Runner's World Home
Runner's World Daily
Thursday, September 3, 1998
A brief chat with Matt Carpenter
by Mike Sandrock
Matt Carpenter, 34, is one of the top mountain runners in the world. He lives in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where he is a part-time "webmaster" when not training. Carpenter is a four-time winner of the Fila Mt. Everest SkyMarathon. He was in Italy last month for the Fila SkyMarathon championships, where his friend, Lyndon Ellefson of Vail, died after breaking through a thin layer of snow on a hike. Carpenter finished the race in the top 10 two days later. On Aug. 16, he won the Pikes Peak marathon in 3:44:27. It was Carpenter's seventh win on Pikes Peak; four full marathons and three ascents. He sometimes signs off letters by saying "Go out hard, when it hurts speed up." Carpenter's web page, with a great deal of information about mountain running, is www.skyrunner.com.
Runner's World Daily: How did Lyndon's death affect you?
Matt Carpenter: It was extremely sad. He was in my room until 2 in the morning the day before he fell, talking about running. I had to dissociate from his death for the race.
RWD: A decade ago mountain runners were on the fringe but now it's getting more popular. Why?
MC: I have the feeling that people just want to get off the road. That is why even in the middle of Denver you have people running in Washington Park. If you flip through running magazines, half the ads are for trail shoes. But it is getting harder and harder to get into races because they fill up so fast, and there are just so few of them. I hope that changes.
RWD: What is your training like?
MC: I go by time. I have no days under two hours. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for speed work and the weekends of course are the long stuff. This weekend I ran a 4-hour run; it was 31 miles, with 26 of the miles above 10,000 feet.
RWD: What is it like running at high altitude?
MC: It's a different kind of pain. You get a kind of debilitating dizziness called hypoxia. You are literally running with blue lips and fingernails.
RWD: Sounds like fun. How did Pikes Peak go for you this year?
MC: It was a very hot day! Not often does it end up that only one person breaks the 4-hour barrier but we were all suffering big-time. For me I was a little too concerned about the time so perhaps I didn't enjoy the win as much as I should have. It was the 10th anniversary of my first Pikes Peak win.
RWD: Are you going back to the Fila Everest SkyMarathon to try for your fifth win?
MC: Yes, on Oct. 7. It will be run at 14,350 feet, in Tingri, Tibet.
RWD: Why are you so successful at high altitude races?
MC: It is part training, part genetics. I have the highest VO2 max ever recorded for a runner.
RWD: Where was it done and what was your VO2 max?
MC: In 1991 I was tested at altitude at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and the measurement was 90.2. I had a test done at sea level in 1996 that measured 94, but they claimed that wasn't possible and their machine must have been broken, so I go with the 90.2 number.
RWD: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
MC: I will do the Imogene Pass in September, then leave for Tibet. That will wrap it up for the year. If I survive and still feel good, I'll do some roadwork and try to do an Olympic Trials [marathon] qualifier. Maybe at Sacramento. However I usually take a month off after Tibet. The Everest race is not that hard, but the logistics are extremely hard. It's literally on the other side of the planet. There are 13 plane takeoffs and landings because of all the connections. And one helicopter ride.
RWD: Do you like racing in Tibet?
MC: I approach it as a job. I don't approach it as a tourist, but since I've been there so many times I have seen as much as most tourists do in one trip.
RWD: Are you happy with your career?
MC: You always want to do better. I've been at the top since 1987, which is a long time. I like to think I have done some neat things, but as athletes we are always wanting bigger and better.
RWD: With all the newcomers heading to the trails around the nation, what is your advice for avoiding injury or accidents?
MC: For the longer and higher trails take precautions such as always bringing along a jacket, hat and gloves. Even if the sun is shining when you start, the weather can change very fast. If you end up not needing them, it's not that much extra weight.
Back to Bio