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

Ironman Racine 70.3 Race Report

IMG_4426It is always hard to get back into training after a race like IMTX. Physically, I recovered faster from IMTX than I think I ever have after a full distance race. Mentally, this was a different story. The intense focus that it took me to stay in the moment the entire race definitely took a toll. This is especially true being I was on the chase the entire race. I definitely did not want to start the bike 7 minutes down from the pack and certainly didn’t want to start the run 9 ½ minutes down from some stellar runners. The high that I felt when I crossed the finish line and met my family, coaches, and friends was amazing. The emotional crash from the top a week after when the social media storm settled down definitely affected my training. I took a full week of no training, then did one week of just swimming after IMTX. Then I spent most of June in an aerobic build on the bike and run. The aerobic work included a lot of volume, but not a lot of intense focus that tempo and anaerobic work requires. I was able to handle each workout no problem, but was really struggling to beat the harder swim sets Tim was giving me. I didn’t realize that this was likely not a fatigue issue but a focus issue until I tried to switch gears at the beginning of July as Coach David had me starting a higher intensity block of training. The running work went just fine, but I really struggled on the bike. This was definitely a focus and mental toughness issue. Two weeks prior to Racine, I cratered. My training, my confidence, and my overall mood went south. Then, I crashed my bike 10 days prior to race day. Coach David and Tim did a great job getting me physically prepared for race day. I had a great taper week and felt ready to go on race morning physically.

DSC_0528The Plan:

I approached this race as an experiment of sorts. I already had my Kona slot locked up, so I could be a bit more aggressive than I would have in a normal race situation. I wanted to try a few things during the race and see how I was able function at the end of the race. Namely, I planned on trying to over-swim and over-bike and see what happened on the run. Unfortunately, neither of these occurred.
Race Morning

I woke up at 4:00 and drank 2 servings of First Endruance Ultragen, took a serving of OptygenHP and MultiV-Pro, and went back to bed for 30 minutes. I woke up again around 4:35, thew on my Kiwami Spider kit, and headed out the door. I got to transition around 5:15, quickly got everything set up for the race, then headed back to the car to have a quiet place for me to get ready to the race. I walked down to the swim start around 6:30 and did about 10 minutes of swimming to get ready for race day.

IMG_4404Swim – 26:22

The swim started great. I was right where I wanted to be at the second buoy. The first turn was about 400 meters into the race, I figured the pace would be very fast until just after the first turn. Shortly after the second buoy, I thought “great, I made first pack. Now just get on feet.” I was on the hip of the guy I was marking, and backed off to get on his feet….and backed off WAY to much. We were swimming against the current for the first section, and I was definitely punished. All the sudden the feet were gone and I was alone. You CANNOT mentally relax in the swim, especially in the first 400 yards. I did and my fate was all but decided at that point. I spent the next 1/3 of the race swimming by myself, then I spotted another swimmer to my left. I went to get on his feet and noticed that it was Lionel Sanders….which meant I was going to have to have a great bike split if I was going to have a good outcome on the day.

DSC_0546T1 – 2:32

The transition was a long run into my bike, so this wasn’t a terrible transition. However, I did lose 5-10 seconds to all 6 guys who finished in front of me. I saw that a lot of the bikes were already gone…16 of them to be exact. I knew I was in for a long day.


DSC_0548Bike – 2:10:27

I came out of transition 5 seconds behind Lionel. I knew he was going to really put the pressure on for the first segment of the race. The roads on the first segment of the race were really bumpy. I wasn’t able to keep the pressure on the pedals and Lionel was. The first 5 minutes of the bike were my lowest power output which just can’t happen in Kona. This definitely showed me I need to work on bike skills to be able to ride hard even when the roads aren’t great. Lionel was gone by the first mile. Overall, I had a decent bike split. I had the fourth fastest split of the day and in a field that includes Starkey and Lionel that is nothing to scoff at. However, I definitely UNDER biked and the plan going into the race was to OVER bike. Frustrating. To put things into perspective, leading into IMTX I did a 112km bike/26km run. Both my power and my run pace were significantly higher than what I put out at Racine. So, obviously I can’t be happy about how the bike leg went on the bike. I rode through 6 guys pretty quickly. Around the 60 minute mark I rode up to Thomas Gerlach and Raymond Botelho. I sat in for a few minutes, then moved to the front and put in a pretty decent pull. I should have put in a few surges and tried to start bridging the next gap, but I just didn’t want it bad enough. I made a decision to work with them and try to move up in the field. We made up some ground together, but didn’t pick up any more places.

I made two MAJOR nutrition mistakes on the bike. First, I was expecting 4 aid stations and there were only 3. The last aid station was around mile 50…and I ran out of my EFS Pro completely at mile 40. The only thing I had on my bike was my EFS liquid shot. One of the experiments that I was trying was adding more caffeine on the bike (typically, I wait until the run). Well, I had a…um….GROSS miscalculation and took in WAY too much caffeine. I was cramping miserably by mile 45, and the cramps never went away the rest of the day. As I drove home from the race and was thinking about every step of the day I figured out my mistake. I told coach David and his response… “Matt, you majorly screwed that up.” He was right.

IMG_4412T2 – 1:25

The second transition went alright. I was cramping systemically so every movement was miserable. I was able to get everything on and get out without losing too much time to Tom and Raymond.

Run – 1:19:14

I think this might be the worst run I’ve ever had in a 70.3…even as an amateur. Before I turned pro, I ran a 1:15 and a high 1:12 on this same course. My nutrition screw up really killed my day. I moved past Tom and Raymond in the first mile, and started trying to work my way up a bit. I knew I was struggling but I really wanted to crack the top 8 at least. I moved into 7th shortly into the second lap and I had Drew Scott in vision with 5 miles to go. This was another area where I just did not want it bad enough. I had moved to within about 45 seconds of him at the turn around but never had the confidence that I was going to catch him. I don’t ever remember a thought like that on the run in a race…ever. Not something I ever plan on repeating either. My last 2 miles were awful. I was looking behind me frequently to see if anyone was moving up on me, another thing I never plan on doing again.

Overall – 4:00:00 7th PlaceIMG_4422

Looking back at the race, I made mental errors that were purely lack of focus and mental fortitude that definitely cost me a higher place. David and Tim do a great job of making sure I am prepared 100% physically come race day and do a lot to help on the mental game as well. However, when it comes down to it, I am the one who has to put everything together on race day. I made too many mistakes on race day to accomplish what I wanted to at Racine. However, I created a great deal of learning opportunities that I can take with me that will ultimately make me a stronger athlete. Of course, I am immensely thankful for all of the support of my sponsors, and hope that next race I can give back to them from a bit higher step on the podium.

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