Matt Hanson | Professional Triathlete
3x Ironman Champion/ 1x 70.3 Champion

IMTX 2016 Race Report

Definitely not an easy report for me to write. It has taken me a bit of time to be able to clearly reflect on the day. Now that a few days have past, I am definitely able to take a LOT of positives out of this race despite the result being far from what I had hoped. To name a few:

1. My fitness was quite obviously where I thought it was. This was the best build I’ve had as a pro, and I hit my taper perfectly. A testament to the hard work of Coach Tim and Coach David. 

2. I took another step forward in my swim performance. 

3. I learned that I do know how to push myself to the absolute limit. You can’t know for sure until you push a bit too far. I’ve spent a great deal of time talking with David and Tim about whether or not I am pushing myself hard enough in training and racing or if I have more to give and I am not willing to go there. I found out I have the ability to ‘strip the screw’ so to speak and learned what it felt like leading into that occurring. This will serve me well in the future.

4. Finally, I was reminded again that I have an amazing support system. The response from my family, friends, sponsors, and even people I’ve never met after the race was incredible. 

So on to the race. I spent the 2 weeks leading into the race down in The Woodlands training and getting ready for the heat. I was able to absolutely nail my taper, I was swimming very well leading into the race and my bike and run legs ‘unloaded’ just in time for race day.

Race MorningSwim1

Same routine as always on race morning. Wake up at 3:00 and drink 2 servings of First Endurance Ultragen, take a serving of Optygen HP and MultiV Pro, then head back to bed for an hour. I got my bike ready at my (absolutely amazing!) homestay and was out the door around 4:40 and to the transition at 5:00. I dropped my run stuff off in T2, ran back to the car as part of my warm up and headed with my bike to T1. Everything was very robotic, I didn’t have to think about what I was doing. I wasn’t overly stressed about the day, I felt great.

Swim – 54:24

T1

Photo Credit: Scott Flathouse

The swim got off to a decent start. I was off the line hard and was well in front of much of the main pack by the first buoy. As per usual, I started trying to settle into my pace just a tad early and got dunked and swum over by a few guys but I was able toget right back into the scrum and keep pushing on. The first pack separated from us 2 people in front of me around 300 yards, which was frustrating. So much of the swim is determined in the first 500 yards, if you aren’t in the right place when the separation happens, there is nothing you can do about it. I am definitely making progress towards making the front chase pack and thought Texas was going to be where I finally got it done, but that wasn’t to be. The way it turned out, the front pack never really formed behind the lead guys, it just stayed a huge group of lead guys. Still, I swam in the front part of the chase group quite comfortably and came out of the water much closer to the first swimmers than last year. Definite progress.

T1

I had a solid first transition. I got my Huub Swimskin off quickly grabbed my Kask Helmet and glasses and had both on before getting to my bike. 


Bike – 3:40:33

Bike 1

Photo Credit: Scott Flathouse

Very shortly after getting out of transition, I found myself in the front of the chase pack. I settled into the race at the first short straight away and then Jordan Rapp came by me. I backed off to what I perceived as 12 meters and was immediately slotted in on by about 10 other guys. Frustrating. I went from being in a good position and being able to have somewhat of an ability to dictate how the group rode to getting shoved to the back in a way I thought was far from within the rules. I admit I lack experience of riding in a pack like I did in TX, so it is possible that I was 12.5 meters back and everyone else legally slotted in on me, but it was definitely frustrating. But I didn’t panic, I just kept riding. I handled the first bunch of turns well, was sitting comfortably power wise, and was able to get my nutrition down without issue. We got a few updates along the way that we were gaining on the group save Andrew fairly quickly, so I thought no reason to do something dumb and try to make a charge to the front. Shortly after catching the lead group, we went around a corner…then a moto came up to me and gave me a Blue Card. I was shocked. I felt that I was doing everything I could to stay back and stay legal. They way it was described to me by witnesses after the race was that I took the outside of a corner to avoid a pothole and the person in front of me took the inside. As result, I took more speed out of the corner than the person in front of me and drifted into his zone and didn’t pass. Frustrating. Coming out of the corners was definitely something I was worried about pre-race and it turned out to be what bit me. Definitely learned a lesson in not taking over the pack like I did last year. I rode the rest of the way back fine, served my penalty and got to T2. I was still only 6 min down from the main pack, so was still pretty confident that I could have a good day. 

