Interview with Paratriathlon World Champ Matt Perkins
The following is an interview with four-time paratriathlon world champion Matt Perkins from the United States. Perkins won the TRI-2 category (severe leg impairment including above-the-knee amputee) at last year’s Gold Coast World Champion with a time of 2:56:34.
1. What made you decide to compete in triathlon?
I did my first triathlon in 2001, toward the end of my ski racing career in an effort to improve my endurance. A sign for a local triathlon was posted at my regular coffee shop and for whatever reason this seemed like a good method to solve my issue of running out of gas at the end of ski races, as was the case the previous winter. After retiring from ski racing I got fat and decided it was time to do another tri to lose some weight. From there I ended up finding out I could qualify for worlds, and then went to worlds in 2005
2. What is your typical training week?
During the work week I typically do a morning and an evening workout. There may be a session or a day I take off for rest depending on the intensity of the workouts. On the weekends I will choose between long bikes or runs, or brick workouts. As worlds approaches the number of workouts decreases, more rest is added, and the intensity goes way up with lots of speed work.
3. Many triathletes use a training log. How meticulous are you in preparation for your training?
I am the polar opposite of meticulous. I do use a garmin which stores my workouts but I never actually look at them. I am fairly aware of my run pace, and times from speed work, but most of it is from memory. As a ski racer I didn’t use logs either so it has been pretty easy for me to function without it, but as I get older this is becoming more of an issue.
4. What adaptations have you had to make to accommodate your disability for triathlon?
Since my first worlds I have been making small adjustments to the setup of my bike, and my bike leg to make pedaling more efficient. This has led to my bike leg being a very different setup and fit from any other leg I use. For both the run and bike legs I am one of the patent holders for the Summit Lock. This is a suspension device that attaches to the side of the socket rather than the distal end of the socket as I do not have space distally. This suspension has made the transition from the bike leg to the run leg very easy.
5. Can you describe any special equipment that you use for triathlon?
While they may be considered special to many, all of the components I use for triathlon are available to everyone, including the Summit Lock, and j shaped running foot. I would say the difference is in how I use the parts.
6. What is the highlight of you involvement competing in triathlon so far?
I spent a lot of years ski racing, and never quite fulfilled my potential, coming close with participation in the Nagano Paralympics, and some top five world cup finishes. Triathlon is a very different sport in that the mental part of the race, ones ability to get past the pain is something that I am much better at than the mental preparation needed for the start of a very short ski race. This has led to a lot more success than I ever expected. Being able to have a great race in Vancouver in 2008 with my parents watching was very special. I think after watching so many not so great ski race finishes they were starting to think they were bad luck.
7.What are your goals for this season?
A world championship is the ultimate goal. For this last season I had some split times in mind for the race in gold coast. I am sure I will have some sort of time in mind for this year’s worlds. A time if feel will be needed to win the race in Budapest.
8. Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for individuals thinking about competing in paratriathlon?
Get out there and start doing it. most of us racing now started small, whether we were swimming first then added some biking or running. It takes little steps and hardwork. When I first did triathlons it was all I could do to make it to the finish of the run, much less sprint through the finish of the run. But little by little I was making progress. It is going to be hard, but if it were easy would it really be worth doing?