Athlete Case Study - Matt Szymaszek

Triathlete standing with his bike with a medal around his neck
December 11, 2023

Brad Seng



Meet D3 athlete Matt Szymaszek!  Matt is coming off a strong season of racing setting PBs at both the 70.3 and IM distances.  Enjoy learning more about this husband, father and former collegiate runner turned triathlete.

1.  How are you able to successfully maintain a healthy life balance with your family, work as an ICU physician and training/racing?
Truthfully, if it was not for my wife allowing me the freedom to get the training and racing in, I would not be doing half of the workouts required. We have a shared calendar and all of our appointments, work schedules, boys activities, etc are in there. Having that framework to build training has been key. Brad has been great in adjusting my training weeks around my work schedule because if I tried to keep a normal training load when I'm in the ICU something would suffer, typically sleep, and I have found that burning the candle at both ends for any length of time is typically not worth it.

2.  You have a background in running.  Please tell us more about this and your journey into triathlon.
I started running cross country in high school to get into shape for hockey season and then ultimately stopped playing hockey to run more. I then ran in college at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY and one of my teammates was able to earn his pro card in triathlon following graduation and that was my first introduction to triathlon but never gave it a thought to try myself. After I graduated I started running longer distance and ran Boston and Philadelphia marathons twice through medical school/residency and it wasn't until 2019 when another one of my former teammates completed IM Wisconsin that it peaked my interest. I figured if he could do it, so could I, and I could do it faster. I then purchased a training plan from D3 and started training on my own. My first ever triathlon, which also was my first ever open water swim, was 70.3 St. George in 2020, and I was fortunate enough to get a roll down spot for Worlds. Since then I've been hooked!

3.  Your consistency is super impressive.  What motivates you to get out the door each day and do the work?
Triathlon has made me realize all of the things I've done wrong over the years preparing for other endurance endeavors. Reflecting on the 20 previous years of over-training has motivated me to get it right and hopefully reach my potential. The other motivator, and it may sound cliché, are my two boys. I can see they are inspired by the work I do and this has lead them to take up swim team, cross country, and they too want to be Ironmen. They even join me in the pain cave on their stationary bikes or on the treadmill while I'm grinding it out on Zwift.

4.  You raced at the 70.3 World Championships in Lahti, Finland this past year nearly besting your PB set earlier in the season at 70.3 Boulder on a more challenging course.  What was that experience like for you?
Lahti was such a great experience and really opened my eyes to the talent that is out there and what it's going to take to make the next jump. It was rainy and cool on race day which I think helped because I do not do well in the heat. The atmosphere was supercharged with anticipation and excitement and everyone there was stoked to compete making the practice swims and other training rides/runs enjoyable and less anxiety provoking. Also, getting around on the abundance of scooters also made for a good time.

5.  What is one of your favorite workouts?
I do love myself a good 70.3 paced brick. I always finish those feeling so confident in my fitness. I could do without swimming forever if I could.

6.  What do you enjoy the most about the training process and race day?
It's the steady progress and measurable gains that I enjoy the most. Training for three different disciplines is so much different than when I was running alone. Comparing prior workouts and seeing actual improvement from week to week, month to month and using that information to predict outcomes fairly accurately is encouraging and that trusting the process works.  There's so much planning that goes into race day from nutrition, to watts and pacing, weather outlook, etc I think I get wrapped up in the build up and forget to let go sometimes, nearly psyching myself out before the race has begun.

7.  Any big races or notable goals planned for 2024 you would like to share?
I might try to scale things back this year from 70.3 and IM and try my hand at some shorter distances. 70.3 Boulder is just too close to pass up and I've tentatively committed to the Steamboat marathon so I can get another Boston qualifier for 2025 and run it with some former teammates. I'm still looking for that elusive Kona spot but that quest will probably have to wait until 2025. My wife is actually getting ready for 70.3 Oregon so I'll be helping her out with that since she's given me so much freedom to pursue my goals it's only fair I reciprocate.

Coach Brad Seng enjoys working with athletes of all abilities who set a variety of personal goals. He understands difficult training days. Challenging days and subpar workouts are inevitably part of the triathlon landscape, as are the times when you’re feeling great and everything clicks. He believes there are lessons to be learned from experiencing both. Sometimes having to fight for a workout is just what’s needed to achieve an important breakthrough in mental conditioning.  

Coach Brad is a USA Triathlon Certified Level II, USA Triathlon Certified Youth & Junior, Training Peaks Level 2 Certified Coach and NESTA Certified Sports Nutritionist (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association).

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