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

IMCHOO Race Report –FIRST WIN!!!

The new IRONMAN Champion, Matt Hanson.Wow, what a weekend!!

Everything is finally starting to sink in. Chattanooga went about as well as I possibly could have hoped for. Leading up to the race was a bit of a battle. I had only a 3 week turnaround from IM Wisconsin, so it was simply about freshening up and staying sharp. Breaks in regular training are tough for me mentally. I struggled a bit with confidence. I’d look back at my last races and really started questioning if I had what it takes. I almost left the crash out of my IM Wisconsin race report because I didn’t want to be known as an athlete who always had an excuse or a reason why things didn’t go exactly as planned. I almost started to believe that the crashes, flat tires, eye lacerations were just my way of defending why I didn’t reach my goal for the race. I had a few tough conversations with my coaches David at PhysFarm and Tim with Magnolia Masters. Both of them slapped the confidence back into me (figuratively of course). So after a brief low point after Wisconsin, I regrouped and regained my focus. I felt great going into IMCHOO and really felt like I was going to have a good day.

Race Morning

I woke up around 3:30 and had my normal pre-race breakfast, 2 servings of Infinit Mud with almond milk. My wife and I stayed about 20 miles outside of Chattanooga. I wanted as little stress as possible leading into the race, so we left our hotel at 4:15 and got to the race site around 4:45 so we didn’t have to work to find parking or fight with much traffic. I took about a 20 minute nap after we parked then headed to transition to get set up. I got out of transition quickly and took the shuttle with Ashley to the swim start around 6:15. I found a nice quiet place to sit and get focused. The only problem…it was so dark that I didn’t realize I sat on an ant hill. I was literally swarmed with ants and was getting bitten like crazy for 2 or 3 minutes before I got them all off of me. My wife literally said “well, now that you’ve got your typical race day drama out of the way, you can go win the race!”

DSC_0309Swim – 40:49

The swim went 100% the way I wanted it to. Yes, it was a huge PR…(the river current helped with that!). Overall time aside, I knew I would need to get in the pack and stay there in order to have a shot on stealing the race. I couldn’t believe the pace at the start of the swim. The initial surge felt like it went on for nearly 1000 meters, but then I was finally able to relax and settle into a smooth rhythm. I felt great. Tim definitely had me ready for the day. I had my best workouts ever the week of the race and Tim helped me develop a plan to put me in the position I needed to be in coming out of the water. The pack made the final turn into shore and I caught a glimpse of where I was sitting overall. I didn’t know how many had swum off the front of the pack yet, but I knew I was in great shape heading into the bike leg.

DSC_0313T2 – 2:36

I felt really good about T1. I came out of the water in 12th overall and was in 6th at the start of the bike. Everything went really smooth and I was able to get a few seconds ahead of a pretty big group who were all bumping into each other as they jumped on their bike.

imchoo-03101Bike – 4:37:52

After mounting my bike, I settled into the front of the group right away. I took a few quick turns on the front of the pack as I rotated with 2 other riders. Around the 25 minute mark, I glanced back and noticed how big the pack really was and decided it was time to push on a bit. I waited until the top of a hill, then moved from 3rd in the pack to the front. I rode hard, but just a little above my target average, for about 30 minutes. I actually moved into second place overall for a few minutes as I tried to bridge the gap to Limkemann. Around the 25 mile mark, I was 3 minutes down from him but wasn’t really gaining. I took a glance back and saw the pack was catching up to me again, although there were quite a few riders who had fallen off since I started my pull. I decided it was time to just be smart at this point and ride in the pack. I slowly worked my way to the back 1/3 of the pack. Trevor Wurtele made a surge around mile 50 but the group held on. He rode off the front again around the 80 mile mark and it was decision time. I knew he was a solid runner and was a bit worried about letting him go off the front alone. When he made his second push, I was sitting near the back of the pack. I didn’t think it would be worth making a huge surge to try to pass the entire group at once and then try to bridge the gap that Trevor was forming. I decided to sit in and trust my run. I rode fairly comfortably in the pack. At some point near the end of the ride, Daniel Bretscher passed in front of me. As he passed me he yelled, “This is your race to win!” I wouldn’t let myself start thinking about that yet. In big bold letters on the top of my aero bottle was the word “process.” I made sure that I stuck to the plan David set out for me for the rest of the ride.

