November 22nd, 2013
Meet the Team: Matt Siegfried

Where did you grow up/what was your athletic background?

Matt finishing IronMan Wisconsin

Matt finishing IronMan Wisconsin

Well I’m old, so this will be long.

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago. In 7th grade gym class, I finished 2nd place in the mile (lost to a soccer player, who ran in the low 6s). My gym teacher suggested I should hop in the junior high race (2 mile) at the next home meet for the high school cross-country team. I resisted. Again in 8th grade, she suggested I run in the junior high race. Again, I resisted.Finally she told me to join the cross-country team when I went to high school, which I did. I was a mediocre runner on the cross country team for four years, then during my senior winter/spring, joined the marathon team (part of our track team). I ran my first marathon that spring (May 2004) and caught the marathon-bug. I was 8 minutes off qualifying for the Boston Marathon and went off college in New Hampshire declaring, “I’m not leaving the northeast until I run Boston.”

I ran maybe a dozen times through my four years of college (oops) and continued this theme into the first year of my Masters degree (also in New Hampshire). During the summer between my first and second years of my Masters program, I remembered my declaration from 5 years previous and signed up for the 2009 Chicago Marathon. I qualified for Boston and ran it the following Spring, my last spring in the northeast. I continued running marathons through 2012, when I found myself in San Diego and triathlon took over.


What is your research about?

I study how glacier ice moves. Specifically, right now, I am tracking the movement of water half-a-mile underneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and attempting to understand how the subglacial water “plumbing” effects the overlying ice flow. Just like we slip on a wet side walk, ice sheets can slide faster if there is water beneath it, but because it’s so hard to map water in the subglacial environment,¬†it’s very hard to observe and quantify this effect. I’d like to continue researching and move into teaching at some point.

What made you join the tri team originally?

As far back as I can remember, I watched Kona (the Ironman World Championships) on TV. I would sit on my couch in awe of those athletes, from the winners down to the last finishers at midnight. Competing at Kona has always been a dream of mine and, for most of my life, that’s exactly what it’s been: a dream. I never really considered actually doing a triathlon until I was thinking about graduate school in San Diego. Then my first-year officemate (now friend and teammate), Rachel, was a triathlete and joined the team. From literally day 1 of classes, Rachel, along with Bill and Kerri, were pressuring me into joining the team. In spring 2011, I finally relented, showing up occasionally to practices. After spotty training for my first triathlon that summer (Ironman Racine 70.3), I realized the camaraderie of the team would be incredibly beneficial for me as an athlete and committed myself to the team at the start of the 2011/2012 season.

What is your favourite sport of the three?

I’ll always be a runner at heart, but heading out on my bike and covering 100+ miles has been giving running a, uhh, run for its money recently.

What is your best race experience?

Crossing the finish line of Ironman Wisconsin, knowing I had found my race distance.

What’s your favorite workout (any sport)?

Descending 3,2,1. Warm up 2 miles, run 3 miles at 10k pace, jog 1/2 mile recovery, run 2 miles 10-15s/mile faster than 10k pace, jog 1/2 mile recovery, run 1 mile at 5k pace, cool down 2 miles. On a track to force mental focus.

What race are you most proud of?

I have absolutely no top-end speed whatsoever, so coming in 3rd place with a big PR in the 2011 Steven Strasburg 5K was pretty fantastic.

Doing science.

Doing science.

What was the most embarrassing rookie mistake you made?

I wish I had a good rookie mistake story for you. If you do your homework, you don’t make rookie mistakes. I guess I had a lot of unnecessary crap in transition during my first race. But I don’t have any “going out onto the run with my helmet on” type stories. Sorry.

What are your goals for this academic year and triathlon season?

Academic: publish 2 or 3 papers.
-Break 5 hours and age group podium (top 5) at Wildflower Long Course.
-Qualify for Ironman 70.3 (half iron-distance) World Championships at Vineman 70.3.
-Break 10 hours, age group podium, and qualify for the Ironman World Championships at Ironman Wisconsin.

Those are some lofty goals. We’ll see how it goes…

What is one thing no one would guess just looking at you?

I spend 10-20% of my year living in a tent in Antarctica.

What is up with the girl shorts, seriously? How many Oiselle articles do you own, and when are you going to seek treatment?

You can read the whole story on my blog here. But the short version: I had a chafing problem with my “men’s” spandex. After much thought, I logically came to the conclusion that the vast majority of spandex wearers are women and if I wanted the best spandex on the planet, they probably would be marketed to women. So I bought a pair of Oiselle spandex and wouldn’t you know it! They were about a billion times more comfortable than the men’s spandex I had been running in.

As it turns out Oiselle, a company that in theory only makes clothes for women, have a lot of products that are very much unisex. And their clothes are more or less the most comfortable stuff out there. So yes, I have a lot of clothes that are “technically” made for women, but in the end, spandex is spandex. The total count of Oiselle products in my closet is now up to 7 (two pairs of spandex shorts, two pairs of running shorts, tights, arm warmers, and a hoodie).

I need no treatment. In fact, I particularly try to support¬†them because they are incredible role models for female runners. I wish there was a men’s company that was half as cool and supportive of every day runners as they are.

How do you fit time in for research with all the running and tweeting?

“What was evident was that Mozart was simply transcribing music completely finished in his head.” — Peter Schaffer.

I am by no means saying I am Mozart; I’m merely pointing out that Mozart didn’t need to be in front of a piano to compose. For me, being outside fosters much more creativity than sitting at my desk, so that’s where I do my thinking. At my desk, all I do is act on those ideas. Exercising is an integral part of my life as a scientist. In fact, when I’m not in a training cycle, I find it extremely hard to focus and make significant progress toward my research goals.

How large, how many and where are you going to get your M-Dot tattoos?

I’m gonna come off as a dick with my answer here, but I figure I should be honest. I crossed the finish line of my first iron-distance race in September and my very first thought after finishing was, “That doesn’t deserve a tattoo.” In my opinion, finishing an iron-distance race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) is an exercise in mental toughness that anyone can accomplish (and it is a significant accomplishment!). But in my mind, all I proved in September is that I can do a tedious task for a very long time. Racing this distance is a whole different animal and that is what I believe could warrant a tattoo. So we’ll revisit this when I race in Kona or win something down the line.

Are you on social media anywhere?

Duh, of course I am! I can overload your feed on twitter or instagram. Or you can follow my personal blog, a siegfried runs, or my Antarctica blog, Scripps on Ice.


Matt bikecamp