It was the Virginia Super of 2013. Hobie was in his prime and the Spartan Pro Team were a very recognizable who’s-who line up of OCR. From nowhere, an unknown racer named Matt Novakovich appeared on the scene by not just winning the race, but establishing a crushing margin of over six minutes.
A flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonder? 14 podium finishes since that race would beg to differ. The man from Alaska runs up hills at the same speed most people run across a football field. His almost inhuman ability to ignore pain married with his incredible muscle memory means that not only should his appearance at a starting line be respected, but feared. Add to this the way he breezes through, over and under any obstacles put before him, he is the complete racer. There is nothing, it seems, that is capable of slowing him down.
A heavy hitter within the elite ranks he is someone to be taken seriously, and with the additional training he is doing courtesy of Joe Desena – in the same way Hunter McIntyre did before him – only time will tell if Matt’s experience will defeat the youthful exuberance of those a little younger than him. The Vermont World Championship weekend is shaping up to be even tighter than last year.
But for all his firepower and strength, his cheeky sense of humor and trademark grin are the first things you notice about him. Just don’t mistake his friendliness for weakness…after all they do call him, “The Bear.”
Matt “The Bear” Novakovich
Weight: 148 height: 5’9”
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
Current residence/location: Anchorage, AK
Pro Team member since: August 2013
Podium finishes (up to end Dec 2013): 14
Best strength: Climbing and Heavy Grinding
1) What is your background?
I ran the steeple chase for Brigham Young University. I graduated with a degree in business and information systems. In 2000, I started Novakovich Roofing and have been carrying heavy roofing materials for 25 years of my life. From 2000 to 2009 I competed as a category 1 cyclist and then switched to sky running steep mountains from 2009 to 2013. In 2012, I set a record for climbing 24,000 vertical feet in 9 hours and then won Mt. Marathon in the same year. I switched to Spartan after beating Hobie by six minutes in the climbing focused Virginia Super.
2) What does Spartan mean to you personally?
Spartan racing is a new challenge to me. I’m enthralled by the premise that the skinniest of runners can be beat by the 200 pound juggernauts and vise versa. I also love how the Spartan experience challenges everyone in a very special way. Everyone has a weakness at the Spartan venues and we all have to try to overcome them without giving up what our original strengths are.
3) How do you prepare?
I believe that there is no substitute for volume. I train my aerobic system twice as much as the 20 year olds and I am willing to grind out 3 hour sessions on the treadmill unlike the younger athletes. I believe in the concept of experienced muscles getting better with age. I believe that years of endurance training and racing cannot be substituted with short cuts and I take pride in crushing younger, cocky athletes ☺
4) What is your favorite WOD?
My favorite WOD is to climb 3000 vertical feet. Then do active stretching, drills and strides and begin 5×5 intervals on the incline trainer at 40% at 3 plus miles per hour. I believe that this is my gold standard and the 40% is equivalent to sub 5 minute mile pace without the pounding.
5) What is your favorite single exercise and what is you least favorite exercise?
My favorite exercise is climbing mountains fast and light. I love the scenery, fresh air and being away from people. I love taking routes that typically get me lost or at least delayed by hours from my original “plan.”
My least favorite workout is running. I used to enjoy it obviously as that was my background, however as I’m older I find that the cons of running for me include, stomach distress, knee surgeries and repetitive boredom.
6) What is your favorite FOD?
My favorite food is anything I don’t have to cook. I never have followed a recipe and I don’t plan to start. My breakfast is typically 2 packets of instant oatmeal, yogurt and diet coke. Lunch is a sandwich that includes lots of veggies and hopefully egg whites for the protein. Dinner is whatever we are doing for dinner. My wife, Tiffanie, is a really good cook so this is my weakness: Pushing the plate away before I’ve had 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths.
After 7PM is the curse of the athlete trying to lean up for major events. If I can avoid the gram-crackers and milk, Coke, cereal and yogurt in the late hours I can generally be lean and mean going into important events.
7) Advice for newbies going forward that have no idea where or how to start.
It is never too late to start. If you have become overweight through years of poor eating be patient and realize time and consistency are your friends. It is okay to “feel hungry” when cutting calories and starting a new training plan. “Feeling hungry” is our bodies way of saying “it’s working.” If you are not overweight, but just a little out of shape, realize this: Trained properly most of us are a mere six months away from our best fitness ever.
8) What is your favorite Spartan Race to date?
Vermont World Championships.
I had a lot of pressure to win and I fell flat on my face. Google “Vermont World Championships” and watch the footage of me shivering and cramping and considering quitting. I did not quit. However, through pushing to my 16th place finish I learned a lot about my will power, my desire to succeed and what it takes to be a champion.
9) If someone was on the edge about doing a Spartan Race, what would you say to them?
I’ve never been to an athletic event in my life where 1st place looks like they are having as much fun as the person finishing last out of 20,000 people. The Spartan experience makes everyone feel like a champ because everyone is. Until completing a Spartan Race one will never understand the fulfillment that comes from completing one. After finishing one your friends will unfriend you on Facebook because that will be all you ever talk about anymore.