulder, from Jorge and Ed [the Torres brothers] and those guys, but I just have too many ties to family and stuff here. It's just real hard for me to leave, and I think that's the case with a lot of people. A lot of American runners probably don't get the big training camps. I'm training by myself now, which I usually don't have a problem with. Everything's just going well right now. I love it here in Albuquerque. I don't see me leaving in the near future at all.
RWD: Haven't you tried to hook up with any of the other good runners coming to Albuquerque?
MG: Brandon Leslie is going to be down here for a while. He and I were talking. He was up in Flagstaff; now that he's down here, we're going to get together. I actually didn't know Ray Hughes was living here, but he's been here about a year. We talked about trying to set up some runs together. Every once in a while, there are people who come down and we get in a few runs together. That's always helpful.
RWD: Getting beyond this Ekiden, now that you're healthy and rejuvenated, what are you plans and goals for 2006?
MG: Right now, Coach Acevedo and Coach Henry and I are pretty focused on me making the U.S. cross country team in February [for the World Cross Country Championships]. Right now, I'm doing a lot of base stuff. It's a lot of long intervals, long tempo-type stuff. We're trying to get that strength behind me so I can have a good showing in track season and try and run the way I'm used to. The way my training was going, I should have run a lot faster than I did last year. But it was just one of those seasons where I couldn't put one together. Hopefully this year, I can have my next big jump, in both events, 5K and 10K. We're concentrating on both events.