Life After The Starting Line
Kynan Matz is arguably the world’s most supportive husband. What kind of guy opts to train for a marathon with his wife without any prior race experience? A Heroik one for certain. I’ve been lucky enough to know him and his wife Laura for years. We’ve shared many good times; camping and racing together (and by that I mean racing with them way, way ahead of me). We’ve shared some emergent moments as well. Witnessing how this Super Powered couple uses life’s curve balls and challenges as mere catalysts and opportunities to slingshot into new, epic endeavors is inspiring. How you get from scary days at the hospital to planning out and then running ultramarathons amazes me. The event and challenge that started it all that would have been an epic story to itself was but a thin, faint starting line. The real Heroik story eclipses the starting point. Together, over the past 2 years Kynan and Laura have logged over 3,000 miles running where ever their feet will carry them.
These days, if you want to spend some quality time with this dynamic duo, you better be prepared for a ‘casual’ 10,12, or 16 mile run across trail and pavement. If you wake up early enough, you can catch mere glimpses of them stretching in a parking lot near any trail access. After, tracking him down, and with the help of some tranquilizer darts, I finally nabbed Kynan for an interview and asked him about his and his wife Laura’s Heroik start; how they went from being winded on half mile jaunts to running ultra marathons; how it’s changed their lives; and all the tips and thoughts throughout the journey. Read on and be inspired!
How did you get started?
“My wife suddenly started having seizures at age 22, and it took a long time to get her meds right. She went through months and months of severe fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and several other things to various degrees while we worked out the right med and dosage for her. When she finally reached a stable point, she really wanted to do something to reclaim her independence. She set her sights on her first marathon and I began training with her, partially to support her effort and partially to improve my health. I was a pretty healthy guy already but I wasn’t athletic, nor had I ever been.”
What originally motivated you?
“Well, originally it was primarily a support thing for me. I wanted to be there as my better half achieved this great thing she’d set her sights on. As I gained fitness, though, it began to feel like I was clearing out years of stagnation from my system. I was breathing more deeply, thinking more clearly, just generally feeling a hell of a lot better! This was a fantastic bonus!”
What was your first run?
“We began by going down to the soccer field at the end of our block. We jogged for 30 seconds and walked until we caught our breath. It’s hilarious to look back at how horrendously out of shape I was for a really skinny guy! My wife looked up a training plan for beginners and we just did it. If it was on the plan it’s what we did. Easy peasy. God it felt horrible at first!”
How did you build momentum?
“Yeesh, it was hard at first. If you’ve been pretty inactive for years (in my case, most of my life) it takes a while for the body to get used to being used. It took about a month to start to feel good. It’s kind of like starting a car motor for the first time. It takes a while for the engine to break in and everything to run smoothly. Unfortunately I got a bit too excited and aggressive with training. I ripped a meniscus in my left knee. In restrospect it was good to experience that because it forced me to balance current limitations with ambition when I returned to running.”
How did you continue to motivate yourself?
“At some point it becomes a routine, and the body misses it when you don’t run. It provides a release for frustrations and a constant source of confidence and fulfillment. Having races on the horizon is good to keep you going, but I’m not one of those runners who are all about the imminent thrill. It’s kind of a distant thing for me. I’ll plan one (or a few) up to nine months in advance and work out a training schedule. It’s much more about feeling the current mile pass underfoot, feeling the sun, tasting the air, etc, with an eventual goal floating out there. I also do most runs and races with my wife, so I look forward to every run I get to share with her.”
“I guess the main overt motivations are races and ambitions, but the underlying reason for it all is the love of it. It’s the most basic, primal, and pure way of experiencing the outside world that I’ve found, and I’m fortunate enough to share it with the person who’s closest to me, so the two are intertwined in my world. It’s my way of loving life.”
What distances are you running now?
“It goes through cycles. After big races I usually lay low for a while to let my body recover and solidify, keeping my mileage at about 35-40 miles a week. I try to work in some half marathons, marathons, and 50K’s into the schedule to stay used to the racing atmosphere, with the eventual goal being a 50 miler. Right now I’m trying to get to the point where I’m really comfortable with that distance before tackling anything longer. I’d absolutely love to do some 100 milers, but I’m pretty sure that’s at least a couple years away.”
How do you continue to motivate yourself?
“You can get caught up in gaining speed, beating others, being badass, or a host of other things, and that works for a lot of people, but it tends to leave me kind of empty. It just doesn’t work for me. If I get too wrapped up in, say, how fast I’m going to run so-and-so race, I have to pull my head out of my ass and remember that I do this because I love it, and if I don’t make it a point to love it in each moment I’m doing it, it will have lost its meaning for me.”
What are some small, silly but important things that you find helpful or encouraging?
“Running, especially training, is a brutally honest pursuit. In any team sport, you can personally perform badly and still end up a winner. You can also work your ass off and end up on the losing end. In running, if you put in the work you get the payback. If you don’t you crash and burn, which sometimes makes for awesomely entertaining stories but sucks to holy hell!I remember that I’m able to do what I’m doing because of millions of single steps before. A few more is nothing. Most of my races and longer training runs are out in the woods. Being immersed in beautiful scenery has a way of energizing me. Sometimes it’s very emotionally moving and forces me to keep perspective in life.”
I remember that I’m able to do what I’m doing because of millions of single steps before. A few more is nothing.
Any gizmos or gadgets that you find particularly helpful or enjoyable?
“A GPS watch is just great for keeping track of distance in the wild, where landmarks and street signs aren’t readily available. I also love a good hydration pack, which allows me to set out and be totally self-sufficient all day!”
What other aspects of your life have improved because of your efforts?
“I experience things more deeply. If you run long distance there will be times when you are broken down and miserable, and you have to rebuild yourself out there to keep going. It builds a sense of strength and confidence that you can overcome anything and find joy in any situation.”
Have you noticed an increase in wellness or productivity/energy levels?
“Hell yes! Endurance is a funny thing. It isn’t really visibly apparent, but it’s sure noticeable when everyone’s exhausted at the end of a work day and I’m able to happily enjoy life still. I almost feel guilty about the tradeoff: I enjoy hours of amazing views and great company putting in miles and miles, and in return I get even more time to enjoy those things!”
Where will you go from here?
“Who knows?! That’s half the fun!!!”
Kynan and Laura Matz live in Sacramento, CA, and while they may store food and gear at their house, we’re not entirely sure if they ever stop to rest and reside there. If you have questions or comments for Kynan or Laura, or maybe have your own Heroik story to tell, be sure to post a comment.