ByorunRIIAEZnoST2 – 1:17

This was a great transition for me. I think I came off the bike in 13th place, but came in with a big pack. I was out of the tent and on to the run course in 4th overall. I got a report as I was leaving T2 that I was 8 minutes down from Limkemann and knew I had my work cut out for me.

American Matt Hanson took control early on the run and never looked back.



Run – 2:47:40

I didn’t know what place I was in leaving T2, only just how far down I was from the lead. I saw the first guy within the first half mile and saw that he had a bike leading him. To tell the truth, I may have got a little excited at that point. My first mile split was a 5:40, a little eager but hey ho! In my last discussion before the race with David, he told me what sort of games to expect with such a big pro field. He’d said that people will attack on the bike and you’ll have to make a “game time” decision to go with them or not. I took this latitude to the run as well and decided to play my game. I knew there were some solid runners in the group that came in with me and really didn’t want to get into a battle in the first miles of the run. So I decided to try to open up a gap and just hold on for dear life. I went through the 10 mile mark at 58:40, which may have been flirting with disaster a bit. I kept getting updates that I was cutting into the lead more and more so I kept on the gas. I took over the lead between mile 10 and 11 and had to make the decision to switch to a conservative mode or keep pushing. I had no clue who was running well or what was going on behind me so had to keep pushing. Miles 9-13 were tough, but I was able to hold on to a consistent pace. Having studied the course I made a mental note of how tough the finish was going to be though. As I started the second loop, I saw my wife. She was going crazy yelling for me and I heard her tell me that David ha said said “to hammer it and make a statement!”. Our usual approach is conservative until around mile 18-20 then make a push. I guessed that he was giving me a green light to just cut loose. I went through the flat section, miles 14-22 around a 6:25 pace. I had lost some steam since the first lap, which I wasn’t too thrilled about, but I was feeling strong. At mile 22, I still had no idea what the gap was from me to 2nd. I really started to struggle for the 1 mile up-hill section. David sent me a quote during the few days that I was struggling to gain my confidence “In the midst of a brewing storm it is not the roar around you that will get you through but the calm inner drive to conquer”. That quote came back to me at mile 22. The crowd was awesome all day, the bike escort I had was encouraging me every step of the way. Despite their efforts, my pace was dropping. I really had to dig deep and remember why I wanted this so bad. The day had taken a toll on me and my pace for miles 22 and 23 were both right at 7:00. I didn’t know if anyone was creeping up on me yet and really had to focus on not letting the pace drop any more. I began focusing on Isaiah 40:31 and repeating it over and over again. I was able to hold on to the 7:00 pace through mile 24 and finally got an update that I was over 7 minutes ahead. It wasn’t until mile 25 that I let myself start thinking that I had the race. The finish line was an absolute blur. I don’t remember much of anything about it.

IMG_2738Overall – 8:12:32

It was so amazing to have my wife greet me at the finish line. I don’t remember getting my finisher medal from the Little Debbie CEO (which was a really cool touch on their part), just running straight to Ashley and giving her the sweatiest and most gross hug she has probably ever had. I watched the finish this morning and it was so surreal.

The volunteers were awesome ALL day. They worked so hard. It was so much fun to go back to the finish party and hand out finisher medals to the last finishers. What an experience, what an awesome venue. Thank you to all of the volunteers and to everyone in the crowd throughout the day. Coaches Tim and David, thank you for putting up with my crap and for getting me ready for the day. A huge, huge thank you to Maverick and all of team supporters for setting me up for with some amazing gear to race in. A special thanks to Primal Sports Mud for treating me like royalty all weekend long. And of course, thank you to my friends, family, and especially my wife. I think she worked just as hard as I did on Sunday!

How can you top the feeling of your first Ironman win??? I hope to find a way really soon!

Philippians 4:13

One Comment

  1. Bill Lamb

    October 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Congratulations on the fantastic finish. I don’t know how you keep up the run intensity. I was out of town and could not track the race so I didn’t know that you won. Just amazing. Your earlier races were tests to see if you deserved to win and you came through with flying colors. Super – Just Great!!

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