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

IMNZ Race Report

NZ1  I really didn’t decide to race at IMNZ until shortly after Panama. I have had a number of chats with Coach David and Coach Tim about what I am wanting to get out of this season, and race experience is one thing that we all keep coming back to. So off to New Zealand I went. I arrived 6 days before the race, spent an a few days in Hamilton with an amazing host family there before heading down to Taupo where I was fortunate enough to find yet another great host family. I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, but honestly had never really thought about traveling that far for a race. But, sometimes to get a race in the time frame you want, you have to travel quite a distance. I was excited to head to a race with such a great tradition against a very stellar field.

Obviously, as a professional, you don’t typically want to race for 4th place. Being just over a minute off the podium was a tough pill to swallow. However, I am taking a ton of positives out of the race. I executed my game plan very well overall. I had probably the best swim I’ve ever had, I was faster than the previous bike course record, the previous overall course record, and set the run course record and that was only good enough for 4th. Sometimes you just tip the cap to some great performances up front. Cameron, Joe, and Callum definitely had great races.

Race Morning:

As per usual, I woke up at 3:30 and had my usual pre-race breakfast (2 servings of First Endurance Ultragen, MultiV Pro, and Optygen HP). Got a bit more sleep, then off to transition. I got through transition pretty quickly, and started the long walk down to transition. I was a couple minutes later than I had hoped to be so was rushing a little to get my Huub Wetsuit on, sunscreen applied, etc. and ended up forgetting to put on my HRM. I don’t pace by this during a race, but it still would have been nice to have the data from the bike and run to learn from.

NZ5Swim: 51:34

Overall, this was a good swim for me. The start…not so good. Probably the worst start I have had as a pro. In a few previous races, I have pushed too hard right out of the gate and not been able to get into a rhythm quick enough and lost the pack that way. This time I backed off the start too early and got swam over by the first pack. Unfortunately, waved good bye to the group that I wanted to be in and settled in with the second chase pack. I was way too comfortable and right away knew that I couldn’t sit back at this pace too long and have a good day. For some reason at this race, the women started only 45 seconds behind us. I started looking for the pink caps to come up on us and I was going to try to get on the faster women’s feet. Lauren Brandon came by a lot earlier than I expected her to. I got on her feet for about 20 meters but couldn’t hold her pace. Meredith Kessler came by shortly after, and I had the same result. Then I saw a group of 2 working together off the side and put a really hard effort to bridge over to them. The group of guys didn’t go with me, so it was just myself and Gina Crawford and Dr. Amanda Stevens for the rest of the swim. If I didn’t make that decision and just settled in with the other guys, my day would not have gone the way it did. I had to work hard to stay on Gina’s feet, but ended up with one of the best swims I’ve had.


Long run up hill and some steep stairs to the bikes. Thankfully it was lined with spectators cheering you on. T1 went smooth and I was off on my bike.

Bike: 4:34:42

IMNZ BikeI got off on the bike and knew I was chasing a good number of guys, but didn’t know how many. I also knew that there would be a few strong cyclists coming up behind me. The course was basically 2 out and backs. I rode the first out right at target power. I felt good and thought that I could possibly work my way up a bit on the bike. I got to the turn around and saw that I was only 3 minutes down from a group of 12 guys with one off the front. I thought that a solid 20-30 minute effort at well above my 70.3 pace would let me bridge the gap up, so I went for it. I ended up putting in 35 minutes at about 15 watts above 70.3 pace and still couldn’t see the group. I backed down to my 70.3 pace for the next 40 minutes until I got back into town where a spotter told me I hadn’t gained ANY time to the group. Frustrating. My first 2 hours of the bike was a higher power output than any 70.3 to date and I wasn’t able to bridge up at all. I tried to drop back to my target power, but slowly drifted down in pace. The stronger riders came up on me one at a time and I just couldn’t go with them. Later on I ended up catching a few stragglers that had fallen out of the lead pack and ended up finishing the bike in 13th.

On the face of it one might read the above tactical decision making as not overly smart but one expectation leading into this race was to strategically explore some unknown territory. Lessons learned.

I stuck to my nutrition/hydration plan well. I ran 3 bottles on my QR for this race rather than my usual 4. The weather was cooler and I tried putting two bottles in my special needs bag instead of one so I could mix my EFS Pro the same as always. This worked out alright, but I fumbled around quite a bit getting the 2 bottles out of the bag in time for the last chance bottle drop. May still rethink this strategy for IMTX in a few weeks.


Another good transition. My legs felt good, I was able to slip on my On Cloudracers without any issue (thanks to the help of some awesome volunteers).

Run: 2:41:20 (New course record!)

I set out of transition feeling well. I knew place wise I was pretty far back, but felt good and thought I’d be able to run my way to a good day. In an IM, you never know what will happen up front. People could fade or they could have an awesome day. Coming out of T2 8 minutes down from the lead is never a great thing, especially when there are some stellar runners in the field. Still, for the entire run, I thought I had a chance at finding the podium. I started with a little bit of a surge. I wanted to close the gap quickly and see what chunk I could chip out of the lead on the first of three loops. I was steadily making my way through the field but found out I had only taken 1 minute off of the leaders 1/3 the way through. I still kept the pressure on for the second loop. I like the 3 loop runs,NZ 6the crowd is closer together and there is just more energy to feed off of. I still felt good after the second loop, but again had only taken another minute out of the leaders. I was in 6th at this point, but still felt I could find the podium. If a few of the guys suffered a bit, possibly even the win. The weather was perfect for racing, and the boys up front took advantage. I started to fade a bit between miles 20 and 24 and had a few miles in the 6:20-6:30 range. I got things together again for the final few miles but it turns out that that 4 mile lull likely cost me 3rd. There were a number of sub 2:50 run times on the day and unfortunately 3 of them were the guys up front. Thus I finished just off the podium in 4th.

Overall: 8:12:30

NZ4Overall, happy with my performance and execution. I learned a lot and have a lot to think about. What should I have done differently at the swim start? Was it the right decision to put in such a long effort on the bike that early in the race? Should I have started the run on such a surge? Could I have gone faster in both if I was more consistent in pacing? Lots of chats with the coaches about these things all positive!

I had heard about the history of the IMNZ course, and it didn’t disappoint! What a beautiful venue with some amazing volunteers. The local crowd support was incredible. My homestays rolled out the “Kiwi Hospitality” that I’d heard so much about. Definitely a race I want to return to some day.

One Comment

  1. bryan gottfried

    March 9, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Great effort! Thanks for the write up. It’s funny that for so many of us age groupers, the swim is the part where its all we can do to get some air and sight and get to T2. But to consider having to actual THINK during that highly stressful time, strategize, and make decisions…

    See you at IMTX!

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