Matt Hanson | Professional Triathlete
5x Ironman Champion/ 4x 70.3 Champion

2013 Lessons Learned

Coach Michelle with OutRival Racing had me head on a long solo aerobic ride yesterday. The weather was beautiful and there was no wind, so I had a lot of time to thing. I ended up thinking a lot about the 2013 season. This year was great year all-in-all. It was a year full of highs, but definitely had a few lows as well. I learned a ton through racing and training…some were great learning experiences and some came from the school of hard knocks. Here is a list of a few of the lessons I learned this season

1. DON’T run a 28:30 first 5 miles of an IM Marathon.

So this mistake didn’t backfire as bad as it could have, but mixing the over pacing with the high temps at IMTX was a recipe for disaster. I bonked hard at mile 22 and nearly put myself in a bad place.  Thankfully, I was able to recover at the mile 23 aid station and hold on for the last 3 miles. The first 10 miles of the IM run are something I am working on with coach Michelle. Hopefully, I can get more consistent with my run pacing in 2014. I think that is going to be necessary to be able to improve my run split.


2. What I thought was heavy training in the past wasn’t even close.

I was training with no coach up through July. I had significantly upped my volume between January and May, leading into IMTX. I had nearly hit the 2012 year total mileage by May in 2013. However, once I started working with Tim with Magnolia Masters in the swim, and Michelle, I found out what mileage really was. I am still slowly working on upping the volume, especially on the bike and in the pool. I’m working with my coaches to slowly bump up my volume without getting hurt. I’m already noticing a much quicker recovery from hard training and even from races. I was able to have a great race at IMAZ only 5 weeks after Kona. I definitely would not have been able to recover and get race ready in that amount of time before.

3. You can’t train for the swim like you train for the bike and run.

Ok, so the third lesson learned in a row where I give a shout out to my coach. When I was training on my own, I was training for the swim very similar to the way I was training for the bike and the run: a lot of longer sets. I was not focusing on efficiency  or mechanics. Tim has really changed the way that I approach swim training. Although the volume has gone higher, most of my intervals have gotten significantly shorter. Recently, I have had a few good one-on-one sessions with a strict emphasis on technique. I am no where near where I eventually need to be for this, but I am definitely seeing some good improvements in a relatively short period of time since the switch. The place I am coming out of the water each race is improving. Hopefully, eventually I will be coming out of the water in the front pack. In order to be in contention for the podium at any given race, you pretty much have to be in the mix coming out of the water.

4. Embrace the SUCK! Ok, I know this is a cliche, but it is true.

There have been many times in the past where I would back down on a hard interval when things got tough, especially in the pool. I am continually challenging myself to push through the hurt. There is a difference between a workout hurting and hurting yourself. I have been focusing on taking each interval at a time, sometimes even 1 minute or 1 lap at a time. This past week has shown me it is so much easier to push harder when training with other people. I don’t often have that luxury so I need to continue working on the mental toughness necessary to push through the wall. If you want to be able to push in a race when things get tough, you have to train that way as well. There isn’t much of a better feeling than the one you get right after a difficult workout.

5. You can learn just as much, if not more, from a race that doesn’t go as planned.

Considering this is only my third year of racing, I think I did a really good job of controlling most aspects I could in pretty much every race I participated in this year. I learned a ton from each race and was able to put that information into good use in the next race. Still, things didn’t always go as planned. I bonked hard at IMTX costing me at least one place (see number 1). I flatted 3 times at Kona. As Mike Riley says before every race, “The only thing you can control is your attitude.” Focus on everything that is in your control, and don’t dwell on the rest.  After I finally got off the bike at Kona, I was running angry. If you read my race report, you’ll see the mental battle that I had with myself to get myself to slow down and run at the pace I planned before I put myself at risk of bonking again.

6.  Work smarter and harder, not just one or the other.

I learned a lot about training this year. In the swim, I focused on the start, such an important aspect of the race as well as improving my technique. On the bike, I learned a lot about when to push, when to hold back, when to hang on, and when to let someone go. I also learned that I was putting too many miles in running and not enough in the water or on the bike. I found the necessity to focus on recovery with a mixture of rest, therapy, and nutrition. I researched a lot about how to become better at making sure I was getting the most out of the work I was doing as well as preparing myself for work the next day (I’m planning on writing about some of my findings early 2014, so stay tuned!!!).  Working smart is only half of the battle. As I discussed in number 2 and 4, I had to learn how to push harder and find more time to significantly jump the volume.

7. I was continually reminded of the importance of goals.

Goals have always been a really big part of my life. I am blessed to have had good mentors throughout my life who taught real goal setting skills. Not just, “you need them” but also how to set them, adjust them, and sometimes even scrap them. I set what I thought were high season goals for 2013, and ended up achieving them by May. I went for a few weeks with little direction. Training was flat and I didn’t know what I was pushing towards next. I was slapped in the face by a branch on the “epiphitree” after a conversation with my wife one day at the end of May. I realized that I didn’t reset my goals once I met the first round. I have quite a few training goals written down for the next few months and am working on developing the season long goals as well.

8. Remind yourself daily why you love the sport!

Training can often wear on me mentally just as much as physically. This is especially true when you are in the middle of a major build. The season definitely is a grind. I am not planning on racing until Galveston, which is 15 weeks away! It is tough to sit and look at the schedule week after week, with no race in sight and lose focus. Also, the solo and indoor training that will be my fate for most of the winter make things even more difficult. This is where the love of the sport and the goals that I set have to come into play.

9. NEVER take for granted how important your support system is to you.

These last two lessons learned are by far the most important. I have an AMAZING support system. My wife, my family, friends, coaches, sponsors, and even coworkers. At times, I draw on a sense of expectations that I feel they may have for me as I train. Right away after Kona, I felt most upset about having so many people watching me not achieve what I set out to do both virtually and in person. I honestly felt like I let my family, friends, and coaches down. The flood of support that I had after the race was amazing. Everyone was proud of me, even if I wasn’t (yet anyway). I certainly would not be able to do this if I wasn’t blessed with such an amazing backbone of support. At one point in the season, I did lose sight of this. I had just finished AG Nationals up and had to travel from Milwaukee to Wisconsin Dells for the 70.3 there the next day. I let the stress from driving, getting dirty gear ready for the next day’s race, and trying to mentally prep for the race get the best of me. I snapped a few times at my family when they were trying to help me get ready. It really tainted what should have been a great weekend. I know I have not always been the easiest person to be around leading into a race and definitely am working on fixing that.

10. I was reminded daily to count God’s blessings.

This one is really self-explanatory. I had an amazing season, I stayed safe and healthy, I had fun, and I had the support from some amazing people. None of this happened by chance. God has blessed me in many ways and I owe everything to Him. I am looking to use these things to fuel the off season training and to hopefully put up some solid results in 2014. I am sure the list of lessons learned will continue to grow as I race and train more. I am looking forward to my “rookie” season next year. When I started this journey, I had no idea that it would grow to this level. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

One Comment

  1. Penne

    January 14, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Matt, Just want you to know we are out here reading your blog, lessons learned, and enjoying your ride thru this adventure in your life. I love your dedication, ability to learn and grow, and your sharing of lessons learned this year. Walking, running, biking, swimming,loving, relating, learning, are all tools God uses to draw us to Himself and this amazing plan He has for your life and the great opportunities He gives you to show Himself through YOU. Give Him the Glory, and always remember He is right beside you all the way.. Love you Matt

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