Have you ever had the chance to meet this power couple? Have you seen their dog, Sonora, go nuts from hearing the start of their sports watch because she’s so excited about the adventure ahead? Whether you already have shared miles, smiles or stories with them or not, you’ll enjoy learning more about their adventures, their playful competitiveness and their running advice. Please meet our couple extraordinaire, Casey Strong and Matt Cunha-Rigby!
Casey, Matt and Sonora at Duck Pass near Mammoth Lakes, CA
Where are you from and where do you live now?
- Casey: I grew up in Marin County and we now live in Truckee.
- Matt: I lived all over the place growing up, but eventually ended up in the Bay Area. Casey and I lived in Oakland prior to moving to Truckee in 2018.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running? Why? What role does it play in your relationship?
- Matt: In my late 20’s I got absolutely worked setting the bootpack on Mt Shasta and realized I couldn’t “off the couch” things like that anymore. So, I started running, mostly short distances. I didn’t really start running regularly until after I met Casey and didn’t approach longer distances until we started training to run the JMT from Yosemite to Mammoth in 2020.
Casey and Matt run the 4 Pass Loop outside of Aspen, CO in the summer 2021 with their (shameless?) dog Sonora
Being outside is a huge part of our relationship and it’s something that we both love. Running is a wonderful way to experience this, as it allows us to set shared goals and it’s a great way for us to be out there together.
- Casey: I began running in middle school but the motivation was always to train for soccer. I started enjoying running more during college, and senior year ran my first race – the Boston Marathon. (I was able to run with my college’s team, which let me skip the need for a qualifier.) It was an incredible experience all around, and I was blown away by how many people came out to run, volunteer, or cheer us all on. It was my first glimpse into how awesome the running community is.
Both of you race, what motivates you? You sign up for a lot of the same races. Does that bring some friendly couple competition? Extra motivation?
- Matt: I think it’s fun to use races as motivation and I also think it’s fun to see how fast you can really do something when you have so much support.
Casey and I usually run our own races, though I know in the back of my mind that she’s gunning for me. Thankfully, I’m faster, but not by much! She has some extra gear that kicks in and it feels like I’m doing everything I can to hang on!
Our first race together, the TNF Half in Marin, we agreed we’d run together…at least until the last quarter mile. Once we could see the finish line arch, she just took off! WTF. Thankfully it was an uphill finish, and well, that’s my jam. Matt 1. Casey 0.
- Casey: I used to like to have races on the calendar to scare myself into training. I still think that’s useful, especially in spring/early summer, but I’m at least as motivated now by how fun the environment is at trail races.
I’m pretty competitive and will definitely try to beat Matt if the opportunity presents itself. The only time I was successful was at Broken Arrow a few years ago. He claims he slowed down so we could run the finish chute together, but I jumped up to ring das bell before he could. Sucker 🙂
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
Matt and Casey at the Run Rabbit Run 51 mile aid station, Matt’s first 100 miler a few weeks ago
- Matt: Western States!
High Lonesome might be second on the list. I also think it’d be really cool to do the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115k at some point, since my family is from Madeira and it’s so friggin beautiful.
- Casey: I’ve been encouraging Matt to sign up for MIUT on Madeira so am delighted to see that in his answer! All that vert terrifies me, but I’d love to get a sweet vacation out of one of his races. As for me, I think about places to run more often than specific races. The current dream is to do a hut-to-hut running trip in the Alps or Dolomites.
What was the best running advice you’ve received?
- Matt: Start your race by “running your fastest 10k and then hold on for dear life”?
I’m kind of stubborn and like to figure things out on my own, so I can’t think of any specific running advice that’s stuck. I’ll go with what Geoff Quine wrote last month that “your mind will quit 1000x before your body will.” I kept that in the back of my mind leading up to my first 100 miler…and thankfully didn’t need it.
- Casey: This wasn’t specific to running, but I did an all-ladies ski mountaineering trip on Shasta a few years ago. Our guides were very serious about us taking “self care stops” every hour to hydrate, fuel, etc. Self care stops are now a non-negotiable part of all my ski tours and long runs.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy and favorite post-run meal or beverage? Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
- Casey: Over the last couple of years I’ve discovered that I’m a much happier runner/person when I have electrolytes and snacks during a run, almost regardless of length (self care stops!). My favorite post-run drink this summer has been Skratch’s horchata recovery mix, or just regular horchata if we happen to be near a taqueria.
