Part III: Eddy Matzger Interview ...

In Which the Skate Legend Talks About ...

  • Recovering From An Injury With the Help of a Norwegian Training Technique
  • Missing the Start of His First U.S. Race But Almost Winning Anyhow
  • Beating the Competition in his Early Races With the Help of his 5-wheel Skates

Robert: What happened to your hip when you fell from the half-pipe?

Eddy: I had a huge hematoma right where the muscle grows into the tendon and attaches to the bone. I was just a mess. It didn't want to heal unless I laid off of it. It felt like the muscle was going to rip off the bone every time I was going to do something. Basically, I just did a lot of swimming for a while.

Robert: How did you get back to skating?

Eddy: Luckily, I was in Holland at that point, which is where I was going every winter to train on the ice. When I was able to skate again, I started this training program that is used by a lot of Norwegian cross-country skiers, in which you don't elevate your heart rate over a certain level. They do this for years; I did it for a few months.

The idea is not to go more than 70 percent of your maximum heart rate at all times. This improves your ability to process oxygen --- your VO2 max --- and literally grows your heart so it can pump a larger volume of blood.

Once every seven to ten days, you are allowed to go for 30 minutes just gangbusters, so your body doesn't forget what it's like to go that hard. But the rest of the time you don't go over the 70 percent. And if you can do that for a few months, you become amazingly fit.

My maximum heart rate was about 200 beats a minute. So 140 beats was about where I wanted to stay during the training. At 140 beats, when I first started, I was on the outside of the 400-meter track, and everyone was passing me on the inside. Then after a month, I was in the middle of the track, and I was passing half the people, and the other half were still flying by me. But by the end of three months, I was able to skate on the inside lane with all the fast people and still maintain a heart rate of 140 beats.

When I started the training, if I pushed myself above, say, 188 beats per minute, I would bonk. My legs would just fill up with sour milk, and I would all of a sudden catastrophically lose power. But by the end of the three months, I could go up to 194 beats a minute and not bonk. So I could see that this training was helping hugely.

Robert: Did you do much racing while you were learning your skating technique?

Eddy: Yeah. I was skating in plenty of inline races in the U.S. In '89, I went to my first race in the United States, which was a Rock or Roll Race in Las Vegas, one of the Rollerblade races.

I remember I had stayed up all night to finish this geology abstract [He was a student at UC-Berkeley at the time], and then I drove all through the next night to get to Las Vegas. So I was up two nights without sleep. When I got to Las Vegas, I got my racing number and went back to the car to rest and fell asleep. Fortunately, the starting gun woke me up. So I scrambled out of the car and got into the race, and I had to pass up a thousand people to get to the front of the race just before the finish.

I ended up getting second in the race just because the first place guy cheated by grabbing my hip around the final turn. But nonetheless, I got noticed, and then I got a free pair of skates and then an offer to get sent to another race. And pretty soon, I was getting sent every weekend to races all around the country.

Robert: Who was sending you?

Eddy: Rollerblade. And they were consistently trying to get me to sign my life away. Having had good advice from my father [a lawyer], I usually never signed anything and, instead, made verbal arrangements. And if I did sign anything, I made sure I wrote in plenty of extra stuff in the contracts.

The companies always try to own you forever. And people who got seduced by them, and signed contracts, still see their images being hawked today for products that they never even knew about.

Robert: What was the advice your father gave you?

Eddy: He just taught me that any contract is only as good as its termination clause. What I prefer is a handshake and a person's word of honor. That's the best.

Robert: What was the first race you won?

Eddy: It was a race in which I actually got pushed to fourth because I was wearing a tank top, rather than a bicycle jersey. I didn't know that it was against the rules. I hadn't read the fine print.

I used to keep track of all my races and all that stuff. And I have my race resumes for every year parked away somewhere. But, shoot, because I was one of the first --- if not the first --- person to bring a pair of five wheel skates here it was easy to win races. At that point, everyone else had these four-wheel, ski-boot-type of inlines.

One time, for instance, I went to Columbia and raced against all the Columbians. And all they had were roller skates, so it was easy to beat them.

It was the technology more than me at first: I just happened to get a good head start. And having miles in the legs is big. I've been doing this for longer than most people, so I have been able to maintain a little bit of an edge.

Robert: Did you go back to Holland to race when you were still learning?

Eddy: I kept going back to Holland for punishment for six years until I finally won a race in the A-division.

Robert: Now, after some 15 years of competing, you've won more than a hundred races all over the world. Do you have a favorite race?

Eddy: Yeah. The one that starts on time.

Continued ...

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Related Reading

Intro to The Eddy Matzger Interview


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Copyright © 2006 by Robert Burnson

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