Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Team USA MN Tenth Anniversary Interviews--Matt Gabrielson

32-year-old Matt Gabrielson has spent almost a third of those years as a member of Team USA Minnesota. Here he provides some insight into his time in Minnesota, his running career, and his hopes for the future.
Down the Backstretch: Ten years ago the Team USA concept was just an idea waiting to happen. What were your thoughts when it started? Why did you get involved? What did you hope to get from the experiment?

Matt Gabrielson: It's been ten glorious years. I knew that Carrie was going to be the foundation of the group on the women's side and that Katie was coming here as well, and so that gave it merit from the start. It was something that I felt I wanted to be a part of in order to get the best out of myself athletically. MSP is two hours from my hometown in Iowa, so the move wasn't a big deal. Initally, I wondered how they could sustain such a was almost like a dream having someone supporting you as a professional runner. But I knew after talking to Jason, who was living in Portland, OR, at the time that it was now or never. I didn't really have that much to lose. Actually, I didn't have anything to lose.

DtB: Did you have any idea then that ten years later you would still be involved? Was there a plan or commitment you had in mind when you first signed up?

MG: I watched Jason run at the 2000 Olympic Trials and wanted to be able to experience that, so I told myself I would work towards that goal until 2004 and then move on with my life. The 2004 Trials were a disappointment and the next thing you know it's 2008, so I wanted one more go at it. By 2008, I had established myself and now had a different mindset and higher goals, some of which were achieved, some of which were not. I couldn't give it up quite yet. And so I am committed to giving myself one (or two since I will run the marathon and on the track) more chances with even higher expectations than the previous two opportunitites. Man, time flies by though. I'm pretty sure I thought back then that I would be fat and living the dream somewhere in the neighboring southern state at this point in time. I've grown to love it way too much for that to happen, and I consider the Twin Cities my home.

DtB: What has been the highlight or highlights of those ten years?

MG: Mainly experiencing the many highs and lows that go with competive running, along with getting to know all the training partners that have come through here. Every experience I have had personally has helped me appreciate the sport immensely. But it's mainly the people I have met and the relationships I have developed that I wouldn't give up for anything.

DtB: What have been the greatest challenges?

MG: Personally, my career has lacked consistency. It is a very tough thing to always be "on" at every race, although Lehm seems to have mastered the art beautifully! The challenge of always being fit enough to win mentally as well as physically (or at the very least be in the top ten at races) is extremely tough.

DtB: What were the primary objectives you hoped to achieve?

MG: My goals when I joined the team were to qualify for the US Olympic Trials at 5000m and place in the top ten. I qualified, but no top ten the first time in '04, but the second time in 2008 I placed eighth in the most competitve field in Trials HIstory at 5000m. I'm going into the next one with the mindset that the third time will be the charm. Mainly though, I wanted to get the most out of myself as an athlete.

DtB: What would you still like to accomplish, see happen with the program?

MG: There are a lot of things. Some of the goals I have for myself that are most important are running under 28min in the 10k and under 13:30 for 5k (possibly finally breaking the four minute barrier in the mile. I am now old but it can be done). I would like to win the Twin Cities Marathon and have a 2:12 marathon to my name. I would like to win a US Championship. Ultimately, I want to have a GREAT day at the Trials in 2012 and wear the red, white, and blue in London.

As for the program, I just hope they continue to bring in quality people as they have done since 2001. My best friends in the entire world have come through the program at one time or another. The bar has been raised every year, and I would like to see that trend continue.

DtB: What has surprised you or was unexpected about the project?

MG: I was surprised at how cool Dennis Barker is because he is so quiet and reserved. But, on the inside he's a grinder. As mentally tough as they come.

DtB: What are your plans for the future?

MG: Compete as hard as I can for the next 2.5 years and then run off into the sunset.

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