- Matt: Casey says I’m a camel because I don’t generally carry anything unless it’s super hot, vert heavy, or I’m going beyond 10 or 12 miles. I love burgers and beer after big days.
What was your favorite running experience this past year? What was your most challenging/ character-building experience this past year?
- Matt: Last summer Casey and I ran the Desolation 7 Summits loop with Chris Mertens and Chris Inuoye, and it was incredible. I also ran the Teton Crest Trail with my buddy Jacob last fall, and that was pretty darn amazing.
I think my most challenging experience was a 50k loop leading up to the TRT 50 Mile in 2022. I started in Olympic Valley, went over the Escarpment and then headed south through the gut of the Granite Chief Wilderness and up to Barker Pass. It was super, super hot and I don’t think there has been any trail work down there in over a decade. I ended up spending 10-ish miles bushwhacking and going over/under/around a million downed trees. The last 14 miles back along the PCT kicked me while I was down and that run beat me up so bad.
Matt, Casey, Chris and Chris on the 7 Summits Loop
- Casey: Ditto to the 7 Summits loop last August! This year I haven’t been racing for various reasons and have had some serious FOMO – but it’s been super inspiring to volunteer and crew at a handful of races, and to watch Western States runners at the escarpment and golden hour.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
- Matt: I’m an architect and sustainability consultant for a large architecture and engineering firm. My schedule is relatively flexible since I work on projects all over the country, which makes it relatively painless to find time for training. I rarely have motivation to run after work so I’m generally on the early morning and lunch trains. If I don’t get out, then our dog lets me know it….
- Casey: I’m an attorney with the California Tahoe Conservancy. We don’t have much choice about fitting in time for runs, Sonora will go nuts if we don’t.
Casey runs the Judah Loop with Sonora
What led you to join DPMR? What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
- Matt: Casey got me to join and it’s been great. I love the pub run, but the overall community of folks up here is the best.
- Casey: I found out about DPMR when we did Broken Arrow in 2019, and signed us up (right before the pandemic started, unfortunately) as a way to meet people and learn some new trails. It’s hard to pick which DPMR experience is my favorite, but I’ve got the Newbies runs to thank for connecting me to some amazing running partners/friends so I’ll go with that!
Favorite local trail?
- Matt: You’ll find me at Sawtooth most often since I can run there from our house, but my favorite trails are either the Andesite-Basin-Castle loop from Donner Summit, or summiting Granite Chief via Shirley Canyon and returning on the Granite Chief trail.
- Casey: Sugar Bowl to Olympic Valley <3
Do you have a mental training technique, mantra, or similar that you rely on to combat the mentally trying times of a longer run?
- Casey: Not that I can think of but it sounds useful! I should probably go back through the old member highlights and look for tips.
- Matt: I’m pretty good about embracing the grind and just putting my head down and keeping on.
Recovery technique(s) that you swear by?
- Matt: I’m all-in on Scratch Recovery, the horchata for hot days and the chocolate when it’s cooler. I’m big on stretching in the mornings while I drink coffee and listen to podcasts, and definitely notice if I skip a few days.
- Casey: Skratch horchata and puppy snuggles.
Do you have a favorite piece of running gear?
- Matt: The 5” Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts. Super comfortable, but what I love most are the 5 pockets that horseshoe around the waist. Our pup Sonora joins me for most of my runs and I love being able to carry a leash, poop bags, treats, e-collar remote, and my phone without having to wear a vest.
- Casey: Probably my Salomon running vest? I can’t seem to find a waist belt that doesn’t ride up, so gotta have a vest to carry all the snacks!
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
Happy Doggy (Sonora!) with Matt snowboarding
- Matt: Splitboarding is my #1 and what I try to focus on from December through Memorial Day. I also love to fly-fish and backpack, but those have recently taken a backseat to trail running.
- Casey: Mountain biking, ski touring, and – as of this past winter – skate skiing. I did the Great Ski Race last winter and it was fun (and so hard!!!) to try a race in a new sport.
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
- Matt & Casey: Maybe something will come out at the next DPMR picnic?
Matt and Sonora on the trail between the Frog Lake overlook and Basin