Riley exceeds expectations in XTERRA winRed Wing native Matt Riley took first place in the 20-to-24-year-old age group at the XTERRA World Championships on Sept. 22 in Utah
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
By Chris Harrell
Red Wing resident Matt Riley never expected to qualify for the XTERRA World Championships when he traveled to race in the 2012 XTERRA USA Championship Sept. 22 in Ogden/Snowbasin, Utah.
Riley, 21, wanted to finish in the top 50 at the off-road triathlon. Running in just his third XTERRA race, he said he only hoped to compete well.
“It was hard to know exactly where I’d place,” Riley said. “I didn’t know what the competition would be like. Even though I didn’t meet that goal (of placing in the top 50) I was happy with my overall performance. I gave all I had.”
And all Riley had was enough to win the 20-to-24-year-old age group of the male competition in 3 hours, 12 minutes as he finished 86th overall and qualified for the World Championships Oct. 28 in Maui, Hawaii.
Riley’s ultimate goal when starting to compete in the XTERRA races was to make the race on Maui — someday — but he was so surprised by qualifying he won’t be able to attend this year.
“It was kind of a shock. Between the expense and not planning on going, it was a big shock. I think I made the right decision to skip it this year. Hopefully next year, I’ll plan for it and hopefully make it,” he said. “Winning my age group was a definite plus.”
Another reason Riley decided not to make the trip was the need to heal.
Before the race in Utah, Riley chose to wear a different pair of trail shoes that he said are the best he’s ever had. But he didn’t protect his feet with a lubricant like usual. The result was the worst case of blisters Riley’s ever had, he said.
“Normally I put Vaseline in my shoes,” Riley said. “I thought I could get away with it. It was a mistake. I definitely learned from it. I’ll never forget to do that again. The last three miles (of the run) were brutal. I’ve never had blisters this bad. On my right foot, it wore the skin all the way off. There was blood seeping through the outside of the shoe. It was pretty gross.”
Before the blisters, Riley got off to a great start at the USA Championships, which consisted of a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 28-kilometer mountain bike trail ride and a 10k trail run, finishing 38th overall in the swimming portion of the race. He swam the portion in 27:49.
“My swim was the highlight of the three events if I was looking to pick one,” Riley said. “It didn’t go as well as I planned it going but it was definitely a strong swim. There was some technique things that I didn’t quite do perfect the whole time. I wasn’t in that rhythm I wanted the whole time. But once I found that rhythm I was able to keep it going.”
The bike ride was tough for Riley as he fell back a little, coming in 109th in the mountain bike ride up more than 2,000 feet of elevation.
“I learned that I need to spend a lot more time on the bike,” Riley said. “The emphasis in XTERRA is definitely on the bike. The qualifier I did in Peoria, Ill., it’s a really tight and twisty single track. I have that skill, so I can kind of fake the bike in the qualifying races.”
After not knowing what to expect and still winning his age group, Riley said he hopes to stay free from injury as he works on his running and biking times to make it back to the USA Championships and move on to the world championships next year.
Riley’s next race will be a Cyclo-cross bike race in October, which is a combination of running, biking and steeplechase.
Riley also said he plans to compete in another triathlon by June 2013 before trying to qualify for the XTERRA USA Championships.
“It was a fun experience,” Riley said of the Utah race. “Overall, it was fun to be out there and just the atmosphere. I’ve never been at a race like that before where they have helicopters flying above and camera crews in the middle of the woods. They keep pushing and really trying to advertise and make their events as big as they can.”