T2

The second transition went fine as well. After the unexpected 5 min rest, I felt good and was still confident I’d be able to run my way up towards the front. If I did everything right, I thought I could still have a shot at the win. 

R1Run: 3:27:58

I started the run right on my target pace. I’m not sure where all the rumors of 5:20s started, but I was never running that speed. My first 5 miles were: 5:50, 5:43, 6:08, 6:06, 5:50 according to my garmin, which is the slowest first 5 miles in all of the IMs I have done in the last 2 years. I was slowly picking people off, but honestly didn’t really focus on them. I wanted to get to the front, so I didn’t really pick it up much after passing someone until they had a bike accompanying them. I was getting reports that I was 15th, 10th, 5th but wasn’t making up much time on the leader. At the start of the final lap, I got a report that I had lost 10 seconds to the leader in the last stretch. Still, with 8 miles left to go, a lot can happen (as this race so painfully showed), so I decided to try to put in a surge…which was exactly what I had planned on doing pre-race. I was feeling pretty good, still running well through mile 20. I was sitting in 4th and just starting to feel the fatigue set in. At the mile 21 aid station, Irough 2saw Terenzo Bozzone in front of me. I made a push to pass him and initially planned on getting a comfortable gap and settling in for the rest of the run. Then, I saw Matt Russell on the horizon. I made up my mind to try one more push. Matt is a great competitor, a solid runner, and someone I deeply respect. I knew if I were able to come up on him this late in the race, I’d have to find another gear to make the pass. I told myself to try to get alongside him and just give it everything I had left in the last 1/4 mile and let the results fall as they may. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it that far. Around mile 23.5, my body said no more. I have no real idea what happened or how I got to the side of the road just before an aid station. The first thing I remember was sitting down with a 2 liter of Coke from the aid station watching all the guys that I had worked so hard to pass go by and thinking to myself it was all for naught. A couple of people from the medical crew came up to me but I told them that I was fine and was going to finish.  It took me quite a while to get back on my feet. Then as soon as I did, both calfs started cramping. Definitely the longest 1/2 mile I’ve ever done. I finally got to the mile 24 aid station and decided to try to jog the rest of the way in. It was slow going, but I was able to find the finish line. 

Overall- 8:07:07

As I said, definitely not what I came to IMTX for. Still, it was a learning experience none the less. I’ll continue to dissect the race with Coaches David and Tim and try to glean more from the race. I learned a lot about myself. I found a very dark place that I’ve never been to before and frankly don’t care to return to any time soon. The frustrating part of this sport is you can have a great build, a perfect taper, and still not get a decent result. This is a punishing sport, but these valleys are what make the races when everything goes well even sweeter. 

4 Comments

  1. Penne Gossard

    May 20, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Matt, I love reading what you have learned from yet another experience in this sport. I know there was a lot riding on a good finish, but guess there was another plan this time. The body can certainly yell out at us , and can usually take the lead. I know how many people you are helping and your commitment and knowledge always gives its best. Being vulnerable is not easy but there is much more going on here than any of us realize. Chin up!!

  2. Brian dela Cruz

    May 20, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    As I’ve mentioned before, I am truly inspired by your effort and grit. To be able to dig deep as you’ve been able to is something that we all can truly learn from.

    “It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

    It wasn’t the best outcome, but you went down swinging. I deeply respect that.

  3. Jon Walk

    May 24, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I could tell when you came into the last run aid station – without knowing all that you had shared – that it wasn’t the day you were hoping for.

    As I shared to all there, I really, really admired your commitment to finishing – especially in the face of winning last year – no matter what.

    Continued success to you.

  4. Bryan Gottfried

    May 25, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    You raced it like a pro. When competing against some of the best in the world, you have to be willing to lose in order to win. Pre would be proud of that effort, and so should you.

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